Hello, Creatives! Finally, some warm weather with the promise of Spring in Maryland. I hope you are getting outside and feeling inspired (remember the “Getting Inspired with Mindfulness” post? Worth a re-read). This week, I want to help you capitalize on the powerful impact nature and weather has on us and our creative process.
Remember, Creative, you are sensitive, and you are sensory. You have strong emotional reactions to many things, and are very impacted by information coming in to your sensory system (sights, sounds, textures, smells, tastes). Change is very powerful because during a time of change our senses are very heightened to absorption (think jumping in a cold pool on a hot day- those first few seconds are potent!) All totaled, you have a powerful stream of energy to tap into during a seasonal change. And- the best, most mindful way to capitalize on this energy, is to go get in it- get outside!
I want you to physically put yourself into this energy stream and take what nature is offering you- like the plants stretching and unrolling their leaves into the warm sunlight after a long winter- absorb the energy and refill your stores. Biologically it is needed and healthy, emotionally it is restorative and creatively it is regenerative. This is so powerful!
Here are some ideas that might help you in your efforts:
And finally, of course, come to counseling! Let me support you moving forward and creating your best life. You are worth it. The life you will live when you do the work is worth it. Natural periods of potent energy like this are an ideal time to start working changes in your life, and I’m here to help!
(C) 2018 Creatively, LLC
As artists, we have a unique way of viewing others and the world around us. We communicate this through our work, and it is as cathartic and fulfilling for us as it is exciting and enjoyable for our audience. As a fellow artist, I am interested in exploring this with you. As your therapist, I am also interested in how you view yourself in relationship to the world and others.
In psychology, we talk about a “mental map” as a sort of extension of cognitive mapping. In simple terms, we each have a mental map which we use as reference for how we interact with the world. It is comprised of rules, routines and rituals built from lessons we have learned, people we have interacted with, experiences we have had, and things we have gleaned throughout our personal histories. It is sort of like your personal belief system, but all encompassing, advising how and why each of your behaviors is chosen.
I want to take the concept of our unique mental map as a springboard for today’s concept- which I want to call a “referential self.” What I mean by a “referential self” is a version of yourself at a point in time in your life which is significant, and by which you define yourself. You may frequently go back to this version of yourself to assess progress, changes, relationships, decisions and other aspects of growth and development throughout your life.
These “referential selves” are frozen in your mind visually and characteristically. In fact, this is a good starting point for identifying what referential selves you may have. Without looking at yourself, imagine yourself. Not what you look like today necessary, but just “you.” How old are you? What are you wearing? Feeling? Can you pinpoint other details about this version of you? You may have more than one mental image which may mean several referential selves.
I wonder 2 things for you about these aspects of yourself: 1) what signifies the storage of this version of yourself (eg why this version of you?) and 2) how do you use/judge/see this reference? Take a moment to think about these questions. Is one of your referential selves captured at a moment when you fleshed out important pieces of who you are? Does this version of you have insecurities and flaws that you continue to cling to, even though they may be many years behind you? You may consistently judge yourself or identify yourself as this version of yourself no matter how much you have changed since then. I call this being “stuck” and it is a good concept to explore in therapy.
May I suggest the following exercise, as a continuation of self-portrait activities we have previously done together: use your chosen creative modality to explore one of your referential selves. Truly express who this version of yourself was- the good, the bad and the ugly. When you have finished, take a step back (musicians and dancers- you might record your work so you can replay and examine it fully). As objectively as you can, pick apart why this reference is captured and stored (question one above) and how you continue to identify yourself by this version of you (question two above). Go deep. Pull the thread. What did you find?
(C) 2018 Creatively, LLC
Creative Prompt for Getting Unstuck
I toyed with lots of great topics for today’s Creatively blog, and finally this seemed to feel right. I want to give you another creative exercise prompt. The goal of this is to get your creative juices flowing, help you hone in on your unique creative voice, and get unstuck if you are feeling in a rut.
To preface the exercise, I want to tie it into Person Centered Therapy. This is an approach that I use often in sessions. Simply put, the focus is to follow your “organismic valuing process” or your innate sense of happiness, to become “congruent” or your most fulfilled self. The work in this approach focuses on finding other voices creating rules, judgments and external imposed values, and separate these from what organically, intrinsically makes us tick.
In the creative world, part of the building blocks of the creative process is to learn fundamentals, study the “greats” and educate ourselves with the current masters in our creative avenues. We spend time in schools, classes, trainings, online, in libraries, in galleries, at shows and more to absorb, imitate, and learn. At some point as artists, we need to step away from this and find out what is uniquely ours. This is not a simple or a short journey, and I do not mean to minimize it by putting it in basic terms. It can take years and usually is not a static thing. But- where to start?
Like in Person Centered Therapy, I want you to try to find your organismic, innate, voice. What are your tendencies, preferences, lenses? What does your gut tell you to do? This will require you to quiet down right/analytical/educated brain and “feel” into your work. In the creative world what makes you unique- the only thing that stands you apart- is your individual perspective and what comes naturally from you. This is what we want to tap into.
So for this exercise:
Take a moment to try and quiet your inner critic and “committee” of what your work/good work/ any work “should be,” is considered “good,” is considered “fresh,” “relevant,” etc. Close your eyes and feel into the part of yourself that is uniquely and individually you. Embrace and affirm this person. Ask it- “what do you feel?”
Now, preparing and allowing for the work you are about to create to not be you best masterpiece, allow, having settled into your unique sense of self, advise you what to do. Create a piece that is not analytical, educated, skillful, or guided by any other judgments or rules- allow it to create itself based on what organically feels right to you.
I know this is very broad and open! It is supposed to be! If you are an artist, feel into what type of media, what type of marks, what colors, subjects and more “feel” like they belong to you. Continue to check in with yourself to quiet the inner voices trying to dictate your choices for any other reasons. Authors- use a similar approach to choose subject, length, type of writing, words used etc. Musicians- what do your instincts tell you to play? Something harmonic? Pleasing? Discordant? Aggressive? Lyrical? Instrumental? Dancers- release the dictation of steps and styles and allow your body to move in a way that “feels right” to your soul.
If you find yourself frustrated, trying too hard, or going back to learned styles, that is ok. Just find again that inner voice and allow it to come back online and push you into your next choice.
Creatives, I would love for this to be a regular practice- for you to find and tap into your innate creative choices, and let this advise the direction you go with your work. Try this exercise, and let’s talk about it- your voice is valuable and unique- explore it, express it, embrace it!
(C) 2018 Creatively, LLC
This week marks the beginning of a new category in the Creatively blog: creative exercise prompts to refresh yourself and help you get unstuck. They are random and designed to get your creative juices flowing and start producing work. Creative energy isn’t constant and one of the best ways to reignite is to be productive and prolific.
For this exercise, there are three aspects- you can choose to use one, two or all of them in your work. Make as many pieces as you can exploring the prompt.
Aspect one: Make a self portrait using symbols to represent yourself. Include at least four characteristics of yourself in your work.
Aspect two: Make your work a painting and limit yourself to making only 100 brushstrokes to complete your piece.
Aspect three: Make your work only using your favorite color. You can use different hues, saturation’s, values but all of the same color. Try at the end incorporating a color you usually don’t like.
When you are finished, write about the process. This will be a free write: put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard and just begin writing. Fill a page with your reflections about the exercise.
Alternative: if you are a musician or a writer, edit the exercise in a way similar to this:
Aspect one: Write or play a song/poem/piece as a reflective self portrait. Allude to at least four characteristics of yourself in your work.
Aspect two: Make your work using only 100 notes/words
Aspect three: Make your work using only your favorite music/writing style. You can Explore the style any way you would like within the genre. Try at the end incorporating a style you usually don’t like
When you are finished, choose a different creative approach to explore your experience (eg if you are a writer, draw or make music, if you are a musician, write or draw, etc)
The information provided in this blog is from my own clinical experiences and training. It is intended to supplement your clinical care. Never make major life changes before consulting with your treatment team. If you are unsure of your safety or wellbeing, do not hesitate to get help immediately.