For many of us, reinvention is a necessary part of navigating our personal and professional lives right now. Things have changed.
The time is out of joint.
- Shakespeare, Hamlet
Today, we need to process what’s going on around and inside us in different ways than we did at the turn of the new year.
Those who harness the power of this time to develop their creativity will come out ahead in the end.
Lucky for you, you were made to do this.
O cursèd spite,
That ever I was born to set it right!
- Shakespeare, Hamlet
As humans, we are all creative beings. In this time of isolation, I’ve got some tips to help you keep the creative juices flowing and stay sane.
ADJUST YOUR EXPECTATIONS
It’s important to understand that bringing your conscious attention to transformation may be the one thing you CAN control these days.
Progress may look different than before. You may need to shift your beliefs about achievement and creativity.
It’s time to take stock of what’s around us in new ways: our resources, talents, networks.
What structures in your life previously kept you from dealing with things now coming to the surface?
What structures can you put in place now to help deal with those things in a constructive way?
Building on-ramps to creative flow states gives you the opportunity to access, transform, and release subconscious clutter that may be holding you back right now, or anytime really.
You know the feeling when you get into something so absorbing, the whole world falls away and you lose all track of time?
What gets you there?
Maybe it’s doodling, or movement, or a long drive, or playing music, or trying something brand new that requires all your attention.
If you’re thinking, “I’m not creative. I’m not an artist,” then I encourage you to broaden your definition of creativity. Think of it as a practice.
Even though the manifestation of transformation is often what we think of as “art” – the painting, the poem - that’s not the point here. The point is the process. The attempt. Getting your hands dirty.
Pick one thing and do it daily for a week. See what happens. You could try writing, dancing, drawing, playing an instrument. The point is not that you even know how to do that thing, but that you spend time doing it for long enough that your mind can wander. It may go places you never expected.
In the long run, such a practice prepares you to be more creative in your thinking in general, in all facets of your life and career.
There is a misconception that art has no boundaries, that structure is incompatible with creativity.
I have lived life as a full-time artist and full-time corporate consultant. I assure you, in both cases, structure is key to success.
Boundaries allow for creation within them that is somehow more wild and free. If you give me no guidelines, I will throw myself in every direction to find the edges and use up all my energy locating the borders rather than playing freely within them.
So, give yourself some boundaries. For example, time (10 minutes), schedule (every day when I wake up), place (at the kitchen table), and activity (draw what I see out the window).
Nay, come, let’s go together.
- Shakespeare, Hamlet
When the City of Austin instituted safe-at-home rules, all my upcoming performances were cancelled. After a couple weeks without the creative and administrative work of preparing and staging performances, I started going crazy.
At a friend’s suggestion, I went live on Facebook on a random Tuesday morning and played songs for an hour. I had a loose set list and took lots of requests. Friends and family from all over the world tuned in. I was shocked to find it was a good approximation of the work and energy outlay of an in-person performance.
When I was playing, I could slip into that flow where everything else just melted away. When the stream was over, I felt so much better. I was nicer to my family. I was able to take in bad news with a calm state of mind.
So, a couple days later, I live-streamed again. And I’ve kept doing it. Every Tuesday and Thursday.
Building that structure and accountability into my life right now has made this strange time much easier. Continuing to connect with music and with friends has proved invaluable to my mental and emotional health as we find new ways to navigate this time together.
I have led music time for preschoolers. I have sung for a Zoom happy hour as a gift from the organizer to her friends. The music made a few of them cry and I was surprised to see it can still be a vehicle to help others process their own emotions, even through a computer screen.
That is part of the beauty of art. It is inspiration transferred. It’s why we go to museums and concert halls. To taste the fruit of those inward journeys artists take into their own creative flow states. The result isn’t always pretty, but it’s beside the point here. Again, it’s about the practice.
Developing your own on-ramps to creative flow gives you constructive ways to process what is happening in and around you. It will help you bring a centered, calm, rational approach to whatever you face. It may even have ripple effects through your life that surprise you.
Use this time to cultivate your creativity. It will serve you long after the crisis is over.