Coach’s Challenge for 6/1/09
Good day, team,
This week’s challenge is about the creative process. I’ve noticed that when we immerse ourselves in creating something, we generally find some parts tedious and difficult to get through. The free flow of energy that comes when your muse sings to you is often not compatible with the order and discipline that all creative endeavors require.
When my husband bought his new Yamaha keyboard—quite an advanced instrument of technology—he had to spend many evenings painstakingly reading the manual and experimenting with it before he could access all of its capabilities. Once he had it figured out, he could then use it to support his creativity in composing, playing and arranging music. Without the determination to slog through the manual, he would not have been able to create what he wanted.
I have always been interested in weaving. I have dreams of weaving beautiful colors of yarn or fabric together to make intricate patterns that stretch out before me. I wake up from these dreams incredibly satisfied. But in experimenting at the weavers’ studio recently, I found myself frustrated by my lack of coordination with the loom. Even worse, when I finally thought I was getting it, I would make huge mistakes that I had to go back and reweave. After a few lessons, I gave it up. But I still have my dreams and hope that someday I’ll have the energy and motivation to return to the loom.
I go through the same experience at work. When I’m designing a new program or upgrading an existing training, I often get stuck in the creative process. My solution is to get up from my desk and move around. Sometimes just going outside briefly is enough to change the energy that’s stopped me, and I can then move forward. I’ve concluded that creativity doesn’t just flow through us. When it does, it’s a glorious feeling, and one that we are grateful for. But part of creating is also knowing what to do when you get stuck, how to break through the obstacles that stop the process.
In his book “The Three Marriages: Reimagining Work, Self and Relationship,” David Whyte writes:
“From the outside, especially to those who long for a more artistic life, a writer looks to be involved in what looks like unscheduled imaginative adventure, but what she needs above all else is structure and a goodly amount of space within that structure. It takes a good, settled sense of what we are about, first to think that we deserve the time and then to arrange our day so that what we want comes about.”
When I read this passage, I thought about all the times I had been on deadline to create a PowerPoint presentation and the stress that came from waiting until the last minute to do it and then not having enough time to make it as good as I wanted it to be. Part of the discipline involved in creating anything is to give yourself enough time to really get into it and then to finish it.
Your challenge this week is to take a hard look at your creative endeavors and output. Do you give yourself permission to engage in that creative pursuit that draws you in? If so, are you giving yourself enough time and space to allow your creative juices to flow? How about the structure in which you create? If you’re an artist, do you show up in front of your easel on a regular basis? If you’re a writer, do you make yourself sit in front of your pad of paper or in front of your computer to write consistently each day, or each week? Maybe you enjoy creating with crafts. Are your boxes of beads or fabric or yarn stored away in the attic or the spare bedroom, unopened for many months, taunting you each time you see them? Try to draw up a schedule so you can make time to create something with them.
It may sound funny to merge these two opposites, creation and discipline, but they work well to support the creator throughout his or her process. And when it comes to being more creative on the job, try not to wait till the last minute to work on that presentation or project. Your best energy for creating is often when you don’t have any clue yet what you’re going to do. By sitting down while you’re still relaxed about the deadline, you allow your ideas to flow and off you go. The journey of discovery fuels your creativity.
All creative pursuits include experimentation, taking risks and making mistakes. But they also include having an enormous amount of fun. Give yourself the time and space to have some of that fun this week, in whatever creative process you enjoy.
Have a good week,
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