Without leaps of imagination, or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning. – Gloria Steinem
It’s THAT time of year. Yes, winter weather, holiday parties and the feeling of all things business taking a back seat for a few weeks.
At the same time my inbox is flooded with reminders and webinar invitations and online course suggestions to begin planning for 2017.
Actually, this is a really good time for planning. A softer time. As a coach who employs the principles of Kaizen I know I can do this in small steps. I’ve already begun asking myself small questions around how I want next year to look and what are things that will make it happen. And yes, a little dreaming, too.
When you are embarking on a new venture or in transition and exploring possibilities, does the distance between where you are and where you want to be feel like a great yawning abyss.?Back in March, in my blog “What Do You Ache For?” I referred to that abyss or gap as your creative play zone.
One area in the creative play zone that can trip you up is your selection of those with whom you choose to share those ideas and dreams. In the blog post I suggest that you be selective in your playmates. I said
“This is your playground and you get to make the rules. Consider holding at arm’s length those who will tell you what to do and how to do it. Hang a “keep out” sign for the ones who pass immediate judgment on a fresh, new idea. Be especially wary of the naysayers (as well as the well-meaning) who tell you it’s already been done or you’re too old or it’s too hard. NOT!”
The reality is that not everyone is interested or supportive. Your excitement about a creative goal can trigger reactions that have nothing to do with you and everything to do with someone else’s fears and negative belief systems. A new venture is vulnerable and even well-meaning friends and family can nip it in the bud.
In her book, The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron calls them crazymakers. Jill Badonsky author of Nine Modern Day Muses and a Bodyguard, calls them creativity offenders for whom she recommends a bodyguard.
You know who they are, don’t you? The well-meaning friend who “doesn’t want you to take this the wrong way but…” The spouse or partner who wants 99.9% of your time. The voice inside you that says, “You want to do what? Who do you think you are?” or “Really? You should have done this years ago. It’s too late now.” Or, my personal favorite, “What will people think?”
The best playmates for your creative play zone are those who encourage you to heighten your awareness, trust your intuition, explore without judgement. Especially as you begin a new project, work, stage of life. In the beginning stages of the creative process let yourself be wide open to what excites you. Look up and connect with your divine, creative essence. Look inside for your own wisdom. Hang out in your fortress of imagination.
This is where a bodyguard can come to the rescue. Imagine your own protector – could be a superhero type, big and bold with an impenetrable shield. Give her a name, maybe even a story (have fun with it). Or, maybe there’s a real someone who encourages you, or a quote or a piece of music that energizes and inspires you and, when you call it to mind, makes you feel stronger and a little invincible. (Earth, Wind and Fire’s song Fantasy could get me leaping tall buildings!) How about an affirming phrase that picks up your chin and gives you resolve.
It’s not magic. In fact it is rather simple for all of us if, when we embark on a creative pursuit, we remember to:
There will be plenty of time to share and get feedback and any needed critiquing. But not in the beginning.
Tending your creative fortress and cultivating your creative play zone helps get you started. Getting started fortifies you. With fortification you can get momentum. Momentum breeds more strength. It’s a lovely upward spiral.
Contact me for help. Schedule a 45 minute discovery session and learn how coaching can tease out the creative spirit that enhances every part of your life – in the business world, in the studio, in your everyday life.
Life is a creative venture every day. Start creating the life that fits you best!
What We Ache For by Oriah Mountain Dreamer
I love the beautiful language in this book that explores the “necessity and urgency” of creativity in our lives.
Writing Alone and With Others – Pat Schneider
This book is the basis for the Amherst Writers and Artists writing workshop model (which is what I use in my workshops). In it Pat Schneider addresses the challenges the writer faces when beginning (sometimes over and over) and suggests ways to keep going. The book is full of prompts and exercises to keep us writers engaged and motivated.
The Art of War for Writers by James Scott Bell
Following Sun Tzu’s example, this book covers the mental game of writing (reconnaissance), craft (tactics) and advice on the publishing world (strategy). Lots of good stuff.
Do the Work – Steven Pressfield
Resistance can (and probably will)show up at some point in any creative endeavor. Pressfield normalizes and helps you get around, over, thorough it. Easy, quick and entertaining reading
Writing on Both Sides of The Brain by Henriette Anne Klauser
Ultimately, writing involves both the left and right hemisphere of our brain and Klauser helps the writer travel easily between the two. I love her style.
Poem Crazy by Susan Goldsmith Wooldridge
To me, writing is about filling up on words and images and impressions, seeing with different eyes. Wooldridge talks about gathering words and playing with language and brings that way of thinking into everyday life. There’s a poet inside everyone!
Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
This is on everyone’s list for a reason. It’s a classic and required reading for anyone who wants to live life in creative space.
Stein on Writing by Sol Stein
Tons of great advice on craft for both fiction and non-fiction writers.
And a bonus favorite:
The American Heritage College English Dictionary (or any good dictionary and thesaurus)
Yes, I’m a word nerd. I love a big heavy dictionary with its thin pages and can get lost in it. Whether it’s online or in hand a good dictionary and thesaurus belongs in a writer’s toolbox.
What are your favorite books for getting your creativity going?
What do you ache for? Is there a goal that seems just out of reach? Are you longing for a deeply satisfying career or a meaningful and purpose filled retirement? Do you yearn to follow your bliss, climb out of ruts, or leave the status quo behind? Or maybe you’d just love to bring the joie back into the vivre. If it becomes a struggle it can be exhausting!
A gap can emerge between what you want and what you have; where you want to be vs where you are. That space can often feel like an abyss. You feel like you’re standing on the edge and looking out into nothing and that you are all alone.
That gap is your creative play zone.
When I was a little girl we had a swing set in our backyard. It was a simple set. Two swings, a small glider and a monkey bar on each end. The four poles that held it all together were anchored in small cement feet on which my father had carved his and my mother’s initials: pk+ rk.
I loved to swing. I can feel the pumping action even as I type this. And, as I pumped that swing, I would sing. When I taught my granddaughter to swing we sung. It’s a requirement. The louder you sung the higher you swung! Or maybe it’s the other way around. No matter.
Our backyard was a safe place to be. Fenced, and accessible only through a small walkway on the side of the house, it was its own world. We could sing, swing standing up, hang upside down on the monkey bar and be on our own with no supervision.
Back then the yard was big. It got smaller as we grew. No, it wasn’t perspective. As we got bigger the house got bigger. An addition took up yard space; pools grew from kiddie pools to big ovals with a deck. Eventually, the swing set got crowded out and fun went from boisterous singing to cool lounging in a bikini.
Where does creative play go?
A time filled with the moment. The only rules were those you made up on the spot, in a safe place without judgment or comparison, a place to feel exuberance throughout your whole body. No gaps; just fluid movement from one brilliant idea to the next.
6 Ways to Slip into Your Creative Play Zone and make your way to the things you ache for
1. Ask yourself if the gap is really as big as it feels. What is the essence of what you want? Draw on the mindfulness of children at play and check your personal sandbox. Are any elements of your dream already there? Awareness is always the place to start. With this awareness you’ll feel more pleasure and appreciation and moving forward will become easier. Think about using those essences as a bridge.
2. Is the other side a little foggy? Often we feel a yearning for something but can’t put a finger on it. Like the feeling of hunger with no idea what will satisfy it. What are some ways to gain clarity? One way is to not strain for it. Play a more Kaizen-like game of twenty questions by asking yourself one small question at a time. Don’t push for an answer; let your inspiration emerge. It will if you don’t bully it. Be a kind friend to yourself.
3. Be selective in your playmates. This is your playground and you get to make the rules. Consider holding at arm’s length those who will tell you what to do and how to do it. Hang a “keep out” sign for the ones who pass immediate judgment on a fresh, new idea. Be especially wary of the naysayers (as well as the well-meaning) who tell you it’s already been done or you’re too old or it’s too hard. NOT!
4. Let your dreams evolve the same way childhood games did. As one client told me, “I know something’s ahead. I just don’t know what it is… yet.” (Hire a coach!) Adopting a let’s see attitude instead of having a concrete end game will open up possibilities not even considered. Goals are great but let them be fluid. It really is about the journey, hackneyed as that may sound. (Remind me to tell you about a long-ago car ride in search of the Delaware Water Gap.)
5. Consider that there can be a world of riches in the gap. It could be like going into your grandmother’s attic and finding a whole new dimension. Or a scavenger hunt where the objects to be discovered pop up on their own and give a hint of where to go next. It’s a sense of adventure that can bring the gap to life. Sometimes you need to fall into the gap rather than bridge it. Yes, it might be part of the journey.
“Everything in the world we want to do or get done, we must do with and through people.”- Earl Nightingale."
6. Are you really alone? Look around you. Who else is there? How might you band together. It’s hard to do it alone. It stinks to feel like you’re the only one who doesn’t have it all figured out (Hint: we never do) As adults we can look back and see how just about every teenager feels the same insecurity and fear and yet each one still feels that her zit is the only one visible. Trust me, there are many folks out there who are feeling just the way you do! And, with the internet that number becomes bigger and bigger each day. Find a group whose interests pique yours. Join a master mind. Pick your head up and go out into the world and explore others’ playgrounds. Find new friends, a new tribe.I did that years ago when I first left my corporate job. I never knew these wonderful folks were out there! They made all the difference for me as I found my way across my gap. They provided dots for me to connect. They still do.
It really is all about creative play.
We were driving somewhere recently when my husband, Lou, pointed up and said, “Oh, look, a skywriter!”
I craned my neck and looked up through the windshield and, sure enough, there were lines of white in the blue, blue sky. Now, they may have been vapor trails of specks of planes so far up that I couldn’t see them, but… skywriters. Haven’t thought about that in forever.
If you believe that creativity is the lens through which you view the world, then possibilities are endless. Like ridges of mountains that appear in the distance, one after the other, rolling away into the horizon, these are your possibilities
One after the other. Endless. But only if you are awake to them.
Is your lens cloudy? Is access to your creative spirit rusty? Call upon the muse Aha-phrodite, the first stop in Kaizen Muse Creativity Coaching™. She is the WD-40 in the creative toolbox.
Awareness. With it we stay present to those possibilities calling us to the next hill and the one after that and the one after that. With it we observe what delights us. With it inspiration finds us.
Ask yourself: what is presenting itself to me? Why? Where is it leading me? Ask the questions and then go about your business. But stay alert – radar on, antenna up! The answers are waiting for you.
Kathy Kane blogs about the creative process in the everyday, in writing and in the magical transition to the second half of life.
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