I Could be More Creative, If Only...

by Lori Shridhare

If this sentiment sounds familiar, you’re not alone. With dozens of books on the market that help nurture one’s creativity, this movement (as it might be called) is gaining in popularity. Of course, this is not surprising. Who doesn’t want to be more creative in life? Whether you aspire to enjoy more creativity as an artist-in-training or as CEO of a corporation, enhancing your know-how in this area can bring more success—and, most importantly—fulfillment.

As a writer, nothing thrills me more than to experience the fullness and abundance that envelop me when ideas are flowing. Conversely, nothing frightens me more than when I experience what I can only describe as a loss of grounding—when I’m faced with a vacuum. I wish I could provide the magic solution to overcoming the trepidation that strikes when I feel uncreative and out of touch. What I’ve learned is to cultivate patience in recapturing this part of my self. As you search for peace, stillness, and tranquility in life, so too will creativity come. Over the years, I’ve watched my own cycles of ups and downs and have learned to accept them rather than react to them. Just as, while meditating, I attempt to simply observe my mind while it continues to have thoughts, in the midst of daily activities, I’m learning to embrace the universal challenges that come with maintaining creativity.

Early on, like many people, I didn’t believe I could be creative. But I remembered being a creative child, and I felt no self-consciousness about being creative then. Enter Julia Cameron’s book and course The Artist’s Way, which helped me, at age 24, to undo the blocks that crept in between childhood and adulthood. When I finished her self-guided 12-week course, I felt that I had been given permission, for the first time in my adult life, to be creative. And that permission came from inside.

During this process of reconnecting with my creative energy, what helped me tremendously was facing my own ingrained resistance—fear of failure and lack of confidence. Stewart Cubley, director of The Painting Experience program and coauthor of the book Life, Paint and Passion, has seen how this resistance manifests in his workshop participants. “A common belief that my workshop participants have is they just don’t have what it takes to be creative,” Stewart says. “They believe they need to possess some kind of experience or training.” Stewart sets a tone of safety as the workshops begin, ensuring that the creative space will be non-competitive. “It’s the experience of making art that really matters. Art comes from a place in us that’s ultimately not about training and not about having a special talent or a particular skill. It’s about contacting the source of your own imagination and daring to bring that into a form. This process is available to everyone,” he says.

Other issues that arise on the creative path relate to expression: fear of exposure and humiliation. Claude Stein, a voice and performance coach, has observed that facing these emotions can allow the creative process to blossom. Claude teaches workshops that help participants enhance their creativity and presentation skills through performance and singing. “There is shame and often a deep projection that we won't be loved if we don't sing all of the notes well,” he says. “Everyone, even those who believe they are tone-deaf, can learn to match pitch. And the question becomes not do I have a good voice, because this is open to wide interpretation, but do I have a gift that can bring me joy, wholeness, and inspire others? Can singing be a tool for self-growth that can empower me to make a bigger difference on the planet?”

Making a difference can simply mean applying creativity to everyday matters. In Stewart’s Painting Experience workshops, the focus is on integrating creativity and life, so once you stop painting, the benefits remain. “It’s not about painting, it’s about a way of being,” he says. “The painting is a microcosm where you engage your creative process. Then, when you come out and you’re back in your life, you realize ‘Wow, my creative process is going on all the time and it’s not just with painting.’” Similarly, Claude has observed that the freedom his students experience from vocal expression often continues to unfold in daily life. “We listen better, we consider more options, we live with a greater, deeper sense of our self-worth,” he says. “Our lives have in a way been validated on a deep soul level from creating beauty.”

For those seeking creativity, cultivating “beginner’s mind,” the openness of a beginner, can be freeing. “The idea is to not to have expectations, and to become excited about not knowing where you are going,” says Stewart. The trick, he adds, is to allow creativity to be part of a much larger discovery, finding different ways to express yourself and trying new approaches. “For me, not knowing is the heart of the creative process itself,” he says.

Lori Shridhare, a writer based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is a regular contributor to Harvard and MIT news publications, and a copywriting instructor and marketing consultant for corporations and nonprofits.

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