Friday, 28 September 2012

Clearing the Clutter

One of the aspects of being creative is that often we are interested in many things. Another aspect is that we are easily distracted by something that looks more interesting than meeting a deadline of any kind. But these same qualities can keep us from achieving our creativity goals. Sometimes we need to go through our lives and clean out the clutter, not just in things but in activities.
We are all familiar with the idea of spring cleaning but I think it’s also important to do a bit of autumn cleaning as well. Recently I realized that I was getting busier and doing lots of things but none of them were what I really wanted and needed to be doing creatively nor were they even things I needed to do for living maintenance. I was erasing creative time on my calendar for extraneous non-creative activities.
What had happened? I’d allowed my life to get cluttered with a lot of extraneous ‘to dos’. Granted they were all interesting and very worthwhile, but they were keeping me from meeting my real objectives. With courses starting as well as some work commitments, I felt something had to be done.
So, a friend and I sat down together (she was having similar problems) and looked at what we were doing in our lives. First of all we made lists under the various headings:
·         Daily activities (family, job, housework, school, leisure activities)
·         Commitments to outside special interest groups and activities
·         Creative goals and activities
We looked at what things really were priorities and what things were taking priority. It is important to sit down and make those distinctions. Next we underlined the things there were real priorities; everything else was a perceived priority. Then I drew a little bubble chart of how much time was being spent on priority items and how much time was spent on perceived priorities. Once you have these things in front of you visually (whether a list or a chart), it is easier to see how much time is being spent where.
Sometimes things take over our lives because we don’t know how to say ‘no’ and we put our own desires to the back burner. I’m not saying to tell your children to fix their own dinner or do their own laundry (unless, of course, they are teenagers and then it’s good training for when their move out!). What I’m saying is: are you putting yourself first creatively at times when you really can? If you find that most of your time is spent doing things for others that really could do themselves and you are feeling resentful, stressed and spread thin, it’s time to de-clutter your life. Just as you would clear out a closet, you can look at what activities can be let go of to allow you more freedom for what is truly important.
My friend and I both felt that we were doing things for a couple of voluntary groups at a level that was interfering with our own personal goals. While these organizations were worthwhile, it seemed that they were taking up a lot more time than the couple of hours a week we originally thought they would. There was one organization that I was serving as chair for and, even though I wasn’t doing much with regard to it, I felt that I should be doing more. The mental clutter of another ‘to do’ lurking in the back of my mind was interfering with actually doing anything creative! In this case, perceived priority was adding clutter to my activities.
My friend found that she had spent nearly 40 hours one week on a voluntary position with a group. It was keeping her from doing what she really needed to do which was tend to her own creative business (as a self-employed person that really should have been her priority). We both had taken on responsibilities reflecting worthwhile interests and which were meant to enhance our creativity; instead these things were taking over our lives in a negative way.
After taking stock of what I wanted to do, what I had to do and what I was doing (that’s another possibility of list headings for clarification), I found they were grossly unbalanced. The next question was ‘what can I do to make things more balanced in favour of creativity?’ The answer was to take at least a temporary leave from a couple of groups, resign as chair from another (three years is long enough to be chair), make arrangements for others to take over some responsibilities that they really could do but weren’t, politely excuse myself from involvement in activities that were not necessary for me and formulate a clearer schedule. Instead of blindly running along trying to ‘get things done,’ I had to stop and examine where I was spending my time; I found that I was frittering away a lot of creative time.
As I said above, the mental sense of things ‘to do’ can take a great toll. If a lot of your thinking is that you should be doing something other than what you are doing, it is time to take stock. Examining where things could be shifted around, what corners could be cut, what things do you really not need to be doing and what things are you doing because someone else won’t? It’s especially difficult when you spend most of your hours at a day job and then try to squeeze in creative time. Asking others to take over some duties that will free you up is not shirking your responsibility; it is sharing the work load more equitably. And if you are a happy creator, then everyone around you benefits from that!
So far the de-cluttering has freed up my thinking and has allowed me to tackle some creative pursuits that had gotten lost in the mess. And so far, the world is still spinning after I said ‘no’ and the groups understood my need to step back for my own well-being.

Friday, 14 September 2012

Happy Little Clouds Above Happy Little Trees

I want to share with everyone a video that I ran across recently. It follows on quite well with last week's goal check regarding beliefs. The words for this video were taken from many of the phrases painter and instructor Bob Ross used on his television show. The encouraging words are set to a catchy little tune that just gets me smiling. And so much of what he says is so true.

If you aren't familiar with Bob Ross, he was a staple of American public broadcasting for many years. He sold millions of books, videos, kits and instructional paraphernalia during his career that unfortunately was cut short in 1995. But his easy style, his gentle voice giving simple instruction has done much for many painters over the years whether they were serious artists or hobbyists, he brought a lot of joy to people. His kits can still be purchased (I saw some at LPC on Bishop Street just last week). I loved his encouragement, how he made 'happy little trees' and 'happy little clouds' and he didn't make mistakes, he just had happy accidents. But one of the things that he did emphasis over and over was about relaxing when creating, believing in our creating and knowing that you are the creator, not only of your artistic world, but your emotional and mental world.

So, not much today except to remember to enjoy creating and believe in your ability. Even if you're not a painter, this little video just leaves one feeling a little bit lighter, a little bit smiley-er! (I know it's not a real word but it is a real feeling!)

So, enjoy and sing along: I believe that any day's a good day when you create!

Friday, 7 September 2012

I Do Believe, I Do, I Do, I Do Believe in My Creativity

Making inferences or making evaluations determines what sorts of feelings we will have. When an event occurs a person has a reaction to the event. She may feel angry and that feeling is accompanied with angry thoughts. Then what the person does with those angry thoughts and feelings—her actions—impacts on results and that in turn affects what she thinks about herself.

Inferences that are evaluative become beliefs. Beliefs are not facts and it is up to us to determine if what we are telling ourselves is a fact or if it is a belief and then chose which we will invest in.

This is part of the cognitive process of establishing beliefs. Beliefs are an essential element to life; we all have beliefs, but it is whether these beliefs help us or hold us back that makes them important. These two types of beliefs can be called serviceable beliefs or unserviceable beliefs. Serviceable beliefs help us to have the perseverance to keep at our creative work. Unserviceable beliefs cause us to abandon a project just before it’s about to come to a successful point and stop us from trying.

Serviceable beliefs are flexible, have a realistic logic, and are based on things you’d like or prefer to have happen. Your sense of worth can be maintained if what you want or your aims aren’t achieved. Serviceable beliefs are supportive and encouraging; they help you move toward your goal. Another thing that serviceable beliefs help with is to assist in the understanding that an action is not automatically equated with the person; you are not a failure if you don’t measure up in one activity. Even if you don’t meet with success in many things, your value is not equated with an arbitrarily set standard of ‘success’ or ‘failure’. You can still be a loved, valued person if you don’t write a best-seller. You may carry some disappointment at not having achieved this but you are still valuable.

Unserviceable beliefs are rigid, unyielding, and dogmatic and are based on superlatives such as: must, have to, got to, need to, always, never. etc. Generally, unserviceable beliefs do not have a foundation in reality and tend to not allow other possibilities. They are overly critical and self-condemning. Unserviceable beliefs are usually stated in the form of a demand, not a request or suggestion. Holding these unserviceable beliefs undermines one’s feelings of worth which can impact our ability to create. A person thinking they are the worst singer in the world would keep them from developing their singing voice. They wouldn’t see any point because this unserviceable belief doesn’t allow for the possibility of improvement or attaining a satisfactory level.

It’s important to know what your own personal beliefs are concerning your creativity and abilities. A helpful tool would be to write down all your beliefs about your creativity, your abilities, and your drawbacks, the good and the bad. Take each belief and look at it carefully. Is it a belief that furthers your activities? Is it a belief that stops you from trying new things or finishing your work? Clarification of your beliefs helps you to identify some things that could be holding you back. Quiet often we are not aware of beliefs; often they exist as vague notions in the back of our mind, but we still affect how we think and what we do. So, clarifying these beliefs can allow you to bring the helpful beliefs to the forefront and look for ways to challenge the unhelpful ones.

Another way of manifesting these beliefs in a negative way are seen in ‘either/or” thinking or “all or nothing” thinking. If we believe that we have to be the best, and if we don’t believe our self to be the best so thereby we are the worst, we are engaging in an unserviceable belief system. If we think we have to complete a novel without any editing each time we sit down to write and don’t achieve that and just give up, then we’re engaging in unserviceable beliefs. These are unreasonable, limiting beliefs, but many people hold them.

However, if we believe that our creative efforts are worthwhile and have value in the mere fact that we’ve done them, we are engaging in a more serviceable belief system. We are engaging in a much more serviceable belief system if we embrace and accept the fact that a major part of creativity is engaging in the process, as well as making the mistakes, the edits and the changes. We a more helpful way is to nurture the belief and fact that we ourselves have value and our work has value, even if it isn’t “perfect”.