Sunday, 21 October 2012

But That’s Too Hard!

Quite often we know we need to do some creative work, we want to do some creative work, but we don’t turn off that game show on the TV and get off the sofa to do it. What could be keeping us from doing what we really would enjoy more? That old bugga-boo ‘fear’.  There are lots of components to what we are afraid of when it comes to a creative block but one of the fears is that what we want to do will be too hard for us.
If we deem ourselves not to be capable or competent enough for what we are envisioning, then the task we want to undertake appears insurmountable. We stand at the bottom of that creative mountain unable to move. The doubt that we’ll make a mess of any attempt we undertake or that once it is done it will fall short of our vision stymies our first move. And we don’t have to know how bad that piece will be if we never make it.
One of the things that will help us scale down the momentousness of what we want to do is talk to ourselves in a helpful manner. Someone I know often looks at work that I’m doing and says, ‘Why are doing that? It looks so hard.’ I try not to look at the difficulty but the beauty of what I’m making. My focus is not on how hard it is to make something or how long it will take or how much frustration I will experience along the way. Instead, I focus on the satisfaction that will come with the finished product, the joy of the process itself, the sense of mastery  that comes from completing a difficult task (even if it took me twenty times to get it there) and being willing to make mistakes along the way.
When you consider a creative venture do you first see difficulty and roadblocks to accomplishing your goal? What phrases are you using to discount these ideas? Are you saying things like ‘That’s too hard;’ ‘No way could I do a whole painting like that;’ or ‘There’s no way I could write an entire book’ ? If so, then some challenges to those automatic negative responses are in order.
If you say ‘That’s too hard,’ break down what it is you think is so difficult: is it the style, the size, the colours you want to use, the time you’d have to commit to completing something? Figuring out what part is really scaring you allows you to focus on a challenge or a solution to that. If it’s how to mix the colours, then you can spend some time just learning how to do that and then tackle the project. If it is the size,  then talk to yourself about how you can only paint one stroke at a time any way so that’s all you’d be doing. But first, when you say to yourself ‘that’s too hard’ remember to answer with ‘yes, it may be hard, but not that hard’. Or, ‘it may be hard, but I am ready for the challenge’.  Remind yourself that you are capable and competent and that each venture is another chance to improve.
I think it’s ok to acknowledge the difficulty of a task. But to follow with an encouragement is the key. Talking to your self as your own personal cheerleader (without the gymnastics and shouting) is how to get through a tough project. Using phrases like ‘this may seem hard but with practice it will be easier’ and  ‘this may be hard but I’m willing to make the effort’ will carry you a lot further than the defeatist lament (to be said with a whine) ‘this is too hard!’ If I find my self saying a lot of times while working ‘Man, this is really difficult!’  I then have to follow it with ‘but I’m going to keep making the effort.’ And with that encouragement, the piece gets done!
Another aspect of the ‘it’s too big, too difficult, too much’ syndrome is to remember to break things down into smaller chunks. Like the old joke: How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. That is how you do any art piece: one bit at a time. We don’t start with the whole painting; we don’t start with the whole novel instead we start with a sketch, a few ideas, a line here and a line there. We start building with one piece at a time. Remembering to break it down in your head as well as with your hands into one small piece at a time helps us from getting overwhelmed with the entire project.
It’s ok to step back from time to time and see where you’re going. When you do, you’ll be surprised to find how far you’ve come. And hopefully your thought will be, ‘that wasn’t so hard after all!’

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Remember Your Inner Silliness

Recently I read a quote from Eckhart Tolle that said ‘When you lose touch with your inner stillness, you lose touch with yourself.’ In my own just-skimming-the-text way, I read it as ‘When you lose touch with your inner silliness, you lose touch with yourself.’ I did a double take as it didn’t sound at all like Eckhart Tolle; but upon reflection, I like my version better. We do indeed need to stay in touch with our inner silliness. It can be an extremely important part of our creativity as well as our overall well-being!
Creative work can be fun. It can be satisfying. But it can also be quite difficult and feel like an uphill struggle. If we forget to have fun, to add a bit of silliness to our lives, then we are drudgery incarnate! And drudgery stifles creativity. Even if our creative work is something sombre and serious, we need to indulge in a bit of fun to keep ourselves balanced.  Actually, I ought to say that especially if your work is sombre and serious do you need to engage in jocularity.
When you do your creative warm-ups, try adding a touch of silliness from time to time. If you are a musician, play a silly tune; a writer, a limerick that is absurd; a painter, draw something whimsical, etc. Deliberating being silly can open up levels of creativity that you didn’t realize were there. The serious ‘I’ve got to create’ can sometimes block us from doing just that, making the wonderful.
There have been studies done to show that humour and fun can improve one’s creativity. With laughter or a sense of fun, the brain releases endorphins and these endorphins help us to relax and allow creativity to flow more easily. When brainstorming, it seems that the more ridiculous the ideas get the more ideas you have and that leads to coming up with some real gems
There is also something called ‘Laughter Yoga’ which is used to not only relieve stress, depression and for pain control, but it has been found to be a useful tool for boosting creativity. I’ve actually taken part in a laughter yoga exercise and it was really helpful for my creativity. At first it felt absurd to just be laughing while taking on different positions but after a while I just relaxed and the laughter became quite real.
I often feel very anxious before starting a new project. Using the centring techniques, breathing, etc. sometimes don’t seem to have the total desired effect. For those times, watching a few funny clips on YouTube or talking with my sister (who always makes me laugh) are other ways that I help to set myself in creative motion on those particularly tough days.
If you start your work with something fun, it’s less likely that you’ll avoid getting into your workroom or space and doing the work. And the fewer reasons you have to avoid doing your creative work, the more likely it is that you’ll get in there and create and thereby meet your goals. So every now and then, get in touch with your inner silliness because, to quote Oscar Wilde, ‘life is too important to be taken seriously.’