Creativity's Workshop

Taming and Training Your Creativity to Write Abundantly


Taking the Creative Initiative to Be Kind

Some of you may have heard about my family’s recent run in with an horrendous stomach bug. We were on Gulang Yu when my brother came down with it first. He was so sick we thought it was food poisoning. When I came down with it the next night we realised it must be a stomach bug. The following night my father endured its horrors. Thankfully we were able to shield my grandmother and mother from its worst effects. I will spare you most of the icky details. I mention it for one purpose – to tell you of an amazingly kind act.

On the night of the 14th I went through 7 hours of hell. During that time, I discovered I am an epically loud vomiter. Mum later said it sounded like I was in labour. My brother says it’s the sound a person makes when they are very scared and gripped by despair, willing the ordeal to be over. He made the same sound, and the next night my father would experience it too. However, at that point in time my father had never vomited in his life. He had no idea what it felt like. All he knew was his little girl was suffering. And so he walked into the bathroom, held me close and stroked my head. While I made all manner of noises, he just held me.

Both of us agree that it is something we would be very happy never to experience again, nevertheless I will treasure that memory and his kindness for as long as I live. Why? Because even though he had at that point never experienced what I was going through, he took the initiative to do the one thing he could think of to help – even though it meant personal discomfort. (I have since discussed this event with him in the context of creative thought, and he said he was definitely using his imagination at the time – imagining himself anywhere in the world but there. Still, that’s using Creativity, right?)

Creative Kindness

How do you feel when you see someone suffering? Naturally we all want to help. Even when words fail us, we still have the overwhelming urge. Our empathy kicks into gear and we start looking for ways to help.

A magazine I read once about helping people who have lost a loved one in death mentioned that we all say, “If there is anything you need, just let me know.” While we sincerely mean that we would do anything to help, we leave it up to the bereaved person to decide how we can help. The problem is, usually the person is so distraught or anxious not to put others out that they never take you up on the offer. Think about it. When was the last time someone rang you up and said, “I really need you to cook me a meal,” or “Could you help me with some cleaning”? Most times people who are grieving, or sick, or dealing with other emotional trauma don’t really know what they need.

At times like this, a little creative thought and initiative are called for. For instance, instead of saying, “Perhaps I can help out with a little housework sometime,” why not say, “I’ll do some vacuuming for you. How does Tuesday morning sound?” Or even better, why not just start vacuuming, or ironing, or washing? Perhaps bake a cake or a casserole and take it around. Use your Creativity to find a need and fill it, especially if all the obvious ones are taken.

Of course, we wouldn’t want to impose our presence and our help where it is not needed or wanted, but often you’ll find a little bit of friendly initiative is very welcome. In fact, very simple and seemingly insignificant acts on our part take on far greater meaning to someone who is suffering.

The Act of Being There

The opportunity for expressing kindness doesn’t necessarily stop a couple of weeks after a traumatic event. Sometimes the person’s physical and emotional pain continues on for months or years. Anniversaries of the event or other times that may cause painful memories to resurface are opportunities for you to show care and understanding to the person. Perhaps if your friend has lost a spouse, why not drop by on their wedding anniversary and offer a listening ear? Be there to reminisce, or distract if necessary. Show that you recognise the significance of the day and the pain they may be feeling.

While we ourselves may never have experienced the circumstance our friend is going through, and we would want to avoid saying, “I know exactly how you feel,” imagining what is involved in their situation can provide us with greater understanding. This understanding can lead to kindness and helpfulness in uniquely creative ways.

Often those acts of kindness hold a special place in the hearts of our friends and family.

Have you ever experienced someone’s creative kindness?

Image credit: Microsoft Clip Art



How I Ruined a Perfectly Good Pen in the Shower, or The Creativity Sponge

A sponge and bucket surrounded by bubbles.Tivity says I’m being too informative and not entertaining enough. So, I shall attempt to rectify this by explaining how I ruined a perfectly good pen in the shower.

I have long hair, and it takes me ages to wash. And usually, during hair washing, I come up with some of my best ideas. Which is really annoying. Why? Because I have no access to pen and paper. Thinking about it, one could probably scrawl something on the mist covered glass of the shower, but I don’t think that’s the most reliable means of preserving genius.

My method for idea preservation is repeating the idea to myself over and over until I’m dry and can find writing implements. However, on the day in question, I got distracted; probably by shampoo in the eye or someone turning the dishwasher on and instantly relieving me of the hot water.

And so this is why I found myself some fifteen minutes later, fully clothed, sitting on the shower stool with pen and paper trying to mentally recreate the moment I had my idea. That’s also the point where I dropped the pen and discovered ball point down on tiles is not healthy.

(Now do you understand why I’m the informative one and Creativity’s the story-teller?)

This seemingly random story does have a purpose. I get my best ideas and connect with my Creativity the strongest when I’m in the shower. I have a relative who had the idea for a brilliant invention while on the toilet. I have two closer family members who get ideas walking from their desk to the toilet or the water fountain.

What do all these places have in common, apart from the obvious ablution factor?

Notice they are not the desk, or in front of the computer, or while staring at a blank piece of paper, or while being stared at by a boss or teacher or mother. They are alone time. Stress free time. Time when no one is expecting you to fix the situation, to find the solution, to solve the unsolvable. And that’s the time when you get the flash of inspiration.

And this brings me to one of my favourite quotes of all time:

“Your most brilliant ideas come in a flash, but the flash comes only after a lot of hard work. Nobody gets a big idea when he is not relaxed, and nobody gets a big idea when he is relaxed all the time.” – Edward Blakeslee

Why Is It So?

Imagine, for a moment, your Creativity is a sponge. (Tiv says she’s a purple sponge with green polka dots. I’ll leave you to erase that disturbing image from your mind on your own. I’m stuck with it.) Now imagine you are lowering your Creativity sponge into a bucket of special idea-inducing water. She soaks it up with gusto. Now, you pull your sponge out of the bucket and squeeze. Lovely ideas, concepts, jokes, random hilarity etc. drip everywhere. Life is good.

Next, without releasing your hand, stick the sponge back in the bucket. Pull the sponge out and squeeze again. Notice that far less creative goodness comes out this time?

If you’re holding the sponge tightly, no matter how much water you immerse it in, the sponge won’t soak it up – and therefore will not have anything to give you when you squeeze.

Where Am I Going With This?

When you need an idea, you squeeze your Creativity. She bursts forth with all the amazing brilliance you know and love. However, as you become more stressed you’ll notice her productivity begins to drop. You’re squeezing her for ideas, but she’s got nothing left to give. That’s what the dyspeptic haddock look is telling you. You need to let go, give her some breathing room and an opportunity to absorb more idea juice.

How long does that take? It really depends on the Creativity, and the problem. Sometimes it takes minutes. Sometimes days. But relaxing and providing Creativity with breathing room is a very important part of the creative process. Do not rush it, and do not squeeze too early. Be prepared to relax. This is not slacking off! It is giving your Creativity sponge time to refresh. And it is just as important, if not more so, than the squeezing step.

(Note to parents, teachers, friends, employers: If you happen to see your child, student, friend or employee staring into space, or walking aimlessly around when they should be working on a problem, resist the urge to shake them back to reality and force them into a ‘working’ frame of mind. They are most probably communing with their inner sponge…er…Creativity, whether they consciously realise it or not. At times, it’s that little moment of blankness, of daydream, that provides the inspiration for what they’re about to do. Not always, but sometimes. So give them the benefit of the doubt, at least once, and see what happens. You might get to watch that wonderful moment where Creativity sparks and ideas are born.)

What about you? Where or when do you get your brilliant flashes? Please share. We’d love to know.


Does Your Creativity Have a Name?

So hopefully by now you’ve at least got some idea of who your Creativity is and where he or she lives. But, do you know your Creativity’s name?

“Creativity? I thought her name was Creativity.”

And if she (or he) is okay with you calling her Creativity, then that’s fine. But sometimes your Creativity has a pet name. I have several. I’m called ‘Tivity’ or ‘Tiv’ for short, and sometimes, when I’m going undercover, I’m called ‘Treya Vitic.’ If you look really closely, you’ll notice that’s the letters of Creativity all swapped around. There’s a fancy word for it, but I can never think of what it is. Which is why I work in Imagination and not the Motor Cortex.

What about your Creativity? Is he called Mr. Creativity to you? Or perhaps Hoopla the Yellow Bunny? Uncle Fuzzy?

What does your Creativity call herself/himself? What do you call her/him? They’re not always the same name. Ask and see what happens. After which, comment and tell me all about it.


The Need for Creativity

An idea light globe masquerading as a hot air balloonWe use creativity every day. We use it when we run out of sugar, and decide to try honey in our tea. We use it when the freeway is blocked and we try an alternate route to work. We use it when we realise the stapler is as good a paperweight as the Italian snow globe the mother-in-law gave us, which we’ve just broken. Creativity also comes in to play as we try to figure out how we’re going to explain it to her.

Even those of us who consider ourselves less than creative – drink our tea without sugar, dutifully sit in traffic, and never use expensive gifts as paperweights – still use our creativity to get through life.

But many of us believe: There are creative people, and then there’s me. I’m just not creative.

I’ll let you in on a secret. All of us have creativity inside us. It’s how we protect and nurture it that makes the difference between those who are often described as ‘creative’ and those who drink unsugared tea.

“So?” says you. “I’ve managed just fine up until now. Why does it matter?”

Taking a creative approach to work, school, learning and life in general will not only help you stand out from the crowd, but enjoy things so much more.

For example:

  • At work, what distinguishes you from the new computer software that can do your job in half the time?
  • At school, what is the difference between your essay and the 30 other essays on the teacher’s desk?
  • At home, why does the discovery of long lost fabric fill you with excitement?

The answer to all of these questions should be: Your creative approach.

Developing your creative ability allows you to see possibilities in all sorts of situations. It shows your boss you’re a valuable member of the team. It provides a refreshing change to the teacher who reads your essay. It motivates you to make new curtains, a new dress, a new apron, a coat for the dog, a rag doll for your daughter…the list goes on.

“Okay,” you say. “But how does one become more creative?”

I’m glad you asked! At least I hope you asked. My mindreading skills are not exactly legendary. I work mainly on mind-assuming skills.

There are many books, magazines, blogs etc. which deal with creativity and how to develop it. All of them have merit. However, I’d like to introduce you to a different way of looking at creativity. Most methods of developing creativity involve steps, flow charts, circular diagrams, intensive exercises etc. All those have their place. But this blog has a different purpose. I’d like to show you how to get to know her.

Yes, I do know I used the word ‘her.’ Your Creativity may be a boy, but mine is most definitely a girl. A talkative, excitable girl with ridiculous…I mean interesting dress sense and a fascinating workshop.

Ah, now the title all makes sense. Yes, I would like to invite you into my Creativity’s workshop (that is the workshop belonging to Creativity) and demonstrate how you can become friends with your inner Creativity.

Now before you scream, “weird!” and leave as quickly as possible, please give the idea a moment to settle in your mind. After all, most of us are used to that little disembodied voice in our head known as our conscience, and we’re often very comfortable to think of it almost as a separate entity. Well why not try the idea of viewing your Creativity as friend inside your head – a friendship which could lead to many enjoyable and hysterical adventures.

This blog will show how this relationship works (and sometimes doesn’t work) from a ‘normal’ person’s point of view (me) and from Creativity’s point of view. I mentioned she’s talkative. You’ll see for yourself very soon.

I realise this approach is unconventional, but that’s Creativity in general. If you embrace the weird and wacky, life becomes far more interesting…

And on that note, I have nothing else to say except welcome to my blog and please leave a comment.