Creativity's Workshop

Taming and Training Your Creativity to Write Abundantly


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Immunising Your Creativity Against Criticism

The dreaded needle

It’s three weeks till Jessica heads off for her overseas trip, and today she’s having vaccination shots.

Now, do correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe vaccinations work along these lines: The nurse injects a weakened form of the virus into your body for your immune system to practice on. Your immune system bumps off the lurgy in fine style, creating antibodies (not antibiddies as I just typed by accident, although it does provide a fantastic mental picture of large middle-aged women running around the bloodstream biffing germs where they stand)…ahem, creating antibodies so if your body ever does encounter the real thing, it’ll flatten those blighters as soon as look at them. Sound about right?

Well, it occurs to me that a similar concept can be applied to protecting your Creativity from a dangerous affliction blighting the existence of Creativities the world over – Criticism Poisoning. (Like Blood Poisoning for you guys. I realise the rest of the medical side of what is to follow is shaky, but the concepts work in my world, if not in yours. And really that’s all that matters at this point.)

Now, while some Criticism is necessary, even helpful, there are some very nasty strains floating around. The “What made you think that would work?” strain is a doozy, and the “When are you going to get a real job?” strain is very dangerous. Exposure to these and other strains can leave your Creativity feeling extremely ill and even kill infant ideas. If exposed to Criticism for long enough, Creativities can become paralyzed.

Symptoms of Criticism Poisoning range from sluggishness and numbness through to complete creative blanks – a truly dreadful thing for a Creativity to endure.

The more often you show your work to the public, or tell someone about your ideas, the more likely you are to risk infection. Every time someone reacts to your work, whether verbally or simply through body language, they may offer criticism. When that happens, you risk exposing yourself and your Creativity to Criticism Poisoning. At times you can even infect yourself by allowing inner Criticism to take over.

What should you do?

There is a Treatment!

When you travel overseas, there is always the chance you will catch something. Some places you’re just likely to catch the flu, or a mild tummy bug. In other places, you can catch real nasties like Malaria or Hepatitis. Does this mean you should stop at home and never travel? What a boring life that would be! And there’s no guarantee you won’t end up with something just as icky while wrapped up snug at home. So, doctors suggest you enact a two step plan. Immunizations and boosting of the immune system.

The good news is, these steps work the same for your Creativity. Here’s how.

Immunization

As I mentioned before, immunizations expose you to a weaker version of the disease. Why not expose your Creativity to a weaker version of Criticism? You want to provide him/her with the necessary antibodies (or tools) to fight the infection as well as provide the confidence that this disease can be cured.

So, before plunging yourself and your ideas into a public arena where you are sure of coming in contact with a critic at some point, find an occasion to expose yourself to a milder form of Criticism. Perhaps from a friend.

Find someone you trust to be kind, but provide you with solid feedback to an idea – the good and the bad. You’ll feel the initial smart when they tell you your idea needs work, or when they explain that the outburst of laughter in the second paragraph of your short story was not because of your sparkling wit but a typo. Embrace the stinging in the back of the throat. Learn to remove the emotion (disappointment, rejection, embarrassment) from the actual facts – the idea still needs thought, you need to pay more attention to the spell checker, etc. Practice looking past the pain and seeing the possibilities.

Once you feel confident enough to take your friend’s ‘Criticism,’ move on to another friend or family member, this time looking for someone with a little sharper tongue (like a caustic cousin or a grating great-aunt). Ask for an opinion from someone you know is very opinion-happy, but make sure the situation and person you choose will not spiral into hate fest or damage a relationship.¬† Once exposed, take the natural hurt and work with it. Find the kernel of helpful information without getting bogged down in the emotion.

This will take time and practice. Some immunizations require multiple doses to be effective. This is one of them. But stick with it. The ability to survive Criticism is imperative to seeing you and your Creativity through the highly infectious times.

While immunizing, don’t forget to work on the second step.

Boosting Your Immune System

Garlic. Horseradish. Echinacea. The list goes on and on. The idea behind them is that by boosting the strength of your immune system, you are giving yourself more strength to fight sickness.

How can you boost your Creativity’s ‘immune system’?

One effective way is by reminding him/her, and yourself, of your achievements – however big or small. Remembering that you are creative, capable and successful (even in small things) will make you more resilient. It will also provide your Creativity with pictures of past accomplishments, reminders that he/she is capable of doing it all again.

Another method is to remind yourself how you feel about being creative. Does it make you happy? Do you feel fulfilled? Peaceful? Whole? Are you doing this to gain the appreciation of all your peers, and then the world? That last one isn’t a good enough reason. You’ll never please everyone. But if you’re doing it because of the first four feelings listed above, then that’ll keep you going. Those are positive feelings. Healing feelings. And after a bout of Criticism, you need healing feelings. (Try saying that four times fast with a mouthful of biscuits. Healing feelings, hilling fillings, hulling fullings, falling hillings.)

What about reading examples of writers, artists, actors and others who have received criticism for their work, even while many were showering them with praises? Criticism doesn’t just happen to people who are beginning or who are ‘below par.’ It happens to everyone. You’re not alone.

Of course, our favourite method is to find yourself a good friend who can offer soothing words when you and your Creativity are feeling particularly off-colour. Sometimes a good ego stroking does help. But only to a point. I’m sure there’s only so much garlic one can take as well, although I haven’t yet found the limit…of ego stroking or garlic. ūüėõ

Monitor Your Creativity’s Health

Unfortunately, whenever we share our creative endeavors we are always exposing ourselves to Criticism. Our vaccinations may need renewing from time to time. We will always need immune boosting.

But the best thing to remember is: While Criticism has the potential to cut you down, it can also make you stronger. A lot stronger. The key is learning how to find the kernel of useful information – the spot where you can improve – and then using it. But more about that later.

Right now, I’m off for some immune boosting.

Image credit: Microsoft Clip Art


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Creativity Checkup

It’s been just over two months since we first started this blog and invited you to begin searching for your Creativity’s personality and description.

So, how is your Creativity coming along? Have you discovered new things? Name? Surroundings? Quirks? Likes? Dislikes?

Here’s your opportunity to share your discoveries. We’d love to hear how you and your Creativity are getting along. ūüôā


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Work That Creative Flab

I’m Jessica’s Creativity (you can tell from my purple text) and I’m here today to talk about exercise – the kind of exercise you can do while sitting down…and eating chocolate. Interested?

“OkWoman stretching before exerciseay,” you say. “I read the post about trusting Creativity, but I’ve got news for you. My Creativity is no MacGyver or Indiana Jones. I don’t think he/she can go the distance, whether I trust her/him or not.”

A valid point. Before you can trust someone, you need to believe in their trustworthiness. You cannot demand trust with no basis. You need proof, and your Creativity needs practice.

The answer? Exercise!

You cannot accomplish rain forest conquering feats if you have not first walked around the block a couple of times. Couch potatoes tend to do badly during death marches in the tropics, or death marches anywhere come to think of it.

The trick is to exercise yourself into condition, develop experience and accumulate gadgets. Let’s discuss these in a little more detail.

Get Yourself Into Condition

Okay, you’ve just been informed that in a month’s time you and the hero of your choice will be dashing off into the rain forest for an adventure. What do you do? After you ring your best friend babble for an hour and a half about how totally awesome this is going to be, what do you do?

Presumably you look at the less than ideal waistline and think about getting into shape. There are two ways to do this:

  • Rush down to the beach now and start doing laps!
  • Plan a consistent and reasonable exercise routine.

Yeah, I’m all for the do-laps, exhaust-self, swear-never-to-exercise-until-next-year kind decision initially, but time has shown me the benefits of routine. In fact, a consistent and reasonable routine gets you fitter quicker and keeps you there for longer. Why? It’s easier to maintain because you form a habit.

The same can be said for a creative routine. You want to form a habit – the habit of turning up, sitting down and allowing your Creativity to flow.

You can do it in killer clumps of inspiration. At times it’s the only way you can get the mass if ideas out of your head. (It tends to get crowded when too many ideas appear at once. That’s when you need to get them out of your Creativity’s way and down on paper!) However, if you want to be continually and consistently creative, you need to get yourself and your Creativity into a routine.

You’re possibly thinking that routine takes all the spark out of Creativity, and you kill random as soon as you put a schedule to it. To clarify, I am not saying you set yourself a time of day and only let your Creativity come out to play between 8 and 9 in the morning. Spontaneity is a huge part of the creative process. However, regular practice sessions with your Creativity will eventually lead to more spontaneity and creativeness. Counter intuitive perhaps, but don’t knock it till you try it.

Develop Experience

As you develop your daily walking routine, you’ll begin to accumulate experience. By the third day you’ll realise a water bottle is essential. By the fifth day you’ll realise that the first five minutes are always the hardest (or the second five minutes, or the seventh five minutes). By the seventh day you’ll realise walking at 7:45 every morning is a bad idea because Walter walks Caesar the Alsatian along the same path at the same time, and Caesar takes violent exception to your squeaky shoes.

Your creative routine will be the same. You’ll begin to realise when you need that cup of tea/coffee. Is it when you sit down, half an hour in or as a reward when you finish? If you’re writing, you’ll know that the first hundred words are the hardest, followed by the next hundred words which are also the hardest, and then there’s the hundred after that… You’ll begin to learn what to do when you hit the wall. Tough it out, concentrate on something different or reward yourself? You may even learn when you should stop; identify when your Creativity sponge is all squeezed out.

The more experience you have, the better you’ll understand yourself and your Creativity. This knowledge helps you trust your Creativity and know what she needs.

Accumulate Gadgets

Jessica finds exercise much more exciting when she has something to listen to, which is why she walks with an mp3 player (or a family member, although they don’t clip onto the belt quite so comfortably). Other people walk with pedometers so they know exactly how many steps they’ve taken. Still others find walking with a big stick or pole makes them feel more comfortable – presumably Moses was one of these people.

When you and your Creativity are working together, what sort of things do you need? Music? Inspiring knickknacks? A word counter? Find the gadgets that work for you.

Once you have your routine, experience and useful gadgets, you’ll find yourself trusting in Creativity and the creative process that much more. You’ll know where to go and what do to when you need that inspiration.

But when will you have opportunity to do all these things? Stay tuned for a future post about how you can start your own Creative Project.

Image credit: Microsoft Clip Art


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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.


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Your Creativity’s Space

Kiosk on the beach

How are you getting along with your Creativity? We’re already hearing of tentative first meetings and surprising discoveries.

For example, Evan’s Creativity is¬†‘autumn brown…fiery reds, maroon and gold.’ He also says, ‘Arabesque‚Ķis the core of my Creativity‚Äôs personality. Not completely unhinged, but inherently nuts. Whimsically wonderful but stringently against the rectitude of sensibility. In truth, with no regard for etiquette!’ Way to go Evan! We can’t wait to hear more about your Creativity.

Have you found him/her yet? Don’t worry if you haven’t. It’s still early days. A good method for getting to know your Creativity is finding the space he or she likes to inhabit.

For example, I have a workshop. Would you like to see it? Click here and I’ll give you a quick tour.

Obviously, your Creativity will be a little (or a lot) different. In the same way that your personality is different to my Jessica’s personality, so your Creativity will be different to me.

So, what kind of place do you think your Creativity hangs out in? Is it one place or multiple? Is it a calm place, or a busy place? Is it a tidy place or a cluttered place?

I personally love disorganised clutter. I discover all sorts of unlikely connections between things when they’re all lying around together. I find if everything’s all in it’s own¬†little¬†pigeon hole, then nothing gets to interact with anything else, and everything gets boring.

But perhaps your Creativity needs things to be in order of highest to lowest, or yellow to black, or lightest to heaviest. What feels right to you? Go by gut instinct.¬†This is super important!¬†Rely on how you feel about it.¬†The more sensible sections of your¬†brain will want to get in on the act and start drawing flow charts, assessing risks, measuring things, making lists and generally telling you how silly your feelings are. Don’t listen. Ask them to shut up. Gag them with duct tape. Scoop them up with a front end loader and dump them unceremoniously in a padded cell. Do what ever you have to do until you are able to get to your real feelings about the matter.

Your Creativity’s personality and looks¬†are usually closely linked to the place he or she inhabits. For instance, is he a Jamaican with long dreadlocks and bright shorts, standing on an endless white beach with a kiosk of ideas? Or is he a homeless man with his own rubbish dump, continually finding gems amidst the garbage?

Tristan describes his Creativity as ‘a bit like a gardener. Plants¬†ideas and¬†does a lot of work¬†on them¬†at the start, to make sure they’re well rooted, then he goes off and tends to his other plants, maybe plant a few new¬†ones, and then comes back.¬†However, sometimes a number of the plants mysteriously merge into one super plant. I suppose Creativity must think it’s easier to¬†manage that way.’

If you’re having trouble finding Creativity on his or her own, then try finding the environment Creativity inhabits. Sometimes you’ll bump into him or her while you’re exploring.

At this point I should mention that¬†some people¬†will never quite see their Creativity. Perhaps they’re not visual people. Perhaps their Creativity is too shy. But if you try, you should at least get the feeling that there is a little creative spark within you who you can talk with. And sometimes, that’s all you need.

We’d love to start a little gallery section on our site with pictures or descriptions of your Creativitys. If you’d like e-mail us your description or¬†picture, send it to creativitysworkshopATgmailDOTcom.

In the mean time, please comment and let us know about your Creativity’s surroundings.


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The Benefits of Befriending Your Creativity

Okay. So now you’re probably finding the whole idea of personifying your Creativity a bit strange, and although it sounds cute and is fun to read, you think you’ll just remain a distant observer. Fair enough. But let me briefly explain why this concept might actually be useful.

Predict the ‘Elusive’

You’ve probably heard many descriptions of creativity. It’s a mysterious and elusive force some people master while others spend their time fruitlessly waiting for it to appear. It is a process – if you put yourself in the right mind-set, at the right time, in the right circumstances you will eventually produce creative thought.¬†The descriptions are numerous and varied.

However, most of¬†these descriptions¬†foster the idea that you need to control your creativity. If you find the spark, grab it. Don’t let go. Recreate the same circumstances so you can reproduce the experience. Follow these steps to bring it back into predictable line.

Steps and cycles do have their place when you need creative inspiration, as we’ll discuss another time. But what if, instead of viewing your creativity as something¬†to be controled, you viewed it as someone to interact with?

What if instead of viewing it as an unpredictable force, you were able to view it as a friend? You could learn your Creativity’s likes and dislikes. When does she feel creative, and when does she feel stifled? When is she bursting¬†to provide you with the answer, and when is she sulking because of something you let happen? What can you do to make her feel creative again?

And most importantly, how can you call her to action when you need her? What if, instead of rummaging through the scraps of paper on your noticeboard for your 10 point list on how to spark your creativity, you could mentally pop around to her place and ask for help in person?

The Second Voice

You’ve heard it said, “Two heads are better than one”? In a way, your Creativity can become your second head. She’ll bounce ideas off you. You’ll mention your problems to her. She’ll say the wacky, insane things you’re afraid to say and you’ll be the voice of reason. She’ll raspberry at you when you select her tamest idea and you’ll smile to yourself as you put it into practice.

Thinking of your Creativity as a separate character, allows part of you to voice ideas your rational mind would be too embarrassed to let out. It provides you plausible deniability. The idea’s insane/ridiculous/brilliantly crazy. That’s okay, it wasn’t me, it was Creativity. She made me think it. The freedom this provides is delightfully liberating, and does wonders for your creative thought. It¬†gives you permission to play with absurd ideas that you may otherwise have dismissed as inappropriate or childish. And it’s¬†those ideas that¬†are the necessary fodder for creative thought.

And besides, who doesn’t want to have someone to blame for our mistakes, verbal faux pax and word puns? Isn’t this why younger siblings are all the rage?

Feel More Comfortable in Your Process

I speak from experience when I say that viewing Creativity this way can take a lot of the stress out of the creative process. If I need an idea, I know where to go. I know I have a friend who can help me out. If I have a creative block, or am coming up with less than stellar ideas, I check on my Creativity. Is she annoyed at me? Is she feeling okay? Does she need a break? Does she need some new experiences? Am I actually listening to her, or trying to do things without her?

Getting to know your Creativity allows you to understand your own creative process. What helps it. What hinders it. (I use ‘it’ here to refer to the process, not the Creativity. I mention this to keep me out of my Creativity’s bad books. She views these things very seriously.) It also helps you to understand what you can do to increase the efficiency of your process.

In short, this is more than just a cute gimmick. It’s a concept that could help you become the creative person you want to be. So don’t be shy. Give it a try. ūüôā

(On a side point, you may notice that the capital C in Creativity seems to appear and disappear. In this blog we will use an upper case ‘C’ when referring to¬†personifications of Creativity, and a lower case ‘c’ when we are talking about creativity in general.)