Since we're not robots who can produce on demand, we're bound to get stuck in our creative process. We're bound to have zero ideas, to feel disconnected and distracted. We're bound to get frustrated and feel like we'll never create again. EVER AGAIN. (We're bound to get a bit dramatic.) That's when it can help to take a break, and play, to loosen up our minds and bodies. Here's a list of 20 ways you can play and possibly get unstuck.
It's not easy to finish a project---let alone start it---when you know it'll be judged (when you know you'll be judged; when someone is judging our work, it's hard to separate the work from ourselves, isn't it? instead, we tend to take it personally and internalize it). Rather, it's very easy to get hyper-focused on the potential critiques and comments. What will they think of this? Is that too silly, too cliche? Too bold? Bad? Really bad? When we anticipate judgment, it's very easy to feel disconnected from our work, to feel self-conscious and to doubt each sentence, each stanza, each stroke---maybe even everything we're doing.
We tend to think that everything we do has to have a greater purpose or some productive end point. It must be profitable or valuable in some way. At the very least, it must be good. And if it isn't any of these things, then performing that activity is a waste. And that includes creativity. So we assume that writing a short story, painting the sunset, penning a poem, playing the guitar, taking pictures of our surroundings or creating in any other way just because---without any goal other than play or pleasure---is a total waste of our time (and money and energy and effort).
What I love about the creative process is how much it mirrors so many other areas of our lives. After all, when we're creating, we confront all sorts of challenges (and opportunities). Self-doubt. Second-guessing. Comparison-making. Creator's block. Anxiety. Fear. Perfectionism. Shame. Uncertainty. And when we learn from these challenges (and opportunities), we can apply these lessons to anything: Our other work; our relationships; the way we navigate our days and our commitments. Because the common denominator is you. This is one of the reasons I started the "Behind the Book" interview series.
The late writer Marina Keegan had a habit that was vital to her creative process. She talked about it in her application to Anne Fadiman's writing class at Yale: "It began in a marbled notebook but has since evolved inside the walls of my word processor. Interesting stuff. That's what I call it. I'll admit it's become a bit of an addiction. I add to it in class, in the library, before bed, and on trains. It has everything from descriptions of a waiter's hand gestures, to my cab driver's eyes, to strange things that happen to me or a way to phrase something. I have 32 single-spaced pages of interesting stuff in my life."
There's a great chapter in the book Writing Motherhood on writing about the scents we associate with different people in our lives. Author Lisa Garrigues writes that her father smelled of "Old Spice aftershave, Scope mouthwash, leather gloves, gasoline, freshly cut grass, vitamins, ginger snaps, the New York Times."
Therapists are taught to share very little about themselves. After all, therapy is about the patient. But this doesn't stop clients from being curious about the people they reveal their deepest secrets and vulnerabilities to. In How Does That Make You Feel? editor and clinician Sherry Amatenstein gathers essays from therapists who give readers a rare glimpse into their thoughts, feelings and hearts. As she writes in the introduction to the book, "Within these pages, patients will find a healthy way to examine their fascination with the 'human' side of therapists without jeopardizing the relationship with their own shrink." The book also features essays from clients about their experiences on the couch.
In my monthly interview series, individuals from all sorts of backgrounds---therapists, artists, authors---talk about the power of creativity in their lives. This month I'm happy to feature Amy Maricle, a Massachusetts-based artist, art mentor and creator of the Mindful Art Studio. Below, Amy shares what creativity means to her---including the sentence "creativity is like exhaling," which I absolutely love---along with lots of other beautiful and inspiring insights. This is truly one of my most favorite interviews. I hope you enjoy it, too!