Connecting With Your Creativity

Connecting With Your Creativity

Fall always reminds me going back to school, time for reading, writing and thinking, and so it seems a good occasion to re-engage with our blog.

Speaking of reading and writing, I have been struggling with a bit of writers block lately. I have spent so much time focusing on organizational development and working on tax documents so that SpeakArtLoud could attain non-profit status (which we did in September, yippee!) that I have lost touch with my creative side.

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I shared my struggle with writers block on Twitter and received a few helpful suggestions.
@kdsmithwrites  A “walk about” always helps when I’m stuck. Added bonus – sunny skies!

@Brainzooming Saw your writers block tweet. Here are 26 ideas for beating one from my blog: http://bit.ly/lH2uK4 Best wishes!

@arttherapynews How do you overcome a creative block? Answer chocolate (Though, I do not think there is any evidence linking chocolate with creativity I still gave it a try)

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I pulled out my copy of A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future by Daniel Pink to remind myself of the value creative thinking has on the world.

In this book Pink makes the case that creative professions and right-brain abilities will drive social and economic development.

Pink identifies 6 right-brain abilities and includes creative exercises at the end of each chapter to help readers explore these areas. Here is a brief summary of these 6 aptitudes and a quick exercise to tap into this skill.

  1. Design brings beauty into our daily life, makes items easier to use and improves “flow” of systems.  * Watch this What is Design video and design your own toaster *

  2. Story can help us understand one another, improve diagnosis and healing and connect us to a purpose. *Interview a friend or family member, ask about a memorable event in their life *

  3. Symphony is about being able to combine pieces into a whole, to see relationships and blend ideas.  * Cut images out of magazines and make a collage of your future*

  4. Empathy gives us the ability to understand people, to create relationships and to care for others.   * Take the Empathy Quotient surveyto get a sense of your EQ *

  5. Play allows for self-expression, can reduce hostility, improve morale and make us more fulfilled.* Go to a playground and swing or give the monkey bars a try, at the very least watch kids play*

  6. Meaning is linked to spiritually and happiness and have health benefits and social benefits. *For one week write down one thing you are thankful for *

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So, readers, how do you tap into your creativity? What tips do you have for overcoming a creative block?


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10 Quotes to Inspire You: Thoughts on Creating the Future

10 Quotes to Inspire You
Thoughts on Creating the Future

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The best way to predict the future is to invent it. – Alan Kay

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Just don’t give up trying to do what you really want to do. Where there is love and inspiration, I don’t think you can go wrong.  – Ella Fitzgerald

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There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it. – Edith Wharton

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.  Your playing small does not serve the world. – Marianne Williamson

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I’m always thinking about creating. My future starts when I wake up every morning. Every day I find something creative to do with my life. – Miles Davis

The world has never yet seen a truly great and virtuous nation because in the degradation of woman the very fountains of life are poisoned at their source. – Lucretia Mott

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Where I was born and where and how I have lived is unimportant. It is what I have done with where I have been that should be of interest. – Georgia O’Keeffe

Treat people as if they were what they ought to be, and help them become what they are capable of being. – Goethe

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In the long run men hit only what they aim at. – Henry David Thoreau

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Dreams are necessary to life. – Anais Nin

The Art of Inspiration and Insight

The Art of Inspiration and Insight

With the new year comes thoughs of new possibilities.  There is something about the change in the calendar that stirs our desire to engage in creating our future.

At this time of year we like to be inspired to think in new, positive ways that help us to sort out our life and to see things differently. We want to be more insightful, to better understand ourselves and the world around us.

Inspire

Definition of Inspire – (1) Heighten or intensify; (2) Prompt; (3) Cheer, spur on, or encourage; (4) Revolutionize, fill with revolutionary ideas; (5) Inhale, draw in air

Inspiration is all about looking outward and engaging with new ideas.

Inspiration, that oh-so-mysterious element that may be hard to describe but one we recognize when it arrives, is what helps to compel us forward.  Inspiration may arrive as an ah-ha moment or a still small voice or a fire in our belly; it may arrive suddenly or we may slowly realized it was something we had with us all along.

Inspiration is what gives us new ways of seeing and of being in the world.  There is a life-force intrinsic in inspiration (inspire also means to breathe); it is in our nature to be engaged with creating, envisioning and bringing new ideas into being.

Art can inspire us. Art stimulates our mind, while creating or engaging with art we experience colors, patterns, shapes, and textures, using our brain in a different way.  Art presents ideas and perspectives that may be different from what we are most familiar with, encouraging us to explore other points of view.  The composition of images, music or performance offers an opportunity to examine aesthetic arrangements, either one you are creating in your own work or the artist’s composition, which can open us up to new ways of putting things together. Creative thinking stimulates new ideas and inspires us.

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Insight

Definition of Insight (1) Discern the true nature of a situation; (2) Grasping the inward or hidden nature of things; (3) Perceiving in an intuitive manner; (4) Ability to perceive clearly or deeply; (5) Ability to understand one’s own problems

Insight is all about looking inward and understanding inner nature.

Insight, we may think of it as a hunch or intuition or the ability to read a situation, is what helps us to better understand our feelings and reactions.  Insight also helps us to understand the emotions and motives of others. Insight may come from time spent in thought, from conversations or from our interactions in the world.

Insight is what gives us a greater understanding of attitudes and beliefs, both our own and others, and increases our ability to connect at an emotional level.  There is a personal, introspective quality in insight (insight is about looking in), by connecting with ourselves we become more thoughtful and better able to connect with others.

Art can encourage insight. Thoughtful, quiet time creating or experiencing art gives us the space to connect with our self and our emotions. In art symbols and metaphors are used to communicate underlying thoughts and feelings, ones that we may not yet understand or may have difficulty communicating. Through art we can also experience others emotional expressions, through imagery, rhythm and materials we can sense the thoughts and feelings imbedded in the work art.  Creative expression provides a better understanding of feelings and offers insight.

Creating Our Future

As this new year begins, the feeling of possibility fresh in the air, remain open to the inspiration and insight that the arts offer.  Look to art to stimulate your thoughts and to inspire new ideas.  Engage with art to connect with your emotions and develop greater insight.

Imagination is a Powerful Force

Imagination is a Powerful Force

“Imagination is more important than knowledge.”
Albert Einstein

Imagination is creativity, hope, potential and freedom all rolled up into one.

The act of imagining may start off as fanciful and maybe even feel a bit indulgent, but our imagination is a powerful force and has helped to generate great ideas.  The human ability to imagine can propel us into action and bring about change.

Our imagination offers freedom to be creative and can give us something to not only hope for but to also work toward.  Through imagination we craft a vision of something new, something different, something better and when you combine creative ideas and a vision of something different change starts to happen.

Imagination and Our Future

“We do not need magic to transform our world.
We carry all the power we need inside ourselves already;
we have the power to imagine better.”
J.K. Rowling

Imagination is important to our own individual future as well as the future of our communities, countries and world.  In your imagination you can be your truest self, your best self.  You can visualize what it is you wish to do or to be, building energy and inspiration to pursue your vision.

Imagination can  be used to envision what the future for society my hold.  You can imagine changes in your community, new ways of conducting business, educating children or commuting.  These ideas may inspire you into action or, if shared with others, help to build momentum for change.

Imagination can also help us empathize with others; we can imagine what it is to walk in someone else’ shoes, making us more understanding of others experiences.  The ability to imagine can make us more thoughtful and understanding of others.

How to Imagine

“I shut my eyes in order to see”
Paul Gaugin

Art is one way to tap into our imagination.  Making art or experiencing art can help us let go of our logical thinking and get in touch with our more creative side.  Making art helps you tap into you’re the creative side of your brain .  Experiencing art – looking at paintings, watching a play or reading a good book – also engages your right brain, helping to release your imagination.

Here a few more simple ways to increase your ability to imagine:

  • Daydream – We all did it as kids but somewhere along the way daydreaming stopped.  Give yourself permission to let your mind wander, jump from thought to thought and see where you land.
  • Storytelling – If you have kids you might already do this, but if you are child-free or your children are grown you probably haven’t made up a story in ages.  Try it with a few friends, its fun to make up ghost stories, fairy tales or create an alternate universe.
  • Change Your Environment – Your surroundings help establish your state of mind.  Take yourself out of your normal routine – eat lunch in the park instead of at your desk, change the side of the bed you sleep on, rearrange your furniture – and give your mind a new setting to explore.

Imagination and Action

“Before you can do something that you’ve never done before,
you have to imagine it’s possible.”
Jean Shinoda Bole

Imagination is powerful, but we must remember that to create change imagination must be coupled with action.  Tapping into our imagination can help to uncover new perspectives and different points of view, but it is then important to bring those ideas forward, share with others, discuss new possibilities and then take steps to implement.

Without action our dreams will never be our lives.

Further Reading on Imagination

“I am enough of an artist to draw freely upon my imagination.”
Albert Einstein

Why Imagine the Future by Elise Boulding, Sociology Professor (Emerita) Dartmouth College

In What Ways Might Imagination Improve Society? – 206 Ideas

The Fringe Benefits of Failure, and the Importance of Imagination,  J.K. Rowling Commencement Address at Harvard Alumni Association.

Mind Your Creativity

Mind Your Creativity

We are by nature creative beings.  Creativity is innate to who we are, it is a fundamental part of our nature and important to our individual and community well-being.

Left Brain – Right Brain

Our brains are made up of two different sides, two hemispheres, with each hemisphere in control of different ways of thinking.  The right side of our brain is responsible for creativity, while the left side is responsible for more logical and fact-based thought.

Left Brain

Logical
Rational
Analytical
Objective
Looks at parts
Detail oriented
Fact based thoughts
Words and language
Present and past
Math and science
Order and pattern perception
Reality based

Practical

Right Brain

Random
Intuitive
Holistic
Subjective
Looks at wholes
Big picture oriented
Imagination

Symbols and images

Present and future

Philosophy & religion

Spatial perception

Fantasy based

Risk taking

Individuals may be more inclined to be more “left brained” or “right brained”, but we are all born with the ability to tap into each side and use our whole brain. You can try this short quiz to see which may be your dominant hemisphere (I’m about evenly split between my right-brain and left-brain).

Cultivating Creativity

Our culture plays a large part in how we develop our brains.  Our education system and workforce help shape and establish how we think.  In a society that values left brain thinking, logic, analysis and accuracy over aesthetics, feeling, and creativity, we end up developing the left side of our brain while our more creative side is underdeveloped.

In recent year there has been a lot written on the importance of creativity – researchers are trying to measure it, city leaders tout their creative communities and some state that creative capital is needed for global change.  We are beginning to recognize the value of creativity.

Creativity isn’t just about art, it is about original ideas and different perspectives.  Creative thinking stimulates curiosity and can generate new ideas, and as individuals and communities it is in our interest to be creative in terms of how we approach problems and develop solutions.

More Info On Creativity

If you are interested in learning more about creativity and our brain here are a few suggestions:

  • I highly recommend watching Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor speak at T.E.D. about her experience having a stroke, she offers amazing insight on how the different sides of our brain work.
  • Daniel Pink’s book, A Whole New Mind addresses the importance of right brain skills in the professional sectors, and it is a fairly easy read.
  • I also like The Cultural Creatives by Ray and Anderson, a Sociologist and Psychologist who conducted years of research and write on a growing shift in American culture.

Women’s Words, Voice and Vision

Women Artists and Cultural Change

Cleaning out my home office I came across an old syllabus from my first art history class, “Women Artists and Cultural Change”, a class I took at the suggestion of a favorite sociology professor who knew of my interest in gender, feminism and social change. It was in this class that I started to become aware of the role art plays in cultural change.

Though I no longer have the xerox copies of the articles handed out in class (wow, college before the web) I did manage to find one of the items, “And Now A Few Words From Jenny Holtzer” ,  from the Women and Words portion of the curriculum.

Women and Words

Jenny Holzer and Barbara Kruger are now both well-known artists who, using techniques reminiscent of advertising, incorporate text in their art work.  Both Holzer and Kruger call attention to social issues in their art and often displayed their work in non-traditional settings.

Jenny Holzer’s truisms, delivered like slogans, were often projected on to buildings or displayed in public settings, these provoking thoughts becoming part of the public space.  Barbara Kruger’s art also became part of the public space as her images were included on posters, shopping bags and t-shirts.

I think I developed language skills to deal with threat. It’s the girl thing to do-you know, instead of pulling out a gun ~ Barbara Kruger

After rereading the piece on Holtzer and reminiscing about my experience in this class I started thinking about women’s voice and including women’s ideas in public dialogue.

Raising Women’s Voice

We know that women are the key to healthy children, strong families and stable communities.  The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has conducted a wealth of research on the topic and Nicholas Kristoff’s book Half the Sky and the Half the Sky Movement are rich with stories and data that support this.  Put very simply, if we want a better world we need to engage and empower women.

It is important that we help to raise women’s voices and listen to women’s ideas. As we think about the future and work to improve our communities, our nation, our world, it is essential that we include insight and commentary from women as part of the public dialogue.

This may also mean that we need to raise our own voice, to share our thoughts and express our ideas. This, of course, can be intimidating.  How do we begin to voice our ideas or encourage others to share thoughts?  Here is where I believe art can be a very power tool in creating change.

Creating a Vision

Art is a powerful medium for self expression, but it is also an effective tool in raising awareness and stimulating social change. Art is a way to convey a message, to call attention to a situation, and a way to express new ideas for the future. Art allows us to express our ideas, to raise our voice and share a vision for the future.

I believe that tapping into the power of art can be a very effective tool in raising women’s voice, including your own voice. Here are a few ways you can use art in this way:

  • Make it a priority to spend time being creative, creative ideas will change the world
  • Have a craft night with friends and make things that can be reused
  • Buy original art and think about the creative energy that went into it
  • Look at and discuss art that makes you uncomfortable
  • Host a movie discussion, talk about how women are portrayed in film
  • Ask artist questions about their work
  • Tell people about your art, what it means to you and why you create
  • Do not be afraid to make art that addresses social issues
  • Start a book club, discuss work by women writers, a few of my favorite
  • Take an art class, dance class, film class – try something new for you
  • Ask a friend to take an art class with you
  • Keep art materials on-hand

Engaging with art can help us in finding our voice. Through creating or experiencing art we begin to think about what we are capable of designing, expressing and making real. Art gives us a way to make something new.  We begin exploring new ideas and can start to create a vision for the future.

In thinking about my first art history class, the work of artists Jenny Holtzer and Barbara Kruger, and importance of women in creating a future I recognize how important art is in creating cultural change, and it is this change that will lead us to new ideas for the future.

Take Five! 5 Reasons & Creative Ways to Take a Break

I Took a Break

For the month of July I took a break from SpeakArtLoud work. I limited my time on Twitter, held back on posts to Facebook, did not write blogs, delayed work on our program planning and even conducted our quarterly board meeting via email.

Taking a break is important.  I know that, I’m sure you know that, but taking a break is not always easy to do, at least for me.  

I like working, I like the feeling of accomplishing something, and I especially enjoy working on SpeakArtLoud.

However, taking a break is good for the mind, body and spirit.  Taking a break – whether that break is a vacation away, an evening off, or an extra 15 minutes over morning coffee – time away from your normal routine and responsibilities is invaluable.

5 Reasons to Take a Break – Taking a break is an important part of self care and can help to stimulate your creative energy. Here are five reasons why you should take a break.

  1. Be Happy Taking a break can help reduce stress and can give you a chance to do things you enjoy, perhaps things you do not always have time for.  Do not down play the importance of happiness, happy people live longer and are healthier.
  2. Increase ProductivityAfter taking a break you come back refreshed and able to offer more energy to your work. It is amazing what a week off or even just a long lunch can do. Time away allows us to both rest and be stimulated.
  3. Remember What You Love Sometimes time away can help you fall back in love with what you are doing. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, you know.  Or time away may be just what you need to help you reconnect with your true passion and inspire you to pursue a new path.  Either way, time away can help you remember what it is you truly care about giving your time and energy to.
  4. Get UnstuckTime off can help you generate new ideas. Doing the same thing or keeping a routine is comfortable but you can soon find yourself in a rut. Try taking a break, or just changing your routine, as this can help generate fresh ideas. 
  5. Balance – Finding balance is something I struggle with personally.  Its easy to get gung-ho about something you love but it is important to break and remember that family, friends, exercise and hobbies are important parts of our lives.  Take time to enjoy all of who you are.

5 Creative Ways to Take a Break – We do not always have the opportunity to take a vacation, or completely step away from our daily responsibilities.  Sometimes you need to be creative in how you take a break.  Here are 5 ways that you can easily take a break, no vacation time required.

  1. Get Crafty – No serious art skills are needed, just some paper, pencils, scissors, tape or similar supplies.  Keep it simple, just spend a few minutes being creative.  When I’m feeling stuck at the office I get creative with a bit of white-out, colored sharpies and out-of- date promotional magnets.
  2. Look at Vacation Photos – Pull out the photo album or open the electronic file with your last vacation pictures and look at the pictures.  Heck, you don’t even need to look at your pictures, go to Flickr, breeze through someone else pics and imagine your self away for a few minutes.
  3. Doodle – Just let your pen go! Don’t think too hard, don’t worry about drawing something specific – just follow the line.  This is a great way to take a mini-break.
  4. Take a Nap – It doesn’t need to be a long nap, a cat-nap will do, but catch a few extra minutes of shut eye and let your mind and body rest.  Sleep is healing!
  5. Flower Power – Take a walk and pick a handful of flowers from various spots along the way, folks usually don’t mind if you take only one or two cuttings from their garden.  Arrange the flowers with some added greenery and enjoy.  You get double points for this one because of the added value walking offers.

What I Learned From My Break

This break helped me to understand how important time off is and that I need to take time for myself.

Initially I felt guilty about taking time away from SpeakArtLoud. This is work I care about and I feel a sense of responsibility to those who support us.

With some time away, I soon recognized that I was stressed, I was tired and I needed this time off.  I did not realize that earlier, it was only with time away that recognized how I was feeling.

During my time off I came up with some new ideas for SpeakArtLoud. I have a clearer vision of the steps we need to take over the next year and I am excited about sharing my ideas with the board in September at our annual meeting. Without the time and room to think I do not believe I would have had the same insight.

Further Inspiration – If you are looking for further inspiration or ideas for taking a break here are some useful sites: