Amazed by people’s creativity

Last week was a busy week. Through it I learned so much- about people, about my own practice as a trainer/facilitator but the most remarkable,  amazing thing I witnessed was people’s natural ability and desire to be creative. It reaffirmed to me why I do my work and has encouraged me to develop a sharper focus in this area. Let me tell you more…

One session last week was based on the ideas in my book- Who says you’re not creative?  It was a new session with brand new exercises. One of these activities involved ‘big paint and big paper’. In my book I talk about ‘big pens for big ideas’ and this was a visual variation on that theme. I’ve been wanting to try this out in my workshops for a while but the opportunity had not arisen- until now.

Working in small groups, people were given big paint and big paper and freedom to create and explore in whichever way felt good for them. (They were given the option of creating around a theme- but they opted to go ‘freestyle’).

I equipped people with sponges and rulers to spread the paint but instead many of them dived straight in with their hands. They did hand-prints, hand-spreading, hand-glunking- (yes I just made that word up) it was fascinating and exhilarating to see. No one cared about the mess- they just got on with it and enjoyed it. Further into the session one group started picking up the paint and flicking it across the paper. How free is that?!

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I wanted the exercise to be creative and liberating and thought people might be slightly anxious or nervous. I was wrong. People more than welcomed the chance to play. ‘I haven’t painted since I was at school’ said one person.

There were different degrees of messiness but everyone engaged and made their own sense- or no sense – of the process. ‘This arrow is about direction and these shapes are about the different things I could do.’ Is that an abstract artist speaking? 

I should tell you they didn’t do this from ‘cold’. This exercise came after a morning of film making- but even so the intensity of creative energy that flowed still surprised me.

There were other more serious parts to the session including a question around blocks to creativity- this too was amazing. Some of the issues that came up were not to be found in text books on creativity so were a ‘real insight’ into how people felt. Some of the illustrations that accompanied the words were also fascinating.    

So what did I learn? I had a hunch that people wanted to play, be free, get messy, explore….for no apparent reason. I had a hunch that the painting exercise would be liberating- freeing in some way- and I think it was.  I also learned that people are far more ‘up for it’ than I had imagined. The desire to break out and break free- and be creative- is strong. I am so happy that this is the case!

I have a great belief in creativity- if that’s the right way of putting it. I believe it can be freeing, enjoyable, connective, stress-relieving, engaging, an alternative form of expression….so that session or rather the response from those fabulous people, reaffirmed my belief and has encouraged me to continue to create and design more inventive, playful workshops.

Thus far I have taught creative thinking tools but had a sneaky feeling there was something missing- I’ve now found that missing piece. My insight: in order to be free thinking – you have to first set yourself free. To be creative, I believe, you have to engage in the creative process.

If you need some new thinking and you want to work creatively- drop me a line. You and your people have so much potential- isn’t it time you tapped into it?


Detox your mind…create

Ever wanted to detox your mind?

We hear lots about detox- usually about the body- but how do we detox our cluttered minds?

Before Easter mind was full. Full of the past, full of the future and a dash of the present. But I knew I wasn’t truly present.  My priorities were muddled. I was doing too many things and I was being influenced by too mainly people coming through my inbox- know the feeling? I needed to do something about it- but what?

A few weeks before, for a train trip to North Wales, I bought a book called ‘The Artists Way’ by Julia Cameron. It’s a classic book about getting over creative blocks and connecting to your creative self. I should tell you that I love reading. Mostly non-fiction: business and personal development books. I’m also a bit of a TED-Talk junkie. As I skim read the first few chapters I read a section that said – stop reading books, listen to your own voice. Wow! What was that? How could a writer suggest we stop reading? As I took this idea in, I realised just how important it could be- especially to a book-junkie like myself. I talk about creativity yet I’m also consumed by other people’s ideas through books and videos.

About the same time, I came across Eckhart Tolle being interviewed by an American actor/ director about his book – The Power of Now. I’d tried to read his book previously but I’d found it too difficult to grasp. But watching this interview- I understood his whole concept- which is simply but profoundly to be in the now.  He said something along the lines of ‘sitting on this park bench we have no business thinking about the future or the past. All that matters now is this. Simply observe.’

So pre-Easter- my head is too full. I’m a little lost. My mojo has gone- what was I trying to do in my business? Why was there such a disconnect between me and what I was portraying through my website?

The family holiday was coming up so I decided to use it as a total break- no laptop, no business books, no anything. (I didn’t even take my newest book- ‘Miracles Now’ by Gabrielle Bernstein- which all about meditating and being in the now). I must admit usually I’d use my holiday to create new plans/ visions or services. Not this time. I banned myself.

I decided to consciously take time out, to ‘sit on that park bench’ and just observe. I would take time ‘to listen to my voice’. (I’m also a bit of a hippy).  I would no longer consume- just create. So I packed a blank journal, a new watercolour paint box and a pad. My resolve was pretty strong until I saw my husband choosing books for the holiday and I thought- maybe just one for an emergency! So in a came a Paulo Coelho just in case my experiment left me unhappy- I was on holiday after all!

I read nothing at the airport- just people watched. I read nothing on the aeroplane- instead I had a great conversation with my son. If I was buried in a book I think his headphones would have remained on- but as I was open- we had an amazing conversation! The experiment was already paying off.

My son is 15- conversations generally between us are rare- but this one was about life and aspirations and was a great start to the trip. I forgot my son had this natural coaching ability. He put me straight on my business and helped me rephrase what I was doing in a much more marketable way. He showed me some quotes which he had on his phone and I felt better already. Thank you son.

The ‘no book’ diet continued for the next 4 days. I just sat on the beach and watched the sea. Sometimes I took out my paint box and doodled with colour. The first few pictures I did were muddy and confused but half way into the week they were much better- brighter, fresher, free-er.

One morning I attempted to meditate (sit quietly) on the beach while my son ran. This was so not like me! But we did it and it was gorgeous to just sit and watch the peacefulness in the cool morning air. As I sat there I thought something would come to me- but it didn’t. No insight. No voice. Where was I? But you know- the nothingness was good. I enjoyed the whole thing. There was nothing to judge, no responsibility for taking action- just the freedom of being.

At this point I may sound like an overworked stressed out exec- which I am not. I run my own business and the responsibility of self employment can tire you down- however many plus points there are to the position. I was now just enjoying the freedom of being responsible for nothing. I’d left it all at home.

I sat around and I painted. I also wrote on a couple of occasions. A friend had suggested I write as a way of healing some stuff that was still ‘getting in the way’. It was hard emotionally- but I made a start and noticed how I remembered certain things- and what a joy it was to recapture those memories.

During that week I had a second great conversation with my son. This one was on the last day whilst walking on the beach. We talked about life, ambition, having to do what it takes, being brave enough to show up, and being less concerned about other people. This advice was all from him. I just asked questions and waited to receive his wisdom on the subject.

I might be an unusual parent as I really do believe that our kids are here to teach us. As adults we think we know, think we should know, but really do we? Aren’t we a bit battered and bruised by life to see things as they might be? I love my kid’s ambition and focus- he aims high and knows he has to work- ‘you just got to want it bad enough Mum’ he tells me.

One of the most remarkable things he said to me on that walk was based around a rock in the distance. We’d been walking for a while and I said “Shall we head back now- the tide’s coming in and we might get stuck?”

“This is typical of you Mum- you’re afraid to go as far as you can. You stop when things get difficult. You have to have the courage to go beyond the rock”. My son had previously ran on this beach, beyond the rock, which is why he wanted to show me what was on the other side. He also wanted to carry on being ‘the coach.’

As we got closer to ‘the rock’ the waves were getting larger and we got soaked walking through them. That too added to his metaphor “don’t be afraid to get soaked- embrace the moment!”  Beyond the rock was beautiful, quieter and hardly a person in sight.

From that day ‘the rock’ has come to be a great reminder of the whole conversation we had whilst waking along Salgados beach. He recommended I keep a photo at my desk to focus on- what an idea- what a kid!

I never did hear my voice on holiday. Nothing came from within. But within a couple of days of coming back I started to have insights.

#1 I suddenly had an urge to put a stamp on my website that read “Under Creative Destruction”. I wanted to revamp and simplify what I offered.

#2 There was no need to create anything new- I just needed to put a spot light on one tiny part of what I did- and grow and nurture it- so that it and I could reach our potential.

#3 I am what it says on my business card- and a great one at that! There was no need to be anything else. I occupy a great space-creativity- have fun with it!

#4 You can work just by sitting and watching the sea- there is no need for a laptop or any writing device- you can do most things in your head. Being by the sea was restorative and completely natural for me. I must keep this up.

#5 Take your paint box to coffee shops. Using my new watercolour box was a great way to switch off- just pure playfulness. Out of the playfulness will come clarity and insights.

This was my voice- finally finding its way out into the open. Clearing away the tumble weed that had been floating around my brain. Showing me the way- showing me the hidden gems that had become obscured by the busy-ness of life.

Two weeks in and I am now back ‘on books’- reading again everyday. Sometimes it’s a necessity of my role- sometimes it’s just the book junkie in me.

Having said that, I now also realise it’s a necessity for me not to read- especially when I’m developing a creative workshop. I need to connect with my own voice, my intuition, my own knowing, my own curiosity.

Why this blog? I want to share how it’s possible to clear your mind. To encourage you to do your own mind detox so you experience some peace, be released temporarily form your responsibilities, to give your voice a window to come through. Be open for conversations you may have with amazing people.Take time to see how beautiful the world is.

How? Stop consuming, stop the flow of junk into your head. Just be, watch, take it in….and create.