Enhance Your Creativity

“To be creative means to be in love with life. You can be creative only if you love life enough that you want to enhance its beauty, you want to bring a little more music to it, a little more poetry to it, a little more dance to it.” ~ Osho

Sometimes life loses its shine, and gets a bit ragged around the edges. When we’re in that space of busy-ness, exhaustion, or when we’re fighting the good fight, our Muse may desert us. When our creativity is gone, we often begin to despair that it will ever return.

But don’t be disheartened. There is so much that we can do to encourage her back into our lives.

Here are some simple steps you can take to get your creative mojo back:

1. Take a night off and do something that really unwinds the tangles in your mind. That might be a bath, reruns of ‘Friends’ or ‘Star Trek’, a glass of wine and a pizza, going to bed early with a good book or a lover, or simply turning in for some much-needed sleep.

2.  Eat well.  Brains need good food, and good hydration. Fresh wholesome food and plenty of water can work wonders for restoring inspiration.

3.  Go for a walk.  Walking does something magical to our brains. Walking clears out the cobwebs, grounds us and gets us firmly back into our bodies when we have been spending too much time in our heads. While we are out wandering our minds begin to find their own creative energy again.

4.  Start an Ideas Book. Most of your good ideas give you a momentary boost, and then are soon forgotten. An ideas book will put all of those flashes of inspiration in one place.  If you use one often enough you’ll soon start to see themes emerge. Before long, the Muse will be whispering in your ear, and you’ll be back in flow.

5.  Listen to Music.  Music is proven to lift our mood, increase the feel-good neurochemical dopamine, stimulate thought and build new neural pathways. Music also relaxes us, allowing thoughts and ideas to rise more easily to our conscious awareness.

6.  Read a Book.  Reading stimulates our imagination, and triggers images, thoughts and ideas that can lead you back out of the creative  wilderness.

7.  Learn something new. It doesn’t matter whether it’s the banjo, Italian, composting or poetry. When we learn new things, it creates a cascade of new pathways and new possibilities as we fit the fresh information in with our existing neural frameworks. Inspiration often strikes as we practice these skills and develop different approaches to existing situations.

8.  Do puzzles and other games that stimulate your brain. The brain needs to be exercised. As you work with these puzzles your brain becomes faster, more attentive and your memory is enhanced.  An exercised brain adapts faster to information input, and forms new pathways that can overflow benefits into many other areas of your life.  (I have been using Luminosity for about 6 months now, with great results!)

9.  Spend time laughing and socially connecting with people. Humans are social animals and we need hugs, interaction and social affirming. It sets up a flow of good chemicals in our bodies, relaxes us, and fills us with well-being.

10. Dance.  Yep, that’s right.  I’m a big fan of gumboot dancing in rain-soaked paddocks, but you could also dance in your pyjamas in the loungeroom, rock out with your friends at your favourite live venue, boogie with your kids or your pets, or go tango-ing with someone special. Dancing makes everything good again!

I heart this gumboot ballerina! Image courtesy of www.melslifeasasahm.blogspot.com.au

I heart this gumboot ballerina! Image courtesy of www.melslifeasasahm.blogspot.com.au

11.  Practice your creative passion.  Show up on a regular basis and do some small thing.  It doesn’t matter how small – just engage with your creative project. A friend of mine who is an amazing textile artist hit a very rough spot in her personal life. For months she couldn’t create, but every day she went to her studio. She cleaned out cupboards, put beads into jars, tore images from magazines, cut buttons and swatches from old clothes, framed canvases that had sat in dusty corners for months. And eventually she found that she was tinkering again, and that led back into making art.

12.  Meditate, or practice a moving meditation such as yoga, tai chi or qi gung.  Meditation clears out the clutter in your mind, and leaves it full of stillness.  In that energy of stillness the Muse will begin to sing to you, or show you a slide show, or thread your thoughts together like beautiful jewels on a necklace.

13.  Practice Gratitude. When we are grateful for life, and show appreciation, the dark clouds begin to lift, the fog clears and we find ourselves able to value and appreciate ourselves and the world around us, no matter what circumstances we find ourselves in.  Creativity is a natural byproduct of that state of emotional grace.

14.  Go somewhere new. Nothing quite connects the dots in new ways, or hands you whole new patterns and concepts like the stimulus of a fresh set of images, sounds, smells and experiences. When we live only in familiar surroundings, all sensory input tends to fade into the background and we become lost in our heads. New places require a high level of engagement.

15.  Choose to be optimistic – no matter what your current circumstances may be.  Alice Herz-Sommer explains this far, far better than me…

PS: This post is part of my 2013 Creative Challenge Project.  If you’d like to read more, visit these posts:

Join my 2013 Creative Project Challenge

Creative Project Challenge – February Check In

Lost your Creative Mojo?

When the Muse vanishes – thoughts on the loss of Creativity

How a Garden Can Teach You To Be More Creative

How a Garden Can Teach You To Be More Creative

fruit-apples-apple-tree

“Gardening is cheaper than therapy and you get tomatoes.”  ~ Author Unknown

Gardening is a seasonal thing.  There are tasks to do in every season, but Summer tasks can’t be easily undertaken in Winter and Winter tasks aren’t so suited to the Spring.

What does this have to do with creativity you may ask?

Why, my dear friend, everything!  Creativity has its seasons too, and once you begin to understand that you don’t need to fight against nature, you can begin to work with flow and rhythm. All creative projects follow a similar path to the seasons.  Recognising what season you’re in is the first step!

Winter

Winter is the time for rest.  It’s a dark, quiet place with the occasional storm or blizzard. But it’s from the darkness that our ideas come.  Winter is not a doing time. It’s a thinking time, a planning time, a snuggling up under the doona with a book time. You can’t force anything to grow in Winter, but it doesn’t stop you dreaming about Spring, or the harvest you’ll make come Summer.

If you are in a cold hard place creatively then treat yourself kindly.  Don’t panic.  The seasons always change. And as they do, you’ll change with them.  In the meantime, go clean out your kitchen cupboards or have a cup of tea and flick through a garden catalogue to inspire you. If inspiration does strike, well it’s fine to buy a few packets of seed, attend a class on composting, or sketch out some designs. But don’t even try to plant anything.  The garden’s not ready yet and anything you plant won’t survive and thrive in such inhospitable conditions.

Ice on a barren winter garden.

Ice on a barren winter garden. Time for dreaming, planning and getting ready for Spring.

Spring

Spring is work time!  It’s the season for setting out solid foundations. You set out your beds, dig some good compost through them, and plant out all your tender seedlings. If you only have a loose plan so far, Spring is the time where we firm up the details.  It’s also where we get the supplies we need if we didn’t take care of that in Winter. Good ideas are like those tender seedlings – they need special care.  There are some good ideas about that here: Protecting a Good Idea.

Every day or so you’ll need to come back to your garden and do some work; fertilising, weeding, watering, trailing tendrils of climbers up the trellis you have created for them.  You’ll be able to enjoy some early harvest, but mostly Spring is about setting a solid foundation for what’s to come. Get into good gardening habits. and keep learning and practicing!

Getting your garden beds ready to plant out for Spring!

There’s work to be done! Getting your garden beds ready to plant out for Spring…

Summer

A Summer garden provides a bountiful harvest.  Everything grows quickly and easily, although vigorous plants may need extra staking, and you’ll still be doing the usual jobs – feeding, weeding, tending, watering.

Some of your produce may need to be rejected or written off – a bug might get into your tomato, or a bird might eat all of your figs.  That’s the nature of gardens – they are never 100% perfection.  Gardens are always a work in progress.

The crop you had high hopes for might fail to thrive, but the butter beans you poked into the soil as an afterthought might take off in spectacular fashion providing you with never-ending buckets of delight.  Share your harvest and enjoy!

So much to harvest! Image from www.getintogardening.co.uk

So much to harvest! Image from www.getintogardening.co.uk

Autumn

In Autumn we collect seed and put it away for next spring.  There are different jobs to do now.  We’re still tending our vegetable patch, and there is still harvest, but we are spending more time mending, tidying and getting the most out of our crops. We bottle and put away produce to keep us going through winter. It’s also where we review what worked and what didn’t and what we’ll do differently next time.

Autumn is a season where we may call in some help. You might let the chooks into the garden to eat up all the slugs and grasshoppers.  You’ll start pulling out the failing plants, and a neighbour may come with a rotary hoe to churn the old plants back into the soul, nourishing your beds for next spring. You might thumb through some books to find out why your beets rotted in the ground, and how you can prevent that next time, or whether you should even be planting beets at all. You’ll feed and mulch and look after that soil so it’s ready for another productive year.

Letting the chooks (chickens for you non-Australians) into the end of season Autumn Garden.

Letting the chooks (chickens for you non-Australians) into the end of season Autumn Garden.

Creativity, like gardening, has its seasons.  Of course, you could be like some modern manufacturers and grow all your tomatoes in a hot house at maximum yield year round. That’s very productive, I’ll give you that.  But I bet you won’t be able to taste the Summer sun in those fruit, or the tang of a late frost. Seasons give their own magic to gardens and to art.  Bless ♥ xx

basket

PS: This post is part of my 2013 Creative Challenge Project.  If you’d like to read more, visit these posts:

Join my 2013 Creative Project Challenge

Creative Project Challenge – February Check In

Lost your Creative Mojo?

When the Muse vanishes – thoughts on the loss of Creativity

When the Muse vanishes – thoughts on the loss of creativity

Image from www.layoutsparks.com

Image from www.layoutsparks.com

“Creativity is our true nature; blocks are an unnatural thwarting of a process at once as normal and as miraculous as the blossoming of a flower at the end of a slender green stem.”
~ Julia Cameron 

If you’ve ever had some sort of creative block, where the juices stop flowing and the ideas dry up, then you’ll probably just find the quote above to be irritating, maddening and mocking.

Yes, we are all supposed to be creative.  Yes, creativity is meant to be our natural state.  But what happens when it’s not?  What’s wrong with us?  Why can’t we be creative like everybody else, or like we used to be?

juicingI actually believe that creativity is a little like a bicycle-powered juicer. You have to start pedalling BEFORE there can be enough power for the juice to be extracted. It’s the same with creativity – once you have some momentum up you’ll find yourself in flow, even if you weren’t there to start with.

But…

Sometimes we can’t even get on the darn bike.

Before you start gnashing your teeth, and muttering self-loathing thoughts, or committing to epic self-evaluation or a psychiatrist’s couch, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Has sleep been an issue lately?
  • Is there something on your mind?
  • Are you unwell?
  • Suffering from anxiety and/or depression?
  • Is there a situation that threatens your financial security?
  • Is there a situation that threatens your emotional well-being?
  • Are you stressed to the max, with too much on your plate?
  • Are you raising very small and demanding children (or bigger children who are going through ‘stuff’)?
  • Is there a safe and amenable place for you to practice your particular brand of creativity?
  • Have you already created something big recently?
  • Are you being creative and productive in another area as part of your work life?
  • Are you suffering from burn-out in ANY area of your life?

Sometimes we are simply just too tired, too sick, too worried, too stressed, too overwhelmed or too broken to be in a productive and creative space.

And that’s okay.

The biggest gift you can give yourself creatively when you’re in this place is time to rest and heal, and time to attend to the things that are sucking up all of your energy and head space.  Get that thesis finished.  Get that tax out of the way, or the divorce, or the bathroom finally renovated enough that you can shower and brush your teeth instead of standing outside with the garden hose.

There is a difference between ‘not feeling in the mood to create’ and being wrung out, battered, bruised and exhausted by life. Sometimes we need to rest and fill up the well before we can begin again.

Activity:

Think about what you want to create or the vision you have, or did have for a creative project.  (If you can’t even THINK of a project, then go with the desire to create rather than naming an actual project.)

Now tune in to your emotions. One a scale of one to ten how is your energy towards this project right now?

pain-scale

At 0 we are excited, motivated, happy and raring to go. We are emotionally engaged and enthusiastic about our project, and we are already sitting down and getting on with it. In fact, in the moments where we are not working on our project we find ourselves thinking about it, planning for it and wanting to get back to it.

At 10 we can’t even think of a project – it’s just a big black sucking hole, or a misty grey fog, or some other equally miserable and barren wasteland. We are flat out breathing and coping with life and that takes ALL of our energy.

What to do about it!

Strangely, one of the best medicines for a lack of creativity is creative exposure. Take some time this week to sit down with your journal and write a list of creative pursuits and activities that you have a flicker of interest for, but that are NOT your life passion.

For example, if you want to write the Next Great Novel, steer clear of anything to do with writing.  If you want to be the next prima ballerina, avoid anything to do with ballet. If you want to be a chef, stay away from food.  Are you getting the picture here?

Instead think of other cultural, artistic and creative pursuits.  Could you take up beading, chainsaw ice sculpting, macrame pot holders, hair braiding, decoupage, dancing the tango, painting some old chairs, making your own sourdough (no chefs – you guys go learn to make and fly your own kites!) etc. Do something that sounds interesting but where you don’t care whether you set the world on fire with your macrame skills or ability to compost garden scraps.

Image from www.acupfullofsunshine.blogspot.com

Image from www.acupfullofsunshine.blogspot.com.au

Make a list of music you’d like to listen to, bands you’d like to see, DVDs you’d like to watch, books to read, movies and theatre to see, galleries and cafes and markets and other places it would be interesting to visit. Think about painting those chairs on the back deck, or making a meal with a Moroccan Tagine.  Just because it’s fun.  Just because you can.

Over the next little while, dip into your list.  Don’t expect the Muse to turn up.  You don’t need her right now.  You just need some restorative time, some time with no pressure, no deadlines and no expectations.

That’s truly the meaning of Art as Therapy.  We do something a little creative and it restores a lost or damaged part of us to ourselves, so that we become fuller, more rounded, more whole.

Image by www.smashingchintz.co.uk

Image by www.smashingchintz.co.uk

This post is part of my 2013 Creative Challenge Project.  If you’d like to read more, visit these posts:

Join my 2013 Creative Project Challenge

Creative Project Challenge – February Check In

Lost your Creative Mojo?

Lost your Creative Mojo?

Image by Shareen M

Image by Shareen M

“Creativity – like human life itself – begins in darkness.” 
~ Julia Cameron 

Have you taken the pledge and signed up for my Creative Challenge Project yet? It’s not too late, and hopefully, if you stick with me, by the end of this year you’ll have something finished, a new skill or interest, or a bigger project in progress.

As I encourage you to embrace your creativity in 2013, I’ve had a steady trickle of private messages and emails from people who feel that somehow their creativity has left the building. For some there is a sense of loss, for others a quiet desperation.  How do they get their mojo back?

Having been in exactly that dark place at times too, I’m not going to try to jolly you out of your funk (as with depression, it doesn’t work and makes you feel worse!), or make trite statements that are supposed to inspire but that always leave you – the struggling, lost one – feeling lacking and even more useless or stuck. Instead I’m going to have a conversation about the nature of creativity as I have found it. Understanding the creative process has been a source of comfort and personal power for me. And it has allowed me to become far kinder towards myself.

Over the next four weeks, each Monday, I shall look at ways to understand and enhance your creativity, and to nurture this important energy within you.

Even if you are brimful of creative ideas and projects right now, long experience has shown me that there will be times ahead when you struggle with self-doubt, lack of creative direction, low enthusiasm and zero inspiration.

Don’t panic. There are always things that can be done to bring you from that place of stuckness back into flow.

The areas I’ll be covering are:

  1. Situations where creativity vanishes
  2. The seasonal nature of creativity
  3. Ideas for creative replenishment
  4. Emergency tool kit for blocked creatives

I look forward to our creative collaborative energies this year.  I know it can be a magical year for you, and one you will look back on with a sense of fondness and accomplishment. Humans were born to create, and creating is one of the best kinds of soul medicine.

Much love to you, Nicole ♥ xx

Image from www.vol25.typepad.com

Image from www.vol25.typepad.com

The Excitement of Going Home

2012-05-08 12.47.51

“Home is where the heart is.” ~ JOSEPH C. NEAL

I’m going home today – home to my own little farm. After too much time in the big city, with bags barely unpacked from my Thailand adventure, I am finally going home.

Somehow, when I wasn’t paying attention, Summer arrived. Somehow Christmas snuck up. I’ve been in a daze. I feel like I’ve been suspended in time. Too much time sandwiched between mint green walls giving one more vial of blood, or in air-conditioned rooms with views over streets and carparks.

I could feel my creativity, my connection, my inspiration shrinking until I worried I might lose my way back to them. But it’s okay now. I’m almost home.

Image from wishstudio.com

Image from wishstudio.com

Today I’ll get grass between my toes. Tonight I’ll have the soft sands of Byron’s beaches underfoot. Or it will storm and I shall be ankle deep in a fast-flowing creek.

I don’t care. I’m going home.

I’m so sorry my blogging has been haphazard these past few weeks. Life has been unexpectedly chaotic, and I’ve been unaccountably exhausted.

But soon I will be home, with my Muse whispering sweet somethings in my ear. Did you know that this day, a year ago, I created my wordpress account. And tomorrow shall be the One Year Anniversary of Cauldrons and Cupcakes.  I might have to throw a party.  Yes, that sounds like a plan.  A party with good snacks. Of course you’re all invited! Much love to you, Nicole ♥ xx

Image from photodune.net

Image from photodune.net

Failure to Connect…

Image from sacramentocarstereoinstaller.com

“I made a nap this afternoon. I made it out of two pillows, a bed, a sheet, a blanket, and exhaustion.”
~ Jarod Kintz

If you’re psychic, or intuitive, or creative, or a writer, or an artist, or a meditator, or a musician – if you have a passion or a skill or a hobby, or if you’re just in pain – then you need to read this!

Have you ever been in love?  You know, that walking-on-air and the-whole-world-is-beautiful kind of feeling…  In that space everything comes together for us, we see the world through rose-coloured glasses, we’re totally inspired and life just magically flows.

Well, today I’m not talking about that sort of energy.  I’m going to talk about being at the other end of the spectrum – that place where our battery is flat, our enthusiasm is zip, and no matter how hard we try we can’t think straight, we can’t feel or function the way we normally do, ideas and abilities desert us, everything is hard and nothing goes our way.

Image from longevitystrategist.com

Sometimes, we end up in a place where we experience failure to connect. As a psychic or intuitive you may be unable to sense things. A meditator may be unable to get into that space.  Creative types may find that NOTHING comes to them, and anything they create is rubbish, or worse.  Others may find that their skills desert them and they can’t execute the simplest task.

We can’t connect, we’re out of synch, stuck in a miserable eddy or backwater instead of in the middle of that glorious energy of flow.

So what do you do when you find yourself in that space? (and if you’re human, it’s inevitable at some stage in your life…)

Firstly, understand that you’re not actually DISCONNECTED, although it may feel that way.  What’s actually happened is that your battery is flat, and you can’t hold enough of a charge to FEEL that connection right now.

Failure to connect can be brought about by stress, illness, shock, depression, fatigue, malnutrition, or excess. (Do I have to explain excess?  Really? Okay – think too much of anything – like too much sugar, caffeine, alcohol, mind altering substances, negative and unsupportive people, work, pressure, exercise… the list is long but I’ll stop here.)

Secondly, don’t panic. This will pass.  Honestly, it will.

Thirdly, you can be proactive, and give your body the conditions that will help it come back to balance quicker.

  • Rest.  Lots of rest.  (But if your issue is an excess of rest, give yourself some tasks and deadlines, and then get to it!)
  • Magnesium.  Find a good supplement and take some!  I favour the powdered forms that have other micronutrients, vitamins and minerals in them too.  Magnesium is such an important mineral, and it runs our entire nervous system, as well as about a thousand other important cellular and support activities within our bodies. We use it up fast when we’re stressed, sick or exhausted. I’ve blogged about magnesium previously, including the joy of epsom salts baths here.
  • If you’re warding off illness, or you’re sick, or in that place of slow recovery, add some Vitamin C and Zinc to support your immune system.  Perhaps you can find a good natural therapist to assist your recovery.  I am a big fan of acupuncture and herbs. But find what’s right for you!
  • Get a massage or a healing of some kind.  Allow your body and mind the time to be quiet and still.  Don’t have expectations of yourself.  Relax, let go and just be for a while.
  • Find some sunshine and sit yourself in it.  It’s a magical pill in the form of full-spectrum light and it has a miraculous effect on our bodies.
  • Let go of fear. Fear holds us in adrenal exhaustion, and ruins our kidney and liver energy. Sometimes therapy helps, sometimes we might need to do something more drastic like end a relationship, leave a job, or change our living arrangements.
  • Fill yourself up. If you’re running on empty, it makes sense. You might need to fill up on cuddles and love, fill up on peace and serenity, fill up on nature, fill up on art and music and movies and ideas, or just plain old fill up on life by heading out the front door and into the world and all its possibilities.  Do something different, go someplace different, fill the well! Ideas on how to do that here.

Blessings at The Sacred Well by Gilbert Williams

It gets so hard to connect when our body is in a space of physical, emotional or spiritual exhaustion. Be kind to yourself when this happens.  Don’t put pressure on yourself to achieve.  If you have known connection before, then you’ll find your way back to that flow again. No need to try.  Just relax into it.  All is well.  Know that you are deeply Loved. ♥ Bless xx

How to Nurture your Creativity

“Why sometimes I believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast!” The Queen, from Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

There is a winged dragon waiting at the edge of your conscious mind, and her name is Creativity.  If you climb into the jewelled saddle, and nudge her with your heels she shall take you to a place deep within you.  There is a sacred pool bubbling up from this place and the magical quality of this water helps us to visualise, believe in and create impossible things. Creativity, Imagination Land and the Realms of Possibility are all available to us if we learn to nurture the part of us that would take the journey, and the part which feeds the sacred pool…

I have found the following things to be useful in feeding my creative self.  They are all about engaging with life; learning, experiencing and observing:

  1. Festivals.  Festivals are fabulous!  Music festivals, food festivals, folk festivals, writers festivals, medieval festivals, travel extravaganzas, bridal expos, garden exhibitions, rural shows, trade fairs…  Festivals showcase ideas, beliefs, products and services, and they are filled with passionate people sharing their knowledge and gifts.  
  2. Walks in nature – so many things to see.  Interesting leaves, delicate flowers, animals busy in their own environments, the smell of a summer morning or  a winter’s night, the hoot of an owl, the baying of a dog, a neighbour’s cat perched on a fence – baleful as a tiger.
  3. Markets – farmers’ markets for tables groaning with fresh produce, craft markets for interesting bonnets, jumpers and bangles, car boot and antique sales for all manner of treasures.  
  4. Books – to read, to look up random bits, to instruct, to look at pictures, to give you a magical carpet ride to a place you’ve never been. You can even get talking books to listen to on the bus, or in the car.
  5. Music – not just the stuff you usually listen to, but other people’s music too.  Ask friends for recommendations.  Trawl youtube. CDs, MP3s, records. Even try the radio.  I found this little treasure on facebook.    
  6. Films – late-night foreign movies on tv, DVDs and pizza on a Saturday night, choc-top and the latest releases at the cinema, film festivals (see tip #1), movies for children, sub-titled treasures, golden oldies, footage of you and your family from your childhood, or your parents/grandparents lives.
  7. Outings and expeditions – These need to be able to be done in one day or less.  Choose from picnics, drives, catching random buses or trains, going to places that have always been on your ‘must visit’ list – such as vineyards, art galleries, temples, new shopping malls, cafe you read about in the paper, Christmas lights etc.
  8. Travel – half the fun here is planning.  Get brochures, search the web, speak to travel agents and friends.  Then once you’re there drink it all in. All the culture, the foreignness, the food, the smells, the colour of the sky. Take photos. Capture memories. Bring home an awful souvenir or an outlandish tale.
  9. Lessons  – Stretch yourself with something new.  Guitar, Hindi, water skiing, belly dancing, sushi making, yoga, watercolour, macrame pot holders 101, computing, swordsmanship, barista course, novel writing.
  10. Cloud busting – lie back on the grass, or in a hammock and bust the clouds with your mind.  What shapes do you see?
  11. Poetry readings and other live performance – hearing an artist share their own work is always powerful.
  12. Journal – a safe space for pouring your imaginings onto paper.  I’ve just written a free seven day course on how to journal here.
  13. Live with curiosity – curiosity and creativity go hand in hand.   
  14. Talk to people – they’ll tell you the most amazing things. People everywhere are happy to share their stories and experiences, mostly for a smile, and the joy of being heard.
  15. Make things with your hands – there is a magical flow between our hearts, our imaginations and our hands. Often this process unblocks something that is seemingly unrelated.  A pottery session gives you ideas for your novel, chopping vegetables for soup informs a painting design growing inside you. Make pasta, knead dough, paint an old cupboard, dig in the garden, bead a necklace, repair a bicycle, braid your hair, pick flowers for the table, hug someone!