It happens every time. I get into the car and take the leashes off my pooches, Yuki and Kana, and place them (the leashes, that is!) tidily in the console. We arrive at our destination, pups come out of their bag, and I go for what I thought were the neatly placed leashes. But it seems that no matter how carefully I had positioned the leashes before our ride, there is now a big tangled mess, and overly excited Yuki and Kana must practice their patience skills while waiting for the detangling process to be completed.
It seems this “knotting tendency” is not limited to leashes. We all are quite familiar with the frustration of pulling out our ear buds and having to spend too much of our precious minutes untangling them. (In fact, knots have been the subject of study for physicists for a long time—way before Steve Jobs was even born!)
And what goes for leashes and ear buds also goes for our creative minds. As our creativity threads are jostled about by our ultra high speed of living, we need to do some untangling before settling into the act of creating. Over the years of practicing art, I have found that the five following habits have helped me consistently get rid of some knots that might impede the process of creation. I’d like to share these habits with you:
1. CALM THE MIND
I have made meditation and journaling a daily practice for many years. In addition, when I am almost ready to work at my easel, I spend some extra time meditating, particularly if I feel that my mind is on high speed or is agitated. Creativity and intuition flow when the mind is in a peaceful place, and meditation can be a bridge to bringing us there. It doesn’t really matter what type of meditation you do, nor does it need to be a “traditional” form of meditation. If there is something you do that clears your mind and brings you into a state of “being in the moment”, that is a form of meditation.
2. CREATE A SMALL ROUTINE
I find that small routines or rituals can help remind my mind that “it is time to settle down.” Before I start to work, I always make myself a cup of tea, which I bring to my easel. I often forget about the tea once I start working, but I love to hold the warm cup and take a few sips while just looking at my painting or drawing. I remember a teacher from my early training who had told us that he would always play with his brushes before he got to work on one of his illustrations. Again, it is not important what you do, but that you do it regularly so that your mind links the routine with creative time.
3. CLOSE THE DOOR
In the “good ole days”, one simply had to quite literally close the door to the area where she/he worked to create a quiet place. But today, we are blessed, (or cursed, depending on one’s point of view!) with so many gadgets that invade our space and have zero respect for doors, windows, walls and brains. Worse yet, our present day culture has convinced us that that we must know about every text, email or call within a nanosecond of it’s arrival. To allow our minds to truly relax, we must put the modern world of communications on hold while we give ourselves the priceless gift of time alone.
4. CREATE SOME SIGNPOSTS
When I am working on a piece, at the end of a working session, I always leave a short note to myself about some area of the drawing or painting that needs some attention. This habit helps me jump right into the work without thinking about “what should I work on first?” Thinking can take us out of the Zen-like mode of creativity, so a note from a previous session can act as a signpost of what to do without kicking into gear any thought process. When I am about to start a new painting or drawing, I plan beforehand the “first step” and again leave it as a note to myself. Every art has some thinking involved; the key is to keep the thinking to a minimum in the first few minutes of your creative time so that your “thinking” mind gives up the control to your creative mind.
"Young Hare" by Albrecht Dürer, 1502
Creativity always involves expansion and taking yourself out of your comfort zone. I always take time to be inspired by other artists. Sometimes it is for technique, sometimes for subject matter, and sometimes for another artist’s courage to listen to his/her inner voice. A creative soul is always learning, growing and developing and needs inspiration and direction. By allowing ourselves to learn from other artists, both present and past, we encourage our growth and feed our creative souls.
I hope you will share with us any tips or techniques that help you to get into your creative zone. And of course, please let us know if you have any thoughts in the comment section below!