Stoking the creative fires
by Lourdes Paredes
Living an illumined life is creating and creatively expressing who we are through our work, our hobbies, our relationships, our living. When we are lit up from the inside, our light shines with unmistakable authenticity.
Most of us might need to woo or court creativity like we would a sweet love. In my experience, being creative just doesn’t happen on demand. I call this “stoking the creative fires.” Of course, I have experienced sparks of creativity and moments that feel like being hit with a lightening bolt. For those occasions, I pray that I am an open and somewhat empty vessel to receive inspiration. Here are some ideas for stoking the creative fires.
(All of these resources are completely unsolicited and have been personally helpful to Lourdes Paredes)
Morning Pages: I started morning pages back in the 1990’s. The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, at the time, a seminal book on creativity, introduced me to a practice that I come back to every few years. Morning pages gets me writing three pages of anything. There are no rules. Just do it. Get out the words: the inner complaints, lists-to-do, things you wish you said, things you liked to hear. Seriously, anything. Let it flow. It clears the way for the good stuff, whatever that is and in whatever form it wants to take. Be consistent, even when it feels like. 20 years later, Julia Cameron is still sharing on the creative process in on-line courses, retreats, and speaking engagements
(Photo by Scott Shigley)
Big Magic book and Big Magic Podcast
The most current book I have read on the creative process is Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. I believe she was on fire when she wrote this book. It is so on point addressing the inner critic and other demons who pop up when we begin or desire to create. She is passionate and compassionate. She shares her stories of what might be classified by some as “unsuccessful,” but are the real adventures of writing and creating in any form.
Here’s a statement that got my attention:
“A creative life is an amplified life. It’s a bigger life, a happier life, an expanded life, and a hell of a lot more interesting life. Living in this manner—continually and stubbornly bringing forth the jewels that are hidden within you—is a fine art, in and of itself.”
― Elizabeth Gilbert,
Brene Brown What might stand between you and your creative self is your inner critic. Brene Brown speaks of especially the very common experience having been criticized our first expressions of art. We need some help in ushering this critic out of our minds and to make space for any form of art whether that is a typical medium, or perhaps something unexpected.
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” Theodore Roosevelt
I never tire of this quote, even knowing that Teddy Roosevelt was talking about great things, like leading a country, I believe that greatness begins in creating and living our lives as the masterpiece that it is.
Vision board/collage: There are no rules for this exercise but if you want some guidelines, there are plenty of online-resources. If you need some magazines for this exercise, just let me know, I collect them!
Stop. Drop. List: To get your mind thinking in terms of “anything is possible” and “sky’s the limit,” For one week straight, take 15 minutes each day to stop what you are doing (set an alarm if you must, or do it after lunch, take notes on your phone during your commute home, voice record it when you’re walking) and just make a running list of all thing things/ways that could make things run better, more fun, engage your interests and passion, etc. If you have seen the movie, Steve Jobs, the inspiration for the ipod, which revolutionized music forever, was when Steve would see his daughter carrying around a walkman, and would comment every time that it was too big and didn’t play enough very many songs. He envisioned a device that would 100 songs. The rest, my friends, is history. This is how ideas start. Just make the list, and not based on what you could or would do, just list things that could be improved, made more fun, or would engage your interests and passion.
Use your higher brain: This training consists of breathing, focusing, and meditative practices to change and access our higher brain (the Prefrontal Cortex) and reflection on four aspects of your life: mind, body, relationships, and environment. The higher brain is associated with joy purpose, compassion and gratitude, while the lower brain is associated with anxiety, worry and stress. Making the shift from lower to higher brain may help to access our creative expression. Check out their opening in downtown Chicago Feb 13 and 14 for a demonstration and detailedinformation.
Paint with wine: I haven’t tried this, but I have heard several first hand reports that experiences at places like these are fun and create that artist-for-the-night feeling. Participants have said the method and techniques they use make it super easy and non-intimidating. Please tell us about your experience (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Take a class (these descriptions come from their websites)
Palette & Chisel: Fine art classes for members and non-members
Dovetail Studios: Dovetail offers class in a variety of dance styles, group fitness with a dance influence and kids camps. If you are interested in a class but unsure of the level or class type, please call us and we can arrange for you to try or observe a class.
Old Town School of Folk Music: The Lincoln Square and Lincoln Park facilities hold hundreds of classes and workshops in music, dance and art for adults, children and teens seven days per week.
Lill Street: Founded in 1975, Lillstreet Art Center is a large community of artists and students working side-by-side in a friendly environment which encourages and inspires artistic growth in the individual.
Chicago Photography Classes: The heart of the photography program is the instructors. They are highly motivated women and men who teach so they can share their knowledge with others. Sharing with others what was shared with them.
May the force be with us as we explore our creative selves, stoking the creative fires, and creating a more bright and beautiful life. Please share your favorite ways to stoke the creative fires as well as any victories of getting started.