26 Oct Mindfulness and Being Creative
Mindfulness and being creative can seem like polar opposites, especially when we are stressed but need – or want – to come up with a new idea. Trying to decide what to do next can bring stress and tension along with the myriad of creative possibilities. Our task becomes to slow ourselves down and stop desperately looking for the answer, as when we calm ourselves we will also uncover the answers we need. Getting into a meditative state and becoming mindful can pay dividends with the way we can brainstorm any new ideas or develop a creative project.
Becoming mindful can help us as we develop an existing idea beyond the initial framework. So many ideas start out with amazing energy and momentum, but then as we have to work out specific details, panic and dread can rush in. If ideas don’t immediately come to us, it is easy to start feeling stressed and anxious that the project will be derailed or sub par. When we don’t know how to fix an element or reach all the way to the goal, it is so much easier to panic than to relax. Going online to ‘do some more research’ may feel like a good solution, but can also throw up more questions than answers. All too often we already know the answer and don’t need to learn any more, we simply have to quieten down to hear it.
Every self-help book will tell you to reduce your stress by disconnecting from devices, going offline, and taking a walk outside. Sappy as it sounds, this really does help! As you disengage from looking for ever more information and let what you already know percolate to the front of your mind, ideas and answers start to appear. Ideas are very shy creatures who don’t take kindly to being chased down, so don’t go for a walk expecting the idea to magically reveal itself as you reach the end of your front path! Instead look around where you are walking, enjoy the view, smell the smells, watch the people, and give your mind a rest from looking for answers. Just as you have forgotten what it was that was driving you to distraction, an idea or a thought will usually float into your mind. Sometimes it is just a word, sometimes a whole glorious plan. Don’t stop it in its tracks and demand a full game plan, and don’t stop to try to capture it. Just keep walking and let the idea unfold. If it is good, it will stay with you until you’ve understood it and reached a pencil and paper to sketch it out.
Mindfulness is not only great at the beginning of a creative project. It can also help us refine our ideas as we get closer to the end of it. We may have everything laid out in a very sensible and practical way, and yet know in our heart of hearts that it is incomplete, and that an element is still missing. We can brainstorm and check in with others all we like, but that special idea is most likely to pop up when we are quiet, still, and engrossed in something completely unrelated. Inspiration is much more likely to arrive as we are dropping off to sleep, taking a shower, driving somewhere very familiar, or meandering along the vegetable aisle debating what to get for dinner. Ideas are strange creatures that way!
It can be very hard in a left-brain driven world to let go, relax and trust that answers will just appear – or that they already exist. This sea change in our thinking calls on us to be less judgmental and more compassionate with ourselves as we tiptoe into this softer and yet harder to quantify realm. The irony is that the more we can calm our thoughts, the easier it will be to create. Learning to stop in order to go forwards is one of the most contrary piece of advice you are ever likely likely to receive!