Updated: Oct 6, 2020
Oh to be creative!
I talk to a lot of people about creative voice - the ability to let ideas or writings spring to life through word or song. Often people describe to me their image of a truly creative person - someone who lives in a state of constant flow their creations born ease-fully and, it might look that way. Those whose skills have taken them into the broader culture seem to demonstrate an almost magical inhuman ability to speak, play music, generate content, or create fantastical imagery. What we don’t often see is the process of another’s brilliance - the rejections, let downs, thousands of hours spent cultivating & discovering their creative voice.
The reality is that for many of us the first steps into creativity are chaotic. The impulse of an idea springs us forward only to realize how difficult the conceptualization of this inspiration really is. We feel moved to write & yet our thoughts land on the page cluttered & incoherent. Before long we find the inspiration is gone & instead our mind spins - hyper-focused on this ‘word’ or ‘that sentence’ each held to ceaseless judgement & criticism. For many, even a step towards expressing their creative voice is daunting as they find themselves torn between a burning desire to create & the shame of feeling like they’ve already somehow failed.
I describe this to you because I know it well. I know that little voice that disregards my creative work - both the value of creating it & the work itself. I know the frustration, the agitation, & the inability to focus when nothing seems to fit together. I even know the internal excuse that ‘maybe I’m just not creative’ as though creativity is a gene like eye colour - some people have it & some people don’t. In fact, most brilliant ‘creatives’ I know experience these voices often - their skill is in how they navigate through these voices & show up again & again for the creative.
As you might guess, I don’t believe that creativity is an inherent talent - one we either have or we don’t. Like anything I know that our creativity can be cultivated. With a little (or a lot of) humour, humility, & willingness everyone can discover their unique creative voice. And yes, I believe this is true for you as well.
5 Steps to Awaken Your Creative Voice
When it comes down to it creativity is about getting out of our way & engaging with the process. These 5 steps will help you take the leap into whatever your creative voice desires to express. The trick is to stay with it, get curious, & see what your creative voice wants to say.
Step One: Mindset
It’s no surprise that our mindset is a huge component of creativity. The crazed perfectionist voice has thwarted many imaginative ideas. However, there are a few little tricks we can do to overcome these mental hurdles.
Do you believe in a growth mindset? Meaning - do you believe that through effort & perseverance you can build & develop new skills? If the answer is “Yes!” then the possibility for growth is here. If it’s a “No” pause here & take a closer look at growth mindset (Here’s a great video by Carol Dweck)
Take a moment to really listen to the voice that deters you from creating. What does it say? What does it believe? Write down each excuse & deterrent this little voice thinks/feels/believes.
Some examples from my own little voice include;
Who do you think you are?
What if _______ see/hears that, they will hate it.
This isn’t as good as _______.
No one is going to read that.
Who are you to do this?
You should be spending your time doing something productive.
Pretty uncomfortable right?
But, when we acknowledge this little voice in our head we can meet it with our heart, our care, & our capacity for empowered choice!
Look at each statement you wrote & re-write it from a place of willingness, compassion, & growth mindset. The phrase “I am willing to” can be quite helpful.
Here are some examples from my list above
I am discovering who I am & what is possible for me.
I am willing to create things others might dislike.
I am willing to make things that aren’t perfect (or even good).
I appreciate the practice of creating.
I am as worthy of trying as anyone else.
I know that engaging my creative voice, even when it is uncomfortable is how I get better & is productive in itself.
Once you’ve completed your re-written statements notice how you feel. Feel the words, feel the power in that voice. Now stand up stretch & shake it out!
Seriously, stand up and for the next minute shake like a five year old pretending to be an earthquake. Let’s reset the nervous system, move some energy, & get ready to create! It may feel ridiculous - but trust me it works!
Step 2: Free Flow Create
Choose a simple intention for your creation & stick with it. Many creative project are thwarted because we want to create something too big or overwhelming. If there’s a big project break it into tiny parts .
Examples might include;
~ A song idea
~ A blog about a specific topic
~ Brainstorming possible topics for a blog/content
~ A term paper/ essay about a specific topic.
There are many ways to catch an idea. If you struggle with writing/typing or are singing use a voice recorder to catch your thoughts. Writing, typing, sketching, recording - whichever method is the most comfortable choose that.
Set a timer for 30 min.
Express without Editing
Begin to write or sing or speak & don’t stop till the buzzer goes off. Let everything out no matter how silly, judgemental, or awesome. The point here is to just keep going & express without a filter. There is no editing, no going back, just expressing for the full 30 minutes.
Step 3: Review & Release
When the timer goes off you can stop. Or, if you’re on a roll keep going!
When you’re done briefly take note of any topics, themes, lyrics that felt powerful. Goosebumps are an excellent way to uncover great material!
Highlight these pertinent themes step away. The point here is to separate yourself from what you just did & take time for a quick self check. How do you feel?
If you still feel inspired to keep going them by all means do it!
If however, you find that you are feeling overwhelmed or obsessive (anxious, spinning, desperate) then take this time to step away from your project & go do something else. Nature walks are my personal favourite!
Step 4: Refine
The next two steps in awakening your creative voice require some discipline but, going through these steps is incredibly helpful for both discovering & anchoring your creative voice.
Organize those powerful themes & expand on them. Notice what is missing or needed.
Go back to the steps
Use steps 1-3 to further disseminate any ideas or sections of material you want to flush out. For example if you are writing a song you could do this for a verse or chorus.
Write a first imperfect draft. Take a break then edit that draft into a second draft. Allow yourself to re-write & fix as needed. Go one draft at a time.
Set a timer: If you are feeling agitated (a common creative challenge) set a timer for 10 minutes & commit yourself to work on your project for that time.
Take breaks: If you feel obsessed or overwhelmed after the ten minute mark step away.
Give yourself a span of days/ weeks. It is amazing what we notice after a good night’s sleep. When you find you are going over the same thing again & again walk away & come back the next day.
Review Step 1 as many times as you need
Step 5: Finish it
This is perhaps the hardest step for most creative endeavours - completion. It’s not about having the perfect end result but a completed end result.
By staying with your project through completion you build one of the most important skills in creative voice - the ability to finish & release. Our little creative babies don’t need to be perfect but by completing them we integrate what we’ve learned. Sometimes we discover the essence of one creative endeavour years later in a whole new context. That is how ‘being in the flow’ happens! It is the integration of creative snippets we have released into the world.
A Journey of Discovery
Creativity has force of it’s own. If we hold to tight to what our creativity ‘should’ look like we lose the possibility of discovering what it is. Every weird expression, misplaced word, cliche thing that comes through is a stepping stone in discovering what our creative voice wants to say. It’s okay to play, imitate & try things on. It’s okay to release projects that didn’t turn out or post a blog that wasn’t our best work. Repetition, commitment, & quantity all lead to a better understanding of our voice, our processes, & our message. Let it be weird, let it be wild, heck, let it be boring. As you continue to engage with your creative voice you might just find that it has been leading you exactly where you need to be.
About the Author Amy Thiessen is a coach, writer, and musician who focuses on helping others find and express a their voice with resonance. Her unique approach works with the wholistic mechanism of voice utilizing somatic awareness, psychology, mindfulness, spiritual practice, and vocal techniques of toning and song.
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