Happy New Year! I wish you a happy, healthy new year filled with all the magic you can muster. I hope your year is ecstatic, wondrous and full of mystery. I hope you can wander back into yourself this year and get real close with your passion. Here are 8 simple reminders from my book to help you have the most creative year ever. I am very fond of number 5:
1. Your creativity is like a pilot light. It is always on, even if you aren’t using the stove. It has been there at the center of you, flickering away since you last used it–maybe when you were a child. But it didn’t leave you. It was a gift you were given by your ancestors who were always making things and finding creative solutions to problems. It was handed down through generations. It looked different with each passing–your great aunt who canned peaches in that lovely linen apron. Your father tinkering at his garage workbench even if it just seems he is avoiding your mother. Your grandmother and all those impatiens and petunias going limp every day waiting for water. They all had the spark of creativity. And so do you.
2. Creativity is not something you do. It is who you ARE. It is in the way you see the world and engage with it. Just because you take that watercolor class you have been waiting for, that doesn’t mean your life will be more creative (although, I must say it is a good start because you are trying something new). The creative part about taking a watercolor class for the first time is that at age _____ you are willing to try something new. Even if it is your first class on how to use your Quicken software or your iPhone, creativity is inherent in the curiosity, the exploring, the trying, the willingness.
3. Just so you know, you can draw a stick figure. Not only can you, but if I asked you to draw a person with a round belly wearing a jacket and holding an umbrella, you could. And it would be fun. But your life has trained you to believe that you can’t. Something happened at some point because when you were six, if I asked you to draw a person with a round belly wearing a jacket and holding an umbrella you’d be delighted to do so.
4. You are the same inherently creative child you once were. He or she is inside of you right this very instant. Your feet have grown so your shoes are bigger but he or she is just inside your bones. Right now. Tucked into the softest center folds of your heart is that same brilliant, curious creature you were as a child. You just have to lightly scratch the surface and you will find him or her staring at you with those big, round eyes waiting for you to notice.
5. To have the most creative year of your life you are going to need to find your inner-kid because she or he will teach you to play. Do you think you remember how? Can you shove the unwieldy stack of bills aside for a few weeks and wander back into the forest of your soul and play until the sun goes down? Can you follow the fireflies back into the corner of the yard? Can you run back to the house to get a jar to try to capture the fireflies because they are so magical that all you want is to keep one? Can you get down on the wood floor underneath the dining table and eat just one meal under there–maybe with a sheet thrown over the top of the table–maybe with just a flashlight? Can you please eat UNDER the table instead of on it? Can you then maybe make a picnic of sandwiches and pickles and eat it in the backseat of your car while listening to a book on tape (CD)…maybe Harry Potter? Can you do that just once?
6. You will, indeed, have to break your habitual patterns. Leave the trail a bit. Seek the unexpected. We are all creatures of habit. Habit and routine make us feel safe. You’ll need to stop following the rules you have worked so hard to follow your whole life. Don’t do anything illegal or dangerous, just try to bypass your knee-jerk urges towards the habitual in little ways. Put your left foot in your sock first, if you always start on the right. Write with your non-dominate hand for one hour or one whole day. Go to the grocery and pick out three vegetables you have never bought–ever. Take them home and figure out how to do something with them.
7. Please DO make a mess. Make a giant, horrible mess of everything or at least several things. If you set out to find your creativity and you do all this playing and exploring, the end result will certainly be a mess. Please don’t stop when you actually realize what a mess you’ve made. Don’t zoom back into the perfectionistic adult. In fact, don’t do that ever again. Because here is a big, big secret about the creative life: perfectionism is the enemy of the creative act. And there are deep psychological reasons why and this is just a short list so I can’t go into it in depth but here is the skinny: if you spend all your time trying to perfect everything–your life, the stuff you make, your work, your family–it is likely because you feel on some deeper level that you are flawed and not enough. And so you run around exhausting yourself trying to prove to yourself and to the whole world that you are, in fact, good enough–“see how well I baked these cookies for the school bake sale! And see how hard I work and see that I am the first person to arrive everyday!?” Guess what? In this post-Oprah culture we all know the truth. Self-help is no longer a dirty word. We’ve all watched the Brené Brown Ted talks. We have all been in therapy. And we all know a Photoshopped life when we see it on Facebook. Get dirty. Right now. We can all see your flaws anyway. And if you are lucky, you will start to love those parts of you instead of putting a distracting bow on top of them in the form of perfectionism. Your flaws will only serve to connect you more deeply to yourself and everyone around you if you stop trying so hard to cover them up.
8. “Follow your bliss.” Because to follow our bliss, you have to begin to remember who you are, what you like, what you want, what lights you up and makes you come alive. The more you step into a creative life, the more questions you will find there waiting for you. Dive in. Lose yourself, even for just a few minutes in your baking…tango classes, acrylic painting, jewelry making, guitar lessons, quilting, sewing, Adobe Illustrator 101…whatever it is…fall in. Stop stopping yourself. I promise it will not affect your 401k to take a class and follow your bliss. You won’t throw all caution to the wind and end up at Burning Man (I mean, you might, but don’t be afraid). Let go. Be curious. Trust yourself. Wander down the dirt path and back into yourself. Remember the creativity that is flickering at the very center of who you are. It is waiting. Now, off you go.