Generally speaking I’m a sweet-natured person with a spark who loves both just being and also being absolutely efficient. A strategic TypeA driver with the soul of an artist, that’s me. Maybe that’s why I actually schedule times to be creative.
Sometimes in my creativity lab—that’s what I call my scheduled times for creativity—things just flow. Other times it’s like the gas hasn’t been turned on. I get crunchy faced, frustrated, breathe deep, and then THAT voice comes from inside and I have to fight back to creative confidence. Sometimes I wonder if it’s all worth it.
You know what I’m talking about, right?
Whatever your mode of creativity (teaching, making, designing, speaking, supporting, encouraging, re-designing, leading, etc.) this process is familiar to most of us. Whether you are looking for a new way to organize your closet, redo your living room, graphically represent a product, or MERELY bring what’s in your soul out onto a canvas, you understand the creativity lab too. The creativity lab involves that sometimes soul-wrenching process.
With that in mind, here are 5 reasons why I want you to keep entering the creativity lab.
Then to be even more practical, I followed that up with 7 hacks from yours truly and a few brilliant creatives.
Why I want you to keep entering the creativity lab
- You have something within you the world needs to hear. Maybe someone already told you this so please don’t shrug it off right away. Why? It’s true. Your contributions to the world matter. Don’t think that if you were really good at whatever it is, that the creativity would just flow. No matter what form your creativity takes, it all takes time, sweat, sometimes pizza, and belief in ourselves.
- Uncertainty is scary but you might just be mid-process. What if what you have been thinking about really will make a difference to your neighborhood, your pocketbook or your family? You won’t know until you let yourself remain in the process of creativity in your lab. We foolishly stop ourselves mid-process and assume we don’t have what it takes. Truth is we are just in the mid-process uncertainty fog. Implement one, or some, of the hacks below or find your own and get to it.
- Because of how you are designed and your own experiences, you see things like no one else. This means that when you share how you see things, it helps others see things too. You create conversations with your creativity, and that leads to connections with others who then are inspired by your process.
Creativity is never isolated, it always brings vision to communities. Yeah, I wrote that, inspired by some choice words I read in a letter from the Apostle Paul this morning. Creative guy, that Paul.
- When you give yourself time in the Lab, you give yourself a gift. You tell yourself I respect me, I value me, I believe in me and I choose to set time aside for what I dream and believe it. Just like kids and dogs, they spell L-O-V-E as T-I-M-E. Give yourself the t-i-m-e to let what’s in you come out to love the world.
- The process develops more in you than often the results develop for you. I mean, really! This is the toughest part for me, honestly. When it doesn’t feel like or look like progress to my hyper-critical and impatient mind, remaining in the lab for the process is uber-painful. But the creative process is like that old statement, “a watched pot never boils”, which BTW—it does, you just have to…wait for it. Entering into the lab to go through the process develops perseverance in me and obedience in me as well. Both well worth the physical “UGH” to get to the “Eureka”.
OK, moving on from the pep talk to the practical get it done hacks.
Ways you can spark your creativity starting today
- Tell the voice within to gently HUSH. When the controlling, impatient, unbelieving voice pops up, make a choice to notice it. Then gently respond, understanding this voice is just there to try to generate movement. I typically tell THAT voice something like, “I hear the need to move. I’m enjoying being here, and everything is on schedule.” Take a big breath, or three, and process along.
- Give yourself grace. Grace can look like honoring the limits of your physical, intellectual or relational needs. That might mean planning for food while not leaving the creativity lab. Or taking a break for physical movement or relational connection. We’ve known for a while that going outdoors can spark our creativity. But it turns out you can benefit from a walk on the treadmill or using the stairs. “Part of the win is unstructured think time. When we concentrate heavily on something, we can actually get in our own way. Creativity relies on associations and connections that may not be obvious and may not come to us unless we let our minds wander.” -Michal Hyatt
- Trust the process by creating distance. It’s happened a few times now, those beautiful times when I experience the joy of trusting the creative process. Trusting the process for me means intentionally allowing myself the space to step back while remaining open to seeing connections. Like viewing one of those impressionist art pieces or a moving graphic, it takes distance to see it. Distance leads to abstract thinking and allows the brain to make those connections. “[A]bstract thinking makes it easier for people to form surprising connections between seemingly unrelated concepts,” say Oren Shapira and Nira Liberman.
You might want to include a break for sleep too. While we sleep our brains are still at work attempting to find creative solutions. I do my best creative budgeting while I sleep!
- Grab the Colors, Rope Swing, Frisbee, Dog’s leash… . Let yourself have some play-time. “Play nurtures a supple mind, a willingness to think in new categories, and an ability to make unexpected associations,” says Virginia Postrel after reviewing the growing research on the importance of play. “The spirit of play not only encourages problem solving but, through novel analogies, fosters originality and clarity.”
- Fuel Yo’self. Take yourself to the basics of “what you put into your body will be used by your body”. So what is that taco going to do, what about that second vente latte, or that filtered h2o, or…you get the idea.
Fuel leads to feel. What you put in will come out in how you feel. “The basic idea is that a positive mood loosens the grip of attention, so that stimuli and ideas that used to get filtered out can now have a greater impact on [mental] processing,” says cognitive neuroscientist Mark Beeman. And it’s self-perpetuating because research also shows that creativity makes us happy.
- Team up. Sometimes we’re used to thinking of creative work as solo work. Not always. And outside opinions can sometimes drive the outstanding work. The dueling talents of Paul McCartney and John Lennon demonstrate that. Their relationship was sometimes competitive. Other times it was truly collaborative. Either way, they would not have accomplished what they did without each other. Study after study demonstrates the creative power of a familiar team with diverse personalities and talents. Who is nearby or virtual who can join your team?
- #lovethelimits. We don’t like limitations, but inside constraints we find tremendous freedom. We have limits with everything we do—our time, energy, finances, resources, etc. To be human is to have limits! Applying limits on time in the lab or energy given in the lab could be helpful. The right constraints can clear our heads and challenge us to work with our available resources. That’s because time, space, and other constraints remove options and eliminate distraction. SO maybe you could start to #lovethelimits?
And develop perseverance! Sometimes it’s the process of creating less than fabulous results that leads to more fabulous work. Stick with it and stick to it!
- What’s your greatest struggle in the creative process?
- When have you persisted through the UGH only to find great results on the other side?
- Who can you invite to be par t of your creative support team?
Your life-giving ideas need to shine, dear creative friend! Now get after it!
Liz Lawrence, MA, LPC-S is counselor, coach and creative who is passionate about people. She directs the Streams Counseling Center in Austin, Texas and co-leads the non-profit Renue.Me whose mission is to invest in the dreams of leaders in underprivileged communities around the world. Connect with her at www.lizlawrencelpc.com or www.renue.me
- Photo from Pexels and graphic by Author on Canva