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Category: Creativity (page 3 of 5)

Flipping free of creative oppression

Can you relate the person in the illustration above? He has taken all his wondrous, firey wands of creativity; his gorgeous ideas and free-spirited thoughts and has dug them in around himself like the stakes of a prison. Now his wands of creative imagination and expression hem him in, smother and oppress him.

Feeling creatively oppressed is horrible. With too many burdens to carry you’re exhausted and grumpy. The feeling escalates with every un-creative task you attend to, (although admittedly you could argue all tasks are creative in some form or another).

Yet, annoyingly, it’s a natural part of the process of creativity.

Sometimes I feel like I’m drowning in mundane tasks like washing the floor, doing the laundry, making meals, checking emails. I’ve been over-ambitious about how much I can achieve in one day.

I’m wrapped up like a fly in a spider’s web of grocery shopping, making someone’s birthday present, sweeping the patio, taking the dog for a walk and on and on it never-endingly goes.

I think about the world and all its concerns. My giant creativity is tied down and every tiny task or thought is like a tiny person tying down Gulliver in Gulliver’s Travels until it is trapped, rigid and helpless.

Now I don’t want to give you a shopping list of X ways to flip free of creative oppression for fear that might make you feel even more oppressed. Just thinking about a shopping list makes me feel suffocated right now.

So look, here’s just ONE simple, lovely way. Maybe two, or two and half.

First, realize you are creatively oppressed. Know that in living and being part of the real world, it’s normal and natural for things to overwhelm you. Flip this attitude to one of appreciation of the basics like having a job or a roof over your head then let it go by doing this:


Allow your creative, adventurous, daring and risk-taking side a little space. How do you do that? By relinquishing stuff.

We all know that what we do on the outside mirrors what we do on the inside and vice-versa. So grab a bag and throw some stuff out.

This may seem to contradict what I said about simple tasks making us feel creatively oppressed but I’ve found that cleaning my home or tidying up seems to release at least some of the burdens that are weighing me down.

I knew a novelist who could not write a word unless his entire house was neat and tidy. (Luckily it was a small house and he has managed to write a few books.) I think maybe this has something to do with tangibly getting your house in order so your mind will be ordered too. The mindful task of cleaning and sorting also sorts out your thoughts and calms you.

Sculptors know all about removing in order to create. They talk about taking pieces away to reveal the shape within. I’m not a sculptor but I really love this idea. Minimalists and those on a de-cluttering drive get it intuitively. (Leo Babauta of ZenHabits has a beautiful, useful post “how to let go of possessions” on his Mnmlist blog which fires me up to chuck stuff out.)

My number one way to instantly relieve myself of a sense of creative oppression is to grab a bag, zealously collect things from round my home that I no longer have need for and take the bag to a charity shop.

When I do this – and I do it a lot because I often feel creatively oppressed and am cool with that – I feel instantly lighter.

The bigger the bag, the more stuff I’m removing, the lighter I feel. Oftentimes the more ‘attached’ to something I am, the more relief I feel in getting rid of it.

So here’s your one-step process to flip quickly from feeling creatively oppressed to creatively liberated: relinquish.

Yes, take one bag of stuff you no longer need and give it away. Free up your space, free up your mind, free up your creativity.

————–> If I’m being responsible I should add an important caveat. There is another effect of relinquishing physical possessions. It often precipitates relinquishing of relationships and out-moded ways of being. For example, don’t be surprised if you throw out a bag containing your first resume attempts and some old work stuff to find yourself deciding to write a resignation letter.

Relinquishing has a BIG ripple-effect. And as we know a ripple effect is one of nature’s fundamental and creative responses.


Coloring-in for grown-ups

Can you believe I’ve been thinking about this post for a full month?

For some reason it’s become important to me to persuade you that coloring-in is a beautiful, relaxing, wonderful pastime for grown-ups. And that you buy yourself some lovely crayons, pencils or felt pens, brushes, quills, fine-nib fountain pen and inks, big, fat markers or an expensive set of soft pastels, choose a coloring-in book or two that you fancy and allow yourself the sweet, innocent, liberating pleasure that coloring-in brings us.

Why do most of us stop coloring-in when we love it so? I guess we take up more challenging endeavours in late childhood and then forget all about coloring-in. And, as I have been discovering thanks to my daughter, coloring-in is a deeply satisfying, simple escape from the hurly-burly and weirdly therapeutic.

My daughter and I often sit at the table and color in a picture together, in a free-form way where she may suddenly decide we start a new picture so I have to be flexible in that area! And all the while she is talking, talking, talking and I am listening. This is a brilliant way to let your child tell you things they’ve been wanting to say, in a relaxed, side-by-side way. But that’s an aside.

I really don’t want you to think you need a child or need to be child-like to color-in. There is an amazing array of colouring books with special appeal for grown-ups. Some are designed especially for grown-ups. Now, I am all for the gorgeous pre-school kind of big pictures like the one above (my daughter colored that one in, her coloring is much more textural and pleasing than mine). So grab one of those at your local store for a bit of nostalgia.

I am not really good with fiddly, fine-lined drawings but an enlightened friend gave me a Rosie Flo’s coloring book ages ago and I loved that. What a beautiful range of creative coloring books! Please check out the coloured-in gallery.

How great it is to be faced with the exact boundaries of solid black lines and white space inviting you to color it. How good a chunky, soft crayon feels in your hand. The smell of felt pens. How tricky it really is to stay within the lines (well, for me it still is anyway). In fact, maybe coloring-in is even more fun for adults than children.

But do we allows ourselves the fun? Says Sara of darling Etsy shop Kitty Baby Love, “We often get a lot of adults who love our items, but then sigh and say sadly that they don’t have any children to buy them for. It’s nice to have more encouragement for adults to enjoy these cute things too. Fun/cute/creative need not be for children only!”

OMG – look at these crayons from Kitty Baby Love! —->

Feast your eyes on these and see if you can resist getting yourself a coloring book next time you’re down the supermarket or — yes, the art supply store (most have them!). And remember to get yourself your favorite media; crayon, pastel, paint, colored pencil, marker, ink …… ah.

For those who are both hip and charity-minded:

The Yellow Bird Indie Rock Coloring Book

“I like coloring books. I also like charity. So as you can imagine, I definitely like this!”
– Russell Lissack of Bloc Party

“This is the greatest coloring book since coloring was invented. I’ve decided to have kids just so I’ll have somebody to give this book to.”
– Matt Berninger of The National

For the fashion aware:

My Wonderful World of Fashion: A Book for Drawing, Creating and Dreaming.”

If you love vintage items (or want to color the exact style of coloring book you did when you were little!) you can still find – amazingly – pristine vintage coloring books like these Cowboy and Holly Hobbie ones I just found with a quick search on

AND Prestel Publishing brings us FINE ART coloring-in books based on Warhol, Klimpt and Dali! Previously I would have thought this was sacriligious but now I’m thinking WOW! We found the Klimpt one at a charity shop and it’s great!

You can find these and more than ten thousand more coloring books on ebay in both the US and UK. Now, if you are an artist who creates coloring books or you want to recommend particular coloring books, please share your links with us in the comments section below.


Does where you live affect how wildly you dress?

Some days I dress a little wild. Others I’m almost invisible.

Ornate headbands are one of my favorite things. That’s not me in the photo but I would wear that darling whichgoose headpiece. It’s whimsical, playful and pretty and I like feeling like that sometimes myself.

And yet – would you wear a headpiece like this (there are woodman versions too, and let’s not forget Oberon, King of the Fairies!) as part of your every day outfit. If not, have you ever thought about why not?

It’s great we have clothes to keep us warm and to wrap our psyches up in. Clothes and accessories display our mood or attitude to the world in a heartbeat.

Of course, lots of people play with this by dressing crazy or hiding a volatile personality with drabness.

As well as the individual manipulations we can practise with clothes – teenagers dressing alike in tribal Gothicism or branded sports gear – staunch individualists making a statement with way-out unknown adaptations of ‘normal’ clothing – we’re also at the whim of where we live.

Dress-style is naturally climate and locality-dependent. Take a bikini-clad babe away from Freshwater Beach in Sydney and drop her in central London and people would perceive her to be a completely different kind of person based solely on her attire. In London, she’d be seen as someone flaunting convention. On Freshwater Beach she’d be following it.

Interesting, isn’t it? I have a theory that the vibration of where we live influences our personal style by either fostering a creative spirit or suppressing it. And clothes have such a powerful effect on how we feel about ourselves.

I think it’s something to do with the collective consciousness of the people in a geographical area, combining to create a kind of ‘acceptable standard’ of ‘threshold’ of clothing.

Some cities are just more creatively vibrant than others. Glasgow and London, New York and Sydney, for example, have high thresholds of creative dressing, perhaps raised by high numbers of creative individuals.

I had a stark experience of this when visiting a friend in Wellington, New Zealand (which has a wonderful open, cultural vibe). I bought a plain wire tiara, its dull metal hand-twisted into simple flower shapes and happily wore it about town.

As I was about to board the plane back to Auckland, it struck me that, much as I adore Auckland, and it is a vibrant, creatively-nurturing place, people there would genuinely and kind-heartedly think I must surely be on Day Release.

Have you caught yourself not wearing something you really love because you don’t want people to misunderstand you? Or the opposite?

Image borrowed from whichgoose. Join thousands of other people who have loved and bought her natural hair crowns and accessories from her whichgoose Etsy shop.


3 dangerous secrets to effortless creativity

Years ago I was asked to give a presentation on ‘Creativity in Advertising’ to a class of Communication & Media Studies students.

Oh! The illicit thrill of rebelliously plotting to tell them some of my secrets. Secrets which were dangerously diametrically-opposed to what other experts were telling them.

I knew these secrets had the power to save these students a lot of future stress and creative angst so I figured it was worth the possibility of being laughed out of the lecture theatre.

To predispose them to listen, lessen the imminent shock and stretch their belief about what is possible, I gave them all chocolate bars. Yeah, that’s right – bribery.

Here are 3 of my dangerous, yet proven-effective, secrets to effortless creativity:

1. You need to take your ego out of the project at the get-go. It’s not about YOU for now. It’s about creating something. You can step into the limelight after you’ve created the thing. This letting-go-of-ego liberates you and quiets the critical voice in your head that stifles creative thought. It’s a technique that becomes easier over time as you develop confidence in both your abilities and the next two techniques.

2. You are more creative when you practise no effort at all. Deepak Chopra expresses this beautifully in a life-context when he talks about The Law of Least Effort. (I’m not talking here about the discipline you need to manifest things in the world. I’ll talk about that in another post.)

Do NOT, no matter what anyone tells you, think you have to spend hours sweating and thinking and rehashing a project, task or brief. The time you spend on a job – contrary to what your client, boss or ego might think – has absolutely no bearing on the value of the idea you come up with. They don’t relate at all! It is not difficult to have an idea, and it’s just as easy to have a brilliant idea as a lame one. It takes your mind less than 1 second to have an idea. An idea or creation is not better because you spent from 9am until 9am the next day thinking about it, in fact it will likely be awful.

Read the creative brief, manifesto, task at hand, project, whatever it is you’re looking to create. Absorb it fully, note down the first ideas and thoughts that come into your head. Stop thinking about it. Go do something else or at least think about something else. Your subconscious mind is far more powerful at working things out that your conscious mind, so let your subconscious do all the work for you. Novelists rely heavily upon their subconscious to keep track of the intricacies of complex narrative, character traits, plot development, geography, dynamics. So leave the project for a couple of days or hours, as time allows, and then re-read your brief or task and let your subconscious ideas and thoughts come through. Then let your conscious mind kick-in to edit, add, subtract, refine.

3. This is the biggie. Please suspend your judgment for now and just try this next time you are seriously stuck having slammed into a brick wall and are now glued to it with your nose getting scratched on the brickwork. When you get stuck, when you are completely overwhelmed, lost or panicked or you just had some very bad news and yet still have to come up with something, ask the angels/god/fairies/your spirit guide/whatever external manifestation of power you cherish, to help you.

Stop laughing you over there! I’m serious.

I once had to write 3 huge business-to-business brochures for IBM about some computers that cost about million dollars each. This project was killer because I didn’t know if what I was writing made any sense at all – it was in a different language, since I had no training in computer science, I couldn’t understand the technical information I was ‘translating’. I was so lost I burst into tears at my computer! In complete desperation I asked “the angels” (no, I don’t now who they are exactly either) to help me.

I’m here to tell you this worked. I felt a shift come over me, some kind of intangible support, i switched off my brain, let my fingers press whatever characters they wanted on the keyboard and pretty much channeled all three brochures. The client loved my copy. Would I tell IBM that “the angels” wrote it for them? Em, HELL NO!

You don’t want to be pulling this big bunny out the hat too much. It’s where you go when you are really desperate – white-knuckled, sweat drops on brow, crisis.

I remembered these 3 secrets because I used the 3rd one last night.

I became completely bloody-minded with ridged determination that I would put a favicon in the browser bar of my website URL. This involved delving into FTP stuff on my host server and while I fancy myself as a creative geek gal who likes dabbling in CSS – this was w-a-y beyond my level of experience.

So after four attempts at shoving html cluelessly in any old place like someone fumbling to lose their virginity, I sent a Tweet out saying:

Dear Fairy Godmother of Favicons, please come and help me now. I have tried and tried and tried and still no favicon on my website. Thanks!

And not long after, this Tweet:

Thank you Fairy Godmother of Favicons, your wand was swift and I am very grateful. Take care.

Who knew Twitter was our communication channel to higher powers? Check it out – my favicon is up there in your browser window, channeled by me from some other entity and because I was kinda ‘listening’ and acting intuitively, I can’t remember how I managed that. Nice favicon, huh?

Yep, there y’go – my ego just kicked back in.


The unexpected benefits of being tiny

I am so tiny I am riding a bird! We are flying through flower beds and I can see huge, juicy caterpillars.

I remember the vivid imaginings reading Thumbelina gave me as a child. How extraordinary to feel myself so tiny. How different the whole world looked from this perspective.

Did you read Thumbelina when you were little? Do you remember seeing things differently in this way when you read fairy tales?

We learn this powerful mental technique as children. How many of us retain it for use as a grown-up?

In sweet irony, years after imagining I was Thumbelina, an ad agency paid thousands of dollars to send me on a “creative thinking skills” course designed to ‘teach’ us writers and art directors how to do exactly this!

We, as adults, were taught how to “reframe”.

‘Reframing’ is the incredibly useful creative technique of looking at ordinary things – people, situations, experiences – and, in the case of this course – products and services – from brand new angles; changing your size in relation to them, their size, how they might interact in unusual ways with the world around them.

It’s a very effective device for solving creative problems, breaking through creative dead ends and igniting fresh ideas.

If you’re working on a new product launch – maybe a natural fruit juice – one way of using reframing is to imagine the juice to be HUGE like an ocean – oh, now you have an idea of a sea of fruit juice. (How many ads have you seen using that image?!)

Now imagine it tiny – ah, a dewdrop of juice on an aloe vera plant, magnified. (Again, no doubt you’ll have seen that image selling everything from skin care to bottled water.)

I’ve found reframing to also be a great way to jolt yourself out of a groove of negative thinking.

By imagining the issue or situation you’re experiencing differently you can find new ways of responding to it. (Also, I’ve just remembered, there are great NLP techniques that use reframing by taking a ‘problem’ that’s holding you hostage and then imagining it as a tangible shape so as to see it shrinking and shrinking in your mind’s eye – or a loud sound made quieter for those more auditory than visual among us – and thereby diminishing its negative impact on your thinking.)

Many of the games you played so naturally, so effortlessly, as a child are valuable tools to continue using as an adult. Think about what games and “let’s pretends” you enjoyed and consider applying them to issues, people and experiences you have as a grown-up.

But, oh, let’s not get bogged down in too much rational thinking. Of course, one of the most entertaining applications of reframing is – imagining you are Thumbelina. Which bird are you riding today?

The Thumbelina image above is a shadowplay toy – one of a range available from Isabellas Art’s Etsy shop.

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