31/05/2010

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:

Relinquish.

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.

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29/05/2010

Hello authentic life

Yesterday I talked a little about how we could all be more ourselves – the individuals we are – and feel more empowered instead of running around like Loraxes.

But how exactly to do that? How do you live your authentic life?

First of all, you are an individual. It follows that your life ought to be one based on your individuality. You are not just a person in the system, a potential customer, a consumer or one of the target market. Yet so many of us are unwittingly brainwashed and just bob along with the waves of patterns of behaviour that move around the ocean of our populace.

It seems to me that while most people understand we have free choice – and so many less fortunate people in the world do not have this essential foundation of a free society – they don’t use their free choice. (However, there are anomalies in our society, for example, parents-to-be in New York have no choice about whether to have their baby at home or not.)

Free will and free choice means we have the luxury of being more conscious of the tiny as well as big choices we make every day.

Each choice has a consequence. When we choose carefully and thoughtfully, when we ask ourselves what we want to do instead of just automatically doing what we think society wants us to do, we instantly empower ourselves.

The more we listen to our inner Self, and act on our intuition, the stronger we feel, and co-incidentally happier. The more we consciously strip away unnecessary things by de-cluttering, creating breathing space in our lives, being more mindful, honoring the things that make us feel good and doing more of them, the more authentic our lives will be. Our lives reflect who we are.

So in the hope of inspiring you, I gave myself 15 minutes to write a little stream-of-consciousness list of my ways of authentic living – practical choices I’ve made and continue to make that have helped me strip away layers of accidental falsity and live a more fulfilling life.

Hello authentic living –

Hello handmade, nature, wilderness and conscious living. Hello make-do-and-mend and minimalism. Hello connecting with my community and guerrilla gardening. Hello buying local produce and seasonal food.

Hello stripping away unnecessary things, including people and ideologies. Hello looking at bees and butterflies instead of watching them on TV. Hello letting children feel free and safe and able to play without adult supervision and interference.

Hello walking instead of driving. Hello knowing more about my family and friends than I do about celebrities and TV characters. Hello Waldorf / Steiner education and toys made of things that once lived like wool and wood. Hello not window-shopping and buying into retail persuasion.

Hello wearing the same dress I wore ten years ago because I love it (fashion doyen, Vivienne Westwood would approve). Hello making your own clothes, buying vintage clothes, revamping your old clothes, buying clothes from charity shops and expressing your individuality through the clothes you wear.

Hello being indecisive so you are always open to something new happening. Hello being spontaneous and going with that whole “who moved the cheese” thing.

Hello learning to be storytellers again instead of always reading books. Hello buying online direct from artists and creators on Etsy instead of big brand manufacturers. Hello upcycling and finding new uses for things we might otherwise throw away. Hello guitars around campfires, sleeping  under the stars and taking courses like Guy Mallinson’s woodland camps.

Hello farmers markets and people raising animals and crops the old-fashioned, expensive way. Hello curative classical homoeopathy and the slow movement. Hello creating communities of like-minded people online so it’s like we all live together in a village. (I’d like WildelyCreative as a neighbour.)

Hello supporting the people working with white knuckles, gritted teeth and in tears to save our planet, the species we share it with and the welfare of animals. Hello the rebel, the maverick, the weirdo who stands up and is not afraid to go against the tide.

Hello having your baby at home, being supported by other parents and breastfeeding for as long as you want. Hello hand-me-down clothes that have the energy of other children about them. Hello dads being good at supporting and protecting their family and moms being good at nurturing and home-making and hello all parents feeling supported and confident instead of thinking they need to read parenting books <– although I recommend that one).

Hello feeling connected to people via the magnificent universe that is Twitter that you’d never meet in real life. Hello listening to our instincts and acting upon them so we get more gut instincts and start to rely on them instead. Hello thinking for yourself instead of what everyone else seems to think.

Hello doing the exact things we loved as children, not matter how childish like playing with modelling clay and crayons, making things from twigs and collecting feathers. Hello not feeling you have to see the latest movie. Hello walking barefoot and getting your hands dirty.

Hello attempting to fix something instead of just buying a replacement. Hello getting to know your neighbours even if you don’t like them. Hello having a cat or dog in your life to teach you important life lessons and bring you companionship, fun, love and joy.

Hello photographing wildlife instead of shooting it. Hello going on guided nature walks instead of shopping trips. Hello home baking, making meals from scratch and growing our own wild foods.

Hello taking things out of skips and picking up things off the street that people have put out as garbage (we got 4 rolls of thick cream wallpaper on the street yesterday, great for HUGE painting and pastel works of art).

Hello looking up old friends and just saying hello. Hello realising you are beautiful. Hello loving what you have and being grateful.

Hello more displays of public affection. Hello more adventurous sex. (Bye bye stupid inhibitions.) Hello sharing secrets and talking more about what you feel. Hello writing silly notes and saying thank you.

Hello finding out about the insects and other little beasties you share you home and street with and looking for them and being able to name them. Hello smiling at people and acknowledging people more.

Hello realizing how far you’ve come and helping those coming up behind you. Hello leaving whole days open and unscheduled to do what you like in the moment. Hello risking looking foolish when you ask a stranger if they need help with their bags, car, crossing the road or anything else. Hello getting better about saying ‘no’ without giving an explanation as to why not.

Hello having wildflower meadows and wilderness areas in our gardens. Hello making gifts and cards for friends and family instead of giving money to a shop. Hello more people doing things like moving your tomato plant so the noise won’t disturb a leafcutter bee’s nest.

Hello healing ourselves by listening to our inner wild.

I’d love it if we did a kind of brainstorming thing here and you added your individual ‘Hello‘s in the comments below. I might add a few more too.

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05/04/2010

Strip away, dearheart

Strip away your civilised layers. Feel who you really are, dearheart.

Liberate your inner wild.

Visit me often.

It’s going to be like a mad dodgem ride at the fairground; ideas and concepts slamming into you at awkward angles.

It’s OK. I know what I’m doing. You’re safe(ish) with me.

Image borrowed from perfectshade. Thank you for making the world more beautiful.

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