Creativity

Feeling uninspired? Try the creativity switch

I’m in a wee bit of a creativity rut. Despite journaling every day, blogging every day and planning a creative business, I’m still feeling a bit uninspired.

I’m not sure why this is. But my partner told me about something interesting today: the ‘creativity switch’*.

Apparently, the idea is that when we get stuck in routines in our daily lives, we can also get stuck in a creativity rut. When we get up each day and go through the same motions in our lives, we start to coast without needing to think too much. We aren’t stimulated.

This is bad news for creativity.

But the solution is supposed to be simple: mix it up! Change things in your life – in a simple way. Switch things around.

For example, if you usually get up and take a shower and then have breakfast, do this the other way around. Or shower in the evening instead. Drive a slightly different way to work. Go to a different cafe to get your coffee.

By changing the order or the way in which we do things, we force ourselves to pay a bit more attention and notice things. This creates the chance for novelty and creativity.

You could also switch up your journaling. You could journal at a different time of day, or in a different spot. You could try a different pen, drink a different tea while journaling, or listen to different music. You could bring a new ritual into your journaling – perhaps light a candle or draw a tarot card, if you’re so inclined.

The change doesn’t have to be huge – just enough to make you notice.

Here’s a few things I’m thinking of changing:

  • The way I drive to work: taking a different route and seeing different scenery will be more interesting, I won’t have to sit in the same traffic, and I can spend more time singing in the car. Win!
  • New music: this always inspires me. An hour or so exploring on Spotify and I have a whole new playlist.
  • Journaling in different places: I’ve already mentioned how I’ve taken to journaling in my car, and that offers me the luxury of picking a different location and view each time.
  • Walking my pup in different neighbourhoods or different streets.
  • Trying different types of journaling in the morning: rather than just writing, I’m thinking of bringing drawing and watercolour into my morning journaling routine.

What tiny change could you make to get you paying attention again? How can you make a small switch in your routine to inspire you and reignite your creativity? Post your changes in the comments below.

*Note: full credit for this idea of the ‘creativity switch’ goes to Jay Abrahams.

Creativity

Journal prompts: Travel

As much as I love being at home, I can’t get enough of the world.

Travel ignites a fire inside me that burns for years after a trip. There’s something about being somewhere new, somewhere different, somewhere I’ve only visited in my dreams that just feels magical. It feels like I’m in a dream, only it’s real.

When I first stepped out onto the travel lessonstreets of Manhattan, or had my first bite of real French pastry, or walked through the falling snow in Chicago, or got lost in the winding alleyways of Venice, or stood underneath Michelangelo’s David in Florence… those are moments I will never forget. Those are moments I changed, because those are moments I felt my dreams come to life.

There’s something about being out in the world – and let me remind you, I’m from New Zealand which is pretty tucked away from everyone else – that makes me feel like I’m participating in life. I feel like I’m part of it all, on the world’s stage.

And not only that; seeing things I have long seen on television, in books, in films, online, well that just makes it all the more magical. To stand in Times Square, in Westminster Abbey, under the Burj Khalifa or in the middle of Yosemite reminds me of my place in the world. I’m reminded of all the people who came before and who will come after. I’m reminded that we are part of one whole, one global family – that I am never really alone.

You meet the most fascinating people when you travel – people who live in the area, other tourists, or people who literally live down the road from you back home who you just happen to run into in a hostel in Florence… We are all, in some way, connected. There’s nothing quite like running into another Kiwi in the middle of a foreign country.

imageI love the history – I’m in love with art history, and just history in general, and I soak up all the stories of people who came before, how they lived, what they valued. For me, the world is like a giant classroom. I can’t get enough.

And as a creative, someone who always has stories burning inside them, I find that travel is the ultimate fuel for the creative fire. I come home bursting with ideas, full of new material. It’s like every time I travel I connect with another part of myself, fill the well a little more. It inspires me in ways that nothing else can.

To be able to step out of a humid New Zealand summer and land, a day later, in the blistering cold of New York winter, well that is the stuff of fairy tales if you ask me. Travel is magic.

And then, when I’m full up with the sights and sounds of another country, when I’ve attempted the language and my memory cards are full of photos, when I’ve filled my suitcase to the brim with gorgeous leather goods from Italy and every other possible souvenir, when I’m happy and exhausted – going home is the most wonderful feeling. I find a new appreciation for my bed, my shower, and every little detail of my home. I fall back in love with where I live.

I don’t travel as often as I’d like. In imagemy ideal future life – the one where I’m running creative workshops and retreats all over the world – I’ll be going on major international trips every year. At the moment, my last trip (to Europe and North America) was two and a half years ago, which feels like a lifetime. My goal is to go on another big trip next year. In the mean time, I’m using journaling as a way to travel within. It’s not quite the same, but it’s the next best thing.

The other thing I like to do is to do local travelling – visiting new places nearby. It can be as simple as exploring the next town over, or even driving for a few hours to somewhere new. Travel doesn’t have to be a major overseas adventure. I think just getting some new scenery can be enough to get inspired, even if it’s not far from home. Don’t discount the benefits of travelling somewhere locally if you can’t afford a big trip.

>>> Prompt:

How do you feel about travel? I know some people who could do it forever, and others who haven’t left the country and couldn’t care less. What does it mean to you?

Describe a memorable trip you have taken, in as much detail as possible.

Describe your ideal trip, in as much detail as possible.

Now consider, why haven’t you taken it yet? No time? No money? No one to watch the kids? These are all obstacles that can be overcome. You might find that you consider travel to be an indulgence or a luxury that isn’t a priority. Explore your beliefs around travel, and make a plan to make your dream trip a reality, even if it isn’t for five years.

Make a list of every place you want to visit.

Bonus fun prompt: create a travel vision board to inspire you for your next trip – even if you’re not sure how you will make it happen. Gather up travel brochures and images and place it somewhere you will see it often. Trust that it will come about, in the right time.

Note: this post was originally part of a series of 30 life lessons and journal prompts for my 30th birthday. You can access the rest of the lessons and prompts here.

Creativity, Self Empowerment

Journal prompts: Sensitivity is a gift

I don’t really know how to say this without sounding dramatic, but it is the truth: all my life I have felt different from others. Even though I’ve always had friends and been part of a group of some sort, I’ve never fully felt the same as everyone else.

I noticed in high school that other people just seemed to ‘get on with life’ while I struggled with some of the most basic things – I would feel easily depressed after watching a movie, on a high and inspired for days from the words of a song, or I would take a comment or a joke to heart.

While other friends seemed to easily bounce back from breakups and bad grades, I would retreat to my room to let feelings of misery sweep over me. Not to mention I was easily overwhelmed and exhausted by life in general and spent a lot of time sleeping to recover. When I wasn’t sleeping I was writing, drawing or playing guitar.

I was told I took things too seriously and needed to lighten up. I was told I was too sensitive.

While I certainly knew that sensitivityadolescence is supposed to be a tumultuous time, I was also aware that I seemed to be having some issues that others around me weren’t. For years, I just assumed I was somehow defective. I learned to try and hide my sensitivity around certain people.

It wasn’t until recently, in the past couple of years, that I came across the term ‘highly sensitive person’ (HSP). This opened up an entirely new world for me. I wasn’t defective, I was just one of the 20% of the population who was easily overwhelmed and more aware of the subtleties of my environment than others.

For HSPs, the brain works a little differently: they are more likely to observe before acting. It is an innate trait that is often found in other species too – such as birds, fish, dogs, cats, horses and other animals.

Learning more about this trait also gave me answers in other areas of my life – why I am more likely to feel the cold, struggle to pay attention with a lot of loud noise around me, get easily overwhelmed when I have a lot to do in a short period of time, why I am easily moved by films, books, music etc. This trait also explains why I can’t watch really violent or upsetting films, and this also includes watching the news. Yes, I deliberately avoid the news because it upsets me too much.

But aside from these difficulties, I’ve learnt how wonderful it is, for me at least, to be a highly sensitive person.

  • I easily feel love, empathy and compassion other human beings, not to mention animals. While this can be draining at times, I think it is one of the best ways for us to function on this planet. Of course I get mad and impatient, I get bitchy at times. But for the most part, I feel a strong sense of compassion towards others.
  • I have a rich inner life. I experience emotions strongly, which again has its downside, but it means that I get to experience the most intense and fulfilling positive emotions. I get to be overcome with gratitude and joy, struck by awe or filled with inspiration. I get to look at my loved ones and feel myself full-to-bursting with love. And when I do have to deal with the intensity of negative emotions, they always lead to personal growth, and often give birth to new creative ideas.
  • I am a very creative person. Not only do I experience strong emotions, but I have a vivid imagination and big hopes and dreams. I allow myself to spend time in my own inner dream worlds and I often turn them into art or writing. Having a rich inner life allows me to be the creative person that I am, creating and expressing myself in ways that I can hopefully use to inspire others.
  • I can’t hide who I am. I am an open book and don’t do well at covering up how I am really feeling (I could never play a serious game of poker!). While this may seem like a bad thing, I’ve found it helps me to remain authentic. It helps me to stay ‘me’; to be honest. I don’t find myself playing lots of different roles or putting on different masks. It also means that I can’t stay in situations that make me unhappy for very long, which can only be a good thing.
  • I’m very observant. I often notice details and specifics about my environment, other people or situations. I remember things clearly and this has been very helpful in many situations. As well as getting easily overwhelmed by the environment, I am also easily inspired.

These are just a few of the things that make me feel blessed to be HSP. It certainly comes with challenges, but I wouldn’t be anyone else but me.

>>> Prompts:

What does the word ‘sensitivity’ mean to you? Does it have negative associations? Why?

In what ways do you see being sensitive as problematic? How can you reframe this view?

List as many ways you can think of that being more sensitive than others is a gift.

In what ways can you honour your sensitivity more?

Note: this post was originally part of a series of 30 life lessons and journal prompts for my 30th birthday. You can access the rest of the lessons and prompts here.

Creativity, Self Empowerment

Journal prompts: Making yourself happy

This has taken me years to learn, and even now I need to keep reminding myself of this truth:

It is my job, and mine alone, to make myself happy.

lesson 16It is not my partner’s job to make me happy. It is not up to my friends to make me happy. It is not my family’s job to make me happy.

Of course, that’s not to say that these things can’t make me happy – they certainly do!

But ultimately, it is up to me to make myself happy – it is my job to fill myself up.

That means, when I’m feeling crappy, the first thing I need to do is check in with myself. I need to know what my core needs are, and I need to check that they are being filled – and here’s the hard part – by me.

Some of my core needs are:

  • Love
  • Security
  • Solitude
  • Freedom
  • Creativity
  • Self-expression
  • Inspiration
  • Contribution

How do I know my core needs? Because I’ve taken the time out to think about these things, to work out what really fills me up. If I’m not aware of the things I need in my life to be happy, then I can’t make sure I’m happy.

If I’m feeling crappy in my life, most of the time it’s because I’m not meeting my own core needs. It’s not fair for me to pass the expectation onto my partner or friends to make me feel better, when I’m not doing that for myself.

There’s something really empowering about being able to fill yourself up. It doesn’t mean you can’t accept help or anything from others, but it means you don’t need it. It totally changes the nature of a relationship when you come to it already satisfied with your life. You have a lot more to offer others.

>>> Prompts:

What are your core needs? Start by making a list of all the things you like to do, the things that fill you up, big or small. Then, try to identify the core needs underneath. Usually it will be stated as an abstract noun.

In what ways do you rely on others to make you happy?

How can you do more to fill yourself up and meet your core needs?

Note: this post was originally part of a series of 30 life lessons and journal prompts for my 30th birthday. You can access the rest of the lessons and prompts here.

Creativity

Journal prompts: Try something new

There are so many things I want to do: write books, sell artwork, travel more, meet certain people, learn a new language or two, record an album, learn to sew, knit and crochet… among other things.

The thing is, often when I think of the things I want to do, I can’t help but wish I’d started earlier. Or worse – I feel like it’s probably a bit too late to start at all.

Well, that’s nonsense.

Sometimes I think we talk ourselves out of starting something new because it seems like it will take X many years until we are good at this new thing, and by that stage we will be X years old, and that’s just too old.

Well, I have news for you: you arenot too late still going to reach that age, whether you try the new thing or not.

You can think of it like this – at that age, you can still be in the same position you are in now, with the desire to try the new thing, or you can be that age with a new skill or experience under your belt.

Because either way, you will reach that age. The years will still pass. It’s up to you what you do in the meantime.

>>> Prompts:

What have you always wanted to try but never done? Write as many things as you can think of, big or small.

For each one, why haven’t you done it?

When will you do it? See if you can ‘schedule’ it in somehow in your life either now or in the future.

Imagine your life 5 or 10 years from now. Imagine you haven’t done any of the things on your list. Write about how that would feel.

Now, imagine your life 5 or 10 years from now. Imagine you’ve done the things that are most important to you on your list. Write about how that would feel.

Note: this post was originally part of a series of 30 life lessons and journal prompts for my 30th birthday. You can access the rest of the lessons and prompts here.

Creativity

Don’t have time to journal? Think again

Sometimes we don’t have the time and space we need to be alone and journal. We may have the best of intentions but the universe puts obstacles in our way.

I like to think that these are little tests to see how committed we really are.

For a while I was getting up super early… but it wasn’t really working. I naturally need a reasonable amount of sleep, and I was struggling to get myself to bed by 9pm in order to get my 8 hours. I feel like my evenings are my time to be creative, play in my art journal, or spend time with loved ones.

I’ve been really reluctant to give my body the extra rest it needs by sleeping a bit later. Last week I started to get headaches and when I found myself contemplating a fifth cup of coffee one day I decided I just had to go with it.

But my journaling! I tried just working for a couple of days without journaling first – I thought, maybe I could journal in the evening? But it didn’t feel right. I didn’t start the day with the usual positivity and intention. I felt a little… directionless (if that’s a word).

I can’t exactly journal at my desk when I get to work because I have colleagues sitting next to me. Not exactly an environment conducive to pouring my deepest fears and desires onto the page. Plus, work is associated with, well, work. Not creativity.

As I mentioned I don’t actually have to be at work until close to 9am, so I found an unusual solution:

I journal in my car.

This way I can miss the bad traffic, but find a nice quiet place to pull over where I can write for a while before I get to work. Sure, it’s not ideal. But it’s better than not journaling at all! Given that my job is only short-term, this will work in the mean time.

At first I felt a little ridiculous pulling out my giant pencil-case in the front seat (it needs to be giant to fit my selection of pens and some washi tape).

But then I thought, who cares?

I reclined the seat, tucked my feet under me and just wrote. It was fine. I even brought coffee from home in a travel mug (bonus points to those who recognise the company logo on my coffee mug!).

The other thing I noticed is that a change in view is good. I can choose a different spot if I want a different view. I feel close to nature with trees and the rain just outside, but my car is warm. It’s still a personal space, and while I miss having my pup at my feet and burning my essential oil, it still gives me the time I need.

I’m talking about all this because I want to point out something:

Journaling can be done in many places.

I know I have talked about making a ritual out of your journaling but really if need be, it can be done when and wherever. If you’re stuck for space to be alone, why not try journaling in a cafe? You could always find a table in the corner or somewhere that you can get a little privacy. Or if you’re running between appointments and find you have a spare 30 minutes, you could journal in your car. Or in a park. Or a library. I’ve even heard of people journaling on the subway ride to work!

Find what will work for you. And if you need to, do something a little different. Don’t let life get in the way of your journaling.

How have you made more time to journal? Share in the comments.

Creativity

How to journal when you don’t know what to say

Sometimes I just feel like journaling. I just want to pick up my journal and my pen (and my washi tape and other bits and pieces) and play in my journal.

Although I do love to use paints, stickers and washi tape to decorate my journal pages, my main focus in my journal is often writing.

And some days I sit down with my journal and I have nothing to say.

Or, at least, I start out thinking I have nothing to say. Usually once I put pen to paper and ease into it, I find myself talking about all kinds of things. Often I end up writing about something that I had no idea I would even talk about.

But we all need somewhere to start.

It can be daunting opening a fresh page and thinking, ‘I want to write’ or worse, ‘I should write’ – but not knowing how to begin.

Anais Nin (a journaling legend) offers this advice:

Put yourself in the present. This was my principle when I wrote the diary – to write the thing I felt most strongly about that day. Start there and that starts the whole unravelling, because that has roots in the past and it has branches into the future… I chose the event of the day that I felt most strongly about, the most vivid one, the warmest one, the nearest one, the strongest one.

I love this. I think sometimes we feel that an entry into our journals needs to reveal some profound truth, or be really deep. But it is the normal moments of each day that make up our lives.

Choose something that stood out to you today, for whatever reason. It might be as simple as sitting in the sun with a cup of coffee, laughing with a colleague, or taking a hot shower after a long day.

It doesn’t matter what it is, as long as it warm, near or strong – to you.

It can be harder to follow this advice if you are writing first thing in the morning, in which case you are usually starting fresh, without the events of the day to guide you. You could recall the events of the previous day, or you could start where you are.

In A Voice of Her Own, Marlene A. Schiwy suggests using a basic Gestalt exercise to begin: write for ten minutes on each of the following starters:

‘I feel… I need… I want’.

It might not seem like much but these simple starters can open up to much deeper ideas.

If you are using this first thing in the morning, you could use these prompts to guide you for the day ahead – how you feel in the morning, and how you’d like to feel later in the day. What you need to do that day to feel fulfilled or satisfied (avoid using this as a chance to make another to-do list: most of us do that enough!). You could list what you want from the day to come.

In either case, the idea of starting with today, or right now, is the best way to begin.

You don’t always have to know what you will say when you journal – you just have to start where you are and let the words find you.