Mindful Creativity: Designing Inside Each Moment
September 28, 2011
I write a lot about working hard, developing your talent and practicing your art. It’s almost something of a mantra! I repeat these ideas over and over again, because I really believe they are essential to success. But one thing I haven’t written much about is when following through on these practices becomes a struggle.
Some days, working hard and practicing your art comes easily. You feel in the groove, and everything clicks. You have a vision for a client and you know exactly what you want to create and how to do it. I love these days! But other days, everything feels wrong. Your ideas feel stale. Or, you’re distracted by an argument you had with your spouse or you’re worried about money or your child is having trouble at school or you have an unhappy client. And on these days, nothing clicks. These are the days when it’s really hard to create. The last thing you want to do or have the energy to do is sit down and design a new floral centerpiece, lighting arrangement or cake design.
I have good news and bad news about such days. The bad news is that these are the days when it is MOST important to create. I mean it. It’s almost more important to work on your designs when it’s the last thing you want to do than when you’re excited and eager and feeling creative. The good news is that when you focus on getting creative, you can sometimes design your way out of a funk and end up creating some of your most original work!
Some of you are probably thinking right now, “Okay, sure, Preston, that sounds all well and good, but how do I do this? It’s so hard!”
And you’re right. It’s really, really hard. You could stand in your studio and stare at your sketch pad or at that bucket of fresh flowers and just try and will yourself to do something. But when I’ve tried that I just get frustrated and panicky.
Instead, step back. You have to find your mindfulness. Take a deep breath. Turn away from your sketch pad or work bench. Close your eyes. Take another deep breath. Focus on what it feels like to breathe. What does it feel like to inhale? What does it feel like to exhale? Turn the corners of your mouth up slightly into a small smile. Breathe. Smile. Breathe. Smile. Keep doing this. You’ll start to feel the tension in your body and mind evaporate. Keep going until all of the tension is gone.
When you return to your sketch pad or that bucket of flowers, you are now relaxed and can begin again, this time with mindfulness. Focus on what it feels like to pick up the pencil or what it feels like to hold that flower in your hand. Feel the texture and the smell of it. Be full of mind with just this moment. I like to think of this practice as the one-step-at-a-time practice. I’m not thinking about the outcome or what my finished product will look like. I’m focused on what I’m doing in that moment.
This technique always helps me clear my creative fog, and I’m often pleasantly surprised by what my mind creates on these days. One of my favorite quotes about mindfulness comes from the wonderful Buddhist monk Nyanaponika Thera, who said: “Two thoughts cannot coexist at the same time: if the clear light of mindfulness is present, there is no room for mental twilight.”
Dear Readers, I hope this helps you the next time you’re feeling uninspired. What are some other techniques you use to get your creative juices flowing again? Let’s help each other. Please share your tips and experiences in the comments.