“Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire, you will what you imagine and at last you create what you will.”George Bernard Shaw
It is often said that the right hand side of the brain is the creative hemisphere: it’s all about the here and now and thinks in pictures, while the left hemisphere works a linear and methodical way and thinks in language. Jill Bolte Taylor, in her TED talk recounts her experience of having a stroke in the left side of her brain: her left hemisphere brain chatter went silent and was immediately captivated by everything around her (you can hear more of her description in her talk).
I found her description so intriguing, and it got me thinking about what would happen if we lost the capacity to use the creative side of our brains: loosing our capacity to imagine, dream and innovate.
This is a leap of my own imagination, but bear with me. Imagine…
The logical (left) portion of the brain is not about receiving new information: it is about the past and the future so it would use information from the past to create the same future. Nothing new would be created: no new art, dance or music, no new theatre, films or games. There would be no new learning: education would be the same year after year. In work we would follow rules and guidelines but there would be no innovation. There would be no new design or architecture, no development in health, science and medicine. Everything would be done in accordance to how it was always done. There would be no feedback, no reassessment and no improvement.
We would still have the rational portion of our mind and our reptilian brain responses: so we could still organise and would still have aggression, fighting and war. When things go wrong there would be no change and we wouldn’t stand up for justice or rights, there would be no activist, ARTivists, changemakers or social entrepreneurs: no one to imagine a more beautiful world.
We would keep on doing what we have always done: continuing with our trajectory of economic growth and consumption without questioning to an inevitable place of stasis. No creativity : no change : no movement : no life.
This got me thinking about how many aspects of our world that are rigid and stuck in very set ways of doing things: lacking in the creative capacity for positive change and new ways of working. Globally changemakers are engaged in social, environmental and community initiatives and within their work they experience struggles working alongside and within systems that are rigid and fixed.
To bring about change in a rigid system I believe that those already effecting change: changemakers can be supported to harness their personal creativity in all aspects of their work to bring about more profound positive collective change.
Below I have outlined some of the struggles that can be experienced by changemakers and how simple support for personal creativity can inspire and activate their work.
1. Feeling tired, run down and disengaged from your work?
Changemakers work with, and for causes that are dear to their hearts: the issues they work on are deeply important to them on a personal level. This level of personal engagement can lead to bypassing self-care and pushing beyond their capacities to a place where they become disillusioned by their work or burnout.
Creativity is woven and embodied in our body heart and mind: our conduit for imagination, inspiration and changemaking. So it is really important for your personal creativity and wellbeing that you take good care of your whole self: taking regular exercise and outdoor activities that allow to you stay fit and healthy, engaging in activities that bring pure joy and that sparkly sense of aliveness in your heart and finding moments of quiet and stillness for the mind through practices that bring mental calm and relaxation.
Create healthy self care routines.
2. Feeling uninspired by your workplace?
Do you get a sinking feeling in your stomach when you get to your desk, office or studio? The environment we work in can deter or support our creativity. At one stage in my working career I worked in a cubicle with no natural light, no window and surrounded by constant noise in a field of co-workers. I would have to wait until every one had gone home to focus on any thing creative.
Its important to bring your awareness to your needs and how your work environment can support you better. Maybe you can change your desk so that you have a view out over a green area or you can get a lovely plant for your desk, maybe you need peace and quiet, perhaps fun colours and patterns stimulate your creative mind or maybe you need a pristine clean and neat a work surface.
Create an inspiring space for your creativity.
3. Feeling stuck, like you’re not gaining traction?
Maybe you are working your ass off and nothing seems to be changing or you are dreaming of working in more creative ways but you don’t know how to start? It can be so helpful to learn to understand your own creative process. I liken this to what in architecture is called a site analysis: with a physical site you look at the topography, orientation, wind direction, foliage, water courses, noise etc etc.
For your own creative process analysis, get curious about how you create: your external and internal influences, how creativity embodies in you: is it through images, colour, words, a sense of knowing? This can be a really fun exploration through games, use of colour and images and I have found that this process can inspire new ways of understanding projects and their challenges, communicating your idea and engaging stakeholders.
Explore your creative process: create your own ‘site analysis’.
4. Caught in your head? Lacking fresh ideas or overwhelmed in a chaos of thoughts?
We each generate ideas in different ways: some put a lot of pressure on themselves to get that one perfect idea, some are inundated with ideas and struggle to sift through them to find the gold and others get caught in theirs heads over thinking and smothering ideas before they can germinate.
It is challenging to try things in new ways but if you are struggling with ideas and caught in your head then, its time to slow down: take time and come back to your body and heart and allow some space for ideas to land and generate. What you may find is that you’re mind doesn’t have to be in full control of this stage and that you can learn to trust your gut more.
Give your head a break: create space to trust your gut.
5. Feeling like you’re lacking in confidence to implement your new ideas?
In an attempt to create change in your work you might want to try something radically new but find that you’re not moving forward due to a sense that you are missing something important: confidence, courage or maybe necessary tools and experience? Maybe you are trying to do too many things too fast and maybe you are falling into old ways of doing things?
Its great to take step back and look at where you want to end up. Back-casting from there, breaking down steps into small do-able chunks, check where the gaps are in the journey, identify where you might need some advice, support, delegating or training. Draw this, write it in ways that engage your imagination e.g. big sheets of blank paper and good chunky markers or recycled post-its to create do-able actions that can be moved around.
Create do-able actions (chunks) that build your confidence.
6. Feeling frustrated by outdated working methods?
If you’re realised that you’re taking the same approach to all projects and may have skipped some creative evolutionary stages then it may be time to do some self reflection, review your approaches and get feedback.
It is possible to introduce fun, interactive and creative ways of getting feedback from colleagues and stakeholders concerned. This can be done through World Café’s, games, visual sharing, visual note-taking or sketch notes.
Create new ways of getting feedback.
7. Feeling blocked, don’t know how you communicate your ideas?
If you don’t know how to clearly and effectively communicate to stakeholders or client and are not sure how to get your ideas across, the clue is in meeting your people where they are. Take time and create spaces and opportunity to listen to their ideas, stories and how they experience the project. Ask good questions, be present when you listen and record your notes in creative and meaningful ways.
Create new ways of listening.
8. Feeling like projects never end but roll one into the next and the next…?
Every project has its own creative cycle just like the cycles of the seasons or the cycle of a day. And as in all natural cycles there is a time for celebration, laughter and fun. I love that in the Dragon dreaming project diagram one quarter of the wheel is dedicated to celebrating. In celebrating together we honour our creativity and our work, and we strengthen trust, connection and human bonds.
Create beautiful ways of celebrating.
Creativity can be applied to everything you do: in how you take care of ourselves and others, how you organise your workspace and engage with colleagues, clients and stakeholders. Your creativity can be supported by understanding your own creative process, working with embodied awareness & practicing embodied listening learning. You an learn when you need more structure, more space or simply to slow down & self-reflect.
“If you always do what you’ve always done, you always get what you’ve always gotten.”(unknown)
A lack of creativity means that we end up with systems in stasis and stagnation with no innovation, change, evolution or hope. I believe the world needs changemakers, dreamers, initiators, designers, hands on crafters and makers, creative planners and implementers all working together, now more than ever. it is your birthright to create, evolve and change.
Create wonderful everyday ways to nourish your creativity.