By: Lisa Hau
A creative is one who invents, explores, and innovates. But it’s an illusion when others see us creating, since they think we have something they don’t. The cold, hard truth is that passion and creativity can’t exist without nurturing. We must do whatever it takes to ignite the creative spark again and again.
“The Work” isn’t only what we love doing- in fact it’s everything between these moments. It's what's happens behind the scenes (and social media posts). Spending my days as a hairstylist and painter, being in the flow is essential for the quality of my work. This is true in both the studio and the salon.
Everyone has challenging moments, days, and weeks. We must be honest when we fall off track, then have the courage and strength to hop back on. As I write this article, I find myself stuck and practicing the tips I'm about to share. The joy and bliss are worth the effort once you get back into flow.
Here are my TOP 5 ways to get you back into the juiciness of creative flow:
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1. Clear Space
We all have nagging to-do-lists. No matter what else we do, or how we try to ignore, it waits there to get done. Unfinished tasks create mental chatter. And it's vital to clear the mind of this chatter. To eliminate chatter, clear out what needs clearing out.
An analogy: the state of your fridge reflects the state of your life. Hearing that, do you feel chaos? This may sound crazy. But if you’re reading this, stop for a moment. Look at your physical surroundings. Look at your bedroom, living room, or even your bookshelf or closets. Is there clutter? Garbage? What does your car look like?
It makes sense that these small corners of our lives get cluttered, doesn't it? We're all busy and tidying up little messes isn’t always top priority.
I often get overwhelmed when thinking of everything I need to do. So, I make a checklist and work through it one item at a time. After completing each task, I check it off and feel a huge sense of completion. Any movement is better than no movement when you’re stuck.
Clearing space gives us greater clarity and helps us figure out next steps. This creates more joy, as our subconscious knows that what we want is in process.
One of the most inspiring documentaries I’ve seen is called Minimalism: A Documentary about the Important Things. At its core, Minimalism has similar ideas as the book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo.
It's about two men finding greater happiness by living with minimal 'stuff.' Keeping things simple creates better organization. This leads to less distraction and makes room that allows for new experiences.
2. Go Exercise.
A major block to creative flow is stress. Stress can be overwhelming. It gets especially bad for those of us with a lot of projects, deadlines, and a never-ending to-do-list.
Rest is mandatory for busy people, but so are regularly elevating the heart rate and sweating. Like rest, exercise helps release bodily tension. It also helps us break out of counterproductive thought patterns.
The challenge of pushing through a workout is also great 'grit' training. This helps when we're struggling at work through a challenging day. It works whether playing sports, doing yoga, dancing, hiking, or otherwise. Anything active that's FUN for you will leave you feeling satisfied in both mind and body.
I've been committing to a morning yoga practice and/or swimming before work and on weekends. Sometimes it's ten minutes. Sometimes it's sixty. The length depends on how I feel. But consistency is key.
It's precious alone time for me and gets me connected to my body and breath. It's easy to say, “I don’t have time,” or, “I’m too tired.” But scheduling time for movement before filling the rest of the day ensures we take care of our health. Plus, it sets the pace to tackle our priorities first instead of last.
3. Get Still.
With the 24/7 noise and demand, on and offline, it's challenging to know which thoughts are our own and which aren't. But when we unplug, we dial into our heartbeat, our breath, and our truth.
For always-active people, stopping is the hardest thing to do but the most important. If you find yourself always chasing your tail, saying, “One day, when I have time,” that’s a sure sign you need to slow down.
Getting still means resting the body and the mind. The greatest influencers all swear meditation aids their progress. One of the best ways to meditate is in a float tank since it requires you to do nothing for an hour and a half.
I have muscle tension from work and life stress. While in the tank, gravity seems to disappear due to the 900 pounds of the Epsom salt.
Floating lowers brain wave frequency. Our normal waking (high-frequency, monkey-mind) state is Beta. But in the float tank that ratchets down to deep, creative-insight Alpha and Theta states. When I float I come out feeling like I’m on a cloud. A calmness takes over my entire being, and I'm reminded of how awesome it is to feel so chilled out.
For those of you reading this who don’t have access to a float tank, then opt for a daily meditation of at least 5-10 minutes. Just sit alone in silence. A 5-minute daily discipline will create monumental shifts. You'll feel more peace and higher focus throughout the day.
4. Be Spontaneous.
Spontaneity ignites any, “stuck” energy when we're in a lull. Spice up your day by doing something out of the ordinary.
There are options here. Spontaneity works whether taking a random day off to explore your own city or booking yourself an extended vacation. Spend time getting excited to research and you'll have something to look forward to.
My friend, Erica, and I recently had a perfect spontaneous adventure. We took an afternoon to visit the Monet Exhibition at the Vancouver Art Gallery. The colors, brush strokes, people, and curious energy of the onlookers inspired me.
After the gallery, we ate at a restaurant we’d never been to but had always wanted to try. It's easy to seek comfort at ‘the usual’ places where you know what to expect. But new experiences stimulate our senses of taste and sound. This takes our mind back to wonder, adventure, and fun.
Other ideas to shake things up can be just as simple: getting a new haircut or buying a new shirt, for example. Or, if you're saving your pennies, spontaneity can mean taking a different route to work. Or, pairing together clothes in a new way. Or calling an old friend. All these ideas break us out of normal habits and add excitement and spontaneity into life.
Small changes are exhilarating. Try them, it might surprise you.
5. Expand Yourself.
“Where you end up is a result of the books you read, the tapes you listen to, and the people you surround yourself with.”
This has stuck with me since I heard it. Staying open to new information is crucial for new ideas to flow in and for inspiration to take flight. And resources are abundant with today's technology. Long gone are the days when you had to spend a lot of money and/or time to access excellent information.
Expand yourself by getting insights and wisdom from listening to a podcast (there are millions to choose from). Or, read a book. Or even listen to a book on Audible while commuting.
Taking time to connect with like-minded friends over dinner (or at an event) is great, too. This will spark interesting conversations. Surrounding ourselves with others on a growth path pushes us to expand ourselves in a way we may not alone.
For example, I was hanging out with my friend after dinner the other day. And an opportunity to give a public talk came up. She signed me up! And I’m not sure I'd choose this for myself. The thought of it makes my knees weak. But she knows me well. Her support and prompting has lit a fire under my ass to be the person I want to be.
If you procrastinate and resist some projects like I do, I can recommend a couple of books:
· Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
· The War of Art by Steven Pressfield
· Stealing Fire by Steven Kotler & Jamie Wheal
Ever heard the expression, “Good things come to those who wait?” Sure, being a creative requires patience. It's about the journey and it will take time. But, don't mistake patience for waiting.
Successful creatives don’t wait around for inspiration, or for the flow to find them. For our work to thrive, we have to show up and do the work. Picture a freight train traveling from A to B. For the first while, it moves slow to pick up momentum. But once it has momentum it's easier for it to gain even more speed.
This is much like the creative process. Remember these 5 essential ways to tap back into the flow when your train seems to be standing still.
Clear space, be still, go exercise, be spontaneous, and expand yourself. Happy creating my friends!
By Lisa Hau