coaching the creative

Years ago, when I signed up for Jill Badonsky’s Kaizen-Muse Creativity Coaching program, it was largely a form of self-service : I needed to gather together and implement a set of tools in my creativity arsenal so that I could continue tapping into the parts of myself that I knew I was here to not only exercise but express to the world.

Earlier this week I commented in my little co-admined (with Kim and Lisa) Facebook art group, Salon des Muses, that getting artists to collectively do anything is a little bit like herding goldfish. You can say your piece and suggest… and the rest is pretty much up to the universe and each individual artist to take note of and follow… or not.

The same can be said of the artist’s creativity, too. Ever try herding goldfish? Me neither, but the only way that they seem to be remotely interested in being led to a specific area of the pond is if they are enticed by something yummy that they simply can’t resist partaking in.

Herding the Artist
Creative types are notoriously resistant to being told what to do. In fact, the more you insist on telling them what they should be doing, the more they will blow you off. Well-intentioned advice will oftentimes fall on deaf ears and achieve the opposite result. So how does one get around that?

1. Engage innate intelligence.
The mind loves a good puzzle. Ask it enough questions and it will come up with answers (and all answers are good answers). Better yet, ask it just before lights out and you may well have some answers upon waking up the next day. We all have an inner-sphynx that asks oblique questions and demands the right answers in order for us to move on to the next phase. So if something is vexing you, start by asking:

  • What has worked in the past?
  • What drew you to the project in question?
  • What made you fall in love enough with a creative idea so much that you felt compelled to court it?
  • Can you remember or tap into that initial excitement; how?

2. Keep things light.
Play is the single most overlooked aspect of the creative process. As children, creative output was always a by-product of something else – engaging in play or immersion into our imaginations. How to lighten up? Try…

  • engaging in the absurd. Nonsensical mental jogs keep us from getting too entrenched in our work – just ask Dr. Seuss.
  • approaching whatever you are doing with curiosity, just to see what happens next.
  • pretending you are creating from the point of view of one of the subjects of your art work, or story characters.
  • letting your medium express itself as though you were conducting an interview – ask it some Q&A’s. What does it have to tell you?

3. Create a space-time container.
There is nothing that encourages greater procrastination than not allowing for adequate time in which to create. To stay engaged in a creative project one must actually, well, interact with it. The only way I know to do that is to actually schedule time for it, just like one would for any other item on our vast to-do list. Setting up specific times in which to create, or to interact with a coach, helps keep things moving along. Jill hosts Parallel-Universe time weekly – it’s a great opportunity, if you don’t otherwise, to engage in your creative process in a “held” space.

4. Change the vibe from obligation to opportunity.
One of my biggest takeaways from Jill’s work is the phrase “I get to…” inserted in front of just about anything I am in some way resistant to. As a general rule, life becomes so much more filled with gratitude and grace when you realize just how lucky you are to “get to” do all of the things you do, all the time. When applied directly to a creative process, which is way cool to be able to engage in anyway when you think about it, it turns an “I have to” into something far more appealing. How lucky is that?!

5. Own the progress.
Many creative types are also high-achieving perfectionists. Chances are they out-perform the vast majority of people production-wise, when comparisons are made, and they STILL think they are falling short and aren’t doing “enough”. Keeping score of what you DO do helps put things into better perspective and continues to fuel the enthusiasm you have for the things you are building toward. I recommend investing in some gold stars and using them copiously and conspicuously in your scheduler.

6. Learn to love the tortoise vibe.
Slow and steady does indeed win the race. Item 5. helps keep the progress in focus but breaking things down into tiny little steps will inhibit the feeling of overwhelm that invariably makes many of us short-circuit into inaction. How small? So small that you can do whatever “it” is in ten minutes or less. If you become lost in a time-space fold and end up working for longer, you can always claim it was quantum mechanics at work.

7. Pull straws.
If your creative mind is anything like mine, there is never a shortage of ideas flowing through your consciousness stream. Thing is, you can’t do it all, all at once, so you are going to have to pull straws on which ones get to be in the spot light and which ones are just gonna have to wait. The particularly appealing ones I scoop up for future reference (I jot down the ideas in my iNotes) while others will just have to be left to swim on by and be caught in someone else’s net. The matter of which projects to work on is always a question of how many to adequately juggle before you end up with a trout slapping you on the head and the rest of the fish flailing around on the ground. So put the ones you aren’t working on into a holding tank where they are easily accessible and focus on the one sitting on your head. It will all go swimmingly that way.

8. Comparison kills creativity.
Have you ever seen little Billy unabashedly, unapologetically paint his trees blue? Damned right you have. And he could give a rat’s ass that trees are generally not that colour, and that fish don’t customarily float through the atmosphere like clouds. Kids will generally look at each other’s drawings and yell “coooooool!!!” when they see some amazing stuff their own imaginations hadn’t yet thought to conjure up but they will not generally feel ashamed of sharing what they’ve made. Kids proudly and regularly brandish their creations. Take it from them. They know better than us stuffy ole grown ups. And you know what else? There’s room on the classroom wall for all of it.

So, that’s about it for today. Know that the world is ready to witness your genius. Know that you create because you were meant to express yourself exactly in the way that you do.

Adriane xo

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3 thoughts on “coaching the creative

  1. Laura

    I always feel reassured/validated/encouraged when I read that I am not alone in dealing with these issues. So, thanks for the excellent advice, and I’ll be doing my best to keep reminding myself!

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