Tag Archives | being creative

DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT

Have you noticed how much of our lives tend to slip away in routine? Some of it consists of habits and customs we develop to allow us to live on automatic pilot.  Other parts are accepted norms of behaviour that we don’t question. Examples include what we eat and when we eat it, where we sit, in our home and in meetings, what we say to people as a greeting – the list goes on!

There is a usefulness to routine – it allows us to think about something else, or not think at all!  But it can also close down our creativity, our curiosity and even our consciousness of being truly alive.

We all tend to enjoy a break from routine, such as a holiday, and re-find our sense of fun, our vitality.  My question is, why wait?  Every day we have an opportunity to do something different, to take a break from routine, and re-vitalise ourselves.  Sometimes it may be on a grand scale: a friend of mine recently decided to take two of those days in lieu that often accumulate at short notice, and just got in the car and went somewhere she had never been to before, with nothing booked or planned. It was a lovely adventure that gave her back her energy. Or it may be on a small scale: yesterday I cooked a recipe I have never tried before, and it was delicious!

And what about at work? How many routine reactions do you have? What do you ignore that makes you uncomfortable? What do you accept that you really find unacceptable?

Just imagine how much better workplaces would be if only we challenged more, asked for proper explanations, as our routine, instead of simply thinking that it had to be that way. If we didn’t simply accept the status quo, we would feel better and the world would be a better place.

When we do something different, we wake ourselves up again, remind ourselves that life is an exploration, and we are here to learn, to be creative, to make things better, and to have fun.  We revitalise ourselves and tap back into our inner child, who thought life was meant to be good, and always getting better. Don’t let life slip by – do something different today!!

  1. Suggest a better way of doing something at work today
  2. Make one change in your routine today and notice what effect it has on you.
  3. Do something different in one of your ‘routine’ interactions – smile at someone you usually frown at, talk to someone you usually ignore, give a different response next time someone says, “how are you?” – and notice the effect on you and the other person.
  4. Plan to do something really different – go somewhere you’ve never been, experience something you’ve never tried.

 

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THE TIREDNESS VIRUS

There’s a disturbing new virus that is hitting at the core of every part of society. It’s called the tiredness virus and it’s something that we at Meta are committed to eradicating. There is no doubt that the tiredness virus is badly affecting organisations right now, it’s hitting the productivity of organisations very hard.

Why? Because tired people are NOT good for your organisation, nor are they good for anything! Think about it – when you’re tired:

  • Bad decisions get made
  • Awful mistakes happen
  • Office tempers flare up
  • Work seems harder to do
  • Efficiency is vastly reduced
  • Dealing with anyone is hard work
  • You end up being busy rather than being effective
  • The to-do list seems never-ending
  • And some days you feel like nothing has got done!

No-one is effective when they are tired, and everyone finds work and life more difficult.

Most people right now in the workplace are playing catch up with their sleep. They work longer hours than ever. With the wonders of smart phones and Blackberrys now, there is no escape from the office. You are being contacted at all hours and expected to respond at all hours. You probably live off coffee/tea/Red Bull at the moment and are rarely eating a proper lunch. Your body and your mind are tired, worn out and in need of some respite. Not because it’s a nice or right thing to do, (although it is the right thing to do) but because actually it makes sound business sense. If you are properly rested and you have filled your fuel tank properly, the by-product of that will be that you work more efficiently and more effectively.. And feel better for it!

So what can you do?

Well, if you are in a position of power within your organisation, realise that if you want more to be done in an effective way, you must allow people to have their personal time, to take their breaks, let them go home on time, and don’t email them at 12am – they’ll think you’ll expect a response.

If you’re a leader then lead by example. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep, and show how effective you can be with sleep. When you feel tired, stop and have a break. Give yourself a chance to refresh when your effectiveness quotient is down.

The best solutions, the most exciting innovations come from downtime and reflection time. How many times have you been stuck and then got up and moved around, or sat down and reflected, or even gone to the loo and had a moment of inspiration?? ‘Inspiration’ literally means to ‘breathe in’ and so if you haven’t even got time to breathe (and lets face it a lot of us are just too busy right now) then its not surprising that inspiration doesn’t come calling very often.

I work mentoring young people (16-18) in my old school and I’m seeing a worrying trend (in the last 5 years) which is that young people are becoming as tired and exhausted as their parent role models. They are also running beyond their natural limits. What kind of example are we setting our own sons and daughters if we are constantly tired, grumpy and over-worked?

The evidence shows that if you are well rested your brain functions better and you get more work done in less time. You are more effective after a decent night’s sleep and when you work more effectively more gets done.

So if you want to get on top of your to-do list, keep your organisation healthy, and set a good example to your work colleagues and your family, do a few simple things –clear yourself of the tiredness virus.

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Living The Dream

There are so many reasons why we can’t live our dreams, aren’t there! I am too old, too young, have too many responsibilities, haven’t got enough money, – we can always think of lots of good reasons… Somehow we create these lists so much more easily than the list of reasons why we should go for our dream now, rather than waiting, or even not doing it at all.

How sad! We have been well trained by our culture to believe that dreams are something that most people cannot fulfil, and we end up accepting with resignation that we are one of the ‘most people’.

Over the last month or so, I have been prompted to bring one of my dreams closer to reality, and to begin the process of making it happen. I had fallen into the trap of ‘knowing’ that I had to wait for an unspecified while longer, before I could have my dream, and therefore doing nothing about it, rather than looking to see what was really possible now, and at least starting the movement towards it.

Going for my dream may like life a little more complicated for a while, and at the same time, it has given me a new impetus and enthusiasm which will help me to both take some steps towards the dream and do what I already do as well as I can.

So I thought it might be useful to just remind ourselves of some of the elements that make it possible to go for living the dream.

  1. Clarify the dream, and if it really doesn’t seem possible immediately, clarify some steps towards it that you could bring into your life.
  2. Put that dream into language that says it will happen, rather than I might, e.g. ‘I am going to…’ rather than ‘I would like to…’.
  3. Find one small step you can take that would tell you that you are taking your dream seriously. It may be researching something to do with your dream, so that it is no longer just a fantasy, or beginning something that will take a while to come to fruition.
  4. Put aside a short period of time each week to devote to your dream – whatever seems manageable, so long as it is at least an hour.
  5. Find some allies, people, books, films, anything that will encourage you when you get a bit stuck.
  6. Take small steps to make it real, and praise yourself every time you do – and use your allies to support you in that praise.

Your dream doesn’t have to be ‘grand’ – it may be just to improve some element of your present life to the point where it really makes you happy. It is amazing what is possible once we begin the journey, and how much more energised we feel when we are doing something about really living our lives as we want to, rather than putting up with our lives as they are.

Whatever your dream is, do start living it now!

 

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THE ENCHANTED LOOM

There are many theories about how our brains work and how we learn!

Have you ever heard anyone say – “I’m a ‘left brain’ learner because I tend to learn best by using words, logic, numbers and systems”.  Others might say “I’m a ‘right brain’ learner because I use colour, imagination, rhythm and view things holistically when I learn”.

Without wanting to get bogged down in theoretical detail (and I know this is very much simplified), considering the brain in this way, divides it into two exclusive boxes with connectivity in the middle.

However, the other day I came across the most wonderful description of the human brain, which I wanted to share with you:

“The human brain is an enchanted loom, where millions of flashing shuttles weave a dissolving pattern, always a meaningful pattern, though never an abiding one, a shifting harmony of sub patterns.  It is as if the Milky Way entered upon some cosmic dance”.

Sir Charles Sherrington

I began to imagine my brain as a huge room, filled with millions of brightly coloured looms some silently weaving the most wonderful patterns and textures into carpets and rugs and jumpers, some making music as they created……….

Can you imagine looking through a telescope and seeing all of the billions of stars in the Milky Way dancing with each other?

For me, considering how our minds might work in this way, made me realise the infinite possibilities and amazing creative potential that we have.

Homework

Consider your brain/mind as an enchanted loom.

What would your loom look like?
How would your enchanted loom work for you when you learn?

For example, could you ask your loom a question and see what it produces?

Play with the enchanted loom.  See what it produces for you.

 

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SPRING INTO CREATIVITY

This month’s workshop was inspired by the balmy weather this April. Nature has gone wild this month – trees are in blossom, fresh green leaves are emerging from the hedgerows, flowers cover banks and woodland floors, bluebells, anemones, and fritillaries. Spring lambs bounce around in fields, and the air is thick with the songs of courting birds. This truly has been a wonderful month – it feels as if the whole world has come alive!

It is drummed into us that spring is a time for regeneration, to welcome the new year and the new life it will give us. We spring clean our houses, and watch the world around us spring into life. But why don’t we revitalise our creativity too?

There is so much around us to inspire us. Literally the whole natural world is screaming out, “Look at me! Look at me!” there is the miracle of creation happening all around us – right now! All we have to do is to stop our madcap lives and notice.

I went to Dudmaston, a National Trust House near Bridgnorth, and was amazed at the colour and sounds of its stunning grounds. A great crested grebe on the lake crying out for a partner, birds in the woods trying to impress with their vocal dexterity, an ornithological chorus of Wagnerian proportions! Grass on banks appeared to grow beneath your feet, trees sprouting with green tips and evergreen leaves, borders awash with colour, flowers of every hue vying for your attention. The sun played hide and seek behind the clouds, and all this for me, all out there just a short distance away.

The truth is that inspiration is waiting for us everywhere we look at this time of year, so get out there and be inspired!

Allow yourself to ‘Spring into Creativity’ and follow these hot tips to ensure your creativity gets some regeneration and feeding this month:

1. Get out into the natural world –  Go visit the countryside, have at least one trip out this month, have a picnic, visit your local woods (the bluebells will be out!), spend some time in your garden. Wherever you go take a notepad with you and record the impact Spring has upon you and your surroundings.

2. Visit a place of beauty- Dudmaston inspired me, and there are many National Trust places with beautiful grounds, go visit one!

3. Try something new – With the new life we see in Spring, why not try something you’ve never tried before in your artistic endeavours?

4. Get rid of something old – Spring clean your art! If it doesn’t work for you no more, chuck it out and move on!

5. Choose one thing to take forward this year – Decide on one aspect of creativity that you would like to concentrate on/develop in this coming year. Find out what you can about it, and allow yourself the joy of exploring it!

6. Stop and notice for one hour a week – Stop the ride of your everyday life and notice what is around you, at least for one hour a week. Find somewhere quiet and peaceful, and allow yourself to be inspired!

 

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FREEFORM WRITING

When I was at University, doing my Contemporary Arts BA Degree, we were exposed to many different ways of expressing yourself. We were shown many different ways to access our creativity. One such tool we were given was freeform writing. Freeform writing has many names; Creative Writing, Free Writing, Spontaneous Writing, Speed Writing. Its name has many variations, but it is essentially the same – writing without thinking about it.

The idea is that you just put pen to paper and begin to write, not editing any of what you put down, just allowing to flow and ebb as your thoughts flow and ebb. It is a great way to get stuff out of your head and a great way to brainstorm ideas, by allowing them free expression. To further the brainstorming idea, why not select a topic and Freeform write on that topic?

When you have a creative block, sometimes this can be a useful tool to help vent some of the frustration and work past the block, by accessing not only your conscious but unconscious creativity too. Freeform writing every morning as soon as you wake up can be a good way to access the creative visions of your dreams..

Not only is freeform writing useful for creativity, but I find it incredibly useful for emptying the mind of unwanted thoughts. In fact this is where I use this process most! When you are having difficulty sleeping or you have many negative thoughts in your head that are getting you down, just let rip on a piece of paper, just get all the nasty stuff out! Once you feel that you have emptied your brain of all the ‘stuff’ then throw the paper away, and hopefully you’ll feel a little better and sleep more peacefully!

Homework

Try your hand at freeform writing

  1. Always have a little notepad with you – to capture starting points for freeform writing
  2. Using these starting topics spend two full minutes writing everything you can about the topic – don’t edit anything, if your hand stops writing, stop and try another topic
  3. Keep a notepad by your bed – to capture the weird and wild creativity of your dreams, just 3 minutes as you wake up each day
  4. Spend 10 minutes a week just writing anything down that comes into your head – don’t edit it! Just allow it to flow, it may well look like nonsense but in it could be some gems of creative wisdom!
  5. When you are experiencing a creative block – use freeform writing to write out all the angst and maybe tap into some unconscious creativity!
  6. When you are emotionally low, or your head is just full of ‘stuff’, maybe you have difficulty sleeping – use freeform writing to clear your head, write it all down, then throw it away, don’t re-read it or it will start you off thinking again!

 

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IT’S KID’S STUFF!

This is a story from my childhood, and since my mum tells it best I’ll allow her to tell you it:

“Jo came home from school one day rather upset because he had got a bad mark for his drawing. I asked him what he had been drawing, and he pulled out his picture to show me. It was a banana. He looked at it and at me and said tearfully, “My teacher said that I should have coloured it yellow – but that’s not really true is it mum?” Jo had coloured his banana green, yellow, orange, brown and black. I agreed with him that bananas could be all these colours and tried to explain to him that adults forget to look properly. I eventually worked out how to make it right: We gave him A+ for his picture and his teacher, D- for her mark! “

This month’s workshop is about children’s creativity, and how we, as grown-ups can play with it!

I had no doubt that that banana was all those colours, and I drew what I saw – green, black, brown, orange and yellow – but narrow-minded, non-imaginative teachers teach us that bananas are yellow, oranges, orange apples, green etc. We are taught not to believe what our imaginations tell us we see – we are taught an adult view of the world. Incidentally, adult literally means to spoil, and has the same root as adulterate and adultery, hence our preferred word here at Meta – grown-ups.

As a child, our imagination is absolutely as real as the ‘real world’ we see with our eyes. I remember being at a house where my then girlfriend was an au-pair to two young kids. They were playing – with absolutely no toys or props, simply their imaginations.

‘What are you doing?’ I asked naively,

‘What does it look like?’ answered the boy somewhat incredulously. ‘I’m selling plums from my market stall!!’

Kids’ imaginations fill their drawings and creations. I don’t know about you, but my imagination has been somewhat dulled by an education that severely lacked any! And  by the ‘real world’ of being an adult and all the responsibilities that entails. Wouldn’t it be nice to dream and create like children again – allow ourselves the time to play and daydream!

This month’s workshop challenges you to play like children, no real fancy props needed, just your imagination and whatever you find around you. After all, kids can create with virtually anything – Blue Peter is a testament to that!

Homework – (or PLAY..or FUN..)

Here are a few suggestions for helping you to regress to childhood and enjoy some child-like play and creation..

It is important to remember that when a child creates, everything it does is perfect, there’s no such thing as a bad drawing or a ‘I can’t do this’..

  1. Paper and pens and squiggly lines (You know what I mean – and if anyone asks, just tell them it’s a banana or something equally obscure..)
  2. Crayons – go play with crayons: houses with smoke coming out the chimney, I can see it now.
  3. Tissue paper – remember those Easter cards you made at school?
  4. Glitter and glue and pasta shapes
  5. Making cards for people – let your imagination run wild
  6. Drawing people – draw your friends’ portraits, capture their essence, like a child would – accuracy not required
  7. Finger painting – go on, get dirty!
  8. Face painting – what a perfect party ice-breaker!
  9. Paper mache – balloons out, wallpaper paste at the ready!
  10. Spray painting – straws and lots of watery paints and of course, some puff!

 

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CREATING SPACE

We forget just how important our own creativity is to us. We walk around with this ‘art shaped hole’ and try to fill it with other things. The fact is we need art and creativity in our lives, it is a natural way of expressing the way we feel and helps us to shape our own identity, and define our own space in the world.

We are very good at making excuses for why we have not done our art – ‘I haven’t got the time, I haven’t got the right materials/tools, If only I had X I’d be doing it, I’m too happy right now to do my art- I need to be depressed, I don’t feel inspired, I was never that good at it anyway, that was something I did when I was younger, but I don’t have space for it in my life anymore, and the classic – I don’t have anywhere to do it.

Sound familiar?

I know, because I am guilty of avoiding my own creativity too. I play guitar. I have a very good guitar and a very good set-up, and I’m not too shabby at playing it either, but for 7 years now I’ve been making the excuse that I didn’t have a space to play it. Now I’ve moved into a much bigger place – I still haven’t played it! But I have at least set it up in its own space.

And that is what I want to talk to you about this month. Space.

That is, having a space where you go to create. I’m fortunate that I have the luxury in my new house of being able to have a room set aside for inspiration – my spirit and creation room. But it doesn’t have to be that grand. It can be a corner of a room, a fold down table, an outside garage, or the kitchen floor on a Sunday afternoon. The important thing is that you and your household know that that is your space for creating on a set day or time.

Once you know you have that space it is easier to create, and indeed for many artists, their studios have been a means to escape the outside world and be inspired.

So try and find your own space for creation. Start your own ‘Creating space’ – and above all, love what you do in it and make it as enjoyable and fun as possible!

 

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CREATIVITY AT THE SOURCE OF BUSINESS

For many years, especially in the early days of running a small business, I never quite saw the link between creativity and my work. Creativity for me meant paint a picture, do a drawing, mould a piece of clay, even perhaps do a bit of singing.  Then I started to discover that when I actually did something creative, work and my business seemed to flow that much easier.

I started to question for myself what is creativity and saw that in actuality that creativity is full self-expression. It takes many forms and is a natural extension of our gifts.  In coming to accept this realisation, I could begin to clearly see the link to the work I was doing. My work and the business I had created were my way to contribute and share that with others.

The more I accepted the concept that my creativity is my unique self-expression, I found myself with a magical way in which to clearly set my vision, values and actions for starting and maintaining a viable, sustainable business, and the more I allowed and activated my creativity the easier it became.  One of the most helpful exercises I did was to actually define for myself what CREATIVITY meant to me, choosing words that inspired and energised me.   It has become a powerful way of reminding myself of who I am and how to BE in relationship to my business:

C  Clarity

R  Release

E  Ease

A  Action

T  Timely

I  Insight

V  Vital

I  Inspired

T  Transform

Y  You

Homework:

  1. I invite you to take some time to discover the meaning of creativity and what it means in your life and your business.  Take 5-10 minutes of quiet time to remind yourself as to why you started your business.
  2. Write down what creativity means to you, where is it present in your life, where has it made a difference.
  3. Ask yourself where has the use of my creativity really helped in a work situation.

Take the word Creativity and choose powerful, inspiring words to spell it out, then post it somewhere to remind you.

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CREATIVE COOKING

This month’s workshop is all about Creative Cooking. ‘Creative what?’ I hear you cry, well, just hear me out. I love cooking, especially when it’s for other people. I’ve always been creative with my cooking, I enjoy being different and I believe that my artistic drive often is reflected in the food I present to my friends. If we are to look at the finished dish on the plate as a finished piece of artwork, you can quickly begin to see the similarities. There is of course a need for a contrast and mixing of colours, textures and the ‘composition’ and placing of the food is paramount as so much of our ‘enjoyment’ of the food we eat is in its presentation.

The way I keep my cooking creative is to always try to mix colours, tastes and textures in new ways. I find that new cookery books infuse new life into my cooking but so does an almost empty fridge! I find I am at my most creative with dishes that are composed of whatever is left in the cupboards!

So, a few things for you to try this month…

1. Go buy a new easy to use cook book – infuse new life into your normal eating regime with the help of a well known chef!

2. Colour – Get funky and experiment with colour in your dishes, stir fry’s are great dishes for going wild with colours! – try yellow and orange peppers, yellow oyster mushrooms, white beansprouts, brown chestnut mushrooms..

3. Presentation – When you put the food on the plate, think of it as piece of art and make it look ‘too good to eat!’

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