Create a judgement-free environment and you’ll unleash a torrent of creativity
. ~ Alex Osborne
When you start tapping into your creativity a range of reactions can come to the surface which if not recognised and addressed can inhibit your creative process.
We all carry our internal messages from our childhoods, peer groups and everyday life which contribute to our self belief. The most potent of these is the Inner Critic that can undermine your confidence to the extent that you do not express your inherent creativity or stop a project before it reaches its full potential. The Inner Critic stems from a need for protection of a perceived threat often associated with change and an attempt to retain the status quo. Closely aligned with the Inner Critic are the other main detractors of creativity which show up in perfectionism and procrastination that as I know from personal experience can bring to a standstill any experimentation of creative expression.
So the question is how do we harness these powerful and pervasive forces so our creativity can flourish?
The first step is to acknowledge and accept that the Inner Critic, Perfectionism and Procrastination exist and can be utilised positively. These three qualities help us to take our time to clarify our thoughts and objectives ensuring that we produce the best in our work with competence and excellence. The problem is that these same positive factors can easily tip into self doubt and lack of confidence.
Steve Chapman an inspiring Change and Creativity consultant has a great Ted talk about the battle with his Inner Critic Exploring our Inner Critic which is well worth watching as is funny, engaging and pertinent. Steve makes the point that once we recognise how invasive the Inner critic can be on a daily basis that the best way forward is to befriend the Inner Critic and also down play its message so we do begin to explore our creativity.
The second step is to start incorporating small acts of creativity into our daily life in order to flex our creative muscle. This consistency helps loosen us up from inhibition and becomes a way to find a way of creating that suits us. Over the last couple of months I have made the commitment of allocating at least 15 minutes a day to doodling, sketching or adding to an ongoing art journal. Using Rich Armstrong’s free App Random Word Doodle to play with word associations and make quick fun doodles that act as a warm up for sketching or any other creative activity. These creativity stacks have helped build up my confidence in drawing and in turn have increased my curiosity and observations skills. I have a whole host of new ideas and projects that have emerged over the last eight weeks that I am sure are a spin off from creating every day. I make this activity easy to do allowing for time restraints by limiting the time slots to small doable chunks, and using simple materials such as pens, and pocket sized sketchbooks that are easy to carry around.
The next steps are to have certain limitations and schedules. This admittedly sounds a bit like the sort of constraints that Inner Critic or Perfectionist might bring to mind in order to inhibit our creativity but in fact can be used constructively. If we limit ourselves to creating on a regular short basis, use only a few materials and follow a theme or a series of objectives we stop feeling overwhelmed and achieve a lot in the time allocated. The process becomes self perpetuating and once this habit is established it becomes enjoyable and freeing.
Other things we can do to overcome the inhibiting big three of the Inner Critic, Perfectionist and Procrastination is to allow for play, let go of judgement, take a walk, switch off our screens, exercise, daydream and allow for blank period of time when we are not constantly stimulated. All of which create the space in thought and activity for creativity to emerge.
So I would encourage you to recognise and acknowledge how the Inner Critic, Perfectionism and Procrastination show up in your life. Notice how these factors can detract from you expressing and utilising your creativity and then find a simple manageable way to introduce ways of creating on a regular basis to build your confidence, curiosity and creative thinking. Such as doodling, sketching, writing a haiku, creating a puzzle, composing music or whatever works for and interests you. Make this activity a habit that you look forward to doing and then enjoy the benefits of your enhanced creativity. And of course take this forward into all spheres of your life including work and leadership.