Giving Yourself the Time and Space You Need to Create

Are you creative?

If your knee-jerk answer is, “No!” please keep reading.

The unfortunate myth is that being creative is some kind of mysterious gift bestowed on a few special people. Something you either have or don’t.

That is simply false. But unfortunately, it’s a falsehood that cuts you off from mountains of possibility. Not only that, it’s a myth that deprives the world of untold beauty and innovation.

Being creative isn’t magic…

The fact is that creativity is more a matter of persistence and passion than of powers springing from a magical muse. Creativity has to do with commitment and with opening to the possibilities in each moment.

As well, it has to do with being able to wait in that spirit of openness, letting things percolate and remain unfinished, as they evolve.

The waiting can be difficult. In part, that’s because it so often feels aimless and unproductive. That’s something that we, in our fast-paced, outcomes-oriented world, find hard to tolerate.

So, how do you manage this ambiguity that is inherent in the creative process… while at the same time moving ahead with your daily responsibilities and tasks? How do you maintain your hold on the creative thread over time?

Boxes and Elegant Simplicity

Paul Harrill, on his blog Self Reliant Film, wrote some years ago about dancer/choreographer Twyla Tharp’s creative process in a post titled Twyla Tharp: Getting Things Done (with Boxes).

What is most striking to me about her process is its elegant simplicity. You can read about it in more detail in the post cited above. For now, here’s a taste of what I mean:

Everyone has his or her own organizational system. Mine is a box, the kind you can buy at Office Depot for transferring files.

I start every dance with a box. I write the project name on the box, and as the piece progresses I fill it up with every item that went into the making of the dance. This means notebooks, news clippings, CDs, videotapes of me working alone in my studio, videos of the dancers rehearsing, books and photographs and pieces of art that may have inspired me.

The box documents active research on every project…

There are separate boxes for everything I’ve ever done. If you want a glimpse into how I think and work, you could do worse than to start with my boxes.

The box makes me feel organized, that I have my act together even when I don’t know where I’m going yet.

It also represents a commitment. The simple act of writing a project name on the box means I’ve started work.

The creative thread…

The moment that you label a box with a project name, you are picking up the creative thread. So, whether it’s a literal cardboard box, a metaphoric, or a virtual box, once you pick up the thread and commit to following it, you are putting yourself in a position to be creative.

The time that you give to this process will vary. You’ll find your own rhythms. The key is to have a system for retaining your ideas and intuitions and for honoring them with your attention. It’s important to be able to “put” your ideas somewhere, let them go, and pick them up again. This way you let go of the worry that they will be lost or forgotten.

Twyla’s Box is an elegantly simple solution to the process of holding and letting go that is so fundamental to creativity.

Try it in small things first, and see what happens. Opening to possibility while welcoming mystery and ambiguity, work to keep hold of the thread and nurture what emerges as your process unfolds.

How does this work for you?

Let’s explore time together…