Plugging Into Your Creative Cycle
To accomplish anything, you must believe you can do it. After all, there have most likely been those before you who have done it, right? And if they can do it, so can you. If you don’t believe you can do it, then perhaps you don’t want it badly enough. You may give up on it, settle for less, or not even try. You may feel completely discouraged.
The trick is to imagine yourself in the act of accomplishing your goal and picturing yourself successfully completing it. Imagine how wonderful you’ll feel! This takes imagination, commitment, and positive thinking. How do you find these things when you’re feeling overwhelmed, tired or even exhausted or beaten down by criticism?
According to many professionals the creative process can be broken down into four (or sometimes more) steps. Understanding, working with and nurturing these phases can increase your productivity and give you the energy to develop your ideas. Here is one simplified version of what can be defined as the four-step process:
Utilizing these steps most often seems to occur when applied to specific artistic or creative business planning. What about the rest of the time? Most humans don’t seek relief from up-against-the-wall situations until forced to. When feeling overwhelmed or exhausted, how do you plug into your own creative cycle to come up with solutions to everyday dilemmas?
First, you need to recognize that you have a problem, challenge, question, or that something is wrong or needs to change. Once you’ve realized this, you need to define that ‘something’. Let’s say you’ve defined it by asking questions, writing out your thoughts, doing research, and assessing options. How do you get to the next level? Is it something you do consciously?
Once you’ve recognized and defined to the best of your ability and in as much detail as possible what you think your challenge is, the next step comes as close to magic (just my opinion) as humans can possess. It involves allowing your whole brain to process all of the information you've given it. Your right-brain provides the intuition to combine the facts stored in your left-brain. Incubation is almost always a subconscious process. How do you put yourself into the right ‘frame of mind’ for this to happen?
Here are a few suggestions:
- REM sleep
Sleeping well at night is one way to allow your mind to rest. It has been shown that getting enough sleep at night can not only be healthy, control weight gain, and provide energy during the day, but it also provides your brain with the time needed to make conceptual and factual connections, and absorb and process information.
There are several methods of meditation, but all involve clearing your mind of distractions. If practiced regularly, it has been proven to relieve stress and lower blood pressure. My favorite is ‘meditation in motion’, or Tai Chi, a slow, repetitive group of body movements that not only sooth your mind, but keep your level of energy consistent, improve balance, and give you an overall feeling of wellbeing.
- Visualization & Imaging
Exercises in visualization and imaging fall more into the realm of ‘Preparation’, but are also used to imagine relaxation in body and mind. They are typically used to imagine an event in the future in which you visualize yourself successfully completing a goal. By doing so you prepare your brain for the eventually of solving your dilemma. In this case, you might visualize yourself melting into the mattress or floating on clouds as you slowly exhale to relax your body and mind for sleeping at night.
- Repetitive Routine
Since everyone is different there are different methods and combinations of action or non-action that will allow ‘Incubation’ for each individual. Letting your mind wander or daydreaming during simple repetitive activities can often trigger a new idea, solution or answer. Examples might be in the shower, brushing your teeth, running, walking or other exercise, doodling, or while driving, during which you almost forget about your problem. On the flip side, excessive worrying or obsessing over the problem tends to cause your mind to circle in escalating frustration.
ILLUMINATION & IMPLEMENTATION
All the methods above involve stepping back and trusting your intuition to provide an answer. Prayer can also be utilized. Try posing your questions as definitively as possible before going to bed. Pray, meditate or visualize yourself into a good night’s sleep. Expect God, the Universe or your own intuition to provide the answers, and they will appear. Discovering these new thoughts becomes the ‘eureka’ moment of the third phase, Illumination.
The final phase of Implementation is sometimes considered the most important step of all, because without action, change may be impossible. Don’t be afraid to follow through!