create with me

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My husband’s CEO was reading the Sunday paper when he found a generous article written about my happiness projects. The CEO sent the article around the office as a kind gesture to my husband.

A couple days later, the Director of Marketing asked me to speak to her team about community involvement. The leap between my silly projects and marketing seemed vast, but I agreed to chat when she promised coffee and donuts.

Y’all, I was nervous. The nerves started pop-pop-popping up when I realized I didn’t own business attire or understand how I could help push a corporate agenda forward. Would I waste their time entirely? Should I cancel? I silenced my worries, grabbed a flowery top, and followed my husband to work.
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The meeting felt like a conversation between friends: I talked about my background in art and social work, and then they asked for tips on connecting with the community. The hour flew by and closing remarks soon replaced the daunting questions. Success – I was feeling pretty good about my first stint in corporate America.

And then.

The marketing director asked me to conclude by discussing ways to increase creativity. I’m usually garrulous and quick, but this question brought great pause and then silence and finally a look of confusion. She noticed my discomfort and elaborated further, “Just tell us where you get ideas from.”

Where do I get ideas from? Goodness gracious, her attempt to save me from a potentially awkward situation only heighted my confusion, and I said the first thing that came to mind: “I seek inspiration everywhere.”

The group clapped and I drove home wondering why why why did I answer the question like that? It’s true that I’m always seeking inspiration, but the question to ‘how am I creative’ is so much more complicated than that. Creativity oftentimes seems like a messenger that stops by with an idea or two or three. Other times, however, I’m wondering if that inspiring messenger will ever choose to visit me again.  Does my creative messenger have a phone number? An email? How do I get in touch with him?

And so, I got to the serious business of thinking about creativity and its causes. I hope my thoughts will inspire a dialogue that generates lots of ideas for finding inspiration. Will you help me?
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Here’s what I’ve got so far:

  1. Never wait till your ready. If you want to do something, go for it, and figure out the details as you go. Some of my best ideas come from making mistakes, thinking about how to do better, and then setting forth for a 2nd or 3rd or, to be honest, 7th try.
  2. Open your heart and your mind to new experiences, people and ideas. It’s when we are exposed to difference and novelty that we can compare and contrast and grow and consider. Make a new friend, try a new coffee shop, take a trip.
  3. As life changes this means evaluating new situations, accepting new things into your life and letting others go. This way we can develop our best ideas and devote time to the projects that inspire us the most.
  4. Challenge yourself, but try not to get in ‘over your head’ – somewhere between hard and easy we find our sweet spot. With any luck, working in that ‘sweet spot’ will inspire creativity and, best of all, flow.
  5. Journal is out, write it down, and type it quick. I’ve always got a pen&pad in my pocket because I never know when inspiration will strike. Some of my best ideas come while sitting in church or driving in the car or taking a hike.
  6. Give all ideas equal weight. You know the feeling of thinking an idea is great until you a) think about it further b) start to write about it or c) try to explain it to someone else? It’s not that the idea isn’t any good, but perhaps you need to think about it differently. What do you not like about it? Could you change the project/idea/plan so that it works a little better?
  7. Live an inspired life. I tell myself to write the book I want to read and paint the picture I want to see and bake the cake I want to eat. I’m not always accomplishing these lofty goals, but it gives me a high bar and encourages me to keep trying.
  8. Be the solution. Ah, okay, it’s really not as lofty as all that, but when I hear complaints, I start jotting down possible solutions. My ‘ideas’ might not be any good, but it usually inspires some suggestions for creatively solving problems.
  9. Get emotional. I try to let my feelings guide me on creative projects. If I feel passionately about an idea or project or person, I think about the reasons I’m ignited, and then I try to express myself with words or art or other creative outlets.
  10. Take your mind off the task at hand. For me, consciously trying to generate ideas oftentimes leads to voids and blanks and daydreams. It’s when I’m doing something else – running or cleaning or showering – that the ideas seem to fizzle and pop and appear from some mysterious place.
  11. Have a heart to heart. A good conversation is one of my favorite ways to connect with others, and it’s also a pretty solid way to inspire creativity. When I discuss plans and dreams and hopes, my friends usually inquire and prod and relate, and I’m usually inspired by the twists and turns the conversation takes.
  12. Eavesdrop. If your own thoughts and conversations aren’t inspiring enough, you can always keep listen to the person next to you :)That top photo is from my spring photo challenge, and the 12 creativity ideas clip art is from The Ink Nest.