Do you have those days when you wake up feeling dull and nothing creative seems possible? Well today is one of those days for me. Normally I might retreat into the mundane and routine just to get the day over and done with. Then I realised this is the perfect time to investigate ways to trigger my creativity, hence this post. It is written in the moment as it is happening to me.
My first reaction is to pick a specific subject and terrier-like try to get a grip on it; try to get a purchase from where I can move forward and bludgeon some creative thoughts out. Hmmm, problems appear straight away, which subject and in which direction do I travel? I also don’t have the mental energy this morning to be terrier-like. Where next?
I concentrate on my lethargy and really get into it; sulk. Why should I be tired today? I felt really good yesterday. Without revealing all of the details of my private life there are pressures but not unlike the day before or the day before that. I slept really well last night and I am not feeling sick. I realise that analysis of why I am lethargic is not going to help. Even if I got to the bottom of why I am tired it will not make me any more creative. I am tired, get over it; now what?
I feel tired, I feel dull and I feel a little unhappy but why should that be a block to my creativity. Can I only be creative when ecstatically happy? What is going on here? When I’m tired I have low energy and I feel incapable of raising a big effort. Everything I want to think about just asks too much of me. Without lots of energy how can I possibly come up with anything creative or even useful?
Why should I expect everyday will be a full-on high energy creative day? There are going to be days like this one. Should I retreat and do nothing. Lick my imaginary self indulgent wounds. No, something in me says I have to try and do something out of the ordinary. If I can crack this I might not feel a prisoner of my tiredness.
What is it I am doing here? I’m messing about with stuff; going nowhere in particular. It does not matter where I start with and it does not need to have a specific direction. Yet something concrete is developing out of the mist.
You might already be bored of my rambling but wait, something is happening here and I am beginning to type faster. Surely that must be a sign of something but what is it? In my mind’s eye I am picking away at something. I cannot see quite what the something is but I feel like each time I write a sentence the something is becoming clearer and clearer. The stuff that I am removing might be useful one day but not now. I am using my finger tips to pick away and now I am scratching with my nails. If you have kids you might have bought them one of those toys where they have to scratch away at a block of stone-like material. They know something interesting is inside; it might be a dinosaur or a treasure or even an Egyptian mummy. Gradually with painstaking care they scratch away. First comes a little bit of plastic peeking out; looks like it might be a knee or a nose or a jewel. As they work away it becomes gradually clearer until the final present is revealed. I have come across scratching before…………..
Twyla Tharp the great modern dancer and choreographer would spend many hours in the rehearsal studio playing with steps and body posture. The majority of her work was thrown away or was stored for a later day. Just a few things were kept and used in the dance for today. She called this process “scratching” and that is what I realise I have been doing here. So, I am not original in using scratching but that is fine. If it is good enough for Twyla it is good enough for me; and you.
I started this post with nothing; nothing, except a general lethargy and frustration but after giving me the freedom to scratch around something has been created. Getting going creatively is simply about scratching at something, anything and the juices begin to flow and the gift is revealed. The next step is harnessing your new creation but that is for another day.
My formula for scratching is PTP – Place, Time and Permission.
- Place – Find a physical and mental place that is conducive to scratching. For some this might be a favourite coffee shop for others jogging for teams a defined thinking space.
- Time – Give yourself sufficient time. Scratching cannot be rushed.
- Permission – Give yourself (and others) permission to put aside time to scratch. This time is valuable and is not wasted; it is the golden time which generates the most valuable creative elements in our lives and our work.
I am now going to scratch at something else for a while because today is turning into a high energy creative day!
Go scratch your itch!