Many of us are fascinated with artists, actors, writers, architects and all sorts of creative people. We sigh and wish upon a star that we could be creative like them, certain that we are wired with a gene for mediocrity. As we experience all kinds of normal, to-be-expected difficulties following a structured, heart-deadening routine, we get weighed down and feel stuck. The symptoms are unhappiness and negativity - the it will never work
syndrome. The solution lies in the creative process: To fire up the mind, the emotions and energize the body. But how do we access our creativity when we donít feel genetically entitled? The good news: We can develop our creativity as well as our childrenís and learn to apply it.
Begin by creating an inspiring environment at home. Make it relaxing and whimsical by using color, seasonal window treatments, moving knickknacks and furniture around, serving different recipes, etc. You canít keep on looking at the same things and eating the same foods, yet expect to be stimulated and experience something different. The idea is to cultivate a new sense of enthusiasm; donít worry about how your self-expression looks or sounds! If you feel like laughing spontaneously, singing even if you canít sing or just dancing to the music that no one else hears Ė do it and donít be afraid. Fear and self- consciousness will imprison your imagination with judgment. One of my favorite quotes comes from Ralph Waldo Emerson, ďTo be great is to be misunderstood.Ē
Creativity will not make you an outcast who seeks to live alone in the woods; on the contrary it has wonderful therapeutic benefits. It generates optimism, energy, reverses the clock and improves the immune system. However, creativity doesnít just happen by wishing and hoping. So, prepare yourself to get inspired. Practice daily! And remember invention is its own reward Ė donít bribe your children to be creative. Here are some general applications for you, your parents and your children because creativity is timeless.
- Create a relaxed, more informal environment for you and your children. You know how constricting clothing makes you uncomfortable and limits your self-expression; make sure your home environment is not constricting filled with too many rules and time pressures. You canít be creative under pressure; thatís why it is hard for children to be creative on the spot during school hours. Encourage independent thinking and donít be too critical. Judgment like a bad grade at school will inhibit creativity.
- See everyone in your household, spouse and children as distinct individuals. They are not your clones. Tolerate, respect and accept their unique attributes including their high energy, different way of doing things, stubbornness and interests. Open up to new perceptions.
- Maintain enthusiasm for your childrenís interests and applaud their competence even if it is not in a subject you have in mind for their future. Likewise maintain enthusiasm for your own projects and surround yourself with people who can pump you up and give you honest opinions to improve. Creativity flourishes in an accepting, nurturing and candid back-to-the-drawing room environment. If something isnít working out, go back and fix it instead of looking for false compliments.
- Give yourself and your children time and space to concentrate. Creativity needs time to percolate and be implemented. Encourage quiet personal time for creative endeavors. Schedule it regularly on the family calendar.
Read excerpts out loud from inventors and great thinkers. You need to hear it and so do the children. Creativity needs PR. Find examples of how opposites are combined, practice analogies or seek different ideas and objects that can be brought together to create something new.
- Play games with your children that require the use of creative expression like Hoopla where you need to act out, draw or use alliteration to convey an image.
- Have open-ended dinner time discussions and hold family meetings. Look at problems from as many viewpoints as possible. Avoid those questions which require a yes-no answer.
- Make sure that you and your children are eating a balanced diet of protein and complex carbs. The brain needs high test fuel to get going. Starving artists arenít happy.
Debbie Mandel, MA is the author of Changing Habits: The Caregivers' Total Workout
and Turn On Your Inner Light: Fitness for Body, Mind and Soul,
a stress-reduction specialist, motivational speaker, a personal trainer and mind/body lecturer. She is the host of the weekly Turn On Your Inner Light Show on WGBB AM1240 in New York City , produces a weekly wellness newsletter, and has been featured on radio/ TV and print media. To learn more visit: www.turnonyourinnerlight.com