15 June, 2015

Cultivating Creativity in the Warm Up

For those of us who pursue creativity it is important to keep the ideas coming. What is a painter without something to paint? It’s just a person with a blank canvas.

The blank screen – the white canvas – the unmarked sheet music – the lump of clay. To many these can be the most intimidating things in the world. People get so overwhelmed by the beginning of something that they never start at all and just give up and walk away.

The truth is that creativity has to be cultivated. Like a garden, it has been to be tended. Weeds need to be pulled, fledgling buds need to be helped. Seeds have to be planted and, when ready, harvested or enjoyed for their beauty.

We tend to look at those who (it seems) are creative all the time. We evaluate ourselves against artists with galleries, iTunes lists a mile long or entire shelves at the bookstore. If we let this comparison – what a naughty, evil devil he is – overwhelm us we will give us being a creative all together and go work in a bank or run a scooter shack on the beach.

Many write about the need to cultivate a creative habit. Art, like music, is something that must be practiced and taken seriously if it is to grow. Ken MacLeod says that, “the secret of becoming a writer is to write, write and keep on writing.” And so it is with anything we want to pursue wholeheartedly.

But how to start writing! How to take that white page and turn it into something amazing.

I have started doing the three-page warm up in the morning. After my quiet time and journaling, I take out three pages and write until they are full. I intentionally chose to focus on my creative projects – working out a scene, drafting a bit of dialogue, writing down a timeline, doing a character profile. Who knows if it will ever end up in the book, but it gets my creative mind going.

Twyla Tharp writes about how, for her, getting into the cab each morning to go to the gym is a creative trigger. It is not the work out or the warming up before practice that gets her creative energy going. Somehow the action of putting on her sneakers and getting into the cab awakens her creative energy.

Joe Sutphin does an ink warm-up drawing to focus his creativity. Casually posting them on his Instagram, he was surprised when one sparked his wife to write a poem. That further sparked his creativity, which invited more of hers to emerge. What came about was Sutphin’s diving further into the character he’d drawn as a warm-up. The drawing of Old Roger Ribbit may now inspire others to write a story, a song, a poem or maybe even a ballet about this old frog’s adventures.

Image by Joe Sutphin

Too often we wait for the stroke of brilliance to hit us before we move. Sometimes the greatest acts of creativity and inspiration come in the warm-up as we are waiting for the “real creativity” to emerge.

How do you cultivate your creativity?

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© Amanda Lunday