Recently I’ve started my weekends off by getting out and bushwalking with my dog. Out there it’s nothing but me, her and nature. The sun shines through the trees and the only sounds are the birds, the panting of my dog as she pulls on her lead and the crunching of the tiny stones as my hiking shoes connect with the ground below me.
I’ve found as soon as I’m out of the city and onto that track, I quickly become completely present in that moment. I gain great clarity in my thoughts around what is truly important to me. This allows me to focus, and with all of the internal judgment, negative thoughts and ‘things I should be doing’ out of my head, my creativity flows. On my walk I’m not necessarily thinking about my work, I am more so present in the moment. But when I am focusing on the little things, the ideas that are inside of me start to pop up like little bubbles in my mind. I see them, acknowledge them and I take a mental note - or sometimes, I will write then down in my phone so I don’t forget! I then go back to being present and move on. Some of my best ideas recently have come from my walks and this has reaffirmed just how important making space for creativity is.
This got me thinking that when we are in the urban environment, in our homes or offices, for example, there is always a job to be done or a responsibility to be fulfilled, or someone who can interrupt us and disturb our flow of thought. For those of us that struggle with procrastination, these reasons are the perfect conditions for all kinds of excuses as to why you can’t stop working on tasks for a moment to do something creative.
We cannot force creativity, it comes when our true inner self is allowed to create without judgement or constraint. The reason we are so attracted to tasks is that we get a short little hit of dopamine every time we complete one, which makes us feel good. As busy people leading organisations, many people’s to-do lists are huge. When we are using this task-orientated part of our brain often it almost becomes our default operating mode, making it harder to be creative. We need to create space to stop, to let our brains observe the little things, to think, to feel and to let ourselves rest in our natural state. Without the constraints of time or jobs to be done, our true inner creative self comes out and tells us what we need to do.
I totally get that not everyone can get out and go hiking every week. I understand this is a privilege for few. But taking time to be creative in an urban environment is also possible. When I want to write music on the weekend or create a strategy in my work, I must ring-fence all of my home and relationship duties to a certain block of time. Once they are done, I then know I have the freedom to lock myself in my office so that I can create. No interruptions, not bound by a short period of time, no distractions. I give myself hours to create. In that space I can go deep into ‘the zone’ and that is where I am most me and my creativity runs free. In meetings with short durations, it can be hard to get ourselves into that zone. We have to create the space.
A quote from one of my favourite books on creativity, Steven Pressfield - The War Of Art, he says “This is the other secret that real artists know and wannabe writers don’t. When we sit down each day and do our work, power concentrates around us. The Muse takes note of our dedication. She approves. We have earned favour in her sight. When we sit down and work, we become like a magnetized rod that attracts iron filings. Ideas come. Insight accrete.”
How are you creating space from the urban environment and your life responsibilities to cultivate your creativity?