July is a month in which we in the United States tend to think a lot about freedom. We wave flags, eat pie, shoot stuff into the sky and celebrate our independence from our colonial rulers. Since it’s also a full month of summer, we tend to feel a bit of freedom in our schedules and a little more ease as well. I’m doing that myself and it’s causing me to think about just how important freedom is for creativity, but how scary it can be too.
Creativity thrives in freedom. It requires the physical, emotional, and mental safety to experiment, try new things, and take some risks. In many ways, having that level of security is a privilege. Still, even from that baseline of security and privilege, it is necessary to have enough freedom from worry to be able to embrace the sense of possibility that our creativity offers. I know that when I am rushing around, pinned to a To Do list that is far too long or swaying from the weight of stress, creativity is the farthest thing from my mind and cultivating that sense of possibility can feel like an impossible task. Fortunately, I do know that the spark of creativity is a strong one and even when I am in the midst of an emotional and mental mess, if I can find 15 or 30 minutes to shut myself away to create, that can be enough to stoke the creative fire. (I’ve also learned that it’s best to create as early in my day as possible because daily life can really throw a lot of water on that spark!)
Of course the paradox is that creativity can bring its own stress. The freedom to create whatever we want is scary. That blank page of endless possibility staring back at us can make the idea of following someone else’s ideas seem like a really good plan. And let’s be honest, sometimes it totally is. When you’re already a little drained by life, following a pattern or coloring in the lines is just the right thing. There are other times when a little daydreaming may be in order. Maybe the time is right to think about a new project, make some notes or sketches, but leave it percolating for a bit. Even when you’re ready to create something new, giving yourself some boundaries can still be really helpful. When you can do absolutely anything, where do you start? Start by narrowing your choices. Decide how big you want to make something. What colors will you use? What materials? Set some guardrails and that wide open expanse of freedom will feel like a blessing instead of a curse again.
Where are you currently falling on the freedom spectrum? Is it exciting or scary? Do you need to just keep your spark lit, daydream, or are you ready to dive right in?
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