Howard Gardner describes the early years of our childhoods as the Golden Age of Creativity. He observes that a five to seven year old child “sings while drawing, dances while singing, tells stories while playing.” Some of us maintain this creative mode throughout our lifetimes, others discover it anew later in life, and still others have lost track of it but yearn for something missing. Much of what I do as a therapist and coach is aimed at helping people cultivate that creative mode, both in their overtly creative activities (making art of some kind) and in their envisioning and enacting their own lives. Quite often, the two go hand in hand, as rekindling the creative fire in us unleashes powerful, life-affirming energies. “Be bold,” Goethe once said, “and powerful forces will come to your aid.”
We are all artists at heart, whether we practice some form of expressive art form or hold our creativity in our dreams. The Cultivating Your Creative Self workshops I do use a deceptively simple set of techniques to help you imagine how you’d like your creative life to be, and then uses the power of the group to help you get there. Whether you are a practicing artist who senses you could do more with the work itself or with your artistic career, or someone who feels a creative itch you can’t quite scratch, or a hobbyist who wants art to take a more prominent place in your life, working through the process can help you envision what you’d like to be doing differently and get you moving in the right direction.
Here is one of those techniques.
Liked, Like, Might Like
One place to begin, if you have a sense that you’d like to be doing something that feels creative, is to make three lists:
- Everything you have ever Liked to do
- Everything you Like to do now
- Everything you Might Like to do
Spend some time with these concepts. Allocate some time each day, for three days in a row, to ponder and to jot down what occurs to you. Here are some prompts.
Liked to Do list:
Make the list as complete as you can. Let it include any work you’ve done, any hobbies, any recreational activities. Let it take in the various qualities of your interactions with friends, colleagues, family, strangers. Most important, let it call up your memories of childhood play: what was the most fun you had, both with others and when by yourself. Be detailed.
Like to Do list
Again, aim for completeness. Look at everything you do, and note the things that bring you pleasure, joy, excitement, or that simply occupy your positive attention.
Might Like to Do list:
Be outrageous. Let money, time, space, and perceived talent be no object. This is a place to daydream, to take imaginary chances (and chances in your imagination). Don’t leave anything out!
Once you have your lists, sift through them in your mind. It will help to share them with at least one other person and notice, as you talk about the items on the list, which ones make your heart give a little start, or your inner artist a flicker of recognition. You are on a mission, and these starts and flickers are the trail markers.
After you’ve identified the items on your lists that create those starts and flickers, think about what they have in common. Some, though probably not all, will fit relatively neatly into broad categories. For example, I used this exercise to help me figure out that psychotherapy and photography were where, if I were to focus on them, I would find my joy. Most of the items on my lists had something to do with seeing (literally or metaphorically) and helping others. Although it was a while before I translated these themes into becoming a therapist and to really embracing photography, this filtering process was a vital component in my own path to creative self-actualization.
An Offer You Can’t Refuse
I’m happy to work with anyone who cares to, in the Art, Healing, and Transformation group, to sift through your lists and to see what emerges. Then we can take the next step on this adventure into cultivating your creative self.
David J. Bookbinder, LMHC
© 2008, David J. Bookbinder
Cultivating Your Creative Self #1
Art, Healing, and Transformation group
Flower Mandalas Project group