What do you do when nothing’s coming? How do you show up for the creative work you long to be doing when you don’t have time for it?
These are the questions we continually encounter throughout a creative life.
Today I’ve got a list-making exercise for you that sparks creative flow when you feel stuck or only have a few minutes.
But first, here are my top 3 pieces of advice when you are trying to tackle these very real challenges around block or time—
1. Make the doorway to enter creative work as low-pressure, inviting, and approachable as possible.
(2 minutes that you can show up for is better than an impossible 2 hours that is not feasible in your current ecosystem).
2. Do everything in your power to remove shame and internal violence from your creative process
3. Ask your Inner Visionary to take a much-needed siesta.
The creative process often works like this — our Inner Visionaries, in collaboration with the universe, God/ess, the idea fairies or wherever you believe creative ideas come from — cook up big exciting visions and dreams that are in total alignment with your soul’s purpose and authentic direction.
You become enraptured because these visions and dreams are uniquely designed for you (as are you for them) and they contain the DNA for your next expansion.
BUT THEN…you are left to figure out HOW you are going to bring these visions to life.
Our Inner Visionary offers no help—it’s not in her job description, and patience is not one of her superpowers. She’s just over there protecting the vision, expecting you to figure out how to magically produce an abundance of time, space, and resources to actualize it without tarnishing its beauty.
What’s challenging is that she is often turned off by taking the next action. Being the big and expansive thinker that she is, the first small step can feel deflating and uninspiring.
We are here to make WAVES. She says. You want to offend my vision with one small, wimpy, wobbly STEP?
And the answer is YES. You really, really do.
Because the way to start moving on your creative endeavor is usually wildly unglamorous.
But this can be agony for our Inner Visionaries, which is why the tension between the grandeur of the vision and the imperfection and mundanity of the next step is what can unconsciously hold us back for months and even years from bringing our most important creative works into the world.
In order to take your creative work and life to the next level, you must summon the courage to ask your Inner Visionary to take a gentle, much-needed BREAK.
To generate creative momentum, we are looking for the easiest, gentlest point of entry. A little crack in a tiny back door with enough room for you to slip in and start exploring.
Regardless of how long we’ve been creating, the pressure of the blank page (or blank square or google doc or whatever creative container you work in) is not a little crack in the door.
It’s like walking through the intimidating gigantic front door of a palace with the expectation that you must make a perfect, unforgettable entrance.
Knowing how to find your crack in the door is an essential skill for your creative success.
Knowing how to find it as quickly and efficiently as possible is essential if you are also a parent or caregiver or entrepreneur or anyone else who feels they don’t have enough time for the creative work that is calling to them i.e. EVERY CREATIVE I HAVE EVER KNOWN.
Here is an exercise that has never failed to reveal a crack in the door for everyone I have given it to:
7 lists to catalyze creative flow right now:
Write as freely as possible, trying not to censor, judge, or think too hard. Play music if it feels good. You could also use any other medium to express — collaging, singing, painting, speaking, dancing — whatever feels good. Put the timer on for 3-10 minutes. You can make 1 list or all 7, and stop at any time when you feel a spark.
1. The FEAR List
List very fear you can think of that is taking up mental space right now. Small or big, rational or irrational. Let the fear speak, and hear it by writing it down without attaching to it. Better out than in.
2. The WONDER List
Write the words WHAT IF… at the top of your page, and complete the sentence, over and over. Let your imagination and curiosity lead. Get wild and audacious.
3. The FORGIVENESS List
Self-forgiveness is the secret prerequisite to creative flow that no one told us about. Write down everything you can think of that you need to forgive yourself for right now, without worrying about how to do it or get it right.
4. The DONE List
Write down everything that you are ready to be DONE with. Do not try to be polite or noble. This will cause you to source your anger, which is magic for your creative work, but can be uncomfortable if you have cultural conditioning that has taught you to perform appropriateness and optimism in place of the rage beneath.
5. The PERMISSION list
Write down anything you need to give yourself permission for right now. What permission will help you move toward what is calling you? Is it permission to play, leap, be supported, let yourself be seen, go all in, quit, rest, bet on your idea? Where have you given away your power and agency, and what permission will help you take it back? If you had unlimited courage, what would you give yourself permission for?
6. The WISH List
Pretend you have a magic genie or fairy godmother to grant your wishes. What are your creative wishes? When you aren’t worried about what’s appropriate or possible, what are you truly hungry for? Write in the present tense as if it’s already happening if that feels good. Take the lid off your desire and write with unbridled abandon.
7. The LOVE List
Make a list of things that make your heart sing. Let your list be eclectic, far-reaching, and true. Reclaim your enthusiasm by celebrating its uniqueness. Release any pressure to explain your exuberance.
After you have made some or all of the lists, notice where the energy is. Notice what has cleared. Notice where you feel inspired to go next.
Remember, you only need to find the crack in the door to get moving.
Keep going in the direction of your vision—even if you only have 2 minutes…
With love and endless encouragement,
PS: I created The Creative15 to help you unblock your creativity and spark flow in 15 minutes a day. Each day you receive a prompt, curated inspiration, and a little bit of guidance. Learn more and join the free experience here.