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Nurturing Your Creative Self

Creators give something of themselves to every creation they make. If we create stories, films, jewellery, sculptures, or any other thing our energy is going into the act of creating. This can leave us feeling flat and empty if we do not actively work towards re-energising and nurturing our creative selves.

To nurture your creative self take some time off from your work of creating. Schedule a break. Make time for nurturing. This is an important part of living a creative life.

If your work of creating involves spending a great deal of time on your own, as is the case for writers, see if you can arrange to have a fellow creator take time off with you. If your creating involves being surrounded by people and organising people, then make some time for you to do you nurturing alone.

Try any of these suggestions which spark an interest in you. This is your time so feel free to rearrange, combine, or change any of these suggestions to suit you. There is no "have to".  There is only "want to". So feel free to follow your own ideas too.

1)  Play. It has been said "Play is the work of children". It is also the best way to get in touch with what really matters to us. Playing can be anything you wish to make it. Find a friend to play checkers (draughts) with and spend a few hours playing together.  Go to the local playground and swing on the swing, slide down the slippery dip. Shoot balls through the hoop, if you are right handed try it left handed and vice versa.

Play involves doing it for the fun of it. Play to play not to win. 

If you have been so busy being grown up you have forgotten how to play take a child along and let them take the lead. If you havent any small children of your own, borrow a niece or nephew, grand child, neighbours child, or friends child. If you play the game the child's way and let them make the decisions you will have more fun and so will they. Four year olds are great for this. They love taking charge!

2) Try a new art or craft. If you are a writer, paint a picture, if your are a painter, sculpt a figure, if you are a filmmaker, try drawing. If you draw try writing. The point of this is not to stress and struggle over getting it right. Just do it. Make mistakes and give yourself permission to do so. If you find the adult perfectionist stepping in trying to do it all right then consider doing it with your less dominant hand, or do it blindfolded, or in some other way make it harder for you to get it perfect. The idea is to create using an unfamilir medium. Try finger painting. It is messy, fun, creative, and the sensual experience is wonderful. Create for fun.

3) Play a musical instrument. Choose an instrument you have never learned to play. You dont need to buy one, just hire or borrow one. Fiddle with it, play it, see if you can make patterns of sound with it, can you make the instrument sound good? Can you make it sound really bad? Enjy creating the sounds you can make with it. Appreciate your own skill and the fun of playing it.

4) Read for fun. Read for enjoyment. If you are busily writing that new screenplay or novel, and long for some relief try reading a trashy romance, or perhaps a cowboy story or speculative fiction novel. Read something from a genre you are not writing in. Read poetry, if your inner critic is getting in the way then read some shakespeare poems back to front. Mess around with words. When we write we give our words away. This can leave us feeling dry or blocked. So reading can help give us some words back. Read from a dictionary or encyclopedia. Read something you do not normally read.

5) Go to a film festival, try one with lots of short foreign films and simply enjoy the feeling of being in the audience and all of the atmosphere. If the film is in a foreign language dont read the sub titles. Just enjoy it. Enjoy the sensual feeling of sights and sounds. Let your imagination run rampant.

6) Revisit your childhood. No. I dont mean to go back and vist the house you lived in, though you can if that is inspiring to you. I mean revisit the things you enjoyed. What was your favourite thing to do at age 12? Try it now. What was fun when you were 8 years old? Have a go at it now. How did you enjoy yourself at 4?

What is it you wanted to do when you were little and you weren't allowed to do? Were you not allowed to climb trees? Give it a go. Find a suitable tree and climb it. Were you not allowed to play certain games because your family didnt aprove? Try it now. Give yourself the approval you need to play that game. What toy did you really want to own but never got? Go and buy it now. Let yourself have the one thing you always wanted. Give yourself a present of having the very thing you wanted and play with it.

7) Be silly. Do something very silly. Enjoy something very silly. Read something silly. Being silly is fun. It revitalises the soul. If you need some suggestions for reading something silly. Try Ogden Nash, Dr Seuss, or similar authors. If it seems silly to turn up to a family gathering late do that. If it seems silly to go water skiiing on a cold day do that. If it seems silly to ride on a merry go round, then do it. Give yourself permission to be silly.

8) Good Food. Eating fresh food, salads, fruit interesting cheeses, new foods can be refreshing. try eating very slowly. Enjoy the tastes. Allow yourself to eat the peas one at a time, or to eat the mango right off the seed. Experience your food in a new way.

9) Exercise clears the mind. Try exercising for fun. Swim laps without counting them. Walk without knowing how far it was. Jog, run, skip, join an aerobics class. Learn a new sport.  Exercising for fun gives you a chance to enjoy the activity without worrying about anything.

10) Meditation, prayer or quiet time. Take some time just to be still and quiet. Find a nice place to sit where your back is supported. Against a tree in the park, by the duck pond or in the kids treehouse. Spend 20 minutes each day just being quiet and still. Try focussing on one thing, a leaf, a word, god, or a duck or other animal. Just allow your mind to gently settle on that one thing. If your mind begins to wander just accept that it wandered and gently take it back to the one thing you are focussing on.

Enjoy nurturing your creativity

Cheryl O'Brien


  Overcoming Our Inner Critic

Overcoming Our Inner Critic
By Cheryl O'Brien

For many writers their own worst enemy is the Inner Critic. For many
years I battled against my own Inner Critic. I would write a good
piece of writing and immediately IC would pipe up.

"Fix the spelling."

"Fair enough." I would say and I would reread the piece and correct
the spelling.

"What about the grammar. How's your punctuation? Come on you aren't
doing very well are you?" IC would continue.

"Hmm. Yes I need to attend to the punctuation and grammar." I would
re-edit the piece again and read it aloud with a triumphant smirk.

"Ha Hum!" IC would interupt. "You aren't going to actually show that
to anyone? Are you?"

"Why? It's fine."

IC would cross her arms over her chest and turn her back on me

"C'Mon!" I'd say. "What is wrong now."

"Third word second line. It's daft." IC would whisper angrily.

"'Canter' Is a good word! 'canter' fits perfectly.

"Horses canter. Children run."

"But... But.. I like 'canter'!"

"Hmm have it your way but the whole thing sounds stupid."

In total frustration I'd fold up the paper I was writing on and
slide into the pages of a book out of sight. IC would sulk. I would
give up.

To overcome this battle with Inner Critic I decided that I would for
a while at least, switch IC off. IC was aghast at the idea and was
certain that I could not possibly do anything without her. I
switched her off anyway.

During the following few years I wrote. I wrote voluminous pages of
prose and poetry. I never re-read anything I wrote until I read it
to an audience. I was determined to simply write well off the top of
my head and simply live with the result. Surprisingly I wrote quite
well. Several poems were applauded by the writer's group I attended
and I began to see that I could write well withut suffering the pain
of battling IC.

Soon the writing slowed and life got in the way and I wrote less
while dealing with the hand life had dealt me.

A year and a half ago I began my first online writer's group on AOL.
It is now defunct after moving the group here to Yahoo. At first the
group was just fun. A hobby. A way to get to chat to interesting
people about a topic I liked. I wrote, and still do sometimes,
without ever checking any of my messages before sending and
discovered that my writing was still good.

A few months after starting this group I received a private email
from a member of the group. The gist of the email was to say. "Hey I
like what you write, but, I find it frustrating that you say you're
a writer and yet you do not edit your own posts. How will anyone
ever take you seriously as a writer if you do not demonstrate your
skills each and every time you communicate?"

Immediately after reading that email I felt a deep stirring inside
and then a burst of energy. "See! I said you couldn't do it without
me! You need me!" IC was all pumped and ready to go.

The temptation to ignore the voice of IC was strong. The temptation
to practice and demostrate my skills on my communications was

"Ok. Here's the deal IC. You and I have to work together. When I
write something and I want your help I will let you know. Then you
may check my grammar and spelling. You may check my rhythm, rhyme,
meter, the overall feel of a poem. You may suggest word changes.
Hwever the decision about making the changes is up to me. Do we have
a deal?"

IC was most distressed that I might choose to override her
decisions. I felt her arms crossng over her chest in defiance.

"Ok. You can go back to sulking if you like. I will simply do it on
my own." I knew I needed Inner Critic. She knew she needed me.

Finally she uncrossed her arms and said. "Okay. It's a deal. But I
won't necessarily like your decisions."

"Oh." I added. " do reserve the right to sometimes go it alone!"

"Hmm. As you wish." IC knew she wanted to work with me on the
important things and not be left sulking in the corner.

Now a year and a half later I find IC and I can work well together.
We write posts together for the group and screenplays and stories. I
now find that as I write IC can spark an idea here and there that
will improve te tone of what I'm writing and I happily accept her
suggestions. Occassionally she starts overdoing her job again and
criticising every thing about my writing. When that happens I know
it is just her perfectionist self expressing and I know that I can
let it go. Hit "Send". and..

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This is one of my favorite images
This is my good friend Hal. I took this picture on his birthday. I think he likes to be in pictures.

This is one of my favorite images
This is my good friend Hal. I took this picture on his birthday. I think he likes to be in pictures.