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forging a virtuous cycle

The boy plops down at the table with fresh paper and a handful of crayons, some dull and stubby, some new. Almost hungry for more colors, more lines, he fills the white space with shapes only his mind understands. His imagination bubbles and pours onto the page. With each new idea, more flow. Like a virtuous cycle, his coloring feeds his imagination, as his imagination feeds his coloring.

Many of us dream of the long ago afternoons when we lost ourselves in our imaginations. Others can’t quite remember the waxy smell of fresh crayons. Either way, time to create is a gift few of us feel that we have time—or energy—to build into our daily routines. But why not? Experimenting sparks our imagination, which fuels ideas, which gives us confidence to try new things and grow.

In The Artist’s Way at Work, Julia Cameron, Mark Bryan and Catherine Allen explain how two decades’ worth of research reveals a simple revelation: When we take the time, even a half hour, to hunker down with a stashed-away project, we can become markedly more open and effective in all aspects of our lives. We can untether ideas that are tucked away. A cloudy night hides the stars beyond. Once the clouds clear, we see the stars—connected in constellations—plain as day. When we allow our minds to be a little free, a little open to wonder, we begin to uncover connections waiting in our subconscious. The idea of creating need not be scary; it can be as uncomplicated as strumming a guitar, writing in a journal, or sketching a valentine. It only needs your attention and time. ”Creativity is not dangerous, not volatile, not limited to a select few,” Cameron writes. “Our creative energy helps us all access and experience our creative flow as vital.”

During our monthly retreats with youth, we carve out several hours each weekend for creating. Whether we’re carving, printing, singing or writing, we become forgers of something! We have come to crave the tangible benefits of making beautiful things, and our creativity is contagious. “Our views become panoramic, we see things from a broader perspective,” Cameron writes. In fact, we notice more. We share more. We take more risks. Our groups practice creating often enough that it becomes a habit. And that habit becomes a routine of seeing possibilities in ourselves and the world around us.

We are all creative people. To be creative is human, universal even. When was the last time you felt the creative rush? What were you doing? Who were you with? How did you feel? Start there—even if the page seems blank now—and see where it takes you.


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