Try these ten practices to grow and strengthen your, and other’s, creative Voice.
Acknowledge that everyone is creative and has a creative Voice.
Realize that everyone is creative, not just those traditionally deemed creative, nor just those working in areas designated as ‘creative’. This is one of the fundamental realizations that will make a culture more successful and humane because when you start being more creative in your everyday life, you become more compassionate, intuitive, empowered, joyful, collaborative, mindful, and relationally healthy. Our humaneness is the source of all of these capacities. The more real we are, the more these amazing capacities are available to us. Being human IS being creative. It is when we deny our true, unique, creative Voice and our humaneness that we silence and keep inside what would truly shift things for the better for not only ourselves but for the whole.
Silence the Judge.
Everyone has a voice that kills creativity. The Voice of Judgment (VOJ) kills creativity and humaneness. Judgment wants to control, silence, shame, and keep the status quo. We each have this voice inside of us — and the culture has its own VOJ, whether it be in a family, an organization, a community, a country. We judge ourselves. We judge others, we judge the culture, and we judge the judgment. Judgment is utterly destructive of our humaneness. We know when we are judging and we know when we are being judged because it feels really bad to do it, but until we are conscious of what we are doing and begin to work to lessen its power, it will continue to be compulsive. Each person’s VOJ is unique, too. How and who you judge is different than how and who I judge. Name this one thing and become aware of how it works inside of you and in the culture, and you will see significantly more creativity blossom. We have a voice of objectivity and discernment. Instead of judging, learn to discern how to respond so that the creative channel stays open.
Create a conducive environment for creativity.
Create an environment where you and others and creativity, in general, can flourish. Be aware of what constraints will help you and others to open up, be more kindly disciplined in how you approach creativity and express what comes to and through you. Be strategic in how you set up your environment and those in which you work with others so everyone begins to relax and listen. There’s so little trust — in ourselves, in each other, and in our capacity to truly relate to each other in order to grow and improve people’s lives. I’ve come to understand how to do this by working with people from so many walks of life. We can make things too tight and constrictive and we can keep things too loose and chaotic. Constraints are always germane to particular situations, but there are certain ones that work well in general.
Listen to and trust in each person’s creative, humane Voice.
As a leader, this is vital. Most people do not believe they are creative because of the VOJ. The culture doesn’t yet believe it. Start to notice yours. Develop trust in it by sharing this inner Voice more in your day-to-day life. Become mindful of how it wants to express and the kinds of ideas that come out of you. Notice how others are being creative even if they don’t believe they are. We can’t shut this creative Voice down completely and so it will be apparent, but you have to truly listen — truly listen — and then engage with it in such a way that encourages it out. Be kind in how you do it. People have been shamed and judged so much. They will be afraid and reluctant as you draw more out. Or they might respond with a bit of aggression. The VOJ is powerfully trying to protect them from more shaming and judgment. This is where our humaneness is so important.
Become aware of everything happening around you.
We live in a remarkably ‘conversational world’ offering itself to our creative potential. Everything happening around you, and within you, is fodder for your creative possibility and for the emergence of human possibility. We are creative beings. The world is creative. It’s a conversation just waiting to be engaged in. In your organization, consider that every conversation is the same — one just waiting to be immersed in, honored and appreciated — each one truly rich with possibility. But as you do this, watch for the VOJ to want to make each one something big and profound. The magic happens in the small moments, those rich moments of connection with others or with yourself. It is out of these many small moments, that perhaps a really juicy AHA! will come. You cannot control what will come but you can tee things up with the necessary groundwork to cultivate the moment for that wonderful AHA!
Ask powerfully ripe questions.
Cultivate the moment and this potential with powerful ripe questions, questions that rise up IN the moment. They will be the ones that keep you conversing creatively, with yourself and with others in the conversation. They will be the ones that keep you connected to the moment and to each other. When you feel for what is possible, the ripe questions will emerge out of the unknown, but only if you truly acknowledge you do not know. Then wait for the ‘answer’ to come. Don’t push it.
Acknowledge you don’t know.
The powerful ideas you are looking for come out of the unknown — when you truly do not know and you’re willing to not only admit it but open to it. This might be one of the hardest things to do, at work especially. We are so well trained to try to hide that we don’t know the answer or what to do (VOJ time!). In doing so, we make up all sorts of things to cover over the reality that we don’t know the next step. The things we make up are never as great ideas as ideas that come out of the unknown because they aren’t creative. Creativity is what happens when we engage with the unknown and allow the ideas and creations to emerge through us, or through the group or team we are working in. It’s the VOJ that doesn’t want us to admit this.
Allow for incubation.
Ideas can come pretty quickly and they can take time to come. We do the footwork. We prepare the soil. We ask questions. We listen. We pay attention. We stay in the conversation. And sometimes it takes time for the idea — the response to all of this footwork and patience — to emerge. This is probably the point where we lose the really great ideas and visions because we try to force an answer to the question. It’s hard to hang out in the unknown without an answer when everything is pushing, pushing, pushing to move things along. You can do certain things to help facilitate incubation like taking a walk, exercising, working on something else for a while, taking a shower, jumping into an artistically expressive activity, meditating, simply being quiet for a bit. These things allow for a bit of space to come in between having to know and not knowing, the time when you can really hear this creative Voice inside of you.
Express your creative Voice.
Develop the capacity to stay close enough to this inner Voice so you hear it, trust it, and are willing to express it. This takes work and tools and time, but over time the trust deepens and your willingness to express this Voice and make it real in the outer world grows. What is within you longs to be expressed, and over time if you don’t the longing will grow stronger. You are meant to express it. This is the source of your purpose in the world. It is your essential Voice coming out of your essential Self, your Essence.
Listen for the response that comes.
When you express your creative Voice, you have to let go of expectations of what will come in response. That’s not in your control and trying to control it just diminishes your ability to discern the creative next step. Remember, it is a conversation, a dance. Whether it is you singly creating and you’re conversing with your own creative Voice, or you are working with two or more, the only place from which you can create is the present moment. Stay with yourself. Stay with those you are with. If you go to the future or the past in your mind, you won’t hear the response. This is where a good mindfulness practice can help. Soften and quiet the mind. Open the heart. Relax into the body.
The key to your happiness, success, and health is to express this Voice within you.
This is just the tip of understanding this really beautiful capacity we have as human beings. Creativity is who we are and we can know it by paying attention to the actual experience of creating in these creative conversations. To truly know you are creative, you’ve got to experience that you are creative by being aware as it happens and noting it. There’s much more to write about but try these out as experiments to see what you discover.
Enjoy creating. Enjoy being in these creative conversations.