If Spring Was Season of Creativity, What, Then Is Summer?

It’s Summertime! Generally, we all think of summer as starting on June 1 and going through August 31. Summer 2018 actually started June 21, the Summer Solstice, our longest day of the year.

What the heck does summer have to do with our creativity, anyway? Are we inspired because of the summer rains, weary of the intense heat, but relaxed and excited about our vacations?

Or do we hit our creativity pause buttons because of all these? Summer Time is supposed to be Fun Time, isn’t it? Isn’t creativity synonymous with fun?

Well, let’s step back a bit, shall we. My friend, Felix Scardino, LCSW, sends out a regular message at least once a quarter about various insights on creativity and the mind, art and psychology. In a message a few months ago, Felix referred to Thomas Merton reminding us that in Winter, plants appear dead, yet within them are resources that lead to new life. Spring thus bursts forth with color and growth, a season of creativity.

Season of Creativity

According to Felix, Spring can remind you not to jump to dire conclusions when all seems lost, when you can’t see much in your future, or when you feel that your reserves have dried up.

He notes that our resources for new ideas and insights are often so hidden that our lives look like dead branches, and we’ll begin to see shoots of life and hope, which usher us into our Spring.

Are we suppressing any feelings, hiding insights, feeling weary about expression? What of our hidden voice? Isn’t it time to feel alive again, to, as Felix puts it, allow what lives inside of us to come out?

Assuming we have done this during these past few months, can we presume that a new, refreshed mode of thought and creativity is taking shape within us for the summer months?

If so, what creative shape becomes us?

Summer: ‘Tis the Season of the Mind at Play?

In an article in KOSMOS, journal for global transformation, authors Jorge N. Ferrer, Marina T. Romero and Ramon V. Albareda discuss how creativity in academia is similar to our seasons.

In Summer, some flowers have matured into fruits and some of those fruits become ripe. It is the season of harvest, celebration, sharing, and gratitude. It is also a time to rest, to peacefully contemplate the new seeds contained in the fruits, and to plan another cycle for the following Autumn. In the creative process, the ‘fruits’ represent the ideas or expressions selected for further elaboration and refinement.

Summer is the season of the mind—a time for the intellectual and aesthetic elaboration of ideas. It is also time to open oneself to the many wonders, possibilities, and joys of summer, which can now expand and stimulate the mind with insights that can refine those fruitful ideas. That kinda sounds like f-u-n.

There is, however, nothing that says we can’t allow ourselves to be open to things year-round. Dialoging with others about one’s ideas in order to polish them, and putting those ideas into writing or other expressive means is a natural progression of the creative process whether or not this is done during summer. Yet, Summertime does present some unique characteristics and qualities.

 

Summer-Play

Borrowed from Felix’s Summer Email Message – thanks, Felix!

It is usually a more relaxed time during which the mind can indeed play with its surroundings and explore possibilities, if we let it.

Curiosity is a wonderful attribute of creativity, and summer’s playground lends a world of potential ideas to the curious. Take time to play and be curious (always). Let your mind reignite and stimulate your passion. We owe it to ourselves.

However, therein lies the problem. Playing. We’re forgetting how to do it and we, both children AND adults, are not doing it enough.

In his recent “Summer Email,” Felix refers to research scientist Dr. Stuart Brown, who states that a chance to beef up your intuitive skills, improve your relationships and refine your ability to solve problems are a few of the benefits of play he writes about in his book, Play: How it Sharpens the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul.  
As Felix points out, play is a certain purposelessness, spontaneity, abandon, and openness to experience-as well as relaxed movement. The more you infuse your work with these playful traits, the more creative and innovative the result.

 

Some theorists even suggest that the opposite of play is not work but depression! I can understand this point. Like millions of us, I suffer from depression, and lack of play. Summers used to be full of play and excitement: Golf and boating and water skiing. Seems life a couple of lifetimes ago!

As the seasons bring about different senses to the body – cold in winter, hot in summer – so, too, does the mind reflect these various feelings. One’s creative passion may run very differently when confronting a robust fireplace with a hot toddy compared to how one feels while sinking one’s toes in the sand at the beach on July 4th.

Both are valuable and resourceful experiences in our creative process. This is Summer Time, so take time to enjoy and let your minds play and explore. New dimensions within your own creativity lie ahead, waiting to be realized. As they are, our creative shapes evolve.

Relax. Summer’s heat may have you sweating and thirsting for coolness, but you have plenty of time before the fire will need stoking and the toddy heated.

 

 

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The Boundaries of the Imagination

Are there any?

That’s what a recent weekend conference at The Jung Center on Montrose in the Museum District here in Houston explored. What did we come up with? Jury’s still out.

The Boundaries of the Imagination

I’ve been to only a couple of seminars at The Jung Center over the years and, coincidentally, both had to do with imagination as it relates to imagery and creativity.

Both were also moderated by my friend, Felix Scardino, author of The Pebble and the Canyon.

Now, I’m not a therapist nor do I have that type of background, although I have spent years in the advertising and creative industry so, I suppose, there are some who would say I’ve been in therapy all these years!

This special summer conference, The Boundaries of the Imagination, intrigued me.

When I reviewed the list of speakers for this weekend conference, I’ll admit to not knowing any of them. Yet, I anticipated the experience, the topics. I also assumed I would be in the minority; I am not a therapist or a psychologist. I’m just a curious creative.

Friday night began with a lecture from Jeffrey Kripal, PhD, past chair of the Department of Religious Studies at Rice University. His lecture, “When the Imagined Is Not Imaginary,” seemed to center on the evolutionary goal of imagination. Quite extraordinary.

Though it was a very thoughtful discussion, it really got down into the “imaginary weeds” for this listener. When Jeffrey mentioned the term “imaginal,” he went on to define it according to one Mr. Frederick Myers as “imagination on spiritual steroids.”

According to Frederick Myers, imaginal is defined as “imagination on spiritual steroids.”

HELLO!  Spiritual steroids? I’m not sure what the hell that means but it grabbed my attention.

Saturday morning’s session, “The Street of Heaven Was as Glass,” was a conversation between Jay Wehnert (right, below) of Intuitive Eye, his arts organization founded in 2011, and Vanzant Driver (left, below), a Houston-based artist whose work  is included in The Menil Collection.

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This conversation was a highlight for me personally just to listen and observe. One of the observations from Vanzant really touched my spirit – “Inspiration is the medicine for the soul and creativity.”

DAMN!

“I can’t wait to inspire somebody,” Vanzant said. “This should be what gets you up everyday.”

Inspiration is the medicine for the soul and creativity – Vanzant Driver

Since different attendees would no doubt mention other things that got their attention, I won’t attempt to cover everything from that weekend. My thoughts and impressions are my own. So are my dreams and my imagination.

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There will also be other blog posts, I’m sure.

As a photog-hobbyist, I couldn’t help but capture one of my conference colleagues chatting with Vanzant about her artwork in abstract visualization (I think that’s what she called it). Her paintings are hanging in back of her and Vanzant.

According to Vanzant, the philosopher, “the most powerful things in the universe are things you can’t see.”

We sometimes forget this. Hmmm, let me rephrase that . . . we rarely remember this!

 

Before we wound up our weekend conference, I participated in one last exercise. I played in the sand. Well, I had my own sand trap, er, tray. I even got to select as many toys, er, symbols, as I could carry.

But before that, I closed my eyes and “became one with the sand.” I moved my hands around the sand and just had fun, like the little kid inside me did many years ago, both on Lake Charles (LA) and Galveston beaches.

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“Playing in the Imagination” was what we did under the watchful eyes of Michele Lees, a depth psychotherapist in private practice in Houston with emphasis and training in Jungian psychology. And, evidently, one helluva sand castle builder!

Each one of the objects in my sand tray above represented something to me; some of them really did “call out to me” to be chosen, just as Michelle advised they would.

In case you can’t quite make it out, that is indeed a sleigh sitting within the branches of the Christmas tree . . . on a beach next to a treasure chest near a beached boat. The symbolism I was feeling that Sunday morning was both of fond memories and sadness (note the half buried Eiffel Tower near the voodoo doll), and, well, use your imagination to figure out the rest.

The entire weekend was like nothing I had experienced before. Not being a therapist, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Being of the creative bent, I anticipated exploring my imagination in ways I had not, uh, imagined before.

Presenters to 2016 Summer Conference at Jung Center

Each one of the “speakers, therapists, authors, experts” were enlightening and, dare I say, imaginative. If you get the chance to hear one of these folks speak or present, go for it.

Have we been underestimating the power and reach of the imagination? Perhaps.

It is my firm belief that creativity is entrenched in our imagination. In fact, my favorite definition of imagination is “intelligence having fun.”

Yet, is imagination a location, an experience, a physical phenomenon? What is, as the brochure talking about this conference asks, its hidden power in a culture that tends to understand imagination as the opposite of reality?

Are there boundaries of imagination? If so, how many and are they truly discernible? What are the possibilities in exploring them and what do we risk?

What if we come to understand that imagination is reality?

What then?

Then, my friends, we come to grips with our emotions and, when we’re ready, if we truly are, we take another trek into the vast landscape of our own imagination to explore.

But be cautious. Rational thought may be cast aside; symbolism may take over. Creativity may be awakened. A new masterpiece may be unfolding right before your eyes.

Capture it, and enjoy . . . before it goes poof!

 

Editors Note: Those of you wanting to see Jay & Vanzant’s conversation can view it on YouTube.

Creativity Tip #103: Your Creativity Sandbox

Whether or not we create anything for a living, there are times we just don’t feel very creative. Mostly, we create because we have to do so, to earn that paycheck, to satisfy the client. Granted, there’s nothing that says we can’t be happy about it or we can’t enjoy the process.

What do we do, though, when our creative juices start drying up or when we’re in between “have-to projects”?

Have you ever created something or begun a creative project simply for the helluv it, because you just wanted to do it?

little girl playing in sandbox

Thanks to iStockPhoto

There are probably various names or descriptors for this mindset like “unnecessary creative,”   “creative play time,” etc. Whatever you call it is up to you. I refer to mine as my Creativity Sandbox.

The point is to start something that will occupy your mind in a new or different creative endeavor so you can keep your creative juices flowing. Set aside some time (and maybe a special place) and just start.

I started this blog because I wanted an outlet for writing and expressing myself in ways other than what I mainly do for clients. I’m exploring different software packages (Adobe Muse for Web design, and Adobe’s Creative Cloud), listening to online webinars (CreativeLive), reading anything I can get my hands on relative to innovation and creativity as well as totally unrelated topics that simply interest me.

Anything to keep the brain alive and curious. It takes time and diligence, and some weeks I have neither. But I don’t want the juices to stop flowing. And neither should you.

Spend some time in your Creativity Sandbox as often as you can.

Creativity Tip #109

Establish your Inner Sanctuary – This is about using your mind and exploiting your imagination to enhance your creativity. According to my friend Felix Scardino during an imagery workshop, we all have a safe haven – in our mind. It’s an atmosphere you create, and you can add or change it anytime you wish.

It may be an actual place you’ve been to before or it may be one you’ve made up.  You can go there anytime, and just being there might spark your creativity, so let your imagination go.

Try this exercise: Get a blank sheet of paper and a writing utensil. Close your eyes and think of a favorite, relaxing place in which you feel very secure and comfortable. Once there, what are you seeing . . . sensing. . .  feeling. . .  touching. . .  experiencing? Have you been here before? Are you the only one here? If not, who else is here?

When you think you have a handle on where you are and what you’re experiencing, open your eyes and start writing whatever your mind tells you. Don’t over analyze this and try not to think too hard. Let your mind do the writing. Do this for about three minutes.

As a follow up practice, once you have your safe haven established, acquaint yourself with either your Aide or your Braintrust.  They reside in your imagination and can be called upon anytime. Your Aide is your confidante. He/she is what you make him/her.  Maybe he’s Uncle Fred or a composite of several folks. After all, it’s your imagination.

The Braintrust is comprised of your heroes, people you trust or who you find interesting. They can change on every visit; that’s up to you. They can be gathered together whenever you want, inside your safe haven. Take your problem or question to them and listen for what they say.