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Season for Nonviolence (SNV) – Day 13: Creativity

Day 13 – CREATIVITY: Identify ways in which you express your creativity every day. Today, allow something unpredictable and joyous to express through you. Write about it.

‘Creativity is about liberating human energy.’ Howard Gardner (American psychologist and educator)

Create (Google Images)
Create (Google Images)

Last week I spent time helping my friend Natalie edit an assignment for her writing class. For a long time she’s verbalized that she should write her memoir, but didn’t think she was creative enough to write. Natalie is an engineer by trade who, on numerous occasions, have said, “I am a left brain thinker, give me numbers all day and I am happy. I don’t think I could ever sit down and focus on putting words together to write my story. That’s not fun to me.” It’s an interesting statement because I run from numbers. Well, I’m happy to say that she is facing her fear head on by attending a writing class that is giving her confidence to explore her creative writing side, as well as, give her the tools that will help her write her memoir. She has an interesting story to tell.

Are we solely Left brain or Right brain thinkers? Natalie’s mention of being a left-brain thinker put me on the road to look into this Left-brain vs Right-brain thing.

To get through our day-to-day, we must use both sides of our brain to make sense of the world we live in; however, research has shown that each of us have a dominant side, which makes up a larger part of our personalities, hence Left or Right brain. Well, most of us have been exposed to information regarding our brain hemispheres. Left-brain thinking, sometimes labeled “the judge” consists of: language, numbers, words, science, logic, reasoning, objective, and analysis. On the other side is Right brain thinking, sometimes labeled “the artist”. Characteristics include:  emotions, imagination, subjective, intuition, holistic, art, and music. Now, Scottish researchers have added new terms to our understanding of the brain hemispheres – “Hard” and “Soft” thinking. These new terms are associated with creativity and reflect the neurological processes associated with the left and right hemispheres of the brain. (1)

Left-Brain / Right-Brain
Left-Brain / Right-Brain (Google Images)

In other words, Left = Hard, Right = Soft.

“Hard” thinking is verbal and understands symbols. These thinkers process information in an analytical and sequential manner – they first look at the small pieces of a situation or issue then put the pieces together to get the whole picture. In contrast, “Soft” thinking is visual and responds to color and shapes. These thinkers process information in an intuitive and simultaneous way – they first look at the whole picture then breaks it down into small pieces to grasps what’s going on. (1)

Wheels are turning
Wheels are turning (Google Images)

This information is useful for researchers, therapists, educators, trainers, but for the layperson such as me, I just think it’s fun to have this knowledge in my back pocket. I gravitate towards “Soft” thinking using the Right side (the artist) of my brain, but experience has shown that I can’t successfully maneuver through everyday life by just using one side of my brain so I had to develop the muscles in the Left side of my brain for communication and logical thinking. I must employ both sides in order to solve problems and to be creative.

So, even though Natalie believes she is a Left/Hard thinker who only understands numbers, she, like everyone else, can develop her Right/Soft brain hemisphere just by being curious and having the willingness to try something new. Many researchers indicate we can develop a creative state of mind and foster creative habits by:

  • Overcoming the perception that ‘I am not creative’
  • Expect the unexpected
  • Have fun playing with ideas
  • Practice not knowing – tolerate ambiguity
  • Be curious
  • Face your fears
  • Share your ideas with other people
  • Be proactive and “Just Do It”

We can display creativity in many ways. Researcher Zoran Ivcevic Pringle found that people who participate in any form of creative activity such as: taking photographs, writing, singing – tend to be more “open-minded, curious, persistent, positive, energetic, and intrinsically motivated by their chosen activity”(2). Over the years, I’ve noticed that people who tell me that they are not creative tend to be those who are afraid of failing, so they don’t risk anything and remain in their disillusion that they are not creative.

Stanford Ph.D. graduate Roger Von Oech, whose focus has been in the study of creativity, believes that creative thinking involves both “Hard” and “Soft” thinking (“judge” and “artist”) and both are required to bring about creativity. Even those who are naturally inventive and thrive on spontaneity need to seek logic and be analytical if they hope to be successful in life (1).

I was in my 30’s when, for the first time, friends told me that they saw me as a creative person. Prior to that, “creative” was never a term paired with the person I saw myself (creativity was not stressed in my childhood home). I always equated creativity with famous inventors, designers, and artists. I wondered, “What do they see that I do not see in myself, and why haven’t I heard this term in respect to me before?” I then thought about what naturally fueled my interest and got me excited: Music – I was in the orchestra and choir when I was a kid, but I also escaped into storybooks. Modeling – as a teenager, I loved coordinating clothes/shoes and showing it off on the runway (I even won a scholarship to attend the local modeling school). Decorating – I still love arranging furniture and accessories. Color – I absolutely hate rooms with bare white walls; they must have color of some sort. I’ve owned two homes so far and in each home all my walls were painted. When I rent a living space from a landlord that does not allow me to paint, I fill the walls with colorful photographs (some of them my own) and paintings. Come to think of it, my office space is very colorful as well.

Samples of my need for color in my house:

Yes, I love color! Sample of my wall painting and decorating.
Yes, I love color! Sample of my wall painting and decorating. (pictures taken by Del)
Not even the ceiling is safe from my need for color
Not even the ceiling is safe from my need for color – hard to see but it’s painted golden yellow (pictures taken by Del)

Intellectually, I may not have equated my interests as being “creative”, but I now see that I have always gravitated towards using the Right/Soft side of my brain. Unfortunately, due to the sh*t I dealt with in my formative years, my creative side was not nurtured. Living in survival mode does not leave room for fun. Thank goodness, I am past that and now I get to play and explore the things that bring me joy. I am drawn to color and shapes, but I also love the use of words and logic. I might not be a famous inventor or a designer, but I am filled with joy when I take photographs, write, paint, solve puzzles, and collage, just to name a few. Yes, I embrace my creative side, now I encourage others to explore theirs!

Creativity brings joy: “It is only when the mind is free from the old that it meets everything anew, and in that there is joy.” Jiddu Krishnamurti

The main take way on creativity:

  • Most individuals believe they are not very creative. Creativity is not just about special people doing special things. We all have the potential to be creative and creativity is a skill that can be developed.
  • Creativity embraces both hard and soft thinking, left and right brain. The most powerful creative thinking occurs when the left and right hemispheres of the brain combine to apply both creative and evaluative processes.
  • Stop holding yourself back in thinking you are not creative. Get out of your way (or out of your head) and take the leap, try something new.

Sources:

(1) – http://www.journeytoexcellence.org.uk/resourcesandcpd/research/summaries/rsfosteringcreativity.asp

(2) – http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/beautiful-minds/2013/10/03/the-real-link-between-creativity-and-mental-illness/

Note from Del — This post took longer than usual to write (a few days) because I kept having “Aha” moments regarding my own creativity. Thank goodness for writing, this was very cathartic.

Tomorrow’s Preview: Day 14 – HUMILITY: Making mistakes is part of learning and growing.

**Season for Nonviolence campaign, also known as The Gandhi-King Season for Nonviolence (SNV), asks us to focus our attention on attaining peace through nonviolent actions. More info at: http://www.agnt.org/season-for-nonviolence**

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Season for Nonviolence (SNV): Day 8 – Healing

Day 8 – HEALING:  Today, choose a painful incident in your life and find the “gift” it has given you.  Consciously share this gift with others.

“The only work that will ultimately bring any good to any of us is the work of contributing to the healing of the world.”  Marianne Williamson

I try not to think about the most painful incident in my life, the one that shook me to my core, because after seven years, it still hurts, but I’m willing to go there for this day of Healing.

I clearly remember the day of the “incident”; I guess it’s a memory that will be with me for the rest of my life. I was looking forward to the day because my work-team had traveled from different corners of the U.S. to converge at our WHQ for a conference. It was always a productive, but also fun time when we were all able to come together in one location to discuss business and debrief at the end of the day at a local restaurant with a good meal and a few drinks.

My day started as it usually did – up early for my morning 3 mile run. Afterwards, I was on a runner’s high and happy with life. When I got back to the hotel room for my shower, I noticed an email from my dad that screamed, “COME NOW!”. When I saw the tittle, I thought it was one of those email strings being sent around. My dad new I was out of town on a business trip, so I was surprised to hear from him so early. The email had no written content, so I called his house phone and his cell to see what was going on..no answer. I then called his sister to see if they had spoken that morning. They were very close and spoke on a daily basis. She said she had not heard from him that day, but since it was her birthday she was sure they would talk later. I told her about the baffling email message. She said she would check on him.

As I left the hotel and while in the car, I got a call from my aunt with the news that, “your father killed himself”. The words didn’t register right away so I asked her to repeat her statement. She said, “your father isn’t with us anymore”. Now, I’ve given birth twice and even though they were joyous occasions, with each birth came the statement, “never again will I endure that pain!!”. The process of giving birth is no joke. Well, the pain I felt after hearing the news, did not even compare to the pain of giving birth. The birthing process was a physical pain while the knowledge that my best friend was no longer alive was a pain of the heart. I could not breath. I could not think. I could not move. I was in Shock. Our admin made flight arrangement for me to fly back home and my teammates packed my bags and drove me to the airport. I was in a fog for a long time. The other dreaded part of the experience was calling my children to tell them, “grandpa is gone”.

Writing about this major loss in my life still brings up a lot of emotions, but I am now able to “feel” them in a different way. Believe it or not, there are a few healing gifts that came from this devastation. I received the gift of empathy and compassion. The Buddha said, ““Our sorrows and wounds are healed only when we touch them with compassion.” I now have empathy for those who have and will loose loved ones. I now have compassion for those who experience pain at all levels. I now have a up-close-and-personal view of suicide and better understanding of the thoughts that may lead to the act of taking one’s life. And, I now advocate for people dealing with mental health issues.

The biggest gift of all is the gift of knowing that tomorrow is not promised (hell, the next minute is not promised) and that I should not take anyone or anything for granted. I happily make time for my children to talk with them, hang out with them, and show appreciation for them each and everyday. Out of a traumatic experience came a better appreciation for life.

 “Live your life from your heart. Share from your heart. And your story will touch and heal people’s souls.”  Melody Beattie

David Foster Wallace, a brilliant writer, lived with depression for over 20yrs, but lost his battle in 2008 when he committed suicide. This passage he wrote about suicide seems to capture the essence of suicidal person. It seems he had a good grasps on suicidal ideation. My guess is that he may have had these thoughts regarding his own life. Of course, this is speculation on my part based on his bio. I don’t know his actual thoughts, but I do appreciate his quote about the subject of suicide and depression.

“The so-called ‘psychotically depressed’ person who tries to kill herself doesn’t do so out of quote ‘hopelessness’ or any abstract conviction that life’s assets and debits do not square. And surely not because death seems suddenly appealing.

 The person in whom Its invisible agony reaches a certain unendurable level will kill herself the same way a trapped person will eventually jump from the window of a burning high-rise. Make no mistake about people who leap from burning windows. Their terror of falling from a great height is still just as great as it would be for you or me standing speculatively at the same window just checking out the view; i.e. the fear of falling remains a constant.

 The variable here is the other terror, the fire’s flames: when the flames get close enough, falling to death becomes the slightly less terrible of two terrors. It’s not desiring the fall; it’s terror of the flames. And yet nobody down on the sidewalk, looking up and yelling ‘Don’t!’ and ‘Hang on!’, can understand the jump. Not really. You’d have to have personally been trapped and felt flames to really understand a terror way beyond falling.”

“I’m touched by the idea that when we do things that are useful and helpful – collecting these shards of spirituality – that we may be helping to bring about a healing.”  Leonard Nimoy

Tomorrow’s Preview: Day 9 DREAMING – what is one thing you can do to honor MLK, Jr’s “dream”?

**Season for Nonviolence campaign, also known as The Gandhi-King Season for Nonviolence (SNV), asks us to focus our attention on attaining peace through nonviolent actions. More info at: http://www.agnt.org/season-for-nonviolence**

64 Days of Season for Nonviolence (SNV)…and Writing

Lately, it’s been a challenge keeping my thoughts in check long enough to write a blog post. I am stuck every time I think about writing because I have so much stuff running around in my brain. I know that the fastest way to peace of mind for me is to get my thoughts out of my head by writing them down somewhere; however, taking action doesn’t always happen.

Lo and behold, while going through my files I ran across an info sheet for the 64 Days of Nonviolence campaign. Also known as The Gandhi-King Season for Nonviolence (SNV), this campaign asks us to focus our attention on attaining peace through nonviolent actions. More info can be found at: http://www.agnt.org/season-for-nonviolence

Seeing that I have so many topic ideas and for some reason, nailing one down is daunting, my plan is to follow this 64 day campaign by using the daily suggestions as writing prompts to help me focus. I will share my thoughts/results of my actions taken towards attaining peace in my world. I see this as two-fold: 1) nonviolence and peace will be in my consciousness on a daily basis, and 2) hopefully, this will help me to focus enough to get into the routine of writing something each day. Every little bit helps as I  get back into a writing practice.

The campaign started on January 30th and runs thru April 3rd. Since this is the eight-day of the campaign and I am just coming across the info sheet, I will briefly list the Jan 30th – Feb 5th:

Jan. 30  COURAGE  Eleanor Roosevelt urged, “You must do the things that you think you cannot do.” Light a candle and accept the courage to practice living in peace.

Jan. 31  SMILING  Today, share a smile with at least 3 people, knowing that your smile contributes to peace.

Feb. 1  APPRECIATION  Write down 10 things that you appreciate about yourself, then read it aloud.

Feb. 2  CARING  Real caring is not just what we say, but what we do. Make a list of at least 5ways you can take better care of yourself. Practice at least one today.

Feb. 3  BELIEVING  Today believe that you have all the resources to move your life in the direction of peace.  Be aware of simple demonstrations of peaceful responses.

Feb. 4  SIMPLICITY  Think of 3 ways you can simplify your life and put at least one into practice today.

Feb. 5  EDUCATION  Learn about the power of nonviolence by educating yourself.  Read an article that relates to nonviolence.  Learn about human rights, diversity, ecology, history, forgiveness, spirituality, peace studies, and more.

Februrary 6th topic is HEALING. I will start writing on each topic starting with Feb 6th. I hope I will be able to keep this up for the next 57 days. Wish me luck.