Get Wild – How to Set Your Creative Beast Free

A guest post by Karen Daniels of Zen Copy

People are often baffled over creativity and wonder where it comes from – and where, for goodness sake, can we get more of it? What we do know for sure is that creativity is not some mystical magical aha! that descends upon a chosen few who are our creative superiors.

Creativity is, in fact, born with each of us and remains until we die – or beyond.

Observe a child doing everyday activities and it’s hard to miss that they bring creativity with them in everything they do, and everywhere they go.

As adults, on the other hand, for some reason we feel the silly need to plan creative time as if it wouldn’t happen otherwise.

We can blame it on our tight schedules and overly committed lives, but the bottom line is planning for “creating creativity” is a bit like telling a creature, say a lion, that you’ll feed it once a week and it’s not allowed to be hungry beyond that. Under these circumstances a lion will probably do one of two things; 1) Eat your arm the first chance it gets or 2) Wither up and die.

Oh yes, my friend, those brain storming sessions you schedule on your calendar between 10 and 12 on Thursdays is sucking the life of your real creativity.

So what happened? Where is that creative child within you that wants to come out and play? Is she buried too deep? Is he wandering someplace alone and angry inside your head rather than running the hills?

Well, no matter what reasons have contributed to your penned up creativity, it’s not too late. By having a few personal playtimes, you can learn to set your creativity free.

To play every day.

Without planning.

So here we go.

Poof! You’re in Preschool

This first exercise is a warm up – to get your body to remember. Get out a piece of paper and pull out the crayons. What? No crayons in the house? Go get some. We’ll wait.

• Now sit down and draw a totally useless picture of nothing at all. If you have kids, do this with them. If not, turn on cartoons. Now, just scribble some colors – but you must not spend time thinking, just do. You can use one color or forty-two. No matter. Fill in all the white space, or leave lots of white space. Whatever your whim. But, and this is important, no do-overs. What you see is what you get.

• When you feel done, use a crayon to proudly sign the picture. Now, brace yourself – this is the really hard part that may cause you anxiety – I want you to put your picture in a special frame and hang it on the wall. Not in the back of the closet but somewhere prominent.

Let’s Play “Name that Color”

Again, get out a fresh sheet of paper and your handy box of crayons. Before you do anything with them let your eyes roll over the colors.

Now, touch each crayon and name the color. Not the color it says on the crayon, and don’t say green or red or brown. Listen to all those voices in your head and name those colors with abandon, using words like squashed-pea-green, severed-arm-blood-red, lion’s-mane-brown or dancing-fairy-silver. Unlike in real school, here you are rewarded with high points for outlandish names.

• Select one of the colors that most appeals to you at this moment. Is it crazy-dog-yellow or the ocean-ship-blue? Whatever your choice, write a couple of simple sentences on your paper. And to take the stop-thoughts away, use some of the color words of your crayon in the first sentence to get you going.

• Feel free to write your whole story around your newly named crayon colors. For example; “It’s so crazy dog hot here today. The yellow sun just won’t quit, making me long for an ocean ship, with everything blue.” If you find yourself feeling stuck, don’t spend time. Throw down that crayon and pick up another. The point is, just write something. In color. Your color.

You Are What You Color

Now you are going to play. Every day for a month.

• Don’t plan this last part, and don’t do it at the same time every day. Just keep your crayons handy. Then, when you sit down to write, pick your favorite colors of the moment and scribble before you begin writing. Or when you sit down to have your coffee, write a few colorful sentences. The only rules are – only with crayons and no seriousness allowed.

• When you are writing, if you find yourself stuck, or seeking impossible perfection – Stop. Then pull out your crayons and look. Look at the colors. Remember the names. Think of new names. Write a few silly sentences. Use your color for that day as a method for unsticking yourself and helping you speak with your authentic voice.

These personal play times are designed to help you learn to bring your creativity out – and not just when you’ve marked it on the calendar. We get stuck because we’re trained ourselves that way. Crayons help bring us back to our kid-selves, to a time when we didn’t know what stuck was. Use color to get back in touch with the fun in creativity, and over time you’ll find it gets easier and easier to use your creativity whenever you want.

Feed your creativity with childish fun and you’ll see that it truly is a creature that loves to run wild and free.

Care to share and help inspire someone else? We’d love to hear some of your color names, or read some of your crayon-induced sentences. And next time your boss schedules one of those brain storming sessions, bring enough crayons and paper for everyone and share the fun.

Karen Daniels has her M.A. in psychology, is an author, mom, creativity lecturer, and online content specialist who writes Zen Copy , a blog which promotes creative growth and achieving success through effective online writing.

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40 thoughts on “Get Wild – How to Set Your Creative Beast Free”

  • Sandra says:

    Imagine this comment in shamrock / trebol / trefle. So not only go you get to be in touch with your creative side but you can learn a few more languages is you have the right crayons!

    I also have found having a pantone matching system book (pms book for the trade printing people) to be by my side helps in that creative flow.

  • Congrats on an excellent post. I have a nice big box of crayons, and I’m not afraid to use them :)

  • S0BeUrself says:

    I agree – the problem w/adults and creativity is that we think we can cage the beast. While that may be true, it’s also true that a caged animal is nothing more than a pale reflection of the glorious animal in its element.

  • Katie says:

    Karen, your article turned out great and I’m really liking your exploration of art and colour. There really is nothing like being free to just create. It’s like rolling down a grassy hill. It’s too bad so many of us need permission to be able to get rolling. Lovely post, and great picture (tee-hee!)

    • Thanks, Katie. When exactly do we lose that permission to just roll and roll and roll? And I’m sure you’ll agree the faster you go the more momentum you gather, yes?

  • Great post! My Creativity is very excited about the prospect. :)

    I’ve recently been blogging about how we tend to switch our Creativity on and off. We want Creativity when we’re writing or painting etc. but then we want Creativity to go away and let us get on with our life at other times. The trick is to live life creatively. Then your Creativity is on hand whenever you need.
    http://creativitysworkshop.wordpress.com/2010/06/14/keeping-creativity-entertained/

    Just like you say, you gotta set your Creative Beast free in order to tame it, right?

  • Aileen says:

    okay, first I love ,”dancing-fairy-silver” DONE! I’m sold

    Karen, children and adults must simply adore you! Long before I had my 2 nieces (4yrs & 6yrs) I’ve been living with crayons. I tried markers once and I got into my head again – with judgment and critiques. There is a real power in crayons; it stops the judging logical brain. It might have been 13 years ago or so when I just got tired of my own intensity and started writing poetry in my journal with crayons. Not so surprisingly I created and produced several theatrical plays & dance theatre shows at that time and had my first poetic writing successes.

    What I love most about this post you wrote is (1) it’s true (2) it’s powerful (3) it reminds me of how I became less intense and more free.

    I truly hope you inspire all adults who read this to really go out and buy a box of crayons and have them in their offices and their homes.

    * Naming the crayon, – very fun…”dancing-fairy-silver” !!!!

    • Aileen, thank you for the very powerful testimonial to
      THE POWER OF CRAYONS! Awesome.

      (As for being loved, well, thanks. I’m guessing my own kids (age 7 and twin 5-year olds) would rather I talked more about crayons with them and less about brushing teeth.)

  • Karen,
    I felt like a little kid just reading your post! I’m feeling energized and thinking of digging out my water color paints. Come to think of it why haven’t I painted in so long?

    When we let go and play like a child the sheer joy we feel in what we’re doing releases an avalanche of creativity.

    Thank you for helping me release mine!

  • Karen – this is a great reminder to not look for all answers through a screen and keyboard. And so much fun too!

    Thank you, Mark

  • Karen, a little beauty this one. Creative beast is a spanking phrase to slip into a post and what an excellent image to back it up. Ace!

    I’m going to run free and be childlike for the next month starting today. You’ve given me and all of us permission to be young and act young again. I’ve got my roar back!!

  • Love, love, love this post Karen! I’ve always been a crayon freak so this really strikes a cord with me.

    When I start to feel stressed over trying to get so many things done in so little time I take my sketch pad and colored pencils outside and sit on a huge oak stump in our yard. Then I close my eyes for a few minutes, and when I open them I take those colored pencils and let ‘er rip. It’s so refreshing, and I most always walk away with new ideas or a story of some sort.

    Thank you so much for this great reminder, and for the exercise tips!

  • Unleashing the wild side a bit! I love it Karen. I think your point about scheduling creativity and it actually doing the opposite is huge. Those of use who try to be very efficient in getting things done, tend to schedule time all over the place for things. The problem is that creativity hits you when it hits you. You never know when it will be or where it will come from. I’ve found it’s good to set aside specific times to write but with that I’ve realized that my best writing comes at the most unexpected times: right after a run, while traveling, when reading a book. When the creativity hits, I drop everything a write.

    Nicely done!
    Scott

    • Yes, over scheduling is something most of us seem to struggle with. We just need to let creativity seep in everywhere rather than telling it to sit down and be quiet. Good for you for responding to your voice and writing when it calls.

  • iHanna says:

    I do things like this all the time, and love it. And now I think my new favorite colour will have to be crazy-dog-yellow – love that name! :-)

  • I love this!! Can’t wait to get started! :) Very refreshing xx

  • Manal says:

    Karen,
    I’m going to go buy a box of crayons and do what you suggested. The ideas you offer are fun and with that comes the best kind of creativity.

    Thank you for this wonderful, colorful and fun advice.:)

  • Love this! Childish fun is great. I have crayons and markers and all sorts of cool stuff in a box that I haven’t looked at in awhile and I think I’ll pull them out and try this.

    I love the idea of not letting our childlike creativity fall by the wayside. Why should we? I think it’s kind of like how I name plants…..see, I just thought of “periwinkle” which is my favorite blue crayon, and that’s like the blue snowball bush in my back yard (hydrangea? That’s not a fun name!)….so they are snowball bushes, then there are poofball trees in my neigbor’s yard (mimosas, I think), whirly-gigs that fall from the maples (the seeds), the miniature palm trees in the forest (don’t know what they are but elves live around them)…the mushrooms in my yard are little shelters for the fairies and the ferns are giant trees for them…

    Fun :)

    • I love the elves that live around those miniature palm trees! You bring up an awesome point that looking at all things creativity is such great fun. I once took a poetry class and I remember coming out and seeing the tops of palm trees as lion tails swishing in the wind and such.
      Have to agree with you on the hydrangea thing – amazingly beautiful flowers – I’ll now call mine snowball bushes, too. Thanks!

  • HowToPlaza says:

    Hello Karen. Nice tips on rekindling your creativity. For me what works best is the need. The moment I tell myself that I need to write this, my creative juices begin to flow.

    ~~ Sarah ~~

  • I’m buying a box of crayons tomorrow just to try this. I have 3 kids, but I want my own.

    I don’t really like writing and my writing still tends to be A+ English class style. I need to loosen up and let it out! :)

    Thanks for this fun idea.
    Kari

  • Kari, did you get those crayons?

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