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10 Ways to Shake up Your Creative Practice and Put Your Heart on the Line

I can't remember a time looking back when I didn't hate my handwriting. The letters of the words I write are loosely spaced, uneven; big and loopy like a ferris wheel stuck on repeat. When I practised writing in school the teacher would just look at me and shake her head. It was the 70s and people were extra-mean to southpaws back then. There were kids in my class who wrote perfectly; everything was lined up with the curls of the letters in the right spots. Their Ts and Ss danced across the page like fucking sugar plums in a ballet production of the Nutcracker. They’d use a ruler (because they had one handy, whereas I was always misplacing mine) and write along the line with one hand while holding the ruler completely steady with the other. Each word, each phrase, was straight and I wanted to be like these kids. I’d try and try, yet still I wrote sloppily, the side of my left hand perpetually smeared with ink. Though one day as a grown up, I signed my name to something and looked at my signature as if seeing it for the first time. A lightbulb went off in my head and I thought, this is my signature! The only one like it in the world! It’s not a work of art, my signature. Yet to accept the way I write and sign my name, and actually celebrate it is huge because it was a wound for me growing up. To get REAL comfortable with it I even made it part of my business logo. When I did this, something shifted and I began to see that much of my dislike for my penmanship was a destructive story I was telling myself about what’s pretty and what’s not. When I unpacked the story of my messy handwriting, what I was left with was a pretty awesome, singular signature. Today, I embrace every last squiggly and undignified line of prose being channelled through my pen. Yet there are other areas such as painting where I still get all judgey when I see what I've created. Does this ever happen to you? Are there any creative pursuits such as writing or painting or acting that you don't do because you feel you’ll be judged or that you'll judge yourself too harshly? What if you were to take just one of these dreamy pursuits and commit to doing it this week and the next? Play around with it and try not to judge yourself while you do it. You'll notice how the story changes when you actually DO the thing you’re afraid to fail at. Being all right with not being perfect at something gives you much more creative space for this and other extraordinary things in your life. It’s in the doing that this will become apparent, and not in the thinking about it. When you put your heart on the line in this way you develop more courage and less fear; it’s as if courage is a muscle that becomes stronger the more you use it. It doesn't mean you become less afraid; God no! Rather you just close your eyes, rumple your forehead, and do it anyway. How can you shake up your creative practice and put your heart on the line even more? Take a look at the list below and try one or more of these suggestions to help you do this. 1. Do something creative that makes you slightly uncomfortable. 2. Visit a gallery or studio and soak in the energy and passion of those making art. 3. Be more curious about how others are creative. Ask questions. 4. Watch a video or read an article about an artist, musician or dancer talking about their creative process. 5. Inject your day-to-day routine with some un-programmed magic. When you mix things up from the ‘same old’ it allows you to look at things differently. So instead of ordering coffee, you might order matcha or tea. Maybe you take a different way to work or walk at lunch instead of eating at your desk. 6. Share your work with others online or in person. This can be difficult at first, though it does get easier. 7. If you can, carve out an afternoon to just create. Turn off your phone and make this time all about you having fun. 8. Write out a list of things you could do to open yourself up creatively. This could be as small as changing your hair cut or something bigger like taking a drawing class. 9. Begin your day by free writing—just writing down whatever surfaces as you put pen to paper. 10. Be kind to others and to yourself. Photo credit: Kyson Dana

Copyright © Lissa M. Cowan

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