You’d think artists are the most creatively fulfilled people of all.
When I started my art business years ago, that was certainly true of me; I was full of energy and ideas, excited to try things, living in my joy. But after 15 years of making art only to the specifications of clients, rarely ever to feed my own soul, my poor creative spirit was malnourished and neglected.
Like a 4-year old locked in a closet, she was desperate to come out and play.
It was so ironic: I made my living from my art, but instead of feeling inspired and energized, I felt empty and lost. Even after I finally determined to get myself back to playing in my studio a couple of years ago, it took me months to actually do so.
I had no idea what I wanted to create, let alone how!
At the urging of a life coach, I spent a few weeks creating a line of calligraphic yoga art — my Irresistible Yogini. This fired me up me for awhile, but I soon found my commitment waning.
This confused the hell out of me. If what I wanted most was to make art, why couldn’t I get myself to do so?
Although it may seem counter-intuitive, the very things we long for the most are usually the ones that also foster the most fear and resistance, (click to tweet this) but that wasn’t exactly what was going on here. I was ready to play again, so why had I stopped?
Then it occurred to me: I was ready to play, but making my Irresistible Yogini pieces didn’t feel like play!
The work was too design-intensive and product-oriented — I’d spend an hour making 50 nearly-identical brush strokes to try and capture a specific feeling, then pick the best ones to scan and manipulate in Photoshop to create the finished product.
I realized that what I was doing “for play” was no different from the work I was doing for clients!
It wasn’t feeding the hunger that I’d gotten myself back at my drafting table to feed.
My creative spirit didn’t want meticulous planning and designing. She didn’t want to try and please potential buyers. She needed to play and let loose! She needed to explore, to make a mess, to ask “what would happen if…?” just like a 4-year old in a sandbox.
Bingo! That was it! My creative spirit needed to play and muck about like a kid in a sandbox.
The metaphor of the Creative Sandbox was born.
Playing in the Creative Sandbox proved easier said than done, at first. I felt as if my creative taps were locked down tight, the well run dry, all creativity quashed out of me from years of working only to please others, focused always on product and perfection.
I’d forgotten how to play!
I intuitively knew that what I needed was the opposite of product and perfection. I knew I needed the freedom to create as a 4-year-old child would create — simply for the joy of creating — but this did not come naturally to me! So to help myself distinguish my Creative Sandbox time from work time I came up with some rules for myself, which helped me let go of perfectionism and create more art in 2011 than I had in the previous decade! Over 150 pieces, in fact (many of which you can see here).
My Creative Sandbox rules have expanded and evolved to a list of 10, which I use in my own creative life, and also bring to the creativity workshops & retreats* I lead, online and around the world. The rules themselves are short, but my annotations got rather long for a single post, so I broke them into two separate articles.
Click here to read part 2 in this series: Rules 1-5.
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*Hey ho! Announcementy stuff: Retreat!!!
Squee! I’m revving up to lead my very first local, in-person weekend retreat, about an hour north of San Francisco, and you’re invited! You’ll re-connect with your creative spirit, and come away recharged, rejuvenated, and with a new sense of time and possibility. It could even change your life…
We’ll create together in community in a gorgeous setting with rolling hills (doesn’t it look beautiful?) I’ll provide “light” guidance to together craft a bubble of safety and fun (aligned with my 10 Rules for the Creative Sandbox, of course!), but mostly you’ll have 2-3 solid days to work on whatever project you want. Organic meals are included, so you’ll have no distractions — just immerse yourself in your creative joy.
If this sounds intriguing, I’d love your feedback to help me schedule this first retreat. Click here to answer a few short survey questions.
PS — Pssst! Know someone who might benefit from seeing this today? Pass it on!