“Whatever we are waiting for: peace of mind, contentment, grace, the inner awareness of simple abundance – it will surely come to us, but only when we are ready to receive it with an open and grateful heart.” – Sarah Ban Breathnac
I live in the inner west of a thriving international City. The people who live in the inner west are typically awesome…. and awesomely busy. They manage young families, have challenging jobs, and they are typically energised by the alternative and creative life of the area. However the flip side of our dynamic, full lives can be feelings of overwhelm, of busy-ness without purpose, and trying to be all things to all people.
I know because I’ve been there. I know because I’ve felt that.
In Australia working weeks are getting longer¹, and women often spend more time each day doing housework and other domestic activities, while men spend more time on recreation and leisure.¹ Australian women spend an average of 311 minutes per day on tasks such as housework and shopping – well above the OECD average ²
On some level, we know that things can get a little out of balance. The recent trend for adult colouring books for example, seems to reflect a genuine need that people have for some quiet time in their lives: deep focus, relaxation and gentle engagement with a task which is simple, engaging and does not require much thought.
Maybe what we are all yearning for is some creative ‘down time’.
Some ways I’ve found to include creative expression into my life on a regular basis include:
- Get away from distractions (aka do creative things when you’re away from home). When trying to take up a regular sketching practice I found drawing whatever was in front of me in those moments when I have already taken some ‘time out’ from my to-do list and busy tasks worked well. Sitting in a cafe having a quiet cup of tea? Draw the tea cup. Sitting on the couch watching TV? Draw the other people in the room. Out for a day trip with your family? Draw the console of the car (er, not while driving), the inside of the train, the view from the lunch table. Sitting in an airport waiting for a flight? Draw your bag, your feet, your other hand.
- Commit to a ‘project’. I’ve enjoyed Daisy Yellow’s Index Card a Day as an recurring annual event; a 2 month-long intensive to encourage me to play with new materials, and up the frequency of my art making. See this post here on what that was like for me in 2015.
- Do the smallest thing. For me the smallest unit of creative exploration I can do it take photos on my phone. It is super quick, needs no extra materials, can be done almost anywhere. I have a fallback list of things I like to photograph (shadows, flowers, texture, doorways), so if I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed, busy or disconnected taking a few photos on my normal walk helps bring me into focus and appreciation. Doret talks about doing the smallest thing, with some great examples, over here.
- Schedule some creative down time with friends. Or even not schedule it, but introduce it all ninja style. I have a friend who I enjoy meeting in small bars to have a glass of wine – we take our sketch books along and try to do a drawing while we are there (and there’s no pressure to make it a great drawing, the goal is just to reconnect with our sketchbooks, and do some expressing). I’ve also take drawing materials when catching up with friends with kids. Collaborative art is a fun way to get everyone at the table joined in on a common project.
- Make time for workshops or retreats. I went to the Australian Art is You Mixed Media retreat a year and a half ago. It seemed wildly indulgent – I could barely believe I was going (A whole long weekend! For art making and learning! Paying for hotels as well as the registration!). I can honestly say it was the best decision I had made in a long time. Not only did I enjoy the tuition but the opening up of a sense of community, a sense of possibility and excitement about creative expression.
and two other tips I’ve written about elsewhere are to:
- Write for yourself without editing. Keep a daily (or even weekly or monthly) written journalling practice, to get everything moving, emotionally. Or try keeping an art journal that isn’t for showing or sharing but is just for expressing.
- Refill your creative well. Go for regular creative ‘artist’ dates with yourself as suggested by Julia Cameron, with no objective for ‘making’ anything, but just to refuel your inspiration.
Maybe we have to slow down and open ourselves up to receiving to get the really nourishing things in life – relaxation, creativity, deep and trusting connection with others.
If you would like some support in developing a regular creative practice you might like my next 6 week Women’s Creative Wellbeing group beginning on the 17th February 2016, face to face mode in Sydney Australia. My up and coming 6 week women’s wellbeing group aims to provide a window of peace and clarity for women where they take stock, refocus, and reconnect to what really matters. If you are based somewhere else in the world we can connect by Skype for art-therapy informed coaching. Drop me a line to discuss what might work for you.
Jade is a qualified Art Therapist and coach. Based in Glebe, her approach to wellbeing taps into our playful and light sides . Over six weeks, participants get completely hand-ons , with range of art materials supplied and absolutely no experience necessary. They group gets to be experimental, playful, silly and be more comfortable with ‘making mistakes’ in their creative modes. At the end of the process, women have reported feeling lighter and more able to refocus on what is important to them.
¹ Source: Cassells R, Gong, H and Duncan A (2011), Race against time: How Australians spend their time. AMP.NATSEM Income and Wealth Report, Issue 30, November, Sydney, AMP.
² Source: News.com.au ‘Australian women in top four for unpaid work such as housework: OECD’ March 7, 2014