Limit the Barriers to Your Creativity

Limit the Barriers to Your Creativity

Think of all the things in your life that keep you from being your most creative. Netflix. Twitter. The kids. Email. Chores. Stress. Many barriers are persistent, looming on the periphery, while others seem to appear out of nowhere when we plan to create. We need to call out and identify these barriers in order to successfully overcome them.

In his amazing book The War of Art, author Steven Pressfield calls these barriers “The Resistance.” This is not limited to creativity; it could be anything that keeps you from moving upward in your life. Identify and address whatever prohibits your creative flow so that you can be free to create. The War of Art refers to dozens of examples of Resistance we encounter in our creative pursuits.  Some of these barriers are physical and some are psychological. Definitely worth a read for all creative thinkers and doers.

Additionally, in his paper called, “Barriers to Creativity and Creative Attitudes,” published in the Encyclopedia of Creativity, Gary A. Davis contends that “The contrast between creative and uncreative people lies more in barriers and uncreative attitudes than in differences in intelligence or thinking styles.” That is to say, when we adjust unhelpful attitudes and combat the barriers in our lives, we are free to become more creative.

Old Habits Die Hard

Davis identifies five categories of creative barriers; firstly is Learning and Habit. Because we learn early the way things have always been done, it becomes difficult to see new possibilities. We all know how tricky habits can be to break. The status quo is hard to see beyond, and knowing what to expect is comforting. Conversely, the unknown is well, scary. Identify and address habits and beliefs that are preventing your growth. Then, one at a time, replace the unhealthy with more intentional choices. For instance, if your habit is to pick up your phone when you are in social settings, give yourself some practical ways to engage with others around you instead.

Tradition!

The second barrier category is Rules and Traditions. The social group you’re in (academic, spiritual, familial, corporate, etc.) will guide your rules and conduct. He writes, “A person can be inflexibly tied to rules, or can be creativity-conscious – open, receptive, and encouraging of new ideas.” Not all rules and traditions are bad, but rigidity and close-mindedness limit our creative ability.

Moreover, we may be unaware of just how tethered to our rules and traditions we’ve become. If we stop and analyze, we may realize that we don’t agree with many of them. For instance, one organizational barrier is status hierarchy. This means someone of a lower status may be reluctant to suggest ideas to a person of higher status for fear of evaluation or criticism.  We’re led to believe that the higher-ups are the visionaries because of their titles, so why try? Creative thinking is extremely limited by these rules. As a result, everybody loses when we buy into them. Write down and confront those unspoken beliefs and rules, and figure out if you want to adhere to them. If you don’t, make a change to live what you believe.

It’s All In Your Head

The third barrier category is Perceptual Barriers. Perceptual set, or functional fixedness, means when we are used to seeing things a certain way, it becomes hard to see new meanings or ideas. This bias limits our thinking to only seeing the original intended uses. This is in contrast to flexible, innovative thinking.

Davis’ creative recommendation for this is called “Make the Familiar Strange.” It means to see the common in new ways, looking for new ideas, meanings, and connections. For instance, say we’re trying to find a solution to a problem that will involve string. If there is a sign hanging from a string on the wall, we will make the connection and remove it from the sign. Perceptual set means being fixed on the existing function of the string, and overlooking its potential to be anything else. Above all, creative thinking allows us to see the possibilities of what could be, not just what is. Look for the strings around you, and utilize them to creatively solve whatever problem you encounter.

You May Get Some Weird Looks…

Next are Cultural Barriers which include social influence, expectations, conformity, and fear of being different. One example lies in our public school system. Children learn that it is good to be correct and bad to make mistakes. Mistakes and failure are actually a vital part of the creative process, and should be viewed as an important part of learning and growing. In the same vein, conformity, which protects the status quo, is highly valued in classrooms.  Studies show developmental drops in creativity scores as children grow.

Likewise, this trend unfortunately continues into most workplaces. If you are able to get past the fear of scrutiny from your peers and supervisors or the pull of conformity, find ways to experiment and find creative solutions. This intentional creativity will lead to creative breakthroughs that would otherwise be undiscovered.

Silencing Your Inner Critic

The fifth barrier category blocking your creativity is Emotional Barriers, which make us “freeze.” These emotional blocks include anger, fear, and anxiety. More specifically- fear of failure, fear of being different, fear of criticism or ridicule, fear of rejection, fear of supervisors, timidity, and shaky self-esteem. We all relate to feeling some of these at one time or another. If left unchecked, they will certainly hinder our creative potential. Creativity takes courage, which does not mean we are never afraid. It simply means doing things scared. We will all feel fear at one time or another, but we cannot let that impede our goals for living out-of-the-box.

In short, awareness of your personal barriers is half the battle. Come to your creative activities with an open mind and an open heart. There are no wrong answers. When you create, follow your impulses, your curiosities and your inspirations. Don’t allow comfort, safety, convention, or practicality to interrupt your flow. When you are able to turn off the critical voices in your head and your heart, your creativity will witness a renaissance.

Jessica Beresh is a blogger and co-founder of MossyBrain. Along with her husband Ben, their 4 kids and their sweet puppy Charlie she resides in Broken Arrow OK. She is a 9 on the Enneagram, loves Chai (hot or iced) and rainy days.

Connect with her on Facebook or jess@mossybrain.com.

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Make Your Creative Time a Priority

Make Your Creative Time a Priority

You’ve decided- this will be your most creative year yet! Awesome- get ready for the ride of your life!

So where to begin? Let’s start with something extremely basic and fundamental. Each day, at a regular time that works with your schedule, you will have Creative Time.

What is Creative Time?

Creative time is a dedicated time and space for you to engage in some kind of creative activity. This really can be anything you want it to be. You could write, sketch, dance, sing, read, paint, play an instrument, build something, craft, code, design, take some photos, nature walk, dream, plan, brainstorm- anything that gets your creative neurons firing and energized. The activity itself does not need to be strategic or cohesive from day to day; the important thing is that you participate in creative activities each day.

When is the Best Time for Creativity?

Ask yourself- what time during the day am I at my best? If you want to make the most of your Creative Time, you will create a hole in your schedule when you can be your most aware and energetic. Don’t set yourself up for failure. Your creative activities will be more productive and more fun if you schedule them when you can bring your A-game. If you are not a morning person, do not schedule creative time early in the morning. If you are totally spent come 9pm, late evening may be a poor choice. Are your eyes drooping and your head nodding around 2pm? Probably not the time for productive creativity.

By scheduling the creative time when you feel good and can function best, you’re giving yourself a huge advantage. Chances are, this creative time will become something you’re eagerly looking forward to each day. Block this time out on your calendar or planner and protect it fiercely. If possible, find a time that you will be uninterrupted and unhindered by other responsibilities. Don’t allow work, kids, chores, friends or any other distractions to intrude on this sacred time. It belongs to you and your creativity.

When You Don’t Feel Creative

The reality is that you will not consistently feel creative when Creative Time starts each day. Any number of things can demotivate you from being creative. But none of these things are excuses to skip your Creative Time. Here at MossyBrain, we espouse an exercise called a FlowJam. Flow is a state of creative being where fresh ideas are percolating and new neural connections are being formed. A FlowJam is an exercise to jumpstart your flow, giving all subsequent creativity a boost.

Examples of FlowJam exercises are writing a haiku, coloring, freestyle rapping, making up your own lyrics to popular songs and recasting your favorite movies with different actors. Any low-stakes spontaneously creative activity will do the trick. We recommend you begin your Creative Time with a FlowJam session to clear out the mental doldrums and to set yourself up for creative success. We have found that a FlowJam session dramatically improves the quality of your creative times and activities. So jam it up.

Value and Protect Your Creative Time

Think of your Creative Time as a precious and priceless gift. This is a personal ritual to develop your creative genius. Without this time, you risk experiencing an un-creative, normal, boring existence.

Schedule this time in your calendar first and plan all other activities around it. Recognize and solidify the importance of Creative Time- don’t allow time-suck activities to rob you of it. The status quo mentality will tell you to do what is easy and comfortable. Turn on Netflix, sleep in, play video games, dive into social media. But resist the temptation to stay comfortable! Just like eating right or exercising, committing to have regular creative time can be painful at the beginning, but hugely rewarding once the habit is in place.

Building Up Your Creativity Muscles

This regularly scheduled Creative Time will deliver major benefits once it is established into your daily routine. Just like a new exercise regimen, you may not see the results immediately. But over time, this habit of intentional creativity will begin to change the way you think and also how you view the world. As this change begins to happen, be sure to take on new creative challenges and experiences as a way to “flex” your developing creativity muscles. You will be amazed at your growth.

This year, decide to give creativity a fighting chance to change your life. Check back with MossyBrain regularly for tips, inspiration and motivation as you progress on your creative journey this year. And remember that you’re not alone- be sure to let us know how you’re doing. Happy creating!

Jessica Beresh is a blogger and co-founder of MossyBrain. Along with her husband Ben, their 4 kids and their sweet puppy Charlie she resides in Broken Arrow OK. She is a 9 on the Enneagram, bringing peace and kindness with her everywhere she goes. She loves Chai (hot or iced) and also rainy days

Connect with her on Facebook or jess@mossybrain.com.

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Kindness Is Magic

Kindness Is Magic

Kindness is a subject near and dear to our MossyBrain hearts. We believe it is an underrated, yet dynamic force in this world.

Receiving kindness can turn your day around, restoring your faith in the goodness of people. It can remind you that you’re not alone, and that you are important.

It can also be humbling to realize that we all need to receive from others sometimes. If we’re lucky, we become part of a beautiful cycle of giving and receiving kindness.

Showing kindness helps you open your eyes to the world around you and focus on something other than yourself.

It allows you to walk a little taller, convinced that your actions matter and you can positively impact the world around you.

We believe in the power of kindness, whether we are the givers or the receivers.

Kindness Makes Creativity Even Better

Ricky Gervais created a mockumentary-style show called Derek that came out in 2013. Derek (played by Gervais) is a caregiver in a British nursing home with an intellectual disability and an immense heart. It is a dramedy that, if you give it a chance, will having you crying and laughing and loving the whole cast. There is one scene in which Derek tells the camera, “Kindness is Magic,” and when we heard it, Ben and I latched on to that phrase for its powerful simplicity and truth.

In this MossyBrain community, we want to encourage kindness as we interact with each other. Others’ creations may not be your cup of tea; no problem! You don’t have to explain to them what you don’t like about it. You can move on with your life, and genuinely appreciate the fact that they were brave enough to share. Here’s the beauty of creating: there are so many people out there, all with different tastes and sensibilities. The nature of creativity means there is no one standard to which we must all adhere. A creation that I may not like can be profound and moving to another person. We want to facilitate an atmosphere of appreciation, encouragement, and respect.

Whatever you create, it will not be for everyone. To create is to be vulnerable. If you’ve ever made anything you know that sharing it with others can be terrifying. Creativity is not for the faint of heart; it takes courage.

Haters Gonna Hate…

In this age of the internet, we have instantaneous access to all the information we could want, which also comes with an endless supply of trolls, opinions, and criticism. The internet encourages excessive amounts of armchair critics, who aren’t actually doing anything, but don’t like what they see others doing.

Now don’t get us wrong; criticism isn’t all bad. Constructive criticism is important and healthy, if it comes from a trusted source. But much of what we see online does not fall into this category, and we want to discourage widespread and hasty criticism. Most people don’t think of the real person on the other side of their comment.

People come up with many excuses for unkindness. They don’t want to be taken advantage of, they don’t want to be fake, they’re just “keeping it real.” You can be honest and true in a way that considers others’ feelings. Be wise, be authentic, but also – be kind. You don’t have to be real at the expense of being kind. It is possible to be all three, simultaneously.

The Golden Rule

The Golden Rule is a cliche’ but there is something to putting yourself in another’s shoes and treating them as you would want to be treated. I understand how hard this can be, especially for those who did not experience many examples of kindness growing up but, this is your one life, and you get to decide how you live now. Will you spread hardness and self-preservation, or kindness and positivity?

We understand it’s not always easy to show kindness – especially if you were treated less than kindly. I try to think of it this way: because I believe in goodness and how transformative it can be, I want to be kind. It’s not just about how it affects others, it’s for myself- it’s who I want to be.  When I am treated poorly and I respond in kind, I am giving that person a power over myself by acting in a way I don’t want. I want to remain true, regardless of others’ behavior.

Yes, this is easier said than done. It takes intentionality, patience, and even practice. It can be really hard to live this way. But guess what? We can do hard things. If we all understood that kindness is not weakness, the world would be a better place.

The Magic at Work

Not only does kindness improve the world around you, it leads to more peace, health, and contentment within. There are numerous benefits to our bodies and minds.

Kindness stimulates the production of serotonin, like medical antidepressants do. This feel-good chemical heals your wounds, calms you down, and contributes to feelings of well-being and happiness.

According to research from Emory University, there is a phenomenon called the “helper’s high,” which means that when you show kindness to another person, your brain’s pleasure and reward centers light up, as if you were the recipient of kindness instead of the giver. 

Even just witnessing kindness produces oxytocin which can help lower blood pressure, improve heart health, and increase self-esteem and optimism. When you show kindness, you can positively affect those who witness it, and oftentimes, they will go on to show kindness as well.

Kindness is contagious; it can expand like seeds dispersed by the wind, unseen and widespread. Much of the time, we have no idea how our kindness has impacted the world around us. All we know are the little seeds that have germinated within us, and what goodness has sprouted as a result.

Jessica Beresh is a blogger and co-founder of MossyBrain. Along with her husband Ben, their 4 kids and their sweet puppy Charlie she resides in Broken Arrow OK. She is a 9 on the Enneagram, greatly enjoys drinking Chai (hot or iced) and loves rainy days.

Connect with her on Facebook or jess@mossybrain.com.

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Gifts that Spark Creativity in Kids

Gifts that Spark Creativity in Kids

We live in a magical* world in which a child is never far from another reason to receive presents from loved ones.

*There really should be a sarcasm font.

Opportunities abound for parents, aunts/uncles, and grandparents: birthdays, special occasions; even previously minor gifting holidays like Valentine’s Day and Easter have become ubiquitous for gifts in a child’s life. And, of course, let us not forget The Colossus Event of Gift Giving, Christmas.

For parents, what results is a wasteland of abandoned toys littering every nook and cranny of our homes, and children who have already moved on to requesting the next object of desire on a never-ending list.

Sounds bleak, doesn’t it? Well, let me tell you, as a parent, it can feel pretty bleak. Looking around at a home that is overtaken by children’s play things and realizing that you don’t remember seeing your child actually playing with most of the items.

The problem is, children don’t see the problem in this scenario. They will continue asking for the hot new toys, and the cycle.will.never.end. Whew, sorry, I started to black out there for a minute.

Friends, let’s break this cycle. Let’s stop buying fixed and rigid toys and electronics that offer no room for imagination and creativity. These types of toys are one-trick ponies; they’re often electronic in some way, such as a robotic or singing creature. They require pushing a button and watching.

Those are fun at first, but children quickly tire of these types of toys, which explains the ever-expanding piles of untouched toys.

Our goal here is not to parent-shame your choice of gifts for your children, but to encourage you to think about creativity when buying for your children. Feeling stuck? Here are some ideas for open-ended gifts that promote creativity in kids:

1- Instruments

Research shows that playing an instrument can benefit a child’s language and math skills, enhance brain function, and improve memory and concentration. Also, learning an instrument can boost confidence, promote a feeling of achievement, and improve discipline. Not to mention, playing an instrument is fun!

Even if your child doesn’t take formal lessons, just jamming with whatever instruments are around is good for creativity, and a good time. Grab some maracas and join in!

2- Building Toys

What parent hasn’t cursed the Lego gods after stepping on one of those devilish little guys? However, we all keep bringing them into our homes and spending exorbitant amounts on those tiny blocks because building is so creative and the possibilities are endless. Blocks of any kind are great for exercising those creative muscles; our favorites are Legos, wood blocks, and the big cardboard blocks.

Fort-building is also fun and beneficial for creativity and problem-solving. There are fort-building kits, or your could just go old-school with chairs, couch cushions, and sheets.

3- Imaginative Play

Imaginative play toys are vast in number, and offer even more possibilities: dress-up clothes, pretend tools and household items, tents, animal figurines – truly, the prospects are endless and there is something out there for every possible interest. Anything to spark their imaginations and encourage pretending.

4- Art Supplies

Is there anything more quintessentially creative than making art? Invest in your art supply stash and encourage your child’s creativity. Some options are paints, brushes, markers, pencils, pastels, canvases, play-doh, and clay, which is a favorite at our house. You could even go the sewing or knitting route.

You’ll never regret giving your child the capability to make their next great work of art. Personally, I would rather have a bigger art supply collection and fewer Shopkins.

5- Games

Games can be insidious because they’re so fun, you’re child won’t even realize he’s learning and growing his creativity. Some great options are Rory’s Story Cubes, Pictionary, and Kids on Stage. There are myriad options of games that promote creativity and, if you join in, togetherness.

6- Experiential Gifts 

Giving your child the gift of experience is a win/win situation: you get to spend time together and you’re not adding to the toy mountains in your home. Also, you’re child is getting a fun, and often new, experience. So, I guess that’s a win/win/win. 

Some great options are visiting your local children’s museum, zoo, or historical locale, or taking some fun lessons like rock-climbing or an art class. New experiences open a sea of possibilities.

Play is a wide-open world for children –  the possibilities are vast and creativity is perpetually expanded and encouraged. In this expansive universe, anything can be a plaything. My hope for my children is that they are never limited by reality; that they can look at anything and see the possibilities that their imaginations offer. Giving them gifts that promote creativity puts them on the right path.

What is your favorite creativity-promoting gift that you received as a child, or have given to a child in your life? Share in the comments below.

Jessica Beresh is a blogger and co-founder of MossyBrain. Along with her husband Ben, their 4 kids and their sweet puppy Charlie she resides in Broken Arrow OK. She is a 9 on the Enneagram, loves rainy days and can often be found sipping loves Chai (hot or iced).

Connect with her on Facebook or jess@mossybrain.com.

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Pass The Creativity, Please!

Pass The Creativity, Please!

Here at MossyBrain, we love Thanksgiving. This holiday gives you ample opportunity for creativity and fun. However, with all the festivities come inevitable family get-togethers, and we readily admit those can have potential to breed tension and difficult conversations. Gathering a wide range of personalities, ages, backgrounds, and politics into one room is bound to set the proverbial table for possible conflict.

Have no fear! You’ve come to the right place… We’re going to help you avoid that tension with some festive and hopefully conflict-free Thanksgiving ideas:

Stick to tame and non-controversial conversation topics

Some safe conversations topics are: the weather, sports, how many hours of vigorous gardening it would take to burn off all the calories you are consuming, travel, the state of your elderly relatives’ health(they could go on and on about this), entertainment, and food(Ben would specify sandwiches for optimal conversation.) Tell jokes! Obviously, keep away from the political or offensive ones… Here’s a little example of a Thanksgiving-themed joke: What kind of music did the Pilgrims like? Plymouth Rock! You’re welcome for that.

Get out the Pictionary and Charades

Games are always a sure bet to keep things fun and conversation light. Spice these games up with creative categories such as:

  • Activities You Do with Gloves On
  • The Muppets
  • Blueberries
  • The Enneagram
  • Musical Genres of the Eastern Caribbean

There are so many to choose from; the sky’s the limit! Just try to avoid the super competitive and intense games like Risk, Monopoly, and flag football. You get the idea- the goal is for everyone to have fun and walk away intact.

Show Interest in Others

Some of you may only see a lot of your relatives once or twice a year; that creates a great opportunity to catch up and learn something new about them! People light up and come alive when discussing something they’re passionate about. Your curiosity about what lights them up can lead to some of the best conversations of the day. Ask insightful questions like, “If you had unlimited resources, what activity would you engage in?” You will make a lasting connection; kindness is magic!

Reminisce

Sometimes just reminding others of shared experiences can lighten the mood and encourage bonding. Tell funny stories from your youth, ask for clarity from older family members about the past, and reminisce together about years gone by. Don’t look for offense. Make sure you can laugh at yourself when embarrassing or incriminating stories surface.

Pie

If all the above suggestions fail, and someone insists on being confrontational or controversial, shove your face into a pie. Any pie will do, but the cream pies are the most satisfying to smash in a face. Pumpkin would be disappointing. This tactic is a last resort, but is sure to steer the conversation away from politics or religion or why Ted doesn’t have a job. The new conversation topics might be hushed questions about your mental health, but hey! No arguments, right?

These ideas should just get you started. Think outside the box and let your creative flag fly this Thanksgiving. With these activities and your creative brains working, this is sure to be a fun and peaceful holiday with your family.  Let us know in the comments how you plan to let creativity shape your Thanksgiving festivities!

Jessica Beresh is a blogger and co-founder of MossyBrain. Along with her husband Ben, their 4 kids and their sweet puppy Charlie she resides in Broken Arrow OK. She is a 9 on the Enneagram, loves rainy days and drinking Chai in any form.

Connect with her on Facebook or jess@mossybrain.com.

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Document Your Creative Journey

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read more

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