The structures that help you tap your creative flow

Confession time. I’m not that big on structure. I get resistant when someone wants me to plan (the life out of) something. I have trouble sitting down to meditate for any long period. (Or at least I have had trouble with that since I had kids, but maybe that’s normal for a mother of small children?) Anyway, I love being in my creative flow.

Still, I also recognise that structure is important. And there are some structures that allow me to flow even more. Here’s one teeny example. I am not a cook-by-recipe kind of girl. I like to look at what I’ve got in the cupboard and then just make it up. But I don’t like cooking at 5pm with two tired kids whining at me and causing mischief because I’m not paying them enough attention. That really stresses  me out.

Solution. A little bit of structure. If I think about what I’m going to cook in the morning, and start preparing it somewhere between 3pm and 4pm, I just feel more relaxed, I can be in my flow with my creative make-it-up-as-I -go-along cooking, and everyone’s happy.

Structure enables Flow

When a dolphin gives birth, she is vulnerable. She is soft. She is flowing. Creating. Other female dolphins form a circle around her, facing in, and when the calf is born they may help it to the surface to breathe. Male dolphins form an outer ring of protection around the dolphin mother and her calf, to keep them safe from sharks or other predators.

It is the same with humans. In order to really relax, in order to be creative, we need to feel safe. Creativity and the protectiveness are two different functions, two different energies that reside within each of us.

But it can be hard to hold structure and flow at the same time

I experience creativity at its best as a process of surrender to the “inner muse”, to divine inspiration, to the creative genius that dwells within each of us. Although this may sound active, it is actually a receptive process, of receiving inspiration and allowing ideas and activity to flow.

Structures are an expression of the protective function. Whether physical or temporal, they create a container that we can relax and feel safe in. And this relaxation and safety is what enables creativity.

So when you can’t do both at once, how do you do both? In the absence of a circle of male dolphins to swim around you while you create brilliant things, you can still embrace both structure and flow to enhance your creativity and productivity. Here’s how.

A time for everything.

Structures – goals, plans, frameworks, boundaries can be born from a creative process. And then they need to be actively implemented. There’s a systematic bit – seams sewed, corners tied down, holes plugged.

You need to give time to creating the structure. And once in place, a system or structure kind of has a life of it’s own. Some need more tending and nourishing that others, but a good solid structure holds space over time, and then you can give time to your creative flow.

Let me give an example.  I’m writing a book. I have to admit, I feel precious about it. It’s a sacred work to me. It’s art. And so I’m wanting it to flow in a very special way. But it’s easy for me to get distracted when I sit down to write.

So here are the structures that I create to support me: I create a set time and space. I’ve planned out chapters, themes and topics I want to write about, so I choose one. I make a prayer and set an intention for this time. I unplug from the internet – no distractions! And, finally, I surrender to the creative flow, writing what comes,  curious to see what emerges, open and ready to explore in the divine mystery.

A baby bird needs it’s nest, until it can fly.

One more thing – Your relationship to structure and creative flow can change over time.  The more confidence and experience you have in surrender and creativity, the less structure you need to create the relaxation and safety that will support you to flow.

Make sense?

Over to you:

What are your creative projects and what kind of structures do you use to support them?



3 Responses

  1. Helena Wescombe says:

    Hi Yollana,
    Thought I would have a squiz at your FB profile as I was thinking “I have all these people from school added to my friends list, who are they now and what are they doing?”, as I’m sure even more has changed since the high school reunion 😉 I have read a couple of your blogs, including the one above and was pleasantly suprised and also very interested in the things you have written. I have a 2 year old and another one due in a number of weeks and have been engaged in a Business Management Diploma couse for about 18 months and not getting very far with it whilst running a household. I probably study self help and motivational books more than my course information to get myself on track. However, the same note keeps repeating itself to me and that is to put some structure into my day. This is my biggest battle as it involves self discpline which went out the window with the birth of my first baby. Either way, I know I have been given structure in my life by my son but now am searching for ways to make it work a bit more for “me” somehow. I enjoyed your story in this regard.
    Thank you

  2. Maira says:

    My main creative endeavors for right now, just involve taking time for free, creative writing. I hav been in the habit of waking by 5:30 ish in the morning, doing a half an hour of putzing around and then an hour to an hour an a half of either free writing or focused writing for a specific end product. I find myself always refreshed and actually more energized after following through on my commitment to my Creative Muse.

    One thing I have noticed however, is that when I am especially tuned and tapped into my creativity, I also need down or transition time afterwards. It’s like all that high voltage energy leaves my physical body a little drained and in need of rest. This has been a real eye opener for me and now something I plan for whenever I extend my focused writing time.

    Thanks for the post!

  3. yollana says:

    Wow – I love that you are structuring in an hour an a half for creative writing – yum! And I even love that it’s buzzing so deeply that you’re needing and learning to schedule transition time – way to go! Where can I read this writing?

    How awesome to hear from you! Congratulations on your bubba on the way – and on making it through the first two years with your first kid – and a biz diploma. I think I can relate a little to how you feel about your course. I did a Certificate 4 in Small Business Management, and mostly found it helpful for getting a sense of what mainstream business thinks it’s about. But I found it nowhere near as alive and juicy as getting out there in the ‘real world’ of online entrepreneurs and learning directly from them about how they are doing the cool stuff that they do.

    Out here, it feels to me like the possibilities are endless, the technology is changing so fast, there are so many different opportunities… I really do believe there is space for folks to find their passion and actually do what they love.

    PS – if you like the blog posts, I hope you’ll subscribe to my newsletter. It comes about monthly with a link to some posts and some other good stuff.