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.
Over to you: