By Chip Richards
For thousands of years many of our wisest and most enlightened cultures have used the creative arts as a pathway to share wisdom, to educate future generations, and in a very real way, to create the world they wished to experience. To let their stories, songs and visions become active forms of prayer. Inspiration anchored into earthly expression where it could grow and expand, deepen and spread like roots of a great tree. Music, dance, visual art, story. These and more have always been viewed as genuine agents of change and creation.
Amidst our very serious efforts to deal with environmental, economic and social challenges in the world, it is enlightening to consider that one of the greatest contributions that we can each make on an individual and collective level, is to find positive, energetically charged ways to create.
We each have a note or verse to sing out that is truly uniquely us and is delightfully required in order for the song and story of creation to be complete.
As we stand on the threshold of our own creative potential, this information can be a catalyst for both inspired action and petrified procrastination. How can we know what creative truth wants to come through us? What makes my idea or creative seed special or important to share? Maybe you know that you have an amazing idea swimming in your being, pulling at your soul to be shared, but you find yourself staring at the blank page, wondering where to begin. I would imagine that for every great story told, there are a thousand more that never reach the light of day beyond the doubtful doorway of their steward’s mind.
One of the very first moments of genuine connection that I shared with my wife Asheyana – one late, late night in the mountains of Victoria – was staring together at a blank canvas, sharing the simultaneous conflict of invitation and intimidation that often comes in the early moments of creative endeavor. As a result, early in our relationship we began creating paintings together by simply taking turns making seemingly random marks on the page until a picture began to form, which we would then follow to colorful completion.
In the past ten years I’ve spent much of my creative time in the writing space and have come up against many of those early phase moments in storytelling or screenwriting when the pressure of a project seems to weigh extra-heavy on those first few words. Amidst this journey, what I have learned is that often the more we want to write or create something of importance, the more pressure we put on ourselves, which in turn restricts our creative flow to the point that what emerges feels stifled and forced. Simultaneously, I have also realized that when our agenda is simply to explore raw creative energy on the page (as we might in our journal), often truly profound expressions come through.
So the question is, how can we have both? How can we effectively channel our creative voice in the direction of meaningful expression, but do so in a natural and free flowing way, so that it feels effortless and truly expressive of our true essence?
Today I will offer a simple exercise that has been a fun and potent doorway for many emerging writers and creative beings to do just that.
This exercise is one that I often share early in workshops as a way of helping different people with varying creative intentions move onto the page with a real sense of connection. It is a very simple exercise, and like many of life’s truest gifts, it never ceases to amaze me how powerfully revealing it is of two things:
1.) We each have a truly unique perspective and way of expressing our creative voice.
2.) Even a very simple exercise can become a powerful doorway for our higher self to come through.
It’s called the “5-Word Experiment” and here’s how it works. I will give you five random words and 5-10 minutes to write a simple story, poem or descriptive moment that incorporates all five words. We can sit for hours (or years), wondering how best to start a story, but if we give our conscious mind a simple task like the 5-Word Experiment, it opens the door for our subconscious to naturally rise up and show us where it wants to go.
Are you ready? OK. The five words for today are: breath, imagine, free, belong, fly.
Take a few moments to reflect on these words, and then begin to write whatever comes. Give yourself 5-10 minutes max, to write whatever you see, incorporating each of the words in whatever order or tense you choose. If you get stuck, just take a breath and ask what next? Then follow what comes. No right or wrong, just you opening the path for your creative voice to come through and express. Enjoy.
The second and most powerful part of this exercise is to share what you have written and to see how unique and different it is from everyone else who experiences the assignment. It always, always, always blows my mind to see how unique each person’s expression is, and how even the most resistant writers spring forth with prose and verse that give you chills. So, if you are feeling called to a greater expression of your own creative potential, I invite you to stop what you are doing right now, take five minutes to explore this exercise, then share what emerges in the comments section below.
I did this exercise (with these same words) a few weeks ago with a group. As always I was inspired beyond words by what emerged from the different individuals. Below is what came out for me (which was also a surprise at the time):
“Is this truly what I must do to be free?” thought the young brave, staring out from the cliff top to the grassy knoll way beneath. It seemed a very long way to drop. He had seen this done before many times. He had imagined this moment himself many times. But to be here standing on the edge, wings of the bird tribe fastened to his arms, the elders chanting behind him… his family and grandfather waiting around the fire below. Is this really where he belonged? Maybe he could just turn back… What was he seeking anyway, in making this big leap? As if reading his mind, the Chief stepped up, with kind black eyes and said, “It’s not what you are seeking that is calling you. It is who you already are, that is waiting to greet you as you fly.” With that, the young brave took a breath and stepped out into the sky.”
Enjoy where your own 5-Word Experiment leads you (and really let it lead you!), and we’ll see you on the path of story – as we each find our unique ways to express our note in the great creation song and story of life.
Please feel free to send me your expression!