Where has my imagination gone!

"Acer" Oil & acrylic on canvas 140 x 150 cm

Creativity as a process, the occupations (things we do, such as painting, cooking, writing) and outcomes that are produced, all require some sort of “aha”, idea or spark of imagination.

But for some time now, I seem to have lost it and it’s taken me several weeks to figure out why.  I am used to having at least 5 ideas before lunch – sometimes ideas for paintings, sometimes ideas to do with worky-work, sometimes blog ideas, sometimes ideas to do with my business. But of late, everything has felt rather flat and empty. My natural inclination is to analyse what has been going on and, well, it’s been an interesting few months for us all, hasn’t it!.  

If I look this all with my occupational therapy head on, I start thinking about me as a person, my daily environments (physical, social, political etc) and the things I “do” (my daily activities/occupations), I get the following insights into how they impact on my imagination.

Person: I have put on weight, not been sleeping well but that’s not unusual, I have been trying to be calmer (perhaps that’s not working for me!), I have some new aches and pains which do take their toll, I went back on anti-depressants and am realising my ongoing memory challenges . I am menopausal, which could account for all of the above hahaha. My sensory system seems to have gone to sleep!

My “doings”: I have been doing way more cooking as people have been at home more over lock-down, I have been doing more caring (elderly parents) and parenting (teenage girls) and some home schooling. I finished a big project at the end of June and haven’t gotten my teeth into anything new yet. I have been in the hot tub each day (second-hand £200 bargain!). I’m watching a little too much telly. I am not getting the joy from painting that I need. I haven’t read a book since March. I know I have to do quite a lot more work on the computer – urgh. I have been trying to walk and do yoga daily (get me!).

Environment: well, we have all been at home rather a lot lately haven’t we. I haven’t been to many varied or stimulating  environments: no art galleries, theatres, restaurants, pubs etc (god I’m middle classed). I struggle with the heat and for many years had reversed SAD, where I get low in the summer (yes it really is a thing!). I have moved bedroom at home and not sure that is working well. My social environment has been under strain too, both marriage stuff and not seeing friends. We have done a lot of work on the garden environment, so that should be a good thing, right?  The political environment is really starting to piss me off.

Meaning and purpose: Just looking at those things written down, I can immediately see how they would impact on my overall well-being, but not necessarily my “imagination”.  I know I feel thwarted/unsure about the future which is affecting my sense of purpose and the meaning I give to activities. For example, what will the art world be like post-Covid (or as seems likely, avec-Covid)? I have been working towards gallery representation and getting into various shows, but that all seems very precarious now, so what’s the point? Whilst many galleries and annual shows have gone online, this really doesn’t do it for me. I need a visceral relationship to art. I need to see it, smell it and be with it. There is only so much that online can do.  In terms of my worky-work, I have long advocated for a variety of practice, but there seems to be a stripping back of services and a reverting back to “essentials” only. The agendas around choice, person-centred care and well-being seem to have side-lined.

The model of creativity coaching I developed, helps me further in this enquiry into my thwarted imagination. The diagram below shows the expansion phase of the model (if you want to know more, take a look at this video). We move continuously from the expansion phase to the contracted phase and back again, throughout our day. In this diagram, this pot (or fertile void) is expanded and contains multiple stimuli: sensory input such as smells, imagery, visceral sensations, sounds. It also contains memories, ideas, dreams, things we read, learn.  At it’s most expanded point, the line between reality and altered perception, the line between madness and genius, can be thin and blurred.

This mixing pot of stuff, this fertile void, is the birthplace of creative ideas. These things jostle around together and combine, morph, twist and transform. This is the place of “aha” moments, light-bulb insights, new ideas and imagination.

Except mine doesn’t seem to be working as it used to. I feel empty which is not uncommon to hear from creative people. Whilst I tell myself it is normal and may pass, I am not willing to just sit and wait.

So here are some coaching enquiry questions I have been asking myself:

What are you doing differently that might have caused this change?

What are you believing that might have changed?

What might you be noticing less or more of?

What isn’t going into your “pot” at present?

What is there too much of in your “pot”?

How do you usually mix it all up?

What space is there for dreaming, mind-wandering and perceptual shifts?

What does your spark usually need? If you don’t know, guess.

Think of a time when your imagination and creativity were flowing. What was going on at that time?

I’m going to work through those questions over the coming weeks. I doubt I will share much of my responses with you, but we’ll see! I am known for over sharing… Oh and by the way, I am OK. Just need to find my Spark and his friend, Mojo.

If you are interesting in coaching creativity, take a look here 

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Sky Landscape Artist of the Year 2018 : Jen Gash

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