Updated: Mar 21
I'm less interested in what creativity is, and more fascinated by what it can do, especially in community. That is where the electricity lives.
It was a longing for a feeling of being plugged into a creative current that set into motion the formation of what now exists as Creative Flow Circles.
From the very edges of my earliest memories, I recall constant, effortless sculpting, painting, stitching, ripping, sketching whatever I could get my fidgeting digests around. It wasn't until I began to feel a sneaky fissure forming between me and my own inspiration, that I realized I needed to bring more intention to how I nurtured my relationship with creativity. I soon discovered I was far from alone, that many of my coworkers and friends were suffering a similar drought, and so the experimentation to develop a way to plug back in, together, began.
I knew that at its core, creativity was a healing, transformational force, a life giving pulse, but as I got deeper into a busy schedule and professional responsibilities, I often felt divorced from its benefits, like I could see it between two panes of glass, but it was so thoroughly out of reach. What if there was a way to intentionally, habitually, connect with creativity for creativity's sake. Like someone might to the gym, or a weekly yoga class - could there be a space like this to practice the act of connecting with inspiration and process?
I started to study the conditions that allow creativity to emerge, and more importantly, the qualities that make it recoil and clench. What is it that makes us able to create, what blocks us? Would there be a way to intentionally enter a nonlinear realm, with others, without falling into the traps and triggers of comparison, self-doubt, perfectionism, over thinking? Was there a way to cultivate a space with just enough structure to hold the fluidity of process, without squelching or controlling it? Creativity is not a safe energy, it is unpredictable, transcendent and can be destabilizing. Would it be possible to create a shared safety within a group of people, so there could be shared courage and bold permission giving to yield to the depths and joys of the process?
I became obsessed with creating something that could act as a vehicle, a mechanism, a circular technology with the sole purpose to fill the well of energy that sits just beneath every creative process. A way to deepen one's ability to respond, sense, intuit, feel, receive. The practice of receptive improvisation, open discernment. Something that could become a habit, a portal, a place of renewal and freedom.
After much scribbling and daydreaming, and rambling and research, I began holding Creative Flow Circles at a yoga studio in Portland, Maine. It was a kind of creative play pen at that point - a variety of materials and costumes on hand, plenty of space, a playlist and a projection of an octopus sprawling across the wall to elicit a feeling of flexibility and randomness. There were costumes and play-dough and paints and gentle guidance from me, reminders to stay in the body and quiet the mind that wonders what the heck we are up to. There was laughter and tearing of paper and smearing of paint, but there was also paralysis and questions to the tune of "am I doing this right?"
It soon came clear that the water needed more of a bowl around it - that is, there needed to be more structure in order for the community to feel more held, and for creativity to really flow. Stitching together the feedback and felt sensation while in these spaces, I integrated newly evolved versions week after week. Fewer materials as to quiet the analytical mind that wants to choose and prioritize, no talking as to remove the possibility for comparison, a guided body scan meditation at the beginning and the end of each session to settle the nervous system and integrate the experience. Specific language that signals there is nothing to do right and nothing to do wrong, that we are all creative, and that everyone is invited to radically honor their own creative genius, their body, their curiosities. Learning how to create space around the mind that wants answers, judges frequently and often demands certainty.
So a week after week we would create, sometimes in a group, and often just me alone, each time uncovering a piece of the puzzle, shaping the key that would eventually smoothly fit into the lock that would open us into flow. Through the pandemic, I kept flowing by myself. Setting up a circuit of easels outside, in the attic, in the living room, by the ocean, around and around, moving color to music then thinking through how to replicate and share this space once we were able to safely gather again.
As gathering spaces creaked open, the form was swollen with readiness, through trial and adjustment, a structure emerged that finally seemed to shine. A soft but deliberate space that allows the mind to quiet and the senses to vibrate awake. Participants moving color across a circle of easels, changing as the music shifts, everyone painting on every easel, one after the other. Bookended by guided meditations and time for reflection. Once dry, each painted piece is ripped up and used as collage for the next circle - impermanence, non-attachment, full body immersion into the present moment, into flow.
Through this process, I am uninterested in helping you become a better artist. That's just not what I'm after, though this process will undoubtedly enhance your relationship with your art, or craft, or whatever you might be up to or up against.
I am also uninterested in telling you what to do, or how to create.
I am interested in creating the conditions for your relationship with your own creative life force to bulk and bolster - to blossom and become plump from the bottom up.
Maybe think of it like feeding birds. In order for the winged visitors to pop by, you must first be willing to wait a while. An openness to get still and quiet and curious.
You can't force them to come, but you can scare them away. They need to feel safe enough to trust you, and also hungry enough to take what you are bringing.
What if, then, that force, the energy that animates that bird, makes its wings flap and ruffle, is the same force that allows you to respond and reflect and dance and come to the window at sunrise. What if it wasn't about being creative, but rather about creating the conditions that decrease the barriers between you and that current?
Creativity wants to animate you, Creative Flow Circles, just make it easier for you to be plugged into that silvery socket. They are designed to help you let go of attachment to outcome, ownership and perfectionism to truly melt into the process.
There are many doors into the room of flow - connection to something bigger, awe, wonder, inspiration, this is just one of them.
Where we place out attention is where energy flows. By placing our attention on a collective creative process, we are moving energy toward something emergent and true, something collaborative, something peaceful even, connecting beyond differences, beyond language.
Creativity is not a gentle thing, though it can make you softer. Creativity is the force that births supernovas and turns rotten tree limbs into dew covered mushrooms. It is also the force that pulls you awake in the middle of the night, forging the line of a poem or uncovering an idea for your daughter's birthday party. So perhaps connecting with creativity is a way to reconnect with "our place in the family of things," as Mary Oliver says.
Through nurturing this relationship with a practice like Creative Flow Circles, we are turning toward an innate essence that has the capacity to fill and fuel us. No matter what your background, profession, or interests, this kind of orientation toward inspiration and process has the capacity to make us all more flexible, adaptive, playful, vital and resilient.
Sign up for upcoming circles here.
Creative Flow Circle at The Merry Barn
Creative Flow Circle at St. Columba's Church
Morgan Mitchell is a creatress + designer. She joyfully offers practices, products and pieces of original art designed to inspire and animate courageous creativity. She lives on the coast of Maine.