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A Place to Create

The ideas are waiting to get out. They are second graders raising their hands saying, “Pick me! Pick me!” in the classroom that is your brain. They want to go to recess, which means we need to give them a place to play. 

Sometimes life steals away the moments we could be creative. Sometimes family and taking care of ourselves has to take precedence above letting that idea climb the monkey bars. Sometimes we don’t want to face the same trash-talking, bullying fear that plagues us every time we sit down to create. 



On Finding Your Voice

Telling someone how to find their voice is like telling someone the exact moment they will feel comfortable in their skin. It just doesn’t work that way. Both journeys are piece by piece, a windy path of learning to care about yourself, what you think and say, which will in turn make you want to honor the voices and thoughts of those around you. 

I started performing poetry when I was 17 years old, my last year of high school, after I watched the movie Love Jones. This year means I’ve been performing for half my life. What started out as hip hop-inspired free verse, mixed with the formal poetry I studied in college, has transformed into the mix of spoken word and monologue that I perform today.



What To Do When the Idea Won't Show Up

Creative ideas are funny creatures. They are more like cats than puppies. They will most likely not jump up and down when they see you; tail wagging, wanting your attention. They notice when you arrive at the page/screen/studio, walk by you, rub against your leg, and then jump on the kitchen counter, then on top of the refrigerator and stare at you. Laughing. Proving to you that you will not control them. 

I wish I were an idea pied piper. I wish I knew the special music, tune, tone to play to get an idea to come out and dance on command. Creative ideas require patience and wooing. If they sense desperation, that I’m pressed up against a deadline, or that I’m trying to reenact the magic that happened in some other creative time, the ideas quit on me. They sit on top of the refrigerator with paws crossed and stare at me, daring me to try and create without them. 

Whether you are a poet, creative, leader, parent, student, or spoons player, here are some tips on what to do when the idea won’t show up: 

1. Give yourself plenty of time.  

I have learned to stop making unrealistic promises to people. The creative process takes time whether we like it or not, so we need to be fair to our ideas and to ourselves. 

2. Be patient. 

The idea is going to have its say, and sometimes it’s not going to have its say while you are sitting at your desk, pen in hand, with open moleskin. Sometimes the idea is going to have its say right as you are about to drift to sleep, in the middle of a meeting, or by interrupting a conversation. You are better off not forcing its hand, but riding with its rhythms. 

3. Walk away for a bit. 

In the same way muscles can experience fatigue, your creativity can experience fatigue too. Give yourself and the idea a rest. Come back in a day or two. Then the idea might be ready to see you. 

4. Free write. 

Take a word or two from your topic and time yourself for five minutes, riffing on those words as if they had nothing to do with what you are working on. This will sometimes give you ideas you can keep and even if not it gives your creative brain a new place to travel to. 

5. Let the idea be itself. 

Ever since junior high we have all been on a constant quest to be ourselves. To prove to people that we’re cool, awesome, hipster-y. The coolest thing we can be is exactly who we are without trying to become someone or something else. Your idea wants that same courtesy. Let your idea be itself. Eventually, it will sidle next to your leg, jump in your lap and let you know it’s ready to become a reality.



When Collaborating Gets Messy

I married my deejay and music producer. Since we said, “I do,” we’ve been traveling, working, creating, and performing together, sticking closely to our respective processes.   

Recently, an idea sent the electric feeling of a brainstorm through both of us. We talked about themes, beats, stage versus studio, rhymes, and decided to come up with a name for our duo. All of this sounded really cool and then we sat down to actually collaborate. 

He closed the door to the office and started building the music we’d use. I sat at the dining room table buried in scattered lines of poetry. He let me listen to what he was building and it wasn’t what I’d imagined the music would sound like. I read him my scattered lines and they didn’t make much sense. This quickly turned into an argument. 

My husband has a mind full of beats per minute, keys of music, sounds, bass, and instruments. I have a mind full of metaphors, story, and verse. We frustrated each other and it seemed there was nothing we could do to see each other’s opposing points of view. 

So we decided, even though it might be messy, him banging on an MPC, me scribbling random lines on paper, that if we were going to collaborate we couldn’t do it separately. I listened to the stutter and staccato process it took him to build the music. I relaxed and tried to do what writing poetry always is, listening to hear how the words want to be said. 

We stayed in that room for hours and our frustrations unraveled into a piece of poetry and music that made all the messiness worth it. 

Here are three things to consider when collaboration gets messy: 

  • Pull Back The Curtains 

Reveal ideas that are unfinished, unrefined, and unedited. When people want collaboration they don’t want your perfection, they want your reality and they want you to bring that to the creative table so everyone can get their hands dirty making the idea the best it can be. 

  • Control Freaks Don't Make Good Collaborators  

Collaboration and control DO NOT mix. The more I try to control, the more I miss out. Sometimes creativity is in the accepting and the letting go. When I have relaxed, used the “yes and” approach instead of the “no, that’s not MY way” approach, the ideas arrive faster and better. 

  • Conflict Is Good 

Use conflict to your advantage. Don’t resort to name calling, not listening, becoming defensive or anything else we do when we feel insecure. Conflict during collaboration is not about being right or getting your point across. Dig beneath the conflict to discover how different perspectives and ways of thinking, processing, and creating, can complement each other, create a strong idea, and make that idea an even better reality. 

Inspiration and creativity are waiting to be found in the messiness of collaboration.  



How to Create a No Judgment Zone

Sometimes I get judgey. Okay a lot of the time I get judgey. When I watch people with yucky colds snot, sneeze, and clear phlegm from their throats with no sign of soap and water or hand sanitizer, I judge them. When a parent let’s their child throw a temper tantrum, sweetly calling their child’s name while the child’s yelling is ruining my ear drums, I judge them. When someone I know is in a relationship with someone who has bad character and says “but we have so much fun together” as an explanation for why they stay in the relationship, I judge them. 

I’m pretty good at judging and it always seems like a good idea, until someone judges me. Then it doesn’t seem fair for anyone to misunderstand, shame, or make assumptions about me. Judging someone else is the kind of one-way street that always arrives at a dead end. Judging doesn’t help us to understand other people and it can be a sneaky and negative way for us to attempt to feel better about ourselves by verbally or with our thoughts throwing someone else’s face into the mud. 

Many of us are familiar with school zones that require us to drive a certain amount of miles per hour, or road work zones that make us slow down and change lanes. No judgment zones work in the same way. When we take the time to suspend our judgment we slow down our criticism. We shift our perspective from condescending to understanding.  

Life is hard. Some of us are doing the best we can, getting out of bed in the morning, taking breaths, and making it through another day. Working, parenting, loving and being loved, are all things in life that take hard work. It is also takes work just to be yourself when it can seem easier to hide behind a façade or try to be a copy of someone else. 

When we create a No Judgment Zone in our lives we experience a glimpse of what God does for us. We give each other grace. We allow for each other’s wounds, mistakes, quirks, and imperfections. We remember the days that we are tired, sick, spent. The days we are short with each other and our anger gets the best of us. The days we made all the wrong choices when we had all the best intentions. 

Human beings are terrible at judging but God is great at it, because only God can see the intentions of a human being’s heart. Only God knows when we try to keep our behavior buttoned up but our hearts are running wild in the worst way.  

So the next time you are tempted to be judgey, remember how it felt the last time someone judged you. Think of how you felt on your worst day and give other people the same grace you needed. Think of the love and grace that God gives you even when you don’t deserve it. Love and grace are the best tools to create your own No Judgment Zone.