The final week of the mandala Play Adventure!
In the last 9 days of the Play Adventure I started to wonder if I would run out of good ideas. I was worried that I mightn’t be able to produce interesting and unique designs. So it got me thinking about the part that inspiration plays in creating new ideas.
We commonly view inspiration as that light bulb ‘aha’ moment where in a moment of clarity we come up with the solution out of the blue. But that’s not totally true. Our ideas are never formed in isolation to anything else (although it may often seem like that).
Our brains are pattern-seeking machines, looking to make sense of any new information we receive through our experience and senses, by forming connections and associations with what we already know. A lot of the time our brain is doing this work behind the scenes in our subconscious in what’s described as the Incubation stage*. We experience that moment of insight or inspiration when that connection surfaces to our consciousness through the form of an idea. So all of our ideas are influenced by something else.
To get the best out of this Incubation phase we need to get out of our own way and let our subconscious mind wander. So relax, think about something else. Do something repetitive or rhythmical, like walking, knitting or even the ironing :-), to get yourself into an almost meditative or relaxed state.
In order to generate some different ideas (and engage in some expansive and divergent thinking) we also need to give our mind some new inputs and stimulation. So expose yourself to different places, people and things. And remember that you can take in new information through any of the five senses: sight, hearing, taste, touch and smell.
Don’t worry. It doesn’t mean that you have to do anything extreme or outlandish to plant the seed for a brilliant idea. You don’t need to book yourself on a long trip around the world (unless you want to 🙂 ). Just find small ways to mix up your usual routine. For instance, read a book or watch a movie that you wouldn’t ordinarily pick. Take a different route on your way home. Order something different on the menu instead of your regular favourite dish. Pause to smell the flowers in your garden on your way out to work. Strike up a conversation at the supermarket checkout. Listen to a different radio station for 10 minutes.
You can can create new brain connections by combining old ideas in a new or random way. Use metaphors and analogies to see your problem or project from a different perspective. For instance, how is your problem like an elephant? Is it all moving slowly, and you’re unsure that you’ll be able to get it to go where you want it to? Then how could you use what you know about elephants to solve your problem? Anything to do with elephants takes time, and you have to be prepared to work with their own impulses and needs. So how can you approach your issue knowing that it will take effort over a long period? What preparations could you make before you start moving the “elephant” to help speed up the actual time that you’re moving? Or are there side projects that you could do while you wait for it to move? Are there other ways to cater to the particular requirements of your project or issue to make sure that it goes smoothly? By looking at the issue in a different way it might trigger a solution that you might not have considered in a linear or logical way.
So where did I get my inspiration from for my mandalas? All sorts of places! Sometimes it was something I saw, a suggestion from a friend, wanting to try out a new tool or technique, or hunting around in the craft box.
For instance, after using photos to create the basis of a collage for Day 21, I thought that it might be nice to bring some real nature into my mandala. On Day 22 I was walking down my mother’s driveway and spotted these leaves changing into their autumn colours. I just couldn’t resist 🙂
In the last week, a friend commented on how much she enjoyed seeing how I used different mediums in my Play Adventure mandalas. This remark inspired the mandalas I created in Days 28 and 29 using Derwent Inktense pencils and pastel pencils respectively.
The mandala on Day 8 was inspired by a walk that morning through the long grass and tall trees in the rainforest section of the zoo. Day 11’s mandala was initially inspired by seeing a playground sandpit, and then morphed into a shell that one could find on a sandy beach.
Day 14’s mandala was inspired by the sun. However, I didn’t feel that pencils alone conveyed the bright intensity of the sun’s rays. So I rummaged around in the craft box and found some feathers that I added to create the solar flares in the final version.
The raindrop falling into the sea featured in the mandala on Day 13 was inspired by Graeme Base’s illustration of a raindrop in his book called “The Waterhole”. Burning my mandala as a closing ritual for the Play Adventure was inspired by Rudiger Dahlke’s “Mandala’s of the World”, which included an exercise on sacrifice, making peace and moving towards new realities.
The main thing to remember is that if you’re looking for inspiration, don’t wait for it to find you, get out there in the world. Do something different. Then relax, go about your day, maybe even do the dishes :-), and you might be surprised at what idea might emerge to the surface.
When do you find that you come up with your best ideas?
Where do you turn to for inspiration?
*Scott Barry Kaufman describes the four stages of the creative process as Preparation, Incubation, Illumination/Insight and Verification in PBS’ video on How To Be Creative.