Digging Deep: Creativity

– Posted in: Miscellaneous

Over the next couple of months, I’m  trying something a bit different on GGW. I’ll be exploring the 7 steps in the creative process through a series of posts and creativity exercises based on my book, Digging Deep: Unearthing Your Creative Roots Through Gardening (now also out in Kindle). Consider it an online “class” whose goal is to facilitate you in learning to be more creative in your life and garden. I hope you’ll participate.

First, a question for you. What is creativity’? It’s simply the making of something  from what was once nothing. Most of us do it without even knowing, in several unmarked ways—from designing our schedules, to fashioning our ‘look’, from writing birthday cards to building a business from the ground up. Lawyers create arguments, lovers create romance, advertisers create pitches, decorators create ambience and parents create everything from learning games to a sense of wonder for their children. Every time we get dressed, make dinner, wrap a gift or have a conversation, we are being creative. When practicing scales on a musical instrument, we can treat it as something we ‘have to do’ or we can go about practicing with intent, finding creative ways to improve our musical skills. There are endless opportunities throughout each day for us to live more creatively.

A lot of us still think that in order to be creative we need to pen a great piece of fiction, compose a symphony, build a skyscraper or design magical gardens. This isn’t true. Creativity is not restricted to being specifically creative in terms of one area of expertise or talent. The ultimate goal is not to be more creative, but to learn how to live creatively. Simply put, it is much less about what you do with your life; rather, it is how you go about doing it.

Living creatively means approaching each moment as a new opportunity. It’s about exploring, trusting your instincts, and owning and expressing your unique style. It means being true to your needs, experimenting, taking risks, staying flexible, and not always having to rush to conclusion. A person living creatively is always pushing towards new growth, as the psychologist Rollo May says, not without fear, but in spite of it.

I’ve divided the creative process into 7 steps: imagining,  envisioning,  planning,  planting,  tending , enjoying, and completing. In my next post, I’ll discuss the first step, Imagining. What shape does it take? How do we go about making it happen in the garden?  And what are some exercises that can help us access the imagination that is deep within all of us?

This coming week, take the time to focus on creative moments in your everyday life. You might begin to notice how you go about arranging some collectibles on a shelf,  set the dinner table,  handle a tricky business meeting or choose to sit quietly resting for a few minutes, rather than running helter skelter from one activity to another.

This exercise is not about an end result: rather it is about the process. Note how you feel when you realize that you are, in fact, being creative.

The assigment for this week is to keep a daily record of at least one creative moment or chunk of time that you experience. Think it will be tough to do? I bet you’ll be surprised at what you discover about yourself. Remember, we’ re not talking about the big stuff here. To the contrary, it’s the small stuff, the little steps that count in learning to live creatively….in and out of the garden.

I’ll be curious to hear about your creative moments this week, as well as any personal ‘creativity stories’ that you’d like to share with us.

To learn more about The Seven Stages of Creativity in the garden and life, check out Digging Deep: Unearthing Your Creative Roots Through Gardening in paperback and on Kindle.


Click here to see all posts in the Digging Deep series


Fran Sorin

Fran is the author of the highly-acclaimed book, Digging Deep: Unearthing Your Creative Roots Through Gardening, which Andrew Weil, M.D., recommends as "a profound and inspiring book."  

A graduate of the University of Chicago with Honors in Psychology, she is also a gardening and creativity expert, coach, inspirational speaker, CBS radio news gardening correspondent, and Huffington Post Contributor.

Learn more about Fran and get free resources that will help you improve your life at www.fransorin.com.

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Fran Sorin
17 Comments… add one

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Jose Baldaia January 15, 2010, 6:25 am

It is a wonderful approach to creativity. I also have my opportunity to drive trough gardening and I agree the goal is how to live creatively.
I just selected my seeds ( 28 diferent plants) of pepers and tomatoes to start my work this year.
As I have a small place for gardening so, I need imagination to combine theses seeds with the other plants. It is a passion from the seeds to the table. from the colours to the taste. Thank you for your post.
Jose Baldaia

Dear Jose,
Wow! What a wonderful challenge you have and how beautifully you described it. Can I borrow your phrase.. “a passion from the seeds to the table, from the colours to the taste”.?And you reminded me that I should start ordering my seeds. Thanks for your inspired post. Fran

commonweeder January 15, 2010, 10:29 am

Writing my blog has given me a different perspective on the day. I’m always looking for the best way to express my response to the ordinary things that surround me. As a gardener, a cook, a granny, and a writer I find many moments of creativity every day.

It sure sounds like you have several ways of being creative in your life. Good for you! I hope throughout the coming weeks that you will share some of your thoughts in more detail. Your point about blogging as a creative endeavor is a good one! Fran

carolyngail January 15, 2010, 11:23 am

I have to be creative because its this time of year that I usually come down with a bad case of the epatoozies which is what we Southerners call a malady such as winter which affects our usually good mood.

In past thirteen days we’ve been in an artic deep freeze . To pass the time inside I’ve done the following : Experimented with new recipes, cleaned my 4 story house from top to bottom
( therapeutic exercise ) , invented new games for my 13-month old granddaughter, created a dozen acrylic paintings, planned 4 landscapes, made plans for my own first veggie garden, and read a lot of books.

I believe that boredom and a lot of time are fertile fields for creativity and that if not used in moderation computers, video games, television , facebook, twitter and such stifles it.

Congrats on your book, I’m putting it on my reading list.

You sound like an endless spout of creative activity. I’d be curious to know if you’ve always been this way or if you’ve worked at living a more creative life. Yes, I have friends in Chicago and heard that it is more than cold! I love that your creativity spans a huge range of things that you obviously love doing.
Thanks for sharing! Fran

Darla January 15, 2010, 11:40 am

mmmmm, creativity. It’s hard for me not to over think this.

Dear Darla,
No need to overthink this subject. As the Buddha said always possess a ‘beginners mind’….so it goes with creativity. Will look forward to your participation over the next several weeks! Fran

catmint January 15, 2010, 1:37 pm

I can relate to this and appreciate the post, except that unlike a painting or literary piece, the garden never seems to be completed. And this doesn’t matter because as you say, it is the process that counts.

Dear Catmint,
Actually, the fact that the garden is never complete and is continually transforming is an opportunity to unleash your creativity in a way that you rarely do in other art forms. And yes, regardless, it really doesn’t matter because it is the process that ultimately counts. Fran

healingmagichands January 15, 2010, 2:23 pm

As a massage therapist who is ALWAYS encouraging people to express their creativity, I love your definition. I can’t tell you how many people are wont to say “I’m not creative” when I mention expressing creative sides. Now I have a beautiful definition to turn them on to.

As a gardener, it took me a long time to realize that what I was doing out there was an extremely creative thing, because I too was stuck in the “draw, paint, write” thing.

I’ll be looking forward to the continuation of this series.

Isn’t it wonderful that your patients/clients trust you enough so that they feel free to express their feelings?
It sounds like you are as much of a spiritual guide as you are a massage therapist. I’m glad that my words and thoughts are helpful to you. It’s good news that you became ‘unstuck’ about what gardening is…..it really frees you up to be creative and express yourself…..that’s quite an accomplishment. Fran

Elephant's Eye January 15, 2010, 2:51 pm

(A garden that is finished, is dead) Using the next 6 hot weeks to tide the garden over, and replan the bits that aren’t working. So thanks for a timely set of posts. We will enjoy them!

Dear Elephants Eye-
I’m glad that you’ll be reading, enjoying and hopefully, participating in the ‘Digging Deep’ workshops. Fran

Kathy Green January 15, 2010, 2:59 pm

First, I am really looking forward to following this series, and to try out the exercises each week. Since my businesses are based on my creativity, it will be interesting to see if I can break those functions out from the other parts of my life. This will be great for for me in more ways than you could imagine. Thanks!

I’m delighted that you’re going to participate in the workshops. I hope over the next weeks that you’ll share how your businesses are based on creativity and the changes you are able to make in other parts of your life as well as in your business (I think that’s what you meant, yes??). Thanks for joining us! Fran

Mr. McGregor's Daughter January 15, 2010, 8:46 pm

It’s not the creativity I’ll have trouble with, it’s the writing it down (or rather remembering to write it down). If I make up something for every day, does that count as being creative?

I laughed when I read your post on several counts….join the crowd in forgetting to write things down. I’ll let you be the judge as to whether or not making up something counts as creative moments during a day. It will be interesting to see what you experience over the next several weeks if you participate in the workshop! Fran

P.S. I actually thought your post was pretty creative.

Joanne January 16, 2010, 9:42 am

An interesting post and I suppose I have used my bogs as a creative outlet and also used my skills to try and draw attention to Lyme Disease through my blogs.
The fact that my latest blog Looking at Lyme has now appeared on not only Lyme Disease Google Alerts but ME/CFS Google Alerts means that some success is being achieved and fun along the way.

So glad that you’e having success and fun…that is a winning combination! Fran

Dee/reddirtramblings January 16, 2010, 6:41 pm

I think all gardeners are extremely creative. I watch them as they plant seeds, which whether in straight rows, or broadcast, are done in a creative manner. Thanks so much for this opportunity. I’ll try to keep track of those creative moments and look forward to reading more.~~Dee

dee- so sorry for the slow response to your post. I was out of town for a few weeks (with no computer…yippee) and seem to have missed quite a few posts when I returned. I love your philosophy that all garrdeners are creative. Would love to hear about your creative moments! fran

Artist January 16, 2010, 7:08 pm

Creativity is also transformation of two or more things into something new. Gardening is a top place to be creative.

dear artist,
that’s a good thought. i would also add that it is the process and how the person feels when they are doing something that is labeled ‘creativity’. I agree with you that gardening is a wonderful place to express creativity but that are several other ways to do so as well. i’m looking forward to more of your thoughts over the next several weeks. fran

Liisa January 16, 2010, 9:53 pm

I am really excited about this new series of posts. I find myself most creative when I can manage to get out of my own way. At times, this is a huge challenge. I look forward to learning new ways in which to be creative. 🙂

You are right on target with your phrase about ‘getting out of your own way. Thank you for mentioning this. It is our ego, often a critical voice, which prevents us from surrendering and playing in an uncensored way. And yes, it is one of the biggest and ongoing challenges in our lives . I look forward to your participation in the workshop over the next several weeks. Fran

Rich Pomerantz January 22, 2010, 4:57 pm

A wonderful experience I have had when giving presentations to middle school kids is when I tell them that almost everything they see, touch and use in their lives began in someone’s imagination, from the material used in the walls of the room we are in to the fabric of their clothes to the stories in their books and on and on. They so get it. The light that goes on in their eyes and the energy that fills the room is palpable. I always hope that the idea of the power of their imaginations stays with them long after they forget about the rest of the ‘lessons’ they learn that day.

I wish I had had you as my teacher in middle school. You are potentially giving them a gift that will remain with them the rest of their lives. Thanks for sharing this with us. It’s a keeper. Fran

Jayne January 23, 2010, 7:27 am

I could have used graph paper, but instead this week, I played around in Photoshop this week and created a basic drawn plan of our neighborhood lot. Now I have a plan that I can use to visualize ideas as I’m planning the garden.

Dear Jayne-
Fantastic….it’s great that you were able to use Photoshop to draw your lot. It will help alot to have the basic shape and dimensions on paper when you start designing. Fran

carolyngail January 23, 2010, 2:05 pm

Born that way, Fran. Growing up on a farm without a mother in the rural South and not having material things like a lot of kids do brought out my creativity. If I wanted a doll or new clothes I would have to make them. When I was ten I was given the task of tending the vegetable garden that fed our family year round.

My father made a blank paper border around the perimeter of my room when I was very young so that I could paint or draw as I pleased. No big surprise that I grew up to be an artist.

Teachers were a big inspiration that brought me the magic of books and the love of reading them. The education I received helped me rise out of poverty and become the person I always imagined I could be.

So yes even now in my 6th decade of life I am still an “endless spout of creative activity ” as you put it. I want to be like my Aunt Nell who at 92 kept her own house and tended her own garden. She had a sparkle in her eye to the very end and a sense of humor beyond compare.

What a beautiful description of your background! Thank you so much for sharing it. Fran

Laurrie at My Weeds Are Sorry February 7, 2010, 2:39 pm

Creativity for me seems to equal “necessity”. I have to screen something, or hide an eyesore, or fill a gap or get some shade where it’s too sunny, and voila! I end up with a lovely garden. I never thought of this as creative design before. Your series may be an eye opener for me as I go from looking at my gardens as problems to be solved… to imagining designs. Looking forward to this.

It sounds like alot of what you consider to be ‘problem solving’ or as you refer to as ‘necessity’ is, in fact, your creative process at work!! Fran

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