brown-dirt-footMy experience has taught me that I have to look at what is before I can create what could be. I can consider what could be, I can imagine and wish for it, but to begin the process of manifesting what I desire requires examination and acceptance of the current situation.

Creativity requires energy to flow. When protective mechanisms consume energy, it cannot flow. Several years ago I worked through the exercises that Julia Cameron outlines in The Artist’s Way. Cameron insisted that the reader do “morning pages”, a daily exercise of writing at least three pages of whatever was on your mind while suspending judgment about the content of what you wrote. Morning pages was all about moving through the muck. It takes energy to hold onto thoughts. My inner dialog, my muck, needed airtime. Airtime freed the energy it took to keep my thoughts on lock-down.

People in groups need to be seen and heard. Their thoughts need airtime. Otherwise, energy is consumed to keep thoughts on lockdown and assumptions hidden.

To unleash creative energy in groups, pay attention to and address two things.

1.  The Present Moment

Only the present moment holds latent creative energy. The key to unleashing it is to give airtime to the thoughts that group members hold in the present moment. If their thoughts are on lockdown, their creative energy is unavailable to flow. So, ask them to share their present thoughts about what they see and hear happening in the group and their reaction to it. You can prime the pump by sharing what you’re observing and your reaction to it.

Many people who lead groups have told me that they fear asking people to express what they are thinking. They fear unleashing complaints or a never-ending story. They fear unleashing negative emotions such as anger or sadness. I hold to the Mr. Rogers tenet: if it’s mentionable, it’s manageable. And, I have experienced its truth in practice. Help a group make thoughts mentionable by creating safety.

2.  Airtime Safety

Help a group prepare for thought transmission by first talking about how to have such a conversation. Ask the group to list the ground rules that they want to follow. When I have asked groups to do this, they come up with the most important rules that create safety for them. If there’s a ground rule missing from the list and it’s important to you as the facilitator, own it and add it.

Acknowledge to yourself that you might feel discomfort if a person expresses negative emotions during the conversation. Remind yourself to empathize without judging or giving advice. Encourage others to do the same if you see them struggle when a group member expresses a negative emotion.

Make the muck mentionable and manageable, move through it, and unleash the creativity of the group.