Visualization is the second step in the creative process. All the steps are equally important and it’s best to take time with each of them, but slowing down may be even more important at Step 2 than at the other steps. So make sure you give this stage ample time.
At first, the brain lavishes the scarce resource of attention on a single problem. But, once the brain is sufficiently focused, the cortex needs to relax in order to seek out the more remote association in the right hemisphere, which will provide the insight.
Jonah Lehrer, Imagine–How Creativity Works
Think of Step 1 as the large opening at the top of a funnel into which you throw everything imaginable and then some. Step 2 is the narrow tube that slows down the flow of ideas. Slowing down helps you weed out the shoulds so you can get to the juicy stuff. Try your ideas on to see if they fit you. Are your goals personally meaningful to you and consistent with your values? Visualization utilizes soft—as opposed to hard—thinking.
“INTO THE FUTURE” JOURNALING EXERCISE
You can use this journaling exercise for more than one of your ideas. First, sit back and close your eyes. Using as much sensory detail as possible, imagine that you have already fully realized your goal or dream. Where are you? What do you see? What do you hear? What are you doing? How do you feel? Who else is there? After you get a complete mental picture, set your timer for 10 or 15 minutes and describe this scene/situation. Keep your pen moving across the page. Don’t stop to think about what you’re writing. When you’re finished, ask yourself how you feel, and then jot down a few notes or sentences. Were you excited, tired, happy, stressed, or bored? That can tell you a lot about whether or not this particular goal is one worth committing yourself to.
Creative visualization is sort of like thinking in pictures instead of words. Visualization has many benefits and is often used in conjunction with meditation. There are lots of different ways to do it, including following scripted exercises from a CD or DVD. For the purpose of Step 2 of the creative process, you’ll be using your imagination to paint a picture of whatever it is you want to create. All you need to do is find a quiet place where you can relax with your eyes closed. The first time or two you try this you may have a difficult time creating a clear or convincing image of what you want to create. But this exercise works best the more often you repeat it, so don’t worry about that. If you allow yourself a few minutes every day to give yourself over to your imagination, your mental picture will become clearer and clearer. As it does, you’ll get a stronger feel for whether this is something you really want in your life. And if it is something you want, your visualizations may serve to refine and/or add details to your goal or dream.
A collage is an assemblage of images that, when juxtaposed in whatever way strikes your fancy, creates an entirely new image. Making one is a great way to visualize your goal or dream. Your particular collage can be quite literal or it can be entirely fanciful, evocative rather than representative. You’ll need a piece of cardboard or poster board (available at office supply and craft stores), along with some type of adhesive, such as a glue stick, a pair of sharp scissors, and a stack of pictorial magazines. But you don’t have to limit yourself to pictures in magazines. You can embellish your collage with rubber stamps, postcards, gift wrap, fabric, ribbon, beads, or colored markers. You can take the quick-and-dirty route and make a collage in an hour or so. Or you can spend several days looking at pictures and cutting them out before you begin arranging them. The idea isn’t to be careful, but to create something that has meaning for you. I really enjoy making collages and writing this is inspiring me to get back to it. I have several pieces of poster board and stacks of magazines and already-cut-out images waiting for me in my garage.
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Enneagram types 3, 7, and 8 may struggle the most with this particular step. Rather than slowing down and reflecting on what they are about to create, they’re likely to start setting things into motion without considering the long-range implications, either for themselves or for others. These types need to give themselves a time out before moving from conceptualization to manifestation. Call on a trusted friend to help you put on the brakes before you proceed to take the world by storm.
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