Please welcome Whitney Ferre, and hang onto your hat as you read this because she is a force of nature. I was pleased to invite Whitney to lead a workshop at the Writer's Loft last September and ever since then I've been wanting to get the chance to find out more about her and her work. Whitney exudes passion for the topic of creativity. It is impossible to talk to her, attend a workshop, or read her blog without getting excited about her right-brain activities.
I feel especially lucky, because even though Whitney now lives in Nashville, this summer she's moving to Oregon. I'm hoping this means our paths will cross more often now. Be sure to check out her site here, and if you want to get a hold of her, her email address is at the end of this post. It is a long post, but guys, its really worth reading. This woman is full of ideas and tips. I've been doing some of her creative right-brain exercises to enhance my writing, and they work!
You maintain that doing simple creative activities will change your life—can you explain why?
Before my clients became Creatively Fit, they would have wonderful, creative ideas, but they would never get further than the “idea”. Why? Because, with their left brain, logical, critical mind dominating their consciousness, their brilliant, creative idea was met with all the reasons why it would never work, why they weren’t qualified, etc. That is the job of the left brain—to protect the ego. Your creative, brilliant ideas are a threat to the ego because these ideas haven’t been done before and there IS a chance of failure and that would hurt your ego. “So what!” That is what your right brain says to the left brain’s logical, critical, self-absorbed perspective. Once you engage this voice in your mind, open up to your “Artist Within” and give it equal platform with your left brain voice by doing the Creatively Fit Workouts…THEN things can start changing!
One of the quotes that jumped out at me from your website is this one: "If you want to change your life, you have to do something different." Can you explain the process by which creating change through creativity happens?
Einstein is the one who said, “Problems cannot be solved by the same consciousness that created them.” He also said that it “all comes down to whether or not one believes in a friendly or unfriendly universe.” So if something in your life is not going the way you desire you have to CREATE change. You have to DO something different to get NEW results.
The way we have all been programmed to think and to act is very linear + logical. We think, “Well, if I do this, this, and this, then, this has to happen.” We are so busy trying to figure “it” out that we have completely ignored an entirely different skillset that we have at our disposal—our right hemisphere. This is the creative side, the holistic side, the intuitive side, AND the side that believes in a friendly universe!
When you engage yourself in one of the Creatively Fit Creativity Workouts you are throwing your left brain voice a curve ball. It will whisper (or shout!) into your conscience, “What are you doing? Have you ticked those last couple items off your to-do list? Have you called her back? Mailed the bills? Done the laundry?.....on and on!” This is how you can tell you are on the right track. This left brain, inner judge/critic voice is about to be given a well-deserved rest, but it will fight you. Just a couple of minutes with paper and colored markers and it MUST CHECK OUT. It doesn’t get it. Aaaaaaahhh…now your right brain, the one with the universal, everything-is-working-out-perfectly, YOU CAN DO IT voice, can check in. “Hello! How can I help you create the life of your dreams today?” This is when the inspiration hits, the “coincidences” start happening, your intuition gets clearer….
This is the REAL you. The you that is balanced and centered and knows when to access your left brain voice and when to access your right. Now you are mindFULL. You are living more authentically. You will feel more fulFILLed. It is all because you learned how to tune in to your WHOLE mind—not just the side that is broadcast from every street corner. Ooooh, it is fun!
How does developing your brain and being more creative lead to a happier life?
Imagine you had been going to the gym for the last five years and only exercising the left side of your body. Imagine the difference that would exist between your left and right arm. How would you walk? Stand up straight? Then, imagine that you were able to balance both sides of your body, creating equal strength on both sides. How much happier would you be? It is the same with our minds. Maybe our right brains have not been so underdeveloped as I described above, but, for the most part, it is still left brain thinking, the linear, logical, factual, “scientifically proven” way of thought, that is the most accepted way of thinking in this world. Being more creative, which means doing, thinking, or being in a different way, will inherently contrast our left brain routine and bring us back to center, closer to our authentic selves and the way we are supposed to move in our worlds.
I know that when you present workshops, you talk a lot about your right-brain research. What's the latest?
The biggest themes coming out of advances in neuroscience involve three areas: 1) the brain’s neuroplasticity, 2) the greater connection between left and right hemispheres in highly creative people, and 3) Quantum Physics and the fact that we create our own reality.
When you look into any brain research, you will find that the mind is ultimately more intricate than just right/left. The greatest theme is that creative individuals use more of their brain, more areas light up under the MRI simply because they are thinking about things from many different angles. I emphasize “right brain” because there are confirmed distinctions between the left and right hemisphere and it is a fabulous working paradigm for us as we go through our day, “I just had a very left-brain morning doing accounting work, so I should balance with some right brain work this afternoon.” What the research into neuroplasticity has found is that we CAN change the way we think, develop new patterns, and “learn new tricks”. This is huge for the creative world. If I had a dime for every time I had heard, “I’m not creative,” I would be rich. Whether or not you FEEL creative, you CAN be creative.
Other research into the nature of the creative mind has revealed that highly creative people have a larger corpus callosum connecting the two hemispheres. These people are able to go back and forth, draw from a greater mental resource, than less creative people. Again, it is evidence that with regular diversion from the routine, new ideas and ways of doing things develop.
Developing your right brain in the Creatively Fit Program does two fabulous things (among many others): first, it teaches you to look at your life as art and to accept your role as the artist. This is a huge shift. It happens as you learn to paint. You learn about the value of contrast, the lights and the darks. Contrast is so important in our own lives. Contrast is the hard days vs. the good ones. With your new perspective of the art that is your life, those hard days become catalysts for new beginnings; they illuminate the good and take you there.
The second thing that happens is you, literally, completely change the way you think about things AND you change all the new ideas coming to you by diverting the flow from steady left brain to an even infusion of BOTH left and right. For example, any of the BIG dreams we have are not going to manifest themselves in our lives coming at it from “logic." In order to achieve those big dreams you have to do something radically different and, without a doubt, take a big risk, an act of faith. Your logical left brain does not thrive in that kind of environment. That is why it will shut you down, get you “stuck” before you can take action. Think of “writer’s block." What if you write something really fabulous? You will have to do all kinds of things that you have never done before and then there is that chance that you will fail. That would be horrible—ego voice. For the “Artist Within” (right brain) voice this kind of challenge is just like contrast in the painting. It is what makes the art (and the life) interesting and valuable. It will urge you to trust (in the friendly universe) and to take bold action. It is your right brain that will lead you into the uncharted territory of all your dreams and ideas—not the left. NOW, once you get into that uncharted territory, you are going to want your left brain back to help build the new structure and store all the new information you are learning. It is the classic yin & yang. Most of us have just been living with too much yin and not enough yang.
Another one of your quotes is that the "mind responds like muscles." Can you explain this in terms of creativity?
I just posted a video on our YouTube Channel and I referred to the fact that we go to the gym to exercise and to create change in our physical body the SAME WAY that we can go to Creatively Fit and do the creative exercise to create change in our spiritual body. Thomas Edison said, “The mind can be trained just as a set of muscles, if one will only take the time to train the mind to think.” If you have watched the movie What the Bleep you have seen their illustration of how our minds create new neural networks when we do or think new things. SO, every time you do a creative activity you are reinforcing those synapses, strengthening them, creating a closer connection, so that you can summon those creative abilities whenever they are needed. Likewise, in the movie, it shows how if you stop using a neural network it will eventually disengage and you will lose that connection. I find this all SO fascinating!
I know you've been following the press that creativity has been getting, such as the Newsweek cover story last summer. What are we finding out about the role of creativity in our lives and the current state of creativity in our country?
It is so exciting to see in the media every week more and more about the value of creativity and right brain thinking. The February Oprah Magazine issue read like my blog—it was incredible! I just read another article about the increase, or addition of, right brain thinking in college engineering programs. A friend just shared with me that the keynote speaker at a huge conference for operating room nurses lead off his speech declaring that they were ALL artists. It is coming from all sides. The disconnect I see, and that I love to fill, is that there is not much advice on HOW to become more creative or HOW to strengthen those right brain abilities. Creatively Fit provides a HOW that truly works.
I just got off the phone with one of the women in my Creatively Fit Coaching Training and she shared with me how the “Scribble Drawing” Creativity Workout rescued her from a breakdown in the middle of doing her taxes! This is the kind of news that makes my day! She was literally so frustrated and on the brink of tears (I SO get that—not a numbers gal) and decided to take a break and scribble. ALL YOU DO is scribble for 2 seconds on a piece of paper with whatever pen, pencil, marker you have handy. Then, you simply look at the scribble. What does it make you think of? Add that to the scribble. Do you see a face? Add the eyes and nose. Do you see a dog? Add the ears. Do you see a bird, or a car, or a platypus!? Just add to the scribble. Let one mark lead to another for 5 minutes. Then, write down the first five words that come to mind. Somewhere in those words is insight into your question, situation, OR a thought that can balance the “taxes."
Another “exercise” I just gave to a client was to simply cover a canvas with paint. I told her to pick two primary colors and white to put on her palette (I use a paper plate) and just scribble, color, mark the paint to cover the white canvas. I told her not to worry about WHAT she was going to paint, but to just paint. I guarantee that all those art supplies that she has accumulated over the years to collect dust in her corner will gain a NEW life, once she gets started. It is all about disengaging that voice that is pressuring us to PRODUCE something of “value” (as in $$ terms). She knows logically that she is not painting to create a perfect painting that will sell for $100’s, but that is still what is keeping her from doing it. You need to replace that with the “exercise” paradigm. It’s not like we are going to the YMCA anticipating our professional athletic career! We know we are just doing it because it is good for us. It is the same with these Creativity Workouts.
Another fun exercise is the Torn Paper Face Collage. You can see lots of these in the Creativity Workout Gallery on the home page of CreativelyFit.com. We created over 185 of these to send to women in Nigeria in January and February! So fun! The message here: JUST DO IT!
Do you have any specific suggestions of creative activities that writers could use, perhaps to warm up?
In my book, The Artist Within, I have 15 different Creativity Workouts that are really all fabulous for inspiring your writing. One of the most powerful exercises for my clients has been the unassuming “Scribble Drawing” (as I mention above). It is like stream of consciousness doodling. You can literally ask your Artist Within for the idea that you need, scribble for five minutes, look at the results and the ideas will come right to you. It is amazing. You basically summon up your subconscious mind and it delivers the answer. Doesn’t sound “logical”? Exactly why it works. You can see an example of the Scribble Drawing on my blog here. Here is another great blog entry for you, “Writing Prompts from your Right Brain.”
Creatively Fit has been a partner with Women for Women International. Women for Women works with women in war torn countries to help them to rebuild their lives (to create change, right?). I partnered with Women for Women for last year’s National Women’s Day in New York City, so I had met with the marketing director and the founder Zainab Salbi. Then, this past July, I got an email from a woman in Nigeria asking for help. It was an incredible email and within 24 hours two people had randomly brought up Nigeria to me, so I took that as a sign. Because of that email from Vivian, I launched the Creatively Fit Coaching Training Program so that Vivian could learn the Creatively Fit System. The short version, this IS actually the short version of this story (!!), is that since Women for Women serves 4500 women in Nigeria, and since we would love for Vivian to be able to provide Creatively Fit programming to those women, we asked Women for Women if we could send over as many Face Collages as possible. We wanted these to be a visual symbol of our support, our hope and our creative energy to the women there. One of our participants named them “Faces of Hope” and women around the country gathered together to “Create for a Cause." It was incredible. We are still awaiting the news that the face collages have arrived. I am anxious to launch another ARTreach. I want these to always focus on empowering women who have so much less than we do, fewer choices, fewer opportunities, fewer freedoms, and fewer resources, but who have such ENORMOUS need and desire to CREATE change. If we send them our creative energy, it WILL make a difference.
What are you most excited about in your life and creativity right now?
Well, in my life I am MOST excited about moving to our ranch in NE Oregon. You all have to “google” Joseph, OR. That will give you a good idea of where we are moving. I feel very led there. It is a magical place. I am excited for Creatively Fit and for me to be immersed in the energy of this land. I believe it is going to influence greatly the content I create for Creatively Fit and, who knows, for new projects. There is a strong artist community there and I am already planning to design some light fixtures with the glass blower and the metal worker! Too fun!
In creativity right now I am most excited about a new spirit that is being infused into the Creatively Fit experience. For me, in my own Creatively Fit practice, the most thrilling results have always been on a spiritual level. The work creates such a tremendous connection to your subtle self, your spirit, your intuition, to your center. Up until now, I felt led to keep the spiritual benefits somewhat sequestered from my frontline marketing, etc. I did not want to put anyone off and I wanted to give everyone a chance to just get into the creativity work on their own and experience the shift organically—because I know it is an inevitable result of getting Creatively Fit. But now, literally in just the last 3 weeks, I have gotten so many “signs” that now is the time to lead more with this information. I guess more people are open to the fact that they have a spiritual side and that connecting to that side, that awareness, is going to bring them greater fulfillment. It has been really interesting to observe how scared this actually makes me and how comfortable I was to let this aspect of creativity linger in the background until people found it themselves. But I do believe our world is evolving rapidly on the spiritual plane. I believe more and more people are waking up to the shift that needs to happen in our world in order to create a more compassionate and sustainable future. We simply CAN’T keep going the way we have been going. This shift, this waking up, is SO exciting for me. It is the reason I believe I have been infused with this passion, since 1995, to provide an opportunity for people to explore art making, to re-define their creative ability, and to have a new awareness they can take back out into the art that is their life and CREATE the change they desire. The difference is now that everyone is blatantly aware of the need for change.
The other source of immense excitement for me is the Creatively Fit Coaching Program. Once I had created this program for Vivian in Nigeria, and posted it to the site, I had so many amazing women contacting me and joining the program. I have ALWAYS envisioned Creatively Fit as an umbrella that other women could come under to live their life + work focused on the arts. Now, there is a whole team of us, coaches, who are passionate about and working towards liberating everyone from their “I’m not creative” statements and coaching them through the process of creating the life they desire. It is totally thrilling. This spring I am travelling to Cincinnati, N. Virginia, and New York City to lead events with my new coaches. The possibilities have just been exponentially increased by this coaching program and we are ALL so grateful.
Anything else you'd like to mention?
Answering the question above reminded me to encourage everyone with the fact that I have NEVER had ANY formal art training. When I opened The Creative Fitness Center in 1996 I did not even know what color paints to order for the classes—in fact, I ordered all the WRONG colors. Even when they arrived I just thought, “Hmmm, these will make an interesting painting.” The colors were horrendous! So this has always given others hope, I love this about my story. You don’t have to have ANY artistic ability or ANY “creative talent”. Of course, you all have creative ability because it is what makes us human and what connects us to the divine. In fact, my clients who experience the greatest, most radical success in this program started without any art “talent” or history at all. The more these Creativity Workouts contrast your routine, the more powerfully they will move through you and infuse you with its transformational energy. It is such a gift to be witness to this work.
3 Things You Can Do RIGHT Now:
1) Go to www.creativelyfit.com and “Join Creatively Fit” so you can stay posted about all the exciting news AND download my free eBook that shares with you “7 Simple Things You Can Do NOW to Get Into Your Right Brain”.
2) Join me on facebook and “like” www.facebook.com/TheArtistWithinU.
3) Join the online program. Start with Step 1: Meet Your Artist Within. If it does not open up an entirely new world to you, let me know and I will refund every penny and spend an hour on the phone with you myself introducing you to this magically creative and inspired side of you!
I have to add a 4th….I would LOVE for you to buy my book, The Artist Within, and allow it to provide you with so much inspiration and so many tools that you can use to inspire your own creative side. I want to read YOUR book, so let me know when it is available.
You can reach Whitney at firstname.lastname@example.org. Whitney is also available as a Creatively Fit Coach to train you to create whatever change it is that you desire. Email her for more information.
All images courtesy of Whitney Ferre and her website.
You can read the previous Creative Cognoscente Interview with Tara Sophia Mohr here.