Breaking Down Your Comfort Zone

How are you spending your days? Has your couch become your new bed and your TV your best friend? Are you meditating, doing yoga, taking walks in nature? There’s nothing wrong with TV; I love good movies and comedy. But writers need inspiration and stimulation. So how are you being creative?

The WFWA (Women’s Fiction Writers Association) recently organized a new member’s page on Facebook to help inspire writers. Members have offered cooking tips, baking tips, a recipe for goop, a virtual garden tour, a virtual museum tour, even yoga exercises. When you’re not in the mood to write or the idea jar is empty, the mind needs somewhere else to turn. All of these posts are geared to take your thoughts on a mini-vacation, to tune out the outside world and let you escape for a short time so that you come back renewed, refreshed, and revitalized. 

One way to break out of the comfort zone and reenergize is to take on a new project. WFWA was looking for ideas for their new page so I chirped, “I make origami butterflies.” I imagined I could locate the Internet video that taught me how to make them, post the video, post some photos of my butterflies, and that would be that. It was SO not that. They wanted a Facebook live demo—YIKES!—and settled for a pre-recorded video. But I’d never done a video before and the idea of me being live on film frazzled my nerves.

When I’m frazzled I procrastinate by thinking. The demo part was fairly easy. I just had to make an origami butterfly, and I’d already made hundreds. But I’d never made one on film. Did I need to explain each step? What do I call the different parts of the paper – tips, points, folds, creases, edges, openings? OMG. I got even more frazzled. So I made a butterfly and for each step I wrote down an explanation. These instructions (I was certain) would help me in my demo.

Then I thought about my introduction. When I began origami. I remember my older brother teaching me to make a flapping crane, one of the most common shapes. There were a lot of folds and each one needed to be precise. I loved the quiet, the stillness, the methodical folding and creasing, turning the paper this way and that, bending it this way and that way, sometimes inside itself, until this beautiful creature emerged and I had a bird with a beak and wings. It was perfect for the perfectionist child. But over time I put aside my interest. 

A couple years ago I saw an amazing movie called Between the Folds where artists and scientists are interviewed about the magical properties of origami, and some of the shapes and figures they make are astounding. Inspiration flared and leaped and I scoured the Internet for something to make. And I found the butterfly. I also discovered different kinds of paper—Chiyogami (a Japanese paper that feels almost like cloth), Thai momi (a marbled tissue-like paper with gold or silver streaks), Lokta paper from Nepal, Mango paper, Banana paper . . . the list goes on and on.  

After two days of procrastination I recorded my demo (I didn’t need all those explanations), then I took a lot of deep breaths and filmed an introduction, and, finally, a thank you at the end. Yes, it was nerve-racking. But am I glad I did it? You bet! Routine is wonderful but sometimes you need change. I need change. Not only did this create change but it also gave me a level of confidence I didn’t have. I CAN do new things. (See the video here.)

As a child, origami was a puzzle to unlock. If you follow all these steps you’ll have this result. As an adult, it’s become a way to relax, to calm my mind. I make butterflies while I listen to music or a podcast. Because I’ve made so many butterflies the steps are automatic and I don’t have to think. My mind can focus on what I hear or it can wander. Much like meditation or walking. My thoughts are free and my body relaxes. And that’s the space where creativity lives.

So what new project have you created? What’s inspiring you these days?