When I was teaching, I would often ask my students to breathe deeply, then close their eyes and visualize their personal Creativity Closet. The visualization came about because of something that had occurred to me spontaneously, one afternoon while I was alone. I found myself, in my imagination, standing at an open closet door. When I entered the closet, I discovered there was a backdoor and upon opening it found a world of wonderful color and a variety of objects. This imaginary closet didn’t seem to have parameters, it went on forever. An endless space, with room after room to explore and discover.
The first time I did the visualization with a group, one man in the audience said that he couldn’t see anything when he closed his eyes, it was all darkness. I told him this was in his imagination and that there, he could reach out his hand, find a light switch and flick it on. He did so and was inordianately pleased with what happened when he turned on the light.
The response to this little exercise was always varied and full of surprising experiences. One woman said she could not get past the doorway because there was no floor to her closet. We discussed the fear of falling and failure. Another gentleman saw himself enter the room and promptly sit down and fall asleep. We talked about denial and our personal responsibility to see that we stayed on our journey, alert to what life was offering to us. Most people were amazed at the diversity of objects and activities they found inside that imaginary closet. We would discuss the world of possibilities and what to do with all of that.
I always had them write down as much of their experience as they could remember immediately following the exercise. Most people were stunned at the size of the space they discovered within themselves. Only a very few found cramped dark places. When they did, I would encourage them to use their imaginations to push back the walls, creating a space that was comfortable, but still felt safe and secure.
What I found fascinating was the endless variety of what they wrote and listed after doing the exercise. And each one was uniquely individual, tailored to the person who created it. Some found animals or birds, others found a room filled with hats, or coats, scarves of variegated colors, or desks with writing and drawing tools ready to be used. One woman found several different types of sewing machines and an endless supply of fabric in textures and contrasting colors and laughed delightedly when she could see herself spending time in such a space. Some found open space, no walls, but somehow protected from bad weather.
The eagerness to explore this inner space was highly contagious and just plain fun to participate in. After exploring and writing about it, we would always discuss staying open and going back to that writing as often as possible. Those feelings remain attached to the words and are not difficult or hard to recapture. And I was quick to point out that the exercise was one that could be repeated at will. Things, conditions, realities change and that would change perspectives and perceptions, but also give rise to even more possibilities.
I am personally, still exploring my own creativity closet. And even though I have been doing so for many years, there is always something new to be found and worked with. Writing them down, not only anchors them into memory, but also often suggests even more connections and activities. Which, of course, also need to be noted.
Another activity, which I used to encourage further exploration, was a collage of that inner space. Finding images, even objects to put together as a whole image. On more than one occasion, students would come back and tell stories of how they actually found, or encountered, those very real things and activities within a short space of doing the collage.
One gentleman actually started gluing images on the inside of a physical closet door. I thought it was fantastic and when I was allowed to see it, he had already glued images on over half of that threshold. It was beautiful and he spoke of when the door was completely covered, how he intended to move on to the walls and maybe even the ceiling. By the way, this was the same man who found only darkness when he closed his eyes.
Having repeatedly written about how creative energy is also healing energy, his very real closet door was a constant source of encouragement to my own person. The awareness of just what openness can accomplish when allowed. After he showed it to me, we discussed the C.S. Lewis story about The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. How each of us had read the story many years before and how it related to the ease of imaging our own Creativity Closet with all of its contents.
Here, I am constantly trying to emphasize how a journal can be many things, but most importantly it is a source for discovering ones own creative possibilities. In a very real sense, it is another kind of physical Creativity Closet. All one needs to do is open the door and walk through it.