Here are two handouts that provide students guidelines for working on a semester-long creative project. I use this exercise in my course States of Consciousness, although it could be used in a variety of other psychology courses.
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The creative project can be almost anything...
A Creative Project
The creative project for the course can be ANY creative work - writing, drawing, music, sculpture, photography, a scientific work, an innovation in sports... anything! If you get stuck in choosing a project, simply think about something you DO WELL, something that you find exciting to do. It is an activity that creates a state of consciousness that takes you out of your normal, everyday mode of thinking and perceiving. Humanists would say it has the potential to create a "peak experience" for you - something you can lose yourself in, something that enables you to express your ideas and feelings, that enhances your "self-actualization."
Try to stretch yourself
Try to pick a project in which you are stretching yourself - in other words, something that is relatively new to you, something that is at least slightly different than what you have tried before. This is especially important for people who often pursue creative activities. Try not to do just more of the same of what you are used to doing. Experiment, take some creative risks.
What's the point?
The creative process often involves alterations in one's state of consciousness - especially the "inspiration" phases of creativity. The ideas that inspire you to create, the skills that guide the creative process, and what you express about yourself in the creative work - all have their roots in how the unconscious mind influences the conscious mind. Explore these connections between the conscious and the unconscious. Look for SUBTLE changes in your states of consciousness!
The point of the project is NOT to grade your project or judge how "good" it is. Good or bad is irrelevant. What's important is your using the creative project as an opportunity to explore various states of consciousness.
Use our techniques
Many of the techniques we are talking about and trying in class can be applied to your creative project. For example:
Pay attention to your dreams. Dreaming about your creative project means the project is being worked through in the unconscious. Explore these dreams thoroughly to get ideas for the project and to understand how the project reflects your personality and your life.
Use meditation techniques to quiet your mind and allow unconscious inspirations and insights to surface. Let your mindful awareness wander through various aspects of the project. Or try focusing your mindfulness on a particularly important element of the project in order to penetrate to a deeper understanding of it.
Use the techniques discussed in the handout "Working (and playing) with Dreams" to explore various elements of your project. Treat the project as if it were a dream. Try, especially, the imagery techniques.
There will be times when you get stuck, bored, frustrated, etc. This is part of the creative process. Often breaking through an impasse moves you to a new level of creativity. See the handout "Working and with Dreams" for ideas on dealing with an impasse.
Keep a record
Be sure to keep a record of your progress in your journal. Periodically go back over your entries to see where you came from and where you are headed. These entries are the ongoing record of the alterations in your consciousness as you progressed through the project.
Presenting your project
You will be presenting your project to your group in class. Concentrate on describing your creative process:
- how you got ideas for the project
- how you used dreams, meditation, or other techniques
- the various states of consciousness you experienced throughout the project
- if and how you got stuck and unstuck
This second handout describes what the students should do when they present their creative projects to their small groups. On the day of the presentations, I also make sure everyone has a copy of this handout. You can also download the fully formatted pdf file of the actual handout.
Follow these steps in presenting your project to your group:
Presenting the Creative Project
Write down notes about these questions, and bring them to your presentation. Bring this handout to the presentations.
- Describe how you got the idea for your project.
- Show and explain your work.
- Describe how you used dreams, meditation, or other techniques from class. (See the handout "The Creative Project")
- What different states of consciousness did you experience during the project? (like emotional states, daydreams, reveries, etc.)
- How did you get ideas? How did you get stuck and unstuck?
- What does the project say about you as a person?
Everyone should give feedback to the presenter (go around the group).
- say what you liked about the project
- what stands out in your mind about the project or how the person did it?
- describe any similarities to your project and how you did it
- ask the presenter a question about his/her project
- does the project remind you of anything the person said during the semester?
- what do you think the project says about the person?
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