Mari Reisberg, therapist, performer, creativity coach, and host of the Sustaining Creativity podcast, brings her many talents to Hacker Valley to help adults unlock their creativity and engage with their inner child. Tackling topics from artistic ruts to technical frameworks, Mari walks through the essentials of reconnecting with creativity and curiosity. Instead of limiting thoughts to the path of least resistance, Mari challenges her clients to get comfortable with the uncomfortable in creativity.
[00:00] Sustaining creativity & coaching others on becoming curious
[06:35] Defining creativity with new ideas & fresh innovations
[10:07] Climbing out of a creative rut & expanding your comfort zone
[18:47] Unlocking different levels of creativity in everyday life
[23:59] Tapping into creativity and unlocking childhood memories
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What is creativity, in your opinion?
There isn’t one way to define creativity, Mari explains, but instead a myriad of ways. Each person has their own individual relationship with the concept of creativity, but Mari considers creativity to be tied to the processes of coming up with new ideas and innovating on those ideas. Seeing life through a creative lens means that Mari isn’t afraid to try and fail, because everything she does expands her comfort zone and tests her curiosity.
“Creativity is one of those words where, if you asked 100 people, you’d get 100 different answers. For me, my definition of creativity really is around thinking of novel, new ideas. And then, the second piece of the creative process is that innovation process.”
What advice would you have for someone who is trying to find their way through a creative rut?
The human brain will always choose the path of least resistance. People like to feel safe and comfortable with everything they do, but Mari understands that creativity can only be practiced at the edge of someone’s comfort zone. With one foot in her comfort zone and one foot out of it, Mari has been able to escape her own creative ruts and make active decisions to try the everyday activities in her life with a different perspective.
“If my desire is to create something new, something different, and I'm continuing to do the same things and expecting a new result, it's not going to happen. How could you try something different every day?”
Are there different types of creativity, similar to there being different types of intelligence?
In Mari’s experience, there are two forms of creativity: big C creativity and little c creativity. While little c creativity is an everyday reality, big C creativity is much more performative, curious, and expressive. When someone says they aren’t creative, what they’re thinking of is this second form of creativity. The fact is that anyone can become big C creative, but it requires actively exploring and expanding the skills of creativity.
“The big C creativity is what everyone assumes is creativity; performing arts, creative arts, I'm doing something that I'm sharing with the world. The small c creativity is that every day creativity. It’s something new, something different.”
When it comes to wanting to build our creative muscles, what are some techniques or frameworks that we should be considering?
Creativity is a practice, not a one-and-done deal. Mari explains that building creative muscles comes from repetition of creativity, such as trying something new everyday, challenging ourselves to think of something from an opposite point of view, and even daydreaming. Explore what would happen if something, even one small detail of an event, was different, and never limit yourself to the idea that you’re “just not creative.”
“There’re opportunities to flex that creativity, but it's about continuing to do it. You can’t do it once and expect a miracle. You keep coming back to it, keep practicing, keep having new ways of trying something.”
Keep up with Mari Reisberg at SustainingCreativity.com
Check out Mari’s podcast, the Sustaining Creativity podcast
Purchase a HVS t-shirt at our shop
Continue the conversation by joining our Discord
Think about the things that you did as a kid that brought you joy and happiness, that carefree childlike experience, and try it again.
Hacker Valley Studio 00:30
Welcome to the Hacker Valley Studio podcast.
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What's going on, everybody? You are in the Hacker Valley Studio with your hosts, Ron and Chris.
Welcome back to the show.
Glad to be back again, talking about one of our favorite topics, even though we have so many favorite topics, but today, we're gonna be talking about creativity. To join us in this conversation, we've brought in Mari Reisberg. Mari is a therapist, performer, creativity coach, and podcast host of the Sustaining Creativity podcast. When we saw you on pod match, Mari, we knew that we had to bring you on the show, but most importantly, welcome.
Thank you so much. I am so thrilled to be here to chat with both of you today about creativity, one of my all-time favorite topics as well. So happy to be here.
So glad that you're here. Creativity is one of those topics that we've been relearning over time because, as we were saying before the podcast, it really is cultivated when we're kids and we seem to lose it. But before we get to all of that, we would love to hear a little bit about your background and what you're doing today.
Yeah, absolutely. So, I grew up in the Pacific Northwest, in Portland, Oregon, in a very hippie
household. I was sent to trapeze school when I was three and essentially, grew up in the circus from 3 until I was 20 and went off to college for acting. I also grew up with a 30-foot labyrinth, a sacred geometric walking path in my front yard, not the hedge maze from the movie. And then, in acting school, I moved across the country, went to Connecticut, lived in New York City for a while, sang with an Irish band, was a nanny, went on all sorts of auditions, ended up deciding I wanted to do something completely different, and I moved to Colorado to go to grad school and get my Master's in Somatic Counseling, Psychology, Dance Movement Therapy. And now, I am a dance movement therapist. I still perform when I can. I also have a creativity coaching practice, and as you mentioned, I am the host of the Sustaining Creativity podcast, where I interview people from around the world about creativity and their experience of it. So, that is the little brie intro for my life
Sounds like some incredible experiences, but I'm sure there was one experience that really pushed you down this path of cultivating the creativity in others. What was that one experience? Or, maybe there was a few experiences that you had, where you saw that there was a lack of creativity in the world, and a lack of creativity and adults. What was that story, and how did you go about cultivating this practice?
Oh my gosh, it's such a great question. So, when I was in grad school, it was a 3-year grad program, incredibly intense, and in the middle of it, I decided I'm going to audition and be in a rock opera, as you do, that's part of being in grad school, adding more things to your plate. I realized that actually participating in something that brought me great joy made grad school that much easier. I mean, yes, it was still stressful, rehearsals and writing papers and reading copious amounts of literature on dance movement therapy, but having that outlet for myself that really fueled me was such a gift. I started putting these pieces together with what I had been learning about therapy and my experience as an actor in an acting school, and how I realized I wished I had some of these skills and techniques that I was learning as a therapist, when I was an acting school to kind of understand how all of this goes together. I think in the performing arts world, there is still a large taboo around mental health. So, that was my initial drive to kind of combine the two. Take a bit of the taboo about mental health out of the
performing arts, and really bring that performing arts and healing arts together. Because that really spoke to my soul, in terms of how to cultivate and sustain creativity in my own life. When you have performing arts and healing arts working together, as opposed to one separate from the other. So, grad school was a big pivotal point for me, but also just kind of talking to performers throughout my life, around their own challenges with creativity. When you have a really creative job, it's difficult to sustain creativity. People are expecting you to be performing at 120% every moment of every day, and if you don't do something for yourself, for your own personal, private, creative experience, it's really hard to keep that going 24/7.
Wow. So, based off of your background, in my mind, you might be the most qualified to talk about creativity with your background in performing arts, whether it's working in the circus, or just being in a band, all the way to understanding people through therapy. You mentioned a few things that really caught my attention. You mentioned how creativity was almost like a skill, how creativity can be something that goes on within your mind. What I've always looked at creativity also as is a process, but I'm starting to think now it's a mixture of all of these things together. So, what is creativity, in your
opinion? Where does it start and stop?
Yeah, creativity, there are so many pieces. Creativity is one of those words, where if you asked 100 people, you get 100 different answers. And yet, for me, my definition of creativity really is around that thinking of novel, new ideas. And then, the second piece of the creative process is that innovation process. So, taking those ideas and giving them action, or turning them into something. So, creativity really is that kind of marinating experience that you have with ideas, and then innovation is taking those ideas and bringing them out into the world, or turning them into something. So, that's kind of how I define creativity and that experience of creativity. It's multi-layered. I don't know, it makes me think of like, Shrek, he's like an onion, layered.
I'd love to hear the story of your most impactful, or favorite, creative experience.
Oh my gosh. So, every moment of my life I look at through the creative lens. Whether it's getting dressed in the morning, cooking a meal, playing with my cat, exercising, cleaning, relationships, whether it's family, friends, romantic, everything goes through this creative lens and experience. But some of the most impactful creative experiences I've had, were really around failing, and trying something and failing and learning from it, and trying it again. Going on auditions was really a creative lesson for me. I disliked auditioning, and yet, as a performer, you kind of have to do it, that's part of the job. So, being able to reframe that experience for me as a creative experience and not a job. I'm using air quotes here, but it really helped expand my experience of creativity and expand my love and joy in those moments, when it felt like, "Oh gosh, someone is going to be judging me," which essentially, they are in an audition. You're going in and showing your talent or your skill, and someone is saying yes or no, but being able to reframe that. How was I showing up for myself? So, that creativity. What pieces
was I bringing from me to say, "Here's what I do, and I love what I do?" And that was really impactful in kind of shifting out of getting caught in my creative critic space, versus that creative experience space.
So, I have a question that you might be able to help three-month-ago-Ron, right? Three months ago, I was in a bit of what I would call a creative rut, where I was still creating, doing things that were new, but it started to feel repetitive. It started to feel like the things that I was creating were almost predictable. Like, there was patterns in all of my bodies of work, and I didn't feel like I was pushing that creative limit. What piece of advice would you have for three months ago Ron, when he's kind of finding his way through this creative rut and still throwing darts at the dartboard?
Oh, my gosh, I have been there. Well, first of all, our brains love the path of least resistance. They will always choose that. So, if you have a choice to make it hard or easy, they will always choose the easy way. So, recognizing that, having an awareness that, "Oh, I'm choosing the path of least resistance," okay. How can I change that up? But also really looking at our integrity. Am I in integrity doing the same thing? If I want a different result, and I continue to do the same thing, I'm not going to get there. So, I'm kind of out of that integrity that I hold for myself. So, my desire is to create something new, something different, and I'm continuing to do the same things and expecting a new result, it's not going to happen. How could you try something different every day? You're sitting down and writing at the same desk, and you're using a black pen and an unlined piece of paper. What would happen if you use a red pen and a note card? Little tiny things have the potential to shift the way we look at something, or shift the experience of it. Or, maybe you need to write with a crayon? How could that have changed the experience? Making some small shifts can sometimes help spark new creative ideas, but also, creativity really comes alive at the edge of our comfort zone. So, when we find ourselves in that rut, we're really comfortable, it's that familiarity, that safety, which is really important when it comes to taking creative risk. But we also want to get to that edge of our comfort zone, where we have one foot outside our comfort zone and one foot in our comfort zone. So, that's what I would have asked three months ago Ron, where's your comfort zone edge?
There's also an exercise in detachment of the results. Because I feel like, in the very early stages of the podcast, I used to put the podcast out, we would put it out on social media, and I would just refresh. Are people liking it? Are people going to say good things about it? What is the impact? I feel like byproduct of being overly busy, and then also being a little detached from the results, because there are some times we put out things that we think are incredible. We'll have an episode that, from our perspective, is mind blowing, but is usually met with muted results. But then, sometimes, we'll put out ones that we think are almost, not necessarily throwaway episodes, because we think each episode is valuable for one way or another, but ones that we think were a little less than. More than likely on our part, but those
are sometimes the ones that are met with the most praise. Do you feel like there's also a detachment of the results that will lead to, not only a better feeling in the process, but also just a better mental state?
I mean, anytime we can let go or detach from that final end product, it helps us actually be in the present moment of what we are creating and give all of our attention and focus to that moment, as opposed to being distracted about the future, or getting caught up in whether it's going to be great or going to be terrible. I think mindfulness is such an important aspect of creativity that we rarely talk about and we rarely combine the two, but creativity happens in the present moment. When we are thinking about or worrying about future or the past, we're actually not in our most creative space. We've taken ourselves out of that creativity space. So, being able to find that present moment, awareness, having that mindful reset, whether it's a breathing exercise, or whether it's a guided meditation, or just sitting and watching the clouds go by until they change, or listening to bird sounds outside. That can really help us come back to that present moment and step away from our grip on how things need to turn out, or how we want them to turn out, or what we think they should be, and give them permission to be what they are.
So, it almost sounds to me, in my mind, like you're using this state of consciousness in some ways. You're talking about showing up as yourself, layer of acceptance. It almost reminds me of metaphysics, I'm really interested in self-help books of that genre, where they bring in a variety of different auxiliary topics, to make your performance better in many different areas. It sounds like a lot of the things you're describing could boosts your creativity, whether it's meditation, or just finding interest in the things that you're actually being creative towards. What has helped you as a creator, as a performer? What kind of mindful or metaphysical type of activities do you like to employ?
I love getting out into nature. The deeper in nature, the better. When I cannot hear traffic, being able to hear the wind in the leaves, and really get my sensory experience activated. So, the smells, the sight, the sound, the touch, texture, but also meditation. I've had a meditation practice for several decades, and being able to easily tap into that, and it is a practice. It's not something that overnight, all of the sudden, I was like, "Oh, now I'm a meditator." It's something that over decades of practice, it has been a bit of a touchstone for me. So, when I need to come back to a sense of self, I have my meditation cushion. I've got all my little bells and candles, and the songs or sounds that really fuel me to come back to myself. But any form of movement. Sometimes, the most mindful thing for me is putting on my favorite song and having a solo dance party, whatever that looks like, in my bedroom, in my living room, in my office. Sometimes, I'll have to set everything down and just dance in my office. That really brings me back to that present moment, I feel my body, I can see it, I can move however I want to, I'm not embarrassed, because no one else is watching. It's just me, but those are the kind of go-to pieces, getting outside into nature, anything that involves movement, and then, my meditation practice or mindfulness practice. There’re also times where, to come back into myself, I daydream. I spent a lot of time daydreaming, imagining life, I don't know, if I lived on a sailboat or something. What would that be like? To kind of activate some creativity for myself and bring me into my own dreams and my own creations.
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When we think about creativity, I'm sure a lot of people think about the classic forms of creativity, writing, music, performing art, but I feel like there's so many different kinds of creativity. When you think about creativity and you work with these different people, are there different types of creativity, like there's different types of intelligence? How do you find that zone of creativity that works best for you?
So great, and yes, there are different types of creativity. If we think of creativity, there's a little c creativity and a big C creativity. The big C creativity is kind of what everyone assumes is creativity; performing arts, creative arts, I'm doing something that I'm sharing with the world. And the small c creativity is that every day creativity. When I get up in the morning and I get dressed, and I put on an outfit where I feel awesome, that's a creative act. That is an experience of creativity. Or, if I decide I'm going to drive a different way to work, or walk my dog on a new path, that's a creative experience. We have curiosity. Something is new, something is different. We're exploring, and so there's opportunities in every moment of every day to have a creative experience. When it comes to different types of creativity, I think those are the different types. There's everyday creativity, and then more performative creativity. You could take everyday creativity and turn it into performative, that's kind of in the world of
performative art. People take those everyday things, you watch someone cooking, or reality TV is kind of that, right? But I think there's opportunities every day to experience creativity. You mentioned something about creativity being a skill, and I really, truly believe it is. We are all born creative, and as we get older, we grow out of creativity. So, it's a skill that you have to practice, like you would do curls with weights, you flex your creativity every day. The more you do that, the easier it is to access, and the more pliable it becomes, and then it's really at your fingertips whenever you need it.
So, let's talk about that skill for a bit, and maybe even some frameworks that come along with training that skill. I think, based off of everything that we've spoke about this episode, everyone is doing something creative. They might not realize it, but even whistling or singing in the shower is a form of creativity, especially if you're making your own rendition of a song. But when it comes to wanting to grow that scale and build that muscle, what are some techniques or frameworks that we should all be considering?
Yeah, well, to grow it, you have to build a habit. So, keep doing it. Don't just do it once. We want to do it over and over and over, so that it becomes more natural. In the beginning, it might feel really, really awkward to think about how you want to feel when you get dressed in the morning. And yet, the more we do it, the more comfortable we get with that experience, the easier it becomes. But if you want to have more creative ideas faster, how often are you spending daydreaming about really wacky out there things? Or, if you have a product that you want to sell, what's the world's worst idea on how to sell it? You never know, it could end up being the world's best idea, so giving yourself permission to be really curious about things. Ask questions, and don't take no for an answer. eally explore and think of ways you could do something differently. If you always ride your bike the same path, what happens if you ride
it on a new path? You see new things, you get new ideas. There's opportunities to flex that creativity, but it's about continuing to do it. It's not do it once and expect a miracle. It's keep coming back to it, keep practicing having a new way of trying something. If you only wash dishes with your right hand, what happens when you wash dishes with your left hand? You never know.
I like that a lot, and it makes me think of just life in general. I have this unpopular opinion that adults are really just kids that got older, there's so much that we still hold on from childhood, there are things that we do today unconsciously because of our childhood. I'd be curious to hear a story of you talking to someone that felt like they just didn't have any creativity, but when they tapped into their creativity, they went back to their childhood. What was that transformation like for your client? Obviously, you don't have to say their name, but what was that big difference that it made, and how did you feel at the end of that?
The one experience that's sticking out for me right now, is actually from a podcast episode. In my podcast, I ask people what their earliest memory of being creative is, and the person I was interviewing had this very elaborate memory of pretending to be a cowboy and sitting on the back of a couch. When we started our conversation, he said, "Oh, I'm not creative at all," and then, had this huge expression of sharing this creative experience. By the end of our 40-minute interview, he came to the point where he said, "I guess I'm more creative than I thought." He was also a therapist. How much creativity goes into being a therapist and holding that curiosity and asking those questions of other people? But that growing out of creativity, when we think of children, they're not evaluating how beautiful their picture is. They're just drawing it. They aren't asking themselves: Is this right? Is this wrong? I'm just doing this because I love to do it. Or, when you give a kid a present, sometimes the box the present came in has more potential than the actual gift. Being able to just see potential and explore that, I think that was what this guest was talking about when he said he wasn't creative, and then, the more we talked about creativity, the more he saw, "Oh, actually, I am way more creative than I give myself credit for or than I even thought I was." I think that transformation was really powerful for him, to start to bring even more creativity into the things that he does in his life, or see them through that creative lens.
So, let's double click that for a second because I'm sure there are people that are listening to this podcast right now that say that to themselves, or to their friends, or to their colleagues all the time. "I'm not creative. I'm logical, I do this and then that. I take this information and I turn it into this information." What would you tell those people that don't feel like they're creative, that have forgotten their past? Playing as children, or being in the play, or dancing and singing, or creating anything themselves. What is that one piece of advice, or that inspirational knowledge, that somebody needs to hear to tap back into that energy?
Think about the things that you did as a kid that brought you joy and happiness, that carefree childlike experience, and try it again. If it was coloring, or if it was writing, or pretend playing house or playing teacher or warriors, whatever it was. How could you do that as an adult? I'm not necessarily saying, "Go and play school," but what is it like to imagine yourself teaching someone something? How could your imagination explore an experience? Do you need to write a little story about being a teacher? Whether you are a teacher or not, give yourself permission, there's something as adults, we don't want to look silly, goofy, or foolish. And yet, there's something beautiful about feeling that way and stepping outside of that comfort zone. That's where creativity really comes alive. So. it's not going to last forever, feeling foolish or silly, but it might last for the three to five minutes you're doing it initially, and then, we get a little more comfortable trying it. We don't have to do it in front of other people, you can do it by yourself. You could do it in front of your pets, if you have a cat or a dog. Dogs may pay more attention than cats, but be able to try something that you love to do as a kid, or even as your younger self. Maybe it was a musical instrument or singing or calligraphy, or you really like crafting. If you haven't picked up a craft experience, try that. You could do that, or try something completely new, something you've never done before. That can also re-inspire some creativity, or spark something in you that you keep bringing forward in your life.
Great advice. I think people are going to take that to heart. Mari, for the folks that want to stay up to date with you and all the great things you're doing through creativity, what are the best ways that people can do that?
Yeah, I am on all the social media platforms @SustainingCreativity. You can also find me at
SustainingCreativity.com You can listen to my podcast wherever you find podcasts, The Sustaining Creativity Podcast. I love to connect with people, I love to answer creativity questions, so hop on a creativity call. Creativity is my world and I can't wait to share it with all of you.
Beautiful. Creativity is the world and we'll be sure to share all of the links to your social media and your podcasts in the show notes for everyone to stay up to date. Thanks again for joining us, Mari, we'll see everyone next time.
Thank you so much.
Hacker Valley Studio 29:24
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