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Structured Creativity, and other Elul Mysteries

Posted on 08/09/2013 @ 06:12 PM

Wednesday was the first day of Elul – the last month in the Hebrew calendar. Elul is a preparatory month – a month where we are encouraged to get ready for the upcoming Jewish High Holidays.

But how to prepare? Some like to meditate. Some like to read. Some like to pray. Some like to write. But for many of us, despite our preferred approach, we struggle to focus, to get started, to keep going after that initial burst of energy. Elul helps with that by providing the structure: a specific month with a specific deadline (September 4th, in this case!) and even specific themes to address.

Very often when I introduce the idea of structure as a creative tool, I get a lot of furrowed brows and skeptical faces. But trust me, it works. By narrowing our focus, by limiting the breadth, we can often go deeper than we could otherwise.

There’s a movement of structured reflection for the month of Elul. I am doing something called the #blogelul challenge - - a challenge to reflect on a key word for each day in the month of Elul. There’s a blog that hosts “A Jewel of Elul” sharing entries by popular (often secular) storytellers and singers for every day in the month. Words not your thing? Join in #elulgram and submit a picture on the a theme of the day.

In many ways, we do the same thing with our teens. We give them frameworks and rubrics to put their programming into. We have folds and pledges that the programs have to tie to. We push them to work within constraints – explicitly to enable them to go deeper. Restricting our creativity doesn’t have to be restrictive. Sometimes it is just what we need to get the creative juices flowing. Of course, you can go too far – restricting creativity in the name of tradition or end-results or even just disinterest. But a little bit of focus and targeting your teens’ attention can be an amazing tool.

May Elul provide you with just the right amount of constraint to set yourself – and your teens! – up to new insights and creative expressions.

This Shabbat message was written by Rachel Meytin, Director, Panim and Jewish Enrichment

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