STiR:charlotte – Building Bridges | Inspiring Creatives

STiR image_smOn January 16th, 2016 the fellowship hall of CityChurch Charlotte was filled with the high-energy hum of Charlotte creatives in attendance at the first-ever STiR:charlotte event, hosted by SacredMuse.  The day was filled with personal stories…from table talk among artists representing almost 20 different sacred communities in Charlotte…to the panel of presenters, each sharing about the inescapable “Compelling” that has drawn them into creative careers and the unique ways they manage to integrate faith and creativity.

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The venue was filled with a wide range of ages and skill levels…but everyone present shared a deep affection for the creative process. “Compelling” may have been the over-arching theme for the day, but the tangible pay-offs for attendees were connection, inspiration and the permission to dream again.

One attendee stated:

“I’m just so inspired! I’ve alway done my art as a very private thing. But today, I realized that, by sharing it with others, my voice can actually have an impact on the world around me…and that my voice matters.”

Another said:

“It was SO encouraging! I instantly connected with everyone…even though we came from different parts of town and different sacred communities and had different forms of creative expression…we all spoke the same language. It just reminded me that I’m not alone…”

Another confessed:

“I want to go home, quit my job and do what I’ve always dreamed of doing. But even though I can’t just quit like that, I can take a big step in the right direction by getting these ideas that are in my head down on paper. I can’t wait for the next event…it’ll be a big help in keeping me on track!”

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JOIN US for the upcoming STiR:charlotte on April 23, 2016, held at 8519 Gilead Road
Huntersville, NC 28078
 (with special thanks to our friends at Lake Forest Church).  The topic will be “In the Beginning(s) navigating false starts, detours and distractions“.

REGISTRATION begins at 8am, March 23rd on Eventbrite. Tickets are FREE, but space is limited. So gather your friends, creative teams or simply challenge yourself to make it to the next STiR:charlotte event.  It’s guaranteed to be time well spent!

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STiR:Charlotte is a quarterly meet-up for creatives from sacred communities, focused on the dynamics of integrating faith and creativity, and the telling of artist stories (like a TEDtalks for creatives). It’s designed to be a powerful encounter that will encourage, equip and inspire you toward higher creativity–whether you’re a seasoned professional, hobbyist, closet artist or simply wanting to engage with the creative process.

In the Image of My Father

By Gerard Kelly

Made in the image of my father:
Breath-filled:
His will to live
Kindling my life,
His call to be
Driving my being.
My heart is sparked
By his heart;
My mind is fired
By his imagination
My animation
Is his declaration:
Because he is
I am.

Made in the image of my father:
Able
Artful
Articulate
Created to create
Pulsing with potential
Designed to design
Invented for invention
Made to make.
Through His eyes
I see possibilities
Through His ears
I hear harmonies
In His heart beat
I feel life’s dancing rhythms.
Because he can
I will

Made in the image of my father:
Dependent
Rooted in relationship
Commissioned for companionship
A free individual
Made free in community
Distinct
Yet needing devotion
Complete
But needing completion
Unique
I seek the company of others
A part
I seek my meaning in the whole.
Because of Him
I need to be needed.
Because I am loved
I love.

Made in the image of my father
Human
His word of command
Shaping flesh
His loving intention
Sculpting the soil of Earth Into life.
His voice
Causing
Calling
Claiming me
Naming me
Framing my future
Fashioning me.
Because of his dreams
I have promise.
Because of his promise
I have dreams

Ushered into extravagant existence;
Tumbling into time
Fumbling
Falling
Free
I am human
I am dependent
I am able
I am breath-filled
I am made
In the image of my Father.

Confessions of a Creative Info-Maniac

These days, I find myself in a bit of a conundrum:

Coin Side 1:  I feel like I want to use my voice to encourage the creative process and inspire people to become brilliant innovators that create cosmic shifts in the world around them.

Coin Side 2:  I don’t want to be just another blabbering person with strong opinions adding to the deafening white noise that’s already flooding cyberspace and inundating our minds with endless to-do lists and heavy duty how-to strategery.

This two-sided coin flipping around in my head isn’t just…in my head.  It’s a tortured reality I live with every day.  I would despise becoming the very thing that I am trying to resist being sucked into.

You see, I confess that I’ve become quite an info-maniac.  Nothing can trip me up more quickly and easily than a Twitter byte about some fresh-off-the-press-and-incredibly-earth-shatteringly-amazing new blog post from some uber-significant guru…or a Facebook link from some killer new website with a tribe of thousands who are flocking to gobble up the latest juicy advice on how to be better, bigger, more recognizable, more famous, more connected, more organized, more productive, more spiritual…and yes, even more creative.

I’m an addict in the truest sense.  I confess it out loud to you.  If left unmonitored, I could read that junk all day!  (This very public gesture is one of my first baby steps towards ultimate recovery.)  You see, I can never seem to get enough of how to be a better version of…me.  I don’t know if anyone will ever write the article that leaves me thinking, “you know, thanks…but I’ve already got that topic LOCKED!  I’m good. Thanks anyway.”  I’m always a sucker for the elusive tidbit that will somehow make me more savvy.

I just simply love learning about new things, new ways of doing things, new perspectives, new insight and new ideas.  I love new trends in fashion, new technology, new music and new movies.  I can’t seem to get enough of the innovative and unique, the never-before-seen, the ground-breaking and chart-topping.  I crave the fantastic and clever and ingenious and disarming. I find all of it just so fascinating.

I must also admit that I have no sustainable resistance against the allure of being one of “the chosen ones” who gets the inside dish.  So I sign up for blog feeds…like a junky would put a dealer on their speed dial. Innocently enough, most of them are about creativity, spirituality, or the business of doing art.  (Because I want to be more responsible.  I want to be a better artist.  I want my work and my life to have more meaning.  And I want to run a better business…don’t I?!)

But in the spirit of true confession, I need to admit the ridiculous thing:  I never read the feeds.  What kind of junky stockpiles the drugs and never shoots up?!  Oh, I’ve taken the time to subscribe to the feeds.  They pour into my inbox every single day.  I even created a special folder that they automatically get sorted into.  But I never take the time to read them.  At last count, I had almost 1,000 unread blog posts in the “special” folder in my inbox.  That’s just ridiculous.

But rather than beat myself up for being lazy or a small thinker or unmotivated or afraid, I’ve given myself the grace to get inside my own head and see what’s really going on…and I think I’ve stumbled on to something BIG…at least for me.

The barrage of information that I receive on any given day has morphed into some kind of supernatural wall of white noise for me…and to be honest, I can’t hear a stinkin’ thing.  I’ve taken in so much “helpful” information that I could feed on it for the rest of my life and never go hungry.  My “to-do” lists are so long, I could work on them diligently for the rest of my life and never get them all done.  I have so many “how-to” directives running around in my head that I could try a new strategy every single day for the rest of my life, and I’d never reach the levels of success or popularity or fame or fortune that they all pretend to deliver…because my thinking would be someone else’s thoughts and someone else’s plans, with someone else’s goals compared to someone else’s standards.  I would be fragmented, confused and distracted, at best.

Now don’t get me wrong.  I don’t want to come across as unteachable or unduly defiant. But somewhere along the way, we’ve been force-fed so much “good” information by well-intended people that we forget how to think for ourselves.  We lose the payoff that comes from hacking through a problem on our own, because 42 million bloggers have already solved all of life’s problems for us.  We stop listening to the voice inside of us, because the myriad of voices around us drown it out…because they’re smart and famous and important and significant.  And we’re just…us.

Here’s the point I’m really getting at:  Watching re-runs of Oprah will not make you a better person.  Reading Seth Godin’s blog will not make you better at marketing. Subscribing to Indigenous Worship will not make you a better worshiper.  Getting The Wall Street Journal will not make you into a Fortune 500 company.  All of these sources have important information that will influence the you of tomorrow, but not a single one of them can MAKE you into the thing you so desperately want to become.

Quite simply, we’ve lost the courage to be uniquely and wonderfully us.  We’ve lost the patience and tenacity to see things through to the finish.  We’d rather read about the us that could be, rather than embracing and living whole-heartedly the us that already is.  It takes too much work…and it takes waaaay too much time.

The very best thing you could ever do for your heart and your art and your family and your friendships and your marriage and your community and your creativity is to just shut off all of the white noise.  Shut it off.  If it means not Twittering for a while…or God forbid, signing off of Facebook for some time…DO IT!  Have the guts to do what it takes to disconnect from the white noise so that you can listen…to YOU.

Listen to your own voice.  Listen to your dreams.  Listen to your brain crunching through a maze-like problem…and hear the sweet refrain of the solution that comes from what seems like out of nowhere.  Quiet your heart and your mind, and listen to the melody of deferred hopes and the sad songs of disappointment.  Dive deeper and listen to the complex symphonies of creativity and innovation.  Feel the reverberations of the groaning strings of desire and want and need.  Listen to the lyrics that lie dormant in the depths of who you are.  Listen to the whispers of the One who created you to “be all that you can be”.

You see last week, in a fit of defiance, I “fired” all of my “executive counsel”.  All except for a few that I would literally take to a desert island with me, like my pastors, some “fathers of the faith”, and dear friends.  I fired the dozens and dozens of blog feeds that I had subscribed to for my quick, brainless fixes for the day.  The ones that told me I didn’t have it all together…that I wasn’t doing enough…or that I wasn’t enough to start with.  I handed them and their endless supply of posts a proverbially pink Pink Slip.

And I realized very quickly, as the silence settled in…that if I am scared about anything, it’s about my own thoughts.  Owning the responsibility for them.  Having to work a bit to have a good one.  Or running the risk of having bad ones, and possibly making a fool of myself.

Today, for the first time in a long, long time, I had the panicky feeling of an addict in rehab:  I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing.

But there’s hope.  Because today, I am totally alright with that.

Wooden Heart by Listener

This is one of the most poignant videos I’ve ever seen.  Days after I first watched it…and I’m still mulling over its intricacies.  The lyrics pack such powerful punches, it’s staggering really…and then to marry that to such raw visuals…I feel like I’ve been hugged and torn open all at the same time.  I find myself wanting to stop after each small phrase and contemplate the deepness of intent and the elegance of the metaphor.

It’s very rare that a music video leaves me stirred up AND speechless, and yet this one does…with no apologies, no regrets.  It’s as if I was lovingly bludgeoned by its beauty. The poetry is so authentically and passionately delivered that I ache with empathy, and yet want to weep openly for my own fragile condition.

I hope you watch it.  I hope you engage with it.  And I hope it completely and utterly ruins you…forever.

The Creative Booty Call

Chances are, at some point in your creative career, you’ve fallen prey to the Creative Booty Call…maybe without even realizing it. To define Creative Booty Call we’ll use the same characteristics as those used in the sexual reference:

  • the phone rings late at night or there’s a 3 a.m. knock on your door
  • the person on the other end is looking for services they might otherwise pay for, but in this instance they are wanting it for free
  • being with them always leaves you feeling empty and used
  • you spend days kicking yourself for letting it happen YET AGAIN, and swear that next time, you’ll be smarter
  • they’ve never publicly acknowledged your relationship, except maybe casual friendship…and they make a point to not socialize with you outside of this “arrangement”
  • and when they DO choose to enter into a serious relationship, it’s always with someone else

I’ve fallen prey to this scenario more times than I’d like to admit in my creative career. Out of nowhere, I’ll get a frantic phone call or text…sometimes it’ll even be from people on my client list. They’re in desperate need of a last-minute design service from me.  The excuses for not planning ahead or not contacting me sooner are always in bountiful supply, as an attempt to somehow soften the blow of what they’re really getting ready to ask me for…but buried beneath that pile heap is still the same audacious request: drop everything, forget your life or your obligations or other clients, and give them what they need…while they wait impatiently for it.

So you cancel the appointments that have been on your schedule for weeks, you put off the current project you’ve been working on that is paying full price, you sacrifice time with your family, physical resources (like sleep…and food…and hygiene..and your last bit of sanity) to run to the aid of your comrade who is in critical need.

In the end, you’ve given them the best that you have to give, for nothing in return. Nothing beyond a rushed “attaboy”…not a referral, not a mention on Twitter or Facebook…and certainly not a penny of actual generated income.

For many, it is even more dastardly than that:  You’re called or emailed because of your creative expertise in a particular area.  You give the advice willingly, even joyfully, because it’s your passion…and you LOVE to talk about your passion.  Suuuure you could be a professional consultant, making thousands of dollars per project for all of the wisdom and insight you have to give…but of course, they’re simply looking for a little free advice.  You hang up the phone with a funny feeling in the pit of your stomach…and emptiness that’s hard to describe…I don’t know, kinda like you’ve been used.  Oh, and by the way…they’ll never publicly acknowledge the great ideas you provided for them.  And the kicker is, when they DO choose to invest in a professional relationship regarding your topic of discussion, it’ll undoubtably be with someone else.

Does any of this sound familiar?  Sadly, I knew it would.  But the reality regarding Booty Calls, which ever kind they might be, is that we’re the ones that set the parameters…and if I might be so bold as to say it this way:  If you’re tired of being a Creative Booty Call…the solution starts with YOU!

Steps to help you avoid the Creative Booty Call:

  1. Business hours are business hours.  After hours are, well…after.  One of the biggest challenges of creative work, especially freelance, is the setting of boundaries between your business and personal life.  But if you don’t set some working parameters, then you will always be working…that’s just how creative careers are.  All work and no play makes Jack a cranky, burned out, uninspired so-in-so that no one wants to be around.  So do yourself a favor:  clock in and clock out.
  2. Healthy professional relationships are beneficial to both parties.  If you feel tapped after every meeting you have with a client or you feel empty and used each time you deliver advice to an associate, it may be time to have the D.T.R. talk over coffee.  Defining the relationship can go a long way to increase your productivity and your sense of satisfaction on the job.
  3. Give yourself permission to set and communicate strong boundaries. While it may feel like your being fussy or a tad bit diva, strong boundaries will simply enable you to enjoy the different parts of your life in deeper richer ways without the build-up of resentment or the cause for conflict with opposing parties.  Think about what you want and need from the relationship, and communicate that clearly to your contact.  If met with resistance,  let it be a clear indication of the other person’s lack of value or honor for your expertise or services.  While we all want to “give back” and help out where we can, even Scripture says that a workman is worthy of his wages.  In the least, consider working out some kind of barter that wouldn’t be such a financial drain on them, but that would also provide some kind of positive benefit for you as well.
  4. You don’t have to answer the door.  You’ve seen it all before on some agonizingly anemic chick flick, where in the middle of the night there’s a knock on the door…and as the actress stumbles and bumbles her way through her dark apartment, you almost feel like shouting, “Don’t be stupid!  Girl, don’t you EVEN answer that door!”…but she always does.  And the guy on the other side of that door knows that she always will.  She is the one that allows it to be a Booty Call in the first place.  If she had only stood up to him and said, “no” or never opened the door, she would be quickly be removed from the BC list.
  5. Don’t be afraid to lose out.  I think many of us mean well.  We think: maybe it’ll lead to more business…maybe it’ll garner some kind of recognition…maybe I’ll feel like I’ve contributed something or shared my knowledge.  But the stinging truth is: very rarely does a Booty Call become a long-term relationship. There are the BC’s, and then there are the one’s you take home to meet your mama.  Don’t be afraid to lose out on a few casual relationships in order to save your best for Mr. Right. It’ll be worth a little silence on the phone or a few less email requests in the inbox to be able to focus your best efforts on your best clients.  You know that the best professional relationships are worth the wait.  And they’ll treat you with integrity, respect and honor.
  6. Be ready to move on.  This is where it takes some emotional fortitude.  It’s one step in the right direction to have an awareness that things just aren’t right…that you aren’t happy with the current arrangement…and that there’s nothing about this that’s healthy.  But it’s another step…and a huge on at that…to actually muster up the guts to do something about it.  It takes a lot of guts to NOT open the door…or NOT answer the frantic voicemail…or NOT respond to the do-or-die email.  But it’s the only way to begin to set the healthy boundaries you need to sustain and grow a thriving creative career.  Trust yourself enough to know what is right for you and for your well-being.

Some things to consider:

  • It might be time to do an assessment on the services you have to offer.  Do you have valuable advice to offer people?  Do you give it the value it deserves?  Do you have healthy boundaries in place that allow you to enjoy your life and your career, separately?
  • If you find yourself offering advice regularly, it might be time to organize your experience and knowledge into a product or program that can be marketed to people in need of your expertise.  Considering other options to the “freebie” could open new professional opportunities for you that you never knew were there before.  Consultancy and other avenues may offer you that same sense of satisfaction you were finding in giving away “free advice”…but with personal ad financial rewards for you, as well.  Maybe it’s time to be paid for what you know, and not just for what you do.
  • You may need to wrestle down that pesky need to be liked in order to truly free yourself from the lure of the Creative Booty Call.  We all love to be loved.  But it’s not really love when it comes at our expense.  The more emotionally healthy you get, the more freedom you will experience creatively…and the stronger your creative career will be.

 Some ways to re-establish a healthy sense of yourself:

  • make a list of all of the things that are special and unique about your creativity or your services.  Not only will this provide you with some killer copy to use in your marketing pieces, but it will help you define who you are and what you want out of your career and professional relationships.
  • request client testimonials…you’ll discover some of your biggest fans, and be reminded of the great ideas you had and the fantastic work you did…and don’t forget:  they were happy to pay full price for it!
  • post the testimonials around your office for added encouragement on those days when it’s hard to say “no” to the freebie fix.
  • consider writing a “manifesto” for your creative enterprise that clearly states what you value most, how you want to represent those values, and who you want to be in the process.

Never forget:  you are an active participant in defining your creative relationships. Choose the kind of relationships that build you up, support you, and inspire you to be your creative best.  Don’t settle for the Booty Call.  Have the courage to wait for Mr. Right.

Theology & The Arts

I ran across this video online, and found Jeremy Begbie’s explanation of how he relates his creativity with his faith as simply elegant.  He takes a somewhat heady philosophy, and shows in practical terms how his art form, music, unlocks the truths of the Gospel in breathtaking ways.

I took the liberty of including notes below, in case you wanted to share them with your worship team or creative group.  He offers up a most interesting case for creative expression being inextricably linked to faith, transformation and innovation.  

For me, it served as a beautiful reminder of what it means to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world–that who we are and what we believe is communicated through what we do…and that it is meant to affect transformation in the lives and hearts of people around us.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!


How does an artist who comes to faith in God relate the two worlds of:
  •  Thinking as a musician
  •  Thinking as a theologian
Two ways to view creativity in relationship to your faith:
1.  Theology for the arts – you start with a Christian world view, or doctrine or biblical text…and you apply it to the art form.  So you try to understand the art form in light of the theological world view.

2.  Theology through the arts – you start with the art form (music, art, dance, etc.)…and you ask what the art form can bring to theology.  How can the powers of creative expression help us to unlock the great truths of the Gospel?

Lessons that can be learned from considering theology through the arts:
  • The most wonderful things can come out of the most unpromising/unlikely material.  The arts show us over and over again the possibilities of transformation.  They show us how things could be.
  • Even the worst can be woven into God’s purposes.  God can take your worst mistakes and make them into His beautifully unique bits in life (ie. His “passing notes”).
  • Life is full of possibilities.  Many of us think that the only two options in our lives are Order & Dis-Order.  We’ve come to associate Order with good, and Dis-Order with evil. Order is fruitful, while Dis-Order is destructive.  But there is a third option to consider:  Non-Order or The Jazz Factor – something that is unpredictable and irregular, but is not destructive.  The real skill comes from learning the inter-play between Order and Non-Order.
    All art represents an inter-play between the given and the unpredictable.  
    One form of the given is tradition.  As a creative you are apprenticed to a tradition –  the tradition of classical music, or modern dance, or Shakespearean English, Impressionistic painting.  That is the only way you will innovate in the future. Most great innovators rely intensively on their tradition…and from within it, they begin to play around with its structure…creating a play on the traditional that  becomes something unique in its own right.  Some people try to innovate far too soon, but involves a great deal of practice and being inculcated into a tradition.  
  • You’re always innovating for a particular circumstance – innovation involves interpreting the art while being mindful of the context–innovating for the occasion.  Improvisation is the exploration of occasion.  This time, this place, these people, on this occasion. A great doctrinal example of this type of innovation in the moment is the work of the Holy Spirit…he moves on this heart, in this place, or in this congregation to affect this change…

WHAT ABOUT YOU?
Do you have trouble relating your faith to your creativity?
What role do you think your art plays in society?
Have you considered which themes of the Gospel are represented in your art?
Does Mr. Begbie’s perspectives on faith and art influence the way you see your art? 

Good Art, Good Grief

“Calvin says somewhere that each of us is an actor on a stage and God is the audience. That metaphor has always interested me, because it makes us artists of our own behavior, and the reaction of God to us might be thought of as aesthetic rather than morally judgmental in the ordinary sense.”

—Marilynne Robinson, Gilead

Like an old friend, Gilead has welcomed me with open arms since I started rereading it just over a month ago.  Indeed, until a few days ago, the above quote struck me as mildly fascinating, but pale in comparison with all the passages that focused on the inextricable bonds between heaven and earth. When one is obsessed with the mysteries of immortality, I suppose, inquiries into the nature of earthly existence hardly ignite the intellect.

Besides, theatrical matters of a more literal sort had already consumed more than enough mental energy. Before hearing the news of my friend’s death, I’d agreed to help helm my church’s Easter play. After returning home to grieve, though, I kept wondering if there was some way to bow out and focus my attention on more important things—you know, like moping.

Eventually, I realized moping was the least productive of my options, and threw myself into writing and directing when I returned. Thanks to a shortage of available actors, I found myself cast in my own play, in the role of an apostate disciple who, at the foot of Christ’s crucifixion, confronts a loyal disciple who has been healed of blindness. Personal crises aside, I couldn’t get into the role; in fact, the character seemed to me a major flaw, a cipher that skirted dangerously close to the “murderous Jew” that so tragically populates the history of Passion plays. Even on Easter Sunday, as we donned our makeup and costumes, I’d come to grudgingly accept the character as a blemish we writers had overlooked, a problem beyond the reach of my limited acting skills.

When I assumed my position behind the curtain, though, something was changing within me, without my consent or control. As I meditated on my character in the backstage darkness, the enormity of the events we were depicting became inseparable, in my mind, from the enormity of what my friend had faced on that frozen lake. With every line I spoke over the course of the evening, all the emotional progress I’d made over the past few weeks seemed to slip away. When the time came for me to deliver my climactic monologue, it was as if the near-stereotype I’d bemoaned had come to violent life, possessed by the Lucas who, a month and a half ago, spent an entire day cursing God on his knees. I opened my mouth to speak and spat out the following ad-lib, not sure and not caring whether I was speaking as my character or as myself:

“Look, you have eyes, don’t you? You talk about them so much…well, look at him. Look at the blood and sweat dripping down his face, look at the flesh hanging from his ribcage, look at the life being sucked out of his body with every breath he expels…does this look like the Messiah?”

My cowriter, who was also onstage that night, told me later that he was nearly startled out of character, so raw and enraged was my delivery. Also, I think it’s safe to say that I didn’t exactly endear myself to the small children who were sitting in the front row. I don’t claim to be a De Niro, or even a poor man’s De Niro, but that night I definitely attained a new level of insight into acting.

Literary types often define a metaphor as consisting of two parts: the ‘tenor,’ the idea illustrated by the metaphor, and the ‘vehicle,’ the image that embodies the tenor. In that moment, the tenor and vehicle of Calvin’s metaphor seemed to merge into one. Indeed, becoming an artist of my character’s behavior was the ultimate culmination of my decision to be, as it were, an artist of my own behavior: to bring the full brunt of my grief right to God’s doorstep instead of denying it expression, and then to persevere in my commitments to the Church.

And I realize now that the intuition with which I ad-libbed those lines – the intuition with which I finally embodied my character – was not analogous to, but of a piece with, the faith with which I have learned to pray, “Thy will be done.”

In the last email she ever wrote to me, my friend concluded with these words: “My friend said something to me before about how difficult it is to try and live life with your whole heart. But what a beautiful way to strive to live.” It’s not a bad goal for an actor, either. And so I pray, in life as in art, to give a bravura performance.

By Lucas Kwong, Image Journal


Restoring Creative Innocence

Some people may watch the video below and quickly judge the parents for exploiting their daughter’s talents.  Others may be incensed because their child could do comparable work.  Still others may be drawn in by the pure innocence of the young girl’s desire to create, experiment, and discover.  I, personally, find the video somewhat challenging to watch because I realize that in contrast my creativity has lost much of its child-like wonder.

My confession is that I have taken myself too seriously.  I have sullied the simplicity of my creative nature with complicated schemes for what I should do with my creation after I have created it.  I have weighed my innovation down with convoluted notions and the pressure of public opinion.  I have dishonored the purity of the process by focusing my attention and (if I’m completely honest) my a affections on the potential of the end product.  I have resigned myself to living within comfortable boundaries, and have limited my vision with regulatory restrictions.  I have censored my inquisitive courage, and have instead numbed out to the drone of the familiar.  I have busied myself with the dullness of preconceived notions, paying little regard to the awaiting adventure of the unknown.  I forget the visceral reactions to awe…and wonder…and delight.  In contrast to Aelita Andre, I have become bored, anemic and frail.

So whether this video frustrates you (because your child is just as good as she), or whether it infuriates you (because you think her parents opportunistic), or whether you think it brilliant in some aspect or another…may it cause you to take a moment of pause to consider your own creativity…and to hunger for a return to child-like wonderment.

…for some odd reason, I have a sudden urge to paint in a bright pink tutu.

Doing What You Love & Loving What You Do

Why do you do what you do? Is it for the perks, the attention or the paycheck? Probably at least somewhat. But what about the process itself? If you knew that you were going to spend the rest of your life doing your work and there would be no recognition, no public accolades, and no promise of a significant financial windfall, would you do it?

I’ve long had a theory that there are three primary motivators for doing great work: payprestige and process.

Pay represents the economic rewards of doing the work. This can mean money or anything money can buy. There are a lot of people who are primarily motivated by the almighty dollar.

Prestige means all of the accolades and recognition that comes with the work. People who are motivated by prestige are people who need to ensure that people are watching and that no good deed goes unnoticed.

Process means the work itself. People who are motivated by process are in love with what they do to the point that they would do it even without financial incentives or recognition. Their motivation is simply to empty themselves of what’s inside and to create new value.

I don’t think I’ve ever met someone who is solely motivated by process. To some extent, we all feel the stick as well as the carrot. We need to feed our families, and it’s nice to know that others are noticing what we’re doing. I didn’t write a book for the sake of making money. (Given the economics of publishing, that would be silly.) I wrote it because I thought it could help people do brilliant work. Of course I’m hoping it will get attention and make some money for all involved, but that hope isn’t sufficient to keep me getting up at 5:30a for a year to crank out thousands of words. Only a love ofprocess can do that.

The people I’ve met who are truly brilliant at what they do tend to be process-driven people. They do what they do out of a love for it, and the payand prestige are a nice side benefit of getting to engage in work they would do anyway.

It’s a worthwhile exercise to sit for a while and think about what truly motivates you. Be honest; no one’s looking at your answers. Learning to identify and capitalize on the things you love to do is a great way to take baby steps toward being more process-driven, which ultimately means doing better and more valuable work.

~ by Todd Henry of The Accidental Creative

Does Context Define Beauty?

Context in creativity is an interesting concept.  If you were to see a million dollar painting hanging in a coffee shop, would it catch your attention?  If you heard a multi-platinum band playing in a local dive, would you recognize the genius in their music?  If you saw a legendary dancer dressed in street clothes performing at a bus stop, would you be awed by life-long sacrifice and investment in their craft?  If a distinguished artist of any kind were to perform outside of their traditional context, would we be lured and captivated by their greatness?

I also love entertaining the flip side of that coin.  If no one is listening to your music or buying your art or attending your creative functions…are you less of an artist?  Are your skills called into question?  Does popular opinion and response truly determine the quality of the art?

Recently this quote from Seth Godin caught my attention:

‎”Popular is almost never a measure of impact, or genius, or art. Popular rarely correlates with guts, hard work or a willingness to lead (and be willing to be wrong along the way).”

…and yet, as artists, popularity tends to be what we crave.  Tweets about our latest blog entry.  ‘Likes’ on Facebook.  Fans on MySpace.  People attending our concerts or gallery openings or poetry readings or theatrical performances.  All they while, we’re holding up the giant question mark:  Do you like it?  Is it any good?  Is this beautiful?

I ran across a stunning article in the Washington Post about renowned violinist Joshua Bell playing in the DC subway station.  It’s a hefty article in length, but also in impact (TOTALLY worth the read).  It uncovers the more unlovely aspects of America’s painful relationship with artistic expression, and serves as a stinging indictment of our lack of value for the arts…but it also speaks loudly to this idea of how we artists tend to rate our value based upon the response of the audience.

In the article, Bell, a preeminent violinist who played on a multi-million dollar violin typically would pack out entire concert halls, with most mediocre seats going for $100 or more.  But on this day in January, the only things that changed were that he dressed in street clothes and played in the DC subway.

The article notes that before he began, Bell hadn’t known what to expect. What he does know is that, for some reason, he was nervous.

“It wasn’t exactly stage fright, but there were butterflies,” he says. “I was stressing a little.”

Bell has played, literally, before crowned heads of Europe. Why the anxiety at the Washington Metro?

“When you play for ticket-holders,” Bell explains, “you are already validated. I have no sense that I need to be accepted. I’m already accepted. Here, there was this thought:What if they don’t like me? What if they resent my presence . . .”

It strikes me as rather odd that a hugely successful musician with world-wide acceptance and validation would find himself in a bit of a fragile place, simply because of the change of context.  He once again felt the pressure to win the affections of his audience.

So if you are a creative, and the masses do not recognize your name or your style of art…or if your music isn’t packing out clubs with clamoring fans…don’t lose heart. Popularity does NOT determine the quality or value of your work!  Sales figures do not validate the brilliance of your art form.  Many of the legendary Masters of art went to their graves, penniless and unappreciated…only to fall into popular demand after their death.  So sad, but a strong reminder that we cannot judge our creative work by the response from the crowds.  Our validation MUST come from a different place…a more consistent place…a less fickle place.

Stop chasing the illusive affections of a numbed out crowd. It’s only when we learn to create for an audience of One and find our deepest satisfaction in obscurity that our creativity will be whole and healthy and pure.

Please take the time to read the original article by clicking the link below.  It’s so fascinating on so many levels.  Enjoy!

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wpdyn/content/article/2007/04/04/AR2007040401721.html

 

B Flat 2.0: A Collaborative Project

I’m so inspired by Darren Solomon’s innovative idea to orchestrate existing YouTube videos into a collective work of beauty.  What a fantastic idea.  I find it simply brilliant! (Giving the viewer control over the mix and start time for each piece simply adds to the awe factor.)

The whole thing makes me think: Isn’t this what creative community is supposed to look like?  Made up of varied, quirky and oddly-matched parts, but harmonious when joined together in focus and mission.  Simple in it’s individuality…and breathtaking in it’s complexity.  What a powerful visual of how God intends for us to be woven together into a song that is unique and unlike any other.

…and oh, by the way…if you made plans for the rest of the day, cancel them.  This is just too much fun…ENJOY!

inbflat

Bb 2.0 is a collaborative music and spoken word project conceived by Darren Solomon from Science for Girls, and developed with contributions from YouTube users.

The videos can be played simultaneously — the soundtracks will work together, and the mix can be adjusted with the individual volume sliders.

Learn more in the FAQ.

You may also enjoy marker/music, another music, video and spoken word project, produced in collaboration with NSU in South Dakota.

http://www.inbflat.net/

Creativity Under Pressure: The Weight of Insecurity

As creatives, most likely the toughest critic we have to deal with is ourselves.  We’re our own worst enemies. Because, truth is: we’re broken and wounded people. Broken and wounded people who are birthing creative things into the world, that to us, embody our highest joys and deepest fears…and our most awkward, ugly, painful, misery-making insecurities.


We write a witty blog post, and pray that people find us incredibly clever…clever enough to retweet on Twitter.
We put paint onto brush and brush onto canvas, and hope that the world approves of our amazing artistry.
We combine words with melodies, and wait in agonizing silence for the world to deliver their verdict and somehow validate what came from our very soul.
We speak into the microphone and feel empowered and important…and we obsess over whether what we said had purpose and meaning.
We move to rhythm and music, defying gravity and invisibility, and we long for the world to truly see us…in all our transcendent beauty.
We write books to validate our perspectives, our opinions…and sometimes our very existence, blurring the lines between what we think and who we are.
We embody characters with honesty and transparency in an attempt to connect with the audience…and oh, the audience with their timely laughs and gasps and cheers…legitimizing all our hard work, sacrifice and glorious talent.
We craft words into feelings and feelings into visual form, and we crave the commendaton for having done so in ways that no one has ever achieved before…ever…on the face of the earth…or in the universe, for that matter.

We dream and we create.  We create and we fret.  We don’t just create for the beauty of what’s created.  We create to say something about ourselves.  We create to be noticed, seen and heard. We create for the response from the crowd.  We create to draw a crowd. We create and it defines us.  It not only tells us who we are, it conveys whether we are valued, loved and accepted…or not.  It can be delightful or devastating.

But imagine if we didn’t have that inner pull for validation, that itchy question of whether we are loved, that fear of being rejected.  What would our creativity look like without the pressure of public scrutiny?  If we were painting for our eyes only, what would we do differently?  If we were playing an instrument in the privacy of our own space, what would it sound like?  If we were singing in the shower or dancing in the rain what would it feel like?

You see, when we create toward the end product, we cheat ourselves out of the breathtaking beauty of true abandon.  Creative Abandonment is fresh, vibrant, and risky.   It takes chances and isn’t afraid to experiment.  It peruses and discovers and explores and questions and wonders.  It makes mistakes without fear of consequence!  It isn’t concerned about marketability and return-on-investment ratios.  It is investment in the sweetness of the moment.  Those moments when you create without anyone watching or any end product in sight, are at the top of God’s favorites list. That’s what He has on His iPod!  It’s not the project that’s produced to perfection.  It’s the one birthed in the innocence of who He created you to be.

And to be honest, if we aren’t able to get to that place of simple abandon, then our creativity will become contrived, stale and predictable.  When we start creating with the public response in mind, we defile the purity of the process.

So, you might ask,

“How do I find that state of abandon in my craft?”

You might not like the answer:  STOP making identity withdrawals from your creativity account!  You were created to only draft love, value and acceptance from one account, and that account has all of the funding you’ll ever need for an entire lifetime.  If you keep trying to pull creativity funds from your identity account…Baby, those checks are going to bounce!  Write enough bad checks, and one day you’ll be creatively bankrupt!  You’ll be stumped and befuddled that all of your fantastic ideas have suddenly vanished into thin air.  But the problem isn’t your creativity…it’s just a misappropriation of funds!  Your creative gift was never designed to shoulder up under that much pressure!  Your creativity was never meant to define you!

If you’re not sure if you’re loved…if you’re questioning what your life is worth…if you’re feeling lost and alone, there is only one place you can go to find those answers.  Lean into the Creator, not the creativity as your source of satisfaction.  Look to God and God alone to define your identity.  He’s more than willing to tell you how He sees you!  Work those issues out with your Maker, and you’ll find a renewed sense of freedom in your creativity that you’ve never experienced before.  Find your security in him, and I guarantee you, you’ll find joy in your artform again!

So what about you?

  • What insecurity pulls at you when you create?
  • What is your mind fretting over (will they like me?  will they think I’m smart?  will they need me?)
  • When was the last time you simply created to create?

Scared of Your Imagination?

“The imagination does frighten many people. Too many of us think of it as a specialized skill or talent, the gift of the literary imagination, for example, something for which we need expert training as we do to paint or to design a dress. Even those who are specialists, such as people in religion, can be markedly scared of the imagination. It is not exactly in vogue in church, synagogue, or temple. It promises to take us far outside what religion defines as allowed; our imaginings may compete with scripture.”

– Ann and Barry Ulanov, The Healing Imagination

Think of your favorite company, organization, band, or artist. We are in love with them because they make things that amaze and delight us. They dream of new worlds and then, here’s the catch, they go and create them. This is why we love them.

You imagine new worlds I assume, yet you do not create them.

Why is that? Perhaps what you’ve imagined is just too risky to pull off. Perhaps you’re afraid that what you might dream up will actually require something of you, so you stop before you begin.

Seth Godin, in his new book, Poke The Box says,

“Risk to some, is a bad thing, because risk brings with it the possibility of failure. It might be only a temporary failure, but that doesn’t matter if the very thought of it shuts you down.”

It must be the mystic/prophet in me that believes that nothing new, or good, or special ever gets made without significant risk and a great imagination; both have the potential take you well outside of your comfort zone, mind you.

However, if you allow yourself to be taken away – to dream of new worlds and then to attempt to create them – you just might give us courage to do so as well.

~ By Blaine Hogan
www.blainehogan.com

The Weight of What’s Undone

You’re creative, right? You’ve got great ideas. You’re doing great work and gaining traction. Then suddenly, it seems like you can’t get moving on your work. Ideas aren’t flowing like they once were, and there is little movement on your projects. Have you just “lost it”? Probably not – there is likely something else going on.

One of the challenges of doing creative work – working with your mind – is that you are largely responsible for not only conceiving of new opportunities, but also making your concepts real, tangible and preferably effective, through whatever means necessary. After all, you’re getting paid to produce results, not to dream all day.

YOU bear the weight of this. YOU are responsible for moving the ball forward. Even as a part of a team, you feel the pressure of each idea you introduce because you know it’s going to mean more work for you, and possibly for others. In fact, you probably begin to calculate the weight of the work involved in making something happen pretty early in the process. It’s a snap judgment, but sometimes it’s sufficient to get you to nix an idea before it even takes its first breath.

And then there’s the work you’re charged with, but are still looking for insights on. After a while, the weight of all that’s left undone can become oppressive. It can cause you to limit the number of ideas you introduce. (After all, you have plenty on your plate as it is, right?)

How can you deal with the weight of what’s undone while still being realistic and pragmatic?

First, it’s important to recognize this “weight bearing” dynamic so that you can diffuse any unnecessary pressure and begin to look objectively at your work. Ideas have no power to harm until they are implemented, so there is no need to self-limit too early in the process.

Second, it can be helpful to give yourself dedicated “dream time” for your projects without the accompanying pressure of executing any of the ideas. While this may seem inefficient on the surface, what you’re actually doing is giving yourself permission to get your big, potentially ridiculous, potentially impossible ideas out so that they aren’t hovering just beneath the surface of your thoughts and clouding your critical thinking. Simply recognize that this twenty minutes has little to do with pragmatics and everything to do with possibility.

Finally, list out all that’s left undone on your most important work with a special emphasis on needed creative insights. Sometimes the weight of needed ideas can impose unnecessary pressure on your creative process. Listing these “question mark” areas helps you gain an accurate assessment of all of your true outstanding issues.

Don’t become paralyzed by “the undone”. Stay engaged and aware of how these pressures affect your creating.

Do you feel this pressure too? Any other thoughts or tips for how to deal with it?

~ By Todd Henry, The Accidental Creative
http://www.accidentalcreative.com/

White Men Can’t Jump

Last week my nephew, Aaron Cave, did the unimaginable.  He broke not one, but TWO standing Guiness Book Of World Records.  Say, whaaat?!  That’s right.  It seems that after all of these years of believin’ the lie, white men CAN jump…like gazelles!

Since doing the cyber “happy dance” for him days ago, I’ve been thinking about the principle of overcoming the obstacles of “can’ts”, and I’ve been having Lost-inspired flashbacks of John Locke’s subversive assertion, “Don’t tell me what I can’t do!”

It’s an intense process for sure, and it requires a level of honesty and dedication to which few of us are willing to commit. Because, the truth be told, defying the odds doesn’t just happen overnight. There’s the perseverance of trying it, and trying it, and trying it again…and again…and again.  And many of us just hate the thought of having to try that hard.  There’s the vulnerability of being willing to stumble and fall…and to get back up again.  And many of us avoid failure at all costs.  And yet, there it lies, that nagging idea in the pit of our souls: the crazy conviction that we’ve got this thing in spades.

Here’s a great visual of exactly what that process looks like in human form:

So, we go a little crazy.  We prepare and we train.  When we feel like we need support, we get a trainer…and we buy special shoes that are lighter, so that we can jump higher.  And we jump, then we measure.  And we jump some more, and we compare measurements. And we have custom boxes built so that we can jump stronger.  And we get a video guy to film us, ‘cuz we feel like we’re on the edge of something transcendent.  We jump higher and higher and higher…eventually leaving those that started the journey with us in the dust.  And we’re jumping higher than we’ve ever jumped before…higher than we ever knew we could jump.

Then someone says,

“Wow!  That’s high!”

And someone else says,

“That could be the highest EVER!”

And suddenly out of nowhere, there’s born a challenge and a goal with laser beam focus. Everything in the universe somehow feeds into our determination to jump higher than anyone in the world ever has.  No one we know has ever tried it…and quite frankly, WHY WOULDN’T WE at least try it?  It’s within our grasp.  Why NOT go for it?!

Clearly, it’s one thing to look at realistic limitations and accept our inability to change them.  Like knowing that my 5-foot-10-inch frame will never know what it’s like to be “petite”.  I wasn’t petite in my mother’s womb!  So no matter how bad I want it, or how much I try, my feet will never fit into size 5 shoes, I’ll never have extra leg room on an airline flight of any kind, and I will never dance on the front row in a ballet.  Petiteness is just not in my attainable future.

HOWEVER,  on the flip side of that same coin, I’ve got to wonder how many of our “perceived” limitations aren’t really limitations at all.  How many things have we allowed to hold us back, confine and immobilize us?  How many times have we heard or told ourselves that it can’t be done?  How many lies are we believing, like: “White.men.can’t.jump?”

To all the naysayers out there, I’d like to shout a big fat, “Oh really?!”  Take a look at this:

…and this:

You see, truth be told, white men CAN jump.  They can jump really, really high.  They can break world records.  It just takes courage mixed with commitment and hard work…and a dash of attitude for flavor.

It takes not allowing the lies to hold you back any longer.

 

21 Ways You’re Killing Your Creativity Without Even Realizing It!

Usually if we want to be more creative, we look at the new things we can do to help us. But what is equally, if not MORE important, is to be aware of your current ways of thinking and acting that actually sabotage your creativity.

Here are 21 of the most common ways you may be slowly killing your creativity:

image: Michael Pickard

Which ones do you recognise most?

1. You don’t actually believe you’re very creative. Answer this honestly: How creative do you REALLY think you are? If your answer is less than an emphatic declaration of your endless ability to be creative, then these beliefs aren’t going to support your creativity as well as they could. The first step is to notice these kind of thoughts. Then turn each of them around to their positive opposite. Retrain yourself to believe only the thoughts that will serve your creativity best.

2. You don’t think being a creative artist is worthwhile. What do think about other people who are creative artists? Do you admire them, respect them, hold them in high esteem? Or think of them as temperamental or anti-social or society dropouts? How you feel about artists in general has a big influence over how easily you let yourself freely be a creative artist. Examine your beliefs, and adjust them if you need to, so you’re proud to be an artist yourself.

3. You never capture your ideas. Many of us don’t think we have enough creative ideas. The reality is we all have all the ideas we’ll ever need, we just let them slip through our fingers, forgetting we even had them, let alone what they actually were. Every time you have an idea, capture it in some way, in a notebook, camera or voice recorder. Then it’s ready for you to develop at any time, instead of being lost forever. Develop the habit, and you’ll have an abundance of brilliant ideas.

4. You don’t believe you deserve to be successful. If you find that whatever you try to help you be more creative ends up not working, there may well be a deeper belief that keeps you grounded and held back. Do you actually feel you deserve to have creative success, to create art that’s rewarding and fulfilling, and gains the praise and respect of others? If not, then this will always cap the amount of “success” you allow yourself. Get to the truth, the root of those beliefs.

5. You prejudge, belittle and dismiss your creative ideas before they’ve had a chance to flourish. Maybe you have plenty of ideas come to you, but most of them you think of as too silly, or unrealistic, or incomplete to bother capturing and developing. Ideas never arrive fully formed and perfect, they all need different degrees of incubation and nurturing. Write down EVERY idea you have. You never know which ideas will evolve into the most incredible projects and artworks.


image: naraekim0801

6. You try to go it alone without any support. Our best creative work is always done in isolation, when we can get most in touch with our deepest creativity. But if we spend our whole time disconnected from the world, we deprive ourselves of all the wonderful support that’s out there, support from other creative people who want us to be happy and creative, and willingly give their encouragement. Look up a few creative groups, either locally or online, and get yourself some support.

7. You don’t prioritise creative time. I don’t have time to create” actually means “I’m choosing not to give creativity priority in my life”. You have a choice in how you spend your time, and all of us have little pockets of time where we’re doing something fairly meaningless, or simply waiting around. Identify this “dead time” and find ways to be creative instead. A great way to encourage this is to always have a notebook handy, so even if you have a few minutes here and there, you can jot down or sketch some new ideas.

8. You’re not fully experiencing life through your senses. To be creative, you need stimulation and inspiration. This comes via your five senses, so it follows thatif you don’t make full use of them, you won’t be at your most creative. A simply activity you can do is to go to a park or woodland, or even somewhere in the middle of a city, and just sit and listen. Forget about all your other senses, and hear every last detail of the sounds around you for five minutes. Then try the same for your other senses.

9. You don’t ever celebrate your achievements. “I’ve hardly created anything this year” is a common cry amongst creative people, whether it’s New Year’s Day or New Year’s Eve. When you stop to actually catalogue all you’ve created, you’ll always remember more than you thought you would. We create in so many different ways each hour of each day, and the more you notice all these ways, and the projects you’ve been working on, the more creative you’ll realise you’ve been. Which will inspire you further.

10. You don’t create regularly. Creativity needs constant exercise and nurturing, like a muscle, or any other part of our minds. You can’t expect to create nothing for weeks then instantly produce some masterpiece. By creating regularly, ideally every day, or a few times a day, you build up this underlying creative strength and agility. This will make it so much easier to be at your most creative when you have those longer undisturbed sessions, rather than starting from completely cold.

11. You try to work on seventeen projects at once. We simply cannot focus on more than one thing at a time, with any degree of success. Just try painting and dancing and writing all at once! It’s ok to have a number of projects at different stages, but keep it to a few, not dozens. And whichever project you’re working on, give it a fair chance, devote your full, undivided attention to it, and you’ll make so much greater progress than dipping in and out of numerous projects and not really get anywhere with any of them.


image: Tim_Norris

12. You believe that if you don’t finish every creative project you’re a failure.Not all creative projects will be finished. This is all part of creating, it’s ok! Sometimes the ones you start with most enthusiasm and hope are the ones that don’t turn out like you wanted. Conversely, some that start with little promise turn into your best work. The secret is to trust the work, let it evolve as it needs to. And don’t be afraid of putting a project to one side if you’re stuck, and focusing your creativity elsewhere.

13. You believe spending time creating is selfish. When you create, it gives you something that nothing else can. We need to create, it’s not an option. The great thing is when we do, we feel better about ourselves, more energised, more positive and a host of other good feelings. This can’t help but rub off on others around us. The opposite is going around being frustrated, cranky and bad tempered because you’re not creating. And that WOULD be selfish. Create more, see the selfless side!

14. You’ve forgotten how important creativity is in your life. When we lose touch of how vital it is for us to create, we forget to give it priority. Think about what your life would be like without any creativity. What a dull, soulless, barren existence it would be. Think of all the things you feel when you’re lost in the flow of creating, and how proud you feel afterwards. The kind of feelings that you simply can’t get in any other way. Remember this and give your creativity the time and space it deserves.

15. You overlook what an inspiration you are to others. If you’re not creating, you’re not inspiring anyone else. And that’s just selfish. It’s not only the art itself that inspires other people, but the way you create, and the fact that you show up and create at all. Just by creating publicly and visibly, you have no idea how many people you give encouragement, and how much this sends out a message to others that it’s ok to create. Don’t deny others that chance to be motivated to greater creativity in their own lives.


image: jjjohn

16. You try to make everything perfect. I know this sounds an obvious one, but it’s amazing how often we’re crippled by perfectionism and don’t even realise. It’s not just about trying to make our art perfect in every way, it can begin way before that, as we wait for the perfect time, the perfect mood, the perfect weather conditions, to begin creating. These are all excuses and “if onlys”, there will never be a perfect time. Actually, that’s a lie. The perfect time for you to create is now. It’s always now. Go!

17. You never seek new inspiration, yet expect to be constantly inspired. We all need new stimulation to stay creative, so if you never go anywhere new, or try anything different, you’re not going to give yourself a chance to be at your most creative. Just visiting new places and observing a different pace of life and different surroundings can give your creativity a major boost of energy. You can do this without leaving home, just by reading books and articles and browsing artwork new to you. Feed your creativity!

18. You’re a slave to procrastination and you don’t even know it. This, like perfectionism, is one of the biggest creativity killers there is. And it works because it’s so devious. Be honest with yourself about the times you’re avoiding creating, and procrastinating. Everyone does it to some extent, however creative they are, so give yourself a break. Identify the three biggest procrastination habits you have, and this step alone will help you start to beat procrastination.

19. You tell yourself your best creative days are behind you. We’ve all had creativity highlights in the past that we’re proud of and would love to repeat. The danger is though to always look back at those “glory days” with a nostalgic focus, and conclude that we’ll never be that creative again. You have the same capacity to be creative today as you did then. In fact now you’re even more experienced. The other point is we continually evolve as artists, and people. Create from the you of today, not the you of yesteryear.

20. You let your inner critic dictate how much you create. If you listen to all the negative, defeatist voices within, you’ll never even get out bed in the morning. The key to overcoming your inner critic is to actually embrace it, to understand that it’s not the evil, terrifying ogre you think it is, and in fact everything it does and says to hold you back comes from a positive intention. So rather than trying to kill your inner critic and be locked in a bloody battle, learn to love it as part of you instead.

21. You’re afraid of unleashing your full creative powers. Sometimes it’s not failure we’re afraid of, but success. What would happen if you actually were as creative as you could be? It’s likely you’d be really happy and fulfilled and want to preserve it as long as possible. And because you’d be happier, it’d mean people around you would benefit from that too. Really, is that so much to be afraid of?

Which of these sound most familiar to you?

What other ways do you sabotage your creativity?

~ by Dan Goodwin, www.coachcreative.com

Chasing “The Thing”

Do you remember the old episodes of the Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote? When I was a kid, I couldn’t wait to tear out of bed on Saturday morning, pour a giant bowl of cereal and watch in anticipation of the coyote actually catching him.

Then it happened.

One Saturday, as we were watching our usual cartoon fare, there was an announcement that in a TV special the following week the coyote would actually catch the road runner. Oh joy! We counted the days, and as the episode began we could hardly hold back our anticipation.

Then it happened. Wile E. Coyote actually caught the Road Runner. Only it wasn’t at all like he (or we) thought it would be. You see, due to some cause I can’t remember (do you?), he had shrunk to the size of an insect, so when he grabbed the Road Runner’s foot he was much too small to do any harm.

We were crestfallen. We felt like our hopes had been shattered, and our trust betrayed. Big on promise, short on delivery.

Big on promise, short on delivery. It sounds a lot like what often happens when we finally get “the thing” we’ve been chasing after, whether it’s the job, the relationship, the big deal, or whatever. We spend a lot of time and energy chasing after the promise of “the thing”, but once we get it we realize that “the thing” wasn’t really what we wanted at all. (I recently wrote another post about this called Chasing Vapor.)

While there’s nothing wrong with chasing “the thing”, (we should have big goals and plans and dreams!), we need to fall in love with the process, and not the end product of our work. A writer writes regardless of whether they get accolades. A designer creates order and meaning from chaos regardless of whether she is recognized. And an artist – of any capacity – makes their art whether or not they ever get the raise or the corner office or the bigger platform to share their work.

So while you’re chasing “the thing” make sure that you’re nurturing your process. It’s the only thing you can truly control, and it’s the thing you’ll alwayshave regardless of where you end up. Otherwise, you might find yourself a little speck of a coyote standing on a giant road runner’s foot wondering what to do next.

~ by Todd Henry of The Accidental Creative (www.accidentalcreative.com)

Bringing Music and Art Together

I was delighted to watch these 2 videos that fused Derek Webb’s hauntingly ambient music together with edgyy visual representation from two exceptionally talented artists.  It just simply made my heart happy.

The first is a behind-the-scenes look at Scott Erickson‘s creative process in the making of the “Feedback” paintings:

The second is a speed video of Jeremy Cowart‘s creation of “A Portrait of Christ”:

Quite honestly, we here at Sacred Muse would love to see more and MORE of this kind of creative collaboration happening within the Body of Christ.

So what about you?  Have you got any cool collaboration ideas runnin’ around in your brain?  Let us know…maybe we can help! (…and if we can’t, maybe we can connect you with the people who can!)

Fostering A Creative Mind

I discovered creativity expert Eric Maisel on YouTube.  I found his ideas quite refreshing because of his cognitive approach to creativity.  I took the liberty of re-titling his video clip for this blog, because I think that ultimately what he’s teaching on is how to care for a creative mind, rather than how to get one.

I’ll be highlighting more of his videos in the future, because I love the way he takes a scientifically sound look at the artistic process and addresses many of the challenges and pitfalls that threaten our imaginative thinking, in his own brainy way!



3 Important Steps to Acquiring (Fostering) a Creative Mind:

  1. Quieting the mind (avoid monkey mind) to allow creative ideas to percolate.
  2. Adjusting negative self-talk by:  a). listening to our inner dialogue,  b). disputing the thoughts that are untrue, and  c). substituting more affirmative language
  3. Sleep thinking to aid the creative process apart from the cloud of a million tiny thoughts keeping you from the Big Ideas.

So how about you?

  • Have you tried his technique of intentionally stopping in the middle of a cram-packed, hurried-up day to create a rested mind?
  • What are some of the biggest bullies in your negative inner dialogue?  Where do you think those ideas came from?  (Sometimes identifying the source can help us more directly address the issues that keep those thoughts rattling around in our head).
  • What is your perspective on the concept of “sleep thinking” that he shared? Have you tried his idea of going to bed with an idea of wonder instead of worry? I can’t wait to try that one myself!

We’d love to hear your stories regarding the concepts in this video.  So if you gained personal insight, experienced an area of breakthrough by using one of Eric’s techniques, or simply have an opinion about the video, please share your thoughts below!

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Taking Care of Unfinished Business

Last week I picked up an unfinished painting in my studio that had been sitting beneath a pile of completed pieces for a couple of years.  I don’t know why I’d never gotten around to finalizing it, but for some reason, my piece had suffered from some major neglect.  Oddly enough, within only a few hours the piece was complete, and what followed was a triumphant sense of accomplishment.  I fully enjoyed myself and the work progressed with such ease. Quite a stark contrast to the guilt I felt (for years) for abandoning the project mid-stream.

What I came to realize is that sometimes it’s good to give creativity a break.  The challenge is giving yourself permission to step back and take that much-needed breather without feeling the guilt or condemnation from labeling yourself as “lazy” or a “quitter.” If you don’t empower yourself to press pause on the process, you’ll run the risk of being too emotionally invested in the piece.

In college, I had a painting professor that could sense when an artist was becoming frustrated and putting that negativity onto canvas.  He would quietly slip behind them, lean in and say, “You need to step away from the canvas.”

It’s important to understand that you can never take a “one-size-fits-all” approach to your creative process.  As an artist, you have to maintain flexibility and adapt your methods to best serve the project.  I know there are times when you just need to push through whatever barrier is standing in your way and get on with all things creative, but there are also instances when your process needs time, distance and space.

Sometimes the best thing you can do when you’re creatively stumped or frustrated is to walk away for a while, and re-approach when all the angst is gone and your project feels more like an attractive stranger than a needy boyfriend or girlfriend.  I’m not saying it won’t be difficult.  It will.  It will be awkward and you’ll most definitely feel clumsy.  But in your defense, you can always use The Seinfield Technique.  “What’s that?”, you ask? Well, let me ‘splain.

The Seinfield Technique is what I’ve dubbed the brilliant break-up strategy employed by the character George Kastanza on Seinfield.  In true satirical form and in order to keep things from getting too messy, he’d end the onerous relationship with the classic line, “It’s not you, it’s me.”  Other viable contenders would be the “I just need some space” defense or “I think it’s a good idea for us to step back” directive.  No matter which vehicle you choose, don’t be afraid to take control of the creative relationship.  You and your project will both benefit greatly from it.

What’s amazing in the separation scenario is that it proves the old adage to be true: absence does make the heart grow fonder.  And what’s even more amazing is that it’s as if your creative problem solver continues to work on some kind of subconscious level…working out kinks in the flow, troubleshooting problematic elements, and resolving baffling conundrums.  It’s as if it continues unravelling the proverbial knot even as you think you’re taking a break.

In the least it might be good to have a good ol’ heart-to-heart DTR Talk with your creative self.  Defining The Relationship you have with your creativity provides clarity, understanding and a sense of freedom.  The added bonus is that you’ll have a restored capacity to receive fresh inspiration!

Don’t let your muse bully you around.  Step up to the challenge, take ownership, and liberate yourself from the guilt of having “works in progress.”  There is no true progress without embracing the process (even with all it’s quirky idiosyncrasies).

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