You know how sometimes a few days of eating right and exercising can make you feel like Superwoman? I call it going on a health kick and I don't do it often enough, but when I do it feels terrific! The best thing about a health kick is that it perpetuates more healthy behavior; the better I feel, the more motivated and energized I am to take even more positive steps. What if we could do something analogous for our creativity?
I was lucky enough to hear Carolyn Flynn speak on Saturday at a meeting of the Southwest Writer's Group. Among other things, Carolyn is an author, journalist, and the editor of Sage Magazine. She also has 13 year old twins and is a lovely, enthusiastic, and engaging woman. Her chosen topic was related to the idea of infusing your work with originality and how to accomplish that. Along the way, she mentioned conserving one's creative energy and suggested that we engage with the world in ways that energize rather than deplete us. It really made me think about myself and my creative processes, as well as how I engage with life in general. If you know me personally, you could probably vouch for the fact that I'm pretty enthusiastic. My husband diplomatically says it's part of my charm, but it drives even me batty sometimes. Alas, I cannot seem to curb it, and most of the time I don't even try. Life is exciting! Thinking this over, I've suddenly realized that if could I fine-tune my interactions, I might gain even MORE energy, productivity and creativity. Whoa! Watch out world! Let the record show that I gave the world fair warning.
- Watch your diet. Limit your intake of mindless television. All TV is not bad, however all reality TV is dreadful. Whoops! I think that last statement was strictly personal opinion, but I've decided to let it stand. What is the purpose of a blog, after all, if not to inflict your personal opinions on others? Conversely, a steady diet of nothing but PBS might be mind-numbing for most of us, so find a happy medium that works for you and stick with it. The benefits are two-fold ~ you can choose other activities which nourish your mind and you'll gain precious time that can be used on creative pursuits.
- Be as unencumbered as possible. I don't buy into the stereotype of the anguished artist/writer who needs emotional turmoil to feed the creative process. Organize your life such that needless chaos and disruption is removed. Make smart choices.
- Help and encourage others. A rising tide floats all boats. This is my new motto, so you may hear it again. I will no longer abide people who act as though their success is dependent upon someone else's failure. Rather than encountering others in a spirit of competitiveness, jealousy, or envy, realize that everything positive and helpful to the creative community and those involved in it, will result in an affirmative result in your life.
- Feed off of others. Watch what others are doing. Learn from them. This is a perfectly acceptable way to hone your craft.
- Engage in your craft. Sometimes, I'm afraid to begin. I feel that I want to create something, but I don't have a concrete idea for a story or a painting. I can spend hours in this state of mind getting nothing accomplished and suffering from low-level feelings of helplessness and frustration. Often, these bad feelings are difficult to detect, but they are insidious and are secretly draining my energy and enthusiasm. I've found that just starting something, anything, can unleash my creative powers. In the spirit of honesty, I will admit that sometimes this action unleashes my horrific power of bad writing or my appalling power of ugly art. So what! All creating is learning and is part of the process. Often these pieces can be modified or revisited and even turn out to be favorites.
- Use what you've got. I used to spend a considerable amount of time lamenting my lack of time, money, blah, blah, & blah. Oh, poor me. I thought that if my situation were somehow different, man, would I write. I'd be a whiz! Shit, I would probably have been writing a Pulitzer Prize winning novel if it hadn't been for x,y, and z in my life. Or the lack thereof. This is complete bullshit, but it's very difficult to accept as a truth, because once you do, you have no excuses left for not getting out there and doing your thing. If you don't believe me, do some research on it. A great many artists and writers have produced fabulous works without the benefit of the perfect studio or a top-of-the-line computer system. Most of them are just like you and me, with a day job and a family and a dental appointment next Tuesday. So quit making excuses and make art! Go write! You will instantly feel energized rather than depleted from fighting the urge.
- Build a good team. You know this already, and it applies to life in general, not just to your creative endeavors. Surround yourself with supportive, loving people. Not yes men. Not people who are afraid to be honest with you, but people who understand how to be honest and kind at the same time. What should you do if you're surrounded by assholes? Hmmmm. This is a difficult and common situation, but friends, but the answer is simple. Change that. You either have to solve this issue with those particular people, or do yourself the favor of moving on to better things. Yep, I said it. Why are those jerks in your life anyway? Remember bullet #2 up there? Make smart choices. By the way, I can say these things with absolute authority because I'm really, really smart. Okay, you caught me. I'm not all that smart and it took me way too long to figure out this important lesson. If I have any authority at all on this topic, it's born of experience. A ton of experience. Be smarter than me.
I hope everyone has a terrific week which includes taking good care of your creative self.