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/