Friday, 29 June 2012

Chocolate Chips and Authenticity

Hope this week has been, if not productive, at least kind to you! Hopefully everyone has been able to engage in some sort of creative endeavor. Remember, taking time to look at clouds, beautiful green fields, even to do the dishes, can be turned into a source of creativity.We can be magpies of ideas collecting things to turn into beautiful works. And if you can't act on them right away, then save them in your creative diary. You never know when you'll need it.

This week, while filled with historic handshakes and record-breaking rainfall, has also had the loss of a creative voice in the world. Writer Nora Ephron passed away this week. She has been the source of many moments of serious reflection from her film about nuclear contamination at a power plant in Oklahoma and the whistleblower's mysterious death in Silkwood to the laughter of the unforgettable sweetness and light of Sleepless in Seattle. There was also You've Got Mail and who could forget When Harry Met Sally and the scene in the diner? For me, a lot of what made her work so wonderful was the authenticity of the voices of the characters.

Ephron quite often used the inspiration of everyday life events as the seed of her creations and put a spin and polish on them that made her work have a ring of the universal. Even if you weren't intent on cooking all of Julia Child's recipes and blogging about them, many could relate to the Julie's character in Julie and Julia in wanting to establish herself in her chosen art of writing through whatever media she could. And the film made a character that I'd seen most of my adult life, chef Julia Child, into a real, living breathing person again with more depth than I'd ever realized. And there was a tenderness in the portrayal of Julia's husband that was so palpable which was reflected in Julie's relationship as well. I thought it was a brilliant film, not just about cooking, but about aspirations, goal achieving and the difficult but worthwhile work of maintaining relationships while achieving creative goals.

While we're not all Nora Ephrons there is something to be taken from her work's authenticity of voice. That authenticity rings through in her so very believable characters, and even when she wrote about real people, their own depths--flaws or attributes--were clear and defineable. Working in art or living authentically is based in self-examination.

Living an authentic life or creativing authentic art is not a new concept. Socrates famously wrote, 'An unexamined life is not worth living.' To be authentic in ourselves, having a clear vision of who we are, what we want to say and how we want to say it is not a one-time event and then we go forward. I think it is a regular routine we commit to. Check and re-check. Not with obssesive intensity, but a mild, guiding gentleness that allows us to be nudged forward or dig in and go deep in our creating.

That doesn't mean our work has to be earth-shattering, all powerful, knock-your-socks-off-every-time sort of creation. It just has to be real and true for us and that authenticity will resonnate with others. That is what the arts are about -- resonnating with other human beings. And the bonus of creating authentically is that you are stronger in who you are, happier in who you are and thereby more free to create. Sometimes it may be quite difficult to be who you truly are or desire to be after examination, but in the long run, you're the only you there is and that makes you valuable and thereby the effort to create valuable.

So, it seems fitting to end with a quote from Nora Ephron from her film Heatburn. There's a nice bit of hope in all this.
"I look out the window and I see the lights and the skyline and the people on the street rushing around looking for action, love, and the world's greatest chocolate chip cookie, and my heart does a little dance." -- Heartburn and Nora Ephron
Enjoy your week and some chocolate chip cookies! And maybe a fun Nora film.

Friday, 22 June 2012

What Do I Do Now?

I thought today I might address a little bit about what to do AFTER you've accomplished a goal.

Some people step very easily from one project once it's finished into another. But a lot of times we are so focused on getting a project completed with all our energy going into it that once that project is finished there can be a bit of a let down. How many of us after completing a book, poem, painting, or collection for a show have a sense of being at a loss, a bit at loose ends? Am I the only one? The day after a show or book launch, there is a strange sense of 'what now?' and feeling somewhat empty. The great high of the accomplishment can often be followed by an empty low. Creativity expert Eric Maisel describes this sense of loss or emptiness as a loss of meaning. Our lives have had meaning while we are focused on that project. Once it has been completed, our sense of meaning has to shift or we feel at a loss.

This is why it is important to have the goals list and schedule at hand. We chose to make our own meaning in life and we can chose what our focus will be. To keep us on track and looking toward meaning making, goals written down in doable chunks helps us create that sense of meaning and an orderly track to follow. Chaotic vague ideas usually don't help us with meaning making. Chaos usually interferes with meaning making. So a sense of clarity of direction can be found in our little map of goals. What is our next step? Ah, there it is on my calendar!

Most coaching is about getting you into the studio or to the writing table in the first place; what we feel after the project is done is often overlooked. Sometimes people feel a fear that they can't accomplish something that big or good again. But each project is its own individual thing with its value being simply in its existance and not to be compared with anything else. Doing something creative is not a one time thing--it is ongoing. There is a circular movement with creativity; once you've finished, you begin the whole process again: concept, planning, doing. Fear of what to do next can block us, but we address that the same way we addressed it initially: action and employing all the techinques we used initially to get us through the project we just finished.

Also, any time you've completed a goal, be sure to give yourself a pat on the back, whether it's a small accomplishment or a large one; they are all of value and you've done well to complete it!

For now, I'll leave you all with just one quote. It is from a lovely friend who lives and loves in Illinois. Her creativity in life is inspiring and her book is a wonder: 'Ollie Tibbles--The Boy Who Became a Train.' Her book will be released in it's second printing in July.

'It takes great courage to recognize your GIFT. It often amazes me, when I see talent in others, their own FEAR of who they are yet equally can relate. Embracing who you are and what God put you on this earth to do is not about ego, is not about being selfish, it's about ACCEPTANCE and doing what needs to be done to HONOR that gift.' ~Debi Tibbles

Happy creating!

Friday, 8 June 2012

Other People's Words

Sometimes I just like to read what other people have to say about creativity. Knowing that others have thought and pondered the same questions and have come up with their own unique perspective is inspiring and encouraging. Here are a few of my favourites:

“You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.” — Maya Angelou

“Creativity is contagious. Pass it on.” — Albert Einstein

“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving.” — Albert Einstein (Applies to creating too!)

“When we engage in what we are naturally suited to do, our work takes on the quality of play and it is play that stimulates creativity.” –  Linda Naiman

“Creativity is inventing, experimenting, growing, taking risks, breaking rules, making mistakes, and having fun.” — Mary Lou Cook

“You write your first draft with your heart and you re-write with your head. The first key to writing is to write, not to think.” — Sean Connery

“It seems to be one of the paradoxes of creativity that in order to think originally, we must familiarize ourselves with the ideas of others.” — George Kneller

Next time, I'll use my own words now that I've delved into others' ideas.

Friday, 1 June 2012

Assessing Goals

Remember even the smallest step is a step forward! Goals don't have to be accomplished in large massive chunks--little small steady bits will get things done too.

Now that we are starting a new month it's time to re-assess how our plans have been working or not, how we can enhance our creative actions. The beginning of the month is a good time to assess our priorities again and rearrange schedules if they need it. Remember, if it's not working for you after a month, then it's time to try something else!

PostIt notes are very handy for 'mapping' out activities. This is a tool that writers often use in plotting novels. Previously, I've used 3x5 index cards to do this, but PostIt notes work great too. Write down all the projects that you would like to accomplish, or time slots that you will need to do parts of a project. I have to put in dates of other commitments with the project plans so that I'm sure to have enough time. Keeping track of other commitments is an important element of achieving your goals too. Move these around in an order that looks like it will work best for you. You can rearrange until your satisfied (without a lot of pencil erasing!). Then write these down on your calendar (or put into your electronic devise).

Also, about calendars--why not employ your creativity to make a calendar? You don't need a computer program or a fancy store calendar; you can make your own! Using a sheet of art paper, you can layout the grid, letter the days of the week and decorate the page any way you want, maybe a drawing or painting at the top. It's a fun way to be creative while getting organized and you get to control the size of the date spaces! You could use this calendar to move your PostIt notes around on as well.
But the biggest thing about being creative is just doing it! "Don't think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it's good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art." ~ Andy Warhol
Worked for Andy--let it work for us!

Happy creating!