Showing Up, Letting Go, and Seeking Out: Keeping the Creativity Flowing

May 15, 2013

Ando’s Creative Diary Entry Log
Earth Year 2013
Colorado, USA

January 1, 2013: I have started my creative recovery. I’m pumped! I am  journaling every day, devouring The Artists Way, treating myself to decadent artist’s dates, snapping museum worthy pictures and reveling in my new found artistic freedom.  I am a real artist, a real creative, and it feels fantastic!

January 24, 2013: I have come down with a nasty cold, and it is hanging on mercilessly. Trying to come back to the page but I have lost all momentum.  I have work to catch up on from the lost sick week, luckily my creative urges have subsided so I will be able to devote my energy to work.

March 1, 2013: Work is done! My journal is back open and it feels great to be working the pen like a maestro. I have some new song ideas I am really excited about, and am getting my guitar fixed up so they can come to life.

March 10, 2013: Child care has fallen through again, and my days have been filled with park playgrounds and putting together puzzles, not the music making I had in mind.

Today: I’m back and feeling the flow. My guitar is ready and I’m stoked to get some stuff down later.

Tomorrow: Who knows……………….

The Creativity Train Taking A Break in Nowheresville. By: Brent Moore

And so it goes, this back and forth, this seesaw of creative flow and drought. I keep wondering why I can’t just stay in the flow and reticently come to the realization that creativity doesn’t work that way. It is not linear, or sensible, or pragmatic. It is messy and out of  control, subject to whims and flights of fancy.

However, I think there are some things I can do to help my creative train keep on chugging, rather than stopping for a leg stretch at every podunk town between here and wherever it is that I’m headed (hopefully Creativityville or Inspirationland, or at least Kansas City).

Showing Up

Creative thinking – in terms of idea creativity – is not a mystical talent. It is a skill that can be practised and nurtured.
Edward de Bono

Showing up is more than half the battle. Writing anything no matter how horrible. Carving out the time to devote to the practice of creativity, because practice is how we get better at anything.

Taking the pressure off can be a huge help. I recently saw a tip to say to yourself something like “I’m just going to look at my supplies, take out my pens and tinker around”.  Inevitably something is created from this simple act. And if not, no big deal – you’ve still taken inventory of your supplies and maybe gotten an idea of a few things you need. For me, it is taking out my guitar and seeing what comes up. More often than not a song is born from this exploration.

And of course journaling…. every morning. A daily practice like this always yields positive results, I just need to figure out how to make it automatic, like breakfast or brushing my teeth.  I also think penciling in 3 hours a week of pure creative time (and turning off any potential distractions during that time) might be needed at this point, to make sure I get it done.

If you are well practiced, even through times of creative drought, when the ideas do come, you are ready to pounce. Practice is training so that those rare and beautifully brilliant ideas can be captured skillfully when they arise.

Letting Go

Creativity can be described as letting go of certainties.
Gail Sheehy

Letting go of expectations about how creativity should look and about how good something should be, especially in first draft form. Letting go of the inner judgements that stop the flow (this is shitty work, I’m not creative etc.). Letting go of fear about how others see me.

Basically cutting myself a little slack and seeing where the muse wants to take me, because it is surely a place I’d not see otherwise, and might not even know exists. Finding those hidden gems are what makes creativity so exciting to me.

So often expectations about how the work should look end up killing off great ideas and limiting what can happen.  I need to find some ways to free myself up, so that I can let myself go.

Seeking Out

You can’t wait for inspiration, you have to go after it with a club.
Jack London

Inspiration is everywhere, but sometimes you need to go looking for it, or change your mindset in order to see it in front of you.

Filling the well is what Julia Cameron calls it, and for her this means going to a museum, a collectibles store, or a hike somewhere new.  Seeking out new experiences, places and people can be an easy way to seek out new ideas.

Inspiration can also be found by really listening to the song on the radio, or really tasting the food in front of you. This requires a more subtle “club” as Mr. London refers to it. Creativity can come from the mundane, it is found in turning off our thoughts and experiencing what  is happening. Slowing down and taking in the moment can put a new perspective on a situation.  Life is intrinsically creative, the sky is a canvas in motion.

Tapping into this constant creativity is not easy, but with intention we can seek out creativity at any moment.

The Cyclical Nature of Things

I’ve Got Tides in Low Places By: Neva Swensen

The earth is the ultimate creator, and we exist in a cyclical state.  In small time this looks like the moon phases or circadian rhythms, step back and you see the rise and fall of species, mountains being created and destroyed, life forming. Creativity is like that, it is ever changing, but there are high tides and low tides of creative flow.

Recognizing the flow has helped me to be a little less judgmental of my creative process so far. I can still work on things during the low tides (like showing up, letting go and seeking out) which will prepare me to ride the high tides when the time is right.

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In a Nutshell: 3 Tips to Jumpstart Creativity and a free enewsletter from Creativoly

May 9, 2013

I just signed up for a free 30 day newsletter with daily tips to enhance creativity at (like the name by the way). I found out about this while surfing for ideas on fostering creativity and found an interesting article at Arctic Startup that highlights this service and it’s creator Niklas Laninge.  Though geared more towards business professionals, these tips are applicable to anybody looking to get more creative.

In a nutshell, here are the 3 tips to start being more creative right away:

  1. Have lunch often with someone who is not a usual associate  – someone in a different profession or department (or a different kind of artist if that’s your thing). This gets you out of using buzzwords and other conversational shortcuts that you use with colleagues, and you get to learn about someone else and what they do, which might spark creative thinking as well.
  2. Shadow somebody you know who is creative. Study what makes them tick and what methods they use to access the zone.
  3. Escape groupthink by spending some time brainstorming alone. In a group setting brainstorms can be more censured because people are afraid to sound stupid. When you are alone, you already know you are stupid so there’s no embarrasement in wild thinking, which may lead to some wildly good ideas!

I thought this simple article offered some easy suggestions and was happy to find another resource in creativoly. Read the entire article below.

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Lyrics! Enough is Enough

May 7, 2013

Since the real purpose of this adventure is to spur my own creativity, not just write about what I should be doing or spouting tidbits of pseudo creative wisdom, I thought I would share some lyrics I just wrote! I tucked away a little time today for the first draft.  We have a gig coming up in 3 weeks which is serving as a great creative deadline to get some lyrics finished.

I’ve had the title to this song for a while, but wasn’t sure exactly where it was going from there. It kind of surprised me – I like the circular effect that came up, and I wasn’t expecting it to be quite so dark. Originally I was thinking it would be more of an empowering type of song but the muse had other ideas today.

I am also curious about who the “you” is in the song,  I think it is a part of myself that I can’t quite shake, no matter where I go. That nagging self critic, that judgemental son of a bitch.

I started by using some techniques from the songwriting class I recently took with Pat Pattison through Coursera, but quickly veered to straight writing as the words began flowing. I did consult an online rhyming dictionary though you might not know it from the simplistic rhyming words. I think disappear might have come from it, as well as rhyming stuff with enough.

My favorite part of this song is the verse rhyming scheme – the chords change for the 5th line but the rhyme is consistent with the 3rd and 4th lines. It creates a strange continuity between the chord changes. I’ll post a version if I can get one recorded.

Enough is Enough

Enough is Enough

I keep walking down the same street
Keep dreaming down the same dreams
All the little things are adding up
Open heart but all the doors are shut
Try to hold onto a little luck
It keeps slipping through my dirty hands
Wash em clean but they turn black again
Didn’t think that you would understand

Why do you keep on harassing me
Who is it that you want me to be
Change the station try to tune you out
Conversations only scream and shout
If i did now I don’t have a doubt
Gonna pack it up and get away
Gonna find a place where I can stay
Gotta get a ticket – One Way

Oh baby I’ll be heading out of here
This time I think I’ll finally disappear
I’m leaving all my baggage all my stuff
Enough is Enough

So Im setup in a new place
With a good girl and a straight face
I tread lightly still the dreams begin
All the people that I might of been
Feel my fingers turning black again
Start to wonder if I’m still OK
Feel the bellyache to run away
Gotta get a ticket – One Way
Oh baby I’ll be heading out of here
This time I think I’ll finally disappear
I’m leaving all my baggage all my stuff
Enough is Enough

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Getting The GOOOD Shit Done: 5 Things Creative Folk Can Learn From Productive Folk

May 1, 2013

In my search for online material relating to the creative process I keep tripping over blog posts with advice about being more productive and getting more shit done. Systematize this, Automate that, Outsource the rest (preferably to a foreigner who charges less than $2/hr).

There are contests for who can get the most shit done in the shortest amount of time. The winner gets an ebook about how to quadruple shit output in a quarter of the time. Forget about quality or originality or craftsmanship, it’s all about producing quick and massive piles of shit.

This Baby Baboon is more creative than you By: Hen Riko

These types of articles often share real estate with tips on “5 Easy Ways to Enhance your Creativity –  so easy that a Blindfolded Baby Baboon Could Do Them” or “Unleashing the Creative Tsunami Within”.  You know, the quality stuff.

How can they inform one another, to help us not just get shit done, but to get the GOOOD shit done?

Guilt, Shame & Murder

If you’re not accomplishing several things simultaneously right now then you are probably feeling a little guilt, with a sprinkling of shame mixed in, and surely some murderous thoughts towards me for wasting your valuable time (or perhaps for my Jack Blackian physique). I know I’ve harbored those same thoughts while wasting my precious coffee buzz reading productivity blog posts.

Our culture has programmed us to be busy, to be working on or producing something…anything…all of the time. If you are producing something you are creating something right? Who cares if it is someone else’s idea, or a strategy you have tweaked or modified ever so slightly, you are creating something where there was nothing before. You are a busy, productive creative genius, right?

If Only Productivity really meant Mai Tais on the Beach By: Sarah_Ackerman

That’s what those productivity gurus might have you believe. They would probably argue that you don’t even need to be busy, that you can actually increase productivity while enjoying the company of beautiful women and  Mai Tais on the beach. Unfortunately, the reality is that extra time usually means more time to think about how to be more productive, and a vicious time sucking cycle ensues.

When you are producing, you are concerned with how to produce more more more. How to become more efficient. How to make more money. How to pump out more product. It is a loop, and the more consistent and quantifiable things are the better.

Creativity abhors this kind of consistency,monotony and consumption. Creativity is about freedom to wander, to linger, to explore. There is no timetable, and often no particular goal. Unfortunately, this results in absolutely nothing being produced.

A creative artist who never produces any creative work is not much of an artist at all. Artists must produce work in order to share and inspire others, and producers must find new ideas (ie be creative) or risk over-saturation and irrelevance as tastes and needs change quickly.

What Creative Folk Can Learn From Productive Folk

Although we’d all benefit from more creativity everywhere, I’m not as interested in how producers can create more commercial crap. I’m more interested in how artists (like me as I am now sometimes referring to myself) can become more productive while still maintaining integrity and connection.

Although their priorities are often messed up, co-opting a couple of tools from the productivity people might actually be useful.

The GOOOD Shit

  • Ground Prep: With any creative work are some phases which are not as creative but can help to prep the ground for the real work/play/flow. For example perusing the thesaurus for a bunch of words that may be used, or creating a kind of mind map with different ideas I can hand over to the muse when she’s ready to write a song. Re-sizing images and adding links on blog posts, researching locations for a book or deciding on color schemes can all fall into this prep work. When the creativity is not flowing, I can still spend some productive time with other tasks that will help when the flow is at full force.
  • Outlines: Sometimes that blank piece of paper can become a giant white whale staring me down with beady eyes and a confidence sucking mouth. Throwing down a general outline can get some ideas on the page. These may change drastically as the piece evolves, but it can be useful to break the seal. I’ve started using some outlining techniques in songwriting that are helping. These include creating quick boxes that follow the potential progression of the song and lists of rhyming words that may end up populating it.
  • Outcomes: Splitting up a project into manageable outcomes can help with the overwhelm, and also create some natural breaks and times for daydreaming in between tasks. Completing tangible goals within a larger project can help motivate me – I’ve accomplished s0mething and I’ve got another segment I can tackle next.
  • Odds & Ends:  Along the same lines as outcomes, it can be useful to divide different outcomes into different piles. So I’ve got a research pile, a boring task pile, a creative pile etc (for me these piles are virtual, just different lists on a page). Depending on energy, mood and time I can go to a pile and accomplish something, which keeps momentum and self esteem high.
  • Deadlines: If it has to be done by a certain time then it’s done, even if it is not perfect. Often deadlines that are self imposed can be a little shaky for me, so scheduling a gig or an art show is certainly a way to make sure it happens. Even committing to an open mic night or a weekly poetry group where I need to bring something new every week can light that fire. I’m finding this is happening with this blog post (it is not getting itself done dammit), so I just imposed a 30 min deadline. It will not be perfect, but it will be.

Maybe those productivity gurus are onto something after all with their 4 hour work weeks and Mai Tais on the beach. Now if we can only turn them on to some creativity tools to help them start producing more GOOOD shit, instead of just more shit, we’ll all be better off.


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