The Enchantment of New Inspiration

In an earlier blog, “keep a door or window open,” I encouraged the artist to stay open so that more inspiration enters.  However, there is such a thing as Inspirational Overload.

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This is dangerous territory for me.  I am a great creative idea generator.  There are people who get paid for being “Ideas Men/Women.”  Innovators!  That is their job title.  They do not have to bring the idea to fruition…they just have to keep coming up with new and viable ideas.  Then, a team of creatives runs with the idea, developing it into a product.

When I get a new idea, I want to run with it, abandoning all of the other great ideas that are in various stages of development.  This is troublesome for me because, then, I don’t bring an earlier idea in process to completion. I surround myself with puddles of incompletion. Recognizing that I’m only one person with a limited amount of time and energy, I tap into my own frustration and immobility.

In such times,  I have learned to choose ONE THING that won’t take more than a few days to complete.  I follow it from start to finish while quieting the niggling voices that tug at me from every side.  I play my favorite music and get busy doing that one thing.  Whenever I am tempted to leave it in a state of partiality, I don’t walk away.  I stay with it.  I see it through to the end…completing the tiny details of it whether it is a piece of writing, a painting or a fabric creation.  I get it to that state where I can say with absolute finality.  THIS IS DONE!

Hooray!  I’ve completed something.  I’ve moved the paralyzing energy of inspirational overload.  I’ve created a piece!  It’s important to take time to bask in that feeling for a little while.  (Isn’t bask a great word?)

I’ve proven to myself that I have the focus and follow-through to bring something to completion.  In bringing a project to completion, there is fulfillment of the promise that was sparked with the original idea.  Now, I feel ready to go forward with whatever is next having renewed faith in my capability to complete something.

Creative Prompt:
Have you had this experience of the enchantment of new inspiration?  What is your method of dealing with this?  Do you have too many unfinished projects?  Try working on and completing one small thing.  What is your feeling afterwards?

Please feel free to share your own thoughts under the comments.

Note:  Why not gather a few friends and give yourself a party to show off your creation…toast yourself with apple cider, champagne or your beverage of choice!

butterfly

“Creativity is not Comfortable”

Awhile ago, I jotted down this quote from Billy Wilder,  “an Austro-Hungarian born American filmmaker, screenwriter, producer, artist, and journalist….”  He is long gone from this earth plane…however, as you know, quotes live on.

Creative beings who’ve been practicing their art, know this quote–“Creativity is not comfortable”–in a deeply experiential way.  They understand the edges, precipices, walls; the angst, internal subterfuge and the pushing through.  They understand the daring and the doing despite doubts, fears and/or internal or external pressure to halt!

Why is creating so uncomfortable?  I think it is partly because when you are fully in the creative process, you, yourself go through changes as you create.

TRANSFORMATION could be a synonym for creativity.

Webster’s Dictionary, in defining transformation says “…to change a thing into a different thing.  Transform implies a major change in form, nature, or function…”

mandala.2017ITS

On the canvas, I resist because things are going to be disrupted and perhaps even “ugly” for awhile.  If I am attached to what is on the canvas, it’s going to be hard to let it go.  When I’m backed into a creative corner, I have to make a move that can feel forced upon me in some way.  There is a risk as I leave my comfort zone and engage the unknown. This whole process brings to my awareness the stuck places inside of me, the resistance and lack of daring.  It’s complex, right?

Ultimately, I love my creations, whether poetry, prose, painting or crafting.  And I often surprise myself with what comes.

Writing Prompt:
Do you prefer your “comfort zone” when it comes to writing or making art?  Or do you enjoy the adventure beyond comfort?  When you venture past the borders of the familiar, do you experience doubt as to whether or not you can create something that is “successful”?  Is that a fair requirement of yourself as you are in this process?  And, do you care about what others are going to think?  Do you make that more important than staying true to your artist’s journey?

Write your answers to these questions in your writer’s journal.  Be truthful with yourself.

 

 

Now…and Then

“10,000 flowers in spring
the moon in autumn
a cool breeze in summer
snow in winter–
If your mind is not clouded
by unncecssary things
this is the best season of your life.”
by Wu-Men (Chinese poet)

Isn’t that a secret we’d like to have an answer to–how to stay present within this moment and not drift off into the past, future, fear, worry, conjecture, etc?  At least more of the time. Being present to one’s daily life experience is desirable.

However, when we write (or paint or create art), we move in all directions, don’t we? There is very little that is linear about the creative process, especially in the initial stages.  That said, I begin with an intention.  Even if I seem to veer off course.  For me, setting a creative intention rouses personal process. The goal then is to stay present with my process as I write or paint–wherever it might take me (even when it changes course from my original creative intention).

Year ago, I began reading a translation of the French author, Marcel Proust’s classic, Remembrance of Things Past, otherwise known as In Search of Lost Time.  At that time, I found that reading the first volume (one of seven) was both laborious and tedious.  My mind stumbled over the slow revelation and wanted to skip ahead to get to the story behind the array of descriptive words.

Today, I realize that one of the author’s intentions was to explore memory itself and take the reader on a journey through his process around resurrecting his memories.  He considered both voluntary memory and involuntary memory.  An often recounted episode from his book is the memory evoked when tasting a madeleine cake dipped in tea!

“No sooner had the warm liquid mixed with the crumbs touched my palate than a shudder ran through me and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary thing that was happening to me. An exquisite pleasure had invaded my senses, something isolated, detached, with no suggestion of its origin. And at once the vicissitudes of life had become indifferent to me, its disasters innocuous, its brevity illusory – this new sensation having had on me the effect which love has of filling me with a precious essence; or rather this essence was not in me it was me. … Whence did it come? What did it mean? How could I seize and apprehend it? … And suddenly the memory revealed itself. The taste was that of the little piece of madeleine which on Sunday mornings at Combray (because on those mornings I did not go out before mass), when I went to say good morning to her in her bedroom, my aunt Léonie used to give me, dipping it first in her own cup of tea or tisane. The sight of the little madeleine had recalled nothing to my mind before I tasted it. And all from my cup of tea.”
— Marcel Proust, In Search of Lost Time

WRITING PROMPT:
Invoking a memory is considered a voluntary memory as you have chosen to retrieve a memory from the past and write about it. Proust compares voluntary memory to involuntary memory–which has a visceral quality to it and can therefore be expressed as a vivid and direct experience with greater impact for the writer and the reader.
Have you had this experience…something in the moment triggers an old memory and brings it fully into the present…so much so that all of your senses are awakened around that memory?  Have you written it down?

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In the movie Ratatouille, at the end, the food critic is sampling the chef’s ratatouille dish and is transported back to his childhood and the savory comfort food that his mother served him.  He is personally comforted by the memory as his tastebuds approve of the dish.

(Click on the play arrow and then click on “YouTube” on the bottom right corner and you will go directly to this clip.)

Leading Questions

When I paint, when I write or when I get stuck, I ask a leading question. Where do I go from here?  What would my protagonist do or say in this circumstance? Where does this poem want to go?  Or what color wants to come onto the canvas? Which line or mark can move this piece forward?  What if…I do this or try that? Then what? For it isn’t always flow, but sometimes a stumbling step, then another tripping step and then a fumbling move forward. Even a dreaded mistake can take you to the next level. It’s all part of it…this grand, unpredictable creative process.

As a beginning painter, my desire was often greater than my ability.  What did I do with that?  I continued the questioning.  And sometimes, I took a brush and black paint in frustration and swirled lines across my painting in process. Frequently, to my surprise, something new emerged from which I could move forward.

Basically, you become CONVERSATIONAL with whatever you’re doing–writing or painting. 

Life itself is really about “I wonder what is next?”  Because as much as we think we’re in familiar territory, we don’t know what the next moment might bring.  It is about fully trusting the unfolding creative process.

It also helps to see what you are doing as practice. You cannot know what you don’t know.  Through questioning, you remain open to discovery.  The faces that I drew and painted two years ago laid the platform for the faces that I draw and paint today.  I had to begin somewhere and to be patient with my development as an artist.  I spent time with faces. Today, I actually enjoy the challenge of drawing a three-quarter turned face.  I steeped myself in images of three-quarter turned faces–eyes, noses and lips in that profile position.  I memorized them, traced them, tore them from magazines, drew them, made tons of wonky faces.  And I learned from my mistakes.  I often asked, “What happens if I do this?”  These very words imply trial and error…and successes too.  And, I’m not there yet!inner2 (1)

WRITING PROMPT:
Revisit a work in progress that has been stalled (writing, painting, drawing) and begin a conversation with it.  Ask leading questions and respect the response(s) that you get. Allow the uncertainty and take the faltering steps as you move your work along. Allot yourself a sufficient amount of  time with this and see how leading questions work for you.

 

Poetry Handles the Big Stuff for Me

Salty Tears
© by Christine O’Brien

“Be brave, stay busy.”
Well-intentioned remedies for a broken heart,
but she’s no longer here for me to see.

Taste of salty tears
as I bake pumpkin cookies.
I’m sure she would do
something like this
if it were me who died.
Like Water for Chocolate
will those who partake
share this terrible grief?
I wonder.
Would it heal something in them?

This crazy, lonely, isolating grief.
Sometimes, it’s hard to breathe
and a falling leaf which softly
brushes my shoulder recalls her.
And then,
there are so many falling leaves…

The uncried tears from my entire life
tumble
until I’m wrung out;
and then there are more.
I search my house for
every tangible thing she gave me
–a scrap of blue velvet,
an old Christmas card,
the wired butterfly earrings
she fashioned for me–
all become more precious.

Any command to be done with this grief
too soon
rings false.

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This is one reason why I love poetry.  It helps me to navigate the tough stuff. Losing a dear friend, suddenly, a few years ago, I went into shock.  How could I make sense of this? How would I traverse this painful chasm?  While well-intentioned others want us to put on a brave front, everything inside says to feel this loss all the way down to the bone. Poetry has helped me with this countless times. Sometimes it is through reading other’s poetry that I find validation and support. Frequently, it is through my own writing that I am rescued.

WRITING PROMPT:
What about you?  As a writer, artist, poet, how do you handle the big stuff?  Do you try to avoid it?  Or do you enter this territory when you are called to? How does your creative process and chosen genre support you in writing or painting your way through loss or change?  Write about this in your journal.

WRITING TIP:
As we learn to process and integrate “the big stuff” of life, we become writers with depth.

Have a peaceful day.

butterflyearrings

 

Getting Comfortable within the Creative Process

bird.cafe1 I did not invent this; I found my way to it intuitively. And at the time, I named it process-oriented writing before I heard it had already been named. Ira Progoff, Ph.D., is one of the hallmark leaders in the development of process-oriented writing. And there have been many others who have taken this idea and run far and wide with it. This is part of my spiel on it–the one I wrote on my brochure when I was giving creative writing workshops.

“In a fast-paced, product-oriented society, process is equated with laboring. We want the prize and we want it now! We continually discover that once we achieve a particular goal, dissatisfaction sets in and we fixate on the next goal and the next. Understanding this, leads one to appreciate–PROCESS–which is the never-ending journey.  To be a writer of depth, it helps to engage your own process.”

We live in a society that is bent towards PRODUCT at all costs.  We want something complete.  Something SELLABLE.  Something desirable (to ourselves, our audience or our clients).  We think that we want these things above all else.

The creative spirit sees this goal-orientation differently than the popular norm. The creative spirit wants to re-create you as it potentially creates a product! In other words, the finished product is sort of a by-product of your own creative process.  While the creative spirit wants a commitment from you–that you are going to show up to the page, the canvas, the draft table, workbench or sewing machine, it also wants to break free from the requirements of a system that doesn’t truly elevate the intention of the creative spirit–that is, fostering your own growth.

Contemplate the flux and flow of your own creative process over the course of your life. When you were in process with a piece, were you excited?  Did you feel anticipation, anxiety even? Did you get stymied, stuck and have pitfalls that ultimately lead to breakthroughs?

Writing Prompt:
Choose a work in process which you’ve tucked away for sometime or a piece that you are presently working on.  Get quiet and present; reread what you’ve already written, at least some of it, and then enter into the energy of this piece. Continue from where you left off, following your flow with this piece. Write for at least thirty minutes.

Afterwards, notice what happens inside of you when you re-engage with and follow the flow of a piece?  Were there obstacles?  Was there ease?

Today, appreciate where you are at in your creative journey.

 

Creativity Breeds…CREATIVITY

I have been writing since I was age 27… quite awhile.  In 2014, I grew tired of words. Words engage inner patterns and I found myself going in circles with my thinking and writing.  I abandoned words…for a few years.

In the place of words, I found intuitive painting.  For the first time in my life, I wielded a paintbrush as a tool for self-expression.  I was a total beginner!  I engaged in a wordless conversation with each new painting.  Playing with color, shapes, imagery and symbols, opened inner doorways that words alone had not.  I discovered that I had the courage to allow a painting to unfold and become what it wanted to become.  I also discovered that the creative process is the creative process regardless of the way it expresses.  While I came up against obstacles or blocks as with writing, I made marks on the canvas that moved me through them…and I found the flow.

In these few years of not writing, I realized that I missed words.  I enjoy creative writing and considered how I could marry words and images, poetry and paint. I realized, experientially, that one creative expression enhances the other.  Often you think of yourself as this or that…writer or painter or crafter. When, in fact, you have access to any creative opening out there at any time. You only have to choose it and then, as with writing, show up and practice it. Today, I plot and write a blog and I make other art. I knit or craft or cook a gourmet meal.  It’s summer here–I walk in the forests and beside the lakes and take photos.

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You broaden your creative repertoire, not necessarily to become a famous artist or writer.  You do this because it expands you (it feeds your hungry, vast and expressive psyche) and your writing.  It really is about giving yourself a playground to explore all sorts of other media of self-expression. These days, there are many online art classes…many wonderful teachers. The art journal, mixing words and images, is an interesting and fun way to engage with both words and imagery.

Walking this morning, I encountered a woman I hadn’t met before in this small community. A conversation ensued & suddenly she stopped and beheld a field of flowers. She said “I love the way the light and shadow are enhancing the colors.  Isn’t that beautiful!” My response was “It is beautiful. Are you a photographer?”  It turns out that she is a photographer.

When you draw (or paint or use color or sculpt or take photos), you notice things in a deeper way.    This way of noticing makes you privy to nuances of color, light, shade, line, form, texture, etc….these are translated into descriptive elements for the writer or poet. This can only improve your writing.

WRITING PROMPT:
What other creative activities inspire, expand and enhance your writing? Gardening, cooking, sewing, crafting, knitting, pottery, playing a musical instrument, woodworking, jewelry-making, doodling?

In your WRITING journal, draw something.  Sit down in front of an object of your choice and draw it.  Use a graphite pencil and draw the lines–no judgment.  Don’t erase.  If it’s not quite right, play with it until it feels complete to you.  Then write about your process of drawing…your feelings, comfort or discomfort, the lines and shapes, the object itself, whatever you discover as you draw.

strawberries.drawing

WRITING TIP:
Drawing develops your focusing ability as it challenges you to render what you see. Drawing helps you to really see something and notice things that you might otherwise overlook.

*The first online art class I took, BRAVE INTUITIVE PAINTING, was taught by Flora Bowley.