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Posts from the ‘For Artists’ Category

Allow Something Every Day

I loved this excerpt from Lisa Congdon, which you might find inspiring, too!

“As human beings, we like to control things. It’s in our nature. But having to control everything all the time ultimately zaps our energy and causes anxiety, because it is simply not possible all of the time. So much of our stress is caused by wanting everything to go a certain way. That can be exhausting! Since the opposite of control is allowing, it can be helpful to consciously allow at least one thing every day. For example, allowing your day to unfold in a way you did not expect (which might also mean not finishing everything on your to-do list). Or allowing someone to have feelings or reactions you wish they didn’t have without having to fix them. Or allowing yourself to have painful feelings without burying them. Allowing requires surrender and a certain trust that everything will work out, which is tough. But when we consciously allow in moments where we feel a tight hold, peace settles in.”

The Empty Bucket

I love this passage from Elizabeth Gilbert’s book entitled, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear. It really boils down to feeling your fear and anxiety, while creating your work, and moving forward, anyway. These words really resonated with me.

“Over the years of devotional work, though, I found that if I just stayed with the process and didn’t panic, I could pass safely through each stage of anxiety and on to the next level. I heartened myself with reminders that these fears were completely natural human reactions to interaction with the unknown. If I could convince myself that I was supposed to be there–that we are meant to engage with inspiration and that inspiration wants to work with us–then I could usually get through my emotional minefield without blowing myself up before the project was finished.

At such times, I could almost hear creativity talking to me while I spun off into fear and doubt.

Stay with me, it would say. Come back to me. Trust me.

I decided to trust it.

My single greatest expression of stubborn gladness has been the endurance of that trust.

A particularly elegant commentary on this instinct came from the Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney, who said that–when one is learning how to write poetry–one should not expect it to be immediately good. The aspiring poet is constantly lowering a bucket only halfway down a well, coming up time and again with nothing but empty air. The frustration is immense. But you must keep doing it, anyway.

After many years of practice, Heaney explained, ‘the chain draws unexpectedly tight and you have dipped into waters that will continue to entice you back. You’ll have broken the skin on the pool of yourself.'”

Taking Vows

I really love this passage from Elizabeth Gilbert’s book entitled, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear. The essence of her words encompass doing the work you love regardless of any outcome. Her words, shown below, really resonated with me, and perhaps her words will positively impact you, too.

“When I was about sixteen years old, I took vows to become a writer.

I mean, I literally took vows — the way a young woman of an entirely different nature might take vows to become a nun. Of course, I had to invent my own ceremony around these vows, because there is no official holy Sacrament for a teenager who longs to become a writer, but I used my imagination and my passion and I made it happen. I retreated to my bedroom one night and turned off all the lights. I lit a candle, got down on my honest-to-God knees, and swore my fidelity to writing for the rest of my natural life.

My vows were strangely specific and, I would still argue, pretty realistic. I didn’t make a promise that I would be a successful writer, because I sensed that success was not under my control. Nor did I promise that I would be a great writer, because I didn’t know if I could be great. Nor did I give myself any time limits for the work, like, ‘If I’m not published by the time I’m thirty, I’ll give upon this dream and go find another line of work.’ In fact, I didn’t put any conditions or restrictions on my path at all. My deadline was: never.

Instead, I simply vowed to the universe that I would write forever, regardless of the result. I promised that I would try to be brave about it, and grateful, and as uncomplaining as I could possibly be. I also promised that I would try to be brave about it, and grateful, and as uncomplaining as I could possibly be. I also promised that I would never ask writing to take care of me financially, but that I would always take care of it — meaning that I would always support us both, by any means necessary. I did not ask for any external rewards for devotion; I just wanted to spend my life as near to writing as possible — forever close to that source of all my curiosity and contentment — and so I was willing to make whatever arrangements needed to be made in order to get by.”

Persistence

I love this passage from Elizabeth Gilbert’s book entitled, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear. It really boils down to how one handles herself during a creative endeavor where there is always much uncertainty, while simultaneously there is great possibility. These words really resonated with me.

“Back in my early twenties, I had a good friend who was an aspiring writer, just like me. I remember how he used to descend into dark funks of depression about his lack of success, about his inability to get published. He would sulk and rage.

‘I don’t just want to be sitting around,’ he would moan. ‘I want this to all add up to something. I want this to become my job!’

Even back then, I thought there was something off about his attitude.

Mind you, I wasn’t being published, either, and I was hungry, too. I would’ve loved to have all the same stuff he wanted — success, reward, affirmation. I was no stranger to disappointment and frustration. But I remember thinking that learning how to endure your disappointment and frustration is part of the job of a creative person. If you want to be an artist of any sort, it seemed to me, then handling your frustration is a fundamental aspect of the work — perhaps the single most fundamental aspect of the work. Frustration is not an interruption of your process; frustration is the process. The fun part (the part where it doesn’t feel like work at all) is when you’re actually creating something wonderful, and everything’s going great, and everyone loves it, and you’re flying high. But such instances are rare. You don’t just get to leap from bright moment to bright moment. How you manage yourself between those bright moments, when things aren’t going so great, is a measure of how devoted you are to your vocation, and how equipped you are for the weird demands of creative living. Holding yourself together though all the phases of creation is where the real work lies.”

Find What Feeds You

I loved this excerpt from Lisa Congdon, which you might find inspiring, too!

“Staying motivated to keep your continued sense of happiness requires its own form of discipline. It requires staying open and curious. It requires searching for and diving deep into what feeds you — and allowing yourself to head down dark rabbit holes. Sometimes what feeds you isn’t cerebral at all, but is found in moving your body by walking, dancing, or athletics. What’s important is to make space for the searching, and then to use what you find — at least the parts that excite you most — as the inspiration and energy for living your life. Want to stay inspired and motivated? Make space for it. Get enough rest. Be curious. Read books. Watch films. Listen to podcasts. Go look at art. Get out into the world. Go to therapy. Participate in a revolution. Uncover your own story. Find what feeds you.”

Here is a recent video of our girls together.

Make Magic Happen

I love these words from Lisa Congdon, they ring so true, and might inspire you as well.

“With effort, we can make magic happen. Contrary to what most people think, making magic requires discipline. You must exert effort to become a better artist, athlete, musician, writer, communicator, student, fill-in-the-blank. Some of the most incredible ideas never turned to magic because the person who had them never took action. But when you take action on your ideas and dreams, your efforts can lead to magic — stuff that transforms lives, disrupts the status quo, changes the conversation, shifts mind-sets, and offers comfort and connection to those who need it most. Don’t wait around. Make magic happen.”

Creative Wisdom: Big Magic

If you are called to creative work, this book, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, may be the best you will ever read. I always reference this book since I initially read it in 2015; I sometimes just flip to a random page, which always provides sage and timely advice. Below are some of my favorite quotes to ponder.

“Your fear will always be triggered by your creativity, because creativity asks you to enter into realms of uncertain outcome, and fear hates an uncertain outcome.”

“This, I believe, is the central question upon which all creative living hinges: Do you have the courage to bring forth the treasures that are hidden within you?”

“When I refer to “creative living,” I am speaking more broadly. I’m talking about living a life that is driven more strongly by curiosity than by fear.”

“A creative life is an amplified life. It’s a bigger life, a happier life, an expanded life, and a hell of a lot more interesting life. Living in this manner — continually and stubbornly bringing forth the jewels that are hidden within you — is a fine art, in and of itself.”

“Creativity is a path for the brave, yes, but it is not a path for the fearless, and it’s important to recognize the distinction.”

“If you can’t learn to travel comfortably alongside your fear, then you’ll never be able to go anywhere interesting or do anything interesting.”

“You have treasures hidden within you — extraordinary treasures — and so do I, and so does everyone around us. And bringing those treasures to light takes work and faith and focus and courage and hours of devotion, and the clock is ticking, and the world is spinning, and we simply do not have time anymore to think so small.”

“Most of all, be ready. Keep your eyes open. Listen. Follow your curiosity. Ask questions. Sniff around. Remain open. Trust in the miraculous truth that new and marvelous ideas are looking for human collaborators every single day. Ideas of every kind are constantly galloping toward us, constantly passing through us, constantly trying to get our attention.”

“In the end, creativity is a gift to the creator, not just a gift to the audience.”

“So I don’t sit around waiting to write until my genius decides to pay me a visit. If anything, I have come to believe that my genius spends a lot of time waiting around for me — waiting to see if I’m truly serious about this line of work.”

“Often what keeps you from creative living is your self-absorption (your self-doubt, your self-disgust, your self-judgment, your crushing sense of self-protection).”

“You must be willing to take risks if you want to live a creative existence. But if you’re going to gamble, know that you are gambling. Never roll the dice without being aware that you are holding a pair of dice in your hands. And make certain that you can actually cover your bets (both emotionally and financially).”

“Of course it’s difficult to create things; if it wasn’t difficult, everyone would be doing it, and it wouldn’t be special or interesting.”

“I promised that I would never ask writing to take care of me financially, but that I would always take care of it — meaning that I would always support us both, by any means necessary.”

“It’s a simple and generous rule of life that whatever you practice, you will improve at.”

“Learning how to endure your disappointment and frustration is part of the job of a creative person.”

“Frustration is not an interruption of your process; frustration is the process. The fun part (the part where it doesn’t feel like work at all) is when you’re actually creating something wonderful, and everything’s going great, and everyone loves it, and you’re flying high. But such instances are rare. You don’t just get to leap from bright moment to bright moment. How you manage yourself between those bright moments, when things aren’t going so great, is a measure of how devoted you are to your vocation, and how equipped you are for the weird demands of creative living.”

“People don’t do this kind of thing because they have all kinds of extra time and energy for it; they do this kind of thing because their creativity matters to them enough that they are willing to make all kinds of extra sacrifices for it.”

“The essential ingredients for creativity remain exactly the same for everybody: courage, enchantment, permission, persistence, trust — and those elements are universally accessible. Which does not mean that creative living is always easy; it merely means that creative living is always possible.”

“Perfectionism is just a high-end, haute couture version of fear. I think perfectionism is just fear in fancy shoes and a mink coat, pretending to be elegant when actually it’s just terrified.”

“Possessing a creative mind, after all, is something like having a border collie for a pet: It needs to work, or else it will cause you an outrageous amount of trouble.”

“Completion is a rather honorable achievement in its own right. What’s more, it’s a rare one. Because the truth of the matter is, most people don’t finish things! Look around you, the evidence is everywhere: People don’t finish. They begin ambitious projects with the best of intentions, but then they get stuck in a mire of insecurity and doubt and hairsplitting . . . and they stop.”

“The effort is worth it, because when at last you do connect, it is an otherworldly delight of the highest order. Because this is how it feels to lead the faithful creative life: You try and try and try, and nothing works. But you keep trying, and you keep seeking, and then sometimes, in the least expected place and time, it finally happens. You make the connection. Out of nowhere, it all comes together.”

“The final — and sometimes most difficult — act of creative trust is to put your work out there into the world once you have completed it.”

“Fierce trust asks you to stand strong within this truth: You are worthy, dear one, regardless of the outcome. You will keep making your work, regardless of the outcome. You will keep sharing your work, regardless of the outcome. You were born to create, regardless of the outcome. You will never lose trust in the creative process, even when you don’t understand the outcome.”

What would you do if you knew that you could not fail?

Self-Care That’s Free!

Happy almost weekend! I hope that your summer is going well! If you are in need of some self-care this weekend, the image below provides some fun ideas. My favorite, “petting a dog,” always does wonders for all of us, and Victory loves us to love on her, always!

The time is flying here. We recently had fun celebrating Alex’s birthday and spending time together; and my parents also came to visit, and it was nice to spend time with them! I soon hope to catch up on editing our family photos in my spare time, which is always so elusive. Happy Friday!

Image by Jessica Olien.

Thoughts on Creativity

About a year ago, Ethan Hawke gave Ted Talk about creativity, and this part was particularly insightful…

Do you think human creativity matters? Well, hmm. Most people don’t spend a lot of time thinking about poetry. Right? They have a life to live, and they’re not really that concerned with Allen Ginsberg’s poems or anybody’s poems, until their father dies, they go to a funeral, you lose a child, somebody breaks your heart, they don’t love you anymore, and all of a sudden, you’re desperate for making sense out of this life, and, ‘Has anybody ever felt this bad before? How did they come out of this cloud?’

Or the inverse — something great. You meet somebody and your heart explodes. You love them so much, you can’t even see straight. You know, you’re dizzy. ‘Did anybody feel like this before? What is happening to me?’ And that’s when art’s not a luxury, it’s actually sustenance. We need it.

You can take a listen here.

Speaking of poems, I love ‘Our Union’ by Hafiz, shown below.

Our union is like this: You feel cold, so I reach for a blanket to cover our shivering feet.

A hunger comes into your body, so I run to my garden and start digging potatoes.

You asked for a few words of comfort and guidance, and I quickly kneel by your side offering you a whole book as a gift.

You ache with loneliness one night so much you weep, and I say here is a rope, tie it around me, I will be your companion for life.

Sparking More Creativity

One of my favorite things about watching my daughter, Alex, play is that it reminds me how much creativity lies within each one of us — we were born as creative people, whether we have cultivated that into adulthood or not. At two, almost three, Alex becomes totally immersed in building with her Legos and Magnatiles and she continually surprises me with the connections he makes between ideas that would never have occurred to my adult mind. Her natural free play is in stark contrast to the productivity-focused mindset I usually default to.

It has got me thinking about how amazing it would be if this creative spark were brought into our adult lives. I am learning that reclaiming our creativity could actually be a big factor in discovering our passion, finding out what makes us feel most alive, and even being better at our work. Below are some possible ways you can be more creative every day!

Draw, paint, doodle, watercolor

The sheer act of engaging in making art, of any kind, fires up all kinds of connections in the brain, so do not fight the urge to doodle while you are on your next conference call. I have been spending time coloroing with Alex, and it has been very refreshing!

Do something physical

Research has shown that physical exercise helps to force you out of left brain dominant thinking and instead adopt a more creative mindset. Exercise also increases blood flow and oxygen to the brain, which sharpen mental clarify. Here is a fascinating article that claims aerobic workouts may help stimulate imagination and new ideas.

Embrace boredom

I recently did a two day detox from my devices, and one of my biggest goals for the experiment was to learn how to embrace boredom. Why, you may ask? Because research shows that being bored actually propels us towards deeper thinking and creativity. The theory goes that a bored mind searches for stimulation, which moves it into the daydreaming state, which leads to new ideas. Read more about the studies here.

Instead of filling every extra minute with productivity or scrolling through your phone, give your mind some breathing room. Let your mind wander, and who knows, you just might have the “aha moment!”

Watch a TED talk or listen to a podcast

I often find that tuning into a powerful TED talk or listening to an interview with someone fascinating is a great way to shift my perspective, quickly and without a lot of effort. There are so many inspiring people out there, and nothing makes me more excited about creative thinking than learning from someone who is out there truly innovating in their field.

Make time for play

Studies show that when we fully immerse ourself in just doing what we enjoy — in other words, getting out of our own heads — it stimulates outside-the-box thinking and silences our inner critic. Tinker with toys, build something, get outside…and most importantly, think like a kid!