Friday, October 9, 2009

The Creative Habit - Week 2 - Your Creative DNA

The chapter this week is on your creative DNA. Twyla says:

"I believe that we all have strands of creative code hard-wired into our imaginations. These strands are as solidly imprinted in us as the genetic code that determines our height and eye color, except they govern our creative impulses. They determine the forms we work in, the stories we tell, and how we tell them. I can't prove this. But perhaps you also suspect it when you try to understand why you're a photographer, not a writer, or why you always insert a happy ending into your story, or why all your canvases gather the most interesting material at the edges, not the center."

“If you understand the strands of your creative DNA you begin to see how they mutate into common threads in your work. You begin to see the “story” that you’re trying to tell; why you do the things you do (both positive and self-destructive); where you are strong and where you are weak (which prevents a lot of false starts) and how you see the world and function in it.”

She talks about different aspects that determine an artist’s creative identity. One of the aspects mentioned was focal length and how each of us finds comfort in the way we see the world either from a great distance, at arm’s length or close up. But once you see it you will start to notice how it defines the artists that you admire.

I grabbed a pen and my notebook and began writing down the artists I admire and why. I wanted to see what common threads would emerge. I didn’t spend a lot of time on this. I only wrote down the people that immediately came to my mind. Here’s my list:

Claude Monet
Vincent Van Gogh
Claude DeBussy
Maurice Ravel

Now of course there are many, many more artists that I admire than just the four I have listed. But these four are the biggest creative influences. Just about every room in my house has a Monet or Van Gogh print hanging on the wall. And the music that is playing throughout my house is mostly Claude DeBussy, Maurice Ravel, Charles Griffes and Frederick Delius. It’s also the music I listen to at work.

I love Impressionist paintings and have ever since I can remember. And I was very pleased and surprised to find out that the composers I love so much are considered Impressionist composers, how about that! I didn’t know there was such a thing as Impressionist music but there is and all my favorite composers are included in it. Ok, so there is one common thread for sure – Impressionism.

What I understand about Impressionist painters is that they didn’t seek to show a picture perfect image of their subject but instead to give an overall “impression, so I get their focal length. Impressionism in music seeks to create a mood or atmosphere.

I started thinking about why I love their work so much and another common thread arose – feeling. When I think about what I love about the work of these artists it all comes down to how their paintings and music make me feel. I can see a picture in my mind when I listen to their music. I love the happy, contented feelings the paintings and the music bring me. I have loved these artists and composers for as long as I can remember, even before I knew what Impressionism was. I just remember looking at the paintings and being affected by how the picture made me feel.

When I think about what motivates me to create it has to do with feeling. I love creating atmosphere. For example, I looked back through some of my household decorating notebooks and what I noticed was that the first thing I did was determine how I wanted my home to feel. What atmosphere did I want each room to have? How did I want people to feel while they were in my home? How did I want to feel in my home? I even thought about how I wanted my home to smell and the kind of food that would be cooking? What kind of activities would be going on in my house? I envisioned poetry gatherings, movie nights, book club meetings, intimate dinner parties, cook outs, etc. Before I took action on anything I got clear about the feeling I wanted to evoke. Then once I knew the feeling I could go about finding items to decorate with that would support the atmosphere I wanted to create.

I’m starting to create mental atmospheres as well. Thinking about the kind of mental atmosphere I want to have in my mind and also how I want people to feel when they are with me. I want them to feel loved, appreciated, empowered, motivated, happy, etc. Once I know the feeling I want to extend then it’s easier to act from that place.

There are more common threads emerging but I’m not going to list them all because this blog post will be too long! But I will say this book is giving me so much clarity and inspiration about my creative habit. It’s really helping me focus on what my creative process is. I feel like I just got a creative battery charge.

At the end of the chapter on Your Creative DNA Twyla lists a questionnaire that will help you determine your creative autobiography. Please click this link to take you to the questionnaire which is posted on my other blog.

Twyla said that “even if one answer tells you something new about yourself, you’re one step closer to understanding your creative DNA.” I encourage you all to take the questionnaire. Be sure to answer it quickly, instinctively and honestly.

“We want our artist’s to take the mundane materials of our lives, run it through their imaginations, and surprise us.” – Twyla Tharp

P.S. Interesting thing happened at work today. I was writing about how much I love the paintings of Claude Monet and all of a sudden there was a knock on my office door. Two of my co-workers came in looking to possibly change office pictures, each office has one picture. I was indifferent to the picture that was hanging in my office and told the guy he could have it if he wanted it. Then he mentioned that the picture that was in his office was too girly for him but he thought I might be interested. You guessed it; it is a Claude Monet print. I love the Law of Attraction!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Creative Habit - Week 1

It's exciting starting a book like this because I know I will be challenged and changed from the experience. I know I will gain a new insight and/or process that will help me live my life at a deeper level. I realize that good intentions are not enough for me to make real change in my life and that's what I'm intending here - real change that will allow me to live my life at a deeper level, to be more than I am currently expressing in my life.

I never know what issues are going to come up for me or how it's all going to play out, I just know something wonderful will occur if I open myself to the experience and remain authentic while going through the process. Having stated my intention for this creative journey I decided the best way for me to get into it was to start reading and stop when I felt an emotional reaction to something I had just read.

The first thing that came up for me was the importance of routine in learning and using the creative habit. I felt some resistance when I read the following statements:

"Being creative is a full-time job with it's own daily patterns."

"The routine is as much a part of the creative process as the lightning bolt of inspiration, maybe more."

I thought about my daily routine and what it was helping me create and as soon as I did I realized why I was feeling resistant. My daily routine on workdays goes something like this: I snooze the alarm clock for an hour which makes it around 8:00 - 8:15 a.m. before I actually get out of bed. Now I have to be at work by 9 a.m. so that leaves me about 45 minutes before I have to be at work. During that 45 minutes I've got to find something to wear, get dressed, do my hair and makeup, grab something for lunch and drive to work. Not exactly the routine of a deliberate creator now is it? I didn't realize until I purposefully looked at my routine against the backdrop of what I was wanting to create that I saw the difference between what I was intending and what I was actually thinking and doing.

When I write about my ideal life, what it looks like and how I start my day it looks nothing like what I described to you with my current morning routine and truth be told, my weekend routine isn't much better. In my ideal life I wake up without an alarm clock, full of energy and excitement for the day. I get up, make my morning coffee and then go outside and watch the sun come up. I spend some time writing and doing yoga and then I go to work. There is such a gap between what I'm currently living and what I wish to be living.

I'm currently working to incorporate some of the elements from my ideal life into my current routine. I tried to change everything all at once and it was just too much of a difference for me to maintain. I took a step back and realize everything didn't have to change all at once. I could start slowly by incorporating some of my ideal intentions into what I'm currently living and so far, that seems to be working out much better. I'm enjoying my time in the morning, sitting outside with a cup of coffee watching the sun come up. I find myself looking forward to doing this as soon as I wake up and at least for the past few days have not felt the need to snooze the alarm clock even once.

Here are the first three creative exercises listed in the book.

1. Where is your "pencil"?
"What is the one tool that feeds your creativity and is so essential that without it you feel naked and unprepared."

For me, it's a pen and notepad. I'm always jotting down some idea that comes to me, an action step, a quote, etc. I never know when I'll receive an idea for something and I always want to be prepared. It's rare when I don't have a pen and notepad with me but in the few times when it's happened I really did feel unprepared. I don't know about feeling naked but definitely unprepared.

2. Build up your tolerance to solitude
"It's not the solitude that slays a creative person. It's all that solitude without a purpose. Solitude is an unavoidable part of creativity, self-reliance is a happy by-product."

I didn't have any real trouble with this exercise because I love solitude; it's my connection time. It's my time to focus on the higher vision I have for myself and I make time for it every day.

3. Face your fears
"There is nothing wrong with fear; the only mistake is to let it stop you in your tracks."

This assignment really got to me. As I was reading the exercise this part stood out to me.

"When you sat in the brainstorming session at work, why didn't you speak up? When that idea for a story flitted through your mind, why didn't you seize it and pursue it? After you started drawing in that sketch book, why did you stop?"

I asked myself why I always seem to stop myself before I really let myself take off with an idea. Twyla says to put our fears down on paper because it helps cut them down to size, so here goes...

My five big fears right now are:
1. Fear of getting criticized
2. Fear that if I step out on faith the money/resources won't come through
3. Fear of attention/being laughed at
4. Fear of not measuring up
5. Fear my dream is too big for me to realize right now

I knew this book would challenge me I just didn't realize how much.