Category Archives: art

Creativity and When Someone Just Doesn’t Get Your Art: The Sympathetic Resonance Theory Connection

Have you ever had someone in your writer’s group just not “get you?”

Have you ever had such a bad critique or Amazon review that you wanted to crawl under the nearest table?

That’s part of the artist’s life–that your writing, your song, your art, isn’t for everyone, but when it happens, it’s still difficult/frustrating/embarrassing/disappointing/there aren’t enough adjectives in the world to describe just how hurtful it can be.

I’ve come to realize that when someone doesn’t get you it’s just discordant harmonies.

What’s that?

Let me get practical– if you have to guitars in a room and you pluck a G string on one of the guitars you will actually notice that the other untouched guitar G string will begin to vibrate.

Like calls to like.

This morning I reread a self-help book I really love called, Bounce Back, (I’m a self-help junkie) and I came across this  term: sympathetic resonance theory. It’s used in music and has lots of scientific, health and technological applications including biofeedback, helping to reset irregular heart rhythms and research in sound waves for military application.

A quick wiki definition is this–sympathetic resonance: ” …a harmonic phenomenon wherein a formerly passive string or vibratory body responds to external vibrations to which it has a harmonic likeness.”

The Center for Neuroacoustic Research shows that the government has long been studying the effects of sound on the brain. Jung called it our collective consciousness, but there’s something to the ancient sounds that call to us.

NASA has space recordings that are eerily similar to the primordial, nature and organic sounds found on our own planet. Sounds and rhythms repeat and mimic throughout our universe. According to the Center for Neuroacoustic Research, “Dolphin/ocean sounds, slowed down 64 times, sound very similar to human voice sounds and some of the Voyager I and II space recordings. Normal dolphin sounds speeded up two octaves sound like birds. Seagull sounds slowed down two octaves, sound like dolphins. Human voice sounds speeded up, sound first like birds and then like dolphins, etc. – all with a powerful effect on the subconscious mind.”

We’ve been playing with sound to alter or enhance our state of consciousness for thousands of years.  The Chinese gongs, Tibetan singing bowls, bells, religious chants, Indian tambour drums, African and Middle Eastern drums and doonbeks, based on the “tonic” note are sounds we are drawn to. Why? Our brains crave certain tones and beats. These tones can soothe us or agitate us.

https://encrypted-tbn3.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcS5CZ10WnN4Bu1Wwc-SVUFfygSyct8zHpkgCNa_DWpuFGjOk4bo

What’s that got to do with creativity?

When it comes to art and creativity, whether it’s an author or a musician or a visual artist, not everyone is going to get your art.
They’re just not.

We long for readers. We long for listeners. Appreciators of our paintings, sculptures,  but know that you will always, always have a few that adore you, a few that abhor you, and a large percentage that just don’t care. Art of all kinds is subjective. Your music, your words, your painting, it’s not for everyone. The more you are authentic the more you will distinguish yourself and your audience. Not just music, but all art resonates at a different wave length. We cannot deny that certain music, art, or writing either soothes or agitates us–just like sound waves.

Likewise, we long to find other creative souls to “bounce” our ideas off of (interesting, that turn of phrase), and yet we oftentimes find ourselves at odds with other creative souls. Is it jealousy? Not always. Sometimes they’re the F to our G. Either can make lovely music, just not together. No right. No wrong. Just different songs.

Surrounding ourselves with a tribe, with folks who get us (our harmonies) those who challenge us in a good way, who are on somewhat tandem journeys is important and even crucial to our development, but occasionally we’ll come across someone who is our counter in the  most destructive of ways. They cause us to doubt. They feed on our worst qualities and we spend far too much time enmeshed in drama and not creating at all. We have much to learn from them, and they from us, but they do not need to be a part of your tribe. They actually sap your creative energies. Only you know who they are and how much time you need to walk with them, to learn what you need to learn, and when to recognize that your time together was just that–for a time.

All of art has a resonance. It will bong like the clapper on a bell. Your tribe, your readers, your listeners, your viewers will know in their bones that you speak their language, or in the example/metaphor at hand, sing their song. It’s okay that there are G books and G songs in this world as there are F books and F songs.

There is room in this old world for all our songs.

 

Resources:

http://www.neuroacoustic.com/methods.html

Bounce Back by Karen Salmansohn’s

http://skeptoid.com/blog/2013/05/24/sympathetic-resonance-technology/

A cool sympathetic resonance sculpture:

http://vimeo.com/6887898

 

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100 Questions, 100 Pebbles: Blasting Through Your Creativity Walls

Questions.
Questions are incubated in a curious mind.

Leonardo Da Vinci was known for his curiosity. He turned those questions into notebooks filled with notes and drawings, and then he took those details and turned many of them into paintings, sculptures, experiments, and used his ideas to create canals, aquifers, and military applications. He’s a genius, you argue. You don’t have time to doodle in a notebook. But the truth is, we ask questions all the time. We just don’t always listen.

In truth, you do have time to doodle. so make time to doodle. Curly Q’s aside, keep a notebook with you all the time. Jot down ideas, book titles, quotes and jokes, recipes and names. Spend five minutes of your lunch hour drawing a pod you found by your car that morning. It doesn’t have to be great. It’s not about your artistry, it’s about your curiosity.


Start by asking yourself 100 questions.
***

You won’t even know what bothers you, what worries you, what creativity walls are boxing you in, or even what fascinates you until you get it out of your head and onto the page. The power of 100 questions is emptying your mind as hard and as fast as you can. No censor. Blast through. Ask the mundane to the profane. Should I buy a smart car? Why did my parents divorce when I was two years old? How can I improve my running time? How do I ask for a raise–and get it? Do woodpeckers get headaches? Why isn’t my character in my new novel relatable? Why does the riff in this song bother me? And what is anti matter, anyway?

From every day questions to is there a God, questions are like pebbles we carry in our pockets. One pebble doesn’t weigh us down, but 100 might. Some questions lead to answers that make our lives easier while other questions lead to more questions–and some questions send us down wonderful rabbit holes that enrich our lives.

The assignment, if you choose to accept, is to get a pen and paper, or sit at your computer, and give yourself about one hour. Write out 100 questions as fast as you can. Don’t worry if they repeat. Don’t worry if they seem trite, or if they really don’t have an answer. Expect a few pauses. Just sit and wait. Reread some of your other questions. Ask really silly questions–why haven’t I ever seen a double rainbow? Why can’t I blow bubbles? Should I take up clogging? Sit until a new river of thought forms.

After you get your 100 questions on paper, keep it somewhere you can look at them often. You don’t have to go about solving your own questions. For the most part, in the next few days, weeks, and months, the subjects you wrote about will appear in your life. You’ll watch a movie and it’ll mention something. You’ll turn on the Discovery Channel and there it is–your sister-in-law will tell you about a friend of a friend of a friend–and there’s your solution. It doesn’t even take effort (overt effort) on your part. It just happens. Other questions will float to the surface and you’ll look it up online or buy a book. One by one, your questions will begin to pop up in your life–and your pockets will grow light.

What’s the purpose of 100 questions?
To see what’s been taking up space in your brain.
To see what bones you’ve been gnawing on.
You’ll begin to see patterns in your questions.

What to do with your questions once you’ve written them down.

Color code your questions.
Get some highlight markers and dot each science question in green.
Highlight any relationship questions in red.
Highlight any questions that have to do with your creativity (art, music, writing, inventions, etc.) in yellow.
Look for a few other categories.
Rearrange your list so your groupings hang together.
Notice what has been weighing on you.
Consider getting help–ask a friend who has faced a similar dilemma, get a book, a coach, do some journaling, or talk with a professional, and by all means, take that first step if you need to make amends. Pebbles have a way of turning into boulders if we hold onto them too long.

Here’s the fun part:
Choose one item to explore.

Say, for instance, one of your questions was, “How can I move to France?” Although that might not be feasible in the near future, you could start renting French films, buy Rosetta Stone or another language course and learn French, pick up a French cookbook at your local library sale, collect Eiffel towers, or start writing letters to your great aunt to happens to have lived in France after college. That one question doesn’t lead you straight to dual citizenship. Instead, it leads you on a glorious winding road trip, and if you ever move abroad, you’ll be much better prepared, and if your desires change, then you’ve enjoyed a journey of the mind and heart without ever having to apply for a green card.

So often we feel stuck. Our creativity juices are more like mud-pies, and we have no idea nor inclination as to how to get unstuck. 100 questions is just that–100 tiny curiosities. Give yourself permission to explore. Ask questions, big, little, silly, absurd. Turn a concept over and over, look at the backside, look at its counterpart. Let your curiosity run amok.

Where will 100 questions lead you?
Now, that’s a good question.

***This exercise is taken from Michael Gelb’s Discover Your Genius.

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We Are Always Learning: Creativity and All the Places We’ll Go

I heard a child education expert comment that we are always learning. If a child is playing Legos he’s learning. If he’s playing a video game he’s learning. If he’s building a fort and having pine cone fights with his friends–he’s learning. We can’t NOT learn. It’s how we’re hardwired. Even if a kid is glued in front of a television channel flipping–he’s learning. Not all our learning is good/productive/healthy–but we are learning something all the time.

Annie Murphy Paul author Brilliant, The New Science of Smart reminds us that each of us have a learning quotient:

“How we learn shapes what we know and what we can do. Our knowledge and our abilities are largely determined not by our IQ or some other fixed measure of intelligence, but by the effectiveness of our learning process: call it our learning quotient.”

Professor Randy McKay at the DNA Learning Center has this to say on the subject:

“…So, on top of the basic biology, there’s a huge flexibility and it’s that interaction that makes the nervous system such a powerful device.”

Why do we remember certain things we learn and why do other bits of knowledge (such as information we regurgitate on a test and then dump before we get our grade) disparate?

Two reasons (this is totally me coming up with this part)

1) Information you need (for your job, your interests) that you will continue to use and reapply

2) Information you acquire out of need/curiosity, that is also cross-referenced and overlaid with other pertinent information.

I offer this personal example. My book is based heavily on the life of Vincent Van Gogh. In gathering my research I took the following actions: (not an extensive list, just what I can remember quickly):

Perused the ‘net for quality information–separating it from “junk.”
Found the mother-lode at http://www.vangoghgallery.org. This is the official site affiliated with the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam.
Researched authors who had written on Van Gogh.
Bought (collected) relevant books ranging on everything from the diseases that plagued him to studying his color theory to his numerous letters to his brother and others, to the women he loved.
Began a checklist of visiting every museum possible to view his work.
Emailed/spoke with experts on various sub-set subjects related to Van Gogh.
Painted replicas of his work so that I could get into his head/heart and experience these works of art for myself.
Visited Amsterdam/Paris/South of France–locations where Vincent lived, worked and died.

That was the gathering phase. Since then, my studies led me down many fascinating rabbit holes. Here’s what I’ve learned. Some subjects I took to a deep level of learning and others are merely skimmed, cross-referenced and applied as needed for my book.
I made a list of the books and music Vincent read and enjoyed and read them/listened for myself.
Bought Rosetta Stone and brushed up on my French
Mapped where Vincent lived and traveled and made my own creativity trek
Studied the science of turbulence found in his painting Starry Night and learned about the mathematician that founded this area of math and physics–after Vincent naturally painted it.
Studied the provenance of many of Vincent’s works from the 1880s to present day.
Studied how a painting is valued, and why art is stolen.
Studied how art was confiscated particularly in World War II (rent the film The Rape of Europa–appalling).
Studied temporal lobe epilepsy (what physicians/psychiatrists have given as Vincent’s diagnosis).
Studied the history of syphilis (Vincent and Theo, his brother) both contracted this STD)
Studied the lives of fellow artists and Vincent’s mentors: Millet, Delacroix, Gauguin, Lautrec, Cezanne, Pissarro…the list goes on.
Studied the art periods that preceded and followed after the Post Impressionists (Vincent’s era)–Impressionists, modern/abstract art.
Studied the history of photography of the 1800s.
Studied asylums in the 1800s and the use of hydrotherapy.
Studied the discrepancies of Vincent’s final days–did he really commit suicide? What did his last cryptic words mean?
Studied the Salon des Independents.
Studied the history of Arles, St. Remy, the history and layout of the city and surrounding area and why Vincent was attracted to this “certain slant of light.” That led me to study the Roman influences in this area as well as the L’Occitane language.
Studied Joanna Bonger-Van Gogh, Theo’s wife and the person most responsible for sharing Vincent’s works with the world after the two brother’s deaths (they died six months apart.
Collecting, studying, and preparing historic recipes from France in the 1800s.
Studied the history of absinthe and its scientific properties and how it affects the brain.
Studied the history of gypsies and Sara the Gitan, patron saint of the five gypsy tribes of Europe
Studied the golden mean as found in sunflowers and other natural forms–which led me to The Power of Limits–an amazing book that looks in depth at this mathematical and architectural influence.
I could go on but perhaps this fascinates me more than you.

I encourage you to take whatever interests you and make a list of what it has led you to–the people, places, books that you’ve naturally gathered along your way.

The word I just used–naturally–is key.

Natural learning sticks.

Cross-referenced learning is applied learning.

Finding what you love and allowing yourself to gather, sort, process and apply without pressure, just because you’re curious, with your own set in challenges, is true learning.

I am no smarter than you. Trust me on that one. But I am curious and I’ve learned to indulge my fascinations. My life and my home now reflect my passions.

Did you know that Leonardo Da Vinci was known for not finishing things? Do we really care? The man serious must have had OCD and ADD–but who gives a rat’s patootie? He dabbled in nature, cut up corpses to study human anatomy, created weapons, studied engineering and applied what he learned to Florence and other cities, drew, painted, sculpted. The world is a far more beautiful place because of this one man. I, for one, am grateful that he cast a wide net when it came to learning. (Follow through might just be overrated!)

Here’s a nifty graphic on how we learn:

I ask you–and I hope you’ll share:

What subjects interest you?

Have you started collecting information?

Do you go internet diving on these subjects?

Do you allow yourself to follow whatever questions arise?

Does your home, your conversations, how you spend your time reflect your interests?

How has this impacted the quality of your life?

Even if it’s just for you, if no monetary gain, no fame or fortune befall you, would you still be glad you spent your time on these endeavors?

Read more on how we learn at:

Read more: http://ideas.time.com/2011/10/12/the-science-of-how-we-learn/#ixzz2dGmR5uBp

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=how-we-learn

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Is Overthinking Smothering Your Creativity and Sapping Your Happiness?

I woke up at 4:50 this morning–overthinking. Decisions I’ve been wrestling with. Deprecating thoughts. You’re wasting your precious life. Why can’t you just….what are you waiting for…you’ve been going in circles for how long? If I were  my roommate, which I kind of am in this mind-body living arrangement, I’d tell myself to shut the hell up and go back to sleep. Overthinking is in many applications just another word for self-doubt–and self-doubt is battery acid when it’s spilled over creativity. Nothing is more corrosive. Nothing will sap you of energy, momentum, and happiness.

It’s time I re-listened to a book that I came  across recently but apparently haven’t fully mastered. The Untethered Soul by Michael Singer taught me something I didn’t fully know before now and as Anne Lamott says (paraphrased), “My mind is a dangerous playground–and I don’t dare go there alone!”

The Untethered Soul asked me to question my own thoughts and perceptions. It says my thoughts aren’t me and the reason I can know they’re not me is that I (some part of me–soul, spirit, consciousness, whatever you want to call it) can observe my thoughts. You can only observe something that is separate from your own  being, therefore it is separate and deserves to be considered, at times, a hostile witness of my own life.

Wow. I can’t tell you how freeing it is to not have to believe all those nasty thoughts.

 

This is from Amazon: Singer shows how the development of consciousness can enable us all to dwell in the present moment and let go of painful thoughts and memories that keep us from achieving happiness and self-realization.

This book, copublished with the Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS), offers a frank and friendly discussion of consciousness and how we can develop it. In part one, he examines the notion of self and the inner dialogue we all live with. Part two examines the experience of energy as it flows through us and works to show readers how to open their hearts to the energy of experience that permeates their lives. Ways to overcome tendencies to close down to the rest of the world are the subject of part three. Enlightenment, the embrace of universal consciousness, is the subject of part four. And finally, in part five, Singer returns to daily life and the pursuit of unconditional happiness. Throughout, the book maintains a light and engaging tone, free from heavy dogma and prescriptive religious references. The easy exercises that figure in each chapter help readers experience the ideas that Singer presents. Visit www.untetheredsoul.com  for more information.

So, what I’ve been doing is writing Future Me. (Over at www.futureme.org

It’s taken the place  of my journals.  I find that I’m kinder and clearer when I write to myself. Here’s what I  wrote today that will be delivered to myself one year from today. (You can pick any time for the email to be delivered).

Dear FutureMe,
Are you overthinking again?
Is it keeping you spinning your wheels?
Up at night?
Turn it off, my love. It’s a waste of your precious time and energy on this earth.
Put on music. Go for a run. Dance. Clean. Do anything to drown out the incessant inner chatter.
Whatever it is that you’re doing–throw yourself in whole heart and all. Make mistakes. Big ones. Risk. Go for it. It’s better than living in paralyzing fear of getting it right or staying status  quo.
Ask yourself: looking back on this day what will you regret the most? Doing or not doing? It’s almost always the not doing.
So whatever you decide. Do it. If you need to close the circle then close it. If it’s time for the wandering void, then wander.
If it’s time to make new choices, go for it.
Life is an adventure and you are your own Magellan. Be out front scouting out new lands.
I love you.

Questions:

How does overthinking effect  your creativity/writing/art?

What do you do when you realize you’ve been overthinking?

Have you ever questioned that nasty roommate?

 

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Throw Your Heart Over the Fence, Living an Artist’s Life

In the equestrian world when you’re getting ready to ask your horse to jump (and you’re scared, you doubt, you hesitate) what you need to do is to throw your heart over the fence…and then jump after it. That’s what we have to do as writers, artists, and musicians. We have to take that wild daring leap. There are no promises of the outcome–if your novel will be published, if your short story will be be accepted, if your painting/sculpture will be accepted into an exhibition, or your song will find its audience. That’s not really your concern. You are to do one thing: Leap.

Maybe that’s why so many of us toy with our art. We don’t take it serious. We piddle (mydictionary.com tells me that this means an act of urination, to spend time in trifling activities–and that this word is probably a blend from two other words–piss and puddle) .

We allow the glitter of distraction to lure us down yet another path. We pick up new hobbies. Knitting. Cycling. Making our own sushi. We download a new playlist. Rewatch the last season of Downton Abbey. We blame the “new economy” for a tougher, leaner publishing world. Besides, readers are more interested in fluff than true literary work (we tell ourselves that fluff is beneath us).

To leap is a scary thing. Not only do you risk rejection, you risk disappointment.

Julia Cameron reminds us in Letters to a Young Artist that to become discouraged literally means to lose heart.

Couer is French for heart–dis-courage. Julia says, “When we become dis-couraged we move away from our heart and what it knows and loves.”

Courage is a matter of the heart.

That’s why the Lion in the Wizard of Oz was given a badge of courage that he wore over his heart.

As tenacious as I am when it comes to my art, I too, lose heart. Doubt swirls.

You’re not that good. Give it up. Just be happy, be happy with your life and don’t torture yourself. The world doesn’t need another writer. If you had put this much effort into a career you would be making 100K+. You missed your opportunity. You’re lazy, that’s your problem. You don’t want to work hard. You like being different. Why don’t you get with the program. Earn your keep. Earn some freakin’ money and get your own IRA. What is it –really–that you do all day/night/weekend?  

Some days it starts early in the morning. It’s not a conscious thought. It’s a niggling in the back of me somewhere.

For the most part I fight it. I ignore it.

Sometimes I imagine another me.

I could be a mixologist. I’m a people person. Food/drink, I love. Showing up each night and being “on.”  It’s part chemistry, part intuition. Dress down, but cool, like I’m not trying…this old thing? I got it at a thrift store in SoHo. The boots were my grandmother’s. Here’s your drink. Call it a Red Badge.

I could do it.

I could be a park ranger. Tell stories all day–at Ellis Island, or repair fencing in Montana and figure out what to do about the ever growing coyote population. I might need to drive a few of them to northern Canada, get lost on the way. At least I would be outside breathing in God’s air, not chained to the desk leg of corporate life. I could rock a pair of tight fitting Dickies pants, hell, I could wear a dickey under my park ranger boy scout looking shirt, but I’d have to lose the hat. The hat looks like the guy in Curious George.

I could move to New York. Get into fashion. Get into acting. Go back to school and get a Ph.D. is art history and become a curator. Or…I could open a junque shop. Collect oddities and paint on the siding. Murals that take decades. I could get written up in my local paper and they’d take a photograph of my wall. My hodge-podge shop would have to have a cat you’d find unexpectedly in an overturned enamel percolator or on top of a pyramid of books. And a Saint Bernard, every store needs a big sweet sleepy dog that lays right in the middle of things greeting customers with only the lift of his droopy lids. I’d create still-lifes out of stuffed ravens, old superman comic books, and the blue percolator with the cat in it.

Oops. I did it, I slid back into the arts. That’s the problem.

At the root of me beats an artist’s heart. A rebel. A naughty child with a potty mouth. A pseudo-philosopher. A star-dazer. Belly-button gazer.

So I’m back full circle.

I have to figure things out and I do that with words. I do that with color. I eavesdrop and peek around corners. I want to know stuff about other people, about me. I want to tell a story, a story that makes you forget to breathe, that makes you forget that you’re sitting or standing or wherever the hell you are or whatever the hell you were doing before. I want to tell you a story that messes with you–big time. I want you to bump into your beliefs like you side-step dance with a stranger who just won’t get out of your way. This way, that, no you go this way, I’ll go that.

I guess it comes down to this.

I want time.

Time to wander through the aisles of an Indian grocery, to unscrew the top of lilac water, to pick up some prickly over-sized avocado shaped thing with a green and yellow striped rind and wonder how they cook it. Boiled?  With curry? I want to ask someone but I am a foreigner in this produce department. Wary eyes turn away. So this is what that feels like.

Time to sit on the subway and miss my stop because a guy with a banjo has just broke into a bluesy rendition of Dixie, his few teeth the color somewhere between banana peel and mango, his wrinkled fingers two-stepping over taut strings. I want to know him, where he slept last night and whose arms held him twenty years ago. I want to taste the gas station coffee he sips black and cold. I want to sit here with my ankles hugging each other with Dixie wafting in and through me.

I want time, which is rather ironic since time is more or less an illusion.

I want to tell that other me who worries about my IRA to be patient.

It’ll all work out.

I just need a little more time.

“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger and more complex…

It takes a touch of genius — and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.”

– Albert Einstein

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Does Art Imitate Life? Writers Wanna Know

I’ve been on a workout kick this summer. I spent 2 1/2 hours at the gym yesterday and today–lifting weights, running, Zumba. Why? Sick and tired of being sick and tired might top my list. Sick of my own procrastinating. Tired of letting myself down. I’ve shared with more than one fellow writer that I believe whatever issues we have ON the page–we have OFF the page as well (character development, run-on sentences, purple prose, motivation, weak on plot, you name it and you can find a real world counterpoint).

After ten solid weeks of working out at least an hour a day 5/6 days a week  I’m starting to see some muscle definition. I could barely do one real push up and now I can do 20. (Who knew?) What do I like about working out the most? For that 30 minutes, one hour, two hours, however long I’m there, all I think about is what I’m doing at that moment. My mind and body are in sync. The rest of my life doesn’t exist. All the crap, the worry, the regret, the guilt–vanished. It’s just me and what I’m capable of. That alone is worth the gym membership.

Like most everybody I know, I over-think. I analyze everything and everybody and every word they said or I said. It’s exhausting. In the gym I don’t. It’s tough enough to lift 40 pounds and squat 50 times and that’s all my brain and muscles can tackle at one time. There are all kinds of benefits

So I came home today and flexed in the mirror–my new favorite thing to do with my burgeoning girlie biceps  (no wonder they call it a vanity mirror!) and I thought, “Wow, I’ve made quite a commitment here–and that thought was immediately followed with–why don’t I make the same time commitment to my writing each day?

Gym time for writing time. Sounds like a lotta time, I know, but it’s amazing how much time you have if you give up television and housework. A few other luxuries might have to be nixed as well, like chewing each bite of food 20 times or changing the cat litter. On second thought, cat litter is on the must do list.

Maybe art just might imitate life.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

Question:

What does your art/writing mirror? A relationship? A room in your house? See any correlations?

 

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Building the Tension: Ray Bradbury’s Writing Legacy

Ray Bradbury lived. Yes, he died last week but in the big scheme of things we all die, so what matters is that he lived. He gave us stories. He scared us in delicious ways. He prodded new questions in us. He gave us worlds within worlds within words. And he did this through two in roads: creativity and habit.

(Photo courtesy of the Sundance Channel)

“Every morning I jump out of bed and step on a landmine. The landmine is me. After the explosion, I spend the rest of the day putting the pieces together. Now, it’s turn. Jump!” 

Ray Bradbury, Zen in the Art of Writing 

Bradbury’s book isn’t a big, and it isn’t one of rhetoric and doesn’t look like, read like, or feel like a text-book. It’s one of the handful of books I’d have to take with me if I were ever marooned on an island (this is more of a fantasy than a dread–sun, coconuts, fruit, water, sun, shade tree, books, me…alone). The paperback edition I have can slip easily into a small bag. I’ve read it reread many times not only for its guidance but also for its beauty. The writing is exquisite and his wisdom feels like a gong going off in my bones setting everything in me back to the deep truths I’ve long ignored, denied, and forgotten. Like any classic, every time I read Ray’s words they reveal something different.

Ray Bradbury did all this not by being some freakish talent (which he certainly had talent), but by honoring the creativity in and all around. He respected and held dear all life had given him. His mid-western roots are in there, the mystery and mysticism found in a traveling carnival and he woven them with the strongest hopes and fears we have–those we experience as a child. Ray’s imagination fueled his stories and discipline fueled his career. He’s known to write 1,000 words a day–every day After years of being held as a beloved author, Hollywood writer and literary icon Ray never lost his child-likeness.

He reminds me that self-consciousness is the enemy of all art.

He reminds me that tension must build and build and that an artist, writer, creator must offer release. Ray says it in a chapter he calls “The Secret Mind” in what is my most favorite essay on writing I’ve ever read and will always cherish:

“Teach me how to be sick then, in the right time and place so that I may again walk in the fields and with the wise and smiling dogs know enough to chew sweet grass.” 

Ray Bradbury

His life in some ways was one of tension. He knew how to tug on invisible strings. He knew how to pace, when to wait, and how to offer sweet release. That’s not only a master storyteller, that’s the best way to live.

If, after a lifetime of writing and creating I can learn to do this I will be one happy gal. Ray, you will be missed but you will forever live. Words are the closest we get to eternity.

For more great reading about Ray Bradbury:

http://www.raybradbury.com/

http://amyfquincy.wordpress.com/2012/06/10/live-forever/

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/07/books/ray-bradbury-popularizer-of-science-fiction-dies-at-91.html?pagewanted=all

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/12/science/a-martian-joined-ray-bradbury-and-me-for-dinner-in-paris.html

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Your Brain on Play: The Sunflower Analogy

  That’s the thing with magic. You’ve got to know it’s still here, all around us, or it just stays invisible for you. 

Charles de Lint

In order to understand what happens in your brain when you play, think of a sunflower.

 

Rhonda Adams, Inclusion Educational Specialist shares what happens: 

“The dark center of the sunflower is like the neuron. The dendrites like petals attach to the neuron and serve as receiving sites for incoming impulses. The axon which carries the outgoing impulses is like the flower’s stem and at its base are the axon branches much like the roots attached to the stem….We are born with approximately one hundred billion neurons (cells). Each neuron has the potential to connect with ten thousand other neurons. That’s over a trillion possible connections.”

As you probably remember from some distant science class, the dendrites and the axon fibers don’t actually touch–that’s where the magic happens. The electrical impulse leaps–makes the connection (known as the synapses) and voila. That’s the exact moment we learn. And it all happens in a millisecond.

I’m spending the next four days with a four year old and there’s no better teacher for play.  I find myself both emersing myself in play with her and observing her so that she can teach me what I need in order to play. She’s quite a role model. In just a few hours she’s taught me that I need to make messes. Not one, but many. I need to get stuff out and leave it out and then go do something else. I need to experiment with things–like water, and bowls and all kinds of  objects, whatever I find. And I need to have absolutely no intention of finishing anything. 

It’s just 11am and so far we’ve used my Russian dolls as holders for grapes and dry cereal. We’ve turned various sizes of Eiffel towers upside down and used them as microphones, holders for giant marbles and as magic wands. We’ve played with rubber duckies in our outside water fountain. We’ve watered all my flowers, the sidewalk, car tires and front porch and used an elephant ear turned upside down as a home for several roly-polys. We’ve played dress up with my shoes and a poofy dress, worn ten necklaces and bracelets at one time and used a “magic” key to open up a giant Buddha in the yard, an old stereo cabinet, and every door and cabinet in the house. We’ve used squirt bottles and syringes to fill plastic cups, ice cube trays, and bowls with water and lined up seashells like roads.

She sings, talks to herself, sometimes asks me to join in, sometimes not. She’s content. Immersed. Non-judging. There’s order to her chaos. You’d think she’s ADHD or something equally as medical sounding by reading the above list, but she’s not. She’s a kid. We forget what that’s like. We have that adult loop flapping through our brains: pick up one mess before making another, finish, don’t make mess, consider what others want you to do. 

No wonder we don’t paint, draw, sculpt, or write like we want to. There’s no freedom. We tell ourselves we have to pick up before we ever get good and started. We tell ourselves we can’t “play” with our art until our “work” is done. So we check off our chore list, put in overtime, take care of everybody else first–and then wonder why we don’t have the time or energy to write that next scene or start another watercolor.

We’ve grown to not give our creative play the honor it deserves.

So today, I’m going to finish this blog, put on some shorts and head up to the pool with a bag full of cups, spoons and squirt bottles. I’m going to plant Impatiens and some more sunflower seeds and finish a a tie-dye pattern on a giant frog that I started weeks ago.  I’m going to head off to the beach and pick out some more seashells for a wreath, eat my sixth watermelon of the summer (technically still spring) 0n the back porch. I’m going to shut off my adult brain if it starts to over analyze or dictate what I should or should not do. And I’m going to take a nap.

And then, tomorrow–first thing–I’m going to write. I’m going to write before my adult/critic/editor is fully alert and plotting to overthrow my creativity. I’m going to not try too hard. Trying isn’t playing and learning, true learning, easy learning happens in leap–a millisecond.

I choose to see the sacred and the magic in play.

 The universe is full of magical things, patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper. 

Eden Phillpotts

Resource:

http://www.tsbvi.edu/seehear/fall97/brain.htm

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Why Adults Need to Play: The Play Challenge

It’s Sunday afternoon. You’re 7, 11, pick an age. Your parents are asleep and you can’t go anywhere.

What would you do?

Almost all creativity involves purposeful play.

Abraham Maslow
American psychologist
1908–1970

When my children were little and would come to me and say, “I’m bored,” I’d tell them, “Good, you’ll find your true self on the other side.” I had to resist giving them suggestions, telling them to clean their room or call a friend. I knew that they, like me, needed to fall in–and through–their boredom. We have to putz around and go through our usual excuses to get past all that and find what’s on the other side.

Why do we need to play? Because it’s healing. It’s like re calibrating your brain, your soul and your body.We need to play in order to rest, in order to let go, in order to process. We need to play like we need to breathe. It feels good. It fills us with more than oxygen. It fills us with hope. Kids play even they’re sad, even at funerals or when they’re sick. They fall into play and it takes them beyond their sorrow and beyond their pain.

How you play says a lot about who you are, where you grew up, if you had siblings or friends nearby or if you were more solitary in how you played. Play holds more nuggets are to who you are, what drives you, intrigues you, allows you to fall deep into your easy and true self than all your secrets do.

Life coach Martha Beck is on a new mission–to remind people to play. She’s on a month of what she calls, “radical fun.”

“Just look back on your childhood and find what you did when no one was forcing you. Did you climb trees? Did you play computer games? Did you build forts? …”

There are clues and keys in what you did on those Sunday afternoons. The building blocks of who you are were already peeking through–director, engineer, writer, nurse or artist…all have their roots in the games and make believe of our childhood.

Here’s my list of what I loved to do as a child:

  • Climb my dogwood tree and see the world from that high perch
  • Pretend–I was a fairy, a fighter, a teacher, a trapeze artist.
  • Draw, paint, color–lots and lots of coloring.
  • Making up stories, creating my own books.
  • Swinging, climbing, riding my bike for hours (oh the freedom and wind in my hair) while pretending–already multitasking!
  • Singing, “performing”
  •  Hiding in the garden, under the hydrangea and azalea bushes and using sticks, nuts and flowers as my props

And here I am…writing, painting, performing, still riding my bike and gardening. We are who we have always been.

So here’s my proposition:

Come play with me.

Play every day.

Ask yourself, what would be fun today?

Play hopscotch on your driveway.

Sing in your car.

Buy some bubblegum and blow giant bubbles.

Get some molding clay and make tiny people and animals. Smush them all together and start again. Play isn’t about finishing. Play isn’t about perfection.

Get some crayons and drawing paper, doodle, color, repeat.

Jump on a bike and do some figure 8’s.

Break into spontaneous play.

That’s my challenge, to play every day.

I don’t want to make play yet another project, but to have that thought of play, of fun, of exploring whatever is at hand, whatever my mind and heart leaps to next close enough to reach out and grab it.

Play isn’t hard. Not adult hard, but play is serious. Kids wear themselves out playing. They come in dirty, exhausted, and exhilarated. Didn’t you hate it when your parents interrupted your play with something as mundane as eating???  When is the last time you were so engaged, so enamored with what you were doing that you had no interest in eating? Not many adults can remember that. Eating as become an obsession in part because we’ve forgotten the power of play.

It is a happy talent to know how to play.

Ralph Waldo Emerson
American writer
1803–1882

I hope you’ll write to me, share what you did as a kid, share your moments of play.

Resources

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-tian…/when-adultsplay_b_666145.htm.

The importance of play: TED talk

http://www.ted.com/talks/stuart_brown_says_play_is_more_than_fun_it_s_vital.html

Why do we play?

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/17/magazine/17play.html?pagewanted=all

http://marthabeck.com/

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Rest, Is It Necessary for Creativity?

Ever had a eureka moment? Did it come in the middle of the night–or while you were washing dishes or zoned out at a red light? There’s a reason for that–you (the aware you) got out of the way.

Many times our creativity breakthroughs are blocked by work. We are beyond exhausted but we just won’t/don’t quilt. We’re not much for rest these days and we tend to think that the opposite of work is rest. Play is rarely factored in, but rest and play are crucial to the creative process. Play is exploration, and rest gives the brain the opportunity to sort, classify and analyze information. We don’t have to work at understanding. Rest (and even exhaustion) takes our propensity to control out of the equation. When we are so zonked that we sleep, lie around, and have little energy to do much more than navel gaze, we finally have the spark of insight.

In other words, when we get out of the way, our brains get busy.

I blame our resistance to rest or play on the Puritan Ethic. Work hard and God will reward you.

It sounds virtuous, until you look closer. Working well and working hard are not the same. And the notion that God will only reward those who work hard, well, it sounds as if some king (or tyrant) came up with this little mantra.

The problem is, I just don’t believe it any more.

See, play is usually at the beginning, when I’m trying to figure something out. Play is a way of loose exploration. Play is taking a Rubik’s cube apart. Play is turning something over, under, inside out. Play is manipulating an object or an idea–be it a new painting, a novel, or an engine, it’s taking it apart to see how it works. It’s unhinging a thing, rearranging it, learning all I can. Play means there’s no big risk of failure. Play is about taking chances.

It’s not that I’m lazy, it’s more that I’ve come to respect the process of risk, play, create. The more passionate I am about what I’m doing the more engaged I’ll be. Working long hours to finish a project, sweating to lift boulders to create a landscape, studying until the library kicks me out, some would call that hard work. I call it creating, I guess. I don’t always know what I’m doing. I throw it under the heading of research just because people know what that is and they tend to back away a little and give me the space I need.

Pushing that hard to complete a project is sometimes exactly what it takes. It feels good to give something your all. Most artists I know are the most committed, intense (at times), tireless people I’ve ever met. I can’t tell you how many projects I’ve been on that took weeks of way after midnight sessions to complete. And it felt really, really good.

That’s where rests comes in. Rest after creativity is sweet. Rest is rebuilding your creative muscle. Rest is that space between understanding.

It takes a bit of courage to rest in our society. To jump off the treadmill 0f the day, to take an hour or a week or a month and do what constitutes to others as nothing will be met with flack. I still feel the guilts, but I know that rest and play are critical components to creativity.

Trying to explain 0r defend your play or rest time is useless because you probably won’t have the words for the argument. It’s intuitive. You just know that you’re depleted, that you have nothing left to give and that the best and only thing you can do is stare, wander, gaze, or nod off.

Even though it doesn’t look like you’re busy or doing anything that appears to others as important,  rest is necessary.

Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under the trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time” 

John Lubbock

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