Archive for Creative Breakthroughs
The range of loss was huge–I lost power for a few days but that was all. Most of my friends in Brooklyn were completely untouched, but couldn’t get anywhere while the subways weren’t working. A colleague in Long Island lost her entire house and felt lucky to escape with her life.
One thing everyone shares, though, is the discombobulation.
Every time I see someone I haven’t seen since the storm, the conversation usually starts there–are you safe–who was affected and how. Eventually one of us mentions having difficulty getting back to business or being productive. When I describe it as feeling “discombobulated” whomever I’m talking to quickly agrees–yes, that’s how I feel. Discombobulated.
It’s made me remember that we humans are like dogs–we’re pack animals. Social. Some of us in this region are struggling mightily, some of us not so much, but all of us feel it. We are recovering together and even though the physical environment for many of us is back to normal, we, as a group, are not yet.
This reminder has made me think about ALL the ways our individual feelings are created by our larger associations–we are also our families, our cultures, and our environments. And those collective connections affect the way we think, how we feel and what we believe.
The Collective Unconscious
For instance, I was listening to an NPR story about differing Western and Eastern beliefs about school and learning–how in this country we tend to believe that someone succeeds in school because they are naturally intelligent, and how many Asian cultures believe that someone succeeds in school through hard work. Intelligence is much less discussed and focused on.
The story described a study that was done with American and Japanese first-graders–they were all given a math problem beyond their grade level to see how long they’d struggle with it.
The American children stopped after 30 seconds (literally) and explained that it was too hard, that they hadn’t gotten to that yet. A classroom of Japanese 6 year olds worked on the problem for the entire hour and only stopped when the researchers intervened because finding something hard, or a struggle, wasn’t a reason to stop.
So of course the commentator went on to discuss how there were strengths and weaknesses in both,but I walked away from that story completely enamored with this concept of treating struggle as a normal part of the learning process rather than functioning as a sign one should quit.
Not only because it IS a natural part of the learning process, but because it buys you so much…everything–time, patience, mercy–you don’t have to decide you’re a failure, for instance, if you haven’t mastered something in whatever unreasonable amount of time in which you usually reach that conclusion–it makes you treat all the obstacles in any project as normal.
In terms of creativity and art making, most people I meet think that you’re either a natural talent or you’re not. Which actually doesn’t leave much room for struggle and perseverance.
For instance, a friend of mine confided that she’d like to start drawing again, but she can’t bring herself to do it because her husband is so much better than she is. He also draws all the time.
I reminded her that it would actually be kind of weird (and unfair even) if she could draw as well as he when she never does it and he does it all the time. She smiled ruefully. How can you let yourself start creating if you think that struggle means you should read the writing on the wall and give up?
And if you think about it, it’s actually a kind of weird back-handed compliment to her husband–like, sure, he does it, but he’s naturally good at it, so it’s not an effort somehow–which actually completely disregards his commitment and makes the time he’s put in invisible.
Untying the Knot
Respecting the struggle is respecting yourself. Accepting the struggle is honoring the process.
And yet, when things get hard, it’s so tantalizing to believe, “I guess I don’t have that special knack, that natural talent.” It’s hard to sink into the struggle with loving patience–and one of the reasons it’s hard is because you’re not alone in this belief– it turns out we have a collective cultural belief about ease and talent that makes us judge ourselves harshly and give up too quickly.
It’s hard because you’re not just working to untie the knot of your own confusion and unhelpful beliefs, you’re un-tying yourself from the entire culture’s knot of confusion and unhelpful beliefs.
But just because it’s a struggle to buck the tide of the larger society, doesn’t mean it can’t be done. And as our culture ALSO likes to say “If it isn’t hard, it isn’t worth doing.” (Yay for contradiction!)
Do you allow yourself to struggle? Do you expect yourself to be good at something instantly? Do you not like to struggle with art skills in particular because you think you’re should be better at it than you are because you’re arty?
Please share your thoughts in the comments, your experiences might help someone else!
When you’re creating something, it’s usually hard to finish it in one sitting. So unless you live alone, it’s highly likely that other people are witnessing your process, your “muck” half way through.
If you make work all the time, this probably isn’t a problem because you’ve got some key factors working in your favor:
- momentum (huge)
- confidence (huge)
- habit (everyone around you is used to you doing it-huge)
But if you are trying to get back into the swing, or you create sporadically, or even if you make things all the time but are nervously TRYING SOMETHING NEW, it can be hard to feel so……………exposed.
Which can stop you even before you get started.
Because really, this fear of exposure is most likely a fear of failure.
It’s hard to make something bad. Or risk making something bad. Because usually, you leap to the (incorrect) conclusion that it means that you’re bad/not talented/a big loser–you know the drill.
(Of course, it does NOT mean that, but a lifetime of conditioning can take a while to undo.)
So how do you move forward while still struggling with your demons?
Two words: Protective Sentences.
I have long relied on protective sentences as a way for me to do what I want and dodge “helpful advice” (not), potential or imagined potential criticism, or even just the potential need to explain myself or what I’m doing to anyone–friend or stranger.
So what’s a protective sentence? I’ll tell you.
Someone says, “What are you making?” or even better…”What is THAT?”
You say your protective sentence:
“I don’t know, I’m experimenting.”
or just “I’m experimenting.” (without pausing to look up because you’re too busy experimenting to stop.)
Then they say, “Oh.”
Because really, what can they say back? It’s beautiful in it’s simplicity.
In fact, if someone else walks up and says “What is that?”
I’ll bet you 10-1 that that first questioner will answer for you, “Oh, she’s experimenting.”
It’s perfect. It’s a huge cocoon that requires no further explanation. It’s my all-time favorite.
And hey, it may not be the bravest thing to do in terms of self-actualization or whatever, but I don’t care about that kind of brave, I care about a bigger brave–you making your stuff or you pushing to your particular edge, or digging deeper, or reaching higher. And if you’re stopping yourself because it feels hard or you may fail or look ridiculous, then it’s imperative to create the conditions you need to take that risk anyway–however teeny or pointless it may seem to someone else.
A good, simple protective sentence can do the trick.
And best of all, they’ll never know!
And while you’re at it, come experiment with me this Sunday!
Sign up for the Creative Breakthrough’s Collage Tele-Class–it’s over the phone (not online) and it’s super simple and fun to participate. It’s happening this Sunday, October 21st, at 3pm EST.
(And if someone asks what you’re doing, tell them “I’m experimenting.”)
Do you have any protective sentences that you’d like to share? Tell us in the comments, I’d love to hear from you!
For long-time readers of this blog and newsletter, you might have wondered what happened to me in the past year.
(And for new readers, it’s probably like you signed up for a newsletter that didn’t arrive!)
Well, I’m back in action and more excited than ever, but I thought I owed you an explanation about my absence:
The last two years have been two of the most challenging years of my life.
Both my elderly parents and my elderly in-laws were struggling with their health in different ways ranging from physical frailty and blindness to serious confusion and memory loss.
There was lots of upset, denial, hospital visits, and transitioning to round the clock care. It was so overwhelming and heartbreaking for me, I just didn’t know how to talk about it publicly. (In fact, I’m bawling just writing this post.)
I experienced a lot of new and difficult situations I didn’t know how to handle and grieved in many unexpected ways. We lost my (step) mother-in-law, my father-in-law, and my beloved dad in the course of about 9 months.
I emptied and sold my parents’ house of 45 years, learned the ins and outs of the hospitals, rehabs, hospice care, trust and estates, and the cruelty of Alzheimer’s.
Frankly, it was so difficult, I just stopped writing. I continued to make art, because that brings me solace, but I didn’t have the emotional energy to share it or market it during that time.
It’s so strange and poignant to say this, but at this time last year, my life revolved around the needs of four elderly people. Now we just have my mom to care for.
She has Alzheimers, but as a family, we’ve learned a lot about this cruel disease and have also been able to find wonderful help that we like and trust.
It’s not easy, but one person is not four.
We’ve also stopped trying to fix the unfixable and just love her and try to be with her as much as we can.
A Silver Lining
As a result, sometime this summer I began to realize that my mental and emotional bandwidth had increased and I wasn’t exhausted all the time.
I found myself thinking about Make Great Stuff again and conjuring up new and exciting ideas for helping my readers. I was also having great ideas for marketing my collages and applied for a state fellowship grant for a series of large charcoal drawings.
In fact, somehow this extremely difficult time has left me feeling super focused, clear and excited about how I want to use my time on earth and what I want offer the world.
You and Make Great Stuff are a huge part of that. I’m creating fab new classes and coaching sessions that I think you’re going to love.
A lot of this is still getting into place and is taking a little longer than I thought, but it’s coming, and it’s…great stuff!
Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch..
So I’ve been in my studio creating art and teaching content like mad when I suddenly realized that I had scheduled a CREATIVE BREAKTHROUGHS COLLAGE TELE-CLASS for September 23rd.
Which is, gasp, this Sunday.
A couple folks have signed up, but I haven’t advertised it at all as I’ve been so immersed in my planning and class creation.
So I know it’s super short notice, but I am writing to invite ALL of you to come and create with me this Sunday, September 23rd at 3pm (NYC Eastern time)…. for free.
If you want to come but don’t know what happened to your free coupon, just write me an email and I’ll get you in.
(In fact, if you’ve already used your coupon but would like to come again, just email me and let me know. Let’s have fun.)
If you don’t know anything about this class, click HERE to read all about it–but in a nutshell, it’s a fun and FANTASTIC way to make art and jumpstart your creativity.
So read details about the class and fabulous testimonials HERE.
Sign up today with your coupon or just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you can’t find it.
I’m running the class one Sunday a month this fall and then I hope to get it back to offering it WEEKLY, because carving out time for your creativity every week is HOW you make work you love and HOW you build a creative momentum. I’ve personally made so much artwork just teaching this class!
So sign up today! Email and tell me that you’re in!
Questions? Thoughts? Email me!! email@example.com.
And thanks so much for being a part of my Make Great Stuff family and for reading this post to the end, it was hard for me to write it.
P.S. If you have a friend you think would like to join us on Sunday as well, just send them to makegreatstuff.com and have them sign up for the newsletter to get their free coupon. They’ll get an email that explains the rest.
This Sunday is the 10th anniversary of September 11th.
Come create with me.
I am officially inviting you to come make collages with me Sunday, September 11th at 3pm EDT when I run this month’s Creative Breakthroughs Collage Tele-Class.
Whether you’d like to create a collage that commemorates our country’s victims and heroes, reflect on your own experiences from that terrible day, or if you’d just like to honor life by doing something positive, uplifting, and life-affirming, The Creative Breakthroughs Collage Tele-Class allows it all.
I teach the class using a simple but powerful technique that guides and supports you through creating several collages while simultaneously freeing you to express yourself and experiment however you wish.
This tele-class gives you complete privacy (we’re on the phone) and helps you focus on your own artistic voice–not mine. It lets you play, try something new, and just re-connect to your creative self–it’s as simple as that.
And if you’d like to take the class for FREE, you just need to subscribe to my email newsletter.
You can do that by going to http://makegreatstuff.com and filling out the sign up form in the top right corner.
Once you’ve done that and you receive your coupon code (check your spam folder if you don’t get it very soon after signing up), just visit this page to sign up for the class: http://makegreatstuff.com/CBCTsignup/form.php
If you want to get a little more info about how it all works, click on the 2 links below:
- Detailed Description and Testimonials About the Class Here:
- See How Few Supplies You Need:
Once again, just click here to join me this Sunday, September 11th at 3pm EDT to create and connect.
Hope to see you there.
P.S. And please pass this invitation to anyone else you think would like to make art together this coming Sunday, September 11, 2011 by tweeting this URL, sharing this page as a link on Facebook, or forwarding this email. Thank you!
You want to make artwork you feel proud of and love to look at. Work you think is really good.
You may also want other people to buy your work–your paintings, your beaded jewelry, your silk scarves, your stories, your songs–whatever art or craft work you’re passionate about creating.
You want to sell your work because it feels like a great way to do what you love doing all the time.
However, the other reason you might want to sell your work is that if your creative endeavor makes money, it will be considered legitimate in the larger culture.
Because in our culture, making money equals being successful. If you make money at it, then you’re a “real” whatever it is you are–artist/crafter/singer/writer.
And because the favorite introductory question in our society is “What do you do (for a living)?”, naturally you want to give the answer that reflects your true calling: “I’m an artist.”
Now, whether or not you can make money making your art (whatever that may be) is actually not the point.
The point is that the goal of making a living making your art often creates a serious confusion that muddies your creative goals and ruins the pleasure of the creative process.
It’s the cart that’s sitting in front of your horse.
Your horse is your artwork. It’s the doing, the creativity itself, it’s even the quest to make something great.
But instead of concentrating on creating great work, you’re concentrating instead on how to make a living being creative–and all your work gets tainted by this other, (very difficult, btw) making-a-living goal.
And ironically, this goal is secondary.
What you really want is to make things that are deeply satisfying, work you love to look at–work that you’re proud of.
You want to make your best stuff.
Concentrate on that, and address the money/making a living aspect later.
Don’t ask your art to solve the problem of hating your job or fixing your financial woes. Your art doesn’t deserve that pressure and it spoils your relationship with it.
Solve that problem a different way (at least for now).
Instead, focus on making work you love.
Making a Date with Your Creativity
In order to make work you love, you must make a lot of work. You’ll like some of it, hate some of it, and love some of it. But you have to make a lot.
And that has its own challenges–finding the time, facing your inner critic, honing your skills, etc.
So you need a structure in place to help you make a lot of work.
And one simple, structured way to do that is to make a regular date with your creativity. Which is why I created the Creative Breakthroughs Collage Tele-class.
I created this class to provide a structure for you to lean on. To make it easier to show up every week for your art because
- It can be hard to muster that energy on your own–even when you want it.
- Because showing up every week is how you eventually start showing up several times a week.
- And showing up several times a week is how you create a lot of work.
- And creating a lot of work is the path to creating work you love.
It’s not easy, but it’s simple.
Making collages with me every week will help all your creative endeavors–regardless of your preferred medium. And making a weekly date with your creativity will genuinely help you build a creative momentum which, in turn, will enable you to make work you love.
And even though I talk about the Creative Breakthroughs Technique, it’s not something to learn and master, it’s more of an avenue in to your own aesthetic journey–a way to explore and consider both the formal aspects of creating–like light, color, balance, and scale–as well as the more expressive considerations–like mood, emotion, memory, and intuition.
So it’s a technique in the way that meditation is a technique: it’s simple enough to learn how and understand the point of it, but the reward is all in the regular practice. It’s a lifetime’s work play.
So create work you love by creating a lot of work. Create a lot of work by connecting it to your life. Connect it to your life by regularly making time to create.
And jeepers, the first one is free so what are you waiting for?
Well, class was yesterday and we had a great time. And as I was talking to the class participants about the benefits of carving out a creative time for yourself on a regular basis, I realized how much I was needing this class myself.
Because lately, I’ve been stretching myself tthhhhhiiiiiiiiiiiiiiinnnnnnnn-thin-thin. I’ve been doing the juggling act of a lifetime, and some days, I think my head’s going to fall off.
And yesterday afternoon, teaching the class, I could feel the benefits of being creative–it genuinely lifted me out and up from my stress. And the relief I experienced–both physical and mental–felt like a nothing short of a godsend.
I love teaching this class, and I love living the benefits of the class. In the past several weeks, this has been the only art-making I’ve been squeezing in amid my myriad obligations and challenges–and frankly, I was grateful to have it.
There was a time when my creativity would have simply gone out the window with the kind of schedule I’m trying to maintain right now.
And yet, ironically, it’s exactly what I need in order to be able to continue to keep all my balls in the air.
I talk so often about how much this class helps you get unstuck, lets you explore and experiment, helps you build a creative momentum so that you can live your life as the true artist you are–so you can regularly enjoy that feeling of being immersed in aesthetic decisions and artistic expression.
And as artistic people wanting to create artwork, that’s huge.
But in the context of Jennifer’s program, I fully appreciated, maybe even for the first time, the fundamental role in self-care that making a date with your creativity can have. It does nothing less than maintain your sanity and renew your energy.
Creativity feeds our human spirits. We need it. Tapping into your non-verbal mind, moving away from logic and planning, allowing yourself to feel your way along–all these things are essential to your well-being.
Like meditation and exercise, taking the time to be creative regularly will:
- help you perform better at work,
- improve your relationships,
- return you to your child’s mind,
- insert more FUN in your life and
- connect you to your spirit and your wordless understanding of the world.
So please think of the Creative Breakthroughs Collage Tele-class as part of your self-care regimen.
What? You mean you don’t have a self-care regimen? No time like the New Year to get started! Making a weekly date with your creativity can be the first step in creating one.
And while I believe carving out time to be creative is truly beneficial for everyone, it’s absolutely critical for creative people like us. Your very soul requires it.
So. It’s a new year. 2011! What’s your commitment to your creativity and self-care going to be?
And when I ask that, what I ‘m really saying is:
What are you going to give yourself this year?
Does your Creative Breakthroughs Collage tele-class use the “blah blah blah” thing with the brain?
But he also didn’t make things. And then when I said to him, “you know, you don’t need to be inspired to be creative,” he looked so disappointed.
I said, “I’ve made things for a living on a deadline for a long time which means that I had to regularly create things whether I was inspired or not. The difference between my inspired work and my un-inspired work is pretty much nil.”
Since this is a favorite topic of mine, (poor guy!) I continued:
“But that’s not a bad thing, it’s a great thing” I said, “because I know my creative abilities are available to me all the time.”
He still looked a little disappointed.
Our romantic ideas about inspiration are powerful and sexy and well, romantic.
We love inspiration because it feels good–it feels real and special and different from everyday life, and we ALL love that.
But inspiration is also like a butterfly or a hummingbird–who knows when she’s going visit, let alone land long enough to get a good look at her and breathe in her delicate beauty.
So if you wait to be inspired before you start creating, well, you could wait a long time.
But in the same way a gardener can plant a a butterfly bush to draw butterflies into her world, you can plant the seeds that will invite inspiration into your life more regularly.
Well really, it’s just one seed.
And that seed is? Yep, you guessed it.
Don’t wait to be inspired to create. Start creating and you’ll get inspired.
That’s how it works. I promise this is true.
It doesn’t matter how simple you keep it. 20 Minutes here, 20 Minutes there is fantastic.
Go be by yourself, or sit in front of the TV with the whole fam, it really doesn’t matter.
Oh, and another helpful thing! Either
- do something really important to you
- or try something where you feel less emotionally invested in the outcome
Just do whichever one lets you feel safe enough or motivated enough to get started–it’s usually one or the other.
It does help if you can be gentle and generous with yourself and your creative attempts because everyone, everyone, everyone makes bad stuff sometimes.
Which also means it’s okay to make bad stuff because everyone does it and, THEREFORE, it’s not damning evidence proving that you suck.
And you know, the mean voices keep inspiration away, not the other way around.
Inspiration can’t get rid of the mean voices.
In fact, when you start pulling the mean-voice-weeds out of your creative garden, inspiration will actually start to flutter in more often because it’s safe and you’ve been tending things and making a welcoming atmosphere.
Doesn’t that sound nice?
Now I also know the mean voices can be hard to get rid of, so next week I’ll talk about a meditation or two you might do to make room for other more positive voices.
In the meantime, remember–don’t wait to get inspired to create. Start creating and you’ll feel inspired.
What do you think? Have you been waiting to be inspired or do you already create regularly and find what I’m saying here to be true yourself? Wherever you are in the creative process, please share your thoughts, I’d love to hear from you!