Archive for Creative Breakthroughs
I’ve submitted a proposal to teach a workshop on the intersection of creativity and collaboration called The Creative Breakthroughs Technique at a giant, uber-cool annual conference and festival called SXSW (South by Southwest) in Austin TX in 2014.
Some of you have taken a similar class with me over the phone. (Yup, art over the phone–it works!) I’m in love with this technique for building a creative momentum and providing a structure to unleash your creativity.
Building Creative Muscle
The workshop I’m proposing for SXSW includes a new and interesting addition to the original workshop–collaboration. It fascinates me that collaboration itself is such a complex creative challenge for artists and non-artists alike.
I’m targeting two different parts of the festival and adapting the workshop for each audience. The approach for the workshop for SXSW educators is geared toward helping those professionals who might not feel creative or artistic to better understand the creative process and how a more fully developed creative muscle enhances one’s thinking in every context.
For the professional SXSW digital creatives, I want to get them back to a physical, hands-on creative experience as well as move them out of their comfort zone with unexpected collaborative challenges.
Will You Please Vote for Me?
Competition is fierce and it would be a HUGE credibility boost for me to speak and teach at this conference. Almost like saying I did a TED talk. (Which, of course, is another goal…but I digress.)
Voting is a big part of their selection process. I’ve submitted one proposal to two areas of the festival.
Could you take a moment to vote for my proposal in both places?
Click here to vote for my proposal for forward thinking educators.
Click here to vote for my proposal for digital creatives:
For those of you who’d like more details about what the heck I’m talking about, here’s a recap:
I’ve submitted the same proposal to two separate arenas of the festival:
- SXSW interactive:
This show caters to super hip, bleeding edge digital creative types–they received over 3,000 proposals because of their uber-coolness factor. It’s probably a stretch for me to get in, but their theme this year is creativity and inspiration which is why I thought my workshop could be a great fit even though I’m not famous or uber-cool.
- SXSW edu:
This show is smaller and a fairly new category for SXSW. It’s dedicated to forward thinking education leaders, thinkers, and entrepreneurs. It’s also closer to my heart because I think like a teacher myself and I believe educators (esp. art educators) are some of the most maligned, under supported professionals today.
I’m starting to realize that I want to be a part of the education conversation in this country as well as a more vocal advocate for the relevance and necessity of the arts and creativity in every aspect of learning and living life.
The Upshot (Basically, Please Vote)
Thanks so much, I really really appreciate this!
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!