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A Creative State of Mind

© 2013 Carolyn Moore

© 2013 Carolyn Moore

I love reading and writing about the creative process because it’s amazing chaotic contradiction of emotions, experiences, skills, and risk. It fascinates me that humans, born to create, struggle to do so. The root cause, of course, has to be that we cannot, like our Maker, create perfection but only a reasonable facsimile of what we can dream up. God speaks it and there is a universe of infinite stars, a platypus, a whale, a person – what could be more satisfying than producing exactly what you imagine? We crave creation.

A young woman who attends our local writers group expressed the dilemma perfectly, “I can see it in my head; I just can’t get it down on paper the way it looks in my mind.” Mind you, this is from a writer whose prose I experience as so vividly descriptive that if it were more so, it would be too much for my brain to absorb. But I can relate because I remember saying the same thing to myself when trying illustrate – I can see the image perfectly in my mind – why can’t I recreate it to my satisfaction?

Are we doomed to lifelong dissatisfaction with our creations? That’s possible. As a young student I had an unreasonable expectation of what my style should be and when I didn’t succeed at portraying that style my confidence plummeted. I was less than. As a professional in my 20s, I began to realize that the true style I excelled at was acceptable and my comfort level grew with who I was as an artist, but I stopped painting and drawing in my 30s because I too busy with babies. Lie. I was perpetually unhappy with my output and decided I’d had enough. I wasn’t good at illustration. My ideas were awesome; my execution was less than.

Creating in a community has altered my perspective. As an art teacher I saw that young children create with joy. They don’t care what others are doing or compare their work. They say ‘wow, that’s awesome’ instead of ‘I wish I’d have created that.’ That joy is dampened sometime during elementary school when they begin to believe that some people are creative and some are not.

As adults, we express, verbally or not, ‘I wish I was a good as…’ or ‘I’ll never be that good…’ With writers, I hear them say they aren’t as good someone else at description or dialogue, but since I’ve been writing the most poignant thing that I’ve learned is that no one writes like anyone else and comparative words like good or better are useless. If your words bring your fictional world or your ideas (like a blog or article) to life, then they are just right for the piece that you’ve done.

Community should produce inspiration, not comparison, but the level of inspiration is determined by how we choose to internalize the experience. I find inspiration from my writing group, the Sussex Bards, by seeing how each individual expresses themselves differently and appreciating them. No comparisons. I cannot be Stephen King or Joyce Carol Oates but I can find joy in others’ creations. This inspiration compels me to pour more of myself into the work – which is imperfect and perfectly me.

I may not be able to recreate perfectly what’s in my imagination but I don’t evaluate my work anymore on the basis of good or bad, right or wrong anymore. I ask – does it say when I want it to say effectively and genuinely in my voice? (or, if fiction, in the voice of my characters.) Judging the success of a piece is primarily based on whether or not, it has evoked a response (positive or negative) from the intended audience. Satisfaction quotient for the process now? Very high.

Each day is like a sketch for the final draft. Picasso didn’t paint a masterpiece every day. Joyce Carol Oates doesn’t write a novel every day. Every word we write, every brushstroke or chord played is part of a larger more authentic expression of the journey of joyful creation.

Create joyfully today!

– Carol

© 2013 Carolyn Moore


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The Power of White

The Power of White

© 2013 Carolyn Moore

Many years ago, armed with a toddler and newborn, I stepped through the doorway of my mother’s new post-divorce home. Coated with drool, Cheerios® falling from my shirt; I was paralyzed. EVERTHING was white. White walls, countertops, chairs, cabinets, bedspreads. For my mother, this was a fresh, clean start; for a new mother, who longed to hide stains and crumbs among patterns and dark colors, a nightmare. The house mocked me – “Go ahead, try and live here. You can’t hide the real you here.” The inability to contain my messy life, to defend it, and control it would be exposed.

White is intimidating. White overpowers the desire to create; challenges the logic and emotions that compel us to communicate. It is a creative stop sign. Conversely, who doesn’t enjoy the freshness of a new notebook, sketchbook, or white walls? There’s excitement in white; but also danger.

At the mercy of white, I am vulnerable. The blank page stares me down each time I start a new project and figuratively during a project. Every new day feels like a blank page taunting me to ‘try’ and be a writer. Fill that page with something of value. My brain processes the experience as necessary risk; my emotions dread the scariness of the unknown.

How to work with this dissonance daily and actually create?

1) Affirm daily that your work has worth.
I’m a firm believer in ‘created in His image,’ meaning that we have an innate desire to create. Our stories through writing, painting, architecture, healing arts – whatever media we choose – have eternal value in ministering the world and one’s own soul. Creation unshared is meaningless – God could have kept all the beauty of His creation to Himself, but the world is an entirely different experience because we are here to share in it.

2) Just do it. I say it constantly.
You’re not a writer unless you write or painter or musician, etc… So BE a writer, a painter, or whatever your pursuit is! Consider this: a half day’s worth of mediocre is worth more than a blank page. The crappy prose (or sketches or practices) will lead to success eventually. Not creating leads to nothing, but dead dreams, low self-esteem, and lack of confidence.

3) Turn off the distractions.
As a former Queen of Procrastination (closely related to her Royal Majesty Denial,) I can put off writing (or anything I fear success at) better than anyone. Social media and phones are the obvious attention thieves. The not-so-obvious is your inner editor. She’s a bitch. Disinvite her to the party! Pacify her by acknowledging that she’ll get her chance to reign in the future but her know-it-all perfectionism is not welcome during your creative flow.

4) Be aware of your emotional climate. As a woman in recovery, not knowing where I am emotionally is a road map to relapse and quite frankly, though my experiences do fuel my creativity, I don’t want to spend creative time with my stories being distracted by an underlying issue. I frequently journal prior to tackling a story or subject for the blog. I find working through the HALT steps a quick way to get an accurate emotional barometer. Am I Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired? Yes or no answers do not work here. Honesty and vulnerability does. (Please feel free to refer to Living Gracefully post for some program suggestions if you’d like to do some inner growth work.)

5) Do the next right thing. Pen to paper, brush to canvas – is the fear gone? Absolutely not, but I have prepared myself to work despite the emotions (anxiety, fear, etc.) – to produce growth. I will spare myself the torment of wasted time, regrets, dreams postponed – which will only produce negativity, complacency, apathy, and feelings of worthlessness.

The white page signifies different things for everyone. It could be a challenge, a threat, or both. It encompasses our ideas of success and failure, proves our worth, displays our expertise or incompetence, exposures our vulnerabilities. These are powerful ideas in our culture. Challenge that white page right back because the work that we produce affirms that we exist and that our stories have value and validity through common experiences and emotions. Our creative expressions matter.

Create joyfully today!

Does a white page or blank canvas stop you from creating? How do you deal with it?

– Carol

© 2013 Carolyn Moore

Some great reads that address aspects of this issueTurning Pro by Steven Pressfield, The Procrastination Equation by Piers Steel Piers.

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