Posts Tagged creativity

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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Leaping into Creativity

© 2013 Carolyn Moore

Today is the first day of my new life. Life without a steady job – intentionally pursuing a lifestyle that I find joy in – writing & encouraging other creative people to take risks and share their stories and their art with this chaotic world – a world that is desperately seeking connection and meaning.

Risky? Yes, because as most people have, there are bills to pay, mouths to feed, and cars to keep running. Worth it? Absolutely. At this point in my life I’m more aware of how precious time is and I won’t waste a moment more on unfulfilling pursuits. I’m ready to expose myself to the world to make a difference. Fear of failure? Absolutely present, but I rely on the accounts of other artists and innovators (ie. Stephen King, Joyce Carol Oates, Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison) who have illustrated that what we term as failures are truly the learning process that leads to successes. I also firmly believe in my calling to encourage other women and my need to pursue this full-time.

So let the fun begin! I’m looking forward to the stretching, the growing pains, and the learning – and hope to stir up others along the way.

What are YOU creating today? What motivates you to create?

Create joyfully today!

– Carol

© 2013 Carolyn Moore

Favorite post of the day:
If you’re a writer, read and share fellow Burlington College alum Kristi Petersen Schoonover’s post – Writers: 7 hardly-mentioned tips for submitting to zines. Kristi is an amazing fiction writer whose horror prose is jaw dropping. I highly recommend reading her book Skeletons in the Swimmin’ Hole: Tales from Haunted Disney World.

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Breathing Deeply…

 © 2013 Carolyn Moore

© 2013 Carolyn Moore

It’s obvious I’m a Northerner. I crave the sun. The shutters are wide open, inviting the uplifting light to warm the house as well as my soul. My mind envisions sunbathing and my body longs to go running. I don’t want to miss a second of gorgeous daylight. It’s about 20 degrees too cold for the casual walker to be out. For me, anything above thirty at this point in winter is welcome respite. I’m a Jersey girl at heart though, through and through, enduring the winters, loving the spring-summer-fall transitions, needing the city-country connection. Florida humidity just isn’t my cup of tea. Yet.

I’m so happy to experience this much sun and warmth in March! I don’t mind that bursting outdoors will have to wait till I am fully spent creatively. My butt is firmly planted. Mornings are my creative time but I do have to discipline myself daily not to succumb to distraction. I struggle with maintaining a steady output of words because I love research, brainstorming, reading, and encouraging others. I could spend all day just discovering and posting encouraging quotes and articles from others to stir up my friends.

But that wouldn’t serve the words I want to share and after a several decades of life, I do realize what I have to share matters and is worth something. We all do. Our stories are important; evidence that as humans we have so much more in common than we ever could imagine. Each unique personality paints a compelling masterpiece illustrating that we are not alone in our fears, our successes and failures, and our tragedies and triumphs. People connect through story. They heal; they grow bolder; they reach out to others who need stirring up.

All we have to do is show up. Be vulnerable. Try transparency. Risk everything. Serve your calling to create. Look past the possibilities of embarrassment, failure, ridicule. Sure, all that will probably happen occasionally, but those experiences serve the greater purpose – for growth and to serve others. If you’re not committed to a set creative time each day, make a decision to do it without self-imposing restrictions that hinder – just do it (oh, so Nike, but so true!) Creativity is not about being perfect – make a leap!

What stops you from a daily creative practice? Stir up others and share!

For a little extra inspiration, try a dose of Eric Maisel, creativity expert and author of Creative Recovery. An excellent online course at en*theos Academy – Your Best Life in the Arts course, also by Maisel.

Create joyfully today!

– Carol

© 2013 Carolyn Moore

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Riding the Wave of Uncertainty

It dismays me every time I see that I’ve let so much time pass since my last post. No, it doesn’t bother me to admit that because just like everyone else, my forehead is emblazoned with the words “work in progress.” Here’s what has been on my mind (and plate) lately. I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the idea of uncertainty and creativity for dual reasons – I’m giving my first seminar on creativity at the end of the month and I’ve been rereading Uncertainty: Turning Fear and Doubt into Fuel for Brilliance by Jonathan Fields.

I do a lot of encouraging or coaching (as is might be termed by some) and I’ve noticed that handling uncertainty is an ability that a lot of artists do not possess. When faced with doubts or fears, I’ve seen artists push themselves forward to success, or self-sabotage, or choose a path that will ensure them the least amount of pain during the process of creation. In recovery, I’ve learned that this is training we should have had as children – to deal with the uncertainty of outcomes in a healthy manner. Not that I’m suggesting that all artists or writers are recovering from some ‘ism,’ but that’s always a healthy avenue to investigate if you find yourself constantly short-changing your creative process to stop the pain.

What’s this pain; this uncertainty about? Fields asserts (and I agree) that the double nature of uncertainty is the fear of what the outcome will be and how the outcome will be perceived (judged.) Like most artists, I realize the fear signals the foothold of what could be a fantastic idea – an idea worth exploring or an opportunity that shouldn’t be passed up because the experience will be invaluable. It’s what we choose to do as the pain creeps into our psyche that will determine the depth of the creative process.

Fields details an experiment where subjects were asked to choose a ball from one of two urns. Urn #1 is filled with 100 balls – 50 black and 50 white. Urn #2 also contains 100 balls but the percentage of which is black or white is unknown. The subjects had to bet $100 on a color of their choice. Then they had to choose which urn to pick from. Can you guess which most people chose? Even though neither configuration had a mathematical or logical advantage, the majority of the subjects choose the first urn.

Because pain is uncomfortable and our fight or flight instinct usually prompts us to flight, most people will choose the path of ‘constraint.’ They stop exploring, close off options and create rules, look for systems and processes to justify their choices because of their aversion to the unknown and to being judged. At that point the adapting, testing, and experimenting and evolving is over. Continuing in the uncertainty, on the other hand, can lead to heightened creativity and a level of creative options that would otherwise not have been seen.

Sounds logical, right? But as I constantly ask my therapist – what do I do with all these feelings? (now that I’m not stuffing them, eating them, and denying them.) He says – just feel them. As crappy as uncertainty, fear, and anxiety feels – feel them and keep on creating. It’s okay not to know or be able to predict exactly how things will turn out. It’s very uncomfortable at first but it’s a worthwhile pursuit because what we live out in our creative processes, we also live out in our personal lives. What benefits one will benefit the other. Push through, work through the pain, and be amazed at what you produce.

How have you dealt with uncertainty in your life and your creative process lately?

©2012 Carolyn Moore

Food for thought: Uncertainty by Jonathan Fields
& Deciding to Push by Carolyn Moore.

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Anger Builds a Wall

I believe that anger stifles creativity. Maybe other artists have created great works fueled by passionate feelings, but anger builds a wall in me where I cannot reach anything imaginative or creative. The dictionary defines anger as “a feeling of displeasure and belligerence aroused by a wrong.” I think anger is a condition of helplessness seared with fury and injustice; something that can only be resolved by forgiveness.

Several weeks ago, I had one those experiences that while it’s actually happening, you feel as if you’re outside events observing the process. Someone important in my life did something that hurt me and made me angry. Not wanting to waste time sulking, I told this person how I felt and mentioned that an apology would clear the air. Though this person listened to what I had to say, no comments or apology were forthcoming.

So the scenario I’d hoped to avoid became reality. I tried to carry on with my activities as if nothing had happened, but every time I put pen to paper my thoughts immediately strayed back to the encounter. After many frustrating hours of producing next-to-nothing, I knew that needed to become proactive. I felt there were three courses of action I could take.

1)      Retaliate – A popular option for some, but would only breed more negativity and goes against my life scripture – Ephesians 4:29 – Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear.

2)      Become Depressed – All my life I’ve heard it said that depression is anger turned inwards. Been there, done that. Not a happy place. Too difficult to encourage people from there.

3)      Forgive – The most affirmative of the choices, but also the most difficult. Why? Because I would have to let go of the feelings in me that claimed the person that hurt me still owed me something.

I chose forgiveness. This is the process that helped me bring down the wall.

1)      Letting go – I had to consider – was I holding onto the anger because I believed the hurtful comments might actually be true? Yes! I had to remind myself the reality is that there are only two people who get to determine the truth about who and what I am – me & God. No one else should have that power.

2)      Affirmation – With that in mind, I considered exactly who I am – God’s words and the truths that I know about myself. This process shrunk the insult to a much less threatening size.

3)      Forgiveness – the actual act of it. No, I didn’t go back to that person and say ‘I forgive you,’ but I did utter those words many times during the day as I ‘prayed unceasingly’ for peace and for understanding.

Did it work? Absolutely. It does every time. How long it takes depends on how long I choose to hold on to the words and actions of others. In this situation, it was about a day before I was writing again. And it wasn’t long before I was peaceful enough to consider working on that particular relationship with a clear head that wasn’t focused just on getting what I needed.

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Day Two

I’m going for consistency here so I’m at the keyboard once again though I’m not sure what it is I’m going to share. Today was not as stellar a writing day as Monday was, but I’m starting to get a little more perspective on the reality of what procrastination is all about. I have always believed that procrastination is fear.  Along that vein, I have identified some fears I let prevent me from writing, but this hasn’t been an entirely successful strategy. Awareness of what stops you from doing something you love does not automatically set you on the track to pursuing your passion wholeheartedly.

Among the dozen or so books that I am in the process of reading is Heather Sellers’ Page after Page – Discovering the Confidence & Passion You Need to Start Writing and Keep Writing (No Matter What!) She points out the common resistance we have to beginning anything new.  Instead of focusing on the reality that we will spend much time alone just writing and writing, we resist the very thing we want to do by deciding that the whole experience is ‘not what we expected it to be’ or by saying ‘this was not what I wanted.’

Pen, paper, and desire is all you need to write. Not the right space or time or materials. Just sit down and do it and don’t stop. Realize that you are going to be alone – a lot. This is a tough spot for me. I like people. I am drawn to people. I’m not incredibly outgoing, but I enjoy people even if it’s simply via Facebook, Twitter, or email. I crave connection. Ironically, I feel the same way about my words. I want to be with them, to know them intimately, create ideas and place with them and that’s difficult to do with the distraction of people.

Sellers suggests that the writer’s life should be filled with other writers (I’ve only gotten involved in a writing group about a year ago), multitudes of books (got that one covered!), discussions of books (working on that one), and an obsessive desire to carve out a portion of time each day to release the words we have locked inside us. This, of course is the hardest part – making time to write. I’m a very deadline-driven person, but also an excellent procrastinator who has always believed that I do my best work right before it is due. Granted I can produce writing quickly, but I’m old enough now to know that writing needs time to be created, simmered, and revised to be worthwhile.

Acknowledging that your writing is valuable enough to make time for is the first issue particularly if writing is not your main profession. How can I say that I didn’t have a chance to grade homework, do laundry, or make dinner if my priority is supposed to be home schooling and taking care of the house? Raising the status of your art above ‘hobby’ level is as much about self-esteem as it is about respecting your work itself.

So now, whether I’m writing a press release or a chapter of my latest manuscript, I try to give my creativity the time it deserves instead of shoving the task into my schedule when I can grab a few minutes.  My writing matters now regardless of whether I’m making a living at it yet. If you can’t reach this point as a writer when it’s a part-time thing, how will your art be important as a full-time venture? I’m thinking I would still be surviving on that last-minute attack-the-project mode letting the busy-ness of life give false meaning to my day rather than filling my day with my passion.

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