Tag Archives: creativity

By example

Buried deep.

This week has been a doozy. It’s the last week of the trimester at my school and all student projects had to be finished. Then they had to be graded and then entered in our school’s computer system. As no surprise, students are masters of procrastination and they can come up with excuses faster than Lance Armstrong can pedal a bike. I’ve come home irritable and exhausted every night this week. I typically walk to school and on Thursday morning when I set out, I never expected to be coming home after dark. I knew I would have been an easy target for some misguided criminal so I called my sweet neighbor to come and pick me up, which she did.

It’s rare that I get to the end of my rope. When I find I’ve lost patience, joy and respect and I feel like an old, wrung out dishcloth, it’s good to be reminded that my purpose is important if for no other reason than to reach one student’s creative capacity.

The following blog post was written on October 2, 2012 by the author of The Perpetual Vagabond. I follow this blog and when I read this post, I wrote the author and asked for permission to re-blog it. She gave me permission and I’ve been waiting for an appropriate time to republish it. Her words ring true for so many people who give up being creative because either they didn’t think they had talent, their parents didn’t approve or they didn’t realize the danger of holding it all in.

I began this blog in May of 2011 in the wake of what felt like losing my mind. I was about to graduate with a Master’s Degree in a field I no longer wanted to work in, I was working in a job that was supposed to be my dream job, but I hated, and I had no idea who I was or where I was going. I was lonely, depressed and felt like I was slowly going mad. I began to have panic attacks daily and eventually ended up in the ER one evening with intense pain in my eyes, convinced that I had a brain tumor and was dying. Upon being discharged from the hospital and being told I was not dying, but was possibly suffering the side effects of severe stress, I realized that I was a mess and something needed to change.

A few weeks later I had an epiphany that led me to start this blog and I made my first entry. A year and a half later as I look back at where my life has gone, I realize how important this process of sharing my creative work with others has been for me as find my own inner strength and direction. I’m still learning and growing every day and often have moments that feel like I am sinking back into madness, but I also know that I now have a deep sense of self and have found immense joy in the creative process.

Below, is that very first blog post I published, and ultimately the beginning of this amazing journey I have been on this past year and a half. When I made that first entry I never could have imagined how far this process would take me. Up until that point I had never shared my creative work with anyone, due to immense fear and insecurity, and today I do it almost daily.

Now I once again feel like I’m at another crossroads in my life (but, this time I am starting from what I have already built, not at rock bottom) so I felt like acknowledging these first steps and how far I have come. Thank you to everyone who has taken an interest in my work and I hope to continue to create and share it with the world!

Today: (Originally Published May 2011)

Today, I began to mourn the loss of my creative self that so long ago I buried deep within the recesses of my mind; never even allowing myself to return to the grave site to pay my respects. The day of the burial I walked away without looking back, but could hear a faint cry for help as I had buried my artistic ambitions alive, left to suffocate beneath a mound of intellectualism, practicality, and cultural pressure. Instead I became a student, a teacher, a girlfriend and a traveler. I found artistic expression in nature and in my social circles, but never in myself. I retrained a passionate ambition to create, but with no outlet in my life, jumped from place to place, job to job, and vision to vision. Each new undertaking was only exciting as long as the initial newness and artistic imagery lasted. Not wanting to fully accept artistic death, I kept around a few hobbies, but routinely sabotaged my own work with self-doubt, distrust of others, and a wall of insecurity.

Today, my subconscious brought me back to the burial site and wouldn’t let me leave until I acknowledged what I had done. Now faced with the reality of my loss, I mourn, while at the same time fend off my inner voice that tells me to stop being silly and just let go once and for all. It tells me that I left behind my art for a reason and that it is a selfish and meaningless waste of time. I listen to these thoughts and weep at their cruelty.

Today as I grieve and question, I am also uplifted at the prospect of raising the dead and once again living an artistic life.

Today, I mourn, forgive and embrace the unknown.

During this week of Thanksgiving, I’m reminded of how thankful I am that I use my creative talents. I’m thankful to work alongside many others who inspire me. I’m thankful, and hopeful, that I can inspire others to do the same.

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Getting the job done

Don’t give up.

Last week I attended an Arts and Letters Live presentation given by Jonah Lehrer at the Dallas Museum of Art. In his lecture, and in his new book, “Imagine: How Creativity Works,” he addresses some strikingly interesting ideas about creativity. Although his stature is diminutive, his ideas are not. He has degrees in neuroscience, literature and philosophy. One of the main themes he expanded on was the psychological trait called Grit. Lehrer said, “Great artists are great workers. They revise and re-do. They spend hours of merciless refinement on their projects. They are stubborn and single minded. They are persistent. They refuse to quit. They practice and practice, over and over. They are in it for the long haul.”

If you’ve ever read the book or seen either of the film adaptations of True Grit you’ll remember that young Mattie Ross selects Marshal Rooster Cogburn to help her track down the killer of her father. She chooses Cogburn even though he’s one-eyed, overweight and aging because she is convinced of his “grit” or fortitude. As the story unfolds, the audience witnesses Mattie’s tenacity as well, as she is bound and determined to accompany Cogburn to the bitter end.

It’s undetermined if Grit can be taught but by exposing yourself to a variety of different activities and notions you can assess if you have an interest in that thing or not. Be curious. Be brave and try new things. Don’t be afraid to fail. If you find something you love doing, then you won’t see doing it as work.  Lehrer says, “Choose easy. Work hard.” What do you naturally like to do? What are you curious about?

Lehrer explained that there is new software being developed that can sift through your resume and determine levels of Grit. A big part of success is persistence but organization and plain, ‘ol simple table manners can go a long way too. My successful career in graphic design wasn’t, necessarily, because I was so terribly talented in design and typography. I believe the reason I was asked to work on big projects was ultimately because I was dependable and would not give up until I got it right. I set high goals for myself and found ways to problem solve. I had good manners. I respected my authority figures. I was punctual. Yeah, my design wasn’t bad, but the jobs kept coming my way mostly because I only promised what I knew I could deliver. My clients could trust me.

Becoming successful in any creative activity involves criticism and debate about what you’re thinking or what you’ve made. It is very important in the creative process to realize that the product you make is not you. You and the object are separate. Be grateful for any negative comments you receive so that you can make it better! Be thankful for critique! Seek honest critique and then be prepared to take it. In fact, ask for it. Lehrer reminded the audience, “If you’re at the cutting edge, you’re going to bleed.” It is best to fail as soon as possible so the problems can be fixed and you can be on your way to success sooner! Be willing to fail and even more importantly, like a former pastor of mine used to say, “Be willing to be willing.”

Where has your determination and Grit taken you? I look forward to your comments!

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