More about Maslow and Creativity

March 11, 2012

In a prior blog post I wrote about how Maslow was a humanistic psychologist and believed that in  every person  there is a strong desire to realize his or her full potential.  He believed creativity was an aspect  of personality.   Another interesting idea he had was that there are “two sets of forces–one that clings to safety and defensiveness out of fear and one that urges us towards wholeness and full expression of our true selves. . .  One part of us is afraid to take chances  …afraid to bother the status quo…  …Another part is driven by a nagging sense of feeling unfulfilled, that our lives will be incomplete unless we express ourselves in some important way.”

He adds that growth forward  takes place in little steps.  He believed that this slow process made it safer for us to change and grow.

Perhaps you may want to ask yourself:  What do you need emotionally to help you take that first small step or the next step in your current creative project?

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Creativity and Late Bloomers – Learning How to Become Mindful

July 3, 2011

I recall seeing the title of a book written by Nora Ephron called I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other  Thoughts on Being a Woman.  Now,  I am not going to blog about necks  or the psychology of aging and women.  But just hearing this title quite honestly turned me off, because it sounds so negative.  And I am not a person  who  aspires  to being positive in a tone that makes it sound like life is just a bowl of cherries .   However,   I have consistently discovered in my life  that when faced with a choice of mindsets,  I ALWAYS   feel better and seem to get better results in whatever life endeavor I am trying to achieve, when I tell myself or try to tell myself   to maintain a positive  mindset.  (Although this doesn’t mean that my inner critic is not trying to get heard!)

So in this post,  I want to talk about the issue of aging and  how to maintain hope about engaging in a creative endeavor.  It is so easy to think it is just too late.  But while it might be  too late to become a ballerina, it might not be too late to enjoy seeing others dance.

I was especially inspired when I read that  David Seidler received the Best Original Screenplay award at age 74  years old.  He said, “my father always said to me I would be  a late bloomer.”

He also said “I have heard I am the oldest person to win this award. I hope that that record is broken quickly and often”.   I hope so too.  And not just for the big fancy accolades  like his but for accolades of any kind. It could  be  as simple as someone at 90 years of age in a nursing home taking a painting class .

So  what do I mean by being mindful?   In an extremely upbeat book written by Ellen Langer, entitled :”Counter Clockwise, Mindful Health and the  Power of Possibility,”  she describes it like this, “It is about the need to free ourselves from constricting mindsets and the limits they place on our health and well-being, and to appreciate the importance of  becoming the guardians of our own health.”  I’d like to suggest that this same belief  can be applied to one’s relationship to their creativity.


Let’s Resist Always Calling it Resistance

May 21, 2011

We live in a culture that thrives on quick sound bites and formulaic   responses to complicated matters.

For example , I am reminded of a  New York Times bestseller called  He’s Just Not That Into You. I actually never read the book but from what I have heard about it, it sure sounds like a one trick pony to me.   The basic assumption  was that if a man does not return a phone call after a date it is because he is just not that into you.  What if he just lost his job?  What if he is commitment phobic and responds this way to all women? It is not hard to find other books with  a tendency to oversimplify also on the best sellers list.

In that vein, I feel it is often common for people to assume that if someone says the often used comment  “I just don’t have enough time”  in referring to their creative endeavor,  that it is a sure indication of resistance.     What if it is not so black and white?

What if someone just suffered the loss of a parent and is paralyzed by their understandable grief?  Or perhaps a woman is yearning to set aside time to work on her passion of writing yet has just given birth to twins. 

Sometimes it may be about the lack of energy and consequent lack of   ability to focus that may be one way to explain the behavior.  IF someone is weighted down by  a difficult emotion or a new life transition, it can feel like wanting  to get up from the couch with a body that just won’t move.

Sometimes life happens and our behavior  just cannot  be easily labeled.


Why Are We All So Tired?

April 7, 2011

by Deborah Atherton

Why are we all so tired? 

Lately almost everyone I know has been telling me that they are very, very tired.  Many of us, of course, have very good reason to be tired; we work all day, and then we try to write or play music or paint or blog or do photography at night and on weekends. This is the fabric of our lives; we are used to spending our days overwhelmed by the sheer volume of things we are trying to do.   And everyone is just getting over some bug or another, and dragging themselves slowly into spring.

But I feel what I’m hearing lately in people’s voices is something more than that. Although we’ve all been living for at least a decade now with a different sense of how unpredictable and frightening the world can be, the last few months may have threatened our precarious sense of balance in a new way.  Earthquakes, tsunamis, nuclear disasters—we’re indirectly experiencing so many events completely out of our control that even the new and scarier world we’ve gotten a bit used to has been turned on its head.  Many of us can’t bear to watch the news for more than a few minutes at a time, and when we do, we watch with a kind of fascinated horror, and perhaps it makes the things we are trying to do—find the right chord for a song, finish a portrait, rewrite a scene—seem kind of unimportant.  Just getting up in the morning and paying attention to what is going on around the world is exhausting right now—how can we push ourselves to take one more step?

I’m not sure I have the answer to that, except that there are all kinds of ways to bear witness to the world and the other human beings in it, and exercising your own creative spirit might be one of them.  If it can only be five minutes of thinking about your project, or five minutes of sketching or writing or looking through a new lens, that is five minutes of sanity and calm that will move you closer to your larger goal.  Once I heard a Zen teacher talking about how, if you can not find half an hour for meditation, you can surely find fifteen or ten or five—or two—and I believe the same holds true for creative endeavors.  It may seem like a useless effort, it may seem like a tease, but really—is it going to make you any MORE tired to dedicate five minutes to shaping something new?

Maybe not – maybe it will even have the opposite effect, and encourage you to try ten minutes tomorrow.  Or maybe it will just have to be five minutes every day until the news is a little bit more bearable again and we can dream a little bigger.

 


It’s Okay to Fail

January 23, 2011

by Leslie Zeigler

In light of the fact that today is the first day of the new year,  I wanted to blog about something that would be both inspiring and supportive to anyone who is yearning to be creative but afraid or for someone who is afraid to go to the next level in their creative process. I decided to be counterintuitive.  I listen so often to many people who report that what stops them from bringing their creative dream out of hiding, is somehow related to a fear of failing.  It may not be explicitly stated in that way, but that is what it relates to.

I was actually moved to write about the value of failing after listening to an interview Oprah had with J.K. Rowlings. In that interview, J. K. Rowlings, in a humble and earnest tone of voice, revealed  that it was when she hit rock bottom that she experienced the freedom  that really helped her to begin to write. And we know the rest of the story from there. Now it is not likely that any of us will  achieve the level of creative and commerical success that she did.  But that is not the point.

We live in a culture that dramatically emphasizes product over process. Being creative may never lead to external success or exposure.   But wouldn’t you feel freer to at least try to begin to write a poem, take a photo, ponder an idea for a short story, novel, non-fiction book, sign up for a singing, pottery, or dance class if you could accept that failure is an essential ingredient  of the gig?  And it really doesn’t have   to be so scary.  It does mean that you will have to learn how to strengthen your muscles of resilience and persistence.


Chicken Soup

January 9, 2011

Posted by Deborah Atherton

We talk a lot about creative blocks, the internal forces that keep us from realizing our ideas and visions. But sometimes life offers external blocks that keep us from doing what we want to do most.  Sometimes we confuse one with the other.

Several writers and artists have recently mentioned to me that a bad bout of flu had kept them from doing anything but watch mindless TV for over a week.  We are very intent sometimes on our schedules, our daily practice, the amount of words we get on a page or number of hours we have practiced on our instrument, and it’s hard to accept that external forces may prevent us from reaching our goals.

But life has a way of handing us obstacles on a fairly regular basis, and they may vary in severity from the loss of a job or a serious illness to a bad cold or visiting relatives.  And I think sometimes we are so used to trying to catch ourselves in slacking off (and let’s face it, we creative types do have an enormous gift for slacking off) that when real things happen, even when they come with temperatures of 103 or slings or severe lack of paychecks, we dismiss the reality of the obstacle, whatever its severity, and just start reproaching ourselves for not accomplishing things.

Sometimes it’s okay not to make your five hundred words a day or not to sit down at your easel or drafting table (especially if the smell of paint is making you sick.) Once in a while, yes, there will be a deadline that can’t be missed, a curtain that is going up or a book that is coming out and you will have to make a heroic effort, whatever the obstacles, and just resolve to pay for it later. But you don’t have to be heroic every day of your life (or no more heroic than every person is when they commit to pursuing their creative dreams.) Heroism is exhausting, and depleting, and not required from us all on a regular basis.

So pick up an undemanding book or the remote control, and get through your personal flu season (or whatever the obstacle may be) as comfortably as you can.  You’ll be back on the front lines soon enough, and one of these days, some heroism may well be required. But in the meantime, maybe just acknowledge that some days the blocks aren’t of your making, and the best thing you can do for yourself is go and find a nice bowl of chicken soup.

Much gratitude to Claudia Carlson for her thoughts on this issue. Check out her blog The Elephant House to follow an artist/poet/fiction writer/book designer on her adventures in and out of New York City!


Creativity and Depression – Is there a link? One Man’s Viewpoint

July 19, 2010

In a recent discussion with my coaching client Gail’s husband about creativity  some interesting ideas began to emerge.  (Both Gail and her husband have given me permission to blog about this.)   Our discussion began when  I  was curious about what his definition of creativity was.  He said in a very certain tone of  voice without any hesitation, “It’s PLAYFULNESS. ”    I had no idea at the beginning of our conversation that we would soon be talking about creative blocks , depression and why he has difficulty beginning to commit to his deeply treasured buried dream of writing a memoir.   Soon after he shared that with me he let me in on  his style of communicating that he called “birdwalking”.  He said he knows that  he jumps around like a sparrow.  He added, “to me there is creativity in that.”    I asked him to tell me more about this memoir he wants to write about but has not actually ever started.  He  replied, “I’d like to write something that would crystallize the lessons of my own life in a way that could last.”

I then asked, “So what gets in the way?” He shared that it is partly his perfectionism and partly his pattern of getting easily distracted.  He then reflected and added that the single most difficult obstacle was  his life-long struggle with chronic depression that began in adolescence.  He does not think people are creative when they are depressed. He gave Van Gogh as an example – he did not paint when he was depressed, but when he was in recovery,  even while in an insane asylum. He does,  however, feel there may be a  link for those who suffer from manic depression, because some people claim they do their best work while in the manic phase.

I did want to probe further what stopped him. “Well, it becomes hard work to actually start to write a memoir.  So you lose the playfulness.”

For the time being  our conversation is on pause.  I am very interested in trying to understand the relationship between the desire to be playful and the necessity of engaging in a discplined ritual if one wants to actually commit to writing (or any creative endeavor).