On Not Going It Alone

August 7, 2011

Recently I had brunch with a wonderful pianist, Benita Meshulam, and we were discussing the joys of collaborating.  She has recently begun a piano duo with Allison Brewster Franzetti, also an amazing pianist. “After all these years of being lonely on stage, I have a real partner to share the experience with,” she said.  “It’s so much better not to have to always perform alone. The loneliest walk is from my dressing room to the stage, and now I don’t have to do it alone.”

Part of our cultural mythology is this vision of the artist alone, writing or sculpting or drawing  in solitude. The solitude seems to validate the experience , verify the genuineness of the self-communion.   We imagine J.D. Salinger in cranky hermit mode up inNew Hampshire, or Van Gogh in tortured self-mutilating mode in a garret.  Virginia Woolf told us that every writer needs a room of her own, and it seems so obvious that we all immediately nod in agreement.

But although Virginia Woolf had a room of her own, she also lived in a constant social whirl of friends, writers and other artists who argued with her, supported her, designed her books and  furniture, and brought her their work for publication and critique.  As anyone who reads her diaries knows, she was very seldom actually alone.  Many artists do feel the loneliness of creating in solitude, or taking the stage by themselves, and get quite self-reproachful about their dislike of creating by themselves.

But there is actually no rule that you have to lock yourself in an empty room  to create, or even create or perform or present work with others.  Starbucks sometimes seems to exist largely to serve the needs of people who can’t stand to write in a room alone.  Of course, actors and musicians and other performers have always known the joys of performing together—but writers? Photographers?  Composers? Painters?

Well, maybe you can’t write music at Starbucks with all those world instruments jingling in your ears, but you can almost always find a less lonely situation that eases that anxiety about solitude and being in the creative process by yourself.  Whether this means having a trusted other who sits and reads while you are working, or actively collaborating with other artists on a film or musical or book or mural—or duo piano performance—sometimes the presence of another human being (or non-human being—there is a reason some writers are always photographed with their dogs at their sides) is the exact missing ingredient to spur your creative process.

Sometimes all we want is an empty, quiet space to do our work, or to walk out on to a stage and face the crowd or critics by ourselves—but we don’t have to be alone with either our ideas or our audiences if it doesn’t work for us.  Collaboration can be one of the most exciting and fulfilling modes for any artist to work in—although you still might want that room of your own to go home and decompress in at the end of the day!

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How Creative Are You

May 23, 2010

by Leslie Zeigler

Ageless Body Timeless Mind

In thinking about what to blog about today,  I came across a book that I bought a long time ago but never really read.   It is called Ageless Body, Timeless Mind by Deepak  Chopra.   I started to look through it and came across a wonderful chapter that speaks about the  value of creativity.  He talks about how the “deepest  reality you are aware of is the one from which you draw your power.”  He goes on to say that  a more profound power than being aware of the material world is one’s creative power shaping mind and body. He adds that power expresses itself through your own personal creativity. When you are being creative, you lose track of time – “only the flow exists”

Here are seven traits shared by  people who are  highly creative  and “know they are the source of their own power.”

l.They are able to contact and enjoy  silence

2.They connect with and enjoy nature

3.They trust their feelings

4.They can remain centered and function amid chaos and confusion

5.They are childlike-they enjoy fantasy and play

6.They self-refer-they place the highest trust in their own consciousness

7.They are not rigidly attached to any one point of view -although passionately committed to their creativity, they remain open to new possibilities

I hope that this might inspire some thoughts and feelings about being creative.  And perhaps offer  something to think about as a break from  the stress most of us feel in this new culture in which we are living where technology so dominates our life.  We all need to take mini-vacations every day. even if only for a brief time (fifteen minutes is better than nothing),  to not check our cell, our blackberry, and our email and to not let the culture   determine how we spend our precious free time.

I will blog in the future about how to develop and strengthen these traits.


The People Blocks

June 14, 2009

Posted by Deborah Atherton

In a recent email exchange with novelist Andrew Washton, we pondered the dismaying fact that sometimes the biggest obstacles to beginning to live a more creative life are the people around us.

They may actively block us by making fun of our aspirations (“Picking up those drumsticks again at YOUR age? Are you kidding?”) Or they may resent us taking the time away from them and their plans for us.  (“But we were supposed to go visit my mother today! You’ve been working on that screenplay for years; it can wait one more Sunday.”)

Or, most likely of all, they will be completely indifferent to our aspirations and dreams. (“You have a photography show up in the gallery downtown? Oh, sorry I can’t make it this month – it’s just not inconvenient.”) You offer to make it easy for them by sending them the photographs on Flickr; but somehow, they just can’t get interested. Any success you have is met with slightly embarrassed indifference. The family and friends you would think would be your most enthusiastic audience are a great deal less interested in your work than total strangers who wander in off the street.

We can analyze their motives to death. Maybe they feel competition (Mom always liked YOUR finger paintings best.) Maybe they feel envy at the creative energy and involvement that is recharging your life. Maybe the very ideas of creativity, art, or inspiration are alien and uncomfortable to them, and they’re just a lot more comfortable with worrying about who won Celebrity Apprentice this year. Or maybe they’re afraid that your new creative efforts will inevitably pull you away from them.

In this, they may not be entirely wrong. As you pursue the projects and ideas that truly interest and involve you, you’ll find other people who do support your work and the way you are using your time. Some of the strangers who wander in off the street and admire your photographs or your songs or your stories or your paintings will become fans, and even friends. Your Facebook page might start having fellow artists and creatives on it, as well as your cousins in Minnesota and your old high school buddies.

The people you see on Thanksgiving may never care about your next exhibit or your new book, but, as time goes on, other people will. And you’ll learn how to admire pictures of the new baby or gas grill without expecting appreciation of your creative life from people who, for many reasons, have no appreciation to give.

Although you may notice, as the outside world begins to pay more attention, that interest on the home front will also pick up, and requests for tickets, free copies, or prints begin to mount. And then it will be up to you to decide just how gracious to be.