Shine and Play

February 5, 2012

by Leslie Zeigler

This is a second blog entry about Sheri Heller, a colleague of mine who is an Interfaith Reverend and psychotherapist as well as a writer,  playwright and actor.  She is the founder of the Philanthropic Theater Group Sistah Tribe.  Sistah Tribe is a collective of women and men who bring to the theater the  culturally  under-served and disenfranchised.

In my conversation with Sheri, I noticed a thread that ran through  much of what she shared with me – which is her deeply held belief that “when we connect to our creative impulses we are deeply authentic. ”  She goes on to say “creativity teaches us about ourselves.”  In her own deeply authentic voice she says,  “I always knew there was an artist in me,  but I didn’t feel entitled to give her permission and in certain ways was afraid to give her expression for fear of my own power being allowed to shine and play.”



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.


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!

The Turkey Trap

November 24, 2010

Posted by Deborah Atherton

The end-of-the-year holidays are not generally known as great spurs to creativity, unless you are Martha Stewart. All those people to whom you are related–all those turkeys which you will have to stuff and roast–and all the presents which you will have to buy–tend to weigh you down by mid-November, a weight which does not really lift until you make New Year’s resolutions to finish the book (film, painting, script, you fill in the blank.)  Plus, holidays tend to be depressing. Nothing is ever as much fun as it was when you were eight, and that gift you hoped for but hardly dreamed you would get actually magically appeared in the pile of presents.

So what are we to do about the holiday Turkey Trap, that keeps us from doing the work we love?

I think we need to ask ourselves: what is the least we can do and still keep a connection to our creativity, our ongoing projects, and ourselves during these challenging holiday weeks?  This is not the moment to begin the mammoth project you have been thinking of since last New Year’s; this is definitely not the time to tell yourself you will be spending hours a day you aren’t going to have in your studio/workroom/study.  No matter what the calendar says about days off from work or school, you aren’t going to have extra time; you are going to have less time.  And in that little time that you do have, you will likely be tired from all the festivities, and hung over from all that good cheer and sugar. Please, please, please don’t think this is going to be the moment you finally get through that pile of stuff that has been blocking your workspace – trust me,  you will get a third of the way down the pile and be urgently called away, leaving a worse mess than before.

So let’s think realistically about that teeny little bit of time.  Maybe you won’t be able to carve out an hour. (And wouldn’t it be nice if you really could carve out some time, just the way you carve out some white meat from the turkey?)   But perhaps, realistically, you can find a half hour a day.  (Maybe not every day – probably not on the holiday itself – but most days.)

You can do a surprising amount in half an hour. You can write a paragraph or two. You can lay a little groundwork for a painting.  You can make entries in a written or film or audio journal vilifying your friends and relatives.  You can download some of those subversive photos you’ve been snapping and take a look at how they might fit together.

You can do a short blog post, and let us know at The Intuitive Edge, so we can help spread the word!

You probably won’t be able to do a lot, what with that bowl of eggnog and all, but even on the worst days, you might be able to do a little. And usually, a little is all it takes to stay on course and keep connected to your work and to yourself.

The Creativity Prescription

June 21, 2010

by Leslie Zeigler

Creativity Prescripton

Are you ever curious about how to become more creative? All we  have to do is turn on Dr Oz’s TV show to learn  how to become more physically fit or how to eat in a more healthful manner.  We can change the station and watch Martha Stewart if  we want to become better cooks.  But to the best of my knowledge, there is not  a TV show that will tell us how to become more creative.  In Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s wonderful book entitled “Creativity”  he talks about specific recommendations people can follow to increase their creative potential.  I will share of few of  his gems today.

1. Try to be surprised by something every day

It  can be as small as eating something different for lunch,  maybe try adding mustard greens to your salad or as he suggests, paying closer attention to something you usually do. It could be as simple as listening differently to a conversation you are having with a colleague.  Ask yourself  WHAT IS   THE  ESSENCE ? Ask yourself how do you really feel about this person anyhow?  Do you see them differently depending on your own moods?

2.Try to surprise at least one person a day  He recommends saying something unexpected. Or expressing an opinion you would not ordinarily dare to reveal.  He also suggests something as simple as experimenting with your appearance. Buy a scarf or if you are a scarf person,  buy a color you would never imagine yourself wearing. Or risk shopping  in a story you usually avoid.

If you want, you can dare to log in to our blog and post a comment to share about what you have  tried that is really new and different for you. Maybe what will be new is to blog at all!