2021 Breathe: Art in Process Week 4

Today I spent some time thinking about a ‘shell’. Yep a small sea-shell and how it could inspire me.

It is a process.

To understand what I’m on about you will probably need to glance over week 1 – 3, however, I’m working towards a body of art-work and interactive media for an exhibition later this year. The project is based around being influenced by elements of nature to create structures of narrative.

Surprisingly it did – inspire me, the shell. I first drew it and then just listed elements I could see and feel. Things like: lines of spots, 3 rings, textured, neutral colours… and so forth. It took a bit of contemplation and for a while I was thinking, ‘what the heck am I doing?’ – how is this shell going to inspire the structure of a interactive media installation??

This is the shell, which I used in last weeks blog.

I think one thing to remember is to that the process will happen, you just gotta have a little creative faith.

Once I had listed the elements of the shell, I decided to choose 3 elements that could structurally work for story telling. I chose:

  • Shape has function
  • 3 circles
  • Live edge

Once I had chosen this list I wrote what they could mean for story structure. (They could mean anything – this is just what I came up with).

  • Shape has function: The way the story works has function for the content
  • 3 circles: 3 parts, or 3 points of view
  • Live edge: Nothing static, plot points have a living quality, some paths could go nowhere, or characters fall away (like life)

Then I started crafted the very first stages of a story together. It came a lot quicker at this point than I imagined, but by now I was really open, allowing the process to just unfold without my critical mind getting in the way.

I broke the story up into 3 parts, a diary entry, a text, and the description of the world. Once I had those parts, I just wrote, which you can see on the left – yes, I tend to work backwards…

Absolute draft stages, and I don’t think I will carry on with this story – it was just my first attempt to see if nature could inspire structure. And obviously it can. Still a lot to work through – but that is what process is all about.

This attempt only took 1 – 2 hours, I had to walk away a few times just to let me mind think of something else, then I would come back and contemplate a bit more. It’s how I work. I will try again through this week with another item. Drawing the object first was a good start, it just allowed me to be with the shell for a while, also choosing 3 of the descriptions worked well, it gave boundaries for creating structure. So I will do both those things next time, and try a few others as well.

Catch you next week xx

Lists

Lists to do. Groceries, jobs, crossed out or ticked off.

What lists do you make?

Well I want to start with a few different types of lists, fun lists, list that open up creativity. Something I’ve picked up from the book: L’art de la Liste: simplify, organise, enrich your life. Written by Dominique Loreau.

The first one I want to start with, is a list of self description. A written self portrait. Try it. It is more difficult that is sounds. Below is my attempt…

There are so many lists that are fun – the next one is a ‘wish list’. Dominique Loreau states:

Writing down your dreams – even seemingly impossible dreams – may lead to a strange phenomenon: They may come true.

My wish list is pretty simple:

I wish to travel, see the world, the whole of it.
Everything.
Which now seems further away.

I wish to talk in languages.
German
Te Reo
Spanish or French.

I wish to work in China for a while.

Loreau states:

Make a list of your wishes – date them and keep them. Don’t worry if they contradict each other. All you need to do is believe in the unthinkable, the unimaginable, in mysteries and miracles. Lists of wishes have more potential to change your life than you may think. Every word conceals a certain energy. When we commit our desires to paper, we accord more importance to them; we cherish them. Our words are the cement, and our dreams are the bricks.

One more list I want to try is a memory, this is a time I spent with my Nana.

floral carpet and floral curtains
custard kisses and cheese rolls
horses
flowers
a spare bedroom with coats hanging in the cupboard
a boat in the shed, unused
a rest in the chair after lunch

Try making lists – not the ‘to do’ kind, the type that lets your imagination wonder.

Catch you next week. xx

To Choose, or not to Choose

Even though they sit in the same word family there are some differences about the words choose and choices –

Choices: is to have options

Choose: is to make a decision, it is an action word

Here are some synonyms of the word choose: select, pick, take, indicate, elect, cherry-pick, decide, all good words, all words of ‘action’.  (I especially like ‘cherry-pick’). So why is it, that with so many choices we often give up our privilege to choose.

This time last year I chose to visit my brother and his family in Australia. Great decision on my part.

With this new framework of staying at home due to covid-19, our choices have become more limited and within that I’ve began to realise the varied choices that ‘were’ available to me and reflect on why I didn’t choose to take up some of those opportunities.

When given a multitude of choices it is easier not to choose. In that way every choice is still possible, or that is what you are telling yourself. Yes, sometimes you do need to keep yourself open, but what if you do that too much, what if some doors you don’t go through because you’re always expecting a better choice to turn up, or you’re scared that going through one will rule out another.

Recently I was approached to be part of a creative collaboration. I jumped at the chance and for a time spent my creative energy on the project. I found time, I became excited by the work and once it was finished, I realised that I had not been choosing my own project. The one that means something to me, the one that I’ve been working on for a few years.

Was it because I was no longer excited by the work, or was it because I wasn’t choosing it?

The short burst of work I engaged in collaboration reminded me that I love the creative process. So, the following week, I choose to work on my project, and I’ve been actively involved ever since. My renewed decision sparked my energy and I now look forward to each time I spend on it.

So, what was happening. Over time opportunities, or things you think you want to do accumulate. Not only important things, but the small fun stuff too, the catchups with friends, the drive to a particular beach, the activity you’ve put off all summer. All the things you want to do become this long list, and how do you divide your time up between them. Well, maybe you don’t. Maybe having too many choices is actually the problem.

With time being spent at home over the last six weeks, I’ve been reminded that I don’t need a lot of things and choices cluttering up my day, week or month. Actually, less is better.

Love this quote from poet Mary Oliver:

Tell me, what is it you plan to do / with your one wild and precious life?

We may be told that we can have it all, and do it all – but really, if you think about it, that’s not true, and why would you want that anyway? Your one wild precious life – keep that in your head and heart when you are making your decisions, or when you are full of indecision and fear. Life is so short, it is wild, precious, beautiful – don’t spend it on things you’re not that into, or feel obligated to do, don’t fill it with worry, that is not worth your time.

Greg McKeown author of Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less states:

When we forget our ability to choose, we learn to be helpless. Drip by drip we allow our power to be taken away until we end up becoming a function of other people’s choices – or even a function of our own past choices. In turn, we surrender out power to choose.

I think we also surrender our power to choose when we have too many choices. All the choices may hold interest, may be meaningful, but because you can’t have it all or do it all – YOU HAVE TO CHOOSE.

When you are walking and you put your left leg out, then your right leg out – do you ever ask yourself if you started walking on the wrong leg? No, well I don’t? So why think about choice as wrong or right, it is a step, and you need movement to get where you want to go. If you don’t know where that is, start moving and maybe you will end up where you don’t want to be and then at least you can decide where to go from there.

But if you’re not moving?? Well you know that answer.

Make choices, make decisions, move, find out, discovery what is and what isn’t for you. Don’t let too many options stall your movement – keep discovering how you want to live your one wild precious life.

Catch you next week xx

Productivity Pressure

Sometimes I get a lot done, I mean I just plough through the work, I’m creative, I’ve got energy, I feel inspired. AND sometimes I don’t feel like this, and I don’t get much done. The problem is, I tend to beat myself up when I’m low in energy. Which is so stupid. I don’t do that to other people, I keep that one just for me.

Also, with the lockdown in New Zealand due to Co-vid 19, it feels like there is more pressure to be productive on creative projects because you’re spending more time at home. And if we are just talking about time, then yes, I don’t have my daily 3-hour commute – I’m still working but have more time.

So, suddenly with 15 more hours to fill up – I should be more creative!? Well, maybe. But… the world is in a terrible situation and for some of us we just aren’t feeling it. I’m not saying we should all sink into deep dark depression; I just mean, this is not an easy time. And, it is TOTALLY OK to not feel creative, to not be inspired and to not have a lot of energy.

On my social media feeds, I’m seeing posts about productivity, and getting “that project done you’ve never had time for”. I don’t think this is a bad thing, however, it can become negative if you beat yourself up, because everyone else seems to be overly productive and you can’t seem to get your act together.

Remember the only thing you may have more of is TIME. Don’t get me wrong, having extra time is great – but it’s not everything. Just because you have more time, doesn’t mean you suddenly feel more creative, have more energy or feel inspired. So why put the pressure on yourself.

Give yourself some space. Take that extra time and be good to yourself, whatever that means to you. I have found during this time that I’ve been more tired, which is probably due to the stress of this situation. Stress really takes from us, takes our energy, takes our inspiration, and our ability to creatively function. So, in this instance often you need to fill yourself with these things.

Think of yourself as a container; some things can take away what you have, and some things add. Stress is a taker…

So, if you are feeling overwhelmed you probably need to give to yourself (your container). And this really depends on you.

Last Saturday, I got up, did 20mins of yoga, had breakfast, and then wrote this massive list of all the tasks I was going to do. Didn’t happen, what did happen was me going for a walk in the sunshine, caught up on some of the YouTubers I watch, listened to some vinyl and cuddled my cat – A LOT.  I did this, because I realised it was what I needed. I’d been teaching online all week and it was just OK to enjoy my day without giving myself unneeded pressure to be creative or productive.

The thing is, is to listen to yourself and not your social media feed.

Be OK with being overwhelmed sometimes, or tired, or unmotivated. This is not ‘bad’ or ‘wrong’. Your body and mind are telling you that you need to give to yourself and not take more out.

If you have got yourself tied up into knots and are in a bad way, and every time you go to create it either doesn’t happen, or nothing you create seems right. Maybe it’s time to STOP.

That’s right. DO NOTHING. This has happened to me in the past, I’ve got myself into a negative mindset and have heaped on pressure to keep going no matter what.

What I do in this situation is give myself some time but decide on a day that I will start back into it – even a time. For example; maybe I’m working on a short film or some creative writing, but my creativity and energy is becoming low. Nothing is working. I’m becoming frustrated and annoyed at myself. That is when I decide, OK, for the next four days I’m not going to think about this project, but on the fifth day at 10am I’m going to open up that document and start working again. During this time-off I try to ‘give to myself’, again this will be different for you than it is for me.

I enjoy yoga and meditation, walking, reading, baking something yummy, watching Netflix, YouTube, listening to music – nothing overly special, but as I’m doing these things my container is starting to fill. AND, usually I start to get excited about the project again. But I don’t let myself start early, I keep to my date and time – that way I know I’ll have the energy I need, but more importantly I have kept my agreement with myself.

Our Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, is almost daily on our screen during Covid-19 telling New Zealanders to be kind to each other – I’m saying, be kind to yourself.

Catch you next week xx.

Process: A mixture of creativity and chaos – Part 1

This week is something quite different. I’m going to discuss a creative project that I’m working on at the moment. I’ve been planning to share my process on the blog, but kept putting it off – however, I think this is the ideal moment.

One of the projects I’m working on is titled, ‘At the Horizon’ (ATH). It’s an installation for a gallery in Auckland. However, with the lock-down due to covid-19, I’m not sure if it will be going ahead or not. However, I’m keeping-on. For one thing, I need some creative outlets to work on during this time, and also, I’ve got a momentum going for the work, so I need to carry that energy through.

The work is about my mother, myself and my daughter.

My ideas initially formed on this topic in 2016, and I filmed my mother sharing some of her childhood memories. At that stage I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with the footage, and if perhaps it was only for the family. But I kept coming back to the interview and re-watching it, thinking about my mum and how her memories had somehow become my own, not as if I had experienced them, but rather I had experienced her re-telling – it was part of my childhood. I have my own imaginary place and characters, for her stories.

This idea began to develop into a question around, how I experience others experiences of life, especially my mother, and then later on my daughter.

Nothing I tried to create at the beginning of the process was coherent, I tried a number of times to edit the footage into something, but it just wasn’t working. Then in 2018 I had a chance to travel with my daughter to China and during that time I took a lot of photos and footage.

What has happened since that time travelling is a collecting process, new footage, old footage of my mother when she was young, footage of my daughter as a child, footage of my daughter now, all intertwined with a constant unpacking of what it is to have these relationships.

I slowly formed the project towards nine short films, of different lengths, that work separately on their own, but also collectively strengthen each other, as an interconnection. Much like the relationship I have with my mother and daughter.

The work is a collage, that will work interactively on the internet. This work is still completely in process, not one of the nine films are completed, at the moment they are all in production, (at different stages). I have been lucky enough to have Claire Duncan working as sound designer, and I have also roped my partner, Grant, into doing the coding for the interaction and web-site, which the work will be housed in.

I just want to say that creatively, this process has been very messy, there has been a lot of up and downs, a lot of dead ends. And that is OK. When I thought I was onto something, it often turned on its head and I had to start the process again. Creating 9 short films that interrelate yet hold a distinct quality… is harder than I thought.

But now I’m at the end stages, most filming is complete, most image collection and montage work is done and I can start to see the creativity through the process.

Whatever you are doing, striving for, trying to create – trust yourself. Trust the process. Trust the chaos, the messy bits. It’s OK. You are exactly where you are meant to be.

I’m going to bring you more about this work later in the year, maybe even a few clips to entice you into watching the finished piece…(when it’s done). Haha.

Catch you next week xx.

Success, what is it? Part Two

Wow, my world has changed in the last 7 days. Everyone’s world has. I just have to mention this before getting on with this week’s topic on success. I’m now working at home, my partner has no work, and New Zealand has been put into lock-down for one month, which started two days ago. I really hope we can beat this thing. Statistics around the world are becoming more and more disturbing and, at times, it is difficult to maintain positivity. However, I have been turning to my creative outlets. Even the smallest of things I create are bringing some joy.

And, to me, my blog is one of my creative outlets, so, ‘success’, in a time of uncertainty.

What is success?

Last week I introduced the idea of individual success and personal success. So, just to catch up anyone that hasn’t read part one I will outline the definitions. Individual success is how you succeed on your own within a group, and how that group view this success. Personal success is what you believe to be successful. They can be the same thing, but more than often, they are not.

New app I’m plying with: Rookie Cam

Last week I also conveyed the idea that the American Dream is linked to a certain way western culture think about succeeding and particular outcomes which contribute to this.

I’ve (surprisingly) meet quite a few people who do not believe that, living in New Zealand, American culture has a lot to do with us. I find this surprising, I just think it is so obvious, but anyway…

When my daughter was around 4 – 6 years of age she would often have friends around to play. I would pop my head in from time to time to see what they were doing and noticed how they spoke to each other in an American accents. Most other parents I talked to also commented on this. Over the years I’ve reflected on this. Of course she was modelling play-time from TV shows. Television is where she saw ‘pretending’ and so it is fair to say that she was mimicking this as a learning tool.

At that time less than 20% of our television was created in New Zealand.

I know this is purely anecdotal, however the American Dream is a way of viewing success and I believe it has filtered into every aspect of western culture. And, of course, New Zealand is not alone in this. How we view success is often mediated through privileged American thought. What American media deem to be successful is now how we rate individual success.

We understand our world, decipher meaning, and interpret society from what is happening at THAT specific time and space. My great, great grandmother was a successful mid-wife, her community (a small local in the South Island of New Zealand), thought of her as successful, she did not have the American Dream slanted reality to live up to. Her specific time and space brought about specific understandings of the world.

However, my community is world-wide, the potential for me to have community success is a lot more treacherous. Success, for me in my time and space, is not just being successful at a particular ‘thing’ in the community, it is about money, fame, beauty, winning, overcoming in order to have a ‘success story’; the list goes on. And none of it is particularly useful. However, like my daughter, we mimic and interpret our particular time and space.

This is why I think that individual success and how it is measured is particularly difficult for creatives to navigate. Creatives and creativity are seen and measured within harsher parameters than many other activities or professions. Writing a novel is not celebrated, it’s only taken notice of when it’s on a best sellers list, films are measured on box-office takings, albums are measured on sales, paintings on their auction price. Money directly linked to the outcome of the creative arts.

I’m in no way saying that monetising what creatives do is not important, I’m just saying it’s not everything. I’ve been to plenty of films with huge box office takings that in my opinion they were not successful films. What they succeeded at was fitting a mould for a market – and that is all.

The value of individual success rapidly lessens when you carefully consider what it means in western culture. Personal success is where we should all be challenging ourselves with. Understanding what we believe success to be. Not what a monetised system tells us it is.

I asked Facebook friends to share their definition of success and I was pleasantly surprised by the answers. Most were more focused on personal success and not what western culture was alluding to. But that cultural pressure is there, and trying to navigate personal success over individual success for most is a battle.

If you are content, challenged, interested, engaged in your own creative activities – take some comfort. That is success. It doesn’t need to be measured by someone else to be valid.

That’s all for now – I will come back to this topic at another time.

Catch you next week xx

Success, what is it? Part One

I’ve been thinking about the term success and what it means, especially for creatives or the creative industry. It’s a strange time to discuss the term success, with everything going on. However, maybe it is also an amazing opportunity to reflect on social constructs, maybe during this time it is easier to see what is important.

The word ‘success’ started as a neutral term. It wasn’t good or bad, it was just an outcome. It fits into the process of doing something, the result neither positive nor negative. Think of the word succeed, not in its positive connotation but in the succession of things. Something will succeed another. The Latin past participle of success is succedere, meaning come after, go near to, come under, take the place of. Ced, cess and ceed all mean go. So, you can see that the word originated with the outcome of a process in mind and not the calculated value of that outcome. 

However, from the late 19 century the term success held a ‘positive’ tone within it. Success was now in opposition to failure. Both outcomes, but now with very different meanings. Success began to weave its way into modern modes of being in the world. What it was to have success, be successful, have a success story

Side Note: ‘success story’ was believed to be first termed in France as a critique on literary work. Not because the work was brilliant but rather as to its scandalous character. 

The merriam-webster dictionary defines success as:

  • a degree or measure of succeeding
  • favourable or desired outcome
  • one that succeeds
  • outcome – obsolete

The original “outcome”, (not positive or negative), now obsolete. 

So, success, the definition of a positive outcome, an outcome that meets the intention; and a successful person, (someone who succeeds), must therefore be a person who often meets their desired goal or intention. Seems simple enough. 

I need to vacuum because the house is dirty. I vacuum. Success!

However, success has another layer. The word connotes a mode of success that does not simply mean a positive outcome. We all know this. It has its negative side. And this is what I want to pull out and explore in relation to the arts and being a creative.  

When you Google success, definitions come up, and courses on how to be successful, which when you think about it – it’s odd. How can you teach someone to be successful when all success is – is a positive outcome!? Wouldn’t it depend on the intention? So, here is the problem. Success in our modern western world is obviously not about a positive outcome, it is about a SPECIFIC outcome. Wealth being the number one, along with winning, and fame being another and there is a few more definitions that point to a ‘successful person, who has a ‘success story’…

When we hear about successful stories it is about people who have met this SPECIFIC outcome and only this outcome.  

Hartmut Keil defines the American Dream as being:

Individual success, advancement, materialism, personal success, neighbourliness, naturalness, individuality, freedom, equality, equal opportunity, search for identity, nation purpose, American consciousness, democratic dream, dream of paradise, moving force, liberation of humanity, world’s salvation.

I find it interesting that he uses ‘success’ twice. Once for ‘individual success’, and then for ‘personal success’?? 

What I garner from this, is the individual success is of that person, rather than of a group. They have achieved something on their own while being recognised by a group. This part is important to point out as individual and group have a relation, for the success to come from an individual, first they have to be part of a group.

While personal success is something, they ‘own’, as in, they believe they have been successful in something. For example, you could have a businessperson, who is deemed successful by others, however, the same successful person, may believe their real success is being able to spend time with family and friends… you know what I mean.

So according to Keil there seems to be two ways to measure success. 

Individual success: what others think about our success in relation to what is culturally deemed as successful.

Personal success: What we believe our success to be.

I want to point out here that contemporary society is structured so certain types of employments or interests are deemed of different value.

For example, a singer can become known by being good at what they do, the more known the singer is the more is attributed to success. However, a plumber, (for example), doesn’t usually become known – society does not expect this of them to deem them as successful

For creatives, often, fame, or being ‘known’, is linked to individual success. The stakes are high. And because of this, individual success or the lack of it weighs creatives down.

This is where we can turn to personal success. I’m not (in anyway) saying that individual success is not something to aim for or have goals or dreams about, what I’m saying is that personal success needs to be valued higher. Creating is a quality of the human experience that needs to be celebrated no matter what. And we need to hold onto what we LOVE about this process and experience and not what others think of it.

We can’t control others’ thoughts. We can’t control what society deems as important one month and of little value the next. But we can control how we feel about our own creativity.

There is more I want to write on this, and so will return next week to this subject. I just want to acknowledge I brought the American Dream into the picture by quoting Hartmut Keil and there is good reason for that, but not enough time in this post.

So, if interested, please return and read part two.

Catch you next week xx

Creating a Garden

Instead of discussing creativity, or how to approach it – I thought I would track our creative weekend, (which was a spontaneous idea to create a garden). We’ve had a super busy summer, and haven’t spent a lot of time at home, or outside, but thought we’d just do it anyway… make the most of the warm autumn days ahead.

We have had herbs and vegetables growing, but no nice space to enjoy so the focus was to tidy up, give the area some shape and add colour. Luckily we had bought a lot of $1 small terracotta pots, cheap summer plants and a few metal buckets to make into larger containers – this radically helped the budget. We also bought two larger plants (hibiscus and lemon tree), to fill it out, plus a standard size trellis to boarder in the area.

That’s pretty much it, the rest of it was just the work involved. Pretty happy with what we did – I mean it’s no award winner – but it is a place to enjoy, and I’ve been doing just that since we finished.

Reflecting on the process and thinking about creativity, the main thing is to have a plan, and do the work. We complicate this process so much, but really, that’s what it comes down to.

Hope you enjoy the photo essay of our process…

Taking stock of the landscape

Much needed cleaning – first up

Shopping, building, planting

Arranging, stepping back, and rearranging

Finished result

Catch you next week xx

Creating (In) A Team

Creating in a team can be complicated, especially if team members don’t agree to the direction of a particular element of the process. I’ve worked in a number of team situations, and in different positions within teams.

A garden friend I received as a gift from students.

One of the biggest complaints I hear about the creative team process is when members ideas are not used. Being a team member, does not mean the creative idea you come up with will be chosen, however, to work well and really enjoy the process you need to be willing to constantly offer up ideas. And that is all it is – just an idea, you’re not offering your soul, so there is no reason to take it personally.

At times this can be difficult as we think if our idea is not good enough for the project, we are not good enough – but that is not the case. If you were not good enough, you probably wouldn’t be on the team in the first place. The willingness to offer ideas and then sacrifice them confidently for another shows a huge ability to concentrate on the WORK rather than the SELF. The work is why you are there, the work is what you are projecting towards, the self needs to take a step back and let the work have priority in that moment. Even if you think you’re idea is better, you need to leave it behind and keep moving.

When my ideas are not in-line with the direction of the project, but I think they’re great  I usually put them on the back-burner for another time. You never know when you’re idea might just fit or solve an issue somewhere else.

Another difficult aspect of giving an idea forward is when the idea is initially taken up, but changed to the point that it is not your idea anymore. However, this is the definition of working in a team, everyone will add, change, adapt, transform – all the things, to push your idea into a place where it will best fit the work. Remember it’s about the WORK.

Also, when you start out in creative industries, often your ideas are not even asked for. Instead you are part of a larger department that is putting others ideas into practice or reality. At this point, it’s usually best to just learn from others or even learn from others’ mistakes.

Once I presented a creative idea to my manager and then that same person presented that idea to the management team as their own. This was difficult to stomach, however, in the end, I took it as a huge nod towards my own creativity – if they didn’t think the idea was good in the first place, it never would have been used.

There is so much to discuss about creating with a team and being a team member, but I’m going to change track here and discuss team leadership. I’m not an expert, there are many out there, a lot of books and information you can get on this topic, however, I’m just going to write about what I know and the experience I’ve had.

What I know that working as a team member and being a team leader, are very different – or at least they are for me.

I learnt quickly that sometimes I just needed to let go of my creative ideas, even though I had the vision for the project. Especially when I had brought in creative-specialists and crafts people. This is difficult, because I had envisioned the project outcome in a certain way and was adamant that it should stay the way I saw it. But letting go taught me a lot. First, just because someone else’s idea is better for the project or solves a problem more easily does not mean that it is not your vision. Taking on others ideas and advice is often essential to gain the outcome you need.

In my leadership experience I started with small teams, however projects grew very quickly, (probably too quickly). I found the same problems I had at the beginning, were still there but augmented in the larger projects. Once I realized this I tried to reflect on similar things I was doing. If I did the same things – I would get the same results, I wanted different results so I needed to change up what I was doing. Sounds logical – but you have to stop and reflect to actually make a change.  

There are often other issues to consider when working in creative teams, and first off is usually the budget. I have found that when the budget is bigger the freedom is tighter. There are more constrictions and more elements and people to contend with. When the team and budget is small it is often more creative (in a way), because you have to solve problems differently.

I actually have done a lot of reading around this topic for this post, but didn’t find anything I really wanted to use. However there is a ton of advice out-there. For me is was learning on the go, both with team work and leadership work. What helped the most in my own leadership was that I’m also a creative, so I understand the process – I think it would be more challenging not being a creative having to lead a creative team. One thing about creatives, I believe, is their plasticity and adaption in the testing stages when it comes to process. So often – it gets worse before it gets better. That messy part of the process is the process. The beginning stages of a creative project can be very slow, however once this incubator stage is over, usually creative projects have a cumulative effect with everything coming together. As I’ve written before you really do need to trust the process, and trust your team’s process.

I’d love to hear how you deal with your own creative process, or leadership methods you have instilled when leading a team.

Catch you next week xx

Creative Energy

In Quora a question was placed some years ago: “What is creative energy, and where does it come from?” Anthony Torres gave this answer:

It is the energy of an active, open minded individual who is channeling their inner-will to pursue change with an absence of worldly interference. Creative energy, in general, will come from within, but more specifically, should come from the soul.

I just thought this was a beautiful way to begin thinking about creative energy, especially to note the idea of “absence of worldly interference.” I’m guessing this suggests our constant buffering of our attention, such as; scrolling on a phone, which hinders the flow of concentration. However, the most powerful element in this answer is an individual who is “open minded”.

Last week, (when writing this), I was part of a writing workshop, with two others, to create a possible story line for a web-series.  It was our first meeting, we started at 10am and finished just before 2pm, and, WOW! We got so much done. We bought our note-books and laptops and some initial ideas. That was all. I was unsure of how the process would work, and also unsure on how I would fit into the writing group dynamic. However, my mind was open and I was fully ready for possibilities.

Anna Powers in Forbes.com states:

…open mindedness and innovation are linked — because in order to entertain different and, sometimes contradicting viewpoints, those views either have to be presented or conjured up in the mind as counter examples. Thus, it is through creativity that innovation and open-mindedness go hand in hand.

Open mindedness has an ability to refrain from becoming ‘stuck’, so easy for us creatives to fall into. There is a way of being that allows the process to take over the project, rather than staying rigid on a mode of creating. I call it ‘trust’ but others will call it something else. I simply trust the process, so as I start doing the work, I let the work take its own course. It’s not staying static though, you have to start the work, which can simply mean sitting down with a pencil and paper, or going for a walk with a camera, or picking up the guitar; the action of starting has to come from you, then you can allow the process can take over.

That is not saying that you don’t have an intended outcome it’s just admitting to yourself that you don’t have all the answers to get there, but you’re open to finding out how. The Encyclopedia of Creativity suggests:

A creative person, virtually by definition, must be receptive to new ideas and willing to look at problems from various points of view. Open-mindedness includes not fearing the new, different, or unknown and not making up one’s mind in advance.

So our writing group meet, and we started forming the characters, their motivations, the story arch and cliffhanger end for episode 6 – quite a lot of work accomplished in one meeting. I just want to go back to the first point made in Torres’ Quora answer about the absence of worldly interference. This aspect will be very different for everyone depending on their creative pursuit, I pretty much put any technology down and just use a pen and paper to start the story process, however your pursuit may involve YouTube tutorials, or online courses, or searching on your phone, but in my mind that is using technology as a tool and not as interference. It is staying focused and not allowing that technology which you are creatively using to become a distraction.

Our writing group met in a conference room, which is pretty plain, there was nothing in the room that any of us personally connected to. I think ‘space’ is very important to enhance the process, it is not necessary to have a perfect space to start but it does switch your brain into a different mode. Have a watch of Annie Lennox discuss the moving-spaces she uses, especially to create the song ‘Sweet Dreams’. (this is around 0:38 seconds in, however the whole discussion is useful). I also enjoy writing and creatively thinking while commuting to work and back.

But no matter where we are distraction on our phones is so common. Looking, scrolling, watching a small rectangular object connected to our hands has become a way of being in the world. However, this way, (which is not positive or negative), is passive (lacks energy) – so when we are creating we need to bring our energy with us. To do this just make a start, like I said before, just pick up the guitar and then continue onwards being open. If you fall back into passivity, that’s OK, just start again until your concentration strengthens and you can move forward.

In our writing group, none of us spent time on social media throughout the meeting, we stayed focused and as we worked through ideas and characters, the structure of our time happened quite organically. We had a couple of short breaks, but did not stop for longer than 15 minutes during the 4 hour period.

When we think about creative energy we focus on; ‘getting the shit done’, ‘ticked off the list’, the ‘desired end result’, which for me would be a scripted web-series. And I love this, LOVE ticking tasks off my ever renewing list.

However, creative energy is the PROCESS, not the outcome. So the energy actually comes from being creative. Put energy in – to get energy out. Just like physical exercise, energy creates energy and as you actively engage in creativity your energy stamina will grow. A good way to expand creative stamina is to undertake exercises in your chosen field. For example someone may knit a scarf, then perhaps a small throw, before going onto something complicated, or someone might work on pinch pots with a particular clay before trying to create a complex structure involving many elements. So when I discuss my creative work in story creation for a web series, I didn’t just arrive at that place, I have learnt the necessary skills and techniques and then as I’ve progressed I’ve been able to focus my concentration and gain the energy I need to see the process through.

It’s very important to know where you are in the process. I’m certainly not saying don’t make a start, for sure jump in and make a start, but just remember from that stepping in place you may not understand the energy you need for the process, there will be learning involved, mistakes along the way, things that you didn’t expect – but stay open and trust the process. As my Yoga instructor says “If you’re on your mat, the hardest thing has already been overcome.” So wherever you are at, start by bringing your energy, trust the process and see what happens.

Catch you next week xx