Tag Archives: Creativity

How To Become a Creative Warrior

12 Jun
This post originally appears in The Huffington Post.
Amy Neumann

Writer, Speaker; Social Media Consultant

Becoming a Creative Warrior

Posted: 06/09/2012 7:00 am

This post was co-authored by Eliza Wing.

You must do the thing you think you cannot do. — Eleanor Roosevelt

So many of us who wish to find a more creative approach to our lives struggle with motivation, self-criticism and doubt. We wonder: How can we produce high-quality work? How can we manifest the creative impulse we feel? Too often a creative drive that we experience can spark but then fizzle out because of our lack of confidence.

We worry. How can what I produce be valuable when there is so much that is beautiful and intelligent around me? We want to know. How can I, as an artist, writer, business leader, develop a productive, meaningful path to creativity?

Chogyam Trungpa‘s seminal book, Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior, describes a potential path for those interested in spiritual development, including meditative and loving-kindness practices. His words are also apt inspiration for those of us exploring our creative dimension.

Trungpa advises us to “feel that you are not special, but ordinary, extra-ordinary.” His advice seems contradictory, especially when we apply it to the creative urge. We’ve been trained by history and society to believe that the “true” creative must be special, different, even elevated. But living with the ordinary as Trongpa suggests helps us see that this is not so. Instead, we can begin our journey by adopting some of these “ordinary” tenets inspired by his teachings:

Notice that goodness is all around us. Begin to notice the brief, beautiful moments that your interaction with the world brings you. The sound of a bird’s wings as it moves from branch to branch, the flash of sun coming from behind a cloud, your child’s hug (no matter how quick and rare). This appreciation allows you to see just how lovely the ordinary is. In the words of acclaimed painting instructor Charles Hawthorne: “Anything under the sun is beautiful if you have the vision — it is the seeing of the thing that makes it so.”

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The beauty of a moment captured – photo courtesy of Steve-H on Flickr
Acknowledge that you are fearful. Let’s face it. Creating is daunting. Living is difficult. How much of your day do you spend masking the fear (which can manifest in all sorts of ways) — are you neglecting writing that book, starting a painting, crafting a business idea? Are you instead tweeting (too much), checking email, having a little more wine than is useful for clear creative expression? All distractions. If you can stay with your fear, letting yourself experience rather than avoid it, you may find other feelings within the fear. There might be sadness, anger or anxiety. Or all three! In any case, your goal here is to be gentle with yourself. Now is not the time to add to the fear by piling on criticism. Be tender with yourself. Forgive yourself for perceived lapses and inadequacies. You will find yourself much more able to free up your creative flow.

Be simple. The most effective works get the basic stuff right. Whether it is composition, narrative structure or the moving crescendo of a speech, remember the essentials and get them right. How easy it is to over-complicate things and to stray from our core idea! If you can capture what it is that inspired you to begin your project in the first place and keep referring back to it as you move along, you will help yourself immensely. This is not to say that things don’t evolve as you develop them. It is merely that we can fall through one rabbit hole after another until we are past the point of no return.

“Before you can think out of the box, you have to start with a box.” — Twyla Tharp, The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life

Chaos. It’s everywhere. And there’s nothing wrong with letting it nudge you out of complacency. So, while you keep it simple, you play at the edges. Think of any practice that you are working to perfect. It isn’t static. Instead, once you have mastered one element, you realize that there is more to learn. In Trongpa’s tradition, the closest corollary is coming back to the breath in meditation. We sit and our mind wanders. And we bring it back, acknowledging that our mind has strayed and appreciating that we can return again and again to our foundation, our idea.

As long as I tell the truth, I feel that nobody can touch me. — Henry Rollins

Be true to yourself. At base, Trongpa’s message is to be truthful and kind — advice that applies directly to our creative selves. It is not about the labels you give yourself or your work, no matter what your work may be. It is, in the end, you and an ordinary white canvas, a blank page, an expectant audience. If you can gaze at the empty space and connect with your common, ordinary human impulse you will see that you are no more special than the rest of humanity. And that is okay. As you connect to your work and your audience with humility and honesty, the impact of your desire to connect will feed you and will inspire others.

It is you, extra-ordinary in your ordinary approach to what inspires, that will produce the most truthful, moving work.

Eliza Wing, the former president and CEO of Cleveland.com and president of Sideways, now runs Wing Consulting. Wing, who is also a writer and a painter, brings extensive online editorial and digital expertise to her clients. She strives to integrate creativity and creative thought into all that she does.

Amy Neumann is a social entrepreneur, writer, speaker and consultant on social good marketing. Check out her CharityIdeasBlog and follow her on Twitter @CharityIdeas.

For more by Amy Neumann, click here.

For more on mindfulness, click here.

Follow Amy Neumann on Twitter: www.twitter.com/CharityIdeas

HuffPost: 7 Steps to Increase Your Creative Output | w @ElizaWing @AnnTran_ @2morrowknight #creativity

28 Apr
Amy Neumann

Writer, Speaker; Social Good Consultant

7 Steps to Take Now to Increase Your Creative Output

Posted: 04/27/2012 10:00 pm

“Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.” — Scott Adams

This post is co-authored by Eliza Wing.

We would all like, no matter our discipline, to increase the quality and quantity of our work. Some artists, writers and business leaders have established routines that help them to get into a creative mode daily. Perhaps the artist shows up at the studio every morning at 8 a.m. and doesn’t leave until lunch, or the CEO takes several afternoons away from the office to write up a strategic plan. But what lies beneath the commitment to create? How can we position ourselves in ways that elevate our work?

What follows are useful qualities anyone can develop to help them along a creative path.

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What do you see? Photo courtesy of Amy Neumann.

Question Authority

Who knows what is right? The Creative will not accept what is; he will look at a situation or an image and work to make it his own. Consider one child carefully coloring within the lines of coloring book and then another, blank paper laid out and an array of colored pencils, spread before her like so many pick up sticks.

Many creatives would rather the call of the blank page then the thought of painstakingly filling in someone else’s blanks. Wouldn’t you?

Don’t Act Your Age

Some people report that as they grow older they still feel 8, 13, or 11 years old inside. No matter your “real” age, the ability to connect with all that is wonderful about youth is key to enlivening your creative work. “The young know less, which is why they often invent more,” Jonah Lehrer tells us in his new book, Imagine: How Creativity Works. A child radiates energy, wonderment in the face of something new, or perhaps rebellion — add your own words here. What quality do you wish you could retrieve from your childhood?

Perhaps take back the elasticity of time; remember how endless some days felt then. Delve into a project (whether it is written, visual or business-related) and lose sense of time. It is in those moments when connecting with the process of creating, not watching the clock, making to-do lists or other responsible “grown-up” things one “should” be doing, that we often create the best work.

Give Generously (To Yourself AND Others)

You must take care of yourself first; your health, your sleep, and your psyche should all be nourished. You can ignore all of the above, but you truly cannot operate in a deficit for long. Give yourself space to create, a place where you can dictate the rules. J.K. Rowling wrote in cafes because she knew her baby would fall asleep the way there — it was ensured “quiet” time. Know what you need in order to create and do not relinquish the parameters you have set.

Once you have created an environment and a schedule that works for your circumstances, whatever that looks like, you can and should turn to others. Even though you will find yourself with seemingly less time, the more you expose yourself to others and what they offer in terms of idea exchange and experience, the more you open yourself to the world. This isn’t to say that you should say yes to everything. Take your temperature before agreeing to something. If you are the sort of person who agrees to things and then resents the commitment, go back to the beginning. Perhaps you haven’t given to yourself enough.

“Creativity originates from several basic life elements, one of which is generosity and a heart curved outwards toward the world. Giving time and attention to others, listening intently to them, and taking in all the beautiful, interesting aspects of life – these set the stage for the birth of creative ideas.” — Ann Tran, @AnnTran_

Respect the Practice

Consider the phrase “the force of habit.” We can position ourselves to think and act creatively, hoping that inspiration comes like a crack of lightning and a song, as Carole King says in describing “You’ve got a friend” to Fresh Air’s Terry Gross. “That song, pure and simple, came through me,” she says. “I sat at the piano; the song came…” The key? She sat at the piano, just as a writer must sit at her desk day in, day out. The only way to create a habit is to start doing something habitually. As writer of the best-selling Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott says, “discipline is the path to freedom.” Setting expectations for yourself, forcing yourself to show up regularly and articulate what was just a wisp of a thought at the edge of your mind is what gives you a lift over your hopeful brethren — you know the ones — who are left wondering why they can’t ever write more than the first chapter of that novel they know they have in them.

Be Truthful

There is no point in creating something if it doesn’t ring true to you. Of course, truth is relative and personal. No two people will describe a scene or experience in the same way. This is not a case of finding consensus. The real Creative is always observing and questioning and testing the perceived reality. A fine copy of an artwork is just that — a copy. Under the first layer of our output is another, more subtle line that emerges. That is where the truth of your work resides. It should make you uncomfortable and excited. It should make you look over your shoulder to see if anyone has noticed that sentence you just wrote. You should be a little worried. Maybe even very worried. Keep digging and sorting through those uncomfortable thoughts. Shakespeare was right of course. The truth will come out.

Pay Attention

Twyla Tharp, in her book The Creative Habit , tells of a friend who goes out every day looking for a face to draw. He doesn’t come home until he has found the face and adequately captured it. Think of all the faces you pass by and don’t see. Can you describe what your neighbor was wearing when they took out the trash this morning? You may have waved to them but did you really take note? Details and response to your environment are what make your work sing. This is true for any creative project, it is the attention and understanding of the world around you that lifts your work above the rest.

Be a Dreamer

With all the talk of habits (good and bad) and practice you must also leave room for staring meaninglessly into space, for stopping in the middle of your walk and watching the trees move with the wind. You should grab a nap and let your mind drift in and out of consciousness. Let your mind come and go and notice what it does at the edges of your dreams. If you can’t imagine it, how will you do it?

“Surround yourself with great people, be visionary and determined about your future, and always do your best … and then some! Life is too short to not give it all you’ve got. Let the world see the amazing person you aim to become.” — Sean Gardner, @2morrowknight

Eliza Wing, the former president and CEO of Cleveland.com and president of Sideways, now runs Wing Consulting. Wing, who is also a writer and a painter, brings extensive online editorial and digital expertise to her clients. She strives to integrate creativity and creative thought into all that she does.

Amy Neumann is a social entrepreneur, writer, speaker and consultant on social good marketing. Check out her CharityIdeasBlog and follow her on Twitter @CharityIdeas.

For more by Amy Neumann, click here.

For more on mindfulness, click here.

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