Creativity Made Simple

I will be the first to admit that I am not always someone who can sum things up simply and quickly for my readers.  Instead of writing in broad sweeps, I often get caught in detail.  Today, I am going to attempt to keep it simple.   So let me know how you think it goes!

One of the things that I have observed as an educator is that we don’t teach students how to be creative.  We have not done this because we do not understand it enough to be able to teach to the subject.  This is beginning to change, however, and it is a good sign and bodes well for us as creative thinkers.   I am going to share with you what I believe are the core issues that are related to being creative.

Create The Right Environment

This is crucial to good creativity.  I firmly believe that many people need to create a safe space within which to let their creativity flow.  What is so interesting is that sometimes this safe space can be in the middle of a lot of activity.  It is often said that there is anonymity in numbers.  Sometimes you can be around people while also being alone.  Sitting in a coffee shop or in a subway station, you can sometimes feel safe and alone in the ubiquity of the herd.  Sometimes, though, people may need to be alone, really alone.  This can be your bedroom, or a special place in your home where you have everything you need in order to think.  The truth is, the safe place for being creative is more in your head.  Find the match for that and you have a big piece of the puzzle. Discover your comfort zone.

Surrender

In play as in being creative, we have to give ourselves to the moment.  If you have ever remember being a child slipping into the world of play, you know just what I am talking about.  This is in truth one of the simplest and most basic of states of being.  It is funny, too, because we are also the most self-conscious about it.  A child, when watched by its parents when at play, will lose its surrender become self-conscious, and will lose, almost instantly, the creative impulse that is found in play.  Remember what I said about finding your safe place?  This is why.  You need a way to surrender to the creative impulse, to loosen up and allow the flow to come.   This is something you allow.

When inspiration comes, don’t rationalize the process.  Tap that flow, I say.  You can always go back and revise writing for grammar or re-work a sketch so it fits into a frame or hangs on a wall.  A song can have all the main elements right out of the chute with a few remaining things to clean up or rearrange.  Don’t let the craft get in the way of why you are here; play!  You can always clean things up later!

The act of surrender is a suspension of expectation. This is why many artists will often say they begin to create without a firm idea of where they want to go.  There is a very good reason for this that has more to do with the function of the right brain instead of the linear goal-oriented left brain, but I promised to keep this all short and to the point, didn’t I?  We do not find creativity, it finds us.  We allow, we surrender.  We become available.  We do not pursue, it pursues us.  Having said this, there are all sorts of combinations possible in this basic impulse.  Some create very rational and even stiff controlled work while some are more fluid.  These are more related to outcomes and what you choose, later, to control.  These are all a matter of choice; do you like writing jazz or do you like writing classical?

Surrender is a simple thing.  Its source-point is found in being willing and able to just play.  When you do, you are working with the very forces within you that are the leading edge, if not the very experience of inspiration itself.  An aperture within you opens, you feel wonderful, and something just flows.  The more you attend to it, and the less you seek to control it or tamp it down with fear or any form of uncertainty or feeling of propriety, the more it reveals itself to you.  By learning to cultivate this in your life you can be more creative.  The great thing about this is that you do not have to be an artist.  You only need to be a human being!

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Here I am

I now have a presence on Tumblr, a rather feisty sort of place where images tumble like fish during spawning season.  How do they do it?  How do people post so much information?  Ah, it is the mobile generation!  Okay, so this is my stab at it!  More pics, less yackety-yack!   For content in the Tumblr-universe, check us out there:

http://www.staffordartglass.tumblr.com/

To Facebook:

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Enjoy and I look forward to seeing you in the multiverse!

American Made Alliance

Today I am sharing about an advocacy group whose goals are to assist small creative businesses in advocating for their needs in the American economy.  This is an important group because it serves business at the most fundamental of grass roots, which are those businesses that are start-ups, what are now often being called “microbusiness.”  All businesses, unless they are created out of venture capital and go corporate from the starting gate, are defacto microbusinesses. The trouble today in our increasingly globalized economy is that small business is often defined as those entities that have about a hundred employees.  What this tendency to identify misses, however, is that small business is the backbone of all new ventures and economies, and most start out with far fewer than 100 employees.  There are many businesses that may have as few as one or two employees.  This often means that for small business or microbusiness owners, we simply do not even show up on the radar of special interest groups, lobbying groups, and legislators.  There is no one there to speak on our behalf to help raise awareness about the little guy, the microbusiness owner.  Bear in mind, these seemingly inconsequential businesses have in recent history created as much as 15 billion dollars in new business for the American economy!

So it was today that its founder, Wendy Rosen, a long-lived advocate for the arts and small business, sent me an invite to the AMA’s new presence on facebook, which I have accepted happily.  With the Alliance’s presence on facebook, it has gotten easier for fast and easy communication to flow between all interested parties.  If you are concerned about the plight of small business, are a small business owner, I encourage you to check them out and support their cause.  To help tell their story I include the following taken from their facebook “about” page:

AMA protects, defends the rights of artisan makers. We promote the positive impact creative people make in the growth of the new economy.
Mission

The American Made Alliance strives to open new market opportunities for American made products, preserve the authenticity of American Made, prevent fraud regarding country of origin and inform legislators and consumers about the importance of the economic impact of supporting American Made.

Description

Founded in 2005, the American Made Alliance serves the interests of 125,000 professional independent micro-enterprise studios and 20,000 retail businesses who not long ago provided a 14 billion dollar contribution to the US economy.

The American Made Alliance is a 501c(6) trade association engaged in advocacy efforts supporting the start-up and growth of micro-enterprise in the professional artisan and light industry sector in urban and rural communities throughout the United States.

Through its campaigns, projects and partnerships, the American Made Alliance strives to open new market opportunities for American made products, preserve the authenticity of American Made, prevent fraud regarding country of origin and inform legislators and consumers about the importance of the economic impact of supporting American Made.

Through it’s position papers, advocacy and consumer awareness projects, the American Made Alliance strives to impact public policy and trade legislation. In addition, the association seeks to define a national agenda that supports and benefits all who depend on the creative arts for their livelihood.

 

Its founder, Wendy Rosen, began The Buyers Market of American Craft as a wholesale alternative to the existing shows for American made craft makers decades ago.  It has grown to become the biggest show of its kind in the U.S.  The show, which has been located in Philadelphia for most of its tenure, has recently moved to Washington D.C. and has changed its name to the American Made Show.  Rosen has been a tireless promoter and advocate for artisans who own small businesses and small business with made in America products.  She has spoken to Congress, has lobbied on behalf of her industry by creating a forum and source-point for small business advocacy through the American Made Alliance which was founded in 2005.

Their facebook page can be found here:

https://www.facebook.com/pages/American-Made-Alliance/667323976667218

and their contact information is below.

Phone (410) 262-2872

Email wendy@wendyrosen.com

Website http://www.AmericanMadeAlliance.org

 

The Wild World Web & Copyright Protection

It has increasingly become common for people to feel as though the images of creative work is fair game for use on their own sites.  The increasing use of these sites have led to a lot of problems for artists and creative types.  For example, Pinterest, which is a “pin” board for images people find interesting enough to share, is a kind of visual social media.  However, there is little that is being done to protect the artist or originator of the image from copyright infringement.  Facebook is similar and there have been cases where work by creatives has been taken and actually sold as visual content.  When someone takes an image from your web site and pluncks it down on Pinterest, for example, it can then be pinned by others, effectively shared across a vast network wherein it becomes hard to track down who originally lifted your content and provided no attribution for your work.  For some people, it all sounds like a tempest in a teacup, but let me explain why this is simply not true.

Let’s say that you are a potter and you make a bird house.  These birdhouses are actually your very best seller. It gets published on a few sites, including a gallery web site as well as your own site.  Someone shares the image on a place like facebook, Instagram,  or Pinterest without attribution and someone sees it, likes it, and lifts the design in an effort to please a boss who is working on developing ceramic designs for a production company in Haiti. The pieces get made and the potters sales drop through the floor. It takes months to find out why this is happening until the culprit is discovered.  By then, the damage has been done. A bird house made that sold for $75.00 domestically in the U.S. is now being sold for less than $20.00 through a Haiti production company and the design is being sold through multiple catalogs.  This market has now suddenly been destroyed through cheap recreations and now the potter, with fewer resources than before, has to find a new next best design in order to help sustain the studio.  Yes, it is theft, and yes, it is not right, but the burden is on the artist to prove infringement and thus pay  the lawyers fees in order to take such a suite to court.  Often, it isn’t even worth it, unless the artists operation is a big one, and most often these are small family run businesses.  The story I have just described to you actually happened to a family pottery whose work was stolen by a Department of State official in the U.S. and given to a production house in Haiti, which then used the concept in total to make their own work, all in the name of economic development.  You can see how some small misplaced impulses wind up creating big consequences for the small guy and gal.

Sites that make it better for protecting work are Tumblr which have an online protection policy and also a way to track images that are shared across its network.  This is very good, but it also means it is only traceable through their site and not others, which can happen.

So what are some solutions for artists? One is to make sure that your images that are posted online contain embedded watermarks.  These watermarks serve to degrade images that are copied, revealing a watermark that will most often identify the artist or maker in some way. Other options are to also have your images contain your name and the © symbol.  However, anyone bent on stealing is going to brush this away with Photoshop in a matter of moments.  The other option is also to make sure that you document your images so that they have dates tied to them, which often are the case with digital media. You are, as the maker of your work, granted copyright for all of your work.  It is automatic.  However, getting others to honor your copyright can be another matter.  One solution also is simply contacting the company and explaining to them that the work is yours and explaining that surely this was all a misunderstanding, and try to go from there based on that.  It is possible that the offender is not aware of the infringement and might agree to pay you.  It is also possible that your inquiry is ignored, in which case the only alternative is to go the legal route.  Give them some time, though, to respond.  What is reasonable?  Two weeks would be more than reasonable.   But try the first route always because most people don’t intend to steal.  It is important not to make people feel defensive, but simply present a clear and firm explanation of the details with supporting information with a plea that the matter be settled amicably.  And hope for the best.  The next step is a letter from your attorney which is called a Cease And Desist Order which helps pave the way for going to court, if it comes to that.  This letter explains the nature of the infringement and asks that the activity stops.  By documenting the steps that you take from the beginning with registered mail letters to the parties involved, then cease and desist requests, and then court action, you have provided magistrates with the necessary information about your efforts at resolving the matter prior to something going legal. And in the end, I think most issues can be cleared up without ever having to use “court” so don’t do that unless you have to.

One resource worth mentioning if it comes to needing to work an issue through the legal system is www.imagerights.com who pursue copyright infringement and intellectual property rights with no upfront costs to you. It is founded by an artist and their profile looks good.  They seem to understand the issues very well based on personal experiences that led the founder to create the company to begin with.

Most often as artists we need to keep educating the public about the importance of proper attribution for creative work.  The more we do, the better people will understand and act on it.  Sometimes something as simple as raising awareness is all that it takes.  When that is not enough, consider talking with imagerights. Are there solutions that worked for you?  I would love to hear about them!

The Creative Promise

istockphoto-heart-in-sky-722x1024For years I have been interested in the nature of creativity.  Being an artist, I felt it was important to understand as much about it as possible so that I could be as effective in my creative life as I could be, to learn how to harness this facet of our being most effectively.  It was this curiosity that led me to observe my own state of mind while being creative.  This led me to observe how each hemisphere in the brain worked in tandem to help bring about the elusive state of inspiration.  I observed what states seemed to aid the most in being creative.  I found out about all kinds of tricks for getting your whole brain in on the act.  All of this was useful, but there seemed to be something still deeper, more fundamental in all of this.   After all, most artists I knew tended to treat inspiration as though it was some elusive force, not unlike sighting a Yeti.  We never were sure when we would see or encounter it, but we were always glad when we did!  While I know that such a comparison seems a little silly, it has a real kernel of truth.  We just don’t have a firm grasp on what this state of being is about.  If we did, we would live inside a constant state of inspiration.  But most of us don’t.  Most of the time, we are in this constant state of seeking the elusive Yeti.  I know because I am an artist.   I am also an educator, and the truly great opportunity I have been afforded in my teaching has been that of being able to observe my own students in their own process of seeking this elusive state.  There are a lot of ways that we can help make it more possible for us to find this state of mind and artists know a lot of them because we are all on the same hunt.  But what is so interesting is that when you look deeper into this you can see how some of us don’t have a problem with being inspired.  When you read the words of many famous artists they often speak of how the most natural artists are children.  Why is that?  It is simple.  It is the lack of fear.  Children have no reason to feel fear or apprehension in using this most natural state of being. They are not full of the things that trip them up or hang them up in various ways as regards the creative state. Both love and the creative require the suspension of fear in order for both to flow freely in our experience.

The one thing about fear is that it is the antithesis of love.  Love cannot exist very well within the bounds of the fearful.  It just can’t.  When we are afraid, our most natural of states get tangled, tied up.  Our brains shut down, our physiology also reflects this in subtle and overt ways.  But when we start talking about love, most people feel a little lost how it has anything to do with creativity. It shows.  We have in our lives chosen to cordon love off into very limited ranges of expression and experience.  Love, though, is more than just what we experience.  Admit it; when I mentioned love, you thought probably about how you feel about someone.  I know that I often do this same thing.  Love is how we feel FOR something.  But what if love is more than that, what if love itself is a far more expansive a thing that enters into every single corner of our experience in myriad ways?  Don’t we have a love of a hobby?  Don’t we have a love for the things that we value, even a ring or a piece of jewelry?  We say we love the bracelet we are wearing.  And yet, we stand back and admit to ourselves that that isn’t really love.  That is more like an intense like.  Right?  But I ask you, why cant it be love?  Why can’t the intensity of our like spill over into being love?  Why cant our own feelings, our own natural state of being, be allowed to feel and express this very powerful of states?  Maybe we think that by saying we love the bracelet we are wearing somehow makes us shallow, that we should reserve love for the more important things?  I take you back to our child of four who is sitting at the table, painting wildly, unafraid of creating bold and colorful marks.  She is caught up in her act of creating because it makes her feel great.  Is it possible that the mere act of creating is a form of love?  That we feel love when we do the things that connect us to ourselves?  And what does love do with others to whom we care the most about?  Doesn’t it do much the same thing?  Sure, making a mark on the page is not the same love that we feel when we are making a mark on someone’s heart.  That much is certain. But what if our experience of love has been so limited that it keeps us from following our instincts and keeps us from feeling free enough to open to this experience within ourselves?  Isn’t creating an act of self love?  Is it that we feel so unworthy of this most important part of love that we hesitate to show it to ourselves?

I have discovered that the act of being inspired carries with it all of the same characteristics that go with falling in love.  When we fall in love and when we fall into being inspired, the effects are the same.  I have observed that becoming inspired is itself a very intimate act.  As a result, we often tend to want to be alone. Sometimes, sitting in a coffee shop, we are surrounded by people as we madly scribble away, but in that moment, we have most often blocked out the din of voices and the movement of people so that we feel alone, solitary.  This is an intimate place.  We do not like people invading our space with their attention.  We need a special focus that involves letting ourselves go.  We fall into inspiration the same way that we fall into love.  In the same way we are seduced by our feelings of love, so too do we allow ourselves to fall into a seductive space of the senses when we create art of any kind. A child who is at play does not like it when he or she is being watched by adults.  How many of us have observed how a child’s play will come to a stop when they are aware that others are watching them?  This is because the act of play, which engages the imagination, is the same as the creative state.  The creative state is itself much like love, if not a broader expression of what love is in us. In all of the same situations, we need to be alone, we need to engage our imaginations, we allow ourselves to fall into it, and to do this we allow ourselves to be vulnerable.  In both cases, it is the same.  We also need to feel unafraid in both cases, which most often means being alone, but also being in a place where we feel comfortable.  For some of my students (and myself), the best ideas come most often when they are doing something that makes them feel comfortable and safe enough to come out of their shells.  One student did her best creative work in the shower.  Another would take off to be alone, completely alone, without even paper or pencil.  She had to go for a walk, clear her head.  Another found that his ideas came when he was in the car driving for long periods.  Others like to be in a public place, but with their music playing in their earphones.  A number of them simply needed to be alone.  I have noticed that when I give a new assignment in Sculpture class a number of students ask me if they can leave so they can go find inspiration.  In the beginning I resisted this until I learned that many of them were getting better ideas when they were able to just follow their most natural inclinations.  One student would explain, “I just can’t force it, Mr. Stafford, I just have to go let it find me!”   The same is so with love.   Both are incredibly intimate acts sometimes.  Having said this, there are plenty of people who are not self conscious and who can create at the drop of a hat.  Some people actually feed off of the presence of people as though the extra attention is like more energy being brought into the arena. It is true we are all different, but there remains in my observation that on balance, most people approach inspiration in similar ways.

The act of creating is itself a freeing act.  We feel more expansive, and we feel that all is right with the world. We have a special lilt to our step. We are in grace.  All is well in the world, right?  Falling in love has all the same characteristics of this same state.  We have a lilt in our step, a glimmer in our eye.  Everything is golden.  But take that away, take the experience of the creative away, or the person whom we love, and everything becomes dark and shadowed.  Creativity, like love, frees us, allows us to move and become something….more.

I have found that most people like art but do not themselves feel creative.  They say that all they can do is draw stick figures.  And this is the crux of both love and the creative.  We shut down when we feel we are not good enough.  If we feel like we are not beautiful enough to another person, it shuts us down.  When we feel we are not talented enough, we do the same thing when trying to be creative.  In each case, walls are built of one sort or another.  This is not good, you see, because it stops the flow of this vital force that runs through our lives and makes it all the more richer.  I have taken this observation and applied it to my teaching.  I have found that the more I remove the hurdles to the creative and make people feel more safe, they become much more creative. They become more enthusiastic.  They feel supported, more free, less hindered by the “what if’s” in the world.   The people who have the hardest time with the creative are the ones who insist on worrying about something, such as how their work is going to turn out.  The difference between them and our child painting madly at the table is that the child does not worry about how it will turn out.  It is the suspension of outcomes that allows us to be fully present in the moment.  Love, like the creative, cannot be experienced through the past or the future, but only in the present. While we may look back wistfully at a past love or a past creative experience, it is never like what we experience in the moment.  You cannot create something in the past, only in the present.  But like creativity, love can strike terror in our hearts if we are afraid to allow ourselves to become vulnerable.  It is the same in both.

We have to learn to be fearless, we have to open to love the same way we open to the creative.  Both require the same state of being vulnerable and suspension of expectation in order for the experience to bloom in the most natural of ways.  This is why, so often, as an artist is painting or creating, they don’t always know exactly what is going to come next.  It isn’t that they don’t know how they want it turn turn out, or that they are being aimless in their work, it is that in order to do this certain parts of the mind really do have to be shut off.  Love, like the creative, is not a rational process.  It is nonlinear, irrational, and this is where we tap both sides of our brains and awareness.  Art like love cannot come about through a sheer force of will.  It is more like a flower that must open in the presence of the sun. We do not pry its petals open.  We let it open. We allow.  Without this quality, everything is forced.  80% of the ideas that my students come up with that are forced, they tend to abandon in the end for the simple fact that they have not truly plumbed their likes or desires.  The work, when forced, is never as enjoyable as the work that is allowed to flow.  When we flow, we are allowed deeper access into ourselves.  Love, like creating, is not entirely rational because we are not ourselves just rational beings.  Many artists, like those who fall into love, often revel in mystery.  It is the mystery that pulls them forward.  This is not rational, you see.

In my work in glass I have taken this idea and used glass as a vehicle for allowing people to tap the joy of being able to create something beautiful that they themselves believe they are incapable of doing.  Glass is a perfect material for this because it is….well…..beautiful.  I tell people who come into the studio feeling apprehensive about whether they will be able to make something beautiful that the nature of glass is such that you could dribble it on the floor and it would look amazing.  And it does.  I once told this to a group who came in this past winter and one of the kids wound up dribbling hot glass on the floor. At the time, she felt like she had failed, as though she was somehow doing something wrong.  I had, though, just moments before explained that you could do just what she had done and it would look great.  When she got done, she wound up picking up the pieces of glass, now hardened, off the floor and was amazed by how interesting it looked.  She took her “mistake” home with her, she liked it so much!  My experience with making things with a material that is so hard to get “wrong” has done something for people, which is that it opens the portals of enthusiasm and excitement.  They loosen up and are amazed at what it is they are creating.  THIS is where it all begins.  What might take a person years to achieve by learning how to go from stick figure to perfect portrait in chalk I can achieve in minutes. That is because the act of being creative is not about perfect portraits, but about loving what it is that you do.  When you do this, when you allow yourself the freedom to be this way, you naturally open up the cognitive portals in your own being so that inspiration flows.

The other side to all of this is that love naturally has a healing effect on us.  When we open up and allow ourselves to be loved, we feel different.  We unwind, we become more relaxed, happy, and at peace.  We do the exact same thing when we are in a state of inspiration.  This state encourages us to try the seeming impossible.  Suddenly the world resolves into radiant possibility.  We are enthused, we work harder, we lose track of time, we enter “the zone” in the same way that we enter a timeless zone when we are with people that we love.  How many of us have observed how quickly time seems to pass when we are with that someone whom we love?  Always, there is never enough time.  And the same is true for being creative.  Time quite literally changes. Some people even tell of how a moment seems to expand outward into a kind of eternity.  And yet, once we exit it, we feel as though time has suddenly accelerated and we wish we could enter that timeless space again. This is just what artists seek in inspiration.  More than having an idea in mind what they will make, they tend to be far more interested in how the state makes them feel.  They know that when they can just feel into it, they are golden.  It does not matter what they make because the moment allows for endless possibilities.  They know that anything is possible.  They are not worried what they will make because fear is no longer present.  They simply give themselves over to the moment.

The creative shares so much in common with love.  When we love, we create.  When we create, we are also in love.  It is the same.  Both frees us, both heals us.  This is perhaps why we use art as a form of therapy.  Just as love helps us to plumb our deepest feelings, so too does art help us plumb our feelings as well.  I think that our experience with the creative has simply become too limited sometimes and so doing, it tends to cordon off those parts of ourselves that we feel funny about expressing.  But all of this is a form of love, and love is something that is a pretty vast thing when it comes to human experience.  Love is more than something that we feel for something and it is something that we are.

Supporting Good Creative Habits

So how can you boost your creative love quotient?  There are a great number of brain tricks that you can employ that will help to kick start your right brain into motion.  One of these is using your left hand with a simple exercise, such as rolling a coin through all of your fingers without dropping it.  It is believed that by using the motor cortex in your right brain, which is used to control the left side of your body, that you are stimulating the right brain, which is most often seen as being involved in holistic reasoning, seeing, and most often artistic experience.

Find Your Zone

Find your comfort zone.  Does being alone help you to discover your inspired moment, or does being with people, but slightly aloof help?  Knowing what works best for you is a big first step towards how to boost your creativity.  Then once you have realized this, follow it.  For some, listening to music and just drawing and playing with ideas without any aim helps to get into a more creative state.

Expose Yourself

Sometimes just looking at art of all kinds can help you get ideas. The goal is not to copy artists work, but to find pieces that serve to inspire you.  Sometimes sites that have a lot of different art can be good ways to view a broad buffet of ideas.  For as crazy as it seems, Ebay can actually help a lot because instead of just one kind of art, you have a broad array.  Some sites you might find helpful are listed below

Design Observer  mostly graphic arts, but it has a broad range of objects dealing with good design that might just get your juices flowing.

ArtBabble is a cloud-based site for video and is called the youtube of the arts.

ArtNet is a site of over 450 artists, writers, sculptors, painters, animators, and hacker artists from around the world.

deviantart is a site where artists display and sell their works.  This is a broad range of two-dimensional work

thisiscollosal this is one of my personal favorites for the interesting and creative takes on the visual that it provides.  It is fun and engaging and well managed.

Artcylopedia  a list of links to museum collections of art through the ages. A rich source for everything historically art.

Blackbird an outreach program of Virginia Commonwealth University, this resource presents literary and artistic works by a broad range of emerging artists as well as established ones.

This is just a taste of what is out there and might help you when you are feeling a need to get inspired.  Sometimes just having someone elses work that maps out their own inspired moments can help get the gears turning.

Breathing 

Believe it or not, breathing has long played a central role in our feeling centered, balanced, and calm.  When someone is upset, what do we tell them to do to calm themselves down?  “Just breathe!” we say!  I would take it one step further and explain that if you take a little more time with breath work, you can discover how amazingly calming it can be.  for example, if you slow your breathing down and make it longer and deeper and do at least seven breaths in a row like this, counting seven seconds to breathe in, seven seconds to hold the breath and seven second to breathe out, you will develop a very nice slow rhythm to your breathing that will also signal to your mind that its time to relax.  You will notice that people who fall asleep do not have fast breath, but slow, even labored breathing.  If you can match your breathing to that same pace, you will find that your body is experiencing a very calm state where all the troubles you had a few minutes previously are suddenly gone!  One other breathing method I will share with you is one I often give to students who are really keyed up and it tends to work very well.  It is an alternating nostril form of breathing.  It forces you to slow down your breath, but I swear, it really can make you feel much better!  What you do is you hold one nostril closed while you make four full slow breaths in and out through one nostril only.  You then alternate to the other nostril and do the same four breaths and repeat this four times.  It is also helpful if you can focus on your breathing so you aren’t thinking about other things.

Music

The kind of music you listen to, the kind of rhythms and melodies can actually help support certain brain states.  Aboriginal cultures have long used certain rhythms to help induce certain states of reflection.  I have found that music that is rhythmic, and repetitive helps me to zone out into the creative while remaining tethered to the now.  It seems that when I can listen to music that is not telling me a story or that is engaging my verbal centers too much, it can lead me to move into the zone.  Different music will have different effects.  Sometimes, too, I need no music while at other times having something of the right style is just what the doctor ordered. I once created an entire body of work while listening to David Byrne’s  The Catherine Wheel.  For some reason, and for a set period of time, only this music “did it” for me.   I once knew an artist in graduate school whose studio was directly above my own, who listened to the same song over and over in order to do his work for his thesis show.  For him, it was Prince’s “I would Die For You.”  This seemed to get him into an energetic state and got his juices moving.  It had to, he listened to it for months for hours each session!  For as much as it sometimes annoyed me to hear this song on an infinite loop, I also “got” why it was he listened to it.  It was what got him into his own zone.  I used to listen to Thursday Afternoon by Brian Eno, which is a piece that is hardly even music, but a supportive soundscape that is reflective and great for drawing.  It is quite nearly background noise.  But sometimes, no music is the ticket, you just need to feel it out.

Reading

Honestly, I am putting this here only because it has helped me.  I don’t know if it will help you or not, but here is a try.  I have found very specific works by Walt Whitman to be incredibly  inspiring.  Leaves of Grass is sheer miracle.  He could turn a phrase in a timeless manner. Whitman is as alive today in my life as he was back during his own life.  Oddly, I find his other work about the civil war to be dreary stuff.  Whitman leaves me in a zone when I read the right stuff.  And who knows, maybe Whitman is like Prince was to my painter colleague who listened to the same song over and over.  But clearly, not just any writing will do it for me.  I need something that will push me over into realms of mystery, wonder, and even awe.

These are just a few sources for aiding in supporting your creative state.  In the end, though, you need to find what does it for you, observe how you feel when you do certain things and then make them part of a method that will work for you.

Money Killed My Parrot!

This is something I have dealt with in my own professional life, sometimes continue to do so and also try to get across to my students! We can all benefit from this advice about money. It is a bit stark, but it is also honest. And right-on.

THE EDITOR'S JOURNAL

Money is evil
Money is a curse
Money splits friends
Money killed my parrot??!!!parrot2-290x353

I hope you are wondering how on earth it is possible for money to kill my parrot. If you can’t come up with a feasible scenario you would be right. Without a human being’s clumsy interjection, money cannot kill my parrot because it is an inanimate object. This was in fact abig fat lie! And the moral of my flimsy story is thatpeople shouldn’t make up mean stories about money because they wouldn’t like it if it were done to them!

Our Relationship With Money

In this post I want to you to look at your relationship with money to assess whether it could be holding you back from attracting enough to have it stuffed into drawers and hanging out of biscuit tins in your house.

I have touched on this in various comments…

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