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What the hell?! My March batch is nowhere to be found!... April fools! Yeah, yeah.
Okay, down to business. I really enjoyed writing my February batch, and loved that the momentum it generated spilled over into other creative endeavors. So it should come as no surprise that I'm ready for more. Unfortunately, I won't be able to write for May because of a week long camping trip, but I don't want to stop writing like I did in March. I haven't yet decided on the theme for April, but I'm leaning towards inspiration and creativity; what helps or hinders it.
Or at least that's what some people may call it. I was never a big reader, even when I was fat. However, in the past few years, I've pushed myself to read for pleasure. I am currently loving Ian Fleming's James Bond series. I began reading Bond because I had been reading quasi-nonfiction (David Sedaris and marketing books), and I told myself that I wanted to go on an adventure. There is a good deal of chauvinism in Fleming's work, but most people shouldn't have a problem with that, unless their latex dish gloves water log the pages.
No pain, no brain.
If your body is out of shape, it distracts your mind from devoting its full focus to other problems. Being restless can be just as counterproductive as being tired, yet both are solved with a little physical activity. If you think of your body as an engine, you are increasing its RPMs, as well as cycling out any old fuel or fluids that have become stagnant. Stress reduction is also a huge benefit of working out. Not only do the endorphins released after a work out reduce stress, but they also increase confidence and elevate mood.
As a self-proclaimed reader of 'the articles' in Playboy Magazine (April 2010), I came across an interesting six part model for killer instinct. They credit Idan Ravin, aka 'the hoops whisperer', as the model's creator. His work with NBA stars apparently earned him his handle (this is all Playboy's back story).
-Love of the game
What struck me was that this model reminded me of a similar model for creativity; the CORE model:
I then hypothesized that these models are complimentary for most creative professionals.
It's important to know the difference between 'powering through' and 'cranking something out.' The main contrast is conscious involvement. If you have performed a task with enough repetition that you feel you could do it in your sleep, then you probably do. So, wake up! Just running through the motions while your mind takes a break will cause your work to suffer. Muscle memory is a great thing, but once you allow yourself to function automatically, you lose your attention to detail. Have you ever eaten something prepared by a chef whose mind was elsewhere? It's not very tasty.
This one is pretty basic, and has been echoed by thousands of creatives, so now it's my turn. You need to keep a running record of your thoughts and ideas. The best way to start is a journal. My advice is to keep it private to avoid censoring yourself. Even the boldest of writers still leave their guard up when they feel like someone might read or judge their writing. Once you've made a habit of reaching for your journal before an idea escapes, you should have an idea of what sort of recording medium works best for you.
Belated footnote: The CORE model comes from Jordan Ayan's book 'Aha!' which is also a good read for getting your creative enzymes percolating. Now back to the show...
Warm Up to Your Ideas
I don't know if they still do this, but in elementary school, the teacher would give the class warm-up exercises before each lesson. For many folks, getting started is the hardest part of anything. Doing a short warm-up each day will not only get the ball rolling, but should also increase your creative discipline and daily output. The catch here is the discipline.
Calm down. Take control.
The above was a note to self from last night. Apparently my stunt double, who does all of my drinking, thought it prudent to pass along a suggestion. Not bad. What he must have meant is that creativity is frustrating because you're blazing a trail and encountering new problems, usually without a clearly defined finishing point. It's okay -- deep breath. Also, that creativity is whatever you make of it, so let the idea guide you, but don't expect a concept to do any heavy lifting. It's not the clay's place to know the sculptor's will.
For me, being creative is about production, innovation and problem solving. So, I'd like to take this opportunity to absolve you of the obligation you may feel to lead a hipster lifestyle, just because you are a creative. True, the iPhone is very useful and skinny jeans are disgusting, but if idea of hopping on a 'creative bandwagon' doesn't rub you the wrong way, then maybe you're just emulating. However, if you really enjoy your location based apps while drinking pabst blue ribbon (liar!), then by all means do what makes you happy. Otherwise, you're lying to yourself.
Collect Some Mentors
We've all heard that there is always a bigger fish. Luckily, none of us are actual fish, but we are all or have been at some point freshmen; novices. It is our duty to search out the thought leaders and rock stars for our interests and absorb their wisdom like a thirsty sponge. You are not obligated to agree with even the most essential points, but you should understand what these seasoned vets are talking about and why they have taken their stance. They were neophytes once too, then something happened and they became successful. Go discover how!
Count You Some Sheep
When you sleep, your brain has a chance to perform a little maintenance and balance all its fancy chemicals. Your mind also uses this time to analyze and sort recent information. If you're constantly staying up and not getting quality sleep, or waking up hungover, then you're going to waste most of your energy on not feeling like a wolverine's taint for the rest of the day. Like your car, your mind and body need maintenance, and time to cool down. Sleep also gives you and opportunity to dream. So, work hard, play hard, and sleep tight.
I'm such a hack!
Originally, I said that this month I would focus on what helps or hinders creativity and inspiration. This is going to be one of those hindrance days. It occurred to me that writing about creativity can be rather douchey. There's an overarching feeling of, 'Who am I to wax creative?' You feel like everything you've done to get to this point in the project should be scrapped; that it's contrived; plastic. I suspect that this is a common creative worry. You can't see the forest from the trees, and this feeling might just be that transition.
Fire Photon Torpedoes!
As I mentioned towards the beginning of this batch, a healthy physique is a happy physique, and in turn a happy mind. Depending on how much you know about vitamins, it may or may not surprise you to hear that you are solar powered -- at least to some extent. No, you are not filled with chlorophyll, nor do you contain traces of boreophyll. Your skin soaks up the sun's energy in order to process vitamin D, for bone synthesis or something, but it also greatly increases your serotonin production, elevating mood and overall outlook. Your happy juice!
Are you? Hopefully, I will be when I return from the beach. The ocean has a way of recharging me, or at least making me feel really flipping small. I think we need that every now and then. After all, when you haven't had a break in a while, it's entirely too easy to lose yourself, or find your head lodged way up your own ass. Some sun, maybe even some rain, and lots of booze with my best friends is just what the doctor ordered. Hibernation is over! Now we rise, and stand proud in the sun!
It's a bit of a chore to write today, but let's see if we can make this fun. For starters, I'm at the beach. How that factors into creativity, I have no idea (but I intend to find out). Also, I didn't get a whole lot of sleep before driving five hours in the blinding rain. Okay, well that's something. My excuse making reminds me of a quote given to me by a crazy designer. The quoted, Chuck Close, said, "Inspiration is for amateurs, the rest of us just show up and work." If your pencil is moving, you're good.
It burns so good!
I got my base tan, and we're about to head out for some seared sashimi tuna steak and badass margaritas. The only thing is that we have to go right now, and everybody's passed out. We missed these tuna steaks last time we were here because they closed early, due to a crazy mosquito problem. Okay, everybody is waking up and we're ready to head out. I feel like I'm forgetting something. Oh yeah, creativity jabber, blah blah blah. Here's some from college. Wallas' model for creativity: Preparation, Incubation, Illumination and Verification. I hope this helps.
It's tough to think of a topic when you're this sunburned. I'm honestly just in the mood to knock these out and slam on some breakfast tacos. It reminds me of the previous post about powering through versus cranking one out. At least I have the discipline to write today's entry before touching my breakfast tacos. I don't know what that says. I don't really care. Apathy can be a terrible hindrance to creativity. However, I've been able to balance vacation and this writing project. It's not the greatest victory, but at least it's not a failure. It's subjective anyway.
Back home with a raccoon tan.
Yep, I wore my glasses in the sun and look like a masked mammal with a taste for trashcans. In hindsight the beach wasn't the best for my short term creativity, in terms of my output here. Most of the time, I was distracted or drunk, but what really got me was having very little energy left. This is why it's important to right down ideas as them come. They're often like cats, wandering in and out at THEIR discretion. When you're having them, whether trying or not, you need to take full advantage.
How much fits on your plate?
Knowing your level of production is key before considering any projects or contracts. What you're aiming for is the sweet spot between being too safe and getting lost in the red zone. If you're too safe, you won't truly be growing and run the risk of operating solely on autopilot. However, spreading yourself too thin will force sacrifice and inevitably failure. Just like a car's red zone, overwhelming yourself can be treacherous and detrimental. Not that it isn't good to push the envelope, know your weaknesses, or your limits. Just don't ignore your capabilities.
Almost missed this one. Oh shit! I bet this site is based in the Eastern time zone. Time to cheese. Almost missed this one. Oh shit! I bet this site is based in the Eastern time zone. Time to cheese. Almost missed this one. Oh shit! I bet this site is based in the Eastern time zone. Time to cheese. Almost missed this one. Oh shit! I bet this site is based in the Eastern time zone. Time to cheese. Almost missed this one. Oh shit! I bet this site is based in the Eastern time zone. Time to cheese.
Knock it up a notch, with your Spice-Weasel!
(Especially after that last entry)
You should always be searching for what has never been done. Usually you will find something that is rarely done, or is being done concurrently to your efforts. Have you ever thought of a unique slogan or invention, only to have it appear in the world a year down the road? The root of creativity is to 'create.' When similar ideas are conceived simultaneously, it becomes a race to bring them into the world. That's a lot of work, ergo requires a great deal of energy.
I wouldn't get too comfortable.
This is another place where a nice balance must be achieved, again and again. If you are too comfortable then you begin to insulate yourself from the rest of the world, blocking out stimuli that cultivate fresh ideas. If you can't relax then you're probably just going to have a heart attack. When something feels weird, that's usually a good sign. It's also easier to describe something weird because there is a more distinct contrast between it and the expected. In turn, becoming comfortable with the weird will help you to see the expected clearly.
I've been meaning to address procrastination for some time now.
As I've mentioned earlier, it's good to know how much is the right amount to have on your plate. If you're under the notion that you don't have much, then you may be less inclined to follow through and finish. Your reasoning may be that if there isn't much then you can do it anytime. Sound familiar? Procrastination can be deadly because it suddenly breaks our momentum and shifts our inertia from kinetic to static. Once at a full stop, the hardest part of anything creative is to get started.
It's the Trek, not the Star.
We've all heard that it's the journey, not the destination. It's a common theme among many of our stories. Well, creativity is progressive. You can't rest on your laurels, because the world will ask, "What have you done for me lately?" Also, the energy required to have an worthwhile idea (and a horde of bad ones) is much greater than the energy it takes to execute the idea, translating it into a communicable form. Or perhaps, when you do something well, it tends to look easy. Whatever the case, just keep creating cool shit.
Lead your horse to water.
The ideas that pop into your mind, never let on where they came from, do they? One likely theory is that a few of the major functions of creativity rely on subconscious thought or processing. This describes incubation, the second stage of Wallas' model for creativity; the third stage being illumination, commonly symbolized as a light bulb going off. So subconscious creativity seems uncontrollable and wild? Yes and no. What you can do is be mindful to create and maintain optimal conditions for your ideas to take root. Create, communicate, and keep it mixed up.
That's right, you can do whatever you want. Do you even remember what crayon looks like on the walls? Relax... It's washable! Paint your dog. Create a website for your favorite pair of socks. Do a cartwheel. Exercise the option to howl at the moon. Just do something! Break your routine with one little accent and see if you like it. It helps if you dedicate it to something, perhaps spontaneity, or the color cerulean. You could enact silly laws that nobody is going to follow anyway (This is a popular one). Whatever you do, have some fun!
Remember Thou Art Mortal.
Let's face it, at times, creativity can frustrate the shit out of you. You invest so much of yourself into something that's never been done, so it's only natural to be nervous and disappointed when you fail. Well, not 'fail.' As Thomas Edison once said, "I have never failed, I have simply found ten thousand ways that didn't work." So take a deep breath, and forgive yourself for being human. These feelings are totally normal, however very poisonous. Don't shoulder any guilt for trying, innovating, being fatigued. Negative feelings like these will greatly sap your focus.
Don't be scurred.
If you're like me, a ruggedly handsome devil, then you may have seen the movie
Perhaps, you've read the books -- I haven't. However, there's a scene where the main character must control his fear or face death. His inner monologue keeps repeating, 'Must not fear; Fear is the mind killer.' By confronting your fear, you open up a world of boldness. Your work will have an added glint of confidence, making you seem cocksure and experienced. You'll free yourself from the confines of the safe zone; the bland zone. Remember, fear is easily controlled by breathing.
Come fly with me!
I haven't traveled in a good while (not counting traveling I've done within the state of Texas). I love my state, but I still miss traveling. New sights, sounds and cultures do wonders for opening up clogged creative passageways. I suppose that's what it feels like, breathing deep and easy after being congested. After all, you can only go to Texas beaches so many times before needing a change of scenery. What I really miss are the mountains, and my snowboard misses them as well. It's been over a decade since she's sailed over fresh powder.
Wexford and Cheesecake!
I just happen to be fond of Wexford Irish Cream Ale, but it's a bit expensive at the local corner store. Cheesecake, however, was eaten by the Greek champions (in the days before gold medals). I figured that a small wedge of cheesecake would be fitting to conclude this batch... which was about... creativity, oh yeah. Nothing really more to say, except have faith in yourself and have fun exploring. Dr Seuss said that you must first believe in your writing if you expect others to. I just hope I didn't sound too douchey talking about IDEAS!!!!!
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