Frankly, I’m happy to see this year end. It has been one of the most difficult years of my life. Lots of loss. In that loss, my mind has not worked as it usually does. That has proven to be a very negative factor in my creative projects.
The thing about loss is, one is expected to produce as though no loss has occurred. Creativity, good creativity, requires the use of the brain. I spent the last six months grinding. In the grind, eventually, I got where I wanted to go. But it was hard work, that required that I not say, “I can’t do it. I give up.”
I’m going to discuss what I’ve learned during this year of losses about the creative process.
Being honestly and productively critiqued, is an important path to improvement and growth. My design classes included critiques at least three times during a project. The first was given within days of the beginning. No one feels ready or remotely confident at this critique. Nor should they. It’s rough sketches. Raw ideas with little direction. Painful. And very useful. This is an excellent time to determine whether the idea has merit. This first critique has saved me time and clarified direction. The next critique is in the middle of the project. It is about refinement. More specifically, about simplification. About cutting the fat, as it were. It reinforces the good, cleans up the bad. It defines what might be missing, the final steps, and drives the project home. The final critique is not the “wow “moment one would get if it had never been seen, but it is a moment of polish and great satisfaction. This critique is a vital part of the fine art and student process. I will incorporate it in my music and film endeavors as well. The other things about the critique process are, it forces you to have a team, it makes you more honest about your imprefections, and ultimately it better prepares you for constant incremental improvement.
The other thing I learned this year is, the creative process can be corralled. I use to say, like so many creatives I know, “I have to wait for the feeling to hit” or “I have a block.” For a while now, I’ve been saying, “Show up to the canvas.” The idea being you most certainly will not be creative if you don’t move toward it. If you flip on the TV, or Facebook, or Netflicks, you have determined you can not be creative, so you won’t. If instead, you go to the tools of your creativity, you’re likely to engage. This can be applied to all forms of procrastination- going to the gym, making love with your partner, washing the dishes. Show up. Start. The block will likely dissipate after some engagement. But what about when your mind is crazed as mine has been this year? What if circumstances are so stressful, your concentration is gone. And worse yet, your reason for doing a thing? You aren’t sure how to make it through the day, much less make pretty clever things for people you’ve made commitments to?
This is when you ask for help. Maybe every day. Maybe the critiques are more frequent. Maybe there are more sketches. Perhaps you allow more time for the projects. This is what I know. There is a process to creativity. There is the beginning, when you’re learning how to walk. Nothing you’re creating has any merit. You owe it to yourself to keep going. The beginning is a process of data collection. Nothing more. It’s exploratory. Allow yourself to be messy. To be inaccurate. To be free and childlike. What I’m actually saying, is don’t be mean to yourself. Don’t be critical. (Which is different from a critique, by the way.) Instead, see the value in what your working on. Allow yourself to grind. What I found was that my projects were 90% grind. I mean that I went around and around in my head without new thoughts. Without new direction. Another metaphor might be, I was treading water. There came a point where it clicked. I went through this process again. And again. And with each effort, I came to understand, if I kept at it. If I let myself grind, I would eventually click. What came next is confidence. Confidence that I am not a slave to my muses. Instead of waiting for them to come to me, I can call on them. And if they don’t immediately answer, I keep asking. I keep trying. Trying something new. Anything.
Like so many of life’s lessons, it comes back down to moving through and past a misguided belief. To do that, one must make an effort. Effort is everything.
A friend of mine recently said something cryptic about getting hooked by a distraction that always pulls him away.
He could have been referring to anything: love, success, happiness, peace, satisfaction…
This morning I was thinking about his words wondering what specifially he meant when it occurred to me the only distractions we have, are those we allow.
If you aren’t sure what you want, everything is an option. Everything is a possibility. Everything is a distraction.
If you know what you want, very specifically, it becomes your focus, very clearly.
For example, if I say, I will have my album finished by March 5, 2016 at 5 p.m., that’s pretty clear. If I add that it will include 10 songs and all package design, that’s really specific.
It’s also a declaration.
Now I know my primary focus for the next three months. So when a distraction presents itself, it will be quickly evaluated. Does it fit with my goals? Will it prevent me from attaining my goals? Will it help me attain my goals? By having a clear definition of my goal, I will have a laser sharp view of where I want to be. All the distractions become part of my periphery.
People often don’t do what they say they want to do because they tumble weed along, evaluating opportunities as they present themselves. This is a little like trying to decide what to eat for dinner when you’re hungry. The way to create long term success is to plan for it. So…
What do you want? Write it down. Be specific. Let it be your recipe for success.
Namaste, my friend.
On Friday, I had to put down another dog. This one was Genny, a fourteen year old schipperke. She had lymphoma. When one puts a dog to sleep one does so to end the dog’s suffering. That is only the reason you do it. It is a wretched process. If I ever have another dying dog, I will only do it if the dog is writhing in pain or profusely bleeding. Genny was neither of those things. She had stop eating on Tuesday and by Friday was nothing but skin and bones. She was living on my cuddles. Over the last two weeks I laid her on my chest a lot. She was never one to lay still for long, so this was special for us both.
Unfortunately, tragically, the euthanasia process was not reflective of a gentle falling to sleep. The vet at the clinic that day was not the one I had taken my dogs to for fourteen years. This vet was afraid of being bit. She had no confidence. She told me we needed to use a muzzle. I knew this was a bad idea. I should have gotten up and told her I would bring Genny back when my regular vet was there. But I didn’t.
Genny had never been muzzled and it put her a state of distress. The vet gave her a seditive via injection and it was painful. That coupled with the muzzle, threw Genny in a traumatized state. It scared the crap out of her, literally. I think it caused an instant stroke. Her body went limp instantly, her tongue hung out and her eyes went vacant. I could hear her breathing though. Only then did the muzzle come off for the rest of the procedure.
The only bright spot is I held her as she died. It was the least I could do for her.
The idea of controlling the death of the pet is just that, an idea. I chose this because I put my sixteen year old dog to sleep in late August and it was the compassionate procedure that everyone thinks of. That’s because a compassionate competent professional performed the procedure.
If the practitioner says to muzzle your dog and your dog has never been muzzled, do not do it.
Find another practitioner.
1. Why am I here?
2. Why didn’t I bring a friend with me so I’d have someone to talk to?
3. Is it worth the wait?
4. Whose smoking a cigarette?
5. What will I sing this time? (This is joke, I sing the same songs every time.)
6. My friend’s dad is usually here. Not tonight. I never thought I say I miss my friend’s dad. 🙂
7. I need to stop coming to open mics.
8. I hope I don’t blow out my voice when I get my turn.
9. Open mic makes me grumpy.
10. I feel uncomfortable when a guy stares at me because I’m sitting here by myself. But only a little bit. Stare all you want, dude. This makes me laugh!
11. The weather is perfect.
12. I have data, so I can look up lyrics.
13. It gives me a chance to catch up on my blog. 🙂
Namaste, my friend.