The Heart and Craft of Lifestory Writing -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- New Year's Resolutions Don't Have to Be a Joke
Posted: 28 Dec 2009 05:50 AM PST
Are you one of the majority of readers who will be making New Year's resolutions in the next day or two? Perhaps some of those will include resolutions about writing. Maybe you'll resolve to journal every day. Maybe you'll resolve to complete a memoir, or write a story a week. Whatever your resolutions, here's a tip to help make them bear fruit:
Commit to it publicly and create a time-linked Action Plan to go with each step. I am resolving to complete my Los Alamos Years memoir by January 1, 2011. Here is the Action Plan I just knocked out in about ten minutes I've had a lot of practice writing Action Plans, and I've completed several book projects, so I could do it faster. Perhaps mine will give you an idea what to include in your own.
Sharon's Action Plan for The Los Alamos Years
1-1-2010 Write a draft overview of the story.
Define purpose and audience
Write philosophy of story. What message do I plan to convey?
Break overall story into segments — these will probably become chapters.
Survey all the vignettes I’ve already written and select which to include.
Sort vignettes and align with segments.
Determine what additional stories need to be included.
Select photos for inclusion
Write drafts of each chapter (add additional level to this action step when structure is defined).
Polish description, dialogue and detail.
Send draft around to three or four trusted people for proofing and editing.
Incorporate feedback from beta readers.
Insert photos and other graphics.
Format for printing.
Convert to PDF.
Upload to (CreateSpace) for PDF and eBook distribution.
Notice that I did not put dates on every single step. Some of these will be done "out of order." Some dates may slip and some may be met early. I'll print my table and put it -- somewhere here where I can see it even with the clutter that tends to build up around my desk -- so I can see it often and be reminded of my commitment. The table will grow as I refine the plan.
By the way, this is not a totally new project idea for me. I've been nibbling at it, dancing around it, for two or three years, and writing vignettes for nearly a dozen. I'm not starting from scratch. But I don't think it would matter. The steps remain the same, and will look familiar to anyone who has seen the Planning Diagrams in the first chapter of my book.
Write now: write a resolution of your own. It may be as simple as writing a single vignette, or journaling every day for a week. But take the time to put it in writing and create an Action Plan, however simple.
Coach Sherrie says: Sharon Lippincott had this Action Plan formatted nicely but it didn't come out here. Sorry!
There is one great truth on this planet: whoever you are, or whatever it is that you do, when you really want something, it's because that desire originated in the soul of the universe. It's your mission on earth.
"Faith is courage; it is creative while despair is always destructive." ~ David S. Muzzey
Coach Sherrie says: This is sooo true! Whenever I have felt desperate and lost I was; now that I have Faith and Courage in everything I do, my life is unfolding exactly as it should! So . . . KEEP THE FAITH. Know that all will work out as it is meant to.
Secrets from the Memoir Coach: How to Write Your Life Story
Ina Hillebrandt Pawpress
If you need an incentive to write your memoirs, consider these points... More people may be interested in your memoirs than you think -- not just family and friends but also people in the same profession or with similar experiences, or those who have lived in the same parts of the country. Memoir writing is easier than ever before, thanks to new technology and the availability of professionals who can help you, usually at a reasonable price. BEFORE YOU START Throughout my experience in helping writers, I have found that once they are assured that people will actually want to read what they write, authors’ next concerns are where to start and how to organize their life stories. But it’s really easier than it seems. Structure. Writing about events in chronological order is the simplest structure to follow. If you’re dealing with a shoe box full of notes that have accumulated over the years, it’s usually not difficult to sort them by date. Also consider variations in structure, such as flashbacks, which can be useful for adding interest and for showing readers how recent events relate to much earlier ones. You can also structure memoirs by topics or by milestones in your life. Example: I recently helped a client write memoirs that were structured according to the many houses that she had lived in. Mistake: Thinking of your memoir as a novel in which all the events have to be woven together. In fact, memoirs can be structured as a collection of short stories that aren’t necessarily related -- or if they are, readers will make their own connections. Audience. If you’re writing for family members, you may not need to describe in detail relatives whom readers are likely to know. On the other hand, if your memoir is also aimed at former business colleagues, more thorough descriptions will probably be necessary. TO FIND INSPIRATION As you start writing, it’s helpful to remind yourself of past events, which can be a great source of inspiration. Examples... Old pictures, scrapbooks, home movies and letters. Classmates, old friends and relatives you may not have spoken with in many years. Your earliest memories. In my case, it was when I was two years old and my father came home from World War II. (My aunt told me to say, “Hubba-hubba,” when he walked in the door.) HELP FOR WRITERS There are many resources available to aspiring memoirists today... Learn from the pros. One of the best ways to learn about memoirs is to read what others have written. Two of my favorites: Steve Martin’s Born Standing Up: A Comic’s Life (Scribner) and Michael Caine’s What’s It All About? (Random House). Though it’s not a memoir in the conventional sense of the term, Laura Hillenbrand’s Seabiscuit: An American Legend (Ballantine), about the legendary racehorse, is written in an excellent narrative style. Computer assistance. Today, people do most of their writing on a computer with a word-processing program that checks spelling and grammar. But if you dislike typing, consider using a speech-recognition software program that lets you dictate into a microphone attached to your computer. The program converts what you dictate into a text file. If your computer doesn’t have a speech-recognition program, you can buy one for about $50 to $200 from Staples, Office Depot and other retailers. The leading program is Dragon Naturally Speaking made by Nuance Communications (www.nuance.com). Typists. If you prefer writing in longhand, you can hire a typist to transcribe what you write for about $3 to $5 per page, depending on where you live. And depending on how legibly you write, a typist can usually transcribe 1,000 to 1,500 words an hour. Writers groups. In most parts of the country, there are groups of amateur writers who constructively criticize each other’s work and who often invite professional authors to offer advice and inspiration. To find a group, enter “writers group” plus the name of your city into your Internet search engine. Most groups welcome new members and are either free or charge about $100 or less in yearly dues. Caution: Not all writers groups are helpful. A client of mine showed a memoir to a writers group only to be criticized for writing about the South and using Southern expressions in her dialogue. In fact, those were key strengths of her memoir. Best: Attend a few meetings. If, after each session, you feel energized and inspired, it’s probably a good group for you. Editors. Should you hire an editor to assist you before you start writing or publish? Probably not, if your memoirs are meant only for family and close friends. But if you have a wider audience in mind, an editor is almost a necessity -- because even the best writers make errors. Friends with editing experience will often help out free of charge. Otherwise, you can find an editor for hire by phoning the English departments at local colleges, contacting a local writers group or searching for “editors for hire” on the Internet. Also, the Independent Writers of Southern California (323-653-4555 or 877-79-WRITE, www.iwosc.org) can often put people in touch with an editor, regardless of where you live. Before hiring an editor, talk with three or four references to make sure that the editor has worked satisfactorily on memoirs similar to yours. Cost: About $2,000 per book, half of which is usually paid up front and the remainder on completion of the editing. PUBLISHING OPTIONS When you are ready to publish your book... Have the typewritten manuscript copied and bound at retailers such as FedEx Office for a typical price of $13 to $15 per book. Self-publish by one of the companies that specialize in this type of printing, including Infinity Publishing (www.infinitypublishing.com), LightningSource.com, Lulu.com and UPublish.com. Cost: About $8,000 for 1,000 copies of a 200-page paperback book. Create a Web site for your memoirs. This has the advantage of letting others comment on your work. Cost: $250 to $1,500 or more to set up a Web site (includes producing three designs for approval, and should be easy to use and have tools that bring visitors to your site) and $25 to $50 a month to maintain it -- update information, forward or handle e-mail and forward book orders to the author. To find a Web site designer, look for a site you like and contact the Web designer. Or ask friends who have a site to give a recommendation. Important: To prevent others from profiting from your memoirs, copyright them. Cost: $45 from the US Copyright Office (202-707-3000, www.copyright.gov). Also, be aware that there can be consequences if you criticize or discuss the private lives of people who aren’t public figures (and sometimes even if they are). Safeguard: If your memoir is critical of any living person, retain a lawyer familiar with publishing to review the book. Cost: $5,000 to $10,000. Ask what the cost will be before engaging such an attorney.
Bottom Line/Retirement interviewed Ina Hillebrandt, founder and president of Los Angeles-based Pawpress (www.inaspawprints.com), which offers a wide range of services to writers, including editing, coaching and help with self-publishing. She is author of How to Write Your Memoirs (Pawpress).
Coach Sherrie says: Keep your eyes open: I plan to start an on-line class in Life Story Writing sometime in the first half of 2010. Send me an e-mail if you're interested: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
The Art of Perfect Timing By Martha Beck Following Your Internal Clock
Most "timing's perfect!" enthusiasts don't need these kinds of tests. They're constantly aware of their internal timekeepers, respecting information and intimations, preparing to avoid danger or pursue opportunity. By contrast, people who bewail their bad timing often ignore, even actively reject, facts and premonitions that could help them better plan their actions. True, everyone is subject to good and bad events. But the laws of probability mean that extreme strokes of fortune, positive or negative, occur rarely and end quickly. If you ask people (as I often do) how they make decisions, "lucky" people will talk about tuning in to information and instincts, while "unlucky" people often mention pushing away the uncomfortable feeling they were headed for trouble.
Jackie and Cleo are classic examples. They both knew that their industry was in trouble, and they both had strong hunches that they'd be laid off. Jackie reacted by clinging ever more tightly to her doomed job; Cleo started planning a different life. Each woman sensed the ship was sinking, but Jackie lashed herself to the mast and frantically swabbed the deck, while Cleo calmly launched a lifeboat.
So how do you tune in to your timekeeping impulses? Ironically, the only way to access your inner guide about the future is to fully occupy the present. By noticing everything you're feeling—physically, emotionally, and intuitively—in any given moment, you maximize your awareness of the "exquisitely refined" nonverbal timekeeper nudging your noggin. These are the strategies I've found most effective at keeping me in the right place at the right time:
1. Take a relaxed breath and exhale fully. Before inhaling again, rest in the pause between breaths. Focus on your heartbeat and the pulse in your hands, feet, and scalp. As you return to breathing normally, remain aware of your pulse throughout your body. This anchors you in the present and keeps you calm during the next steps.
2. Acknowledge that you can't change anything that's already happened. Sometimes that's a shame, but it's just plain true.
3. Accept that many things about the future are unknowable and beyond your control. Scary? Oh, yes—but again: true.
4. Recognize whatever's happening right now (you'd be amazed how often we try to deny what's going on). If the present is miserable, this step can hurt—but not nearly as much as living with the consequences of denial.
5. Pull an Eckhart Tolle: Shrink the focus of your attention to this present moment. Are you going through a divorce, bankruptcy, or similarly difficult experience? Maybe—but right now, you're just reading this. Be here now. When you plan, plan here now. Don't preemptively grapple with circumstances that don't yet exist. Living this moment in peace, tuned in to your inner timekeeper, will lay the groundwork for the best possible future.
6. Go back to sensing your pulse throughout your body (this returns you to a peaceful place if you've been unsettled), and ask yourself what you feel you should do about each situation in your life. As you begin articulating what you know or suspect about the right course of action, your body will relax. Even if things look scary, accepting the truth brings peace.
7. Follow through on any ideas you've had about preparing for your optimal future.
8. Stay alert to new hunches, and change plans accordingly.
The more often you follow these steps, the more your life will seem blessed by good luck. You'll realize you're a walking gold mine of subconscious predictive information. The more you test the validity of that information by acting on your instincts, the more accurate your predictions will become. Research shows that making and correcting missteps is the best way to develop any skill. And anticipating circumstances that might change, to avoid potential problems and seize opportunities, is very much a skill. As you pay attention to your internal timekeeper and learn from your mistakes, you may eventually hear yourself rhapsodizing, "The timing's perfect!"
That's what happened to Jackie. She spent weeks after her layoff applying for similar jobs, knowing all the while that there were none to be had. One day she finally admitted what she didn't want to know she knew: Her current job-seeking strategy was hopeless. Acknowledging this made Jackie feel oddly peaceful (since she'd known it all along). She also felt a deep sense that she'd be fine, if not in exactly the way she might have expected. Jackie decided to trust that hunch—not because she believed it but because it felt marginally better than panic.
A few days later, Jackie ran into a high school friend, Steve, a criminal defense lawyer whose practice was booming. Steve was looking for someone with financial savvy to be his CFO. Jackie's training wasn't quite on target, but they had such a pleasant conversation (partly because of Jackie's newfound mellowness) that they agreed she'd try filling the spot for a week.
That week ended up lasting indefinitely. Jackie loves her new job and appreciates that the less daunting hours mean she can live as well as work. This has improved her relationships with her husband, her two children, and her own instinctive timekeeping self. Sometimes she e-mails Cleo (who's loving Nepal) about the "amazing luck" they both had just when things looked grim. Since they're on opposite sides of the world, one usually e-mails while the other's sleeping. But they don't mind. They just keep learning new ways to make the timing perfect.
Martha Beck is the author of six books. Her most recent is Steering By Starlight (Rodale).
“I must learn to love the fool in me the one who feels too much, talks too much, takes too many chances, wins sometimes and loses often, lacks self-control, loves and hates, hurts and gets hurt, promises and breaks promises, laughs and cries”
The Short but Powerful Guide to Finding Your Passion
The joy that results in doing something you love. “The supreme accomplishment is to blur the line between work and play.” - Arnold Toynbee
by Leo Babauta
Following your passion can be a tough thing. But figuring out what that passion is can be even more elusive.
I’m lucky — I’ve found my passion, and I’m living it. I can testify that it’s the most wonderful thing, to be able to make a living doing what you love.
And so, in this little guide, I’d like to help you get started figuring out what you’d love doing. This turns out to be one of the most common problems of many Zen Habits readers — including many who recently responded to me on Twitter.
This will be the thing that will get you motivated to get out of bed in the morning, to cry out, “I’m alive! I’m feeling this, baby!”. And to scare your family members or anyone who happens to be in yelling distance as you do this.
This guide won’t be comprehensive, and it won’t find your passion for you. But it will help you in your journey to find it.
1. What are you good at? Unless you’re just starting out in life, you have some skills or talent, shown some kind of aptitude. Even if you are just starting out, you might have shown some talent when you were young, even as young as elementary school. Have you always been a good writer, speaker, drawer, organizer, builder, teacher, friend? Have you been good at ideas, connecting people, gardening, selling? Give this some thought. Take at least 30 minutes, going over this question — often we forget about things we’ve done well. Think back, as far as you can, to jobs, projects, hobbies. This could be your passion. Or you may have several things. Start a list of potential candidates.
2. What excites you? It may be something at work — a little part of your job that gets you excited. It could be something you do outside of work — a hobby, a side job, something you do as a volunteer or a parent or a spouse or a friend. It could be something you haven’t done in awhile. Again, think about this for 30 minutes, or 15 at the least. If you don’t, you’re probably shortchanging yourself. Add any answers to your list.
3. What do you read about? What have you spent hours reading about online? What magazines do you look forward to reading? What blogs do you follow? What section of the bookstore do you usually peruse? There may be many topics here — add them to the list.
4. What have you secretly dreamed of? You might have some ridiculous dream job you’ve always wanted to do — to be a novelist, an artist, a designer, an architect, a doctor, an entrepreneur, a programmer. But some fear, some self-doubt, has held you back, has led you to dismiss this idea. Maybe there are several. Add them to the list — no matter how unrealistic.
5. Learn, ask, take notes. OK, you have a list. Pick one thing from the list that excites you most. This is your first candidate. Now read up on it, talk to people who’ve been successful in the field (through their blogs, if they have them, or email). Make a list of notes of things you need to learn, need to improve on, skills you want to master, people to talk to. Study up on it, but don’t make yourself wait too long before diving into the next step.
6. Experiment, try. Here’s where the learning really takes place. If you haven’t been already, start to do the thing you’ve chosen. Maybe you already are, in which case you might be able to skip to the next step or choose a second candidate to try out. But if you haven’t been, start now — just do it. It can be in the privacy of your own home, but as quickly as possible, make it public however you can. This motivates you to improve, it gets you feedback, and your reputation will improve as you do. Pay attention to how you feel doing it — is it something you look forward to, that gets you excited, that you love to share?
7. Narrow things down. I recommend that you pick 3-5 things from your list, if it’s longer than that, and do steps 5 & 6 with them. This could take month, or perhaps you’ve already learned about and tried them all out. So now here’s what you need to ask yourself: which gets you the most excited? Which of these can produce something that people will pay for or get excited about? Which can you see yourself doing for years (even if it’s not a traditional career path)? Pick one, or two at the most, and focus on that. You’re going to do the next three steps with it: banish your fears, find the time, and make it into a career if possible. If it doesn’t work out, you can try the next thing on your list — there’s no shame in giving something a shot and failing, because it’ll teach you valuable lessons that will help you to be successful in the next attempt.
8. Banish your fears. This is the biggest obstacle for most people – self-doubt and fear of failure. You’re going to face it and banish it. First, acknowledge it rather than ignoring or denying it. Second, write it down, to externalize it. Third, feel it, and be OK with having it. Fourth, ask yourself, “What’s the worst that can happen?” Usually it’s not catastrophic. Fifth, prepare yourself for doing it anyway, and then do it. Take small steps, as tiny as possible, and forget about what might happen — focus on what actually is happening, right now. And then celebrate your success, no matter how small.
9. Find the time. Don’t have the time to pursue this passion? Make the time, dammit! If this is a priority, you’ll make the time — rearrange your life until you have the time. This might mean waking earlier, or doing it after work or during lunch, or on weekends. It will probably mean canceling some commitments, simplifying your work routing or doing a lot of work in advance (like you’re going on a vacation). Do what it takes.
10. How to make a living doing it. This doesn’t happen overnight. You need to do something, get good at it, be passionate about it. This could take months or years, but if you’re having fun, that’s what’s most important. When you get to the point where someone would pay you for it, then you’re golden — there are many ways to make a living at that point, including doing freelance or consulting work, making information products such as ebooks, writing a blog and selling advertising. In fact, I recommend you do a blog if you’re not already — it’ll help solidify your thinking, build a reputation, find people who are interested in what you do, demonstrate your knowledge and passion.
I told you this wouldn’t be easy. It’ll require a lot of reflection and soul-searching, at first, then a lot of courage and learning and experimentation, and finally a lot of commitment.
But it’s all worth it — every second, every ounce of courage and effort. Because in the end, you’ll have something that will transform your life in so many ways, will give you that reason to jump out of bed, will make you happy no matter how much you make.
I hope you follow this guide and find success, because I wish on you nothing less than finding your true passion.
“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” - Confucius
Are you working on a memoir? We can move our projects along with these simple strategies:
1) Get focused. Being clear on your concept and purpose is a large part of the battle. If you aren’t sure of your focus, jot down the first thing that comes to mind and get started. It’s okay if it evolves as you proceed.
2) Set a schedule and deadline. You don’t have to write every day, or finish one hundred pages a month. If you can only devote an hour on Sunday afternoons to your writing, make that sacred time and stick to it. Making a personal commitment to having something to show people by a specific date, like your birthday next year, can speed things along. Especially if you tell them about it.
3) Blast through a draft. This may be the hardest thing for most people to do. Just write. Don’t look back. Don’t even think of rereading or editing until you’ve written at least twenty more pages. Otherwise, you could die with seven pages that you wrote seventy times.
4) Get help. You may not be able to hire a high profile ghost writer, but you can find a writing group, take a class, or read books on writing. You may be able to afford a few coaching sessions, or help from a reasonably priced editor. Follow these guidelines and you can follow the example of Paul Ohrman, who wrote his 286 page autobiography, Living to Serve, in just under two years. His second volume, a World War II memoir, took even less time.
Write now: set aside an hour and write a purpose statement for your project, and set up a writing schedule. If you already have a purpose statement and schedule, spend the hour writing. If you are still searching for a concept, do some freewriting to uncover one.
"Bear in mind, if you are going to amount to anything, that your success does not depend upon the brilliance and the impetuosity with which you take hold, but upon the ever lasting and sanctified bull doggedness with which you hang on after you have taken hold. " ~ Dr. A. B. Meldrum
"When the archer shoots for no particular prize, he has all his skills; when he shoots to win a brass buckle, he is already nervous; when he shoots for a gold prize, he goes blind, sees two targets, and is out of his mind. His skill has not changed, but the prize divides him. He cares! He thinks more of winning than of shooting, and the need to win drains him of power." ~ Tranxu
"As coaches we know that goals are important, yet so is being detached from the outcome. Since attachments, especially compulsive, unthinking ones, are so unattractive."
28 Principles of Attraction by Thomas Leonard From Principle #2: Top 10 Ways to Unhook from the Future
You are most attractive when you're living in the present moment, not living in the future or striving for it. But how does one keep focused on today, yet still attract a better future? This Top 10 List will help you make this important change in how you live and think.
1. Give up the goals which are seductive. We all have things we want to achieve or acquire and nothing is wrong with this. But when these types of goals get us worked up to the point that we become more passionate about the future than we are about today, then it's easy to get into trouble. Whether it's a goal to get married, make a million dollars, change the world or become somebody, these kinds of goals can lead one down a seductive path where the future is far more interesting than the present. As a result, you lose the present, which is where the real gifts are.
2. Perfect the present. When your life isn't as you want it to be, the first thing we tend to do is to set a goal for a better future. Not bad, but if you'd take the same energy and perfect the present right now, you'd probably attract a better future instead of trying to acquire it. Very different approach. The idea is that a better future will find you when you have made the most of the present you've been given. The present is a superb teacher; the future is a seducer.
3. Stop watching television. People get hooked by advertising messages -- they cause us to want and 'need' more, which is kinda fun, but usually very expensive, given we give up our present quality of life in order to afford that item, tangible or intangible. The tendency is to acquire a lifestyle and confuse that with having a life. If you stop watching television, the future won't be as seductive, because your present will be more appealing.
4. Stop motivating yourself. Positive self talk, affirmations, external motivation and other 'force' measures can be very, very effective. But they tend to be expensive because they put the blinders on and turn you into a horse running on a track. Better to enjoy all of what you already have to the point that you don't need to change a thing. At that point, a better future will find you, without the expense of motivation.
5. Stop trying to become a better person. Give up. I've coached too many people trying to become a better person that they lose their humanness. Ego is a very, very positive part of you. Faults are rich and wonderful teachers. Mistakes are golden. Weaknesses are usually just hidden strengths. So, stop trying to improve, declare the game over and get to know 100% of YOU, just as you are. Stop trying to change yourself and you'll start living much more in the present. The future does not need you to improve, but it does need you to evolve. You can only evolve when you are in the present, not striving for a better future. This is a tricky one, so stay with the it and work it out for yourself.
6. Stop over-planning. I don't mean not to plan for your financial future or to give up your important goals. But it's tempting for some personality types to think that fully laid-out plans and perfectly identified goals are the right thing to do. In fact, they may simply be a mind exercise to reduce risk and fear. Identify a vision or sketch out a plan and then learn-as-you-go, but learn quickly. Better to become a rapid in-the-moment learner than become an expert planner. Life is accelerating so quickly, that most planning skills are irrelevant by the time you master them.
7. Stop hoping. Life may improve for you, but not because you're hoping. A popular bumper sticker says it all: "Since I gave up hope, I feel so much better." If you're living in hope for something to occur or improve, you're simply escaping from the present. We all need an escape from the present from time to time; just don't turn hope (aka the future) into your personal ZIP CODE.
8. Give up future-based possibility. There is a lot that's possible in life and many of the best things that will happen to you during life will be things that you never saw as even possible. But does expanding your thinking to consider what's possible make these things happen more often or sooner? The jury is out on this one. But the idea is that if you see the possibility in the present, instead of what's possible in the future, you'll be a lot better off and more attractive.
9. Stop hanging out with strivers. Strivers can be very fun to be with, but the net result is usually a drain of your energy. Strivers need lots of encouragement and energy from others to keep up their pace. Find folks who are happy with themselves and who are involved in creative endeavours which express their values instead of seeking to succeed.
10. Stop using if/then formulas. Whenever I hear someone start out a sentence with "if" or "when," I know they are living in the future. Entrepreneurial types, being optimists, are really good at this. The trick is to take out the words "if" and "when" from your vocabulary. That will help you stay in the present and not set you up to have what you want to occur be conditional or hinge on another person/event, such as "When I get my degree, I will make more money." Better to say something like, "I am really, really enjoying my studies." See the difference in orientation? Want more insight and guidance into how to be attractive? CoachVille's Pro Coach Membership (only $99) provides much more, direct from Thomas Leonard, on this and 49 OTHER chapters. See below for more info. Comment at the Best of Thomas blog to share how even just the above helps you.
This morning, Michael Epp of Bowen Island, B.C., wrote: "'Just take away everything that doesn't look like a horse.' That's what the sculptors say. Which implies that as long as you avoid all the obvious mistakes, you'll end up with something good. By definition, perfection is merely an absence of error. Is there a list of mistakes for artists to avoid making?"
Thanks, Michael. Your note caught my attention because it had some wonderful assumptions. The horse concept is a vital one because it stresses creation by reduction, in other words the removal of material. This removal does not imply mistakes, but rather the vacuum created to disclose the horse in question. The other three prime suspects in your note are the words "good," "perfection," and "error." In the art game, all are subjective and mighty arbitrary. Nevertheless, I'm on your question like a fat kid on a Smartie.
Don't assume there is only one way. Don't assume that mistakes are a bad thing. Don't think for one minute that everyone agrees with what "good" is. Don't fall into the trap of thinking perfection is attainable or even desirable. Don't assume the existence of error. Art is not based on a catechism.
Art is something else. It is, for better or for worse, the bending of personal will. And while some artists may attempt standards such as academic standards, commercial standards or intellectual standards, there will always be significant creators who don't give a hoot about standards at all.
The main thing you need to think about is process. Your process. Individual decisions cannot be taken from some list. They are the result of your previous moves, including your errors. They are also the result of your noted winnings. This is how you-as-a-person becomes you-as-an-artist.
Funnily, in youth, we are often rigid. We tend to think there is some secret, some Holy Grail that will have great art appear on our easels. We may even dream that fame and fortune will arise from this correctness. As we grow older, we realize just how limiting were our earlier conceptions. Art is something else. Art is fluid, transmutable, open ended, never complete, and never perfect. Art is an event.
PS: "Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep." (Scott Adams)
Esoterica: There are two kinds of students--recipe takers and recipe fighters. The former listen to the instructor, try to get it "right," and often succeed in doing so. The latter strike out on their own, pay the price of rugged individualism, and fail often. In art, it's all about failure. In art, the journey outshines the destination. In art, mistakes are golden.
Mitch Ditkoff sent a message to the members of Create! Innovate! Get Out of the Cave! -------------------- Subject: HAPPY ACCIDENTS
OK. Here's one of the little known secrets of innovation. Much of it happens "by accident." In other words, what you start out to accomplish doesn't quite manifest, but while you're in the act of attempting to manifest it, something ELSE appears. Or, more correctly, you SEE something you did not expect. Innovators (ever curious, attentive, alert) NOTICE that something and DO something about it. Other people blow off the moment as a mistake. "By your stumbling, the world is perfected." Sri Aurobind http://tinyurl.com/mnu2zx
"Sooner or later, those who win are those who think they can." ~ Richard Bach
Your TQ Training Challenge for Thursday, October 8, 2009:
Speak Enthusiastically -- Motivate and Inspire Others... -- Did You Hear What You Just Said?
What you say and how you say it have a significant affect on both you and your listener. Choose the words that convey the most positive and powerful influence possible.
Speak in a positive, powerful and uplifting manner for the rest of the day. Then notice how it changes the way you experience the world and how you feel at the end of the day.
"Our attitudes control our lives. Attitudes are a secret power working twenty-four hours a day, for good or bad. It is of paramount importance that we know how to harness and control this great force."~ Tom Blandi
Mike's 10 Commandments to Writing Success/Complete MIKE’S TEN COMMANDMENTS TO WRITING SUCCESS: A NO-FAIL APPROACH/Part 1 By Michael P. Geffner
These principles represent the best advice I can give anyone interested in making writing a career. Study them, learn them, and, most of all, do them. You'll be amazed by the results.
1) Be a letter writer, not a resume sender. Resumes get shoved into the bottomless pit of file cabinets or dumped into the black holes of wastebaskets. Learn instead to be an aggressive composer of letters, though not sending these so often to the same editor that you become increasingly annoying. There's a fine line between persistence and being a nuisance. Don't cross that line, lest you risk turning people off who control your fate in the industry. In your letters, sell yourself like a salesperson, with you, of course, being the valuable commodity: who you are, what makes you different and better, what passions you have, how eager you are to work hard, and why you-and not someone else--should be working for the publication. The stationery and envelope should be of the highest quality (first impressions count!) and smaller than standard letter size (the small size virtually guarantees you'll be put on the top of the pile by the secretary). The letter itself should be flawless and tightly constructed, and the envelope should always be marked "personal and confidential" (to pass the gatekeeper). Your singular theme should be this: I know I can make a difference at your publication. You need people like me. You must use me.
2) Come up with five solid ideas, things hopefully you're passionate about and expert in, and write a couple of paragraphs on each (exactly what the story is and how you'd be attacking it). Make sure these "pitch letters" are well written (the editor will be judging your writing talent every step of the way) and targeted at the appropriate publications, ones publishing similar type stories. Fitting your story to the right publication is key. It should be as natural as a hand slipping smoothly in a glove.
3) Timing is everything. Spot trends and hit publications quickly with story ideas based on these, before someone else beats you to the punch. The hot item of the day approached uniquely is always a great way to get into print. Believe me, a well-timed pitch is gold!
4) Establish as personal a contact as possible with editors. Try to establish a phone connection at the very least, but face time is infinitely better and should without question be your goal. It's harder to reject a real live breathing person than a faceless name at the top of another letter. In fact, in your letters to editors, write a sentence about how you'll be calling on a specific day to discuss your "wonderful" ideas. This opens the door for your phone call. It won't be easy. It's like telemarketing at this point. But remember: Every rejection puts you closer to a sale. Though you'll have to pass some gate keepers to get to the top editors, always be professional, polite but pleasantly forceful. And if anyone asks what your business is with this editor, say it's personal. I mean, let's face it, your career is personal. Also, as a way around secretaries and assistants, you can call before 9 AM and after 5 PM-when they aren't there. And be prepared what you'll say if the editor actually gets on the line. Don't ramble. Get to the point and get off. Less is better. Make contact and leave on a high note. You want editors liking you enough to take your phone calls, not dreading the next one.
5) Study and immerse yourself in the marketplace. You need to get in the game to win it. Read media columns and industry magazines, join writing clubs, scan the net for resource sites, buy market books, get insider newsletters. Know the business inside out. Talk the talk and walk the walk. Editor and peers will know a professional when they see one.
6) Read what the best writers in your particular genre are doing. If you're a magazine writer, get yourself a copy of the annual anthology Best American Magazine Writing. If you're a short story writer, pick up The Best American Short Stories. See how it's done at its best. It'll be a great guide for what YOU should be doing. And read not for enjoyment but to learn. Study the writer's art and craft, and even try to imitate it. In pop speak, this is called Modeling.
7) Networking is nearly as important as talent. This took me a long time to understand--and believe. I always felt that the talent alone would get me to where I wanted to go. Not true. I found that out the hard way. You need to know people. A lot of them. My advice: Write "networking letters" to major editors (at the top of the masthead), not asking for work (never do that in a networking letter!) but simply for advice on how to succeed as a writer. I mean, these are the industry leaders you'll be contacting. They know a ton of inside info you don't, as well as a ton of other influential people in the business. Try to arrange a face-to-face meeting, between 15 minutes to a half-hour long at THEIR convenience in their office. You'll not only likely get some wonderful advice but will also establish yourself with a power broker. If he or she likes you enough and believes in you, he or she will likely consider you for future or current work (without you ever asking), or might refer you to another power broker. In other words, it multiplies naturally. One contact could lead to six. And after every visit, write a thank you note for them both graciously giving you their precious time and imparting some great information. Networking can also include your friends and family, who may have contacts in the field. Don't be afraid to reach out for help. You'll be amazed how many people will reach right back.
8) Do something toward furthering your writing career every single day. Read a book on writing. Write a pitch letter. Apply for a writing job. Set up an interview for a writing job. Write a networking letter to an editor. Arrange a meeting with an editor. Read a book by a great writer (not so much for entertainment but analyzing what the author does to achieve a certain effect). Read magazines and newspaper articles about the industry in media/publishing sections (This is a wonderful way to find the names of top agents). The thing is, you need to be proactive and be it daily. Action breeds action! It also adds up: A single "positive" every day builds into 365 in a year!
9) Write every single day, no matter what. Your mind is like a muscle. It needs a regular workout to stay strong and sharp. It's like the man who asks someone on the street, "How do I get to Carnegie Hall?" And the other man says, "Simple. Practice, practice, practice."
10) Don't give up. The secret to ultimate success of any kind, I'm convinced, is persevering in the face of repeated rejection. If a newspaper/magazine/publishing house/literary agency doesn't accept you at first glance, try them again six months later. Editors, people, and philosophies change frequently. If you're not the cup of tea for one, you might be for another. The trick to succeeding as a writer, I feel, is having the strength and conviction to jump hurdles. Never take "no" for a final answer. Simply consider it the start for coming up with a more effective approach. Bottom-line is, if you write well, have great ideas and are well connected, success is definitely yours!
"All great masters are chiefly distinguished by the power of adding a second, a third, and perhaps a fourth step in a continuous line. Many a man had taken the first step. With every additional step you enhance immensely the value of your first." ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
Susan Swartz says: September 26, 2009 at 11:37 am I am stuck creatively at the moment, and have been for some time. Don’t know quite how to get unstuck. Usually organizing paints, yarns, beads helps: just fondling the textures, viewing the colors and visualizing but this time it hasn’t worked. Nor has nature, which has gone through summer and now into leaves falling and chillier weather. I just can’t seem to pull it together: I am 2 swaps behind in artquilt postcards with a 3rd coming due; I started a jewelry business and was excited enough to buy (and organize) boxes full of new materials, but have an empty etsy shop. I went to Bead & Button and came home with lots of new projects and ideas I was excited about but have stalled on those. I keep cutting out photos and printing out projects but nothing grabs me. So I’m left with knitting a safe baby sweater and a scarf just to keep my hands busy. Help! susan w says: September 26, 2009 at 11:37 am If I had ……. _____ would have happened. If I had….. ____ wouldn’t have happened. The tough part is recognizing those IF signs and acting with intention. No regrets, just lessons learned. Mary Ellen says: September 26, 2009 at 11:51 am I find setting up a “play date” with another creative person gets me going again. WE can play with making art, by seeing art in shows, museums, or even prowling bookstores and by visiting art supply stores. Once we get started again, everything stars to look like an art supply store to me! Then I can drag my treasures back into my studio to feed my hungry art-beast.
Jan Scarborough says: September 26, 2009 at 11:56 am I keep a journal (or should I now say journals) of notes, sketches and ideas. When I’m stuck creatively, going through these usually gets me going again. Lillian Mederak says: September 26, 2009 at 11:59 am I do get in a creative rut once in a while too. What works for me is doing something totally different….just forget about it for a while Read a book…. get together with a friend Your mind just needs a break! Lillian Suzanne B says: September 26, 2009 at 12:07 pm For me, viewing work of others is always inspiring. Sometimes, the best source for me, is just looking at advertistments in magazines. I notice color combinations, placement of text, font style and size,etc and try to study the ads that really grab me and make me want to look at them. ann rund says: September 26, 2009 at 12:21 pm One way I have found to get “unstuck” is to pick a word and force myself to dwell on it and turn it into art. Example: shelter was a word I used to come up with a watercolor painting of all my hats, and a small assemblage in house shape with some personal family memories inside.. One work= 2 art projects. Lotus Vele says: September 26, 2009 at 12:23 pm My favorite way to get “unstuck” is to relax with my favorite music and a pile of my favorite art books. When there’s chaos at home, I use my ipod and tune out everyone. lol… My favorite and most used prompt for my journaling is to describe/draw my present surroundings, what I am doing at the moment and how I am feeling. When the entry is done, I always end with the date and occasionally time. Carol Wiebe says: September 26, 2009 at 12:47 pm I like to grab a book of poetry from a favorite poet or two, get a warm cup of my favorite beverage, and start reading. Poetry is so full of visual images, and wonderful word plays, that things start happening in my mind, art-wise, that I want to express and play with. Gail White says: September 26, 2009 at 12:53 pm My favorite way to start creativity rolling is to just start. Grab some colored pencils and paper and color, just like I did when I was a little girl, such fun. I always like to remind people that creativity is not nesessarily inate, it can emerge at any time. Patricia G says: September 26, 2009 at 12:54 pm well, I find that signing up for a one or two day workshop does wonders for me. First I’ll google the artist and see if I can figure out what will be taught and garner some ideas which I jot on random envelopes and scraps. That leads me to sketching ideas for pieces in my sketchbook. I will find ideas forming and will gather my bits and pieces because I hate to use the instructor’s pics and will use my things during the workshop. Pretty soon my head is buzzing with ideas and I’m getting excited. This way, for me, the workshop will be successful and I will come home with things that reflect my style and will be ready to continue working on them and branching out. Connie Vickers says: September 26, 2009 at 12:54 pm When I’m stuck, checking website/blogs that inspire me is a big help, but if I really want to produce something something soon, I leave home. There is something about picking up my backpack and a bottle of water that makes it real. I don’t even have to go far I just can’t be at home where I can think about laundry, cleaning, whatever. Anyplace seems to work. Parks, downtown, historic spots, museums, anyplace away from the house. Then I get out the sketchbook and start. Amazing. Linda Cameron says: September 26, 2009 at 12:56 pm When I get “stuck” I clean my craft table. There is often an unfinished project underneath all the piles of stuff, and just the process of putting things away starts to install new ideas in my head. Once my place is clean and shiny, if I still don’t have anything, I get my card maps out and close my eyes and choose one. Then it all seems to come together and I make at least 4 of whatever card map I chose. I also play in my journal, doing background pages ahead of myself, and adding collage pictures here and there as I go. Sometimes I just have to accept that there’s nothing going on, turn out the light, and go watch TV (but of course, I’m reading stamping magazines during the commercials!)! Tilly says: September 26, 2009 at 1:04 pm When I am stuck, I ‘treat’ myself to a new magazine..( and , yes, I do have lots of them !!!) I go out for a coffee and read the magazine, all the while thinking what have I got at home that I can use to make their ideas my own… at present I am into card making so I would buy a card making mag and think about all the ways I could change the creations to make it my own, using MY SUPPLIES… forces my brain to think. Copying is easy, creating takes a lot of brain power…. ready set go!!!.cheers, Peggy Schroder says: September 26, 2009 at 1:28 pm Being ’stuck’ has never been a big problem for me. It’s usually just the opposite. To answer the question in just one word it would be ‘Pictures’. I clip, tear, photograph, I save every picture that inspires me in some way. Of course that also includes books. The pictures use to go into a notebook until I realized how ridiculous that was! Next, I had A drawer called “Inspiration” that I would dump them into. Needless to say that has grown into many drawers…loosely categorized. All I do is open a drawer…grab a handful and thumb through the pics and before I get to the bottom of the stack I’m off and running. Usually in more than one direction! Lynne says: September 26, 2009 at 1:32 pm When I am stuck I like to spend some time in fun, funky galleries and see what others are doing. Often, another artist’s work and the way they “see” will inspire my own work. Sandra says: September 26, 2009 at 1:33 pm I like to play the “What if??” game when I get stuck. What if I do….. or maybe if I….. I wonder what would happen if I…. Susanne Willert says: September 26, 2009 at 1:45 pm Sometimes a good night’s sleep will get me unstuck. Or walking away from something I am stuck on for awhile. I will see inspiration in random places when I am not trying so hard. Sometimes, I find that just playing helps unstick me. No purpose in mind, just toying with my materials. I usually generate too many ideas when I am feeling creative. So I try and bank surplus ideas for when I may not have any inspiration, but I do have time to complete a project. I do beadwork (as well as rubber stamp) and I have little zippered pouches that I put in ideas for my next project. So if I am stuck, I just pull out one of those. For other things, I jot some general notes, or a diagram for later use. Cheryl L. says: September 26, 2009 at 1:51 pm When I am stuck, I go Googling…I am in an altered book RR where the owner provided words – pick a word and create your spread around that word. So, I went Googling and explored the meaning of each word (even if I knew it), and from that exercise, my spread was born. I’ve done this for other projects as well…it works for me! julie m says: September 26, 2009 at 1:52 pm I have limited play/creative time but I spend part of it on the internet. Well, actually I spend too much of it on the internet, but as I browse I keep bookmarks for the sites that really speak to me. When I am stuck in a rut and can’t come up with any ideas, I go to that list and randomly roam around. I always find something that gets me going. My favorite way of getting inspired, however, is to take a walk in one of the green spaces or along the rail trail. Nature always makes me feel so good that my mind mellows out and things just flow. Susan says: September 26, 2009 at 1:57 pm When I get creatively stuck, if it is at night I go away from the work and “sleep on it”. If it is earlier in the day, sometimes I will go for a cuppa (coffee or tea) or if I can’t work at all I will try to get myself to do something mundain instead of creative, and then once I am in work mode I will have another shot at it. Lisa H. says: September 26, 2009 at 2:01 pm I don’t remember where I saw it (someplace on the internet), but I borrowed an idea from someone a while back and it helps me when I’m feeling bored creatively – I have about a 40″-long “clothesline” (string, really) thumbtacked to the wall above my workspace, and I hang things there (on paperclips or clothespins) that have caught my eye – pictures from magazines, pieces of fabric, color swatches from the paint section of the hardware store – if I need a kickstart, I look through them; sometimes take things down and maybe jumble them around on the table, pairing things up or making a sort of collage-y grouping – sometimes the strangest combination of images, textures, and colors will leap out at me and get my juices flowing. Barbara Gregory-Pearlman says: September 26, 2009 at 2:12 pm Whenever I get stuck, I do one of two things: (1) I pick a pile of chaos, which is not hard to find since I am not the neatest and I am a pile-maker, and begin to sort through it. Once I start, I am bound to come across some unfinished projects, some pieces of handpainted papers I had forgotten about, a few rubber stamps I had misplaced, or even a bag of goodies I had purchased at Michael’s or JoAnne’s and never got to use. (2)Grab a scissor and go through some old magazines, any kind. It never fails to inspire me to cut out some words, some lettering that has caught my attention, a color background on an ad, an optical design, a color combination I’d never used before, etc. I try to put these things I’ve cut out into a large box or envelope, but I find them all over the house since I’ll also discover some ideas in the newspaper and just tear them out and drop them onto a table or stick them in a drawer. This technique never fails to get my creative juices spraying and me back to work. Give it a try! Kathleen Loose says: September 26, 2009 at 2:18 pm Sometimes when I’m in a creative rut the thing to get me out of it is a few hours of cleaning the house. Generally the kind of cleaning that doesn’t require much cerebral activity … so that my mind is free to just go … and when I’m finished cleaning I often have the energy and ideas to create something. And if I don’t, well at least part of the house is cleaner! Cindy says: September 26, 2009 at 2:22 pm Sometimes if I need a new idea for making a card I look thru the Stampin’ Up catalog for some inspiration. Sometimes I just sit there and think and think and think….hmmmmm. Mary Anne Hawkins says: September 26, 2009 at 2:26 pm Sometimes when I absolutely cannot come up with a new or creative idea, I pick out something I haven’t worked on in quite a while. For example, if I need a new supply of dyed or painted paper, I set up my work space the day before I’m going to do it. I just get it all ready, with everything at hand, then when I’m ready to go, everything is all set to start and I just sit down and start in. If the thought of digging out everyhing you will need for a project seems too much, try this one–it really works for me. Naomi DiVincenzo says: September 26, 2009 at 2:41 pm I grab one of my old magazines that I have set aside for later. They have lots of earmarked pages that I ‘plan to check out later’ and then forgot about for a while. I do alot of card making and book making, but I also work an average of 42 hrs a week, so I have quite a collections of ‘try later’ techniques waiting for me. Timaree (freebird) says: September 26, 2009 at 3:02 pm I’ll give some prompts as there are already so many ways listed to get past a block. Prompt 1: Make a deck of cards for the alphabet. Prompt 2: Pick a card from prompt one and use it to draw an object that starts with that letter or write a poem or story with the subject being an object that starts with that letter. Prompt 3: Pick a card and then pick a color that starts with that letter. Use it to paint either the background to a picture or journal page. Hope you have fun. If it doesn’t get you going you are really stuck and then you might just go with blue and make a blue-whoo page. susun says: September 26, 2009 at 3:25 pm Being stuck is my natural state at the moment and the only remedy that works, no matter how blah I’m feeling, is to rearrange my living space. Sometimes it’s furniture, sometimes a minor tweak like sorting my bookshelves by color or redoing the family pictures but, no matter what, I always feel jumpstarted and ready to begin something new. That something may be more of a challenge but I’m ready! Molly says: September 26, 2009 at 3:55 pm When I am stuck on a project I leave it behind and go storming through the house looking for anything and everything than needs to be thrown away, given away or donated. Then I drive it to the dump. Our dump even has a “gift house” where you can put things that are too good to be thrown, not good enough to donate, but things that someone might want or could use. Then when I come home I have some “physic breathing room” and I am usually able to make great strides on my project! Works like a charm. Mindy says: September 26, 2009 at 4:17 pm Usually when all else fails, I jump on the treadmill and get moving. As I zone out and mull over whatever creative problem I am stuck on, things inevitably bubble up and sometimes I even have to stop to jot down new ideas. Cheryl says: September 26, 2009 at 4:33 pm Since I’m a quilter, when I get stuck I tend to look through my fabrics. Or sometimes I look through magazines, books, or patterns to get ideas. Or I talk it over with my quilting buddies. Or set it aside and work on something else. Jill Badonsky says: September 26, 2009 at 4:50 pm I go for a walk, meditate, listen to music, or do one of the prompts in my book… which by the way I’m honored to have reviewed here. Thanks so much, Wisdom Woman… don’t put me in the drawing – I have 50 copies… actually please pick TWO names and I’ll send the second copy to the second winner. ~Jill Badonsky Meredith Resnick says: September 26, 2009 at 5:17 pm I love Jill’s book (and Jill, too). She has an amazing, relateable way of connecting and communicating. Yup, she basically rocks. Fran Podlesney says: September 26, 2009 at 5:48 pm I get creativity challanged more than I would like. Then I turn to old art magazines or just talk to my art buddies and sometimes the inspiration comes. Or, just ask the grandchildren if they need something and sometimes my muse will come running back! Darlene Clark says: September 26, 2009 at 6:04 pm Thank you for recommending this book. What a perfect Christmas gift for my artist friends! Your recommendation last year of “When Wanderers Cease to Roam” also encouraged a couple of hits on Amazon for gifts. Jennifer VanSchoyck says: September 26, 2009 at 6:04 pm WRITING PROMPTS You are all alone, house-sitting in the country. A loud crash sound comes from the basement so you…… Write a haiku poem about birds Write about something completely normal and boring, but write it as if it was magical and unusual barbara says: September 26, 2009 at 6:30 pm Most times when I get stuck I clean off my worktable and rearrange my supplies and try to finish at least one of the unfinished projects I find there. I have a tendency to “start” projects, then go off and start another before I have finished the last one. But my favorite way is to grab my camera and take a walk around the block, and shoot pics of the birds, the neighbors pets, trees and shadows, cracks in the sidewalk…everyday ordinary things. By the time I get home I am excited to get them onto the computer and something usually sparks and I am unstuck with ideas pouring forth. wendy says: September 26, 2009 at 6:47 pm When I’m stuck in a rut (like I have been recently), I like to peruse craft books in areas I’m not active for inspiration. For example, I don’t do pottery, but I recently picked up 2 books from the library (one on plates, the other on cups) and was immediately struck by several pieces. I could see cards, collages, jewelry – all inspired by the works in these books. Marcia says: September 26, 2009 at 7:25 pm I call this period a “dearth” and when I get stuck in a dearth I do a few things…1.) go thru my extensive library of books i.e. art,craft creativity books and sometimes go to the library or bookstore 2.)start drawing…my dogs, my desk objects,my partner…anything to get myself going 3.) Meditate..I sit still, try to let my brain go blank then go for a walk with my camera and take photographs of rocks, trees all my surroundings then come back and use them to create. Lisa says: September 26, 2009 at 8:54 pm When I’m stuck in a rut I like to do a craft project with my 8 year old daughter. Her creativity and her lack of inhibition inspires me. She does what she loves and works intuitively without giving a thought about what others think or if it’s “right” or “wrong”. She creates art for the pure joy of it and reminds me what it’s all about. I try to work like her and it usually gets me through a rut. Lynn says: September 26, 2009 at 9:26 pm I went to an Outdoor Art Fair today with another artist friend for inspiration, to see what’s new & chat with familiar artists. Then, went back to her place to create & craft with paper & paint. Doing art & crafting with a friend gets the creative energy flowing. Ideas constantly go round in my head. Bev B says: September 27, 2009 at 12:02 am I like to buy a a new 8 pack of ‘Crayola’ crayons and color in coloring books. My other crayons work too, felts, pencils..whatever. I call them all my ‘crayons’, which drives my art friends crazy. But I do love coloing books. Bev janie says: September 27, 2009 at 12:12 am my creative muse seems to be out for lunch lately … but I know that all I need to do is bring my granddaughter Bellona over for a visit and she will help me find the most interesting things in my art room to ‘create’ with … maybe that is where my muse is … back in my childhood waiting for me!! Carol says: September 27, 2009 at 2:16 am there is nothing better than taking a class, maybe not related to your craft, it can really kick start the brain. Yesterday I was teaching a jewellery class at a crafting day and had a few minutes to have a look what other tutors where doing and noticed some needle work on fabric going on that would translate into my beadwork. On the drive home there were all sorts of new ideas tumbling around in my head..they might not get out but that is another story… Anonymous says: September 27, 2009 at 5:15 am What makes most artists professional is the fact they work on something whether they are inspired or not. Plus there’s often a deadline involved. This drives them even more. Sometimes it’s easy & sometimes it’s hard. So when I am stuck, I just do it. Some of us need to discipline ourselves. If one was in an art class or workshop one would simply start the project, with no expectations of a masterpiece. So trying a new technique or material might help. Mavis Mimi L says: September 27, 2009 at 5:35 am I dip into my stash of magazines, tearing out images or just pages of color, to add to my image folders. Sometimes an idea for a collage surfaces. I also have a large floor-to-ceiling image board, similar to the clothesline idea mentioned above. Ann says: September 27, 2009 at 6:22 am I get out some of my 3yo craft stuff and we’ll do a collage type project or a paint project together and his enthusiasm and creativity usually inspires me just by looking at the colours or items he choses to put together or by what he creates and the story he tells me about the item. They seem to see the world in such a clearer light than adults and it helps to unblock my ebbs in mojo! Maggie says: September 27, 2009 at 7:24 am When I’m stuck in a rut I try to take on the mindset of someone I think could solve this problem or heave me out of this rut. When I’m trying to paint or draw I ask myself how would DaVinci do this, what would Matisse do here etc… It’s also helpful with writing as in how would Hemingway end this story? What would Shakespeare think of this character? How would Salinger make this person more sympathetic? When we get out of our own limited minds and experiences and open up to all the wisdom of the masters who have come before us it frees us from our own limitations and opens us up to new possibilities. Maggie Cecilia Swatton says: September 27, 2009 at 7:43 am I would love to see the responses to this topic collected — reading thru them is a delight! I just returned from a long road trip, which included a visit to the Corning Glass Museum in Corning, NY. I was looking for inspiration for abstract painting compositions — and I found them there. I took lots of photos that in most cases were tight close-ups of sections of the glass artforms on display. The photos themselves won’t be used in my art, but the captured designs will be springboards of inspiration for a long time to come. I’ve had the same experience when visiting Grounds for Sculpture in the Trenton, NJ, area. I don’t work in glass or in sculpture, and perhaps that’s the reason that these two artforms inspire me. Cecilia
A lot of stuff has been written about writer's block, mainly because writers write. At the same time, there's been a surprising lack of guidance in the parallel condition of painter's block, mainly because painters paint. While many fight it daily and some never experience it at all, I always thought I might try to do something about the shortfall. Here are a few thoughts:
The sheer size and daunting length of a novel do not equate to a small easel painting that may take only a short time. Painters, identifying bite-sized projects suited to their current spans of concentration, can go from one work to another, randomly or in rapid sequence. Short-duration projects are block beaters. Painters can take wisdom from prolific haiku masters. Reducing individual project size compounds satisfaction and helps stickhandle the way. Rather than three medium-sized paintings a month, think of 30 small ones. Smaller works are more readily chuckable.
Another block beater is the "Working Without Plan" system. Blocks often occur in the planning stage and ideas get aborted before the brush hits the canvas. Just as writers learn to start writing before they know what they're writing, painters need to squeeze out and simply begin.
Further, blocks occur through the commonplace error of letting the cat out of the bag. Verbalization eviscerates desire. Talking blocks action. It's been my persistent observation that mute artists are more consistently productive than verbal ones.
Then there's the tyranny of the jaded brain. "Been there, done that, got the t-shirt" haunts both the mature and the overeducated. This form of ennui requires a reinvestment in innocence, a return to the childlike view and a simple commitment to play. Not easy for some, but doable. Just as the block itself can be a self-delusory avoidance activity, the release to play is just another self-delusion needed for creative growth.
Painter's block is a kind of creative blindness. Fortunately a temporary disability, it obscures the limitless depth of human invention. The reasons for the blindness vary from artist to artist, but all forms can be neutralized, if not beaten, by rest, change, action, going smaller, going kiddie, and being quiet.
PS: "The block is an entirely imaginary, self-inflating disease afflicting both nothing-to-say professionals and not-knowing-how-to-say-it amateurs." (Ray Robertson, novelist)
Esoterica: Page Fright--Tools, Tricks and Fetishes of Famous Writers, by Harry Bruce, is the latest book to probe these mysteries. He thinks creative folks need to make a leap of faith and begin to feel that nothing but the successful execution of their chosen art can deliver true happiness. Seeing our art as "important" can both stymie and empower us. If day-to-day happiness is important to you, the theory goes, not conquering these stupid blocks invites a perennial state of misery.
"When you see a thing clearly in your mind, your creative "success mechanism" within you takes over and does the job much better than you could do it by conscious effort or "willpower." ~ Maxwell Maltz
Jill asked us to write about how we would use the muses to help ourself or a client:
Spills- I would ask the client to imagine not caring about the end result, to just do the process for the fun of it, to feel the joy in watching their unique gift unfold before their eyes. I would ask them to be more loving and gentle with themselves. I might guide them through writing a poem about their perfectionism or about self-love.
Audacity- I would have to work on this myself as my audacity has only been used in appropriate situations. ;-> In most situations, I am very fearful of others’ judgements about me. I like that Jill (as Audacity) says “being genuine frees others who need a beacon to guide them” and “Our consequent power dwarfs the effect of opinions, criticism and negativity.” I also like the example of Madonna, reinventing herself. I would also mention MJ and the Beatles. I will meditate with the intent of absorbing that audacious Beatle energy. I will be an inspiration to others (someday). I realize I am already becoming more audacious and helping others will only give me more audacity.
"Focus on one goal at a time. If you want healing, financial success, better health, a new career, love, a new house or peace – your goal can come true. Do one thing every day that will help you achieve your dreams."
Yesterday, Raymond Kowalski of Cleveland, Ohio, wrote: "A woman in my classes refuses to take suggestions. She likes the way things are and says she doesn't need improving. She says she doesn't have time to learn basics--composition, color theory, design, technique. She gets excited watching a demo, then ignores what she might have learned. She devotes a lot of time to her art, but she's not really improving. I'm at a loss to help her. Any thoughts?"
Thanks, Raymond. I've had the runaround from the same woman. It's quite endemic these days, with all the talk of freedom of expression and painting from the heart. All this heart stuff is one of the main reasons there's so much substandard art around. It's enough to make you think it doesn't matter.
Accepting that many folks are just in it for the fun of pushing paint around, here are a few things you can do to get the girl to raise her standards:
Without focusing on her, give short, low-expectation exercises that run against people's standard repertoire. Make them time sensitive (finish in twenty minutes) or media limiting (use only three colours). While telling students they can go their own sweet way if they wish, make the exercises fun and be prepared to give out cigars. Draw your students in with a sense of exploration and excitement. Give them the idea they've nothing to lose.
It's a fact of life that some people don't want to learn. But I don't believe in just coming out and telling people their art is poor. You have to let them discover that for themselves. A useful ploy is to praise the work for whatever virtues you can find in it, however slim, then ask them to tell everybody how it might be improved. Teaching art is an art that sometimes requires a slightly devious approach.
Many workshop students have a problem with the instructor-student axis. You need to invite other workshop participants to quickly chime in with their opinions. Further, you can sometimes effectively influence a student by quietly giving attention to another student who sits nearby. Other times, when addressing the whole group, you can hammer home specific points by making thoughtful eye contact with the slower learners. No matter how flawed, everybody is special.
PS: "The best way to teach somebody something is to have them think they're learning something else." (Randy Pausch)
Esoterica: In the conduct of your own affairs, understate and over-prove. Give well-planned, information-rich demos. Let folks make up their own minds and take what they want for themselves. Make your comments short and precise. Tenderness and your own humility count. People are human beings first and artists second. Thankfully, some will pull themselves up by their own bootstraps, no matter what you have to say. And while there will always be those who stay put, a properly conducted workshop can be a place of miracles. "The burned hand teaches best." (J. R. R. Tolkien)
"Understand that you, yourself, are no more than the composite picture of all your thoughts and actions. In your relationships with others, remember the basic and critically important rule: If you want to be loved, be lovable. If you want respect, set a respectable example!" ~ Denis Waitley
"Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire; you will what you imagine; and at last you create what you will." ~ George Bernard Shaw
Fully Commit to ACHIEVING Your Goal -- or Change It... -- Are You There Yet?
Staying focused on your long-term goals requires dedication and vision. Pace yourself. When you commit to the long haul, you can get anywhere you want to go.
Commit your week to long-term goals as if they were sacred missions -- because they are!
"If you're climbing the ladder of life, you go rung by rung, one step at a time. Don't look too far up, set your goals high but take one step at a time. Sometimes you don't think you're progressing until you step back and see how high you've really gone."~ Donny Osmond
Maintain a Positive Expectation for Every Action You Take... -- Don't Worry -- Be Happy?
Life is not determined by random events and circumstances, rather by the thoughts you think. By insisting on positive thoughts, you will continue on a course that will bring both success and happiness.
Negative emotions such as anger, frustration, resentment or disappointment are dams that restrict the flow of energy. Open the flood-gates. Let them go to make room for the positive.
"Whenever you're in conflict with someone, there is one factor that can make the difference between damaging your relationship and deepening it. That factor is attitude."~ Timothy Bentley
Yesterday, Dana Finch of the UK wrote: "I have been painting for years. I now have to work at a fulltime non-art job but I still consider myself first and foremost a painter, and spend most weekends, evenings, holidays, etc., doing it. I studied at art school and have a degree in art. Despite my dedication I am getting nowhere trying to interest a small provincial gallery, let alone a London one. I do sell a few things, mainly through friends, but not in a consistent way. Am I really a bad painter and should I give up? What do you advise? I know you are not an agony aunt for painters, but my problems may resonate with other struggling painters."
Thanks, Dana. Agony uncle I'm not--mostly I can be found chugging up my own mountains. But when it comes to my fellow-travellers, I try to be a positive guy. And while brazen approval and blind encouragement are often as effective as any crit, there are some practical concerns that artists need to think about. Thanks also for mentioning "other struggling painters." My groaning inbox tells me your plight is currently quite universal.
Your work has a fine sense of feeling and atmosphere--rain, fog, etc., and a simple, understated honesty. But is this enough? Is there enough to really carry a viewer away? Is there possibly a sense in the minds of many potential collectors that they could have done one of these themselves? As I see it, and there will be many who will disagree, this sort of work is really a bit too facile and too easy to do. So you can get my drift, we've put a selection of Dana Finch's work at the top of the current clickback.
While there are exceptions to this, the hard, cold facts tell us that only a few top workers are truly thriving. The competition is tough. To the admirable virtues of feeling and atmosphere, one needs to leverage skill, craft and a degree of hard-won cleverness that the average person on the street cannot easily attain. When you add a personal style that distinguishes you from the others, opportunistic gallerists are more likely to check you out.
I've never advised anyone to give up. It's not in my DNA. But I've suggested that some need to re-examine directions and invest in a new and rigorous program of private study and daily labour. This may sound cruel and simplistic, but to get a decent ride on the train of joy, many artists need to spend more time shovelling coal.
PS: "Never, ever, ever give up." (Charles Schultz)
Esoterica: Perhaps a lot of Western Art has tipped too far toward our personal demands for private joy. Further, many artists are trying to combine casual pleasantries with secure cash flows. It's nice work if you can get it, but it may just be mastery that gives the truest joy. "The secret of joy in work is contained in one word: excellence. To know how to do something well is to enjoy it." (Pearl S. Buck)
Coach Sherrie Says: I don't think the Clickback works here for you to see Dana's work, but I thought it was quite beatiful. I normally don't bother looking at landscapes, but I would consider buying hers. Maybe she just needs to expand her sales horizon.
"Born often under another sky, placed in the middle of an always moving scene, himself driven by the irresistible torrent which draws all about him, the American has no time to tie himself to anything, he grows accustomed only to change, and ends by regarding it as the natural state of man. He feels the need of it, more he loves it; for the instability; instead of meaning disaster to him, seems to give birth only to miracles all about him." ~Alexis De Tocqueville
Coach Sherrie says: A friend of a friend who is Irish living in Italy, said that "Americans are the only people who can re-invent themselves." I guess she has a point; I know I've re-invented myself several times. I finally came up with an invention of myself that I am happy with. P.S. The funny thing is though, that I always criticized myself for it; I never saw what an asset that can be in terms of finally finding the real you. ;-)
"Each problem has hidden in it an opportunity so powerful that it literally dwarfs the problem. The greatest success stories were created by people who recognized a problem and turned it into an opportunity." ~Joseph Sugarman
If I could live again my life, In the next - I'll try, - to make more mistakes, I won't try to be so perfect, I'll be more relaxed, I'll be more full - than I am now, In fact, I'll take fewer things seriously, I'll be less hygenic, I'll take more risks, I'll take more trips, I'll watch more sunsets, I'll climb more mountains, I'll swim more rivers, I'll go to more places - I've never been, I'll eat more ice creams and less (lime) beans, I'll have more real problems - and less imaginary ones, I was one of those people who live prudent and prolific lives - each minute of his life, Offcourse that I had moments of joy - but, if I could go back I'll try to have only good moments,
If you don't know - thats what life is made of, Don't lose the now!
I was one of those who never goes anywhere without a thermometer, without a hot-water bottle, and without an umberella and without a parachute,
If I could live again - I will travel light, If I could live again - I'll try to work bare feet at the beginning of spring till the end of autumn, I'll ride more carts, I'll watch more sunrises and play with more children, If I have the life to live - but now I am 85, - and I know that I am dying ...
"Trust yourself. Create the kind of self that you will be happy to live with all your life. Make the most of yourself by fanning the tiny, inner sparks of possibility into flames of achievement." ~ Foster C. Mcclellan
Take Full Responsibility for How Your Day Works Out... -- Who's Responsible Here?
Once you accept that you're the cause of all the things that go right -- or wrong -- you gain power over everything you do.
Dedicate this week to you. Be the cause of who you are, what you do, and what you achieve.
"The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and, if they can't find them, make them."~ George Bernard Shaw
Coach Sherrie says: Wow! I used to tell my students "Stop blaming others for your mistakes and problems. Take back your power." Now, I realize I need to do the same if I am going to keep moving forward.
No one can do it all. And why would you want to? There is so much to be gained from others when you work together.
Stop trying to be the solitary crusader. Even Batman had Robin.
"Opportunities are usually disguised as hard work, so most people don't recognize them."~ Ann Landers
Coach Sherrie says: I know as artists and writers, we tend to think we have to do it alone, but there are SO many ways that others can help us. Let's all promise to allow others to help us whenever they offer.
Mitch Ditkoff sent a message to the members of Create! Innovate! Get Out of the Cave! -------------------- Subject: Find a collaborator!
You are very close to a breakthough. Your ideas are inspired, your commitment is commendable, and your timing is right on. All that's missing is a collaborator. Give up the notion that you have to do it all yourself. You don't. Since we're all one, anyway, finding a collaborator makes perfect sense. Your collaborator is really just another aspect of you -- the part of you that may, indeed, be the missing piece for your project. So go ahead! Invite someone in! Let go of the reigns of control. What would Lennon have been without McCartney? Hewlett without Packard? Crick without Watson? Sonny without Cher? Penn without Teller? Barnum with out Bailey?
WHO CAN YOU INVITE INTO YOUR MOST COMPELLING PROJECT THIS WEEK? What's your next step?
“I used to not be able to work if there were dishes in the sink. Then I had a child and now I can work if there is a corpse in the sink. Because you’re always on borrowed time. None of your favorite writers, let alone your own personal self, sits down in the morning and just feels great about the work ahead of them. No one sits down and feels like a million dollars. People sit down and go into either fugue states or into this highly aerobicized sort of up-down thing.
During the O.J. [Simpson] trial all hell broke loose ‘cause I work downstairs in this office; some people might call it a garage. And the TV is upstairs and so I’d sit down, get up, sit down, get up, sit down, get up, say my little prayer. I’d pray, Please, God, help me get out of the way so I can write what wants to be written. And then I’d sit down and I would do a little bribe and I would say, ‘If you stay here for half an hour and you write that one tiny little moment where the uncle sees the shores of Inverness, California for the first time in his life then we will get up and watch a little O.J.’”
To increase your motivation for any project, increase what you believe will be the reward for your effort. The bigger, brighter, more immediate and more personal you can imagine the payoff, the greater will be your desire to put forth the necessary effort to succeed.
Increase your enthusiasm by imagining inspiring, magnificent, stupendous even ASTRONOMICAL rewards.
"There is great treasure there behind our skull and this is true about all of us. This little treasure has great, great powers, and I would say we only have learnt a very, very small part of what it can do."~ Isaac Bashevis Singer
Making the Most of Your Rebelliousness: A Quick Tip
"The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man." ~ George Bernard Shaw
"Disobedience, in the eyes of anyone who had read history, is man’s original virtue. It is through disobedience and rebellion that progress has been made." ~ Oscar Wilde
Thanks, Oscar and George for those thoughts. But what happens when man AND woman rebel against themselves? Being creative, in a sense, means rebelling because we are inventing something new rather than just accepting what's already out there. As a creativity coach I frequently see the creative person set up time and intention to do something creative and then rebel against themselves by aimlessly surfing the Internet or watching TV passively for hours.
Here's a tip that works for me: Take your calendar and actually write in it: 9-11 am Aimlessly Scan the Internet Googling such things as Chicken Mole', Edible Journals, How old Holly Hunter is, and the History of Safety Pins 6- 10 pm Have My Brains Sucked Out by Watching TV
and then... REBEL!!!! Instead of doing those things, spend some time, EVEN IF IT'S JUST 5 MINUTES, working on your creative passion. Rebel in the right direction. Tell yourself not to do something creative.. and DO IT ANYWAY.
Creativity Prompt: May 6, 1851 Dr. John Gorrie patented a 'refrigerator machine' What if you had to limit your subject for writing, art, photography, or music to your refrigerator? What refrigerator adventure would you write about? What photos would you take? What sketch would you make? What poem would you channel? What butter would you sculpt? Can you Photoshop something into your fridge.. like a landscape? space? or the family reunion?
Links for Fun Creative Advertising from The Netherlands The Voca People... Yikes! Spread Random Laugher! More Laughter
Yesterday, Mary Catherine Jorgensen of the East Bay in northern California wrote: "A side effect of being a self-employed artist is occasional loneliness. Not everyone works alongside other artists, and many of us work alone. The privilege of being able to choose between music, radio news, or silence, and between working early in the morning or starting at noon--in short, being one's own boss--has a downside. It's lonely. Any suggestions? I'd love your input."
Thanks, Mary. When art students are welcomed here for a second opinion on their work or future, I often ask them how much they like working alone. Used to being in busy, stimulating environments like art schools, they sometimes look at me as if I'm out to lunch. Fact is, with the exception of various forms of team art, most of the functioning professional artists I know have come to terms with the strengths and weaknesses of keeping their own company. Although less of a problem for introverts, this art can be learned.
The art of effective aloneness includes the understanding that solitude is necessary for creative gain. "Most progress," said self-improvement guru Bruce Barton, "comes out of loneliness." Creative people need to dream and contrive on their own. "Dreams," said Erma Bombeck, "have only one owner at a time. That's why dreamers are lonely."
At the same time there are human connections to be won. Connections with like-minded fellow travellers are best. The right companionship, at appropriate times, can actually give courage to solitude as well as sharpen creativity. Just knowing that others of the brotherhood and sisterhood are out there is part of it, but sharing on a one-to-one basis--both the good stuff and the nasty--is best of all. Fortunate are those who train up to exemplary friendship.
Companionship, for many of us, takes the form of a spouse or significant other. Generational relationships are also particularly rewarding--father-son, grandmother-granddaughter, that sort of thing. Professional associations, occasional clubs, informal gatherings, crit groups and coffee klatches can further the illusion we are not doing this on our own. "We're born alone, we live alone, we die alone," said Orson Welles, "Only through our love and friendship can we create the illusion for the moment that we're not alone."
PS: "An artist is always alone--if he is an artist. No, what the artist needs is loneliness." (Henry Miller)
Esoterica: Another source of equanimity and joy of solitude comes with an appreciation of nature. Even the most crowded cities evidence other forms of life. Animals and birds, as well as tiny, struggling plants, provide a rich metaphor that can sustain a thoughtful loner. Needless to say, the heart soars in wildness and in wilderness, and the great cosmos is both comfort and inspiration. Like a close and intimate friend, it speaks to you. "Those who dwell among the beauties and mysteries of the earth are never alone or weary of life." (Rachel Carson)