What’s the point?

By Laura M.

Here’s the thing about creative pursuits: not everyone is gonna care about them. You can record an album, write a book, or make a sculpture. But there may not be anyone on the other end who wants it. This is all well and good if you’re really only interested in the journey or don’t require external validation. If that describes you: God bless. You are so lucky.
For the rest of us, it can feel a little like we’re hollering into a black hole.

Rather discouraging, to say the least, when you get no response. But no response is not an indication of a lack of an interesting topic or dearth of talent. Sometimes it’s due to a lack of influence.

Take, for instance, the class that Ellen and I designed last summer. There’s a local community education program that allows anyone (and I mean anyone) to teach a subject to adults over a series of weeks at local community centers. We decided it would be fun to lead a class on how to tap into your best creative self. We met every week for 6 weeks to discuss the curriculum. We talked about the big idea (that everyone is inherently creative, it’s just a matter of tapping into it), researched the science behind it, and talked about different activities we could do that would inspire students. We arranged for guest speakers and made inventory lists of items we would need to supply during class. We mapped out a schedule of what would be ‘taught’ in each class and even factored in when ‘assignments’ would be due, what we’d ask students to provide on their own and what to do if students didn’t have access to the technology required. We participated in an open house where we dutifully sat at a booth with our materials and handouts and talked with potential students about our class. You get the picture here, right? You understand that we devoted a lot of time to this?

We told our friends, we posted on Facebook and Twitter. Registration opened and (did you see this coming?) NO ONE signed up. Personne (that’s French for no one.) NOBODY!

So get this: two weeks after our class was cancelled due to lack of enrollment, Elizabeth Gilbert came out with her book “Big Magic.” It’s a book about, wait for it…finding your inner creativity. In case you don’t know, Gilbert sold a gazillion copies of her book Eat, Pray, Love. It was even made into a major motion picture with Julia Roberts. So she’s kinda a big deal. This new book of hers (out last September 2015) has sold a lot of copies. I can’t find the exact figure but trust me – it’s a lot. She’s doing an online course in creativity, in conjunction with the book. Guess how many people signed up? 4,228 students.

So clearly we had a good idea but not the influence or exposure to recruit students. Lest you think I’m complaining, you need to understand that this very blog you’re reading came about because of the ‘failure’ of our course. We knew we had some good ideas and we felt like there was an audience out there comprised of people we don’t know.

Of course, this blog comes with its own set of hopes and disappointments.We’ve had some lovely responses from fellow bloggers and friends alike. But many posts are published to…crickets.

 

Where am I going with this? Well, I’m not soliciting SEO advice or suggestions on how to draw a bigger audience. I share my (our) experience because I think it’s what the majority of creators experience. It’s my belief that when you’re in this situation you have to figure out a way to be ok with it. And in the words of Martina McBride (and Brett and Brad Warren, her co-writers), “Do it anyway.”

So my query to fellow bloggers and creators: how do you get comfortable with creating something that potentially has no reward or audience?

P.S. I’ll admit that video makes me teary-eyed.

UPDATE

I shared this post via FB and I got these thoughtful responses:

from Bobby, a songwriter and poet: I just finished listening to the audio book attached here. The author talks about “creating for the sake of creating, how that has diminished in our society, and how important it is for many reasons.” His comments about “flow” and “creativity” helped me to see that much of the creative experience is just about getting into “flow”–a space where the soul is nourished, a space where the mind and the psyche can play. Many of these things I have known, but thought I was alone in my feelings. This book is like a license to be a creative person who does not have to answer to those who do not get it. Create. The opposite of that is “die.” https://www.amazon.com/Creativity…/dp/B000TG1X9C…From my experience: There are writers who thrive on being in the creative process; there are writers who live to have written. I’m the first kind. : )

from Darla, a potter and Zentangle instructor (who has her own WP blog site here): It is so hard to separate your identity from your creative endeavors. I can spend weeks developing a class, order supplies and no one signs up, then I’ll have an awesome group come in for a class and it’s amazing and makes it worth it. I guess we hang in there for the Sparks of shared experience that we are sometimes rewarded with.

from Brent Baxter, a songwriter (who also has a blog here): it always has a reward. The process itself and the joy of completion. Writing a song is fun. Yeah, I’d rather millions of people hear them than just a few, but every time I write a good song I get a good feeling

Denise, a writer, commented here on WP (see below.) Her awesome blog is here.

Art vs. Science and Creative Influencers

by Laura M.

How does art relate to modern medicine? Dr. Churchwell spoke about this to a group of community members, students, staff and faculty at Vanderbilt University last night. He challenges those who believe that art and science are mutually exclusive. Instead, he believes they can act in concert. When they come together, which can happen on an individual basis by melding the left and right brain, people end up seeing things differently. Seeing things differently can lead to innovation.

In Churchwell’s case, his right brain muscle is exercised when he illustrates and designs fashion. Here are some of his illustrations (can you tell he is influenced by Jack Kirby?):

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Churchwell’s father drew pictures for him when he was a little boy and that inspired him to draw. His father also inspired an interest in clothing. Every Sunday Churchwell and his siblings would line up for inspection. His father would tell them what worked and what didn’t. Check out this article about his fashion sense. Esquire Magazine has called him one of the 50 best dressed men in America (way to represent Tennessee, Dr. C!)

Flipping to the other side of his brain, Churchwell’s left brain muscle is exercised when he does his day job of leading the Cardiology Division at Vanderbilt, helming the Diversity Affairs initiative at the School of Medicine, teaching radiology and radiological sciences and biomedical engineering.

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Photo Credit: Joe Howell

Churchwell’s mentors in medicine embraced ‘whole brain’ thinking. Tom McMahon oscillated between writing fiction and his science lab. Arthur Guyton believed that adversity + imagination = discovery. So, while bound to a wheelchair due to polio, he invented the first mechanized wheelchair.

Hearing Churchwell talk about the influence of these great people on his life made me question what/who fuels my creativity/curiosity. My two favorites are Brene Brown and Tim Minchin.

Because of an ecourse I took from Brene Brown, I explored many different creative outlets, many of which I passed on before because I didn’t consider myself a creative type. Here is a nice synopsis of Brene’s take on creativity.

Tim Minchin, an Australian comedian, gave a commencement address at his alma mater that I have now watched on Youtube countless times. One of my favorite pieces of advice from his speech is to examine our own opinions. Think about that. If you examine your own opinion, it naturally opens you up to curiosity. “Why do I think/feel/believe that? How did I arrive at that decision?”

I’d love to know how you, our readers, blend left and right brain thinking. Do any of you have left brain jobs and right brain hobbies? Are you able to find time to exercise the right brain muscle? Who influences your creativity?

 

 

 

 

 

Writing – it’s not just for writers

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If you can’t write, then by all means, write. / Photo by Caleb Roenigk, Flickr Creative Commons

by Laura M.

Some people (maybe you?) have writer’s block about even trying to write a grocery list. You might have an image in your head of what a writer looks like: arms crossed, hunched over a typewriter, cigarette hanging out of the corner of her mouth. She tortures herself to craft the perfect turn of phrase. And you think, “Well, if published authors have it that bad, how and why would I even try?”
Here’s the thing: Writing ends up a being an incredible practice in self-discovery and articulation. I find that when I write, by the practice of searching for the most appropriate word in writing, I’m that much better at expressing myself in spoken word. It’s a pretty nifty by-product.
I encourage you to try your hand at writing. Here are a couple more objections you might come up with which I am promptly going to shoot down:
Objection: I don’t have the right tools.

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Photo by David Melchor Diaz/Flickr Creative Commons
Counter-argument: You can use whatever tools suit you best. Some folks like pen and paper, some prefer writing on a computer. If you have dyslexia or poor motor skills, consider using a voice-to-text app on your mobile device.
Objection: I wouldn’t know what to write about.

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Photo by Anselm23/Flickr Creative Commons
Counter-argument: Writing prompts! Or stream-of-consciousness writing. With a writing prompt, you write about whatever subject the prompt is. With stream-of-consciousness, you write about whatever pops into your head for a set amount of time[say, 5 or 10 minutes].The trick there is to never stop writing. No pausing to think about what to write. You can even write “I don’t know what to write about.”
For starters, why not try writing your own bio? I’ve actually had loads of practice at this since I’m single and use online dating. Here are some common questions you can answer to flesh out your bio:
What are you doing with your life?
What are you really good at?
What is the first thing that people usually notice about you?
What are some of your favorite books, movies, TV shows, music, food?
What are six things you could never do without?
What do you spend a lot of time thinking about?
You know where you can stick this fancy new bio of yours? On Facebook! They now have a section where you can write a brief bio. Post it there and let us know if you get any feedback from friends. They’ll probably learn something about you that you didn’t know. Feel free to share your experience in the comments below.