Okay, deep breath - you can do this!
As you know, I preach “follow your curiosity”, and this week I am curious to see what will happen if I take a break from Social Media!
There I said it!
So, let me first declare that I love Instagram. I love sharing, connecting, and being inspired. Instagram makes growing my business possible, but I am also wondering how it may be negatively impacting my creativity. I wonder what effect the constant checking-in with it has on my creativity, and I wonder if there is harm inflicted to my self esteem from constant comparison / analysis of post performance. So, I ask myself, “by refusing to be bored in any given moment, what am I sacrificing?”
Furthermore, I have been thinking (for a year or so, now) about Manoush Zomorodi, her book Bored and Brilliant and her podcast Note To Self. Ever since I heard of her Bored and Brilliant Project that challenges people to be less phone/device dependent in order to encourage deep thinking, I have been curious to take on her challenge, and it seems I am finally ready for some deep thinking!
Also the recent New York Times article about Niksen, a practice of scheduling time to do nothing - like literally nothing, staring out a window and daydreaming argues that having seemingly unproductive time of doing nothing actually spurs creativity and counterintuitively productivity. So, I ask myself, if I stared out windows more and at my phone less, would I be more creative and productive? We shall see this week.
The terms and conditions:
For the next 7 days, I will be posting blogs to my website and podcasts, but I will not be sharing on Facebook and Instagram.
I will not be checking-in on these apps either - not responding to comments, posts, etc.
I will still listen to podcasts and music on my phone, but I might challenge myself to one day without either of these in order to really force myself to be alone with my own thoughts. Terrifying!
And I will also still use my phone for pictures to capture the developments in nature and to document my work.
Through these 7 days, I will be keeping track of my thoughts, emotions, instincts, etc., and I am planning on recording a podcast at the end of this experiment, with friend and artist Sarah Johnson who is also planning on taking a break from social media this week.
So, without further ado, see you in a week. I hope to return with creative inspiration, deeper thoughts, and new perspectives!? Sure. . . See you on the flip side!
Being an expert requires being a student.
One of the rug hooked workshop participants told me of her devoted workshop attendance. She has followed her curiosity, and in doing so, attended a variety of craft and art classes to learn new processes, to understand new tools, and to express her creativity in new ways.
I admire her eagerness to learn and to be a beginner. We can get comfortable in our expertise, and it is challenging to be a novice. Being a newbie is uncomfortable. It’s humbling.
When we learn new skills, we grow our toolkit, which only expands our creative potential. Learning new skills expands our creative horizons not only because of the widened skill set but because we approach our creative project from the perspective of a student. We come at it with questions and curiosity rather than from the perspective of an expert that might make presumptions that close doors to creative possibilities. When we create from the perspective of a student, we have a new opportunity to ask what is possible from ourselves.
After getting past the uncomfortable lumps of learning something new, we can practice our new skills, which boosts our confidence in our creative abilities. Getting comfortable in a new skill allows us to trust ourselves enough to try something even “riskier” the next time the opportunity arises. Learning to knit might lead to learning to dye wool, which may lead to learning to spin. You might not have started spinning wool without first learning to knit. Then, you might need to build your own website or learn how to design your own label etc. It’s endless.
Finally, learning a new creative skill may prompt a deep dive into the creative ocean where you may become a new expert. If that is the case, we may need to come up for air once in awhile to learn something new. And in this way, we practice expanding and deepening our creativity.
Being an expert requires being a student. It’s an endless cycle of learning and mastering. Pushing ourselves out of our comfort zones only deepens our creative potential!
A few years ago my daughter, Penelope, was very devoted to playing a version of 20 questions that involved her thinking of an animal while we’d as questions about its qualities until we guessed correctly.
While packed uncomfortably in a our Prius, driving friends to the airport, she was on a roll with running the game. She was thinking of her animal, and we sardines were guessing.
Our uncomfortability in the tight car motivated us to increase our accuracy in guessing, which for Penelope meant we weren’t playing correctly. For her, we weren’t prolonging the fun of asking questions. We were throwing out answers are answers like starts at a board, “Stork!” “Blue heron!” “Flamingo!”
But she refused to accept our answers and asserted “More Questions! Less Answers!”
We howled at her unwitting declaration of the familiar existential conundrum. It seems like the older we got, despite being certain of so many things in life, there was even more questions that felt unknown - like a whirling sea of 20,000 questions!
You may know that I am super impatient and stubborn. When I am swimming in that ocean of questions, I feel like shouting at the universe “More answers and less questions!”
And while I am certain that we need a “certain” amount of certainty to feel safe and secure in homes with food, to have healthcare, to feel loved, to be able to love freely etc., I am also certain that we can live with a lot of uncertainty. We can accept the existence of and omnipresence of uncertainty, and maybe, we can even learn to delight in them.
If there weren’t uncertainties, then everything would be predetermined. Questions are opportunities. They are potentials. They are curiosities, and they don’t have to be feared if we choose not to respond to them in fear.
So, I’ve figured a few more of my existential questions out, but I think I’ve also grown much more comfortable in living with uncertainty. Well, back to the game,
“Is it a cow? A flamingo? An elephant? A rhino? A stink bug?
The Universe shrugs, “More Questions!”
“Does it fly? Does it like the smell of rain? Does it sleep in on the weekends? What’s its favorite moon phase? Does it shed its skin??? . . .”
There we were, lying belly down on brown shag carpet, in our corduroys and striped velour shirts. Our toe heads hovered, with spit dripping down our chins, and an eager index finger positioned above the red circle of the RECORD button. Then with a nervous inhale, the button clicked down. As the spools of tape slowly wound and unwound, we expelled a violent cacophony of juicy fart noises into the recorder. Our bodies shook with laughter as our radio show just took a turn for the blue.
I would give anything for those tapes of our childhood radio show -- even though I am fairly certain it was just 90% fart noises and 10% giggles. It was so much fun to create a show - a production - even if our audience was just us.
After those experimental years of our radio show, I spent the rest of my youth consuming the music that radio played until my college years when I became indoctrinated into the meaningful broadcasting of NPR. Oh, how wonderful do become well informed to the happenings in the world without having to read about it. Furthermore, there was wit and humor - and yes, maybe even some fart noises from the Cart Talk brothers. RIP Tom Magliozzi.
As a young mother, the radio was on constantly as I nursed, cooked dinner, and wiped butts. And somewhere in there, about 10 years ago, maybe, radio went rogue in the form of podcasts! I was an early adopter. I could listen to shows when I want, wherever I want. It was like having my funny friends in my pocket.
And podcasting has since exploded. There is a podcast or two or ten for everything, and they are an amazing way to learn while doing other things. As someone who works with her hands, I can expand my horizons while I work--peak into communities and points of view that I would not have otherwise. Here are just some of the audio journeys I have gone on: science, feminist film theory, cultural criticism, politics, world cup history, hollywood gossip, scripted fiction, wacky game shows, entrepreneurship, and fake internet judgements. Podcasts have so enriched my life and my every day.
So, it shouldn't surprise you that I have harbored a secret (or maybe not so secret) desire to have my own podcast. And while I have dabbled in some audio recordings of family members telling their stories, I wasn’t ready to take the leap until this year!
So, without further ado, here is my new podcast: The Art We Make
The Art We Make Podcast is a podquest to determine why we make art and what art does for us! In each episode I will either sit down with an artist or maker to find out how their creativity is expressed and what impact it has on their life, or I will be sharing my philosophy of creativity in solo shows.
How Can you Listen to the Art We Make Podcast?
The podcast will be released on Tuesdays, but as of today you can listen to the teaser and my first solo show, which explains my arrival at this podcast topic and name.
Links to the shows will be posted on the website here, but be sure to subscribe to the Art We Make Podcast on your favorite podcast streaming app (i.e. itunes ) and join me in my podquest to find out more about value of creativity and making!
If you or someone you know would like to be on the show, please email me email@example.com I look forward to hearing from you!
Listen to The Art We Make Podcast!
Hope is not an emotion; it’s a way of thinking or a cognitive process."
With her recent Netflix special and interview with Marc Maron on his WTF Podcast, I’ve been in a Brene Brown wormhole again.
And something new stuck out to me in her discussion with regard to hope. Hope often feels flimsy and Pollyanna-ish. Hope is sometimes characterized as a weak emotion -especially in our calcified world full of bitter cynicism. We are trying not to hope because it hurts too much when things don’t work out the way we’d like.
But hope is exactly what we need right now, because it will allow for the change we seek. Despair, the opposite of hope, will only get us one thing, more despair.
So, Brown says “no” to Hope as an emotion and “yes” to Hope as a cognitive process. Hope requires plans, goals, steps, and indeed failures. But hope insists that there is opportunity for alternatives. There is opportunity for progression.
I would like to articulate that Creativity is also part of this practice of hope. Creativity allows for envisioning the alternatives and problem solving for them.
What is the outcome we desire?
Let’s hope for that! Let’s have room in our hearts for what we desire, then envision it, and work for it.
Now what steps will get us closer to our desire?
As someone raised by Dominican Nuns, I have long been reminded of the importance of hope.
The Dominican motto is Spes Unica, only hope. Hope was also the only thing left in Pandora’s box after all the evil was released.
Let’s be more hopeful and progressive in our personal and collective lives, and let’s use our creativity to dream the world that we want to live in and creativity in solving to get there. It’s our only hope for change!
I’ve been thinking about deadlines lately and creativity - and I wonder does having the pressure of a deadline spur creative success or does it hamper it?
Sometimes we need a deadline to motivate action, and when we are truly down the the wire, when there is no time to hem and haw, action and adrenaline can become a beautiful cocktail that leads success ---- sometimes. Have the pressure of time can mute perfectionism, which sometimes works to inhibit the creative process. There’s just no time for it, when you have to get the thing made.
Not to brag, but I watch Stephen Colbert clips pretty regularly - and for his Late Show, on Thursdays, they film two episodes in one day. How is it that they can produce twice as much content in the time and space that they Monday through Wednesday produce only one? Well, I am sure there is a great deal of planning and working ahead. I.e. I am guessing some of the the second show is actually getting made during Monday through Thursday, but I have also heard Colbert mention that there is an intensity to those days of filming that is certainly infused with adrenaline. There is no second guessing. His staff just has to perform, has to write the joke, and move on. He has said that this fast pace of working makes you focus and nail it the first time.
Creativity under pressure can work - but it’s hard to maintain that level of adrenaline all of the time. That much adrenaline can be unhealthy, and I think ultimately it can lead to sloppiness and mistakes, with no time to fix. Also, even if the quality of work is maintained, it will lead to burnout.
I like having an excess of time that allows me to make those mistakes upfront - first thing. I like having time to clear the cobwebs - to get the bad ideas out in order to make room for the better ideas.
I guess I have a certain amount of performance anxiety, but there is also a benefit to having more time for a project. Having more time allows a project to breathe - allows for the ideas to come in the shower or while driving. As a project evolves, as you evolve, there is adequate time to rewrite and rethink everything.
But that kind of time can sometimes be unproductive when our first choices and intuition are often the correct one.
Word on the street is that the current cast of Queer Eye, the group of five, talented men, was the first choice, but there was a lot of time and effort spent affirming that instinctual choice. Sometimes we spend a lot of time ruling out other options when we ultimately go with our initial choices.
How do we know when to trust our first impulses and when should we push pass them and on to better and more creative ideas?
I am not sure if I know the answer to that, and mostly there are deadlines and outside forces that limit and shape our time and choices so that we are left with whatever we get.
Adam Grant, a self-proclaimed precrastinator, speaks of the benefits of some procrastination. He believes that there is a preferred balance in starting fast and finishing slow. That it is best to give yourself enough time to evolve ideas by getting them started as soon as possible but let them marinate for a while before finishing.
What do you think?
Do you need a lot of time to be your creative best?
Or do you work best under pressure?
In the first moments of Spring break, Penelope developed a bad virus that kept her in bed for days incapable of stomaching anything except YouTube drawing videos. (Her favorites by: Super Rae Dizzle and Drawing Wiff Waffles)
With her buried under the covers, and me under my quilt, We watched a steady stream of videos. Both YouTubers are young women in their 20’s, who talk through their process of drawing. You watch their drawings progress as they talk through their decisions - their expectations - joys - and frustrations . They discuss the various merits of a variety of materials. All in all they are calm, humorous and relatable, and most importantly, they encourage their viewers to draw and to keep drawing!
In fact, when Pen was feeling better she pulled out her markers and sketchbook and went to work. Abe got on board, too. We spent the week in low key sketchbook mode. It was great.
Occasionally we took a break from the YouTubers to watch a Bob Ross Video. In fact one of the YouTubers (Super Rae Dizzle) makes videos of her painting along with Bob Ross' TV episode.
Recently, Bob Ross has spiked in popularity with younger generations. Abraham reports kids at school have Bob Ross t-shirts, sticky notes, mint tins, and more.
Ross' videos are easily accessible on YouTube and Netflix, and my kids love him unironically. Pen says he is calm and an art god. She also loves his paintings.
And during our bed ridden Spring break, it occurred to me that Bob Ross was the original YouTube Artist! He was doing a Public TV program years ago in a manner that so many young kids are repeating in their own videos today. He served us a cool, gentle inspiring, tutorial that left us feeling empowered and inspired. He explained his process, his tools, and helped us to feel secure in our own art journeys.
I think for me what was so great about Bob Ross was that he demystified the process of painting while maintaining its sacredness. You can sense his enjoyment in the process. While affirming that the same enjoyment was attainable for you. He had a magnanimous generosity of his spirit.
And in researching his quotes I realized that he was also an original creativity coach. Just check out his quotes that I sourced from goodreads.
What's your impression of Bob Ross?
I gotta stop feeling invisible
I love the self-help genre. It feeds my part of self that wants to believe in self-control - in self-possession - over fate and future. I like the power of assuming control and responsibility over my life. I don’t like the part of the industry that is selling (primarily to women) the assertion that women aren’t enough and therefore must develop a perfect skin care regimen so someone can sell overpriced eye creams.
I am talking about how razor companies began telling women that our body hair was gross and unhygienic in order to sell razors to the entire population.
In the same way, self-help can create a feeling that you are inadequate - fractured in some way. Then the one who points out our inadequacies miraculously offers a solution.
But most often self-help comes from a genuine place of wanting to help people live the lives we want to live.
And because this genre is often targeted to and used by women -it is discounted as less important or less significant work.
I hate this, too.
And I think a reason why women often are attracted to self-help is that we have lived entire lives being told we weren't fully human.
We were wrong from the start.
We have been taught to be self-reflective; self-critical from birth to get better so that we might matter to someone or for someone not for ourselves.
So, what if we worked to love ourselves - to matter to ourselves? What if we helped ourselves to be the person we want to be - for ourselves?
What if we show up for ourselves on our own terms and believe in that version of ourselves?
What would we look like? What would we do with our time? What would our lives be for?
PS The Above Quote is from a song used in the soundtrack of Spiderman into the Spiderverse. If you have not see this movie now! And Paddington 2!!! Both will help you to feel full of life and inspiration!
Quite frequently, I am asked why I like to do “all of the things.” I think it’s come up a bit more often within the contexts of conversations about creativity that I am having as I record interviews for my upcoming podcast, “The Art We Make” which will debut at the end of April! (stay tuned)
Anyhow, I find myself sputtering inadequate responses, because I am unsure myself why I do all of the things. I feel a certain embarrassment or maybe shame around it. Like, perhaps I should be satisfied with less and that the trying lots of different things is connected to a baseline feeling of lack. In other words, it’s an addiction.
But then I get defensive of my basket full of creative pursuits. Why can’t I be interested in a lot of things? So many of us are these days. We are a population of multi-passionates, who are adapting within an era of rapid change and uncertainty. Having many tools and skills at our disposal is smart.
It is fair to say that I have a fear that I am not going to be as developed in any one medium or area because I keep switching amongst my interests, but then I think about artists like Leonardo da Vinci and so many like him. No one thinks, “Geez, I wish Leo wasn’t interested in so many different things. I mean pick just one, already, gosh.” (BTW, I am in no way comparing my art to da Vinci - just our multi-passionate-ness).
Another thing, I feel that all of the things that I do are connected and feed into each other. Painting informs weaving. Writing inspires illustrations. Dyeing deepens my interest in nature and kindles new quilt designs.
I often think it would be easier to pick one thing because of marketing, but I just love all of my children and want to continue to grow in my creative power and knowledge with all of them in tow.
In short, I follow my curiosity and in doing so learn more about myself and what I can offer the world. Why impose limits?
Are you a multi-passionate? What drives your creative interests and pursuits?
PS Thank you for enduring my Andy Rooney style rant here. Not sure who I am yelling this at - probably myself.
Anna Lentz, artist, writer, and creativity coach who blogs about making a creative life connected with nature at Spring Bird.