The Practice of Creativity

Posts Tagged ‘SARK

When fears are attended to, it clears the way for clear and simple writing that comes from your heart. Even the briefest attention can melt fear.
-Susan Ariel Rainbow Kennedy, author

Last week, I began a series about spring cleaning for your creative life.

There are three steps in the process:

1) You reassess your space, your schedule, and patterns of mind to see what is supporting or not supporting your creative life.

2) You reorganize your space, schedule, and patterns of minds to allow you to create with more ease.

3) After reassessing and reorganizing, you rededicate yourself to having a productive and joyful creative life!

Reassessing your physical space is a great place to start because it is visible and you spend a lot of time there. Another thing to reassess during spring cleaning are your ‘patterns of mind’. By this I mean, the habitual ways of thinking and responding to your creative life.

One powerful pattern of mind is fear.

Fear can show up in so many ways in a creator’s life. We fear to write, draw, and sing badly, we fear rejection, we fear we won’t reach our potential, we often fear the blank page, canvas, music studio, etc. Fear often causes us to procrastinate.

Fear looks like not following through when an editor asks you to send them new work.

Fear looks like talking yourself out of registering for that art class that you’ve been dreaming about.

Fear looks like spending more time listening to writing podcasts than taking time to write.

One thing that helps is acknowledging and tracking our fears. One great way to do this is by keeping a fear journal.

In 2015, I had the good fortune of meeting the writer Daisy Hernandez, author of the incredible memoir, A Cup of Water under My Bed. During a talk she gave to my upper division ‘women and creativity’ seminar, she said that keeping a ‘fear journal’ has been helpful to her writing process. She explained that a fear journal is where she lists her fears that come to her as she begins writing (or even after she’s finished). So, while she works, she has her fear journal open on her desk. Sometimes she’ll write ‘Still afraid’, or she’ll name a fear specific to the project that she is working on.

What I love about this concept is that it acknowledges that writers tend to have lots of fears while writing and that it is powerful to capture them in one place. Fear is a normal part of the writing experience. Writing it down allows us to have some distance from the feelings that the fears evoke. A fear journal helps us to see the ebb and flow of our worries and concerns.

Fears never go completely away, but by employing self-reflective exercises, they don’t have to immobilize us.

Do you have a pattern of mind that needs some attending to during spring cleaning?

 

Image credits: Dreamstime; Shutterstock

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I want to thank you for subscribing to my blog. Welcome to new subscribers! And, to those who have been followers (and readers) from way back, thanks for sticking with me!

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In 2011, I decided to devote myself to writing weekly on my blog and to support creative community. From that intention, so many great things followed: community building, more writing, opportunities I couldn’t have imagined, new friendships, etc.

I’m inspired by all that you do, seek and create. I want to continue to walk this creative path with you. Let’s keep inspiring each other.

On that note, I wanted to share several inspiring conversations I’ve had with some of the most talented writers, coaches and transformational experts from my Creativity Bonfire Series. My Creativity Bonfire Series brought together 12 leading writers, authors, visual artists and thought leaders to talk about creativity—how to sustain and maintain it.

Each conversation is about an hour long. Let yourself soak in their wisdom about staying true to the creative process and eliminating distractions.

Conversation with SARK, artist, creative entrepreneur and author of Juicy Pens, Thirsty Paper: Gifting the World with Your Words and Stories and Creating the Time and Energy to Actually Do It

Conversation with Eric Maisel, creativity coach and author of Coaching the Artist Within

Conversation with Amanda Owen, consultant, motivational speaker and author of The Power of Receiving: A Revolutionary Approach to Giving Yourself the Life You Want and Deserve

Links will stay live until Oct 15.

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People often act intimidated with regard to publishing. People relentlessly believe that publishers don’t need or want them. Publishers exist because of the creative input and outpouring that comes their way…and they appreciate books and writers. Repeating the old story=reinforcing the story=doing nothing new towards being published.
SARK, Juicy Pens, Thirsty Paper: Gifting the World with Your Words and Stories and Creating the Time and Energy to Actually Do It

Affirmations-366Days#7-Editors love my content and pay me to publish my work.

For new readers, here’s why I’m committing to writing affirmations during the next 366 days.

This affirmation feels bold. But, why not affirm a truth? Publishers and editors would not exist unless there were writers! I also want to affirm that that editors and publishers love discovering new writers, that’s partly why they are in this business. The possibility of discovering people, whose words they love, is what gets editors to their desks each day.

If you wish to live a self-directed life, you have to change your relationship to time.
–Marney Markidakis, author of Creating Time: Using Creativity to Reinvent the Clock and Reclaim Your Life

 

In July, I asked readers to take a one question poll and answer the following: What is the biggest obstacle you face in your creative life?

The overwhelming response was ‘finding consistent time to work on projects’. Time is always an issue for creative people.

What’s your story about time? Not the predictable one that you say on autopilot, but the one that is authentic.

We often tell a well-rehearsed story about how little time we have and why we can’t get to our creative work. I find that fear, lack of focus, unwillingness to prioritize (especially if it means we will disappoint someone), and procrastination keeps people locked into a story of ‘time scarcity’.

Here are some questions to help you dig underneath what is perhaps a familiar story:

-What’s something that you love that you never have time to do?
-What do you always make time for that you don’t want to do?
-Where is there ease and richness of time in your life?
-What kind of time does your creative life really need (e.g. daily creating time, dedicated weekend time once a month, a two week retreat)?
What needs to change about your allocation of time in order for your creative project to flourish?
Do you have models of creative people that you know (or have read about), that have inspired you by the way they use time?

These questions can bring to the surface thoughts and feelings about your experience of time and suggest new possibilities about how to use your time. As creative people, we must learn to manage our time and energy like a top level athlete. As author Marney Markidakis says in her wonderful book Creating Time, “the beast of time can never be fully tamed, but it can be disciplined, nourished, and cared for.”

Here are 3 ways to create more time:

1) Schedule it in. Yes, time for your creative project needs to be in your calendar.

Getting your creative projects to migrate from the bottom to the top of your to-do list is no easy feat. Ariel Gore makes this point in her witty book, How to Become a Famous Writer Before You’re Dead. She says that most of us believe that making time for creative work is selfish, so we put it at the end of our to-do lists:

“And then we kick ourselves because the novel isn’t written. We look down at our laps and blush when our writing teacher asks us if we got a chance to write this week. Of course we didn’t get a chance to write—it was the last thing on our list. We had a glass of wine with dinner. We got sleepy. I’m going to tell you something, and it’s something I want you to remember: No one ever does the last thing on their to-do list.”

I write every day. For me, writing every day keeps my momentum going. I typically do an hour of academic writing in the morning and an hour of creative work in the evening throughout the week. My academic writing is scheduled in my calendar. My creative work is scheduled in my calendar. It’s what keeps me sane.

If creating every day doesn’t work for you, find consistent periods of time that do and then schedule them into your calendar.

2) Develop a better reward system. Over the long journey of creating, producing good work becomes its own reward. However, for those of us just starting to pursue a creative path, may need motivation and encouragement to keep saying yes to our projects. Reward systems can be big or small and can be connected to time and/or output. This year is the first year that I have kept an active rewards list for meeting writing goals. About every few weeks, I’m checking that list to see what I have earned. The rewards list can keep me going through the really tough periods where writing doesn’t feel like its going well.

3) Work in smaller blocks of time. Creative people often pine for days of uninterrupted time, but as a coach, I’m often in the position of pointing out to clients that what time they have is not always used well. Creativity expert Susan Ariel Rainbow Kennedy (aka SARK) uses the concept of micromovements to break tasks into manageable segments of 5 seconds to 5 minutes. Very effective! She believes that creative people often assign themselves too big of a task. And, then when they don’t meet that often impossible task, their inner critics come leaping out to point out their lack of completion.

What can you do in smaller bursts of time?

You can do a writing prompt; draw/sketch, assemble your packets of seeds for the beautiful garden you are planning. She refers to micromovements as an ‘ignition system’. Once you are able to get yourself started, you can keep going after the short amount of time is up. Check out her books  The Bodacious Book of Succulence and Make Your Creative Dreams Real for lots of information on micromovements technique.

 

Do you have some favorite ways to create time? I’d love to hear.

No matter how lumpy or faded or boring you feel, your creativity is of value.
SARK

Creativity author and mentor, Susan Ariel Rainbow Kennedy (aka SARK) has written a lot on inner critics and how they can sabotage our creative work. Inner critics are the sharp-tongued internal voices that often prevent us from writing and/or creating. They speak to us with the seemingly definitive voice of KNOWING ABOUT EVERYTHING CREATIVE. Our inner critics, judges, and evaluators are uninvited guests during our writing sessions. Inner critics usually know how to do just one thing and have long outlived whatever protective role they once had. They won’t leave until we imaginatively assign them a new “job”.

I’ve had great fun reassigning many inner critics to new jobs*. One inner critic was called ‘Relentless Ruthie’ and no matter what I did, according to her, I wasn’t doing it fast or good enough. My accomplishments were only as good as yesterday. She was methodical, meticulous and intense. In dreaming up a new job for her, I wondered where her qualities might be really valued. SARK suggested that Relentless Ruthie would be perfect in being security detail on Air Force One. I agreed! Since being reassigned in my imagination, I haven’t heard a peep from RR in years.

SARK notes that a typical inner critic is the ‘comparer’. This critic is hyper focused on comparing us to others. I’ve been thinking a lot about the role of comparison in one’s creative life and the word COMPARISON.

comparison

Have you ever read a novel (or your creative equivalent) and thought, ‘This sucks. I can write SO much better than this’ (and felt quite good and superior about it)? Then, perhaps in the same week, have you ever read a book by a different author and thought, ‘God, I can NEVER write like this. This is brilliant’ (and felt quite inadequate)?

One can go between these extremes in the same week or even day!

A few days ago, I started doodling the word ‘comparison’ and I saw that is has the word PRISON contained in it. This made me think of how often we put our writing/creative selves in prison when we spend too much time comparing. Our job, as creative folk, is not to swing between feeling superior and feeling inadequate, but is to just do the work and honor our own process. Most of the time this is easier said than done! I wondered why I never noticed prison in the word comparison before, but was glad I got the message!

 

Do you notice when your ‘inner comparer’ gets activated? How do you respond?

 

*Two wonderful SARK books that have long discussions about (and great exercises for) dealing with inner critics is Make Your Creative Dreams Real: A Plan for Procrastinators, Perfectionists, Busy People, Avoiders and People Who Would Rather Sleep All Day and Prosperity Pie: How to Relax About Money and Everything Else. I highly recommend them.

On Monday, I appeared on a radio show called ‘The State of Things’ hosted by WUNC, our local National Public Radio (NPR) station. This was the most vulnerable interview I’ve ever done. I discuss my early childhood experiences of creativity as connected to resiliency and survival. I publicly discuss my experiences with sexual assault and trauma in honor of National Sexual Assault Awareness Month. The role of speculative fiction for writers of color, creativity coaching and women and creativity were also topics the interviewer and I discussed with great delight. I thought you might like to listen to it as it gives you a glimpse into why I am so passionate about the subject of creativity and empowering others.

You can listen here.

Bonfire

P.S. I’m thrilled to announce that I an running an encore replay of the ENTIRE Creativity Bonfire Series through Wednesday. So many people wanted to listen but didn’t get a chance to hear ALL of the incredible speakers. Some people didn’t get a chance to register. Was that you? If so, register below and get your week off to a GREAT start.

The list of participating speakers is AMAZING! They include Amanda Owen, bestselling author of The Power of Receiving, SARK (aka Susan Ariel Rainbow Kennedy), creativity expert and author of sixteen bestselling books, Diane Ealy, author of The Women’s Book of Creativity, Kimberly Wilson, author of Hip Tranquil Chick and yoga studio owner, Dr. Eric Maisel, creativity coach and author of over 40 books on creativity, Hay House author and transformative coach Michael Neill and MANY others.

They provide tips, techniques, resources and wisdom on the issue of creativity–how to access it and how to sustain it.

Register here! It’s FREE!

We all want to feel more grateful. The powerful benefits that stem from a gratitude practice are ones that science now validates and that spiritual traditions have always claimed. More than a decade ago, Oprah introduced us to the idea of keeping a gratitude journal and recently social work researcher, Brené Brown has highlighted the importance of gratitude in her interviews with resilient people. But what gets in the way of practicing gratitude? I’d say grudges. Grudges are often not part of polite conversation. But, in order to become more grateful we have to work on our grudges.

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To live a creative life is to encounter frustration, jealousy, envy and to hold grudges. Grudges are a feature in our emotional weather system. They can be deep seated or have happened just yesterday: the biting comment from a trusted mentor that occasionally surfaces, the friend who doesn’t invite you to submit to her ‘zine though she’s invited all your writing buddies , the shopkeeper who says that your greeting card line looks ‘amateurish’. Having grudges is not the problem; it’s how deep they go and how long we hold them. And, that we forget there can be sweet joy in releasing them.

Getting off Grudge Island

In The Bodacious Book of Succulence creativity author Susan Ariel Rainbow Kennedy (aka SARK) talks about a place that many of us reside– the place in our consciousness where we replay, repeat, and sift through old hurts, grudges, resentments, and slights. She imagines this place as Grudge Island. All the inhabitants on the island are stooped over from carrying the weight of their grudges. SARK says that holding grudges “allows us to be right and live in the past” and that they “are companions of struggle and blame.”

In my creativity workshops, I often ask people to describe what their Grudge Island looks like, the nature of their grudges and the length that they’ve hung on to them.  After reflecting on this exercise, a participant once exclaimed, “Goodness, I don’t just visit Grudge Island, I’ve built condos there!”

The first time I did this exercise, I started out with two pieces of paper and a pen. I thought, oh, this should only take a few minutes. As I got in touch with recent and old hurts, I found myself reaching for more paper and markers. As I wrote, I began reliving and experiencing the anger, hurt and loss of the events that shaped my grudges.

By the end of the process I had filled 25 pages (front and back) of my grudges and ego wounds! I was indeed a longtime resident on Grudge Island! I held a thirty year grudge against a six grade teacher who had forgotten to give me information so that I could compete in the city wide spelling bee and a fifteen year old grudge against a young man who told me that getting a PhD was useless and would not serve the African American community. I wondered what new energy could emerge from releasing these grudges.

grudges2

The medical community’s interest in the connection between anger, grudge holding and well- being has increased dramatically over the last decade. Dr. Luskin, director of the Forgiveness Project at Stanford University, has lead pioneering research about how grudge holding affects our capacity to live a thriving life. Dr. Luskin notes, “Dwelling on a past conflict and the damage inflicted by another person, doesn’t hurt them, but it hurts you like heck. They own your nervous system, and they ain’t good landlords.” Studies suggest that grudge-holders tend to be sicker than their peers who are able to release grudges and forgive more quickly. If a person is a chronic grudge holder they can expect more visits to the doctor, cardiovascular disease and gastrointestinal distress.

I decided to destroy my grudge papers. I ripped them into teeny tiny shreds. This felt incredibly satisfying. Then, I began to knead them (also oddly satisfying). I then promptly took my ‘grudge dough’ and dumped the pile in the garbage. After I dumped the grudges, a very calm and peaceful sensation ran through my body. Feeling cleared of these grievances was a powerful return on my time and attention. The funny thing is that now, many years later; I can’t even recall the specifics of most of those grudges.

The more we share about our very human capacity to hold grudges, the more support we can receive for releasing them and experiencing the joy and vitality available to us in every moment. This energy becomes fuel for new creative projects.

Dealing with grudges first, makes way for gratitude.

grudges

A version of this article originally appeared on September 25 in The Chapel Hill News.

Photo credits include Thinkstock


Michele Tracy Berger

Michele Tracy Berger

Author, Academic, Creativity Expert I'm an award winning writer.

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