I was spending time with a dear friend last week and in the midst of our afternoon-long conversation she remarked "perhaps I'm just not creative anymore," in regards to career. (This friend, might I add, is a talented writer who has acted, directed, improvised, etc., I could sing praises of her creative self for days.) This interaction made my brain respond by pulling in two separate directions: a triggered worry and reassurance. How fleeting is our creativity? Why must there be a sense of fear in regard to something that functions as a release? In contrast to my questions, I'm a firm believer that everyone is creative but recognize that it's a tool that requires utilization to access with ease. More on that later.
I'd be lying if I said I had never worried that my creativity would dry up, that one day I would wake up unable to produce an idea for something new to try, and the longer conversation between my friend and I certainly stirred that whispering voice in the back of my head. As an artist attached to a company with a regular performance schedule there's an additional sense of pressure that there always needs to be a next new idea. The truth is there doesn't always need to be an immediate next idea, that worry is entirely self-imposed, but I do feel it and the superficial need to keep the company relevant. Perhaps that's a ridiculous concept to acknowledge, constant production for the sake of production does seem to defeat the point of being an artist, but the point of a blog is to be candid for everyone's betterment and shared experience, right?
Why does worry surround art and creativity? Professional artists to creative hobbyists and all in between, everyone seems to be afflicted with at least a touch of stress, mainly when it comes to sharing one's art publicly. By worrying about how what we make is received I think that we are losing the point of making. Considering if masses will love or hate what we put into the world obscures the major fact that by putting something into the world we are contributing to society's culture - important! There is also no way to win that internal debate; if everything you make and share is 'good', your lack of lows diminishes the success of your highs (the idea of success alone merits its own post), in my own opinion.
Worries aside, I think that any human being can practice creativity and even more that the regular practice of being creative stimulates naturally occurring creativity - a mutually beneficial cycle. Taking the pressure off making a product by, you know, removing the product leaves us simply with the worry-free act of making. The act of practicing creativity is not so much to be able to produce or not, but more so to refine one's craft and make new discoveries. By doing, by practicing, both doing and practicing become such second nature that the creative person can narrow their focus when we finally return to that idea of making something.
In order to be more proactive here are of my favorite exercises that are perfect for non-movers or movers, career artists or those who pursue creative endeavors recreationally - anyone who wants to ease access to regular creativity that's already lurking beneath the surface!
- Authentic movement/improv exercises. A set amount of time or not, filmed or not filmed, every single day I like to very briefly let my body do what it pleases. No 'dance' required, unless my body feels like adhering to technique.
- Movement sketches. Observe something, find a way to pay quick/easy homage to it in movement. Last week it was mall-goers.
- Regular sketches. Really, doodling. I do this in an attempt to become better at drawing people and movement (no signs of improvement yet, by the way) but also to practice the skill of finishing things as it's really hard for me to abandon a sketch.
- Transcribing. Going into a coffee shop, riding the subway, sneakily eavesdropping on family and friends... the best justification for snooping on others. Write down all that you hear for a set period of time or for the duration of a conversation. I've found this provides an additional interesting exercise of taking apart and reassembling/generally tinkering with the structure of the original conversation.
- Writing! The old standard. I wish I was better at doing this regularly, but when I remember I enjoy picking a number of pages or a number of minutes to write and just getting words on paper. I can't do this on a computer, and I often rip the paper from a notebook and recycle it when I'm done. Not because I care about the quality, I like the temporary-ness.
What do you do for a regular practice of creativity?
In wrapping up this entry I think it's important to note that one doesn't have to be an artist or dabble in making art to be considered creative. Creative problem solving is something most individuals do regularly and is no less valid of a form of creativity than making art; thinking outside the box is a vital skill to practice. Also, before I finish I must thank the friend mentioned in the anecdote at the beginning of the post! She inspired me to craft this piece, and I'm notoriously terrible at starting, finishing and publishing my thoughts - practice in action. I like to think our conversation, in some small part, also reinvigorated her need for daily practice, and I'm really excited to see where it takes her.
For those of you still unconvinced of your own creativity, pick up a copy of this brilliant (and yet remarkably common sense) read and get going!