Sunday, October 18, 2009

Creativity: a creature of habit (My Sacred Life, Sunday)

While I have spent a majority of my working life in pursuits not generally thought of as being creative arts, my time, particularly since being laid off 11 months ago, has increasingly been spent in areas which are more-easily associated with creativity.

Today, I'm looking to raise your awareness of what it takes, as a creative person, to end up with something which is a product of that creative energy.

As a writer, I know the single-most important exercise I can perform which will make me better is to write. Again and again. Every day I am able to.

One of my favorite authors, Anne Lamott, makes the point repeatedly in her marvelous work on writing, Bird by Bird: you have to write, you have to show up, you have to put words on paper or screen over and over, even if they are lousy collections of words, before you will become proficient at it. By the way, if you aspire to becoming a writer and have not read Bird by Bird, please do. You will find it inspiring and daunting.

Liz Gilbert, whose work Eat, Pray, Love was a phenomenon a couple of years ago, did a talk at TED in February this year which still leaves me in tears even though I have watched it at least ten times. Her central point in her talk is that, if one wishes to be creative and to satisfy the inner drive to express, one must show up and do the work of creating. It need not be a sweating-blood scenario. Rather, as she details in her talk, it can be a joyful and involving adventure...and it can still be hard to keep showing up to get the work done. She paints the picture brilliantly in this talk, and if you are a creative person or someone who simply wants to understand the creative process, please watch her talk. It is an investment of 19 minutes of your life which will return huge energy and inspiration to you. "Have the sheer human love and stubborness to keep showing up." -- Liz Gilbert, closing her talk (in the process of creating this post, I watched Liz's talk again. Yep...tears again).

Brilliant choreographer Twyla Tharp, in her book The Creative Habit: Learn it and Use it for Life, makes the point, too:

"The film Amadeus dramatizes and romanticizes the divine origins of creative genius. Antonio Salieri, representing the talented hack, is cursed to live in the time of Mozart, the gifted and undisciplined genius who writes as though touched by the hand of God… Of course this is hogwash. There are no ‘natural’ geniuses… No-one worked harder than Mozart. By the time he was twenty-eight years old, his hands were deformed because of all the hours he had spent practicing, performing, and gripping a quill pen to compose… As Mozart himself wrote to a friend, 'People err who think my art comes easily to me. I assure you, dear friend, nobody has devoted so much time and thought to composition as I. There is not a famous master whose music I have not industriously studied through many times'."

Reflecting upon what it takes to produce, she writes, "...routine is as much a part of the creative process as the lightning bolt of inspiration, maybe more."

As any of the "overnight successes" in any field will tell you, there were uncounted and mountainous investments they made in their art or their passion before the world discovered them. Paul Potts, he of the amazing viral video from the British talent show which launched his singing career, spent years and came close to financial ruin over and over as he studied and pursued his love. Yes, he was a cell-phone salesman when he went on TV, but he was hardly unschooled.

How about Tiger Woods, arguably the greatest golfer of all time? Is he the most talented, or is he simply a really good athlete who also has worked harder at the game for more years than anyone else? The truth probably lies somewhere between. Certainly, he was tutored from a very young age by his dad, and there is no question that, even today, he works harder on his game than any other professional golfer. Yet, none of that would have come to much without his innate talent. The point is, he has the talent, and he has the drive and the passion to execute. He exhibits the talent in its best light by working to provide it full expression.

So, we come to this: once you have found your passion--and that's a topic for another day, the finding of it--don't fear devoting time to it. In fact, dive in! Become someone who lives to show your love for that passion by pursuing it, by doing it, by practicing it every day. Make it a central part of your life and invest your time and energy.

You will find fulfillment, joy, and a return of the love you pour into your chosen pursuit which far exceeds any measure you can imagine. That's not to say you will necessarily find it to be your life's work or the way you pay your rent, but don't measure your ROI in dollars. Measure it in the enrichment you find in your life. If you are able to make it your means of paying the bills, wonderful! It is certainly my goal to reach that point.


Rick Hamrick said...

Rick, I am working my way through Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell and pondering the connections between needing 10,000 hours for mastery and creativity. If one approaches their passion with such devotion as spending that much time, coming to the table so to speak, then by practice alone, the odds for being creative must improve.

Could someone fully passionate and fully engaged, continuing to explore between the lines or along the edges for so long not be creative? I think they would be more so. How does this sit with you?

Rick Hamrick said...

I wrote a comment, but failed to say who was commenting. Now if I can remember what I said!

"Bird by Bird" is an excellent book for anyone to read, not only aspiring writers. I've not read it recently, and I should reread it. I recall that many of her ideas apply not only to writing, but to living life fully, also. Yes, I need to find it, dust it off, and soak up her words.

Rick Hamrick said...

I was familiar with this talk and have blogged about it myself, but was glad to read your reflections and then to have the opportunity to watch it again. It touched me again, just like in previous times. Her passion and ability to inspire continues through many viewings. Thank you Rick!

Rick Hamrick said...

Steve, I wholeheartedly agree that devotion and creativity are connected. In the case of attaining mastery as described by Gladwell, it can only free one to become as creative as one can be once the tool or instrument or art has been mastered. Then, one is free to create without the continuous attention to how to implement the urge. With mastery, the implementation becomes transparent, or nearly so.

Rick Hamrick said...

Lyn, you are quite right: Anne Lamotte offers us a great deal about life and what she has learned of it in her book. If it were up to me, it would be required reading.

Rick Hamrick said...

Yes, O, I have written about this Liz Gilbert video at least twice before, and I may write about it five more times. It is that good. The hope it offers to those of an artistic bent who seem to be caught in the 'tortured soul' aspect of the artist is particularly important.

Rick Hamrick said...

Good post, Rick. Yes, I just LOOOOOVED that TED Talk, too.

Rick Hamrick said...

I think you should start by writing more blog posts. Sincerely, Pot vs. Kettle (Julie

Rick Hamrick said...

Kelly, thanks for stopping by and letting me know you were here.

Jules--you never know (because I never do) when another post or a dozen more might show up. Aren't you supposed to be making plans for a trip out here to the Wild West?