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Top 10 Worst Creativity Tips of All Time (by Demian Farnworth)

You may be wondering where I find folks to guest blog for me. Okay, maybe you’re not, but I’m going to tell you anyway. Mostly from reading other blogs, and occasionally from the twitter. (Sorry, Facebook. It’s not you, it’s me.) I’ve actually got a fairly sizable list of folks I’m planning to ask. Sadly, that list is in my head, and I keep losing it. Anyway, I’ve been so pleased with all the guest posts so far, and my analytics tell me you have been, too. Damien was one of my twitter finds. I never know how people find me and follow me on twitter, but as long as it’s a real person, I’ll typically follow them back. I’m glad I did so with Damien, because he sent me a really great post.

Demian Farnworth is Managing Editor for an international humanitarian aid organization and blogger for Fallen & Flawed.

Top 10 Worst Creativity Tips of All Time

What do you get when you cross a cranky writer with an opium-induced dream? Nothing to gawk at, normally.

But English poet Samuel Coleridge defied the odds and cranked out an unforgettably creepy poem called “Kubla Khan”.

The only problem is nobody can really tell us what the poem is about. Coleridge couldn’t even do it. And unfortunately generations of poets have followed in Coleridge’s footsteps ushering in an attitude that says true creativity occurs when you alter your mind.

But that’s a terrible idea. And there are nine more really bad ideas on how to jolt your creativity. Let’s take a look at them.

1. Wait for the Muse.
Want to make my skin crawl? Want to watch me clench my fists? Then tell me you can’t write until the Muse moves you. In fact, if you’re a professional, I might hit you. I’ll repent afterwards, but I’ll definitely swing. Professionals write whether they feel like it or not.

2. Get drunk.
Or stoned. Or huff glue. You’ll write some of the most ridiculous stories, paint the most dysfunctional pictures while intoxicated. Funny thing is, they’re masterpieces while you’re high. But sober people will avoid you. However, get them drunk, and you’re a genius. See no. 10.

3. Eat meat.
Long ago some Chinese mystic-artist always ate meat before he fell asleep so he could have great dreams. [Give me a break on the ambiguity. I read it somewhere. Just don’t know where.] I don’t recommend this tactic either…because what happens if your dreams dry up? They will, artist boy.

4. Toy with Twitter.
Despite what social media pundits want you to believe–Twitter is not a inspiration factory. It’s a chaotic cocktail party that will rob you of time. Doesn’t mean you can’t hang out there. I do it myself. Just don’t depend on it for creative ideas. You’ll get sucked away and totally forget what you were doing.

5. Smoke cigarettes.
No one’s flat-out preached that smoking cigarettes inspires. But stroll by any bistro and all the artists and poets and writers will be puffing away. Cigarettes kill, people. Then again, if you don’t care, you are guilty of number 7.

6. Fall in love.
If you depend on the unpredictable, violent emotions of new love **cough, cough, LUST, cough** then you might rock out a killer freshman album. Girls will stalk you. Men will envy you. Mothers will hate you. That is until your sophomore album rolls out. Then they’ll see you for the one-hit wonder you are.

7. Becoming a sadist.
Blame it on the Romantic poets: They were ones who thought a true artist suffered. So what about the thousands of years of creative output before then? And frankly, what the Romantic poets and Co. have created are marginal footnotes to enduring masterpieces.

8. Don’t create.
The Salinger principle of creativity states “you can’t create it without killing it.” You’re guilty of this if you fear that perfect artistic idea will get ruined if you commit it to paper or canvas. Get over yourself and create.

9. Specialize.
I’m guilty of this one. The idea that you will create great work if you do nothing but one thing. This is problematic because some of the best ideas come to us from fields that are far different than ours. Become the explorer. Not the homebody.

10. Thinking you are a genius.
Or a “serious” writer. [Now, where did that come from? See no. 7.] Personally guilty in this category. Picasso said that it took him a life time to learn how to draw like a child. There’s liberty in simplicity like that. And great art.

Listen: This list was generated after twenty years of failing hard in my own attempts at creative writing and a simultaneous ten years of working as a professional writer and editor. I’ve seen these tips and attitudes come from my own mouth and the mouths of other writers. Do any of them ring a bell? Would you add any? And if you’re guilty, don’t worry. So am I.

***

To read more from Damien, visit him at his blog Fallen & Flawed, follow him on the twitter @DFarnworth, or visit his Facebook page:Demian Farnworth.

Resistance

Last year I attended the Catalyst One Day conference at North Point Community Church in Alpharetta, GA where I had the pleasure of meeting and sitting next to friend and bloggy hero Jon Acuff of Stuff Christians Like. We talked about bloggy stuff, family stuff and general pleasantries. Jon mentioned with great excitement a book he was reading called The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. Because I am nothing if not a procrastinator, it took me almost 10 months to finally read it. But wow – was he right about this book! If you’re a creative person, regardless of your passion, this book will admonish you, encourage you, and spur you on to put aside excuses and pursue your dreams with a new found vitality.

Here’s an excerpt from the book:

WHAT I KNOW
There’s a secret that real writers know that wannabe writers don’t, and the secret is this: It’s not the writing part that’s hard. What’s hard is sitting down to write. What keeps us from sitting down is Resistance.

THE UNLIVED LIFE
Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands the Resistance.

Have you ever brought home a treadmill and let it gather dust in the attic? Ever quit a diet, a course in yoga, a meditation practice? Have you ever bailed out on a call to embark upon a spiritual practice, dedicate yourself to a humanitarian calling, commit your life to the service of others? Have you ever wanted to be a mother, a doctor, an advocate for the weak and helpless; to run for office, crusade for the planet, campaign for world peace, or to preserve the environment? Late at night have you experienced a vision of the person you might become, the work you could accomplish, the realized being you were meant to be? Are you a writer who doesn’t write, a painter who doesn’t paint, an entrepreneur who never starts a venture? Then you know what Resistance is….

Resistance is the most toxic force on the planet. It is the root of more unhappiness than poverty, disease, and erectile dysfunction. To yield to Resistance deforms our spirit. It stunts us and makes us less than we are and were born to be. If you believe in God (and I do) you must declare Resistance evil, for it prevents us from achieving the life God intended when He endowed each of us with our unique genius. Genius is a Latin word; the Romans used it to denote an inner spirit, holy and inviolable, which watches over us, guiding us to our calling. A writer writes with his genius; an artist paints with hers; everyone who creates operates from this sacramental center. It is our soul’s seat, the vessel that holds our being-in-potential, our star’s beacon and Polaris.

Every sun casts a shadow, and genius’s shadow is Resistance. As powerful as is our soul’s call to realization, so potent are the forces of Resistance arrayed against it. Resistance is faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, harder to kick than crack cocaine. We’re not alone if we’ve been mowed down by Resistance; millions of good men and women have bitten the dust before us. And here’s the biggest bitch: We don’t even know what hit us. I never did. From age twenty-four to thirty-two, Resistance kicked my ass from East Coast to West and back again thirteen times and I never even knew it existed. I looked everywhere for the enemy and failed to see it right in front of my face.

Have you heard this story: Woman learns she has cancer, six months to live. Within days she quits her job, resumes the dream of writing Tex-Mex songs she gave up to raise a family (or starts studying classical Greek, or moves to the inner city and devotes herself to tending babies with AIDS). Woman’s friends think she’s crazy; she herself has never been happier. There’s a postscript. Woman’s cancer goes into remission.

Is that what it takes? Do we have to stare death in the face to make us stand up and confront Resistance? Does Resistance have to cripple and disfigure our lives before we wake up to its existence? How many of us have become drunks and drug addicts, developed tumors and neuroses, succumbed to painkillers, gossip, and compulsive cell-phone use, simply because we don’t do that thing that our hearts, our inner genius, is calling us to? Resistance defeats us. If tomorrow morning by some stroke of magic every dazed and benighted soul woke up with the power to take the first step toward pursuing his or her dreams, every shrink in the directory would be out of business. Prisons would stand empty. The alcohol and tobacco industries would collapse, along with the junk food, cosmetic surgery, and the infotainment businesses, not to mention pharmaceutical companies, hospitals, and the medical profession from top to bottom. Domestic abuse would become extinct, as would addiction, obesity, migraine headaches, road rage and dandruff.

Look into your own heart. Unless I’m crazy, right now a still small voice is piping up, telling you as it has ten thousand times, the calling that is yours and yours alone. You know it. No one has to tell you. And unless I’m crazy, you’re no closer to taking action on it than you were yesterday or will be tomorrow. You think Resistance isn’t real? Resistance will bury you.

So, ready to fight the Resistance? Here’s your chance. I’m going to give away a free copy of The War of Art. I’ll order it from Amazon and have it shipped directly to you if you’re the winner.

If you would like to enter, just leave me a comment on this post. The drawing will be random, but you have to tell me why you need this book. I’ll pick a winner next Friday.

Finding your Muse


Excerpt from Duma Key by Stephen King:

How to Draw a Picture (Part 5)

Don’t be afraid to experiment; find your muse and let her lead you. As her talent grew stronger, Elizabeth’s muse became Noveen, the marvelous talking doll. Or so she thought. And by the time she discovered here mistake — by the time Noveen’s voice changed — it was too late. But at first it must have been wonderful. Finding one’s muse always is.

Must your muse be a person? Well, it certainly can be, but it doesn’t have to be.

Your muse can be the questions you need answered or pain you want to make sense of. It can be the parts of your life you’ve just glanced over but never really delved into. Your children’s future can be your muse; your own peace of mind.

In short, your muse is what inspires you to create when you’re not feeling particularly creative; to work when you’d rather sleep, to promote yourself when you’d rather just find a quiet place to hide away from the world.

So, what drives me to create? Different things in different circumstances. But if I’m being honest (and I usually am), what drives me is the something my dad told me over and over as a child. Before I get into this, I need to tell you that my dad and I have a very good relationship now, and I don’t hold any ill will towards him. Forgiveness is a gift you give yourself. But I digress…

His philosophy was anything worth doing is worth doing well. Which I believe is a true and noble directive. His paraphrasing of that expression is what has caused me to struggle with overcoming some obstacles, the biggest of which was self doubt. I still struggle with that. I think we all do to a certain extent. So, what were my dad’s exact words? These:

“If you going to do something half-ass, don’t do it at all!”

Adults often make the mistake of assuming children think the way they do. When I heard that statement, my first thought was, “Okay. I won’t do it at all.” So things that were difficult for me I simply avoided. I convinced myself that I wasn’t really good at anything. But God knew better. I suppose I’m a bit of a later bloomer. I didn’t really know what I was good at creatively until my thirties. I spent a whole lot of years simply existing, not living. But somewhere along the line a passion for art in many forms was ignited. It’s scary, and difficult at times, but living is so much more fulfilling than existing, don’t you think?

So…find your muse yet?

The Creative Process: A step by step guide

(Subtitled: Why my laundry still isn’t finished.)

  1. With the full understanding that leaving the house today is on the agenda, you decide to wear something a bit more formal than the fuzzy polka dot pajama pants and the bright green “Whose Your Daddy?” t-shirt.

  2. Attempts to find a pair of clean jeans prove futile. Instead, you hastily decide on a pair of red cotton capris circa 2001 and a peasant type t-shirt the same color as Oscar the Grouch. A gigantic claw hair clip and black flip flops complete the ensemble. Make a mental note that the laundry fairy has ignored numerous requests. Drastic measures must be taken.
  3. After “errands”, i.e. – getting your kids out of the house before they drive you to drink, you reluctantly return home and begin tackling the huge piles of laundry.
  4. Lots of random things happen, you manage to wash and dry 2 loads of whites and 2 loads of jeans. Hang up jeans and begin sorting underwear and socks.
  5. End up with an inordinately high number of mismatched socks. Suspect the dog has found a “special place” for their sock mates.
  6. Decide to put the socks in a basket on top of the dryer. Hate this idea because how are you supposed to remember which socks are in there? You may throw their sockmate right in the same basket, and that ain’t right.
  7. Begin to feel bad for the socks. Serenade the socks with the 3 Dog Night Hit, “One”. “One…..is the loneliest number that you’ll ever know. Two can be as bad as one, it’s the loneliest number since the number one, Ahhhh Ewwww!”
  8. Frustrated that you have no fabulous ideas about how to store the socks until reunited with their drawer mates, your mind begins to wander…
  9. You notice a metal sign that you bought at Ross on the clearance aisle a couple of months ago. It says “Children are the anchors that hold a mother’s heart.” Which you hate, because it reminds you of that children’s book “The Giving Tree”, which makes you want to leg drop that selfish little kid/man in that book. But, it was 2 bucks, and there’s no law saying you have to keep that dumb saying on there once you own it free and clear, now is there?
  10. Get the Goo-Off and scraper from your handy dandy tool bag and get to gettin’ on that quote. Oh, yeah. At this point, the wheels are turning in that little ADD mind of yours. You have begun the actual labor portion of the creative process.
  11. While the Goo-Off soaks in a bit, you manage to get the SWSO’s (socks with significant others) and the miscellaneous unmentionables (underwear) safely to their assigned drawers. (HA! Underwear humor.)
  12. Over the next 2 days, hem and haw over what kind of lettering you want to use on your “sock sign”. Waste an incredible amount of time and energy on this.
  13. Finally decide on the size and type of lettering. Print out new quote, and put on sign using a stylus and transfer paper. Fill in letters with paint pen. Clear coat.
  14. Hot glue clothespins to sign.
  15. Hang sign above dryer, hang sock singles on clothespins.
  16. Stand back and admire your work. You are pleased, but something is missing.

  17. More random things happen — New Year’s Eve party, etc.
  18. Friends come over for dinner. You show them your work. Since they are weird like you, they like the sign very much.
  19. Moments later, one of your friends gives you an idea that will be the “piece de la resistance” to your sock sign.
  20. After your friends leave, you immediately begin working on the final piece of your sign. It takes only a few minutes, but you are well pleased.

    As a matter of fact, you’d go so far as to say that it was…

SOCKTACULAR!

(Oh, come on. You knew that was coming!)

Quotes and Non-Conformity

“Conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy of growth.”

-John F. Kennedy
“If you see in any given situation only what everybody else can see, you can be said to be so much a representative of your culture that you are a victim of it.”
-S. I. Hayakawa
I love quotes. I suppose my affinity for them is rooted in the harsh reality that while I can often express myself somewhat effectively with the written word, I get a bit tongue tied when attempting to convey an idea verbally. My mind is often several steps ahead of my mouth, and synchronicity between the two is rarely achieved.
Years ago, when I was ordering my (our) wedding invitations, I also ordered a large supply of note cards that are blank, save the “Mr. and Mrs. ……” I have used them occasionally over the past 12 years, but have hardly put a dent in the box. During my recent organization rampage (which is still in high gear, hence the lack of blog posts), I decided that I would write a note of encouragement or quote each school day for my kids and tuck them in their backpacks. It’s been a big hit so far. My son told me it’s like having a little piece of me with him while he’s at school. (I’m a little ve-clemped, talk amongst yourselves………………….). Okay, I’m better now.
I have found many great quotes (including the two above) from a book that I received years ago, “The Right Moment” by William E. Hyche. As an amusing (or not) aside, the book is autographed by the author with a note that says “Kathy – this book is a gift from Dad and Maureen”. Wow. That’s profound! (BTW – Maureen is not her real name. She is my father’s ex live-in girlfriend who hated my husband and I with a white-hot passion because we are Christians and she is a left wing feminist who believes that “our kind” are trying to keep women barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen. I wonder what she thinks of Sarah Palin…) Not that I’m against the feminist movement as a whole. I am indebted many brave women who, at great personal cost, pushed through the 19th amendment and fought for many of the freedoms I enjoy today. However, I take great issue with NOW because of their stance on abortion. How is it that a woman’s right to choose takes greater priority over an unborn child’s right to live? But as usual, I digress.
Where was I? Oh yes — quotes! I stumbled across this one yesterday. I have to say that this definitely makes it into my top ten list of all time favorites:

What you really have to do, if you want to be creative, is to unlearn all the teasing and censoring that you’ve experienced throughout your life. If you are truly a creative person, you know that feeling insecure and lonely is par for the course. You can’t have it both ways: You can’t be creative and conform, too. You have to recognize that what makes you different also makes you creative.

– Arno Penzias, 1978 Nobel Prize winner for physics

Are you getting the vibe that I’m a bit of a non-conformist? While I believe that label would be an accurate one, I would qualify it by stating that I’m not a non-conformist for the sake of being a non-conformist. If you think about it, that’s a little ridiculous. It makes me think of an angst filled teenager bent on being unique and different who dresses exactly like all his/her equally angst filled friends.

So now I’m looking for some reader participation. Mostly because I have yet to catch up on my blog reading and I miss hearing from you guys. Do you have a favorite quote?

In closing, I’ll give you my all time favorite: 2 Corinthians 12:9 (New King James Version)9 And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

After some in-depth research, the results are in…

I have been cruising all over the blogosphere. Wow! There are some really funny, creative, imaginitive and disturbed people out there!
I have come to the conclusion that my blog sucks. I am going to be under some reconstruction for awhile…..

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