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Synchronicity Strikes Again

2 May

I can literally see my lives converging.  My “professional” life and my “creative” life, that is.  The truth is, they’ve overlapped here and there for some time.

As a speaker and trainer, I “perform”.  As a career and leadership consultant, I often write and edit, including on another blog.

Now, I’m starting a series on creative careers on that blog, and I reached out to a professional contact of mine, Peter Gordon, who has worked in production of sports and entertainment content for many years.  I wanted to interview him, and, lo and behold, I found out that he writes a creativity blog!  How cool is that?  In his field, creativity is a requirement but the truth is, we can all use a little (or a lot of) creativity in whatever work it is that we get paid for.

Check out Peter’s creativity blog at: www.myprogramidea.blogspot.com

And, if you’d like to read my interview with Peter, here’s the link: http://thecareermuse.wordpress.com/2012/03/26/creative-career-spotlight-peter-gordon/

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Creativity = Recycling

22 Apr

And Recycling = Creativity: Happy Earth Day!

"We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them." - Albert Einstein

One oft-repeated verity among artists of every walk–from writers and musicians to dancers and especially those accomplished artists in the field of advertising–is that CREATIVITY IS RECYCLING.

You might argue that there hasn’t been anything truly, completely new since the world’s first seven days. There are only creations made by recycling existing elements and ideas in uniquely different combinations. These wonderfully re-formed products are the products of the built-in recycling center within each of us. It’s called our imagination.

Go ahead, call me trashy. I don't mind. 🙂

But the inverse is also true. I believe the mere act of sorting plastics and cans from junk mail and cereal boxes can connect us back to the Great Creator. By doing so, we affirm that while the resources of the earth are both valuable and finite, our potential to re-create is not.

So to celebrate Earth Day this year, consider this: recycling is fuel for your creativity. What a non-artist might carelessly toss into the trash without second thought, an artist recognizes as having future potential. Recognition is the first step to learning how to reduce, reuse and recycle. In fact, our best rubbish in life is often our best inspiration as well.

Week 12: The End of the Walk

16 Apr

Well, they took 12 months instead of 12 weeks to finish The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, and that’s how long they took to finish Walking in This World, too. For the past year, the 4 Chicks have walked and talked their way through this second book together. To celebrate this completion, and in the spirit of Cameron’s many excellent creative exercises in her books, I inspired the 4 Chicks to hold a “Letting Go” fire ceremony, burning their fears, frustrations and other negative feelings that might otherwise block their future creative paths, as well as a whimsical “Dream Planting” activity, articulating their top three creative dreams for the future and giving them fertile ground in which to grow.

If I, the Muse, inspire you as well–be it writing, illustration, music, drama or any other artistic endeavor–consider bringing together three fellow sojourners and continue further down your own creative path today.

 

Why Misery Breeds Creativity

31 Mar

I have a theory about why creativity seems to go hand in hand with misery.  Note that I don’t think misery is required.  But it is a great fuel.  Why?

Van Gogh, self-portrait, 1888

I think the more unhappy we are, the more we resist what is.  We yearn for what isn’t, for what else could be, for what’s possible. In a bad family situation? A soul-numbing job?  Our mind starts seeking a new situation even if limited only to the universe of our brain.

Imagining possibilities is creativity.

We also become really cranky and resistant when we’re unhappy.  Fighting instincts are ignited.  This generally means that the polite filters we use to get along in daily life become frayed.  Our inhibitions are lowered, our emotions are freer, we are more open to risk.

If we are literally biting our tongues to keep our unvarnished thoughts from spilling out, they don’t just disappear.  They stew.  They fester.  If we don’t let them out somehow, they will rot us from the inside out.  So, we write, we paint, we dance, we sing.  We literally get it out through these physical acts.  And, in some small measure, we heal.

The Science of Art and Creativity

23 Mar

I was enthralled the whole way home on my commute  a couple of days ago, listening to an interview on NPR with Jonah Lehrer, the author of Imagine: How Creativity Works.

Amazing, inspiring info on the science of creativity, as well as some insights on how to tap into it!  You can hear or read it here:

http://www.npr.org/2012/03/21/148607182/fostering-creativity-and-imagination-in-the-workplace

Does Humanity = Creativity?

6 Feb

Pech Merle cave art

Today, I am pleased to share the guest post below in place of my own. It is written by my mother, who was inspired by an article she read that  tries to shed light on the question of when human creativity began.  I believe the two are inextricably entertwined – that we humans are, and always have been, creative, even in our earliest forms.  What do you think?

The Origin of Human Creativity

By Caroline Lanker

Recently, I spent some time catching up on the 4 Chicks and a Muse blog – reading the latest blog posts and watching the latest video clips.  Coincidently, the same day, I was going through some old magazines and happened to re-read an article in the August 2010 issue of Scientific American, “When the Sea Saved Humanity,” by Curtis W. Marean.

The article centers on a time in human history – over 100,000 years ago – when the earth was in the grips of an ice age.  The climate of Africa was exceedingly dry and harsh then.   Genetic studies indicate that the population of Homo sapiens plummeted during that time, as shown by an unusual lack of diversity in the human genome compared to other species.

Our species, which had arisen during much more hospitable conditions, somehow hung on in small groups somewhere in Africa.  Marean and his colleagues went looking for a place where humans lived during that ice age. They found one such place in a series of caves near the seashore on the southern tip of South Africa.

What they found in those caves was more than just survival of our species. They found evidence of sophisticated behavior at an early stage in our history.  One such type of evidence is the “…evidence of art or other symbolic activities…”

This may have been a surprise to some, as the article explains, “For years the earliest examples of these behaviors were all found in Europe and dated to after 40,000 years ago.  …researchers concluded that there was a long lag between the origin of our species and the emergence of our peerless creativity.”

Wow! I have read about scientific debates over the beginnings of modern human thought many times.  But I don’t recall the term “creativity” being used in that context before.

In the article, Marean describes three lines of evidence of modern human thought/creativity going back to the earliest level (164,000 years ago) of the cave he and his colleagues excavated.  First, there was evidence of complex technology in the heat treatment of stone to make it suitable for making stone tools.  As he describes it,

“The making of silcrete blades [the particular tools that showed evidence of heat treating] requires a complex series of carefully designed steps…”

cc-by-sa-3.0 Guerin Nicolas

Second, there was evidence of art.

“In the oldest layers of [the cave], my team has unearthed dozens of pieces of red ochre (iron oxide) that were variously carved and ground to create a fine powder that was probably mixed with a binder such as animal fat to make paint that could be applied to the body or other surfaces.”

Third, he explains that the shellfish that provided a substantial part of the cave dwellers food could only be gathered safely during particularly low tides.  The people must have timed their forays to collect shellfish by the phases of the moon.  The latter connection is a bit more tenuous than the other evidence, but quite reasonable.

Altogether, the artifacts found in the cave and the investigations of them provide persuasive evidence of creative thought as long ago as 164,000 years.

I do not find that to be remarkable, actually.  In the absence of clear evidence to the contrary, scientists prefer the “simplest” explanation for everything.   In the former absence of evidence of modern human thought before about 40,000 years ago, some scientists developed the hypothesis that humans somehow developed modern thought long after the origin of our species.   However, the small amount of genetic diversity in our species seems inconsistent with that hypothesis.

In my opinion, the simplest explanation would be that human creativity developed with the origin of our species.  To believe otherwise is to posit that the complex development of modern human cognition arose with little or no genetic modification.

I, of course, have no credentials that would qualify me to enter the scientific debate, nor any new evidence to provide.  But I read with interest about the possible origins of human creativity and tied it together with the 4 Chicks’ thoughts on the universality of human creativity.

A number of years ago, Peggy (Pursuing the Muse) and I were fortunate to see for ourselves some cave art dating back tens of thousands of years when we saw some of the famous Paleolithic art in a cave called Pech Merle, near Cahors in the Lot river valley of France.  You can see images of the paintings or take a virtual tour of the cave at www.quercy.net/pechmerle/english/introduction.html.

To read the full text of the Scientific American article (or a free excerpt) go to www.scientificamerican.com and search in the Archives section.

Creative Commitment

19 Jan

Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.  ~Thomas A. Edison

If I’ve learned nothing else from Julia Cameron through The Artist’s Way and Walking in this World, it’s that creativity actually flows from something not so exciting or sexy: commitment.  Marrying the wish with the will is the only way to make it happen.

So, I recently made a commitment to write 12 picture books in 12 months in 2012.  Yes, I joined 12x12in12, the brainchild of author Julie Hedlund.  As a result of her experience in another picture book writing challenge, she devised this challenge for herself and then invited others to join her in it.  To see more details, click this link to Julie’s blog.

I’m really excited about it but more than that – I need it.  I’m a person who is driven by social commitment.  If I tell someone I’m going to do something, I will work so much harder than I would otherwise to ensure I meet that commitment.  When I fail, I agonize over it.

Joining this challenge seems like insanity since I already have so much on my plate.  Plus, I already have almost a dozen picture books I’ve written previously sitting on my virtual shelf, gathering virtual dust.  Why have I abandoned these children?   Rather than look back and admonish myself further, I’m using this challenge, this commitment to motivate me to create new work and actually do something with my existing work.  Win-win.

I’m still debating whether I should share on the blog any of my 12 attempts this year.  If I decide to do it, you’ll be the first to know.

Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid

5 Jan

Lately, my Chicks and I have been jokingly whining to each other “Stop making me do scary things!”  You see, every time we try something new, we are afraid. Afraid of failure, afraid of other people’s judgment, afraid of many things.

But we keep trying new things anyway.  One of us will come up with some crazy idea and the others will say “Yeah!” even though inside they might be thinking “What?? I can’t do that!”

Why do we do this?  Because we want to encourage each other, because we don’t want to let each other down, because we feel more capable when we are together.  Because we’ve committed ourselves to a more creative life.  And, isn’t doing something new the very essence of creativity?

I heard an interview yesterday that made me realize that people who do creative work are afraid at least some of the time and perhaps on a daily basis. Terry Gross, of Fresh Air on National Public Radio, was interviewing Pamela Adlon, an actress on the current HBO hit series Californication and a voice over artist who won an Emmy for voicing Bobby on King of the Hill.   Pamela was talking about how just putting on some of the wardrobe (such as it is) for the HBO show was scary.  I thought: here’s someone who does this for a living and has for many years and has won awards.  She still gets scared, why shouldn’t I?

I was afraid to sing our theme song to be recorded – I mean, I was literally shaking.  I was afraid to act (I know that’s stretching the definition) in our video.  I was really afraid to launch them for the whole world to see and hear.  Now I realize I can’t just accept fear, I have to embrace it.  So, though I won’t call it a resolution, my creative goal for this year is to be afraid as often as possible.

And my wish for you in 2012 is to be afraid, be very afraid.

4 Chicks and a Muse: The Theme Song

2 Jan

Here it is! The moment you’ve all been waiting for, including your chance to win that all-new Kindle. (Scroll down to find our regular posts)

In this video, the 4 Chicks pay homage to 10 different classic 1970’s and 80’s TV sitcoms, in 18 parodied theme song scenes. Think you can name the sitcoms?

  1. First, subscribe to the 4 Chicks and a Muse blog (click “Speak to Me, Muse!”); or like its page on Facebook.
  2. Next, identify the 10 sitcoms whose popular opening scenes are featured.
  3. Finally, email your answers to chickstories@gmail.com by 11:59 p.m. on Monday, January 16, 2012.

NOTES: One winner will be randomly selected from all correct entries. A correct entry is an email that lists the 10 sitcoms featured in any order. Because there are 18 parodied scenes, this means that many sitcoms appear in more than one scene. And remember, these are Chick interpretations, not exact reproductions. So you may have to use a little more, er, imagination to recognize some scenes. If there are no entries with all 10 sitcoms listed correctly, winner will be drawn from those with the most correct guesses.

Oh, and while I, the Muse, accept full glory for inspiration of this video, I must share credit for bringing it to fruition:

Vocals  |  the 4 Chicks

Eva Griffin, Peggy J. Sheridan, Tracey Jane Smith and Vivi Barnes

Music and lyrics  |  Tracey Jane Smith

Arrangement  |  Timothy Davis

Recording and mix |  Michael Smith

Videography and editing | Eva Griffin

Forklift operation | Chris Griffin

Child wrangling | Dave Jackson

Sports equipment | David “Spike” Barnes

Kindle Your Creativity in 2012

29 Dec

The 4 Chicks Contest: quite possibly your best odds ever to win the all-new Kindle e-Reader.

Greetings, Muse-seekers. You’ll soon have a fantastic chance to win the all-new Kindle, courtesy of yours truly.

Mark your calendars now for this coming Monday, January 2nd, 2012. That’s when the 4 Chicks will be debuting their theme song video.

As you might recall from “We Need a Theme Song!”, I chose to employ classic 80’s sitcoms as inspiration for this daring Chick-venture. My little Muselettes have been singing, dancing and laughing their way across Orlando ever since. The results are sure to be entertaining.

To be eligible for the giveaway, you’ll first need to follow the blog, one of two easy ways:

  1. Subscribe to receive blog updates directly from 4chicksandamuse.com (Just click “Speak to Me, Muse!” on the top right); OR
  2. On Facebook, simply Like the 4 Chicks and a Muse page.

Can you name this sitcom? Then you're off to a strong start.

Then on January 2nd, you’ll be asked to identify and email the names of the sitcoms featured in the video. A random drawing will be taken from all correct emails. More details to follow. Meanwhile, subscribe or like today. Even if you don’t win the Kindle, you’ll sure to receive creative encouragement in 2012. I guarantee you’ll be inspired on some level, or my name’s not the Muse.

* TERMS AND CONDITIONS: Spouses, parents and progeny of the 4 Chicks are not eligible to snag the Kindle. However, all other 4 Chick and a Muse subscribers and Facebook fans are. So if you’re already officially following the Chicks, just stay tuned for Monday’s video.

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