Tag Archives: creativity

TANGO! Review February Power Word

28 Feb

TANGO! Unleash Your Passion or Get off the Dance Floor

27 Feb
The Seduction Dance

My tango takeaway: passion + practice = progress!

Let me preface this post by affirming that I am a happily married woman. That said, I recently found myself in an intense tango with a stranger whom I had only just met. I was drawn to this new partner under the most unlikely of circumstances, but the passion took over.

Okay, let me explain this metaphorical tryst before my husband of seventeen years installs secret spyware on my laptop. For months, I’d been plodding through a rather unpleasant scene in my novel, seeming unable to finish it. My character had to face a lot: a major death, charges of murder, a funeral, and above all, her own secrets. I seemed to be writing in circles, deleting more than I added most attempts and feeling, like my character, doomed.

Lunge back to my real life, the one without imaginary friends. A real-life friend and neighbor began to make me aware of details regarding plans underway to rezone schools in our county. I just didn’t have time to get involved, I thought. Besides, my friend and many others like her seemed well informed and fired up enough to fix any problem; I was confident they’d work it all out for the best. But then she insisted I should come to a school board meeting, that many of the proposed plans broke up our neighborhood and had my home and many others going to a school that would not allow my son to walk or bike to school like my daughter had done.

The fire was lit.  “One Neighborhood – One School” had become a rally cry among my neighbors and others asking for neighborhoods to be kept together while saving walkers and bikers, one which I thought summed up my new-found position as well. After attending a rezoning meeting, I was suddenly overcome with a desperate desire to do something, and to do it quickly, before the plans were finalized and set in stone. Sixteen haiku poems and a theme song poured out. My 11-year-old daughter helped me turn the song into a music video, which was reviewed by one newspaper reporter and even featured on local TV.

Chaines turn back to my imaginary world. Yesterday I finally finished that 3,000-word scene. It’s as if dancing with a new, intense passion reignited my long-standing, deeply desired passion of putting down this story. I’m as committed to it as I am to my marriage. Both take work, I know, and passion is what keeps each of them alive.

Here are some TANGO! rules of engagement I’ve learned. And a one-two-three-four…

  1. You gotta have passion. This is rule numero uno. En el tango o en la vida, your passion is what will propel your creativity. Lack of a driving passion bordering on obsession leaves the dance or the work flat. Just watch the first few episodes of Dancing with the Stars in any given season. While every contestant is learning the fundamentals of dance upon which they will improve over the course of weeks and months, those who cannot tap into their inner passion are always the first to go. It’s why even Pamela Anderson’s long legs couldn’t save her from losing to Drew Carey in week one last fall. The judges described her dancing as needing more “intensity.” That’s passion: intense, vibrant, alive.
  2. You gotta have technique. In dance, technique refers to the thousand repetitions of precise steps and combinations in the classroom that improve over time until they become second nature. My ballet mistress calls this desired phenomenon muscle memory. So it is with exercising our brains. The more we write/paint/compose/sew/take pictures/make films/create, the better we write/paint/compose/sew/take pictures/make films/create, and the more natural it becomes to do it.
  3. You gotta have structure. Practiced technique is tested with structure. Literally the beat and time of the music dictates when you do what. Lunge on one, snap head forward on two, wrap free leg around partner’s hip on three, be dragged gracefully on four. In real life, we call them deadlines. And we need them every bit as much as a dancer needs a rhythm. Trust me, it’s much harder to improvise dancing to a 3-minute song than to learn prescribed choreography and perform it.
  4. You gotta know what you want. In tango, the dance of seduction, the couple wants their mad attraction to come to its final pleasurable, um, climax. With the school rezoning, I knew what I wanted with easy clarity, perhaps because it was for my kids. For myself, it’s a lot harder. It’s too easy to get distracted by the necessary to-do’s of the day to forget that writing my novel isn’t another chore. It’s something I chose, something I want to choose to work on consistently, because it’s something I really, really want.

And so at the end of our month of TANGO!, I’m reminded of another group of awesome chicks, the Spice Girls, whose Wannabe lyrics make a great springboard for comments. So what’s your zigazig ah?

[You:] Yo, I’ll tell you what I want,what I really really want,
[4 Chicks:] So tell me what you want, what you really really want,
[You:] I’ll tell you what I want, what I really really want,
[4 Chicks:] So tell me what you want, what you really really want,
[You:] I wanna, I wanna, I wanna, I wanna, I wanna really
really really wanna zigazig ah!

TANGO! Dance around the bullies and be your creative self!

22 Feb

This is an odd way to relate to this month’s power word, TANGO, but it’s something I feel pretty strongly about.

Recently, someone close to me experienced bullying at his middle school. Remember middle school? I do. I hated it. Well, that’s probably being a little harsh, since there were many things I enjoyed. But most of my friends weren’t in my “block,” and I had scoliosis, which means I had to wear a brace for a year and a half of the junior high hell (the brace wasn’t visible, but I felt like it was).

To show him he wasn’t alone, I asked the Twitterverse to share stories of bullying experiences in middle school. And WOW was I surprised when my Twitter feed blew up and I received over a hundred responses to my request. From editors to authors to even a rocket scientist, many had felt the sting of being the “odd one out.” And a common theme—many times the bully was getting bullied herself.

Then a friend sent me an email about how her previously trusted group of peers had been talking about her behind her back and treating her poorly (since she’s one of the sweetest people I know and considering her situation, I’m thinking it could be a jealousy thing). She decided to break with the group, but it wasn’t easy. They had been together for years. It made her question her own self worth, and that, to me, is unacceptable.two young girls laughing behind another girls back

When bullying rears its ugly head beyond the primary school years, how do you handle it?Maybe it happens when an artist perceives himself as blocked, as if blocking others leads to revelation or success for himself. As in middle school, sometimes it’s the bully who is getting bullied. As adults, though, it surprises me still that this happens. Why hinder when we should be supporting each other? I can’t think of anything more detrimental to the creative self than being dragged down by naysayers.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve learned to keep circles of trust around myself. No one gets into the circle unless invited—no one tangoes with me (no one puts Baby in a corner?) unless I really, REALLY trust them.  They’re the only ones who can actually affect my perception of myself. I don’t have energy for the rest.

So tango around those who aim to hurt you. Create your circles and block the bullies. The dance will be much more enjoyable for it!

How do you know when you’ve looked at your own work too much?

24 Aug

Yes, I know it’s a long title, but I really want to know.   How do you know when you’ve looked at your own work too much?  When you are no longer a good judge of whether it’s great or it’s crap?

Vivi and I have a novel which we’ve been working on for years (literally, not just “it feels like”).  There are a lot of good reasons why it’s taken so long but, through this experience, I’ve realized one real downside of working on a project too long: at some point you get bored with your own work.  You’ve read it so many times that it doesn’t – it can’t – have the same emotional impact.  At that point you can no longer tell how it will strike others.

After our latest revision, I had doubts about whether the first chapter started in the right place, held the reader’s interest, did enough to introduce the main characters but not be an infodump, and so on.  I winced when we sent it to our critique group.  But then a wondrous thing happened…they liked it.

Not only did they like it, they laughed at all the places we’d hoped they would.  They could “see” the characters.  They loved where we were going so far.  The voice was just right.  Of course, they gave us critical feedback as well, which we were happy to get.  It was like a veil was lifted for me and I thought, “Oh yeah, it is funny.  We did find just the right touch.” Without other eyes on it, I would have still been looking at it through a fog.  Still working on it, thinking it’s not good enough, and not ready to be put out into the world.

But if we keep doing that, we never actually produce anything, do we?  We remain an amateur rather than giving ourselves the opportunity to turn pro.

I want to figure out how much is enough and how much is too much, so I can produce a quality product but actually produce!  As an artist, how do you know?

Creativity Anniversary

6 Jul

While I, the Muse, have been around forever, my 4 Chicks only recently celebrated their one-year blog milestone. In honor of this, their paper anniversary, I inspired the Chicks to put pen to paper and retrace their shared journey. Because like one’s marital anniversary, it is well worth remembering and commemorating when and how you first decided in earnest to pursue your creative passions. And those with whom you choose to share it are your creative soul mates for life.

Vivi’s Got an Agent…and a Theme Song!

12 Jun

The Muse gave us these fun t-shirts in honor of our one-year blog anniversary.

Vivi ROCKS! And while this isn’t news to those who know her, Vivi getting an agent has given each of us Chicks exciting new inspiration and motivation.

In the spirit of the blog, we want to celebrate this victory with you, too. I mean, really, Vivi is one of us; she’s a “normal”, hard-working mom of three who’s demonstrated remarkable faith, hard-work and perseverance to make her dreams come true. How encouraging it is for the rest of us to know the secret formula is so simple!

Since Vivi’s announcement was music to everyone’s ears, I figured what better way for us all to congratulate tickling the muse than with a fun little ditty. I hope you’ll sing along, even as you continue down your own path to creative fulfillment.

Kreativ Blogger Award

29 May

With apologies to our subscribers, who, due to an error, received a premature version of this post, I present (finally) my post explaining the award which has been posted on our site for some two months now…

In the midst of a less-than-relaxing vacation, nursing a nasty cold, I got some news that put a badly needed smile on my face: a nomination for the Kreativ Blogger Award!  This award is a fun little do-hickey that means someone liked our little blog about creativity enough to shine a light on it.

The Kreativ Blogger Award is like a funky-cool grassroots award that is floating around the blogging community.  The deal is, when you are nominated (should you choose to accept), you:

1. Thank the blogger who nominated you and provide a link;

2. List seven interesting things about yourself;

3. Nominate seven other bloggers, provide links and let them know.

It’s like the best kind of chain letter ever.  As a rule, I don’t get involved in chain letters.  In fact, I’m living proof that you will NOT die within 10 days, lose all your money, have seven years of bad luck or go to hell by ignoring them. Okay, I guess I don’t know about that last one yet, but I digress…

Ahem.  On behalf of 4Chicks and a Muse, I’d like to accept this award and thank the Academy, err..I mean flujan at  myvoyagethroughtime.wordpress.com for the nomination.

Here are seven interesting (according to me) things about me:

1.  The sports category in Trivial Pursuit is one of my best.  This often trips up my opponents, because they don’t expect a girl to know anything about sports.

2. My perfect elementary school record was blown for “talking too much.” Yes, I like words. Lots of them.

3. Ironically,

the form of poetry I

like best is haiku.

4. The farthest I have ever traveled is to Australia.  I loved the people (!), but you wouldn’t believe how many of them, upon learning that I lived in Texas, asked if I rode a horse to school.

5. After a while, I started saying “yes”.

6. I used to be a cat person but now I’m a dog person.

7. The first serious writing I submitted to a prominent national writing contest won an honorable mention.  That made me feel I might actually have some talent.

Here are my seven nominations with a personal observation about each:

shanjeniah.com – Fun photo collages

livewritethrive.com – Great site for writers

andimjulie.blogspot.com – Smart, spunky gal with my kind of humor

familyhaikus.wordpress.com – Haiku.  Need I say more?

havebaggagewilltravel.com – Fun travel blog with gorgeous photography

thegrownupkids.wordpress.com – A Blogger in Paris (I love, love, love Paris)

decor8blog.com – To satisfy my design appreciation gene.

Check out these phenomenal blogs and find your own new ones as well.  There are so many wonderful, creative (or is it Kreativ?) people out there, and I’m so glad to be part of such a wonderful, worldwide community.

In Defense of Midnight Writers

22 May

I love it when I find scientific support for my bad habits.

From as early as I can remember, I’ve stayed up late at night reading. Then, somewhere along the way I started writing, too.  Fast forward a few years (or decades):  I started working through The Artist’s Way with my fellow Chicks.  I struggled with the morning pages – a key element in awakening creativity.  All that spilled out in the morning for me was junk.  Very uninspired.  But at night?  At night the ideas have always come without effort.

And guess what? It turns out there’s a reason for it. I just read an article in the May/June 2012 issue of Scientific American Mind that, in a study at Albion College, assistant professor of psychological science Mareike Wieth essentially found that creativity peaks at times of mental fuzziness.  Hello, midnight!  It’s the perfect time for me. Creatively, at least.

If you are like me, gravitating toward the page at night, then take heart.  And keep on writing!

A Salute to Home CREATORS

14 May

Happy Mother’s Day to All!

Life as a stay-at-home mom can feel a lot like, well, you see the visual. This is how my son’s room in our new house looked before we moved in.

Homemaker. The very word has a somewhat embarrassing connotation nowadays. But why?

My mom was a homemaker most of my childhood. I loved it. Many of my favorite memories were birthed during unfettered hours at home. Whether I was playing Legos, writing little poems, or cutting out paper animals all afternoon, my mom was always nearby with warm hugs and encouraging words.

Getting a college education was instilled in both me and my sister from an early age by our mom. And after both her daughters had graduated from University of Florida, my mom went back to school and finished her own bachelor’s degree, 25 years after she had first begun. I was so proud watching her walk across that stage to receive her diploma. She showed me it’s never too late to pick up your dreams where you left off.

My mom’s story is that of women’s lib. She transitioned from full-time mom to full-time employee, sometime when I was in middle school. Years later, she went on to become the first mayor of Southwest Ranches, the town she helped to form in Broward County, FL, and I’m so proud of her for always doing WHATEVER is before her with passion and creativity.

My generation seems to be doing things in reverse. I focused on my career and worked full time in my twenties and early thirties, and now I’m a homemaker a stay-at-home mom not working full time. I do freelance part-time, so I have that to preserve some dignity. But really, even if I didn’t, I’m out to rebrand those of us who…do this and love it.

Here it is, girls: We. Are. Home Creators! True, make and create are synonyms, but there’s an important distinction. While homemaker implies rote repetition and drudgery akin to a factory assembly worker–which is, in fact, a strikingly accurate assessment of our daily duties–home creator extends to include CREATIVITY. And celebrating this aspect of our unpaid personas gives us the greatest dignity of all.

My son’s happy “blue room” and the Lego train tower we built together today.

We are storytellers. We are clothes stylists. We are personal shoppers. We are procurement officers. We are painters. We are singers. We are pantry-organizers. We are interior designers. We are memory builders. We are seamstresses. We are quarter-mistresses, in charge of all ships’ quarters and resolvers of all on-board disputes. We are CEOs, Chief Engineers of Operations who keep plumbing running smoothly (most of the time) and weeds in check (some of the time), and we are CFO’s, Chief Fun Officers who keep crewmembers not only minimally fed, periodically bathed and occasionally well-rested, but entertained to boot!

No, we are not perfect. But we are still creating, still evolving every day–growing our families, our homes and ourselves into something better with each rushed morning and drawn-out bedtime. Even every load of laundry and recycled cereal box is another beautiful stroke in the modern abstract masterpiece of our chaotic domestic lives.

So Happy Mother’s Day, my fellow compatriots. I salute us, one and all, those working “outside the home” full-time, part-time or no-time. We may not be paid in dollars, but we are infinitely valuable. For we…are…The HOME CREATORS!

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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