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Rule Your Tools, Don’t Let Your Tools Rule You

“When you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” Beware of tools driving your process. Relying on the same tools is predictable and can be efficient; but it can also be limiting. Be aware that introducing new tools into your process can be creatively stimulating. The challenge is to know when to rely on the tried and true and when to try something new. To further your growth and still be productive in your chosen areas of concern you need to do both. Major corporations allocate resources to research and development. You should too. Make an action plan to consistently try new things, making sure that you don’t allot so much time to exploration that you become scattered and end up not producing work or producing nothing but novelty. You’ll see benefits from your time spent if you select experiments that have a higher likelihood of success and are aligned with your personal goals. Make a list of possibilities. Rank them. And get started with the highest priority you’ve identified.

Make a Bucket List

February 8, 2008 | Leave a Comment |

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Make a Bucket List

Currently in theaters there’s a movie entitled The Bucket List. A bucket list is a list of all the things you’d like to do before you die. Have you ever made a “bucket list”?

How many people do? Those who do, usually do it far to late. It’s not macabre; it’s actually enjoyable and extremely useful.

How many people actually follow through and do one or more items on the list? There are several things you can do to make the list more useful. 1 – Prioritize it. Find the most important things on the list. Find the things you can accomplish readily and with the least amount of effort. 2 – Make a plan. List the steps necessary to accomplish specific items. (You might do this for all of the items, but just doing it for the most important and easiest will get you started.) 3 – Act on it. 4 – Repeat the process.

How does this apply to creativity? You can make a bucket list with a specific theme – your creative life.

So what’s stopping you? After all, it’s your life. Take an active hand in living it your way.

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Passive and Active States Are Equally Important

The origin of ideas is one of the great mysteries of the mind. Though they can identify many of the processes involved, classic patterns, and mechanisms for triggering them, modern psychology and even the great spiritual traditions cannot fully explain them. It’s said that Mozart and Shakespeare wrote their masterpieces fully formed without editing. Their art was in them already. All they had to do was listen. And write. This was as much a mystery to them as it is to us.

If mystery isn’t present your process isn’t inspired – a living breathing thing. Mystery opens the way for discovery, insight, and breakthroughs.

So, how do you develop what you can’t define? Celebrate it. Cultivating curiosity will help you become ready for discovery.

Attention reveals. Non-judgementally, be aware of your process as it unfolds. You may even want to make note of essential components and processes as you become aware of them. Become aware of and develop your awareness of your creative process. Make a lifelong study of this profound mystery that you are a part of.

“Being” receptive may not seem like “doing” anything but there are times when the most important part of your creative process.

Identify the Core

September 7, 2007 | Leave a Comment |

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Identify the Core

“If you had to eliminate all of your images save one, which one image would you keep?” This is a question I frequently ask my students and myself. It’s not something I recommend you actually do, but answering the question, hard as it is, is always very revealing. Identifying one image that most embodies your vision helps clarify your visual identity. List the strengths of this image. It’s likely these strengths will be present in a majority of your work. These core strengths often provide a foundation you can rely upon and develop further to make your work even stronger. These qualities can also be used to identify your particular passions and concerns. After you identify the image, ask yourself why you chose it. Did you choose an image because it fits other people’s criteria of success? Did you choose an image that has a particular relevance to your personal history? Did you choose an image that evokes a powerful emotion? Did you choose an image that symbolically represents something important to you? Strike up a dialog with your work. You’ll get to know your work and yourself even better.

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Continuing Education

Education never stops. Every one of us learns every day. Don’t wait for understanding to come to you. Learn even more by actively seek out opportunities to expand your knowledge. Target your search into areas that are most likely to be productive and personally relevant. You’ll find that you’ll not only be able to accomplish more and improve the quality of your work, you’ll also find that new ideas will come to you along the way.

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Spend Time With Other Creative People

Seek community with other creative people. You can gain extremely valuable insights into the creative process by spending time with and carefully observing other creative people practicing in any discipline.

Enjoy this process! Simply observe. Your time is better spent observing. Secondarily, you may also observe yourself and note what you tend to react to and how you tend to react.

Resist the temptation to be analytical or critical. Time evaluating the information you collect is best spent later, when you no longer have access to such an information rich environment and when you’ve had a little time to gain some distance and perspective, letting things sink in.

Without putting others on the spot, it’s useful to ask appropriate questions of others. You’ll learn even more. It’s likely that you’ll both learn from what you exchange.


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