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You can learn a lot from watching how other artists work, especially if they’re working in another medium. Figuring out how you work in similar ways to produce your own authentic works is an exercise in creativity itself. And creativity is like a muscle, the more you work it the stronger it grows.

You’re sure to be inspired by these 8 masters.

Henri Matisse

Mark Rothko

Francis Bacon

Edvard Munch

Willem de Kooning

Keith Haring

Joan Mitchell

Agnes Martin

 

Plus enjoy 33 Ways To Be More Creative.

Find more How To Be An Artist posts here.

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“Imagine a neuroscientist who has only ever seen black and white things, but she is an expert in color vision and knows everything about its physics and biology. If, one day, she sees color, does she learn anything new? Is there anything about perceiving color that wasn’t captured in her knowledge? Eleanor Nelsen explains what this thought experiment can teach us about experience.”

Find more Creativity videos here.

Learn more in my Creativity workshops.

Watch Your Process

December 1, 2018 | 1 Comment |

Alignment IV

Do this one thing and your creative life will be transformed. Watch your process.

One of the assignments I often give my workshop participants on location is to watch your process and take notes. Notice what you do and the way you do it. After every observation ask why. “First I do this. Why? In this way. Why? Then I do this. Why? In this way. Why? Next I … etc.”

First note what you do – and don’t do.

When you watch your process carefully you become aware of every step in your process and everything involved in it. Actions and things that went unnoticed before will become clear to you.

Second note how you do it.

You probably have a choice to do the same thing in many different ways. You may be used to doing things in certain ways, without realizing it. Maybe you made an assumption. Was it necessary? Maybe you developed habits. Bad habits prevent you from getting the results you want? Are you taking shortcuts? Are you doing something a certain way because someone else told you to? Good habits help you do things efficiently after you’ve practiced them. Are they still serving you? If so, keep doing that! If not, stop doing that! Sometimes what works in one situation doesn’t work in another. Are your habits serving you when things change?

Third, ask why you do what you do.

Behind every action there’s a goal. You eat, drink, breathe, sleep to stay alive. You photograph to … ? Your most basic motivations are fairly simple. Some of your other motivations are much more complex – and it’s likely you do many of them for unconscious reasons and your conscious mind has a lot more to learn about them. If you really want to get to the core motivations behind the things you do it can be helpful to ask “Why?” five times in a row. Ask the first question. Then ask “Why?”. Respond to that answer with “Why?” and repeat this a few more times. Often our deepest motivations don’t reveal themselves until the third, fourth or fifth time you ask “Why?” If you find asking “Why?” is getting in the way of your observations while you’re practicing your process, ask it when you’ve finished and are reviewing your notes.

Watch your process. It seems simple. It is. But like meditation it’s not easy. Because we quickly and constantly fall back into our habits, which is exactly what we’re trying to notice more carefully – and potentially change.

There are many more benefits to taking notes about your process. Because I write …

I constantly generate new ideas.

I’m rarely blocked.

I’m more productive.

I’ve streamlined my systems.

My technique is better.

I recognize the ideas and practices I’ve inherited from others.

I’m aware of what’s influencing me, for how long, and why.

I’m clearer about what works and what doesn’t, for me.

I’m aware of my self-talk.

I’ve identified my goals.

I understand more about the personal reasons behind the things I do and the ways I do them.

My work has more purpose.

I enjoy my process more.

 

I could go on and on about the many benefits this practice brings. But don’t take my word for it. Try it!

I find I write the same things down time and time again. This has lead me to create a master process list, which I can copy and modify or add to or subtract from, as needed on location. (Recently I’ve been keeping it in Notes on my iPhone.) I find there are always new things to observe. Are there new things because I noticed more? Why? Are there new things because I’m in a new environment? Why? Are there new things because I decided to try something new? Why? Are there new things because I’m more emotionally receptive? Why? These are important questions that can unlock a new ways of looking, thinking, and working, now and in the future. Keep asking them. Ask a lot of questions!

Watching your process is really a matter of becoming aware of your choices, what you choose to do and what you choose not to do, and the many choices you may have overlooked. With this greater awareness you can choose to do the same things with the same things or make other choices. With more choices available to you, you can make better choices. Better according to who? You!

Be mindful of your creative process. Make this a habit and you’ll transform your life.

Read my Meditation resources here.

Read more in my Creativity Resources.

Learn more in my Creativity Workshops.

Take Notes

December 1, 2018 | Leave a Comment |

Alignment XVI

 

There are so many reasons to write! You don’t have to write professionally to experience the many benefits writing can offer you. Remember, while few people write professionally, everyone writes, most often to help them do their work. While you may not consider yourself a writer, you already write. So write more!

Here are four reasons to write.

1          Retention

Writing will help you remember things. Most people can only hold seven things in their minds at once. When new information comes in, old information is lost – unless you write it down. You’re 73% more likely to remember and act on something if you write it down. (If you type your notes, this number drops to 39%, which is still much better.) Part of this stickiness comes from finding the words that work best for you, so use the language that you’re most comfortable with and that means the most to you. You probably have a to do list professionally, so why wouldn’t you use one to help you excel in your creative life too? And there are times when everyone needs a checklist. (Atul Gawande Checklist Manifesto shows how doctors used checklists to reduce hospital deaths and complications by more than 33%.)

2          Clarity

Writing helps you see more and see more clearly. Like any creative discipline, writing encourages closer observation. You note more things. You note more things about the things you note. Unlike photography, which encourages observation of things you can see, writing can also help you observe things you can’t see like your thoughts and emotions, interactions within relationships, and processes unfolding in time. When you find the right words to describe something you understand it better.

3          Productivity

Writing can help you find more ideas. When you unburden your memory those mental resources are freed to do more things. You’ll become mentally freer and more energized. It’s important to file your notes in an easily retrievable organized system that you trust, otherwise your mind will continue trying to remember everything, which no one can do, not even the gifted who have photographic memory. Once you see what you’ve written new ideas will come to you. You can accelerate this process by playing word games. Alex Osborne’s acronym SCAMPER (Substitute, Combine, Adapt, Modify, Put To Other Uses, Expand, Reverse) is a mnemonic device for a series of mental operations you can use, each of which is capable of leading to countless new ideas.

4          Organization

Organizing your writing helps you get organized. Often the process of taking notes isn’t linear, you simply let it all out. When you revisit and reorganize your notes you make even more sense out of your observations. Lists help you identify steps in a process, set priorities, and identify more important items. Remember, you can also use size, color or graphic symbols like underlines and stars to make some words stand out more than others.

Take Notes With Images

Images and words can create a wonderful synergy. Include an image with you written notes and you can dramatically increase the amount of information you record and how memorable it becomes. Some things are better noted visually rather than verbally. If you can see what you want to make a record of then a photograph can very efficiently make a note, often one full of detail that would take more time than necessary to record. If you need to make a visual note and you can’t photograph it, make a doodle instead. Diagrams can be particularly useful for recording processes (vectors, paths, timelines, etc) and relationships (maps, graphs, Venn diagrams, etc)

Audio ?

What about taking notes with audio? Audio is helpful if you need to make notes hands free. Otherwise, it takes time to review audio as it’s played back, so it’s not the most efficient way to take notes. However, if you are having a conversation with someone and you don’t want to interrupt the flow by taking notes audio is quite useful. Nothing records intonation and inflection like audio does. And on those rare occasions where you want to note the particular sound of something, once again there’s nothing quite like audio.

Avoid Perfection

Remember … Perfect takes time, so for this purpose it isn’t. It’s a distraction. Be more productive. Satisfice. Think of your notes as a place to record and explore your observations – not the way you’ll present them to others. With this realization you’ll be freer about what you record and how you record it. And that’s the point.

Make notes, lots of notes, and keep doing it. You’ll find the time you spend not rushing to finished results will make what you produce better in every way. Besides, it’s fun!

 

Read more in my Creativity Resources.

Learn more in my Creativity Workshops.

Talk With Yourself

December 1, 2018 | Leave a Comment |

Alignment XV

We all want to be heard. When was the last time you wished you had someone to listen to you? When was the last time you listened to yourself?

Talk to yourself. Don’t worry, it’s not crazy. We all do it. Speaking your mind can help you become clearer about what’s on it. It’s your choice, whether you decide to speak your mind silently in your head or speak your mind out loud, either alone or under the right circumstances in the presence of others. No one ever has to know how much you talk to yourself; they rarely know how much they talk to themselves. Everyone has an ongoing internal dialog. We see things, we hear things, we feel things, we do things, we react, and all the while we interpret what we’re experiencing. It’s hard not to do this. It takes years of training. Most of the time, we’ve become so accustomed to the familiar voices inside of us that we’re often unaware of what’s being said and who’s saying it. It seems natural to us. That’s just the way it is. But, in reality, that’s the way we are. If we actively listen to ourselves, we become more self-aware and realize we have many more choices available to us.

We may even come to realize that we have many different voices within us – aspects of ourselves that can be seen as being distinct from one another; a child, a lover, a warrior, a dreamer, a scientist, an optimist, a skeptic, etc.  People often talk about how helpful it can be to hear another’s perspective, but they don’t talk often enough about how you can get other perspectives from yourself. We can make the life of our inner community richer and more dynamic by encouraging these separate voices to speak in turn and even to speak to each other. Over time we may even discover that each voice has a consistent set of concerns and perspectives and knowing this can help us decide which voice to call on in a given situation. This is a more personal version of the very useful question, “What would (Add the name of a person with a potentially useful perspective.) do ?”

This imaginative exploration can be extremely useful. We not only come to better understand ourselves, we also come in contact with vast sources of information and understanding that we often leave untapped. The best thing about listening to our selves is that we come to realize we have many more perspectives to draw from and options to choose from than we had previously imagined.

When you’re working with your personal advisory council, it can be helpful put a neutral moderator in charge of conversations. His or her job is simply to listen and observe non-judgmentally and to make sure everyone is heard. At times your moderator may direct specific questions or make a motion to table one issue and move on to other subjects. Later, you can weigh the evidence, draw conclusions, and make decisions about what you’d like to do or not do.

So go ahead. Talk with yourselves. You’re sure to find surprises, delights, and many interesting perspectives.

 

You can expand this practice of working with an inner advisory council by assembling other types; yourself at different ages, psychological aspects, mythological archetypes, historical experts, etc.

 

Read more in my Creativity Resources.

Learn more in my Creativity Workshops.

 

Alignment XXI

Your inner critic can be a terrible adversary or a powerful ally. Which one it becomes depends on how you relate to and use it. Like any animal, proper care and feeding can work wonders while neglect and abuse can produce monstrous results.

The inner critic’s powers of analysis and forethought are truly exceptional. Your inner critic is a protective mechanism. Its job is to help you avoid potential dangers. It’s excellent at identifying weaknesses or shortcomings that if left uncorrected and allowed to continue unchecked may have adverse effects. It can quickly identify potential areas for improvement. It can provide all sorts of extremely valuable feedback.

But, the inner critic has its limitations. The inner critic speaks from a point of fear. It motivates with fear too. It’s a pessimist. It’s often accurate, but never infallible. Because of this, it isn’t good at being supportive but instead may create doubt and insecurity. Its criticism may not be constructive if it’s feedback isn’t placed in a useful context. If it goes too far astray, its effects can produce negative results and even lead to paralysis.

So how can you turn this powerful voice from enemy into ally?

First, consider the inner critic a trusted ally – one with limitations. Whenever you hear the voice of the inner critic, ask if what it has to offer is helpful. If it is, use its feedback to improve your results. If it’s not, calmly acknowledge it, tell it you value it as an ally both in the past and in the future, and clearly state the reason(s) you’ve decided to make the choice you’re making. Tell it you will continue to consult with it in the future.  Your inner critic will believe you if you make a regular habit of consulting it – and even respect you for doing it. You might even give your inner critic an alternate project to work on in the background while you’re busy with other things. Stay calm; your inner critic can feed on negative emotions. Once you’ve made your decision, be firm. Remember, like a child having a tantrum, there may be times it needs to be silenced. But don’t silence it for too long. Many of the things it has to say can be extremely useful if you remember its strengths and limitations.

 

Read more in my Creativity Resources.

Learn more in my Creativity Workshops.


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