Day 103: Thoughts on the First 100 Days

Hey there! I finally made the time to sit down and write a few of my thoughts about the first 100 days of this Year of Creativity Project.

When I first decided to start this project, it was near the end of 2012. For some silly reason, I decided to wait to “officially” start the project until the first day of 2013. I decided to start on a logical (left-brain) date, which allowed me a few days to plan. I figured that making an artistic, creative (right-brain) project each week was doable, given my current life circumstances (married, mom to 2 teenagers and 3 dogs, full-time job, long commute to/from work each day, energy levels, etc.), so that was my original plan. I also decided that there would be very few “rules” with this project. I was determined that, no matter what, I’d make and post the results from at least one creative project each week.

Did you ever hear the saying, “Man plans, God laughs.”? Yeah. In my case, I think it goes something like “Artist plans, and the Muse gets out her baseball bat.” Talk about a wealth of ideas! It seemed like just the thought of saying (or writing) my intention to create was enough to wake up my Muse and get her all excited about giving me ideas faster than I could bring them into reality.

Now, this is not a new concept to me. I believe in the power of intention. And this first 100 days has shown me how very true that concept is. Instead of coming up with a decent idea once a week, I was able to create at least one thing every day. Many days, I was able to come up with several projects. This was a little surprising to me. But not as surprising as the amount of creative energy I was able to channel into making my various projects.

Even on days when I came home from work dead tired, simply by deciding that I was going to go up to my office and making something – even if it was awful – I found enough energy to complete a project, even if it was a simple one, and post the results here, as well as G+, FB and Pinterest.

Some days, I made a physical thing, like my wire sculpture or a little thing out of aluminum foil. Some days I wrote, other days I cooked food or baked a treat (both of which are rare activities for me). Most days, I played with PhotoShop and/or ScopeWorks to make an artistic project. I also do photography from time to time, and many of my photos became elements in my backgrounds and kaleidoscopes. Some days, I sewed a little project. And a few projects took more than one day. But every day, I made something.

True enough, not all of my artwork was, shall we say, award-winning. In fact, I’ve yet to receive any awards for any of this year’s projects. But that’s not the point of this. I’ve learned a lot from this project so far. Here is a brief description of a few of the lessons learned by giving myself permission to create:

  • Art is in the eye of the beholder. Oh, I’ve known this for many years. But always before, I cared what other people thought of my work. This time, I’m not showing it to receive accolades or even acknowledgement. I’m posting my work to keep myself accountable to the project. As a Creative, if I say it’s art, then it’s art.
  • Anyone can be creative. Some people have to create all day long for their jobs. Photographers, graphic designers, fashion designers, web designers, writers, illustrators, painters, sculptors, fiber artists, composers, choreographers, advertising executives, book designers, magazine editors, landscapers, computer programmers, chefs, bloggers… The list is pretty much endless. Most people go through their day not understanding that just about everyone can turn their day job or their spare time into a more creative endeavor. To paraphrase a famous quote, “Whether you think you can create, or you think you can’t, either way, you’re right.”
  • Becoming a Creative is more a matter of deciding that you will create, rather than any inherent talent or learned skill. Neither Leonardo DaVinci, Michaelangelo, Georgia O’Keefe nor any other painter you care to name painted a masterpiece the first time they touched a brush. Each had to learn the basics, and practice endlessly, for years, to learn and perfect their craft. Oh, and by the way, none of these three was just a painter. All three artists pursued other creative endeavors as well. True enough, you must start with the will to create. After that, creating is simply a matter of doing what you love. Over and over and over again. Whether you feel like it or not.
  • Give yourself permission to fail. This is such an important concept, I’ll say it again. Give yourself permission to fail. Not every idea will work out the way you hope or expect. And one day, it may work out even better than you had planned. The trick is to not get too disappointed with (or attached to) your results. Try again. Try a different way. Try something else. Go on to something different, or go for a long walk or a drive. Leave it alone. Let your subconscious work it out. Then go for it (whatever “it” ends up becoming).
  • Yoda was wrong. Yoda said, “Do or do not. There is no try.” That’s just a bunch of hooey. There is try, as long as you don’t let one failure (or two, or three…) make you quit. It’s the only way anything new is created.
  • Yoda was right. OK, I hear you all now: “Wait, you just said he was wrong.” That’s right, I did. But then again, what he could have meant was this: “If you want to be creative, then create. Don’t just ‘try’ to create, because if you just ‘try’ and you don’t succeed at your first attempt, you’ll quit.” If you want to be a writer, then you must write. If you want to be a painter, then you must paint. If you want to be a chef, then you must cook. You can’t “wish” your creativity into existence. You must make stuff.
  • Listen to your Muse. Your Muse can speak to you in any number of ways, at any time of day or night. You have to be ready to hear her whispers (or, in my case, take the beatings over the head). She will give you ideas if you invite her to speak to you. Maybe not right away, but she will come. Be ready once she does. Have some way of noting the ideas as they arrive, even if you’re not able to stop what you’re doing and act on them. Write a quick note. Send yourself an email. Leave yourself a voice mail. Sketch it out on the back of an envelope. Write it on your hand. If you keep a small notebook with you, that could help you remember when inspiration whispers in your ear. Or whacks you on the back of the head.
  • Set time aside. If you create better when you are alone, set some alone time. Make an appointment with yourself, and keep it. If you create better in collaboration with others, find a willing partner or group to get together on a regular basis to create en masse. Put the appointment on your calendar, or make a commitment  to yourself that, no matter what, you will take the time you need to create. Follow my example, and make a commitment to create something every day, even if you’re not thrilled with what you have created.
  • Creatives must create. If you want to be a Creative, you must first get into the mindset of a Creative. Creatives must create, or they die a little inside their own psyches. I’ve known many Creatives who become cranky little jerks when they are not able to exercise their creativity (yeah, that includes me).
  • Creativity is really just problem-solving. Even if you think you can’t draw a decent stick figure, if you solve problems well, then you are already a Creative. Creatives solve problems all the time. Composers try to elicit a mood, emotion or image, or set their own or some else’s words to music. Painters try to capture an image or emotion with their chosen medium on their chosen surface. Sometimes a Creative is paid to come up with ideas and render them on a daily, or hourly, basis. Sometimes the “problem” becomes “what next?”
  • The more ideas you come up with, the better and more novel the ideas become. Just like practicing the piano, when you practice the art of developing ideas, you get better at it. It’s like building a muscle. It takes time and practice, but it does get easier, and you can do it faster and better the more you do it.
  • If you don’t know what you want to do, try lots of different things. Sometimes the process of executing an idea proves to you that this is not really the direction you want to take your creative energies. Try something else. Try lots of things. Sometimes the technique you’re trying is related to a different technique that you may find comes easier to you. Sometimes something totally unrelated “clicks” for you. If nothing has clicked yet, keep going. It’s out there, waiting for you. Trust me.
  • Focus is good. If you decide you want to be a world-famous manga artist, work at it like you’re training for a triathlon. Do it every day. Improve your basic skills. Show your work to others who enjoy manga, and get their opinions on what you need to do to improve even more. There’s nothing wrong with becoming a “one-trick pony”. Many photographers will never try sculpture or writing. Many poets will never pick up a camera. Find your “thing”, then do it. A lot. Keep on doing it. Have fun with it. Stretch, explore, and play. If it becomes a chore, you may want to give it up. It should be challenging, but in a good way. And once you get the basics down, stretch some more. Keep improving and growing as a Creative.
  • Having fun with your creative pursuits will help you improve even more. It’s hard to put a lot of energy into a task that isn’t fun. Example: I don’t enjoy housework. At. All. I don’t like to cook much, or clean, or pretty much do anything having to do with keeping a tidy home. It isn’t fun to me. But let me sit in front of my computer or sewing machine with good music playing and several hours to play, and I’m in heaven. I have tried many creative pursuits during my lifetime: weaving, spinning yarn, dyeing fibers and fabric, sewing, quilting, costume and jewelry design, painting, sculpture, ceramics, writing, photography, digital art, web design, and more. Whenever a particular craft became boring or stopped being fun, I quit doing it for a while. So, it doesn’t matter what method, technique or medium you choose, or how many of them you choose: if you enjoy a particular craft, do it as much as you are able.
  • You are not what you do. No matter what anyone else will tell you, you are not your job. Your identity can be as fluid as you like. You can identify yourself as a Creative, currently working in such-and-such industry or with so-and-so employment status, if you want. When I was a stay-at-home mom, I would often tell people I was “Chief Operations Officer of a small, family-run enterprise.” In fact, I wrote up an entire executive résumé based on the many tasks that a SAHM is required to perform in a given day, week, month or year of taking care of a home and family. That exercise was creative and fun, plus it gave my ego a boost to know that I was capable of performing executive-level management duties (at least on paper), in addition to running after little kids, changing diapers, and listening to Barney for hours on end.
  • If you think the sky is the limit, you’re thinking too small. To a Creative, the universe is the limit. Think of all the Creatives employed in the Space Exploration industry. They have to design a spacecraft that will withstand the extremes of space travel, and continue to function and return signals for years without further human intervention. Or the engineers who designed and maintain the International Space Station, with its frequent trips to resupply the ISS and transport crews safely between Earth and the ISS. What is creating a new piece of digital art compared with that task?!
  • Internal inspiration can be far more powerful than external inspiration. The ideas that are generated within your mind can produce a far more intense reaction than any instruction from any outside source. Think back to any course you took in high school or college. If you took the class because it was a requirement to graduate, and not because you had any innate desire or interest in the subject, you probably spent less time and energy on the work for the class. If, however, you took a class primarily because of your interest (perhaps as an elective), you were probably more excited, and likely enjoyed your projects and assignments more as a result. Perhaps you even got better grades for those courses. When you are interested in learning more about a subject, your focus shifts to that topic. Everything else seems to fade off into the distance.
  • When you’re blocked, just make something. Anything. When you experience a creative “block”, you’re simply having a moment of doubt or fear that any idea you come up with will not be “good enough”. That’s ok. Just make up some silly little something while you’re waiting for your Muse to get back to you. Doodle. Draw a cartoon, or an “ugly” picture. Write a stupid limerick, or a poem that doesn’t make sense. Go for a walk, then come back and write or draw nonsense. Eventually, you should feel a nudge, or hear a whisper, or see the fog begin to lift. And the more often you do this, the quicker the fog will lift.
  • Curiosity is a Creative’s best friend. Creatives often ask, “What if…” This is the most important question ever asked by any human. In fact, it’s probably the only question that ever led to the solution of any problem ever in the history of humankind.
  • It’s ok to wait until another day. Unless you make your living by solving problems at the speed of demand, you don’t have to make art every day. Or every other day. Take your time. Read or watch or see or touch or hear or smell or taste or do something inspirational. Or just go for a walk. Or sit under a tree for an hour. Close your eyes and listen. It’s there, whispering to you, but sometimes the noise in your life, or just inside your own head, is drowning it out. Be still, and it will come.
  • Don’t panic! If you’re having trouble coming up with ideas, don’t panic. Breathe deeply and slowly. Close your eyes. Relax. Feel your pulse slow. Let go of the fear. Smile and keep breathing. And bring a towel. 😉
  • You bring your own reality. When you say things like “I can’t” and “I’m not”, then you make it so. Instead, try saying things like “I’ve never tried it before” or “I might be able to”, then go ahead and give it a try. But don’t quit just because your first attempt didn’t bring you the results you wanted. Take a deep breath, and try again. Keep practicing.
  • Start with something simple. When you’re trying something new, start with the basics, the simple stuff. If the simple stuff comes easily, progress to the next step, then the next, until you can do the master-level work. Have you ever seen true art made with crayons? It’s amazing! That is mastery of a craft! And it all started with the silliest scribbles of a toddler who was as likely to eat the crayon as make master-level art with it.
  • There’s a reason we use the word “inspiration” to mean both the internal nudge that helps us to create, and taking in a breath. When you are having trouble producing ideas, you need to remember to breathe deeply and consciously. Breathe in and out, slowly and rhythmically, and listen for the inner voice that will bring you hints and clues to help you solve your problem. Richard Bach wrote, “There is no such thing as a problem without a gift for you in its hands. You seek problems because you need their gifts.” The gifts they bring are often creative solutions which others can then use to solve their problems.

Many of my projects from this first 100 days did not turn out as I’d hoped. Some were merely a lazy attempt to keep up my streak of creating and posting something each day. Many days, I considered dragging a mark across a blank background and calling it a day. But all of my projects taught me something. Maybe the lesson was “Well, that didn’t work.” Which would, in turn, inspire me to try something different next time. Maybe the lesson was “This is not something I want to continue to pursue.” Which is fine. As I mentioned above, sometimes knowing where you don’t want to direct your energies leads to the place where you do want to focus. I haven’t quite reached that point yet, and I’m not sure I ever will. I’m over 50, and I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. If that should ever happen.

I’ve already decide to include some of this information in my next book, which will be released as soon as I get it written. See how lucky you are? You get all this for free! Well, for whatever value you place on the time it took you to read through it anyway. If you got this far, thanks for staying with me. I appreciate your time and intention. If you have any comments about what I’ve written, I’d love to hear them. You can always write to me at Guide{at}SerendipityMuse[DOT]com, or post a comment here by joining my site.

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One Comment

  1. erlebud
    April 18, 2013

    Excellent, Lisa! See you did learn something from all that education. ‘Twas not money, time and effort down the drain. Now, if you could just explain in your next book how to make LOGICAL decisions for all of life with a 99.999% chance of making the BEST decisions with your muse you can be a star or even a galaxy. How would you have liked to have been named “ANDROMEDA” rather than “ELYSIA RENEE'”? (But your mother would never have allowed it. I had enough trouble getting her to accept your name only under the condition that she could call you LISA instead of ELYSIA. That’s why you are, LISA!

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