Monday, August 8, 2016

Creativity in Color

I recently browsed through the new issue of Writer's Digest (September 2016) and ran across an interesting article by Leigh Anne Jasheway. "If a picture is worth a thousand words, it stands to reason that writers might learn a thing or two from artists who express themselves more visually." Jasheway "picked the brains" of five of her most artistic friends, in a variety of disciplines, in hopes to find ideas that would help her become more creative.  Here are highlights from the article.

1. To find your guiding light, seek the dark.

Tracy Sydor is a fine arts photographer specializing in photos that tell the stories of women who have survived domestic abuse and trauma.  Tracy relies on her dark room for more than developing film. It's become a quiet place to develop her thoughts and let her imagination have free reign. Researchers say that the brain is the most active when we daydream or let our minds wander. Unfortunately, creative achievers tend to be worse than most others at filtering out stimuli. Uninterrupted quiet and darkness can be key to creativity for writers as well.

2. Engage in child's play.

Weren't we more imaginative, and fearless, as children? Noelle Dass is an artist who paints colorful, cartoonlike animals and landscapes. "I usually don't have a preconceived notion of what I'm going to create," she says. "Most of the time I sketch with no goal or objective. My hand will draw something and then it reveals itself to me: Oh, look, it's a turtle staring at the moon!" To engage your inner child in your writing process, try making your workspace more colorful and fun. We should aim to spend at least part of every day with positive and playful people.

3. Share what you love.

Maiya Becker refers to herself as a "recycled artist." To inspire her own art, she helps children learn to turn throwaway items into something new and fun. "Creativity begets creativity," she says. Consider sharing your writing talent with kids outside your family. 

4. Choose your company wisely.

Psychologists say that we catch the moods of those around us. Austin-based singer/songwriter Sara Hickman is one of the most positive and creative people that Jasheway has had an opportunity to meet.  Her joy and passion for life and what she does is inspiring, but just one link in a chain of paying positivity forward. "I like working with other professionals who are fun and who bring up my game," she says. If you've ever found your creativity suddenly sapped, and your energy dampened, ask yourself whether those feelings reflect the person you most recently interacted with. We should spend at least part of every day with positive and playful people.

5. Turn "mistakes" into starting points.

Let's face it. No matter how hard we work on a writing project, there's a good chance we (or our editor) won't like the results. Al Jenkins is an art therapist whose creative talents range from chainsaw carving to painting to pottery to bronze casting. He has a lot to say on the subject of failure and its effect on creativity. "There are no mistakes in art," he says. "There are accidents - and accidents can lead to something new." We writers can also sculpt something new from projects that didn't work out the first time. Perhaps that unsuccessful short story would be better suited as a children's book, graphic novel, or stage play. As long as we stop labeling things as "successes" and "failures" the possibilities for artistic reincarnation are endless.

6. Reboot your brain.

Jasheway comments that we writers "might as well have a USB port in our heads." When it comes to sculptors and musicians and photographers, their creative time is spent mostly in their own brains, not in the collective brain that is the world wide web.  If online distractions are sapping your creative energy and your ability to focus, there are some tools to help disconnect, at least while we are trying to create. Check out the apps Facebook Nanny and Self-Control, which can disable Facebook and allow you to set the amount of time your computer will remain offline from select sites. Going a step further, note that visual artists work with their hands. Research shows that cursive writing activates areas of the brain that are not engaged by keyboarding-areas that aid in memory, cognition, and wait for it...creativity. Reboot by pocketing your cell phone or iPad the next time you're about to be creative, and dig out a pad and pencil.

Leigh Anne Jasheway is a humor columnist, author of 21 books, and winner of the 2003 Erma Bombeck Humor Writing Award. She teaches comedy writing workshops in Oregon.

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