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30 December 2008

Creative Minds Are Rarely Tidy

"A creative mess is better than tidy idleness."

When I was a kid I had a difficult time keeping my room clean. This was a constant source of conflict between me and my parents. One day when asked why my room could never be free of the ever-shifting piles, heaps of clothing and miscellaneous found objects and tschotchkys, I replied, rather haughtily, "Creative minds are rarely tidy."

You can imagine how well that went over with mom and dad.

To this day I continue to battle my long-time demons of disorganization and out-of-control clutter. I must have some primordial hording tendencies which is why I cannot bear to part with every oddly bent paper clip or rusty washer I find on the sidewalk and I even go out of my way to buy other people's junk from antique stores, yard sales and eBay auctions. These found treasures need a home, right? You never know when you might need that thing, right? Paper is my greatest nemesis. How long to keep that once seemingly important piece? Where to put it? My counters overfloweth with piles of books to be donated, school permission slips to be signed, mail that I would still like to look at to determine which 0% credit card offer to transfer to, stories written by my children that I am sure I should keep on the off chance they become famous and I can show them how far they've come, the set of old photos found of my husband's childhood, the broken back of some plastic thing containing 3 of 4 AA batteries of dubious power capacity. It appears as if a junk drawer exploded. And that is just my kitchen!

Is anyone else out there as creatively untidy as I am?
Or am I the only one?


Before I submit my family to being the unwitting victims on a show like "Clean House" (I watch that show to prove that we are not that bad), I know that I have to start small and get myself organized first. Perhaps then the rest of my clan will get the hint. I recognize our collective issues (believe me, I am not the only packrat in the house), and I even hired a professional organizer last year, just to get a handle on setting up my studio. She was quite overwhelmed by my fetish for ribbon. But I did manage to donate more than half of what I had (in ribbon and other defunct crafting supplies), and made a strong showing in my beading studio to reign in my disorganized tendencies. That is, until the last quarter of the year. That is when I was up to my beady little eyeballs in projects for the holiday rush.

I operate under controlled chaos. I have many projects going at once, all set out on individual bead boards with all the components clustered like a puzzle waiting to be solved. I know I have the beads and supplies that I need, and most of the time I can find it in all the clutter, but there are times when I lose it. Or rather, I lose the ability to locate that exact thing that I truly need at that exact moment. And then I turn the place upside down to find it, creating more chaos than before. And this is when I know that the clutter on my counter has invaded my mind, and I find it hard to be creative in that sort of frustration. I haven't so much as set foot in my studio since right before Christmas, and frankly, I am a bit unsettled by what I might find.

If you read my earlier posts you will know that I gave up resolutions years ago and live by only two Life Resolutions: to live creatively and to live without regrets. Since I can't be creative when I am out-of-control, and I don't wish to regret missing out on projects that might get me published or make a sale, I know that I have to make some sort of goal. But not being very good at goals, I have decided to make a list of intentions. I like making lists and checking off those things I have accomplished, so a list of intentions just might work for me. And since writing them down keeps you going toward that goal, I am going to take a leap and write them out here, on this blog so that if anyone is paying attention, you might hold me accountable, too.

RESOLVED: I firmly intend that in 2009 I will start by organzing my studio, discarding what I don't use, and making space to allow my creative nature to flourish.

I discovered that the Snapware containers that I love to transport all my goodies to and fro actually fit perfectly in the cabinets in my studio. So I went out yesterday and purchased 12 such containers in an after-Christmas clearance sale frenzy. Unfortunately, they are now sitting in a heap in my living room awaiting my gumption to transport them into the basement and my waiting studio (was that "Clean House" calling?). Did I mention I am afraid to set foot in that pit of organizational despair? Don't worry. They will make it there. And little by little I will put them to good use. And then I can get back into the business of being creative.

Creative minds might rarely be tidy, but they can benefit from a little organization now and again.

What is the biggest dilemma you face when being creative? Do tell. I promise not to judge.

Check It Out:: http://manageyourmuse.com/themuse/

Enjoy the day!

18 December 2008

Everyone Deserves a Standing Ovation

“The earth has grown old with its burden of care
But at Christmas it always is young,
The heart of the jewel burns lustrous and fair
And its soul full of music breaks the air,
When the song of angels is sung.”
~Phillip Brooks


Last night was a Christmas Concert I will never forget.

Mrs. K, the music teacher at both schools, is one of the most gifted and creative teachers I have ever met. She puts on these absolutely wonderful Christmas concerts each year. How she manages to get a few hundred too-cool-for-school 3rd through 5th graders or a few hundred wiggly wonders from K-2nd to fly in formation I will never know!

The concert last night for my 5th grade Sport-o son was a riot. Telling the story of the birth of Jesus in a wacky, Dr Suess sort of way the kids had lines to read, and movement to do (you can't call it dance, or no boys would do it!), and Sport-o even had a solo to sing. Most parents I spoke with after the concert confirmed what I had already known…that their son or daughter had told them little of their involvement so we were each shocked in turn when our 10 year olds wowed us with their positively thespian ways.

We were so caught up in the moment and the movement that it wasn't until Sport-o opened his mouth at the mic to sing that we realized that his part had come. What a fabulous job he did! Never missed a note! [I am so proud.]

I caught up with Mrs. K today at my favorite coffee shop. She commented that Sport-o was really solid on the notes, well prepared with the song, and not phased at all by the thought of getting up on that stage and singing. Same thing with his Tiny Dancer sister who sang a solo in the K-2 Christmas Pageant performance. I am so impressed with my progeny's ability to be so at ease on stage. It took me 24 years before I made that leap myself!

When I was out of college and embarking on my young married life, I had the wacky idea to try out for the local community theater. Now, I had never acted on stage, and I hadn’t been in a choir since I was about 12, but I thought it was a fine thing for me to do. I was encouraged by the director who espoused that community theater should be made up of community members. You see, I had always harbored a silent desire to sing and act on stage. But I was terribly frightened by the thought. So since I reasoned that no one was going to encourage me to do this, I might as well encourage myself.

I tried out for a part in “Annie Get Your Gun” and I got it. I had four costume changes, sang in the chorus on all the big numbers and uttered one word on stage: “Charmed.” Needless to say I milked it for all it was worth!

It was a wonderful experience. So wonderful that I decided the next year to try out again, but this time go for a part with a few more than one word.

And try out I did. For “Hello, Dolly.” And I got a part. The part. Dolly Levi.

I went from speaking one word to speaking all the words! I had to get over my angst about being on stage. The whole cast was counting on me. And I could not disappoint.

I admit that when the director offered me the lead I had a moment of disbelief followed by thoughts that I couldn’t seriously do this. But after considering it, I realized that this was my big dream, and if I said no, he must have made a mistake, I would regret it forever. And I might never get this opportunity again. So I did it. And it was great.

The experience made me stronger by allowing me to trust my abilities and also trust that others have good judgment to see that thing in me that I might have trouble seeing myself. From that experience I came away with a renewed sense of self. And a firm conviction that every person needs at least one standing ovation in their lives.

What have you done creatively that deserves a standing ovation?
Tell me about it and let me applaud you!

Check It Out:: http://mrsfligs.blogspot.com/

You can find a great little quiz on children's books and some other fun stuff!

Enjoy the day!

16 December 2008

Called to be an Inspiration

"Some days there won't be a song in your heart. Sing anyway." ~Emory Austin

When you are called to be an inspiration, how do you answer?

Today, I had the good fortune to sing for a funeral mass.

Good fortune? you say. What could be fortunate about singing, and for a funeral no less?

One of my creative everyday pursuits is to offer my gift of song to my church community. I have been blessed to be able to carry a tune, and since blessings are meant to be shared, I have an obligation to raise my voice in song to help the prayers of the congregation. But never more than today did I really feel that calling.

Last week, my daughter made her First Reconciliation in our Catholic parish. For those of you not familiar with what that entails, it is simply a prayer service aimed at giving voice to those shortcomings we each experience and finding a prayerful way to atone for these faults. It was a moving experience for our whole family to participate in and is a big step in the faith development of our daughter. The penance that was offered gave us a positive means of doing good. One of the choices was to attend and pray during a celebration of mass outside of the usual Sunday fare. The day after I received this penance, a man in our church died. And I was asked to be the cantor for the mass. Although I had many other things to do, God apparently had other plans.

Now, I normally have to work my "day job", so it is difficult for me to attend a weekday funeral mass. But something told me this was different. I knew the family, but not well, and I don't believe that I had ever personally met the man. Nonetheless, I knew that this was a divine intervention that was calling me to be present.

When I arrived this morning at church, I sought out the wife and daughters of the man to offer my condolences. Their faces lit up with joy when they saw me, which really surprised me. Despite the grief at their loss, here they were so happy to see me. They were all so excited that I had been able to make this funeral. Didn't I know that the man had requested me to be the cantor for his funeral mass before he died? I didn't know that. They further explained that their father and husband had frequently commented to them that he really enjoyed my singing and that I sounded like an angel.

This revelation touched me deeply.

This revelation made my heart sing.

This revelation made my song my inspiration.

I realized that I was not just offering a sung prayer nor performing a necessary function to carry out the service. I was offering comfort and hope. I was entrusted with bringing this family through their grief, lifting them up.

I was to be an inspiration.

I realized that I had been called to be there at that moment. That there was no place else that could have been more important than that moment. There were a million and one reasons for me to excuse myself from this event. But I am so glad that I chose to say yes.

I believe that there are doors of opportunity opening all around us every day. But I don't think that we take the time to see them. They are there. But they might not always be obvious to us. I believe that the blessings we send out into the world to help others will return to us ten-fold. This funeral was an opportunity for me...to be an inspiration to others...to be inspired myself...to feel connected to a higher calling...to slow down and take stock of all that I am so grateful for... and I am so glad that I took the time to open that door.

What doors are opening to you, calling you? How will you respond?

Check It Out:: http://www.magicarmchairtraveller.blogspot.com/

Enjoy the day!

12 December 2008

The Art of Mistakes

"Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep. " ~ Scott Adams

When you are creating something -- a poem, a painting, a recipe, a necklace -- do you ever make any mistakes?

I have a dear friend whose husband, Charles, is a music professor at our local university. He is a highly sought after composer of orchestral works and has had commissions from all over the world. His pieces range from a wood ensemble to a full orchestra and his finished pieces could be from three minutes or more when played. I asked my friend to explain to me the process that her husband goes through to make these audible works of art come to fruition. And I was amazed.

As a composer, sounds are very important. Humming in the bathroom can make him understandably crazy. He needs complete and utter quiet when composing, which can no doubt be frustrating for my friend and their 9 year old daughter. But Charles is very driven to complete these works, which can often take months for one 3 minute song. I suggested that he needed a treehouse retreat where he could go to escape (or perhaps for them to escape from him!).

Charles writes most things by hand on various pieces of paper, stuffing them into an envelope as he goes. When he is ready to put it all together he places these random notes on piles all around him, discarding what doesn't work. When all the pieces to this musical puzzle are found, Charles then has them transcribed onto a computer. My friend said that once a client asked to see how much was not suitable and subsequently discarded. The sheer volume that didn't make the finished piece was astounding, not only in mounds of paper but in time and even musical phrases.

I wondered if Charles could "save" those riffs for use in another piece some time, sort of like storing treasures that could be unearthed when the time or project was right. But alas, they are destined for the trash, never making it past his highly trained and critical ear, never to be heard by the likes of you or me. I wonder what musical treasures the world might be missing.

I found his process fascinating.

I have my own creative process for designing jewelry. And I almost always have a vision.

I take the time to interview my clients. Not only about specific colors and patterns, I listen for clues as to their interests and lifestyle. I want my works of wearable art to be worn, not placed in a drawer, so I am very attentive to the desires of my clients, whether stated or not.

Next, I gather the materials. I have quite a few bead boards where each project begins and ends. I start pulling from my stock those things that may work -- found objects like keys and subway tokens, pearls and gemstones -- and, like Charles, lay all the pieces out in front of me until the puzzle takes shape. The vision is inspired by the story the person wants to tell, or sometimes the beads and components themselves. And they all get a name because they are one of a kind and have a personality all their own. My works of art rarely take months to make, but there is certainly as much care and thought put into them.

Like all artists, I make mistakes. But I don't view them as mistakes. I believe that they are "happy accidents," and I don't relegate these to the recycling bin. I keep those bits and pieces in a bin as inspiration for another day. And when I run out of new ideas I take solace in that bin...it reminds me that I had hit a wall before, but that I was able to bring the vision to life anyway, and it also could be useful for some other purpose to be reincarnated in another way.

If you make mistakes (and really, who doesn't?), what do you do with them?

Check it Out:: http://www.creativeeveryday.com/
This website is a total inspiration to me! I have it on my mug from PaperSource to remind me to "Do Something Creative Every Day", and this site certainly gives me things to think about!

Enjoy the day!

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