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March, 2017

Creativity, with Help

by Webmaster

I have always written short stories, poems, little songs. Over 20 years ago, I got serious about songwriting and a friend helped me revise and record my songs. In time, I found a lot of people to critique my songs, to help them be better. Some of them are co-writers. I joined song-critique groups. Some are more helpful than others. I've settled down with the one that works best for me.

When I started writing Cowboy poetry, I got help from a mentor who has become a friend. We don't talk (or email) about poetry alone. We talk about woodworking, jewelry-making, dreams. Any form of creativity will do.

I am on a very restricted diet. But I like watching Cable TV cooking contest shows. They force the cooks to be creative. I used one show as inspiration for a line in a new song that's getting a lot of positive feedback.

A recent exchange of messages on Faceback let me know that I'm not the only one who finds that being creative in one area helps creativity in all areas. Once you start to look outside the box, you can't stop.

Some people need help getting started.

A recent email from Disc Makers included two articles that seem to be contradictory:

  1. Daily habits to enhance your musical creativity and productivity by John Morabito
  2. Challenge yourself when music practice gets stale by Dave Kusek

The first article tells us:

Though you may tend to think creativity is something that exists and flourishes outside the bounds of habit and structure, truth is it’s a mental process that works best when we adhere to a stable routine and a healthy lifestyle. Follow these tips to maintain a productivity boosting routine.

  1. Make milestones ... set small, reasonable goals for yourself each and every day.
  2. Get inspired ... seek inspiration in other works of art that you admire.
  3. Work to improve ... Practice is key to whatever you want to accomplish as an artist.
  4. Record everything ... it’s always helpful to be armed and ready to record and document your thoughts when inspiration strikes.
  5. Take a risk everyday ... try to get in the habit of being out of your comfort zone.

The second article tells us:

[Y]ou’re on a roll, regularly practicing, making some awesome progress, taking great strides in what you can produce creatively, and then all of a sudden… you stop improving. Every music practice session finds you playing the same old stuff. It becomes repetitive, mindless, and definitely not useful. ... As it turns out, there are some great ways to get out of these creative ruts, and it all boils down to challenging yourself and trying something new.

  1. Identify and name what you are playing ... Before you can change anything you need to figure out what you’re doing.
  2. Stop playing what you identified ... it’s time to break the pattern!
  3. Break things down and rebuild ... change your approach, or how you go about playing or writing.
  4. Challenge yourself ... give yourself little challenges throughout your personal music practice, rehearsal, or writing sessions. Maybe it’s as simple as using a scale you’re not comfortable with.
  5. Slow down ... Explore things fully and deeply and don’t let yourself blow by concepts at surface level.

Well, those two articles aren't contradictory. Doesn't "take a risk everyday" agree with use "a scale you're not comfortable with"?

I think both of these articles are inspiring and good advice.

I'd like to add one more idea. Find a friend who wants and needs to improve and/or be more creative.

A friend of mine came up with a monthly creativity challenge. We've co-written some songs, she paints, I create jewelry. She needs a reason to write songs. We set a goal to write a song a month.

So far, I'm still on the song I wrote for the January challenge. I'm at version 7, about to go to another complete rewrite for version 8, thanks to feedback from her. She hasn't sent another version of her song, yet.

A different group of friends are working together to write a good deeds book. We're supposed to write about one good deed we do each week. When I rarely leave the house, it's hard to find something to write about. But I write anyway. Sometimes little things like complementing someone on his or her smile is enough. Or hugging someone who apologizes.

If exercising works better with a partner, why wouldn't being creative? Isn't creativity another process that needs to be exercised? The more you do it, the better you get at it.

Things to do with your friend(s):

  • take a class to learn something new, like cooking or jewelry-making or drumming or yoga or dancing
  • go to a writing group or book discussion group
  • watch a familiar movie with the sound off and discuss the use of color and patterns
  • close your eyes and listen to the dialogue and soundtrack to feel the rhythm of background noise
  • treat yourself to two pieces of pie, savor tiny bites, and ask how the theme music for red velvet cake would differ from lemon merangue pie
  • take a walk and talk in rhyme while syncing your words to your steps

Support and encourage each other. What you created might not be what you want, yet, but it's better than doing nothing, especially if you learn from it.

Make sure that feedback is construct and not a personal attack. "I like what you did in verse one and the chorus, but verse two seems to go off in a different direction" is helpful.

Be willing to help each other even if your name doesn't go on the work as co-writer. What goes around, comes around.

Thanks for visiting

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