Comfort Zone Creativity: Possible or Impossible?

Comfort zone. Creative zone. Are there magic recipes to create masterpieces?

I saw this simple drawing here and was given permission to repost it. [Update: the original post is here along with a ton of other gems! Check it out!]

Man I love this concept… and hate it.

Can we create in a comfort zone? Aren’t there ways we MUST be comfortable to create?

What’s been your experience you writers, actors, teachers, moms, pastors, trainers, and other miracle makers?

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Speaking Fake English and Other Fake Languages

Have you ever tried to mimic a foreign language? As in: you don’t speak French, Chinese, or German but you attempt to sound like you’re speaking the language?

I’m guilty. I’ve done this on several occasions. This past weekend I made a baby giggle by performing my faux Chinese for him. He loved it. Best thing he’d ever heard in his less-than-one-year-old life. Giggles galore.

There are numerous You Tube clips of people speaking fake English. If you have a few minutes, watch this video. It’s a short film of actors doing a scene in fairly convincing fake English. Fascinating. Here’s one viewer’s comment…

Two other times in my life, I’ve publicly spoken fake langages.

Hotel in Des Moines. I was in high school at the time and was attending a function at a convention center. I don’t remember the function. I don’t even remember why I was there. I do remember my friend Jason and I were extremely bored. In our boredom, we masqueraded as foreigners in the opulent lobby by chatting in a quasi-something language as people walked by. The passers-by either thought “wow, they’re so foreign that I don’t even know where they’re from” or “what’s wrong with them.”

Rehearsal for a Play. A director once had the idea to have the actors focus only on the intent of our lines without using the lines themselves. She told us to use gibberish instead of our actual lines; our communication limited to nonsense sounds and physicalization. It’s a decent idea… until you start cracking up while trying to communicate frustration, joy, and other emotions while looking into your fellow actor’s eyes as he says “gerdarbul ferndig blarstic. Blarstic! Narful blads tog infel daldig rerg. Gowtow.”

Langauges fascinate me. I’m always amazed how humbled and awkward I feel when I’m in a foreign country where everything, including the language, is different from my normal. It’s refreshing to learn again. To communicate in broken sentences. To push through all those mistakes and uncomfortable moments.

Isn’t that what we do each and every time we create? We find our legs again and we start from scratch. We seek to communicate using our chosen language: written words, paint, ingredients, presentations. Sometimes we feel foolish. Sometimes we make mistakes. Sometimes our message may seem like gibberish.

But sometimes we bring a smile. Sometimes our seeming nonsese makes someone laugh. Sometimes we change something in someone. All because we spoke the language that only we can speak.

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24 Hour Plays: Lessons in Fear, Control, and Joy

Why dive into a creative process involving fear, anxiety, the unknown, the uncontrollable?

The payoff is incredible. 

This past weekend, my wife and I participated in an event called 24 Hour Plays. Here’s the rundown of the events that transpire in a mere day at one of these creative explosions:

It’s an exercise in organized insanity in which writers, directors, and actors put their skill sets to the test: writing a short play, casting the play, directing the play, and performing the play in the time span of a mere 24 hours.

+Perfectionism. Most creatives are prone to it. It’s rarely helpful. For some of us, it keeps us from ever producing or sharing our creation. Within the time frame of 24 hours, perfectionism cannot dominate. There’s just no time to belabour the minutiae.

Bye bye non-friend.

+ Camaraderie. My creative process at my job usually involves training people to sell remodeling products to homeowners. It is creative, but I didn’t realize how much I’d missed the process of putting up an actual show. I marveled at the fact that the pros we worked with all spoke the same language. We understood the basics of each of our job functions and treated one another with respect. There’s such pleasure in rubbing shoulders with other like-minded creatives.

+Fear. 24 Hour Plays is skydiving. My mind’s conversation with myself went something like this: “8:30 AM. Here’s your script that was just written last night. You’ll play James. We’ll rehearse it today, have it memorized tonight for the show. By the way, we’re sold out. There’s gonna be people here asking for a show. So you gotta get this right. Did I say it has to be memorized? It does. Have fun!” When my wife and I were deciding if we should/should not do this, we realized the only reason we wouldn’t do it was because we were terrified. Not a good enough reason. We’re so glad we pushed through that fear.

+Payoff. Rachel Stevens, a former producer of The 24 Hour Plays: Old Vic New Voices summarizes it well.

You always see the most incredible personal and professional growth take place in the artists involved.  There’s great confidence to be taken from realising that, if you can do this project, you can do pretty much anything.

Agreed 100%.

I’d do this whole experience all over again for that very reason. It exhilarating to do something that, initially, seems impossible and slightly terrifying.

What’s stopping us from doing that thing we’ve always said we’d do? Why not push the envelope this week and write that piece, finish that project, or call that person?

Someone needs your creativity today.

Creative Juices: Monday Begins on Sunday

Monday blues. Case of the Monday’s. I’ve even heard it said that “Monday is an awful way to spend 1/7th of your life.” It’s a cute and clever statement, yet some actually believe this. Why waste 1/7th of our lives?

As whole and complete creatives our Mondays must begin on our Sundays with a basic three-fold plan: mind, body, and spirit.

+Sunday mind. Creative people read, listen to podcasts (here’s a good one on Ideation), and chat with other creatives at the local coffee shop. Whatever the case, striking that balance between mind, body, and spirit is rarely achieved without feeding the mind. This past Sunday I read a number of other blogs on creativity, watched a bit of the always inspiring CBS Sunday Morning, and snagged some time to write. Food for the mind.

+Sunday body. A jog. A walk. A ‘wog’ if you’d rather walk-jog. At any rate, a simple twenty minute something to fuel our week lets our bodies know that we care about them. When the weather is nice, like it was yesterday, I’ll clip off a few miles on our local rail-trail. Isn’t it amazing? (Find a trail like this near you.)

Rails to Trails Haven. Sad the railroad is gone. Happy it's used for a good purpose.

+Sunday spirit. Our spirit’s often neglected because it’s an intangible, unlike the mind and body. Sometimes used interchangeably with ‘soul,’ our spirit was created to commune and communicate with God. It’s maintenance is simple: get feed, feed others. My church is amazing–the teaching fantastic. The sheer joy and celebration of life is a banquet for my spirit. We leave knowing we’re loved, full of purpose, and desire to give that love away. Nothing like a healthy dose of gratefulness and thankfulness!

As I sit here now, in the early Monday morning pre-sun hours, I’m looking forward to today and to this week. My mind is charged, my body is refreshed, and my spirit is energized.

No more ‘case of the Monday’s’ thanks to a great Sunday.

How do you prep your mind, body, and spirit to supercharge your Monday?

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10 Reasons Your Current Job is Creative. Really!

In a couple hours, I will don my costume for the day. I call it ‘business casual.’I will sport a professional, corporate look.

I shall spend the morning and afternoon teaching sales methodology, basic manners, paperwork procedures, and a few ‘closing’ techniques.

Ladies and gentlemen: I am a corporate sales trainer.

Yet, I still consider myself a creative. Are you in the same boat? You’re waiting tables at the diner. You’re answering phone calls in a cubicle. You’re picking up endless messes from the kiddos.

We are all creative.

Today, our jobs are creative because like every prolific artist:

  1. We will influence the way people see something.
  2. We will share joy.
  3. We will connect rather than just exist.
  4. We will employ our mediums, whatever they may be, to communicate our ideas.
  5. We will think as creatives think.
  6. We will bring life to our workplace.
  7. We will entertain.
  8. We will believe that our work is good.
  9. We will help.
  10. We will contribute.

Time to put on that costume now, and I’m thankful. Thankful that it’s my choice to see this day as an artist does.

How do we, as creatives, change our thinking to make our jobs more than a mere paycheck-generator?

Would love to hear your tips below in the comments!

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This post brought to you by Quitter: Closing the Gap Between Your Day Job and Your Dream Job. Jon Acuff (read his blog here) put to words what I’ve only felt and thought for many years. I highly recommend it.

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Give Life to Ideas and Creativity by Killing the ADD/OCD Demons

I sometimes get distracted easily.

To write, create, or ideate I’ll often need to get away. Do you ever feel this way?

So, off to the coffee shop I go. My favorite writing nook vacant, I now inhabit this space:

Now I can write. Finally no distractions. Fast forward about an hour. Here’s the rundown…
  • Checked the four other posts I’m working on and added a scant thought or two to each.
  • Texted my wife twice.
  • Consumed some soup.
  • Watched a youtube video.
  • Sipped the coffee.
  • Talked with some friends who sat down and surprised me.
  • Posted on said friend’s Facebook wall.
  • Checked Facebook . . . a lot.
  • Looked around aimlessly to try and avoid completing this blog post. 
I’m for serious on that list. Those things actually just happened. To make matters more unproductive, I just wrote it all out and am still yet to (actually) begin this post.

Luckily I’d already started a blog post about short attention span disorder (SASD). I don’t know if it exists in the medical books, but I know it exists whenever my creative juices get flowing. It’s as if our subconscious doesn’t want us to contribute and share our gifts and talents. Could this be true?

Not for us it’s not. Relinquish Your ADD/OCDemon. Say ‘yes’ to focus and ‘no’ to distraction.

What are we looking for in the distractions and false accomplishments anyway? The main reason we run from our ideas is fear. Fear of failure. Fear of looking foolish. Fear of risk.

A challenge:

1. Take ten minutes to write out that idea you’ve been working on for work, home, or school. Turn the iPhone off. No distractions.

Example: I want to think of a new way to start the meeting at work, the class at school, or the decorating project at home.

2. Write out at least three entirely different ways you could accomplish your idea. Write out the really dumb ideas too. Nothing is off limits.

3. Pick one from the three, do it, and drop me a note to tell me how it went!

What ideas do you have that you need to share today?

The Writer’s Toolbox, an Exercise in Creative Bravery

My wife, ever the cheerleader (thanks babies!), bought me a wonderful gift that I didn’t bother to even open. How rude. Yes, but the time had to be right. Tonight’s the night!The gift, The Writer’s Toolbox, by Jamie Cat Callan, is both a book(let) and several simple inspiring exercises to get the brain jogging into the land of twists, turns, conflicts, descriptions, and plots.

Today’s exercise: using the sticks!

1. Draw a “First Sentence” stick.” Write for a few minutes.
2. Draw a “Non-Sequitur” stick. Write a bit longer.
3. Draw a “Last Straw” stick.

Here’s what came out… my ‘sticks’ sentences are underlined.

***

On Tuesday, Margaret told me she liked the little oranges with the seeds better than the ones I bought.I hated her for that.

Her distaste for anything ‘unnatural’ drove me to commit mind murder, the likes of which I’d not experienced since grade school. Kenny Malich, not Margaret, was the object of my half-rage then, but it felt the same now as is did back at Glen Heights Elementary in Canton.

We were celebrating Thanksgiving. My parents made me a pilgrim-like collar out of four sheets of thick black construction paper cut to form a circle around my neck. Sticking out awkwardly from my shoulders, the collar looked like a umbrella missing a few strands in it’s DNA. I pulled my socks over my pant cuffs and half way up my calf to further compliment my colonial-ness. There’s a shadowy memory of a hat and an odd belt buckle, but I can’t be certain at present. My costume, though complete, was anything but authentic, real, and natural.

Kenny was an indian. Oh yes, he got it all. He had the moccasins, the war paint, and even a hatchet. So cool. They were all the read deal too. Even the hatchet.

So why did I hate him and why did Margaret’s comment about the seeded clementines set me reeling back to childhood?

“You could make a living doing that kind of thing.” I suppose I could, but I had never thought about it, until then.

Produce aisle. Frozen for who knows how long. Holding oranges. I didn’t even know if I was blinking. It could’ve been five seconds or ten minutes. From the looks of my meager audience, my journey to elementary school and back to my seeded clementine selection had transformed me into a stick-figured mime.

I should’ve passed a hat and collected a few bucks.

“Yeah, well, woulda coulda shoulda ya know.” It was the first thing that came to mind. I would’ve felt more comfortable walking out of the grocery store half naked.

Maybe she felt that way because of the oranges, maybe she just didn’t like me because I forgot to pay her back for one too many lattes. Perhaps she even felt the same way I did about Kenny.

The past seems to be sinking down on all of us Margaret.

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Got the creative juices going!
Try it. I dare you.