Posts tagged artist
Embarrassing Story About Vulnerability, Tom Cruise and My Wife

I often suggest to my students that they become more "vulnerable" in their work.  As artists, it seems that vulnerability is the key to being happy, sustainable and growing a real business over time.  Check out this post where I link to Brené Brown; the vulnerability guru.

So here's an embarrassing "vulnerability" story: My wife and I are high school sweethearts.  We were going on our first real date.  We went to watch Mission Impossible starring Tom Cruise.  This was 16 years ago. My brother was home on leave from the Marine Corps at the time and I recall him telling me that I had a bit too much Hugo Boss cologne on.  I didn't care.  

When we got to the movie theatre I was trying to play it cool.  I had never been on a real date so I didn't want to screw it up.  About 1/3 of the way into the movie I started having intense stomach cramps.  Apparently, I was having some anxiety issues (I know why now).  This makes sense because well...have you seen mine wife?!?  She's beautifulmazing!  Seriously.

I spent the next 1/3 of the movie in the bathroom of the movie theatre lobby while my future wife was sitting alone watching Tom Cruise.  I came back and played it cool like it's normal to spend a large chunk of your first date in the bathroom.

If you're interested in becoming more vulnerable and have about 20 minutes then check out Brenê Brown's TED Talk below.  

 

Creatively,

Mark

P.S. you might enjoy these other articles that I've recently written:

How To Assess Creativity

Have you ever heard that you can’t assess or test someone’s creativity?  Well you can.  Read on.

I am a teacher so “assessments” are always a hot topic among my colleagues...and my students.

I know that students are so concerned with assessments that I started letting them make their own assessments.  Your mind probably responded by asking “but how can they be trusted?”. Good question.  If you’re an educator, I challenge you to test this out with your students.  Ask yourself if they’re really trying to “pull one by me” or maybe you need to let go of some control and allow curiosity to lead.

Anyways, when I let my students make their own assessments for projects there is usually someone who throws out that “creativity” should be an objective.  It’s usually followed by another student saying “you can’t grade that though!”.  I initially agreed with this but have recently discovered a “deeper truth” to this.  

First off, creativity can only be assessed over time.  It must be compared to previous work or examples.  Simply by looking at an art piece, business, project or presentation doesn’t give me enough evidence to evaluate whether an individual is demonstrating “creativity”.  I need a portfolio of something to respond to.  

 

If you’re assessing yourself then you already have this.  If you’re assessing others for creativity then you might need to do some digging. Just look at and think about your/their most recent projects.  Compare and reflect.  There are some specific questions to ask when doing this:

Do I/they have the ability to produce a large number of ideas?

Do I/they have the ability to produce a variety of approaches to solve a problem?

Do I/they have the ability to develop, embellish, or fill out an idea?

Do I/they have the ability to  produce ideas that are unusual, statistically infrequent, not banal or obvious?

 

The four components of “assessing creativity” are:

  1. Fluency

  2. Flexibility

  3. Elaboration

  4. Originality

 

I stumbled upon these four areas while going through an Adobe Education course called “Assessing Creativity in Today’s Classroom”.   They come from a psychologist named Ellis Paul Torrance.  Torrance has spent his entire life devoting himself to research in “creativity”.

 

Fluency: The Ability To Produce A Large Number Of Ideas

I’m all about the “process”.  You probably know this if you follow my work.  I believe that the process is more important than the product.  

I challenge my students (and you...and me) to generally spend more time in the beginning of the creative process.  It’s tempting to come up with an idea that you know will “change the world” and then quickly move on to planning it and rapidly executing it.  It’s important that we discipline ourselves to “hang out” in the idea generation part of the process.  Or at least be willing to revisit it throughout the whole process.  You might have a journal and want to give yourself a number of ideas to come up with before you move on to choosing which ones to execute. You might say “I’m going to brainstorm for 30 minutes without stopping” and then afterwards choose your favorite ideas. You might need to spend some more time researching inspiring work from other artists or creative people.  Maybe just walk outside and look around.  You might have a way of generating ideas that can be expanded on.  Think about it.  You’re smart!

 

 

Flexibility: The Ability To Consider A Variety Of Approaches To A Problem Simultaneously

Basically,  how many different ways can you execute your idea to completion.  If you come up with an idea and after thinking about it for a minute or two decide that it can’t be done then I would challenge you to see if there are similar ways that others have done the same thing or something like your idea.  Sometimes this sparks better ideas.

In my classroom the situation I just mentioned happens often because of the culture that young people are generally educated in.  If something is too difficult then my students are caught in a dilemma:  think of another idea or figure it out.

Most of the time our default is to just think of another idea (or easier idea).  The most creative people can look at a problem, situation or idea from multiple perspectives and they will always find a way to solve or complete it (even if they only figure out some of it).   Sometimes this means letting go of ‘perfect’ and doing some “hard” thinking.  You can do it though!

 

 

Elaboration: The Ability To Develop, Embellish, Or Fill Out An Idea

Time is so limited in our world.  We feel we have to be on all of the social networks, be reading all of the creative blogs and hanging out with the coolest people.  It’s basically a form of multitasking and it kills our creative process and our ability to “elaborate”.

Spending time chewing on a concept is what I recommend to my students once they make a decision and move forward.  

It’s so easy to jump in and try to quickly make our project, business or creative endeavor happen in a day or two.  I would challenge you to “pull back on the reins” and say whoooaaaa Nelly!

Similar to mediation is “elaboration”.  We allow our minds to think on a deeper level with a heightened sense of awareness regarding our creative work.  

If you’re struggling to “fill out an idea” then try turning off all of your devices, sit in a quiet space and write down the name of your idea on piece of paper.  Then just stare at it.  When thoughts come into your mind then write them down around the idea.  This a form of mind-mapping and can be used for any idea that you want to develop and elaborate on a deeper level.  

This is a challenge in our society so you have to be intentional to demonstrate this level of creativity.  You can do it though!

 

 

Originality - The Ability To Produce Ideas That Are Unusual, Statistically Infrequent, Or Obvious

This might also be called “individuality”, “finding your niche” or “being you” in your work.  It’s one thing to be able to imitate another artist but to imitate, replicate, twist, shape and convert it into your work is a demonstration of deep creativity.  Austin Kleon writes about this in “How to Steal Like An Artist”.

Don’t get me wrong, imitating others work is a great first step to finding your most creative self but it’s not a means to an end.  It’s a small step towards you as a creative person where you come out in your work.  Some artists who have taught me about this are Ben Haggerty (AKA Macklemore), Jeremy Cowart, Chase Jarvis and Casey Niestat.  They all have taken what was already happening and made it their own to become highly successful and creative humans.


As you attempt to assess yourself or others regarding this thing we call “creativity”, I would challenge you not to judge but to simply “notice” and if you want to...make a change in your life.  What’s one thing that you can do to be more creative? Think about the people you consider to be the most creative in your life.  Why do you think that?  How can you begin to incorporate what they’re doing into your life?

CHALLENGE: assess your creativity or someone else’s creativity and write down these four questions in a journal or paste them into a document and (in a non-judgmental way) respond with writing or drawing for 30 minutes.  

  • Do I/they have the ability to produce a large number of ideas?
  • Do I/they have the ability to produce a variety of approaches to solve a problem?
  • Do I/they have the ability to develop, embellish, or fill out an idea?
  • Do I/they have the ability to  produce ideas that are unusual, statistically infrequent, or obvious?

 

Let me know how that works out for you.

Creatively,

Mark

P.S. you might enjoy these other articles that I've written:

 

 

How Type-A Artists Survive

I was teaching at a documentary film school over the summer and someone said to me "how does it feel to be a 'type-A artist?"

I started thinking about my life and how much I've struggled as a creative person because of the ocean of ideas that I have in my mind, my perfectionistic standards and the constant struggle I have to work with other people.  

Here are 5 strategies that I've came up with to help me on my journey as a "type-A artist":

1. LET GO OF 'PERFECT'

It's so hard to do this!  I want my art and creative endeavors to end up the best they can be. Every time.  The problem is with what "the best they can be" is.  The idea that something can always be "better" is a problem in our society.  Understandably.  We're bombarded with "push-ads" that cram what "perfect" is down our throats on the daily.   When I started as a photographer years ago I was so worried that I wasn't as good as other photographers.  I was right.  It turns out that that was ok.  I ended up doing a 100-day self-portrait project where I posted one photo per day for 100 days.  I started off shooting with my iPhone and then naturally desiring "better photos", I learned how to use a DSLR.  I ended up being a "photographer" to all of my followers by the end of the project.  That only happened because I let go of "perfect" and embraced "process".

2. MEDITATE. EVERYDAY

I have a disorder know as "borderline personality disorder".  For as far back as I can remember I have been a perfectionist, driven, passionate.  Also unproductive.

Meditation has revolutionized my creative life by allowing me to focus or "re-focus" on what's really important in my life and complete the tasks that I value.  Meditation looks very different for a lot of people.  I actually have a lambskin rug in my work space that I lay down on everyday for at least 10 minutes while listening to some guided meditation or calm music.  If you've never done "guided meditation" then I highly recommend that you go to YouTube and search for it.  Or just click here.  You'll feel kooky in the beginning but over time you'll start to notice the life changing benefits in your creative life, personal life and with your family.

3. STOP MAKING STUFF

I got this intuitive (and almost scary effective) tip from the relationship guru, Jordan Gray.  He basically says that if you're an "ultra productive" person then you should practice being intentionally "unproductive".  This seems too simply I know.  I challenge you to "not work" on purpose the next time that you are in the middle of an intense creative project where you feel stuck.  

4. EXERCISE. DAILY

I know here we go.  The old "exercise daily" thing.  If you can get up 30 minutes earlier everyday and do a light (I said light) run and/or yoga-ish stretching then I promise you that you'll see an increase in quality of your day to day creativity, relationship and overall life. 

Go ahead and grab your phone and change your alarm.  You can do it!

5. GET AN EXPENSIVE JOURNAL

I've recently started adding value to this so much that I went out and bought a $13 journal. I use this everyday to write, sketch or doodle out my thoughts, ideas or creative projects.  Before I bought this journal I had a really low quality (picture grade school) notebook.  Since it was cheap I treated cheap.  It had no value because I literally picked it up out of a box that someone was going to recycle. 

The point is you want to prepare yourself to be successful by having something that you value with you so you'll want to use it.  It's that simple. 

You might take these strategies and say "not fore me" or you might try to change them to fit your style or even maybe even ask another "type-A “creative person around you how they survive.  

Whatever you do.  Do something that works for you. Or nothing right! (Strategy #3)

Creatively,

Mark

P.S. Want to talk about this more? Drop me a line. I love helping creative people!