Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Scavenger

Creative people are scavengers.
They're always on the lookout for something to take away with them. Sometimes it's tangible, sometimes not, but always it's real.
That view.
The sound.
Those expressions.
The mood.
An idea.
The feeling.
That concept.
Those things.

The Scavenger soaks everything up, taking notes...
Scratching below the surface to find something hidden, in conversations or behind gazes, turning what others cast aside into intricate tapestries, exploring strange worlds of the unspoken.

Sometimes it's the thrill of the chase.
Sometimes it's like diving in the ocean.
It's unknown territory.
It links beyond the dry facade of life's daily grind, into the sweetness of the depths of humanity.
It's unspoilt.
Calling out from beneath layers of time.

It's bitterness and succulence.
Pain and immortality.

The hunt.
The capture.
And then.....setting it free

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Space...the final frontier

(Yes, i know it's a lame title)

Creative spaces are very important to the creative mind. They provide a sanctuary and are usually places of activity. Sometimes they appear pristine and ordered, but more than likely they appear to be jumbled heaps upon jumbled heaps, with seemingly no order.

So what is a creative space? what's it all about?

The room/studio/corner/insert-your-own word-for-it-here is probably the single most important place on earth for the creative heart. It is as much a birthing room as a work space, and demands the same respect. A pile of "stuff" may in fact be a list of priorities, or reminders, like a 3-dimensional white board. It can represent a thought flow, one which is at the brink of creating a new masterpiece. To you it may have no logic, but to the artist it may be their link to their inspiration.

Whatever you do, NEVER clean up a creative space that's not your own unless you have been given permission to do so!

It's not an easy thing for most creative minds to simply flick from one head-space to the next, though many do out of necessity. If it's at all possible, a studio space is best if that's all it is. A small corner of the living room just doesn't bring out the best in an artist, though it may well be of good intention.

Creative spaces are sacred spaces. Here, things are conceived of and born. Here the mind and the heart can meld and ideas can evolve over time. Here is where chapters are explored, lived, manipulated, and developed. It can often be the only place on earth where an artistic person feels safe, at-peace, and free.

Feeling safe is a really important thing, and is often underestimated.
Sometimes a lot of emotion comes out of a person when they are birthing a new idea. Frustrations can overflow, or sometimes the process itself needs to be an angry one to achieve the desired effect, like the painter wildly throwing paint at a canvass. Musicians sometimes cry helplessly when the muse strikes, and writers often need to become their characters to write from a sense of truth. The creative space is a temple of humanity, where life can explode, crumple, run, or die, in a kaleidoscope of temporary madness. It may not always be visible, but the process of creativity can be as large as a universe outside of the tangible reality.

The creative space is a frontier. It's a place where new things are explored and devoured, nurtured and dismissed. It's a powerful force, and one of the most important tools a creative mind will ever have.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Cloisterers & Loiterers

You've seen them...
They're the ones sitting there in the corner on their own, at the pub, and the cafe', at your regular haunt. Almost always alone...thinking, watching (but not too obviously). If you sit close enough you can almost hear the cogs turning in their heads. Silent observers.

They might be a writer, perhaps an artist, possibly someone who seeks out the experience without participating in one. They are the Loiterers, an unassuming yet often misunderstood breed of creatives, who can easily spend countless hours in these places. Occasionally they'll find themselves so engrossed in a scenario that they'll laugh out loud, but rarely would they accept an offer to join you. The Loiterers are immersing themselves in reality, not participating in it.

Then, they pack up their notepads and memories, and go back to their world, perhaps to include their observations in their art, perhaps to ponder, and possibly to dream.

You don't really know the Cloisterers.
They usually only spend fleeting moments in public. Their world lies in their own sacred space, carefully crafted out of ordered chaos, or fanatical displays. Though they love to be invited, they'll rarely play, but if you're lucky enough to be a part of a small list of trusted people, you will have a friend for life.

Shutting out the world means there is plenty of room for a new one to emerge. A world full of complexity and creative reasoning. The Cloisterer lives in the world they have created for themselves, one that is safe enough for ideas to evolve and delicate works to be created. Their world is one full of dreams and aspirations, where the demons of the creative minds can be kept in check, and where the ebb and flow of the emotional tides can freely be navigated without justification or excuse.

Both the Cloisterer and the Loiterer dwell within each creative mind, sometimes simultaneously. They may at times be hidden by a layer of bravado or an extroverted or friendly personality, but they are there, underneath the surface. And sometimes a creative mind needs to sink into their shadow and explore them, though melancholic in their appearance.

The Cloisterer and the Loiterer are here to stay...

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

My Work, My Nakendness

Songwriters sometimes describe performing their songs on stage as akin to standing in front of a crowd, stark naked. When you've created something it can be like you're revealing yourself, exposing all your vulnerabilities, all your weaknesses, your secret desires, and your pain.

Sometimes this is because it's out of those things that our art is created. There are times when our pain gives birth to inspiration, or our vulnerability makes way for an expression of inner strength. But there is also the secrets, the stuff that is unconscious. The knowledge that someone might interpret our work and expose something we didn't even know about ourselves. Like the painter who creates random abstract paintings, only to discover that viewers see more than was intended.

The fear of revealing oneself is something the creative mind deals with every time they show their work to a friend, a family member, or an audience. In fact, the fear of one can far outweigh the fear of the many. I remember feeling extremely uncomfortable with revealing my music to my family more than to a venue full of people. And the individuals i chose to show my works to were selected not only with great deliberation, but also via their placement in time. Sometimes there would be only a window of a couple of days where i was willing to share, and if the right person wasn't around to listen...

But it's not just the uncomfortableness of oneself. Creative people are often extremely sensitive to the feelings of others. So imagine sharing something with someone, but not wanting to put them on the spot in any way that would make them awkward to offer any kind of feedback. This is something often overlooked. Artists generally want honesty. Of course they don't want to be hurt, but they don't want to hear Uncle John say "hey, i like that" just because he might feel he's expected to say that. They don't want pandering, though they do want encouragement. It can get complicated.

My mother is my biggest critic. I know that she loves that i write music, but she is careful not to show too much enthusiasm. This i sometimes interpret as indifference, which i used to find very challenging. She is honest with her own taste in music, telling me in no uncertain terms when she can't stand to listen to one of my pieces, or when it's "alright, i guess". It's complicated because she is my mother, and i want her to show a mountain of pride, and lashings of support, but i admire her honesty. She will tell me straight out that the CD artwork is completely the wrong colour for the music and that she finds a sound irritating, but i lean on the knowledge that she is trying to be helpful and truthful, and not mollycoddle me, and as such i only show her pieces that are near completion. Because i know that the complicatedness of our relationship will become too great an influence, and i would find myself changing things to suit her and not myself.

Art is from the heart, whether it's an awareness or a subconscious influence. It's endless possibilities make it a difficult birth process at times. Revealing oneself confidently, warts and all, doesn't come with the job. It's because of our vulnerability that we can create, so to reveal ourselves takes practice, patience, and a lot of gritting of teeth. It's a skill that must be learnt, like on-the-job-training. It's the hardest thing, yet is imperative if we are to share our talents. It's bracing for impact, crumpling in an emotional heap, lashing out with bitterness and anger, cowering with angst and uncertainly, putting on armour and challenging any opponent. It's all of this and more.

We are what we are, and we do what we do. We're not really eccentric. Just creative minds, with a need to explore.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Creator vs Saboteur

Ahhh, self sabotage. Anyone who writes music, makes art, choreographs, writes, or does anything else creative knows how closely just that term hits home. Living within each one of us lurks the Saboteur, like a devil on our shoulder. Even when things seems to be going well, we can feel it hiding in the shadows, like a grim reaper awaiting it's victim. It stalks us...patiently...waiting for the perfect opportunity to strike us down, with lethal blows.

The Saboteur prays on our weaknesses, our doubts, our holes. It puts us on the defensive, where we feel we have to justify our place in the world, our community, our home, and even ourselves. And being a saboteur of the self, it remains hidden from view from all those around us. Only we are aware of it's presence, only we can hear it's taunts. It lives with us as we work, and we can hear it panning schemes of our undoing.

But people around us can see it's handiwork. i can see that you are your own undoing. I can see that the only thing stopping you is yourself. I can see that you're making excuses, finding reasons why NOT to do, and making assumptions based on fear. But live WITHIN the world of the Saboteur. To you it's not that simple, because it haunts you every day, each time you question anything. For you, it's not as simple as being afraid people wont like your runs much deeper than that. For you, it's layers and layers of torment, complication, and desperation, daily guilt, remorse, isolation, and regret. For you it's not as easy to just get on with it, get over it, and turn a new page. For you, it's the thorn in your side that never ceases.

But the Saboteur keeps you in check. It keeps the fight alive. Makes you work harder. To see the light you have to place it in the dark. It's voice, though haunting, can drive you to prove it wrong. You work is better because of it's unending presence. You scoff at it, laugh it down, drive over it with a lawnmower...mock it until it becomes little more than a shade of grey. It feeds you to do better, fly higher, create greater.

Self Sabotage will always be a part of artistic life. The trick is to use it's presence to empower yourself and your work. It is merely the yang to your yin, the night to your day. So long as you strive for balance, your never need to fear it's influence.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

The Creative Addiction

Having a creative mind is like having an addiction. Don’t misunderstand me. It doesn’t necessarily result in copious amounts of artistic output, as many of you know. In fact it often leads to the flip side of the coin, constantly stalling or putting off the next step or stage, escapism, or distraction. Why? Because having a creative mind means we have this amazing ability to create all sorts of reasoning and justification to apply to our situation which has just as much influence to stop us from doing, as it does to inspire us.

The creative addiction is complicated, because there are so many layers to it, like an onion. On the one hand we have the uncanny knack of being able to be suddenly inspired by the smallest trigger, yet we can create a myriad of excuses to not see something through. This juxtaposition can become frustrating and very disheartening not only to the person, but also to those around them. I know in my own experience i have met many talented musicians and artists who not only have rarely made their work public, but who seem to make it their life’s mission to come up with a multitude of excuses as to why that is the case, from their work not being finished, not “right”, them not being ready, it’s not the “right time”...the list goes on. The “closet artist” spends time doing amazing work, but would rather create excuses than reveal themself. The world is a lesser place for it.

Another aspect to the addiction is it’s affect on daily life. It feels wrong to be obsessed in the real world, and the swings from obsessive artistry to excuses and downers can make it somewhat difficult for relationships. It’s rare for me to meet a truly happy couple where only one is creative, because unless you share the same addiction, you simply struggle to understand. You seem to be living with a person who goes from one madness to the next, and find it difficult to cope with the extremes of highs and lows which come with no warning or logic. You have no way to prepare yourself for what will happen next, and at times it must feel like you want to burst. The partner of an artist can feel helpless in being able to support them emotionally, physically and spiritually. This can often result in a relationship breakdown, or the artist withdrawing into themselves and attempting to curb their creativity in a bid to save their relationship. For those creative/non-creative couples who HAVE found a way to make their relationship flourish deserve a round of applause with a standing ovation at the very least.

To summarise this ( and i will go into a little more detail at another time), i’d like to add that it’s important for an artist to explore their own addiction. Firstly i must stress that it is not BAD, WRONG, or TERRIBLE. You’re addicted to breathing, aren’t you? Well, put it in the same basket as that. You need to create to keep your brain and heart alive, no matter what you hear from those on the other side. But being able to identify and embrace your own ebb and flow, not only of your work, but also of your non-work, can help you and those around you come to an understanding of the complexities of creative addiction. Each one is unique, and each with their own needs.

Oh, and remember to smile...

Thursday, July 2, 2009

One Step Further...

Sooner or later you come to a crossroads. You've created all of this fantastic music/art/groovy-stuff, and you get to a point where you have to take a plunge to move forward. It's a first. Your first CD, exhibition, book, sale...whatever it is, it's filled with as much terror as it is excitement.

We live in an era where we can't make up the excuses we used to. Anything is possible. We generally have access to the tools to make this project happen, but it's fraught with the pain of "what if". What if it doesn't sell, what if i get bad reviews, what if I'm rejected? But here's the thing...nothing in this world is guaranteed. There is no water-tight solution for success.

And what is success? I measure success in the ability to create something out of nothing, regardless of whether hoards of people come flocking. How many times have you heard of artists struggling all their lives, only to be recognised after their deaths because of their extraordinary contribution to the world culture? How many films have been dismally received only to become cult icons decades later? And how many cds have had no airplay, yet warm the hearts of a few? I told myself at the beginning of my career that if i could touch the heart of one human being, and move them to make a change for the better, my work was done. Then i read my first fan letter, a stranger whom i didn't know changed his life because he was inspired. I was moved so deeply that my heart cried, and i made an oath to myself that my work had only just begun.

I remember the angst of creating my first independent release. The decision seemed agonising, but i knew it had to be done. I owed it to my children, to lead by example, and i had always believed that being a closet artist was a selfish occupation. Being creative doesn't come easy to many, so the rest of us have an obligation to share what we do with humanity. I lent on that idea every step of the way. I had to learn how to keep myself out of the way.

My first boxes of CDs sat in a cupboard for many moons. I had no idea what to do next, so for a long while i did almost nothing. Then i decided there was nothing to lose, and thought that even giving them away had to be better than taking up space in my office. I gave myself a hard time. I struggled with the "what if"s, but i was stubborn enough to not give up.

Things are a bit different now. Not because all i touch turns to gold, but because i have a method...a process. I'm experienced now, so the fear is assuaged. I still wonder about failure, but each time i release something new, i remind myself that the only failure is to do nothing. If i end up getting stuck with a few boxes full of CDs, well hey!! So what! I'll always have a gift to give to a stranger. And what better gift to give is there that a part of yourself.