Scheduling Creativity

Scheduling Creativity

2018.09.26-28

The Creative Soul

 

I really did not plan for this post to be so late.  However, being a female in the USA for the past week has been rather difficult.  A brave woman came forward, as one is always encouraged to do regarding public appointments and instead of being applauded for that, the entire gender has been under scrutiny.  The Appointment in question requires approval from one governing body and instead of hearing the accusations and then launching a nonpartisan inquiry, things went upside down and catawampus.  It was, quite simply, very taxing on some of us and utterly incredibly stressful.  My apologies but I needed a break from social media and posting.  The answer to the last challenge will be posted Wednesday, Oct 3rd, by the way.

 

Ironically, though, my refuge and stress reliever was to be creative – to view lovely photographs by talented artists, to engage in some coloring for myself, to exercise (I am not good enough to call it dancing) and move.  I realized my stress level and scheduled some creative stress relief.  Can one also schedule creativity for outcomes’ sake?

 

In a podcast for Behavior Gap Radio, entitled “Want to Be Creative on Purpose? Schedule It,” Carl Richards wrote:  “What if you don’t have to be “creative” to create? We all know the archetype of the creatives, right? Eccentric, weird, scattered, messy. The creatives are plagued perpetually by writer’s block (or sculptor’s block or painter’s block or whatever block). They spend most of their time lazing about gloomily, smoking cigarettes and cursing this cruel world. But then, every once in a while, the creatives are so touched by the muse that they are forced to immediately drop everything, go into a trance and become a funnel for the beauty of the world.”

 

Richards continued:  “Personally, I think that’s a bit too precious. This notion to wait around in the rain until you get struck by lightning to make art (or anything) doesn’t mesh with my experience at all. What comes much closer is the famous Chuck Close quotation:  ‘Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us just show up and get to work.’   The major implication of Mr. Close’s quotation is that you don’t have to be creative to create. So here’s a secret ninja trick that will help: Don’t wait around for creativity to strike. Strike creativity! Invent an obligation for yourself so you have to be creative on purpose.”

 

If you google “How to be creative?” you will get an answer – about 959,000,000 results.  Perhaps the question is not so much how do we become creative but how do we stay creative?  Small toddlers think nothing of twirling around, making up their own music and singing their own original songs.  The word critic is not in their vocabulary yet and so, they are fearless.  They are perhaps the most creative humans on the planet. 

 

I personally think the first question we should ask is “Why do we want to create?”  This past week I did not want to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, quite possibly the only week in the past fifty years that I did not want to win it.  I simply wanted an escape, a place to mindlessly write a response to writing prompts I’d collected.  It did not matter if my poem about some obscure fish I’d never heard of was accurate.  It answered a need to mindlessly do something without it needing to be great.

 

Also this past week I colored – nothing outstanding and yes, it was in a coloring book from a dollar store.  It was relaxing and fun and a distraction from the political blowhards that seemed to be on every communications channel and Face Book post.  I viewed lovely photographs and became seduced by the art, reminding myself that creation is beautiful and even when it seems the world is against you, there is beauty in living.

 

This weekend I will again get out my expensive pens and pastels, compose something topical and do some research for the upcoming blog series.  I will also prepare 162 gifts and letters for an upcoming spiritual retreat.  I am refreshed in spirit and soul and my mind is brimming with ideas.  Sometimes the best way to get back on the creative track is to take a detour from it.

 

Many people schedule their creative time – writing in the middle of the night or early morning; painting during lunch when the light is at its fullest; sculpting while the laundry finishes its cycle.  Other people create when the mood is right.  I think we all have our own identity and also our own creative schedule.  What matters is that we realize each day is a new opportunity to experience creativity and to create something ourselves.

Creative Failure

Creative Failure

2018.09.25

The Creative Soul

 

First, I must admit that I find the word failure to be an oxymoron.  An oxymoron is a figure of speech in which two opposite ideas are joined to create an effect.  It is self-contradicting, something one might say my title for today is.  While the word failure is, in and of itself, not contradicting, how we perceive it is.  Failure is perceived as losing, a disappointment, a disaster, a letdown and often, sadly, the end of a career or effort.  What failure should be is a lesson – an education on what did not work and the start of a new path toward success.

 

The word failure did not start out to mean the condemnation that it does today.  Originally, derived from the Latin “fallere” which meant to stumble, it denoted a very common human condition.  After all, none of us is perfect and at some point, we are going to stumble.  When one does, one is encouraged to “pick yourself up and start all over again.”  Sadly this is often forgotten in the creative realm.

 

In a world in which synonyms are explored and revered, we have forgotten that in being honest, we should also exercise candor.  The critic often foregoes the common courtesy we should all exercise in the work place and uses honesty as an excuse to demean and belittle.  Any creative effort is subject to criticism.  After all, we all know what we like and do not like.  We are entitled to those feelings.  What we should not do, however, is use honesty as an excuse to debase or disgrace the artist, writer, dancer, sculptor, etc. 

 

Ed Catmull, president of Pixar Animation, explains the difference between honesty and candor this way:  “The only way to get a grip on the facts, issues, and nuances we need to solve problems and collaborate effectively is by communicating fully and openly, by not withholding or misleading.  … We need to free ourselves of honesty’s baggage.  …Candor is forthrightness or frankness.  …  A hallmark of a healthy creative culture is that people feel free to share ideas, opinions, and criticisms.  Lack of candor, if unchecked, ultimately leads to dysfunctional environments.

 

So do we throw critiques out the window?  Of course we don’t.  We need as artists to embrace them but that can be very difficult.  We need to recognize what is good criticism and what is not.  A good critique will explain what is wrong, what is missing, what is not clear or did not make sense.  It will not offer a “fix” but should applaud the effort.  Andrew Stanton explains:  “there’s a difference between criticism and constructive criticism.  With the latter you’re constructing at the same time that you’re criticizing.  You’re building up as you’re breaking down, making new pieces to work with out of the stuff you’ve just ripped apart….It’s more of a challenge.  It is an art form in itself.”

 

Too often we see a negative critique as a stop sign, an indication that we ourselves are a failure and not the particular artistic effort being discussed.  Very few artists only ever painted just one picture or sculpted just one object.  No composer only ever wrote one song or poet just one poem.  Every writer has a drawer of rejection slips and most famous actors can tell you the names of those who advised them that they would never succeed in the business.  Failure is a part of the business because, at its core, failure is education, an integral part of the process of becoming an artist.

 

Quoting Ed Catmull in his book “Creativity, Inc.”:  “There are two parts of failure:  There is the event itself, with all its attendant disappointments, confusion, and shame, and then there is our reaction to it.  It is this second part that we control.  We must remember that failure gives us chances to grow, and we ignore those chances at our own peril.”

 

It is hard to receive criticism and in the early stages, we often get it from those closest to us.  When I began this blog over four years ago, I asked family members to read it.  “It’s good”, they would say and then nothing more.  That was nice to hear but I really wanted more.  One day someone very close to me remarked that I was a day late in posting my daily blog.  I thanked them.  The next week, they said the same thing.  After it happened the third time, I asked if they ever read my blog.  “Sure” they replied to which I responded:  “Then did you miss where I wrote that I would not be posted anything on Wednesdays for this series?”  It turned out that this person was simply taking attendance; they were not reading my blog posts at all.  I thanked them for the effort but said I really wanted a critique of the writing, not someone to take attendance.  I don’t think they have read another blog post since that day, even to check to see if I posted one.

 

We cannot wait for our artistic efforts to be perfect.  Sharing them and learning from them is part of the process.  We must earn the adjectives excellent, quality, and good, not expect them to appear magically.  Part of the artistic process is growing and we grow by making mistakes and learning from them.  We will stumble and sometimes, in stumbling, we discover something new.  Failure is not an evil to be avoided.  Failure is a natural consequence of attempting something new.  Failure means our head is in the game and our heart is putting our effort forward.  Failure is an integral step in the creative process and might just be the best lesson we will ever learn. Failure is neither a stop sign not a judgment but a step on the road to creative fulfillment.

My Favorite Canvas

My Favorite Canvas

2018.09.20-21

The Creative Soul

 

There is a very good likelihood that you have never heard of Suffolk, VA, even though it is, by land area, the largest city in the Commonwealth (state) of Virginia and Fourteenth largest in the country.  Earlier this week the local paper features an article by Alex Perry which read:  “Families, children and others with an artistic itch will have the opportunity to spend an evening with a paintbrush in downtown Suffolk this weekend.  Suffolk Tourism is partnering with Paint Me Purple Studios for “A Night Under the Stars” paint party at 7 p.m. Friday at the Suffolk Visitor Center, 524 N. Main St. Space is limited and advance reservations are required on Thursday at the latest, with about 20 spots left as of Tuesday, according to Visitor Center Supervisor Kevin Sary.  Participants will use provided painting materials to do their own rendition of “The Starry Night” by Vincent van Gogh with careful instruction by Kim Ellis, owner of Paint Me Purple Studios. They’ll also enjoy some tasty star-themed treats during the 90 or so minutes they’ll have to complete their paintings under the night sky.”

 

I do not live in Suffolk and have only briefly passed through there once in my life.  However, I would love to be there this weekend.  Vincent Van Gogh’s “The Starry Night” is one of my all-time favorite paintings.  Van Gogh is a perfect answer to those who say “I cannot be creative” or “I have no talent” because he defied all the odds and left the world with a beautiful portfolio of creativity.  The following is from the MoMA website on Van Gogh.

 

Vincent van Gogh: Emotion, Vision, and A Singular Style

“Mention Vincent van Gogh (Dutch, 1853–1890) and one of the first things likely to come to many people’s minds is the fact that he cut off his own ear. This stark act, committed in 1888, marked the beginning of the depression that would plague him until the end of his life. But to know van Gogh is to get past the caricature of the tortured, misunderstood artist and to become acquainted instead with the hardworking, deeply religious, and difficult man. Van Gogh found his place in art and produced emotional, visually arresting paintings over the course of a career that lasted only a decade.

“Largely self-taught, van Gogh produced more than 2,000 oil paintings, watercolors, drawings, and sketches, which became in demand only after his death. He also wrote scores of letters, especially to his brother Theo, in which he worked out his thoughts about art. “Always continue walking a lot and loving nature, for that’s the real way to learn to understand art better and better,” he wrote in 1874. “Painters understand nature and love it, and teach us to see.”

“It was nature, and the people living closely to it, that first stirred van Gogh’s artistic inclinations. In this he was not alone. Landscapes remained a popular subject in late-nineteenth-century art. Driven in part by their dissatisfaction with the modern city, many artists sought out places resembling earthly paradises, where they could observe nature firsthand, feeding its psychological and spiritual resonances into their work. Van Gogh was particularly taken with the peasants he saw working the countryside; his early compositions featured portraits of Dutch peasants and rural landscapes, rendered in dark, moody tones.

“In 1886, van Gogh moved to Paris, where he encountered the works of the Impressionists and Neo-Impressionists, and the Pointillist compositions of Georges Seurat. Inspired by these artists’ harmonious matching of colors, shorter brushstrokes, and liberal use of paint, he brightened his own palette and loosened his brushwork, emphasizing the physical application of paint on the canvas. The style he developed in Paris and carried through to the end of his life became known as Post-Impressionism, a term encompassing works made by artists unified by their interest in expressing their emotional and psychological responses to the world through bold colors and expressive, often symbolic images. In a letter to his sister Willemien, touching upon the mind and temperament of artists, van Gogh once wrote that he was “very sensitive to color and its particular language, its effects of complementaries, contrasts, harmony.”

“By 1888, van Gogh had returned to the French countryside, where he would remain until his death. There, close once again to the peasants who had inspired him early on, he concentrated on painting landscapes, portraits (of himself and others), domestic interiors, and still lifes full of personal symbolism.

 

Observation and Imagination in The Starry Night (1889)

“This morning I saw the countryside from my window a long time before sunrise, with nothing but the morning star, which looked very big,” wrote van Gogh to his brother Theo, describing his inspiration for one of his best-known paintings, The Starry Night (1889).3 The window to which he refers was in the Saint-Paul asylum in Saint-Rémy, in southern France, where he sought respite from his emotional suffering while continuing to make art.

“This mid-scale, oil-on-canvas painting is dominated by a moon- and star-filled night sky. It takes up three-quarters of the picture plane and appears turbulent, even agitated, with intensely swirling patterns that seem to roll across its surface like waves. It is pocked with bright orbs—including the crescent moon to the far right, and Venus, the morning star, to the left of center—surrounded by concentric circles of radiant white and yellow light.

“Beneath this expressive sky sits a hushed village of humble houses surrounding a church, whose steeple rises sharply above the undulating blue-black mountains in the background. A cypress tree sits at the foreground of this night scene. Flame-like, it reaches almost to the top edge of the canvas, serving as a visual link between land and sky. Considered symbolically, the cypress could be seen as a bridge between life, as represented by the earth, and death, as represented by the sky, commonly associated with heaven. Cypresses were also regarded as trees of the graveyard and mourning. “But the sight of the stars always makes me dream,” van Gogh once wrote. “Why, I say to myself, should the spots of light in the firmament be less accessible to us than the black spots on the map of France? Just as we take the train to go to Tarascon or Rouen, we take death to go to a star.”

“The Starry Night is based on van Gogh’s direct observations as well as his imagination, memories, and emotions. The steeple of the church, for example, resembles those common in his native Holland, not in France. The whirling forms in the sky, on the other hand, match published astronomical observations of clouds of dust and gas known as nebulae. At once balanced and expressive, the composition is structured by his ordered placement of the cypress, steeple, and central nebulae, while his countless short brushstrokes and thickly applied paint set its surface in roiling motion. Such a combination of visual contrasts was generated by an artist who found beauty and interest in the night, which, for him, was “much more alive and richly colored than the day.”

 

It is reported that in a letter to his brother Theo, van Gogh wrote passionately about painting a scene as he experienced, imagined, and, ultimately, interpreted it, not as it was expected to be rendered. Comparing painting to playing music, he argued: “We painters are always asked to compose ourselves and to be nothing but composers. Very well – but in music it isn’t so; in music, a composer’s interpretation is something.”

 

Whatever you draw is a creation, just as whatever you play is music and whatever you write is either poetry or prose.  You have created something.  You engaged in a creative process and you were creative.  Your soul gained value from that.  Whether or not someone else decided it had value does not negate your creative efforts.  You were creative and your creative interpretation is, to quote Can Gogh, “something”. 

My Favorite Poem

My Favorite Poem

2018.09.17

The Creative Soul

 

Rudyard Kipling once remarked “Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.”  Kipling was an English journalist, short-story writer, poet, and novelist.  Born in India from whence came the inspiration for most of his writing, he would become one of the most popular writers in the British Empire, famed for both his prose and his poetry.   In 1907, at the age of 42, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, making him the first English-language writer to receive the prize and its youngest recipient for over one hundred years.

 

Editing a collection of Kipling’s works in 1941, the poet T. S. Eliot wrote in the introduction to the published collection:  “An immense gift for using words, an amazing curiosity and power of observation with his mind and with all his senses, the mask of the entertainer, and beyond that a queer gift of second sight, of transmitting messages from elsewhere, a gift so disconcerting when we are made aware of it that thenceforth we are never sure when it is not present: all this makes Kipling a writer impossible wholly to understand and quite impossible to belittle.”

 

My favorite poem was written by Kipling and first published in ‘Rewards and Fairies’.  Written in the form of paternal advice to the poet’s son, John, who was at the time age twelve, the poem is considered a classic.  It regained popularity after the death of 2nd Lt John Kipling during World War One six years later.

 

If

If you can keep your head when all about you  

    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,  

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,

    But make allowance for their doubting too;  

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,

    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,

Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,

    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

 

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;  

    If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;  

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster

    And treat those two impostors just the same;  

If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken

    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,

Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,

    And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

 

If you can make one heap of all your winnings

    And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,

And lose, and start again at your beginnings

    And never breathe a word about your loss;

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew

    To serve your turn long after they are gone,  

And so hold on when there is nothing in you

    Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

 

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,  

    Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,

If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,

    If all men count with you, but none too much;

If you can fill the unforgiving minute

    With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,  

Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,  

    And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

Your Turn – 3

Your Turn – 3

2018.09.16

The Creative Soul

 

Last week I challenged you to use yarn and perhaps two other items.  One easy project involves yarn, a straw, and a piece of cardboard.  For this exercise you also need scissors but I am not really including them as one of the items.  Wrap the yarn around the cardboard and then when several layers are completed, slide the yarn off the cardboard and tie off in the middle.  Cut the loops on each side and then tie onto the straw.  You can wrap the straw with green yarn as well.  There you have yarn pomp om flowers on a yarn covered green straw!

 

Another project involves finger knitting, a centuries old craft.  Finger knitting is a great way to learn how to knit. It’s easy to do and you will quickly have something that you can wear or play with.   Finger knitting is quite simple and requires only about nine feet of yarn and your two hands.  Step 1: Turn your non-dominant hand palm-up. Leave a 6-inch tail of yarn between your thumb and palm.  Step 2: Use your other hand to wrap the yarn over your pointer finger, back behind your middle finger, over your ring finger, then behind your pinkie finger.  Step 3: Now wrap the yarn back around your pinkie, behind your ring finger, over your middle finger and behind your pointer finger. You should now have a loop over each finger.  Step 4: Repeat Step 2, starting at your knuckles.  Step 5: Wrap the yarn back around your fingers to complete two rows of yarn.  Step 6: Pull the lower loop over the top of your finger. Repeat for all four fingers.  Step 7:  You have just completed your first row of finger knitting and can release the yarn you are holding with your thumb.  Step 8: Push down the top row, and repeat steps 4-8 until you have the desired length.  Step 9: To finish the rope, carefully remove the remaining loops from your fingers. Cut an extra 6 inches of yarn and thread this through the loops and tighten. Add a double knot to secure in place.  When you’re finished, you’ll have a beautiful rope of yarn that you can use for lots of different things, such as a cool headband, a belt, bracelet, necklace, or even a scarf. Since there’s no need to worry about pointy needles, it’s a great craft to do on long car trips.

 

This week’s challenge involves pen, paper, and your imagination.  I’ve included some popular English words here and I want you to use them to write something – either prose or poetry.  For my non-English speaking readers, please make your selection from popular nouns, verbs, and adjectives in your native language.  Remember, the challenge is to be creative, not to write a Nobel Prize-winning piece.  Enjoy!

Nouns: 

  1. time
  2. person
  3. year
  4. way
  5. day
  6. thing
  7. man
  8. world
  9. life
  10. hand
  11. part
  12. child
  13. eye
  14. woman
  15. place
  16. work
  17. week
  18. case
  19. point
  20. government
  21. company
  22. number
  23. group
  24. problem
  25. fact

 

Verbs

  1. be
  2. have
  3. do
  4. say
  5. get
  6. make
  7. go
  8. know
  9. take
  10. see
  11. come
  12. think
  13. look
  14. want
  15. give
  16. use
  17. find
  18. tell
  19. ask
  20. work
  21. seem
  22. feel
  23. try
  24. leave
  25. call

 

Adjectives

  1. good
  2. new
  3. first
  4. last
  5. long
  6. great
  7. little
  8. own
  9. other
  10. old
  11. right
  12. big
  13. high
  14. different
  15. small
  16. large
  17. next
  18. early
  19. young
  20. important
  21. few
  22. public
  23. bad
  24. same
  25. able

 

Whistle a Happy Tune

Whistle a Happy Tune

2018.09.15

The Creative Soul

 

“Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.”  We now know after hundreds of studies that Plato spoke the truth when he said those words about the fine art of music.  Jae-Sang Park, better known as Psy, said it in a different way:  “The world’s most famous and popular language is music.”  Indeed, when a space probe was sent into deep space to make contact with any beings that might inhabit the outer parts of our galaxy, music was the language used to communicate.  Henry Wadsworth Longfellow agreed with Psy:  ““Music is the universal language of mankind.”

 

In a 2013 article from Medical News Today, Sarah Glynn reported that playing and listening to music benefits both mental and physical health.  A large-scale review of over four hundred research papers regarding the neurochemistry of music found that music improves the body’s immune system and reduces stress levels.  A 2011 report centered on the anxiety of cancer patients revealed “compelling evidence that musical interventions can play a health care role in settings ranging from operating rooms to family clinics,” stated researcher, cognitive psychologist and neuroscientist Dr. Daniel Levitin.  “But even more importantly, we were able to document the neurochemical mechanisms by which music has an effect in four domains: management of mood, stress, immunity and as an aid to social bonding.”  Their research also showed that music increases an antibody that plays an important role in immunity of the mucous system, known as immunoglobulin A, as well as natural killer cell counts, the cells that attack germs and bacteria invading the body.

 

Listening to and playing music can also lower levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) and, when combined with standard care, music therapy has been proven an effective treatment for depression.  “Auditory biology is not frozen in time. It’s a moving target. And music education really does seem to enhance communication by strengthening language skills” stated Nina Kraus, the Hugh Knowles Professor of Communication Sciences, Neurobiology & Physiology, and Otolaryngology at Northwestern University as well as the principal investigator at the Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory.

 

Music and its effect on memory has been a heated debate in the scientific world, but researchers now have evidence that the processing of music and language, specifically memorizing information, rely on some of the same brain systems.  Even for those who once studied/played an instrument, the benefits remain.  Many use music during a workout to help keep them motivation but music is of use to us all.  Listening to music releases endorphins in the brain. Endorphins give us a heightened feeling of excitement. In addition to feeling euphoric, endorphins quell anxiety, ease pain and stabilize the immune system. With high endorphin levels, we have fewer negative effects of stress.

 

A study from Austria’s General Hospital of Salzburg found that patients recovering from back surgery had increased rates of healing and reported less pain when music was incorporated into the standard rehabilitation process.  “Music is an important part of our physical and emotional well-being, ever since we were babies in our mother’s womb listening to her heartbeat and breathing rhythms,” recounted clinical psychologist of Austria General, Franz Wendtner.  With brain-imaging techniques, such as functional MRIs, music is increasingly being used in therapy for brain-related injuries and diseases. Brain scans have proven that music and motor control share circuits, so music can improve movement for those with Parkinson’s disease and for individuals recovering from a stroke. Neurologic music therapy should become part of rehabilitative care, according to the Finnish researchers. They believe that future findings may well indicate that music should be included on the list of therapies and rehabilitation for many disorders.

 

Just like listening to slow music to calm the body, music can also have a relaxing effect on the mind. Researchers at Stanford University found that listening to music seems to be able to change brain functioning to the same extent as medication. Since music is so widely available and inexpensive, it’s an easy stress reduction option.  In one meta-analysis of 10 randomized studies, researchers tracked 557 participants with chronic sleep disorders. They found that sleep quality was improved significantly with music and concluded that “music can assist in improving sleep quality of patients with acute and chronic sleep disorders.”

 

Musical entrainment creates connection both internally and externally which can be seen when watching a whole crowd dance to a live band, or the people around you sobbing at an opera. Science explains this as an aspect of mirror neurons, which are a form of mimicking that can happen emotionally and physically. Maybe a song will give you chills, make you cry, or spontaneously start jamming on an air guitar, or dancing uncontrollably. In the study, The Neuroscience of Music, published by the Department of Psychology at McGill University, Montreal, researchers found preliminary scientific evidence supporting claims that music influences health through neurochemical changes in four domains: reward, motivation and pleasure; stress and arousal; immunity; and social affiliation.

 

Three years ago a family member was involved in a horrible automobile accident through no fault of their own.  Their car rolled over and over for almost four hundred yards and when it stopped said family member was immediately removed from the car, being cut out of the seat belt, by a nurse who luckily was on site.  CPR was administered immediately and within ten minutes the family member arrived at a major trauma center, unresponsive, unconscious, and unable to breath unassisted.  A four-month coma followed as did seven months of in-house intensive rehabilitation.  Traumatic brain injury was extensive and family member not only had to learn to speak and walk all over again, they had to learn their own name. 

 

Music therapy had been initiated within the first ten days of the accident while family member was still in the coma.  Upon awakening from the coma it was apparent memory was gone.  What was remembered was “Every good boy does fine” and “All cows eat grass.”  These are the two mnemonic devices used to teach children how to read a musical staff.  Said family member had taken band through senior high school but never really studied deeply.  Yet, when everything else was lost from family member’s memory, the ability to read music remained.  Slowly music became the key to connecting a forgotten past with the present. 

 

There is still much to do in the recovery journey of my family member but the importance music played cannot be overstated.  Hans Christian Andersen said it most succinctly:  “When words fail, music speaks.”

 

 

A Vision for Living

A Vision for Living

2018.09.13

The Creative Soul

 

Ask a group of people who amongst them is an artist and probably no one will raise their hand.  Yet, most of us were given visual art assignments as a part of our schooling.  Therefore, at some time, we all were artists.  There are very good reasons why the visual arts are included in the educational process.  Children who receive art lessons are better students, not only while in school, but for life.

 

First of all, creating art relieves stress and encourages creative thinking.  In other words, art encourages positive thinking.  Art also boosts self-esteem and provides a sense of accomplishment.  We tend to lost that as we become adults.  Think about the delight in a child’s face when they have completed a coloring page.  We will discuss more about the hindrances to creativity next week.

 

Making art, whether it be drawing, coloring, sketching, or free form, increases brain connectivity and plasticity.  Brain flexibility allows new thoughts to form, new avenues of thinking, and opens the door for inventiveness as well as greater creativity.  Even viewing art has its benefits.  It increases empathy, tolerance, and feelings of openness, acceptance, and love.  Goodness knows the world certainly needs more of those!

 

Art develops the whole brain.  Research and studies have proven that art increases attention, strengthens focus, requires practice and develops eye-hand coordination.  Additionally, creating art means one is interacting with the world as well as the various mediums and tools being used.  As Pablo Picasso once said, “Art washes from the soul the dust of everyday life.”

 

Dr. Heather L. Stuckey and Dr. Jeremy Nobel, writing for the American Journal of Public Health, reviewed research in the area of art and healing in an effort to determine the creative therapies most often employed.  Four primary therapies emerged: music engagement, visual arts therapy, movement-based creative expression, and expressive writing.  In these forms of expression, arts modalities and creative processes were used during intentional interventions to foster health.

 

Drs. Stuckey and Nobel disclosed that art and health have been at the center of human interest from the beginning of recorded history.  “Despite that fact, and despite the invested effort and growth of knowledge and understanding in each arena, it is interesting that we often still find ourselves struggling with the “fundamentals” of art and health and their meaning in society. We make no attempt to clarify or resolve these fundamental issues.  Instead, our intent is to summarize current knowledge about the connection between art and health, identify the most compelling next steps for investigation, and generate further interest in researching the complexities of art and health. Legitimate research questions include whether certain art-based therapies are more or less effective than others, whether the impact of therapy can be tied to other important variables and preconditions, and whether health benefits are sustained or short term. These issues deserve vigorous continued attention.”

 

Art helps people express experiences that are too difficult to put into words, such as a diagnosis of cancer. Some people with cancer have explored the meanings of their past, present, and future during art therapy, thereby integrating cancer into their life story and giving it meaning.  Art can be a refuge from the intense emotions associated with illness.  There are no limits to the imagination in finding creative ways of expressing grief. 

 

In a quantitative trial of mindfulness art therapy targeted toward women with cancer, researchers found that those who engaged in art making demonstrated statistically significant decreases in symptoms of physical and emotional distress during treatment. In addition to the introduction of self-care through guided imagery, the art-making therapy involved the women drawing complete pictures of themselves and engaging in yoga and meditation. The relaxation and symptom reduction produced by creative expression opened pathways to emotional healing.

 

Pick up a pen, a crayon, or a paintbrush or a bit of clay and – poof – you have become a visual artist.  Artists pour out their emotions through the process of painting. This practice encourages artists to look at their own emotional state and take stock of emotions they may not even realize they have. Releasing emotions through artwork is a cathartic experience for many painters. In fact, even therapists suggest painting or drawing as a treatment path for patients who have suffered psychologically painful encounters. Letting out emotions by painting promotes healing through abstract emotional expression.

 

People that paint/draw/sculpt experience an increase in their emotional intelligence level. Allowing your emotions to come out in painting helps you understand your own emotional state and realize which factors contribute to your varying moods.  Experimenting with different visual art forms can help one understand what triggers feelings such as happiness, sadness, love, or anger. Often, the emotions you feel when creating this work project onto the people that view your paintings. Painters have the ability to bring others happiness, sharing their positive mindset with viewers. This skill makes the artist better company for themselves and those around them.  Art gives us all better living.