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!

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.”

 

 

With Pen in Hand

With Pen in Hand

2018.09.11

The Creative Soul

 

Today is a day that affected the world seventeen years ago.  The victims were citizens of the world in that they came from over eighty countries.  For those of us in the United States it seemed like a personal attack and yet, it was really an attack on humankind.  The grief still lingers as does the fear.  Writing poetry (or any literary format) can be a great therapeutic tool for such events.

 

In 2009 Richard Alleyne explored this in an article written for “The Telegraph”, a UK publication.  “Putting pen to paper is said to help the brain “regulate emotion” and reduces feelings of anxiety, fear and sadness.  Researchers claim the act of writing about personal experiences has a cathartic effect because it inhibits parts of the brain linked to emotional turmoil, and increases activity in the region to do with self-control.”

 

Now if you are like most of us, you are thinking “I can’t write!”  However, you can because research indicates that the quality of the poetry or prose is of little importance.  In fact, some researchers believe the less descriptive, the better in therapeutic benefits.  Most writers have gone through those periods of self-doubt.  As we saw in last month’s series, the important thing was to keep writing and reading.

 

Dr. Matthew Lieberman, a neuroscientist at the University of California, outlined his findings regarding the use of writing to ease social fears and phobias at an American Association for the Advancement of Science convention in a lecture called ‘Putting Feelings Into Words’.  He said that expressing yourself in print was “a sort of unintentional emotion regulation”.  “It seems to regulate our distress,” he added. “I don’t think that people sit down in order to regulate their emotions but there is a benefit.   “I think it could play a role in why many people write diaries or write bad lyrics to songs – the kind that should never be played on the radio.”  Dr. Lieberman proved the therapeutic power of writing by scanning the brains of 30 individuals while they described distressing pictures.  He found that the act tended to reduce activity in the amygala, a part of the brain connected with emotion and fear and increased activity in the pre-frontal cortex, the mind’s regulator.

 

Alleyne also reported that in another trial, writing was used in conjunction with exposure therapy for people who had a phobia of spiders.  It was discovered that writing about their fears actually boosted the effect of the therapy compared with people who did not put pen to paper.  “We do think that it has clinical applications,” Dr. Lieberman said.   “People expressing negative emotional responses in words while being exposed gave them greater attenuation (reduction) of fear.”  Dr. Lieberman said that the effect was negated if the writing was too vivid or descriptive because it led to people reliving their trauma. Also, typing was not as good as writing long-hand.

 

Whether journaling thoughts, chronicling the day, attempting poetry or starting a novel, old-fashioned pen and paper has an immense impact on emotional well-being, helping students organize their thoughts and even improve their moods.  Despite being viewed as an old-fashion activity, writing by hand is still considered a valuable skill that has many cognitive benefits both in and out of the classroom.

 

One of the primary benefits from writing by hand is stress relief.  Additionally, writing by hand has been proven to increase brain activity and creativity as well as increase memory and retention.  By using long-hand, one activates certain centers in the brain that involves more senses and motor neurons.  Writing about one’s feelings can improve one’s mood and lead to a greater sense of well-being, sorting out and bring together one’s thoughts as well as prioritizing and viewing one’s fears in a proper perspective.

 

Even writing a thank you note and/or recording reasons to be grateful before bedtime has led to better sleeping in recent studies.  Journaling has been proven to be more than just a simple diary of the day’s events.  It can be a way to organize the day’s events and view them from a less emotional standpoint.  This in turn opens the door for rational and logical movement without fear and a sense of security.

 

Electrical engineer and financier Ganesh S. Nagarsekar has led an interesting path from a chawl in Mumbai to being recruited by J. P. Morgan upon graduation and now by Goldman Sachs.  Writing poetry is integral to the founder of the website ‘On a Platter by GSN’.  Nagarsekar explains:  “For starters it makes you feel great. There is something peaceful and liberating about writing poetry.  A decent vocabulary as well as a clean flow of thought will take you far in life. A good poem demands both.   A poem can be interpreted by different people in entirely different way. This gives you a lot to play with.  They are relatively less time consuming. I can write a few verses in the last five minutes of a boring lecture.  This last point applies to all fields of writing, not just poetry. Sometimes when you are writing on a particular topic, you come to a verse, and by the time you have completed it you have a whole new perspective on the issue.”

 

The owner of the NBA team the Phoenix Suns may seems like an odd proponent for writing poetry but Richard Jaffe firmly believes in it.  Jaffe is first and foremost a businessman.  He was most recently the CEO of the medical technology company Safe Life Corporation.  He also founded Safe Sink Corp, a latex glove manufacturer sold to Kimberly-Clark and Nutri-Foods International, a frozen dessert company sold to Coca-Cola Co.  His first published book of poetry is entitled “Inner Peace and Happiness”.

 

Jaffe spoke about his feeling for poetry in an article published in 2013 on a website run by Americans for the Arts which serves, advances, and leads the network of organizations and individuals who cultivate, promote, sustain, and support the arts in America.  “We would be wise to celebrate America’s poetry because it’s an art form that does as much—sometimes even more—for the writer as the reader. Poems inspire, educate, and cleanse.  The process of exploring my thoughts and feelings and expressing them in symbolic word images exercises my creativity in a fun way. I think it makes me sharper and, the more I explore the well of my imagination, the faster it fills again.”

 

Jaffe sees these benefits  from writing poetry. 

·         “1. Improves cognitive function. Learning new words (I’m never without a Thesaurus), working out meter (math!), and finding new ways to articulate our thoughts and feelings (communication) are all good for the brain. Want to get smarter? Write poetry! 

·         2. Helps heal emotional pain. Grief is one of the most painful emotions we experience, and it’s also the source of some of the world’s most inspirational poetry. When I have experienced a profound loss, the act of putting my feelings into words or memorializing and paying tribute to those who I lost is extremely cathartic.

·         3. Leads us to greater self-awareness. Most of us don’t have the time or desire to just sit and aimlessly ponder the meaning of our lives or what makes us deeply happy. Writing poetry gives us a constructive way to do that. Not only does it help us explore and gain insight, we have something to show for all that “inner reflection” when we’re done.

·         4. Provides a gift of inspiration or education to others. One thing we know—we are not alone! Universal questions, fears, and emotions are called ‘universal’ because everyone, no matter what country or culture they’re raised in, experiences them. Once we’ve done the work of exploring and finding our own answers, we can help others by sharing them. I like to share my poem ‘Eternal Happiness’ because it describes what I’ve found to be the source of my own eternal happiness.

·         5. Helps us celebrate! For some things, balloons and cake just don’t suffice. Proposing to my wife, the births of my children, their Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, falling in love—these were among the most emotionally powerful, joyful times of my life. Thanks to the poems I wrote at the time to capture those feelings, I can experience them again and again.”

 

I once passed by a sign at a Mexican restaurant while stuck in traffic.  Sitting there staring at the sign while counting to ten twenty times to reduce my stress level, I realized the sign was advertising a contest.  “write a limerick and win fifty chalupas!” the sign read.  To be honest, the sign actually read “Quintilla Comica! Enscribe un Limerick y gana cincuenta chalupas!”  Fortunately, beneath it was the English translation: “Write a limerick and win fifty chalupas!”  All day I wondered what a chalupa was and as I drove home, again getting stuck in the construction zone back up, began composing a few limericks just for fun and again, stress relief, in my head.  The next afternoon I wrote one down on paper and picked up a couple of tacos at this restaurant for supper, submitting my limerick at the same time.  A week later I drove by the restaurant and to my surprise, saw my name on the marquee.  I had won the contest and happily I discovered I loved chalupas!  Carve out a few minutes for yourself today or before bedtime and put pen in hand.  It not only will benefit your brain but also your mental and emotional health and maybe even your taste buds!

 

 

 

 

 

Move It and Groove It

Move It and Groove It!

2018.09.10

The Creative Soul

 

Located on a part of real estate in New York City that either affords one a landscape of New Jersey or Manhattan, Naomi Goldberg Haas offers free dance classes to older adults.  The Founder of Dances for a Variable Population has two rules for the creativity of dance:  “Have fun and don’t do anything beyond your limits.”  Haas and her students offer the top three advantages of not only the movement of dance but also learning to appreciate personal beauty and one’s own body.

 

1.                   ‘You Recognize the Difference It Makes’.

 

Haas explained her philosophy of teaching dance: “There’s so much we can learn from dancing with each other. Also, by dance-making with each other, we gain an appreciation of our own body and beauty.”  Some students come for the exercise benefits. “Once you pass a certain age, you realize you have to be in a physical program,” Haas observed. “You recognize the difference it makes. On a larger social level, the lack of movement is killing us.”  DVP, which Haas founded in 2008, works with more than 45 senior centers and institutions. Movement Speaks, one of its programs, offers older adults and low-income communities free dance instruction.  They also perform a public show of an original work created by class participants.

 

2. ‘Touch Is Life-giving’

While dance has health benefits for the body and mind, Haas emphasized that her goal is to inspire participants to move creatively and feel empowered by that movement.  DVP classes also incorporate some partner work where people might briefly hold hands as they circle around each other on the floor. “Touch with someone else is life-giving,” Haas explained.  At the end of class, the dancers divided themselves into groups of four. Each participant would lead a few times, and then pass the torch to the next person, so everyone got a chance to create a movement and follow their partners.

 

3.    You Can Rediscover Dance

Students who had previously studied dance might find the class more doable than a class they would find in a traditional studio because DVP’s emphasis is on what you can do, not insisting that people attempt choreography that would be beyond their limits.  Karen Beja, a 59-year-old school psychologist, began dancing with the group about three years ago. “I did a lot of dance as a young adult and I stopped in my late 30s and I miss it,” she explained. “Naomi has given me back movement.”  In addition to keeping her mobile and flexible, Beja said, “It makes me feel joyful.”

 

Other advantages discovered by the class include the mental advantages of learning to improvise and memorize.  Traditional dances often included improvisation but then remembering desired combinations of steps exercises brain muscles as well as leg and foot muscles.  The diversity often found in the classes is also a huge social benefit.  Not only is there a difference in gender and age but in culture and ethnicities.  New relationships are made and friendships formed.  Social interaction is a necessary part of living and the connections made through classes that encourage one’s creativity are paramount to good health. 

 

UC-Berkley reported in 2014 that many studies have found dancing can improve balance, even in frail elderly people. Some have shown improvements in gait, walking speed, and reaction time, as well as cognitive and fine motor performance. Dance studies have included jazz, ballroom, tango, folk, and a series of slow, low-impact dance movements—though any kind of dancing would likely be beneficial.  Interestingly, according to a review in the European Journal of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine in 2009, dancing may help people with Parkinson’s disease, which is characterized by rigid muscles, slowed movement, and impaired balance.

 

Dancing may also be good for your mood. It has been shown to reduce depression, anxiety, and stress and boost self-esteem, body image, coping ability, and overall sense of well-being, with the benefits lasting over time. In one study, it even helped control “emotional eating” in obese women who eat as a response to stress.  The authors of a meta-analysis of 27 studies on the effectiveness of dance movement therapy, published in Arts in Psychotherapy this year, concluded that dancing should be encouraged as part of treatment for people with depression and anxiety.

 

If you can move, you can dance and you should.  Let your creative spirit move and feel the benefits that dancing can bring to your life.  There are dancing apps, some specially designed for older people of the informed, to assist you in being creative with dance.  There’s no downside to incorporating dance into your regular physical activity routine, and it could help motivate you to get moving if you find other types of workouts, like treadmill walking or cycling, a little boring.  You will not only get creatyive, you might even get healthier!

 

A Reflection of ….

A Reflection of …

2018.09.05-06

The Creative Soul

 

“We and all creation reflect the image and nature of God the Divine Artist. Creativity, the ability to make or think new things, is of God’s essence. Creativity reflects God.”  These words of Br. Luke Ditewig sounded so wonderful to me the first time I heard them.  It was during a sermon and I was an impressionable teen-ager.  Suddenly from the pew behind me I heard a very gruff whisper.  “Oh yeah?  Then how do you explain heavy metal music?”  The elderly gentleman’s wife saw my shoulders move as I tried to stifle my chuckle.  After the service she turned to her husband and gave his shoulder a marvelously targeted punch:  “Maybe heavy metal music is what God sounds like when he’s mad,” she replied and then winked at me.

 

We are all critics.  Seriously.  If we are to be honest, we really are all critics.  Everyone knows what they like and what they do not like.  We also all want to matter.  The recent #alllivesmatter is not a new concept.  Countries have undergone revolutions for that very thing.  The recent controversy, which is still ongoing, in the USA regarding playing choosing a different way to show respect during the National Anthem is nothing new.  Civilizations have forgotten to address the critics and tried to sweep them under the carpet.  History tells us that people are not so easily silenced.  The creative arts are also evidence of this.  It may seem that the artist owes his/her audience something delightful but the truth is…What the artist owes the world is an honest reflection of the moment in time they are capturing.

 

Any creative work is a dialogue between the artist and the audience member and no two audience members are going to hear the exact same dialogue.  Criticism is also dialogue and an important form of feedback that the artist should not ignore.  First, if someone takes the time to critique you, they are honoring the time you spent creating.  Negative critiques do not seem like a compliment but they are.  They also offer a chance to evaluate your work.  Not every critic is going to understand your intent or perhaps the meaning of your work.  Not every critique needs to be followed but they should ne given respect and heard.

 

The language one uses in response to criticism is vitally important. Never engage in an argument. Instead, turn the exchange into a discussion about how to resolve the differences or what was unclear.  Most of create because we have a burning need inside to let that creativity out.  However, we do need the audience, the viewer, that person who listens to what we are trying to say in whatever form we are creating.

 

“The Critic as Artist” is an essay by Oscar Wilde, containing the most extensive statements of his aesthetic philosophy. A dialogue in two parts, it is by far the longest one included in his collection of essays titled Intentions published in May 1891. “The Critic as Artist” is a significantly revised version of articles that first appeared in the July and September issues of The Nineteenth Century, originally entitled “The True Function and Value of Criticism.” The essay is a conversation between its leading voice Gilbert and Ernest, who suggests ideas for Gilbert to reject. 

 

Through the title, Wilde explores the fact that even a critic is an artist and the critique is in itself a creative art form.  The essay champions contemplative life to the life of action. According to Gilbert, scientific principle of heredity shows we are never less free, never have more illusions than when we try to act with some conscious aim in mind. Critical contemplation is guided by conscious aesthetic sense as well as by the soul.

 

The soul is wiser than we are, writes Wilde, it is the concentrated racial experience revealed by the imagination. Criticism is above reason, sincerity and fairness; it is necessarily subjective. It is increasingly more to criticism than to creation that future belongs as its subject matter and the need to impose form on chaos constantly increases. It is criticism rather than emotional sympathies, abstract ethics or commercial advantages that would make us cosmopolitan and serve as the basis of peace.

 

“Critics don’t help you at all, they are not better than a randomly-picked person,” says Dr. Pascal Wallisch, a psychologist at New York University.  A 2017 study by Wallisch and perception researcher Jake Alden Whritner found that our taste in movies is highly idiosyncratic — they’re peculiar to an individual. Their paper, entitled ‘Strikingly Low Agreement in the Appraisal of Motion Pictures’, also revealed that our preferences are often at odds with those of film critics.  Wallisch and Whritner gave almost 3000 people a list of over 200 popular films — major motion pictures released from 1985 to 2004 (including some in the Star Wars series). The data was collected over 10 years (2005-2015) via an online survey where participants were asked to rate every film they had seen and give each movie a star rating on a scale of 0 to 4 stars.

 

The scientists compared everyone’s scores with everyone else’s in a pairwise manner, compared people to 29 professional film critics (like Roger Ebert) and compared individual scores from those groups with aggregated sources of reviews, including Rotten Tomatoes and the Internet Movie Database (IMDb).  As reported earlier this year in Forbes, “Prior to our research, what was shown is that critics agree highly, but no-one’s ever looked at how critics correlate with regular people,” says Wallisch. “What was relatively unusual is that the average rating between critics and movie-goers was so different. This is the only research that actually shows scientifically that critics and people don’t agree.”

 

In a 2014 New York Times article James Parker answered that age-old question “Should we respond to our critics?”  Parker’s answer was succinct and to the point.  “No. … Getting a bad review is no longer an elite experience. We’ve all been trolled, oafed, flambéed in some thread somewhere.”  He continues:  “Sometimes you are the pigeon,” Claude Chabrol said, “and sometimes you are the statue.” Wonderful, Gitane-flavored words. But we are not statues — we are not made of stone. Anointed with guano, do we not feel it? And right now everybody feels it. Getting a bad review is no longer an elite experience. Writers and non-writers, mandarins and proles, we’ve all been trolled, oafed, flambéed in some thread somewhere, at the bottom of some page. Scroll down, scroll down, take that Orphic trip into the underworld of the comments section, and there they are — the people who really object to you. Their indignation, their vituperation, is astonishing. It seems to predate you somehow, as if they have known and despised you in several former existences. You read their words and your body twitches with malign electricity. You must get out of this place immediately, run toward the light. Let the dead bury their dead. And don’t look back — because if you do, like Orpheus, you’ll lose what you love the most.”

 

The critique is a reflection of the moment in which it was given, nothing more.  In his memoir, “Prince Charming,” the great poet Christopher Logue, in mellow old age, dives into “a chocolate-liqueur box filled with dated clippings of every review that my books, plays or radio programs had received since 1953.” He makes a discovery. “How differently they read now. At the time, oh, the complaining: That fellow failed to praise me for this, this fellow blamed me for that. . . . Now, how fair-minded their words appeared, how sensible their suggestions for my improvement.”

 

As we delve further into the science and muses of creativity, please remember this:  This blog is a creative work and, like all other creative works, merely a reflection of the moment in which it was written.  We all have our great moments and then those that, hopefully, will one day be a learning experience.  All are creative efforts are simply steppingstones of the past and it is up to us as artists to not allow them to become millstones that drag us under. 

Huh…Now what?

Huh…Now what?

2018.09.03-04

The Creative Soul

 

We have all, as artists, been faced with the blank page syndrome.    There we are sitting in front of a blank page and realize we also have a blank brain.  Many of us admit to being creative and yet… that blank page seems to mock us.  How on earth will we ever start?  With courage few recognize we pick up the pen, brush, put our feet into position or pick up an instrument and then the panic sets in:  “Huh….Now what?”

 

Brussels professor Liana Gabora defines creativity as the cognitive process that produces new ideas or transforms old ideas into updated concepts.  Jacques Hadamard and Henri Poincare are two scientists who have contributed to the Creative Process Model in an attempt to explain how random thoughts become a creative solution.

 

Step One in Hadamard and Poincare’s Creative Process Model is entitled “Preparation”.  In this stage, a person becomes curious upon being given a problem.  Preparation may involve research, establishing goals, organizations of thoughts, or brainstorming ideas.  For me, preparation for writing something nonfiction often comes from coloring or painting.  Writing fiction, however, comes from doing fiber arts.  Music prepares me for dealing with unpleasant people and dance, dance reminds me I am alive and prepares me for another day.

 

Step Two is called “Incubation”.  Gabora explains that ideas are taken a step further than mere consideration or brainstorming.  The imagination begins to play a type of “What if?” game as thoughts are considered and sometimes rejected.  Many writers recommend to new writers to keep a file of their rejected prose, those phrases and sentences that you just love but do not fit in the current project.

 

Step Three often comes unexpectedly, no matter how great you are at keeping on a schedule or how positive you are that you know what will be the ending before you start the beginning.  “Illumination” is often an epiphany during which various ideas come together in a possible solution.  The clarification of this step leads to the next.

 

Step Four, the “Evaluation” is where the creative process becomes real.  Based upon in-depth thought, various options are considered and changes are not uncommon.  It is at this stage that collaboration occurs.  We often think that the creative process is a solitary one but every piece of art needs an audience.  After all, art is a dialogue, a communication of a moment, a sense, a feeling. 

 

The Fifth and final step is known as “implementation”.  Thoughts and ideas become reality and again, changes and new starts often occur.  I think it is at this step that many of us become the most frustrated and hyper-critical of ourselves.  We’ve made it through the other four steps only to accept defeat three steps before reaching the finish line.

 

Charlie Gilkey, noted teacher, author, and developer of the website ProductiveFlourishing.com uses a four-step method, omitting parts of the evaluation step mentioned above.  Gilkey is a firm believer that everyone is capable of creative thought and originality.  He feels people often short-circuit their creativity being impatient with the incubation process and by trying to make the preparation process a solo event.  He is a firm advocate of the need to balance creating, connecting, and consuming.

 

Both of these creative models are good but they omit two important steps, in my humble opinion.  The first is failure.  We fear failure but it is a necessary element in the creative process I believe.  Every creative person has bombed at some point.  Every writer has a full wastebasket (or trash/delete file) and often a file cabinet drawer of rejection slips.  Every artist has canvases that have been painted over.  Even musicians have that one measure they never got quite right on their instrument or the harmony that their composition never found. 

 

The second step not in these creative models is perseverance.  One is being creative whenever one is creating or making something uniquely theirs.  It may not be for the world’s acclaim but it still is creative even when we are the only audience.  The acclaim is nice but, as Gilkey states: “One of the chief goals of living the creative life is to do it for the long-term.  There’s a time and place for sprints, but without careful integration, sprints often make your work incoherent and deplete you at the same time.”

 

This brings us back to perseverance.  The great thing about the creative process is that it is all correct.  Even when we do not like what we have done, we have still created something.  Everything we create is … created.  It may not be great or maybe even good enough but it is ours to own and we did create it.  Sylvia Plath once said “The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.”  I hope you have embarked upon Sunday’s challenge and created something.  It does not have to be spectacular.  It just needs to be created.

Creativity 101

Your Turn – #1

2018.09.02

The Creative Soul

 

See the source image

 

One could not write a series on creativity without challenging the reader to be…well, creative.  So one each Sunday in September I will post a challenge to you using just four things.  Today’s challenge involves a rubber band (or more), a pencil, a piece of paper (white or colored) and your imagination.  I will also be doing the challenges and next Sunday will post a picture of what I created.  I hope you will post pictures of your creations in the comments.