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A Letter to Myself: On Creative Skill

Have you felt that feeling when you see someone’s creative work and you are absolutely astounded by their skill? 
What if it’s something that you are aspiring for yourself? Is it a musician or composer? A writer, a painter, a digital artist? 

How do you feel? Awed? Overwhelmed? Discouraged?

It is overwhelming because it all seems like magic. The artist’s skillset is so vast and practiced compared to yours, that it seems impossible to reach their level. It’s difficult to connect how they go from point A to point B. How they can weave through so many layers at once. 

These feelings are, of course, natural. But it is only signaling the beginning of your journey. 

Then, you dive in. You practice and develop a certain skill-set. The next time you revisit your artistic idols, your reaction to them is different. You “see” more. You can follow their practiced methods and the reasoning behind the flow of their work. It makes sense. Now, it isn’t impossible. You see where you need to be, you know where you are now, and it is up to you to hone your skills even further. 

At this point, the envy and rivalry you feel toward other artists transform into admiration and curiosity. You want to share in ideas, and find ideas from others in turn. You want to reach the next step, where you can be a colleague to the people you once admired like gods. You realize that they are people, too, who once struggled as you do now. 

Keep going, because you are one step closer to the start line. 

The world awaits. 

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Posted by on April 19, 2016 in Creativity

 

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MP Recovered

Being creative is not easy.

Writing a blog or a story, composing music or sketching; these acts all require an intense amount of mental focus. Sometimes, technical limitations get in the way, and it’s very easy to lose “the flow” that we so crave when creating. Sometimes, it’s the ideas themselves that stop flowing. And sometimes, we are simply too mentally exhausted to continue.

I often find myself “taking a break” from my creative task, only to start browsing the Internet – Twitter, YouTube, etc. An important fact I haven’t considered in the past, is that consuming media drains my mental energy just as much as being creative – just in a different way. It may be the passive act of watching a movie or reading a book, or an active one like playing a video game. Still, these activities force the brain to process large amounts of information, whether we like it or not.

The thing is, the brain – as well as the body – needs time and space to recover. Overloading it with information fills the brain to the brim and it will find a way to shut itself down. In my experience, the only true mental break is to not think at all.

So, as an aspiring creator, I must consider my three options. Do I create, consume, or let my mind rest?

Finding the right balance takes self discipline. It’s about being aware of my mental capacity, and when it is at its limit. It’s knowing when to take a break from mental activity and when to let my brain process all it has taken in. It’s knowing when my brain produces its best work, when I need to get back to work, and learning how to get to that state every day.

When I get in my car after work, I stare at my phone’s App icons as they beg for my attention: Podcasts, Audible, Spotify – all tempting options. These days, I often find myself setting it back down as I drive in silence, letting my pent up thoughts scatter to the nether reaches of my brain-space.

So, fellow creators, don’t mistake distractions for real breaks. If you need to take a break, take a walk, or close your eyes to meditate. If you feel the need to watch your favorite TV show or read a book, make sure you manage your expectations and leave enough space for your brain to recover. We only have a limited capacity of mental power each day. Let’s manage it wisely.

 
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Posted by on January 23, 2016 in General

 

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Two Habits for Stimulating Creativity

I didn’t post yesterday, and it was awkward. What have you done to me, Blaugust??

I’ve been working a lot of my creative muscles lately, and I’ve been having a blast. There were two habits that I’ve taken on lately that have helped greatly in keeping the process flowing, and I thought I’d share them with you.

  • Don’t eat a big dinner if you want to work on something afterward. I have been either waiting to eat dinner until later, or eating a light dinner with less carbs so my stomach will have less to digest. Sleepiness kills motivation and creativity.
  • Work standing up. Sitting can also kill creativity. Standing and moving keeps the blood flowing, and ideas flow more easily as well. Sitting can also lead to sleepiness.
Workspace

My standing music workspace.

In the past, I’ve sat down after a long day at work and dinner, intending to work on something, only to have my creativity drained out of me within five minutes of sitting down. Day after day. Frustrating.

Changing just these two things have helped me a lot.

I’m curious. Have any of you had similar experiences?


Here are my latest two entries for my Track-a-day Music Challenge.

I’ve been working on my string section chops lately. It’s making progress.

 
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Posted by on September 2, 2015 in Music

 

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