Musings from the Moonroom

Thoughts on Art, Inspiration, Creativity and Spirit


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A Year of Mindfulness: Use Your Non-Dominant Hand

Around Christmas I started reading the book How to Train a Wild Elephant  by Jan Chozen Bays, M.D. This book had crossed my path a few times over the past few months, showing up in email newsletters and catalogs. When I saw it on the shelf at Willow Books, a locally-owned bookstore, I felt like the Universe was telling me to finally buy the book.

The premise of the book is to use mindfulness as a way to reduce stress, improve health, and improve quality of life. Jan Chozen Bays, a physician and Zen teacher, developed a series of practices to help us cultivate mindfulness in our daily lives. These simple practices, one for each week of the year, are presented in this book.

Chozen Bays defines mindfulness as deliberately paying FULL attention (my emphasis) to what is happening around you and within you-in your body, heart, and mind. Mindfulness is awareness without criticism or judgment. She then explains the importance of mindfulness, the benefits of mindfulness and some misunderstandings about mindfulness.

The Benefits of Mindfulness

1. Mindfulness conserves energy by reminding us “not to fritter our mental energy away in trips to the past and future, but to keep returning to this very place, to rest in what is happening in this very time.”

2. Mindfulness trains and strengthens the mind because it helps us “become aware of the mind’s habitual and conditioned patterns of escape and allows us to try an alternative way of being in the world.”

3. Mindfulness is good for the environment. “Mindfulness involves resting our mind in a place where there is no anxiety, no fear….Relaxed, alert awareness is the antidote to anxiety and fear, both our own and others’. It is an ecologically beneficial way to live a human life; it changes the atmosphere for the better.”

4. Mindfulness creates intimacy because “mindfulness is a deceptively simple tool for helping us to be aware. We have to open our senses, becoming deliberately aware of what is going on both inside our body and heart/mind, and also outside in our environment.”

5. Mindfulness stops our struggling and conquers fear because it “helps us stay present with experiences that aren’t pleasant.”

6. Mindfulness supports our spiritual life. The tools of  mindfulness “are an invitation to bring attention to the many small activities of life.”

Week 1: Use Your Non-Dominant Hand

As I work through this book, I will share with you the mindfulness practice for each week on Mondays. Some may be easier than others. Some you may already practice. I invite you to try each practice or those that speak to you. Share your thoughts about the practice if you like.

To start us out, the first practice, as mentioned in the subject of this post, is to use your non-dominant hand each day for some ordinary task. Examples include: brushing your teeth, eating, or writing.

Reflection: To bring possibilities into your life, unfold beginner’s mind in all situations -Jan Chozen Bays


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Artwork Published in Right Brain Business Plan Book

I’m a little late in sharing the good news, but better late than never. Besides, its a good reason to celebrate again.

Last year, I participated in Jennifer Lee’s wonderful online class The Right Brain Business Plan E-Course. This was the first business plan course that I took that actually clicked. Why? Because it paired my creative side with my planning & organizational skills. It made crafting a business plan fun.

If you’re a creative entrepreneur like me, I bet you go running for the hills when you hear the words business plan. Yet, you know that having a plan is essential to your success.

This year Jenn has put all this wonderful information into a book aptly titled The Right Brain Business Plan: A Creative, Visual Map for Success The book was released in February through New World Library

I’m thrilled to share that I’m one of the 22 featured entrepreneurs in the book and my Right-Brain Business Plan made it in!

Through Jenn’s online class, and now her book, I was able to develop a vision for my business based on values that are important to me. Those values became the basis for my business plan. With Jenn’s guidance, I was able to identify and understand my perfect customers, make the leap into teaching, write financial goals in terms that made sense to me, and develop a sense of who my creative cohorts are.

You can read more about my business plan in this post on Jenn’s site: Spotlight on Amy A. Crawley

The other wonderful aspect of Jenn’s approach to writing a business plan is that I can pick up where I left off. When health issues became my primary focus late last year, I had to put my plan aside. Now that I’m feeling better, it’s time to revisit my plan, update it, and rework some goals. Having flexibility in your business plan is essential. It shouldn’t be a linear, static document.

So, what are you waiting for? The Right-Brain Business Plan has already been a #1 bestseller the Amazon Small Business Plans category. I highly recommend this book!


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Standing at Water’s Edge-Chapter 10 (Final)

Coping With Disengagement and Reentry

In this final chapter, Dr. Paris explains the causes of disengagement and moving through disengagement. You’ll recall that disengagement is what happens when we come to the end of creative immersion. It can be a positive or negative experience.

Causes of Disengagement

Dr. Paris describes seven factors that cause disengagement: external interruptions, running out of energy, problems or stumbling blocks, emotionally threatening artistic content, waiting, feeling overexposed, and criticism.

External Interruptions

External interruptions are those breaks that result from demands of time on your schedule. This basically refers to those demands known as family, grocery shopping, laundry, caring for our parents, taking pets to the vet, parent-teacher conferences, and so on. You know, that thing called life that demands your time and that puts an artificial end to your immersive experience.

These interruptions are frustrating. We’ve all experienced them. We’ve all complained about them. And one of the best ways to work with these interruptions is to set boundaries when possible, set a schedule when possible, and accept that life happens.

Running Out of Energy

Another factor that causes disengagement is simply running out of energy. While creative immersion is energizing, it can also be emotionally and physically tiring. How often have you found yourself working in a creative flurry, losing track of time, and eventually realizing that you haven’t eaten all day. Or maybe you’re functioning on just a few hours of sleep.

When your physical and psychic energy runs out, disengagement is forced upon you. You.simply.must.stop.

How can you keep from running out of energy?  You can stop at a point in the day where you are clear about the next step and can reenter the immersive phase with anticipation rather than apprehension.

Problems or Stumbling Blocks

Disengagement also happens when you run into a problem or hit a block in the artistic process. Have you experienced this? You’re working along, in the flow, and then you run into a problem. The once fluid relationship suddenly becomes frustrating. Maybe the problem causes you to feel inadequate or that you’ve lost control.

This is a defensive engagement, according to Dr. Paris, because we fear that our underlying fears of inadequacy will be confirmed if we continue to struggle with the project. It is during this type of disengagement that alternative forms of support (relationships, spirituality, etc) are essential.

Emotionally Threatening Artistic Content

Sometimes, disengagement happens when “the content of the artistic piece becomes too threatening.” That is, creating art may raise fears because the piece is an expression of deep emotions. When the artist fears becoming overtaken by his/her emotions, fears humiliation due to exposure, or needs to integrate this experience, the artist may need to disengage from the creative process.

Often an artist emerges from this experience transformed, but the breakthrough can be disturbing and frightening.

Waiting

Waiting; waiting for feedback, waiting for an answer. Whatever we may be waiting for, it leaves us in a vulnerable state. When we’re waiting, support from others again is critical. It is essential not to withdraw from others during this form of disengagement.

Feeling Overexposed

This form of disengagement results when creative types suddenly realize that they have “opened and revealed their core self to others” in their art. In this situation, you suddenly realize that you’ve let down your “self-protective shields.” And then we may panic because we feel helpless to protect ourselves from the audience.

Our relationship with our audience and our past experiences with our audience will directly influence how we react in this situation.

Criticism

This final cause of disengagement is a biggie. Negative feedback and criticism can cause an immediate end to creative immersion.

In an immersive experience, we feel connection to the artwork, we feel perfection. And then someone interrupts that connection with a negative comment and our “perfect union” with the art is shattered. We ask ourselves “Is what they said true?” “Is there something wrong with what I’ve done?” We may begin to doubt ourselves, lose trust in ourselves, and doubt our work.

Though Dr. Paris did not address the handling of criticism, I’m sure she would stress, once again, the importance of having a support network during this time.

Moving Through Disengagement

Our experience during disengagement and our ability to reengage with our artistic work depends on several factors:

Understanding How We Lost the Connection

When disengagement happens, we need to understand how we lost the connection with our artistic work. Here Dr. Paris refers back to the causes of disengagement described above and provides a detailed explanation of what an artist can do once we understand what caused the lost connection.

Understanding and Empathic Others

As creative types, we understand that aloneness is a great barrier to creativity. Dr. Paris defines “aloneness” as “aloneness in one’s inner world; that world where we experience breaks or fractures in our sense of self.” As she has reiterated throughout this book, it is essential that creative types have support networks where we can share our experiences with others. This support can come from loved ones, close friends, peer groups, online communities, and therapy.

Availability of Other Immersive Realms

When we experience disengagement, turning to other immersive experiences can be beneficial in restoring our energy and courage. As Dr. Paris explains: “Sustaining the creative process involves a continuous movement in and out of immersive states and realms. When disengagement occurs in one realm, immersion into a different realm can restore and strengthen the artist so he can reenter.”

Understand Your Underlying State of Self

There are two schools of thought on the “nature of the state of self.” One says that our experiences in childhood determine our strengths and weaknesses and that this is fixed and static. The other says a person’s self-state is determined by the current context of relationships.

Either way, artists bring a certain set of fears and coping responses to every artistic endeavor.

Acceptance

In a nutshell, experienced artists recognize and accept their individual tendencies and patterns. Recognizing and accepting these tendencies when it comes to immersion helps us accept times of disengagement.

Conclusion and Guides

Final disengagement comes at the moment of artistic completion. Here the gratification of perfect expression, reflected in the artwork, is the artist’s barometer of success. Following the experience of gratification, we begin to disengage from the artwork. The final disengagement is what allows us to sell our artwork and move on to our next creation.

If we experience a good relationship with our artwork, disengaging from it when it is completed is often easier. However, if our relationship with the artwork was difficult, disengagement from the artwork may be painful or avoided completely.

Dr. Paris offers two final guides:

1. Understand the type of disengagement you are experiencing, and

2. Stop pressuring yourself to reengage. Understand the reason for disengagement first.

At the end of the book, Dr. Paris includes an appendix of sentence prompts that focus on fantasies, self-perception, fears, and support structures. These prompts may be used to help creative types understand these areas on a deeper, more meaningful level.

Book Outline

Standing at Water’s Edge is divided into three parts with 10 chapters as follows:

Part 1: The Secret World of Creativity
Chapter 1: The Secret World of Creativity
Chapter 2: The Light and Dark of Immersion

Part II: Relationships
Chapter 3: The Need for Others
Chapter 4: Finding Strength in Mirrors
Chapter 5: Finding Inspiration in Heroes
Chapter 6: Finding Comfort in Twins
Chapter 7: Connecting with the Audience and Meeting Deadlines

Part III: Stages of the Creative Process
Chapter 8: Approaching Immersion
Chapter 9: Diving In
Chapter 10: Coping with Disengagement and Reentry


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Standing at Water’s Edge-Chapter 9

Diving In

This second to last chapter of Dr. Paris’s book is devoted to the fourth and final stage of the creative process; what she refers to as Taking The Plunge. At this stage creative types feel as ready as they’ll ever be to immerse in a creative project. I think the quote from Van Gogh that opens this chapter sums up the situation:

I am seeking, I am striving, I am in it with all my heart.

In this stage, creative types feel that they have prepared enough and have no preparation at all. We are filled with hope, yet terrified.

This immersive state might last a few minutes, a few days, or several weeks. Like any intimate relationship, our relationship with our art form ebbs and flows. Some days we experience an immediate connection with the art and jump right into the immersive experience. On other days it is like pulling teeth as immersion comes in bursts and fits.

And like those relationships with people, our art can make us feel confident or insecure. The relationship we have with a particular piece of work can affect the quality of our immersive experience. I’m sure you’ve experienced that lack of connection with a piece; the one that just isn’t coming together, the one you have to walk away from for a period of time, or maybe you trash it outright.

Our ideal immersive state is one of bliss, where we feel everything coming together and are fully engaged with our art. More often, however, we experience a “process of destruction-creation” where we must give up notions of control and independence in order to become intimate with the artwork. Interestingly children do not go through this process. They immerse in creativity and play more easily than adults because they haven’t experienced rejection and disappointment and have less need to control.

Therefore we must remind ourselves to approach immersion with a sense of play.

Crafting

Dr. Paris ends this chapter with a brief mention of a special type of immersive state she refers to as “crafting.” Crafting is defined here as the rehearsals, rewrites, and revisions. In other words, the problem-solving process or refining of the creation. During this state we may experience our work as brilliant one moment and then completely worthless in the next moment.

I think this is the stage where I try to remind myself not to judge the piece too harshly. I have to remember to not call it ‘ugly’ or to say “I don’t like the way this is going.”

Guides

Dr. Paris offers one important guide at the end of this short chapter: PLAY! To play in the moment and to play with your chosen medium.

Join Me

I invite you to join me as I read Standing at Water’s Edge. You can purchase the book through Amazon, Dr. Paris’s web site, or perhaps find it at your local library or bookstore. My goal is to post every 7-10 days a summary of the chapter and share any a-ha moments that occurred. I welcome your comments on this and successive posts. Share your a-ha moments and experiences while reading the book. You can join in at any time. If you have a blog and are also writing about your experiences with this book, please include a link to your blog in your comment. I’ll include your blogs at the end of my posts.

Book Outline

Standing at Water’s Edge is divided into three parts with 10 chapters as follows:

Part 1: The Secret World of Creativity
Chapter 1: The Secret World of Creativity
Chapter 2: The Light and Dark of Immersion

Part II: Relationships
Chapter 3: The Need for Others
Chapter 4: Finding Strength in Mirrors
Chapter 5: Finding Inspiration in Heroes
Chapter 6: Finding Comfort in Twins
Chapter 7: Connecting with the Audience and Meeting Deadlines

Part III: Stages of the Creative Process
Chapter 8: Approaching Immersion
Chapter 9: Diving In
Chapter 10: Coping with Disengagement and Reentry


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Standing at Water’s Edge-Chapter 8

Approaching Immersion

In the final section Standing at Water’s Edge, Dr. Paris addresses the stages of the creative process. Chapter 8 focuses on the first three stages: fantasy, contemplation, and preparation. According to Dr. Paris, entry into the creative state is the result of successfully navigating these stages. It is important to note that while the stages are presented in linear fashion in the book, in reality creative types often move back and forth through the stages multiple times. The intensity and duration of each stage varies. Some creative types will pass through each stage every time and others will pass over stages.

Also important to note is that the ability to immerse is different for everyone and may be different for the same person at various times. Some have no difficulty immersing into creativity and others wrestle with immersion. What is important is to realize the nuances and shifts in your internal and external sense of being-in-connection and how these fantasies and actual lived experiences affect your creative process.

Finally, be aware that moving from one stage to the next can cause anxiety and fear because moving into the next phase means moving into the unknown. This is often accompanied by negative feelings about our selves. It is at these transition points that we need the support of others to keep us going.

Fantasy

Fantasies provide the fuel for creativity. Here we draw on previously discussed relationships (greatness, pleasing, admiration, understanding.) At this stage, creative types know what kind of artistic form he/she will use, but the specific idea, feeling, or experience you wish to convey has not been clarified.

With fantasies of greatness and connection, we hope that our work will be seen, understood, and appreciated. As Dr. Paris points out, it has been argued that the creative process is undertaken in an attempt to enhance or heal the self.  A second fantasy is pleasing an admired figure; a parent, teacher, or idol. Here we can gain strength, inspiration, and vitality. Finally, the third fantasy driving creativity is being perfectly understood and appreciated. In this fantasy, we hope our expression of creativity will resonate with others.

So the creative process is ignited when artists find fantasies that “supply hope for self-enhancement or self-cures.” This is usually a time of anticipation for artists. Many people, however, never move beyond the stage of fantasy in the creative process. For some, these fantasies are sustaining enough. According to Dr. Paris, if we view fantasies as fertile ground from which to grow, we can rediscover our passions and creative energy. Here we need to reach out to mirrors, twins, and heroes for support.

Contemplation

In the second stage, contemplation, an artist experiences enough support for a specific artistic fantasy that s/he can move forward and actively think about the project. Here we begin to ask questions such as “what will be the content of the project?” “what emotions or experiences do I wish to convey?” The project now takes on purpose and intent. At this point images of the project begin to emerge and we write down these “creative sparks” in sketches and notes. These images reassure us of our ability to experience total immersion in the future.

Ironically, this stage can also feel like avoidance or procrastination! Why? Because this is a time of incubation. A time to sit with the ideas…which often occur when we’re not focused on the project. In this phase of contemplation artists move from fantasy to reality through commitment to the project. A good affirmation during this phase is to say “I am creating a ____” or “I am writing a _____” or “I am painting a ____” in order to give the project life and move it toward concrete action.

Preparation

The third stage, preparation, is an attempt to soothe the fear of the unknown through concrete actions and behaviors that function to keep the project alive. Preparation can take many forms including research or taking care of extraneous tasks like cleaning the house, shopping for groceries, cleaning the studio…sound familiar?

Dr. Paris points out that whether the tasks lead to creative immersion or are stalling tactics of procrastination, it is important to understand that these tactics are reflections of fear, not an indication of weakness or inadequacy or laziness.

The preparation stage also consists of self-evaluation and comparison to others. We may run our idea by another person to see if it has merit. Unfortunately this is the time when we may confront deficits or holes in our talent. Now we realize that we need to take a refresher course in our medium or to take a course in an area outside our medium.

Finally, during the preparation phase, we may immerse our selves in other realms such as spirituality, art appreciation, or intimate relationships in order to be restrengthened and to gain confidence as we immerse in our artwork.

Guides

Dr. Paris offers the following guides to consider as we approach immersion:

  • Identify your current phase in the creative process and evaluate the usefulness of your efforts during each phase.
  • Identify and validate the nature of your fears at each transition point. Developing rituals and structures can help with these transitions.
  • Turn to others for support. If you don’t have a support system at this time, draw on memories of previously supportive others.

Join Me

I invite you to join me as I read Standing at Water’s Edge. You can purchase the book through Amazon, Dr. Paris’s web site, or perhaps find it at your local library or bookstore. My goal is to post every 7-10 days a summary of the chapter and share any a-ha moments that occurred. I welcome your comments on this and successive posts. Share your a-ha moments and experiences while reading the book. You can join in at any time. If you have a blog and are also writing about your experiences with this book, please include a link to your blog in your comment. I’ll include your blogs at the end of my posts.

Book Outline

Standing at Water’s Edge is divided into three parts with 10 chapters as follows:

Part 1: The Secret World of Creativity
Chapter 1: The Secret World of Creativity
Chapter 2: The Light and Dark of Immersion

Part II: Relationships
Chapter 3: The Need for Others
Chapter 4: Finding Strength in Mirrors
Chapter 5: Finding Inspiration in Heroes
Chapter 6: Finding Comfort in Twins
Chapter 7: Connecting with the Audience and Meeting Deadlines

Part III: Stages of the Creative Process
Chapter 8: Approaching Immersion
Chapter 9: Diving In
Chapter 10: Coping with Disengagement and Reentry


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Standing at Water’s Edge: Chapter 7

Connecting with the Audience and Meeting Deadlines

The final chapter in the section on relationships deals with the artist’s relationship with the audience. Dr. Paris starts this chapter with the following sentence:

The difference between artistic self-expression and creating a work of art is engagement with the audience. In creating a work of art, the artist is reaching out for the audience, attempting to convey or communicate feeling, experience, or idea. The artist is hoping to touch the audience in some way, to elicit a certain kind of response from them.

And the nature of our engagement with the audience throughout the creative process is largely determine by what perceptions we have about the audience. Such perceptions can include what they need and want and their expectations. Are they appreciative, approving, admiring? Or are they critical, hostile, withholding?

Where do these assumptions come from? From our previous experience and encounters with audiences. Positive experiences cause us to anticipate future positive responses; likewise a poor experience will cause us to anticipate that the next audience will also be critical. And when the experience was negative, we may stop our creative process or deny that the audience’s response matters at all.

This reminds me of the belief that if you’re rejected, the problem isn’t you; the problem is with the audience, the jury, the gallery owner. While this may be true in many cases (e.g. your contemporary art isn’t a good fit with a country theme show), we still take this rejection personally on some level.

In addition to our previous experiences with audiences, our assumptions about what to expect with and from others can be traced back to childhood.  According to Dr. Paris, new research on parent-infant interaction suggests that the way parents relate with their child forms the child’s prototype of relationships throughout life. That is, early interactions with parents organizes the child’s assumptions about what to expect from others. So a child who has regular and frequent moments of shared enthusiasm with his/her parents comes to expect this response and feels safe enough to allow immersion with others.

If our original interactions with others involved feelings of rejection or dismissal, we have the potential to develop more positive interactions but only if we understand how our reflexive positions help to re-create and maintain old patterns.

Dr. Paris also briefly discusses “parallel identities” where a child/adult is secure in his/her artistic relationships but insecure in his/her personal relationships. This often occurs when a child begins artistic expression and performance at a young age, develops confidence while performing, but cannot transfer those same feelings to personal relationships.

Maintaining Self

“The ultimate challenge in engaging with an other…is retaining our own sense of self while still responding to the needs of the other.”

Here Dr. Paris refers to our ability to maintain a balance with our audience. Do we concern ourselves with self-preservation, that is “I do what I do and the audience can like it or lump it.” Or do we only meet audience demand, that is “What I do is only as valuable as the audience’s response to it. I must give them what they want.”

While we may bounce from one extreme to the other, as creative types we cease to be truly creative if we merely fulfill a formula for audience approval. This belief can be applied to more than just a creative, immersive experience. Consider how you feel if you do anything in life just for someone’s approval.

Deadlines

How we deal with deadlines depends on several factors, including how we experience boundaries, especially those imposed by others and how a deadline is presented. Imposed deadlines can feel inhibiting; they become something to resist and rebel against. If the “deadline-imposer” is perceived as insensitive or unreasonable, we may feel paralyzed by the deadline. If the “deadline-imposer” offers support, we feel strengthened and supported.

Creating our own deadlines can be a way to reduce resistance. We do not feel at risk of being controlled by an outside force and we may view the deadlines as “helpful containers for our creative process.” Personally, I know I work better with deadlines, whether set by my self or set externally by an other. However, it is often easier to fudge a self-imposed deadline because an external force is not controlling the deadline.

Finally, Dr. Paris states that deadlines can be experienced as incentives; small, bite-sized, manageable chunks that help us remain engaged in the creative process and to fend off overwhelm. A reward along the way (chocolate chip cookies or taking a half-day hike?) or a celebration of your achievement at the end (hot fudge lava cake or a massage?) can’t hurt either.

Guides

Dr. Paris offers three guides at the end of Chapter 7 to help us understand our relationship with audiences.

1. To explore our assumptions about our audience. Make a reality check about your assumptions. Are these assumptions based on past experiences with audiences or based in previous experiences in personal relationships?

2. Set your own deadlines. With externally imposed deadlines, create your own smaller deadlines within the allotted time frame.

3. Break projects down into small chunks. If breaking a project down into manageable chunks isn’t your thing, break the project down into time frames. Setting time limits is another way to contain anxiety. Spend 30 minutes on a task and if you can’t immerse after 30 minutes, call it a day.

Join Me

I invite you to join me as I read Standing at Water’s Edge. You can purchase the book through Amazon, Dr. Paris’s web site, or perhaps find it at your local library or bookstore. My goal is to post every 7-10 days a summary of the chapter and share any a-ha moments that occurred. I welcome your comments on this and successive posts. Share your a-ha moments and experiences while reading the book. You can join in at any time. If you have a blog and are also writing about your experiences with this book, please include a link to your blog in your comment. I’ll include your blogs at the end of my posts.

Book Outline

Standing at Water’s Edge is divided into three parts with 10 chapters as follows:

Part 1: The Secret World of Creativity
Chapter 1: The Secret World of Creativity
Chapter 2: The Light and Dark of Immersion

Part II: Relationships
Chapter 3: The Need for Others
Chapter 4: Finding Strength in Mirrors
Chapter 5: Finding Inspiration in Heroes
Chapter 6: Finding Comfort in Twins
Chapter 7: Connecting with the Audience and Meeting Deadlines

Part III: Stages of the Creative Process
Chapter 8: Approaching Immersion
Chapter 9: Diving In
Chapter 10: Coping with Disengagement and Reentry


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Standing at Water’s Edge: Chapter 6

I apologize for not keeping up on my chapter reviews. The end of show season and upcoming holidays have sent my thoughts elsewhere. But, delay no more, here is the synopsis of Chapter 6.

Finding Comfort in Twins

In chapter 6, the shortest chapter thus far, Dr. Paris concludes her discussion on the three types of relationships that are important for creative types. So far, she has discussed “mirror” relationships and “hero” relationships. In this chapter the focus is on the “twin” relationship. That is, being with “like-kind.”

The twin (or “twinship” as Dr. Paris calls it) relationship is the relationship we have with people who are, essentially, going through the same thing(s) that we are. I’m sure you’ve experienced this type of relationship most often. This is the person who shares our same struggles and feelings.

In the twin relationship, we “connect with others who are experiencing the same things,” we feel “less alone” and freed to be more playful. This relationship also boosts our courage to immerse in creativity, comforts us when we’re stressed, and encourages us when we are filled with self-doubt.

Blocks and Fears

As in the previous two chapters on mirror and hero relationships, Dr. Paris provides examples of blocks and fears that may prevent the development of or the ability to sustain twin relationships.

Absence of Twinship Relationships

As always, we return to childhood, to those early relationships and how they impact our future development. In childhood, our first twin relationships might involve siblings, friends, or peers. Here we experience a sense of belonging. We feel part of a larger group.

Keep in mind that these experiences in childhood do not necessarily revolve around just any peer group. The others must be a good fit with the child’s temperament, physical, and emotional abilities and possibly life circumstances.

Successful early childhood experiences of twinship causes some people to readily seek out and establish these kinds of relationships in adulthood. However, for people who did not enjoy group experiences in childhood, developing these relationships as an adult is difficult. If the now adult person felt painfully different from others as a child, this identity of being different becomes established in adulthood. This leads to fear of exposing his/her “differentness” and subsequent retreat from peer and intimate relationships. And fear of exposure may inhibit one’s artistic endeavors.

Competitiveness

“Competition among peers can be a facilitating or an inhibiting force.”

I can relate to that statement because I hated competition as a child. And that feeling stemmed from a sense that I wasn’t good enough in the particular activity. Because I didn’t often feel a sense of accomplishment or success, it was easier for me to give-up or not try hard enough. You know “what’s the point, I’m just going to lose anyways” or “I’m not good enough.”

In this situation the perceived risk of failing in competition threatens one’s self esteem. It is safer to withdraw from competition than risk “annihilation of self-esteem and self confidence.” This often happens when the goal of the competition is about performance rather than process.

On the other hand, a competitive spirit can propel people to reach beyond their comfort zone. Seeing others take a “successful dive” can strengthen one’s hope that he/she can take a risk and achieve. Here a person may stretch beyond her fears in order to keep up with others.

Guides

This short chapter ends with two suggestions for creating or enhancing the twinship relationship

1. Seek out twinship relationships. Do you have a presence in a twinship group, a group of like-minded people? Consider taking classes, joining an art association or writer’s group.

2. Explore your past history with twinship relationships. Think about your peer groups as a child.

Join Me

I invite you to join me as I read Standing at Water’s Edge. You can purchase the book through Amazon, Dr. Paris’s web site, or perhaps find it at your local library or bookstore. My goal is to post every 7-10 days a summary of the chapter and share any a-ha moments that occurred. I welcome your comments on this and successive posts. Share your a-ha moments and experiences while reading the book. You can join in at any time. If you have a blog and are also writing about your experiences with this book, please include a link to your blog in your comment. I’ll include your blogs at the end of my posts.

Book Outline

Standing at Water’s Edge is divided into three parts with 10 chapters as follows:

Part 1: The Secret World of Creativity
Chapter 1: The Secret World of Creativity
Chapter 2: The Light and Dark of Immersion

Part II: Relationships
Chapter 3: The Need for Others
Chapter 4: Finding Strength in Mirrors
Chapter 5: Finding Inspiration in Heroes
Chapter 6: Finding Comfort in Twins
Chapter 7: Connecting with the Audience and Meeting Deadlines

Part III: Stages of the Creative Process
Chapter 8: Approaching Immersion
Chapter 9: Diving In
Chapter 10: Coping with Disengagement and Reentry


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Standing at Water’s Edge: Chapter 5

Finding Inspiration in Heroes

For some reason, the title of this chapter brought to mind various songs about heroes, from Bette Midler’s “Wind Beneath My Wings” to David Bowie’s “Heroes” (yes, that is a rather curious mix and so is our music collection…sans Bette Midler; sorry Ms. M.)

One definition of a hero is a man noted for his special achievements in a particular field. A heroine is defined as a woman noted for her special achievements in a particular field.

Dr. Paris defines a hero as someone we look up to, admire and aspire to please.

As I read this chapter, I wracked my brain trying to recall any heroes from my childhood.

I came up with a blank (parent’s not included.)

This doesn’t mean I didn’t have any heroes during my childhood. I’m sure I did. I guess they just weren’t very permanent.

Dr. Paris explains that parents are often a child’s first hero. This is the person the child depends upon for physical and psychological care. As children (and often into adulthood) we want to please our parents and make them proud of us. As children get older, realization about the parent’s limitations occur. Children start to see their parents as real people, warts and all. (And as adults we often want to blame our parents for those warts that might have been passed down to or otherwise affected us.)

Mentors and teachers are also powerful hero figures in a child’s and adult’s life. In the ideal situation, these relationships not only teach skills but also assist in immersion of the task.

So a hero is someone we look up to and admire and who supports our ability to immerse in creativity by helping us feel safe and secure. When we have a good internal or external connection with a hero, we feel inspired and motivated to move forward.

But what happens when blocks or fears keep us from developing healthy connections with heroes?

Absence and Disillusionment

The first block Dr. Paris discusses is the absence of a parental hero and disillusionment. This typically happens when an idealized figure betrays or neglects us. Sadly, not everyone has someone they admire and respect. This may be due to the absence of a trustworthy person in one’s life or a history of disappointments that lead to deep feelings of distrust.

People are quite creative, however, when dealing with experiences of disappointment. As was mentioned in earlier chapters, fantasy and imagination are often helpful in assisting creative types create safe relationships and thus immersion in a creative process.

Compliance

Another block that impacts healthy connections with heroes is compliance. That is, in the quest to please an admired other, a person sacrifices his/her own individuality for the sake of the relationship. Dr. Paris explains

When the admired person has specific requirements for approval (or is perceived that way), we are forced to choose between honoring the demands and losing the relationship. The importance of the approval of the admired person makes this a very difficult choice, and many of us will choose to comply rather than to risk disapproval or rejection.

Anyone feel like they’ve “lost” themselves lately due to compliance?

One example that comes to mind is my early experiences in starting my business and working with consignment store owners. A store owner might suggest adding a new product to my line. Because I admire this store owner and because I want to make sales, I say “sure” and create the new product even though I grumble the whole time I make the product because I really don’t want to make it. But approval is important and I don’t want to say “no.”

Dr. Paris does point out that not all compliance is bad or that one should never comply.

Compliance can be a gratifying experience when a person chooses to try to meet the needs of another. But it is when we feel that we must always give up our own needs and uniqueness in order to satisfy someone else’s expectations that it becomes toxic to our creative process.

In this respect, compliance becomes a cage that does not allow for the freedom to immerse.

Rebellion and Rage

Here rebellion and rage goes beyond the event of “acting up” or dying your hair purple. In this block, rebellion and rage are by-products of disillusionment and betrayal by others. (See the first block on absence and disillusionment.) Here the individual attempts to regain power and punishes the offender. Their energy comes from a wish for revenge and a need to restore a sense of control and justice.

Interestingly enough, Dr. Paris believes that artistic expression of rebellion or rage indicates that the artist still has hope of being heard, appreciated and understood.

Artists who are inspired to express their disappointment and hurts through aggressive content and form still have enough hope to fight, to vigorously assert their point of view. Their artwork may be the only medium that gives them a voice, enabling them to stand up to others.

Guides

Dr. Paris ends Chapter 5 with three guides to help creative types develop or grow our relationships with heroes:

  • Develop relationships with those you admire. Find a mentor, teacher or admired person (real or fantasy) and connect with that person. With real life figures, ask for advice and feedback. Your ability to ask for support is a sign of strength and will sustain your creative process.
  • Immerse in the work of someone you admire. Read books on or by this person, appreciate his/her art, listen to his/her music.
  • Make use of fantasy heroes. Call upon your hero or idol in fantasy. Imagine meeting your hero. Imagine him/her appreciating your work. Imagine your hero facing creative blocks or procrastination. How would they handle these situations?

Join Me

I invite you to join me as I read Standing at Water’s Edge. You can purchase the book through Amazon, Dr. Paris’s web site, or perhaps find it at your local library or bookstore. My goal is to post every 7-10 days a summary of the chapter and share any a-ha moments that occurred. I welcome your comments on this and successive posts. Share your a-ha moments and experiences while reading the book. You can join in at any time. If you have a blog and are also writing about your experiences with this book, please include a link to your blog in your comment. I’ll include your blogs at the end of my posts.

Book Outline

Standing at Water’s Edge is divided into three parts with 10 chapters as follows:

Part 1: The Secret World of Creativity
Chapter 1: The Secret World of Creativity
Chapter 2: The Light and Dark of Immersion

Part II: Relationships
Chapter 3: The Need for Others
Chapter 4: Finding Strength in Mirrors
Chapter 5: Finding Inspiration in Heroes
Chapter 6: Finding Comfort in Twins
Chapter 7: Connecting with the Audience and Meeting Deadlines

Part III: Stages of the Creative Process
Chapter 8: Approaching Immersion
Chapter 9: Diving In
Chapter 10: Coping with Disengagement and Reentry


7 Comments

Standing at Water’s Edge: Chapter 4

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Note: Fellow artist Leah Piken Kolidas recently interviewed Dr. Paris on her blog. You’ll find the interview here

Finding Strength In Mirrors

In Chapter 4, Dr. Paris begins to explain the three types of relationships that she believes are crucial to all creative types. Chapter 4 focuses on “mirrors;” those people who validate our strengths, our talents, and our uniqueness.

Chapter 4 begins with a relatively well-known quote from Marianne Williamson:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light not our darkness that frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?

It appears this fear of our powerfulness may stem from our childhood experiences.  According to Dr. Paris, many theorists believe people are born with a feeling of specialness. It begins when a baby cries because she is hungry and expects to be recognized, fed, and  nourished. The mother feeds the baby and the baby feels recognized.

As the baby grows into a toddler, a feeling of invincibility emerges. Remember playing the role of your favorite superhero? At this stage, the parent may support the fantasy and keep the child’s self-esteem intact. More often, well-intentioned parents try to protect their child from disappointment and tell the child that s/he does not have any superpowers. Now the child may hold on to the fantasy even harder to preserve his sense of power or the child may fear devastation of his self-esteem if he dares dream of being anybody special.

Can’t relate to the superhero scenario? How about this situation:

As a child you bring home a drawing you did in school and proudly show it to your mother. Mother is preoccupied with other tasks, doesn’t sense your enthusiasm about your drawing, and, in a disinterested voice tells you “That’s nice.” Or, as Dr. Paris adds, the mother finds fault with the drawing.

The mother did not mirror or reflect back the child’s enthusiasm. The child is humiliated for feeling proud and disappointed in her mother. Moving forward, the child decides not to show future drawings to her mother. In fact, the child tells herself that she isn’t very good at drawing which may, in turn, become a block to immersing in creativity.

Our need for validation, for reflection of our sense of greatness does not end with childhood. Our need for the admiration of others continues throughout life. Even the most self-confident person needs to feel validated by others.

At this point our childhood experiences and our lifelong history influence how we deal with current blocks.

Blocks and Fears

Dr. Paris briefly discusses the ability to feel special, the capacity to immerse and receive constructive criticism before discussing blocks and fears. The following are common blocks and fears that artists may face in the realm of feeling special and great.

Absence of Positive Mirroring in Childhood

In this situation, you may have grown up without positive mirroring from others and do not expect to receive this kind of affirmation. To work through this, we must begin to clearly ask for what we need from those around us.  Yes, that may not be as easy as it sounds. Aren’t we taught, especially women, to NOT ask for what we want?

Another alternative, if asking for what you need is not easy, is to visualize someone or an entire audience being appreciative of your work. Perhaps you can then begin to visualize asking for what you want or need to hear.

Fear of Exposure and Not Being Good Enough

I think many of us can relate to this situation. How often have you said to yourself “I’m afraid people will discover I’m a fraud” or that you’ll be “found out.” Or how about this one: “I would have done better if I had spent more time on it.”

Many of these statements stem from our fear of rejection or criticism. Rejection or criticism injures our self-esteem. Therefore we procrastinate, avoid immersion, don’t fully invest ourselves, and shield ourselves from a full creative experience. In some sense, we can’t live up to our own high standards or previous successes. We keep our selves from taking risks.

Fear of Success

This one is key for me. For the most part, I’ve moved past the fear of failure scenario. Nowadays, I tend to fear success. Sounds silly doesn’t it? And where does this fear come from? Fear of change.

Think about it. Success may mean a change in lifestyle; finances improve, new friends emerge, professional visibility increases.

Uh-oh. But I like my comfort zone.

As Dr. Paris points out the creation of anything new involves the destruction of something old, which brings considerable anxiety.

The Fear of Having Nothing to Offer

Ah, another one I can relate to; the fear of having nothing of value to offer or that no one would be interested in our gifts. Ever say to yourself “Who would want to buy this stuff?”

While we need to receive positive mirroring from others in order to be nourished, we also need to be able to provide nourishment to others. The give and take between self and others, or between self and creative medium, creates a mutuality of interaction that underlies our strength and confidence. When we experience being a capable and trustworthy provider to others, we may then feel that we have something valuable to offer through an artistic realm.

Guides

Dr. Paris concludes this chapter with the following tasks to consider.

  • Dare to dream big. Take back your dreams of childhood and reach for them.
  • Evaluate your support network. The presence of others in your life does not mean they provide the kind of support you need.
  • Reach out for support. Be aware of what you need and be able to ask for it.
  • Mentor or teach others. Self-confidence and strength are bolstered when we feel others recognize our skills.

Join Me

I invite you to join me as I read Standing at Water’s Edge. You can purchase the book through Amazon, Dr. Paris’s web site, or perhaps find it at your local library or bookstore. My goal is to post every 7-10 days a summary of the chapter and share any a-ha moments that occurred. I welcome your comments on this and successive posts. Share your a-ha moments and experiences while reading the book. You can join in at any time. If you have a blog and are also writing about your experiences with this book, please include a link to your blog in your comment. I’ll include your blogs at the end of my posts.

Book Outline

Standing at Water’s Edge is divided into three parts with 10 chapters as follows:

Part 1: The Secret World of Creativity
Chapter 1: The Secret World of Creativity
Chapter 2: The Light and Dark of Immersion

Part II: Relationships
Chapter 3: The Need for Others
Chapter 4: Finding Strength in Mirrors
Chapter 5: Finding Inspiration in Heroes
Chapter 6: Finding Comfort in Twins
Chapter 7: Connecting with the Audience and Meeting Deadlines

Part III: Stages of the Creative Process
Chapter 8: Approaching Immersion
Chapter 9: Diving In
Chapter 10: Coping with Disengagement and Reentry


9 Comments

Standing at Water’s Edge: Chapter 3

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The Need for Others

The third chapter in Standing at Water’s Edge is a preface to Dr. Paris’s discussion on relationships and the importance of relationships in the creative process. She begins with an interview with Loren Long, a book illustrator. In a nutshell, Mr. Long has an ideal situation: he has a strong connection to his family and his art. His family is a strong support network for him and his art. At the end of the interview, Dr. Paris tells Mr. Long: “I view your lifestyle as a sign of your strength, and I believe that your relationships with your wife and children support and enrich your ongoing capacity to create.”

Not that Mr. Long doesn’t have self-doubt. He does say in the interview “I guess that, in general, I always need someone to like my work. If they don’t, my self-doubt comes to the surface. You know, like I’m not living up to the grand fantasies I have about myself or about what my work should look like.”

I remember feeling that when I first started working as an artist full-time. I wanted everyone to like my art. The reality is not everyone will like your art. And I’ve come to accept that because I certainly know that I don’t like every piece of art I see either. However, as creative types, we all need someone (or several someones) to support us. The support we receive from relationships helps to keep us productive, happy, and energetic.

Dr. Paris sums this up nicely:

Positive relationships help to move us forward and help us to grow. Positive relationships also help the artist along in his creative process. Good relationships can bolster our courage to take the plunge into creativity. And likewise, not-so-good relationships, or a lack of relationships, can inhibit our dive.

I know from personal experience that I excel in the company of community. The year I participated in an art salon, I believe my business excelled because I was making and keeping goals and those in the group kept me on track. Since then I feel like I haven’t done quite as well, nor have I found quite the same support network.

Dr. Paris makes this additional point:

Although most people will agree that relationships are an important part of their life and that relationships help them to feel strong and capable, many people have a difficult time developing and sustaining these supports.

BINGO!

Personally, I believe some of this difficulty comes when people change, move forward or backward, change their focus, become overwhelmed by other factors in life, etc, etc. I do believe in that saying about people coming into our lives for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. The hard part is maintaining relationships. It takes effort from both persons.  As Dr. Paris points out Rather than striving to become self-sufficient and independent of others, we must seek to become better at creating gratifying relationships.

In this chapter, Dr. Paris talks a bit about psychology and human behavior and changes in this area over the last two decades. At the end of this discussion, she expresses her belief that creativity is more of a psychological state and process. It requires persistence, resilience, and determination (as various sources on creativity like to point out.) However, Dr. Paris believes that these traits are not a static or given ability. That the capacity to be creative emerges when we feel psychologically strong, safe, and understood by others.

But we all know that we are not all fortunate to have supportive friends, families, and others. So what do you do then?

Imagining Connection

Because of the belief that humans have a natural inclination for connection, it is possible that in the absence of real-life supportive relationships (or in addition to these relationships), imagining this kind of support is beneficial. In other words imagining supportive connections provides us the fuel to continue our attempts at creative immersion and sustains us through the various blocks and fears we encounter along the way.

Okay, I understand this point. I’ve done some visualization tasks, such as before heading off to an art show or before entering a gallery to present my work. And yes, it does give me a boost of confidence. This section also made me think a bit about the Law of Attraction and how visualizing can help bring about that which you desire.

Dr. Paris points out that while many artists are socially isolated or withdrawn, internally we are able to experience connections with others. And we often experience that connection with others through our art.

Before moving on to a discussion of three kinds of relationships, Dr. Paris poses two questions to consider:

What kinds of relationships do you need to facilitate your creativity?

What gets in the way of developing these kinds of relationships?

Join Me

I invite you to join me as I read Standing at Water’s Edge. You can purchase the book through Amazon, Dr. Paris’s web site, or perhaps find it at your local library or bookstore. My goal is to post every 7-10 days a summary of the chapter and share any a-ha moments that occurred. I welcome your comments on this and successive posts. Share your a-ha moments and experiences while reading the book. You can join in at any time. If you have a blog and are also writing about your experiences with this book, please include a link to your blog in your comment. I’ll include your blogs at the end of my posts.

Book Outline

Standing at Water’s Edge is divided into three parts with 10 chapters as follows:

Part 1: The Secret World of Creativity
Chapter 1: The Secret World of Creativity
Chapter 2: The Light and Dark of Immersion

Part II: Relationships
Chapter 3: The Need for Others
Chapter 4: Finding Strength in Mirrors
Chapter 5: Finding Inspiration in Heroes
Chapter 6: Finding Comfort in Twins
Chapter 7: Connecting with the Audience and Meeting Deadlines

Part III: Stages of the Creative Process
Chapter 8: Approaching Immersion
Chapter 9: Diving In
Chapter 10: Coping with Disengagement and Reentry