Archives for September, 2011
In addition to his work as an actor in movies (Witness, The Lord of the Rings, A History of Violence, and many others), Viggo Mortensen is a writer, musician, poet, photographer and painter with exhibitions at art galleries around the world. He founded independent publishing house Perceval Press with partner Pilar Perez to publish his books and CDs, plus works of other lesser-known authors, including a book speaking out against the war in Iraq. One of his images I especially like is from his book Miyelo, with a series of panoramic photographs of a Lakota Ghost Dance, which also tells about events leading up to the massacre at Wounded Knee. Being so talented and productive is what creativity researcher James C. Kaufman, Ph.D. refers to as creative polymathy.
Creative projects don't just "happen" - they usually take some combination of persistence, obsession, fortitude, stubbornness and courage, along with passion and inspiration. "If my husband and I were not stupid and idealistic, in the sense that we believe art can transform people, then we would've given up." Josefina López - about her Boyle Heights (Los Angeles) Casa 0101 project, with a 99-seat theater, art gallery and learning center. A recent newspaper article notes her project "entailed more than three years, hundreds of thousands of dollars in makeover costs, and painstaking permit-gathering and endless wrangling over access to the scant local parking supply.
In his new course Your Best Life in the Arts, creativity coach Eric Maisel, PhD promises to provide “real answers to the challenges that confront you” as a creative person. Below are excerpts from summaries of the second seven topics of the course, running for 14 Mondays starting October 3. For each topic, I have added some related comments and references such as articles. But first, read Eric Maisel on Your Life in the Arts – Part 1 (with a video interview with Dr. Maisel) if you haven’t already. Week 10. The Addiction Key Creative people squarely fall into the category of people at high risk for addiction, whether it’s a classic addiction to alcohol or drugs or one of the new distraction addictions involving email and the Internet. Learn why you are at greater risk than the next person—and what you can do to minimize those risks… Photo: Beethoven reportedly drank wine about as often as he wrote music, and was an alcoholic or at least a problem-drinker. Many gifted and creative people throughout history have used or abused substances, or engaged in self-limiting behavior. Here are a couple of many articles on the topic...
In his new course Your Best Life in the Arts, creativity coach Eric Maisel, PhD promises to provide “real answers to the challenges that confront you” – whether you are “just beginning to write, paint or play an instrument” or have “logged in thousands of hours at your craft.” These are excerpts from summaries of the first seven topics of the course, which is a live tele-conference (with downloads available), running for 14 Mondays starting October 3... with my added commentaries and resources, such as articles. Week 7. The Passion Key Passion—and synonyms like love, curiosity, enthusiasm, excitement and energy—is vital to the creative process. It is possible to create without passion but your art will suffer and the likelihood of you continuing over the long haul is greatly reduced… This is another central issue for enjoying a creative and meaningful life.
What do you do when your primary creative endeavor does not support you enough emotionally or financially? What if you aren't getting the acting jobs you want, or the writing assignments, or not enough people buy your paintings? Psychologist and creativity coach, Eric Maisel, PhD warns in his book Mastering Creative Anxiety that this can have emotional consequences: “We get anxious because we fear failing, because we fear disappointing ourselves, because the work can be extremely hard, because the marketplace may criticize us and reject us.”
“My Adderall helps me think so much clearer.” [From an ADD forum.] It’s easy to be lured by the promises of a smart pill that could help us not only think more clearly and access more memory, but feel good about ourselves, be tireless and endlessly confident. And creative. Writer Steven Zeitchik summarized the movie “Limitless” as a fantasy version of a dream designer drug discovered by “down-on-his-luck New York writer Eddie (Bradley Cooper)” who takes a magic potion – a “miracle street narcotic in the form of a translucent pill, NZT that enhances mental performance beyond any reasonable expectation. (Yes, it’s fictional.)” As film reviewer Roger Ebert notes, “it is a pill that suddenly puts his entire brain online. He finishes his novel at typing speed. He wins at poker, invests in the market, and runs it up to millions. He fascinates a woman who had rejected him as a loser.”
One of the basic concepts about the creative process is that it involves generation of many ideas, followed by analytic selection, then implementation. Idea generation may be very "loose" and unrestrained - even fantastical and not necessarily tied to normal reality. In my earlier post Creative Thinking and Schizophrenia, I wrote a little about the link between schizotypy and creative achievement, and included a quote by Susan K. Perry from her book Writing in Flow that “looseness and the ability to cross mental boundaries are aspects of both schizophrenic thinking and creative thinking.” A study by psychologist Daniel Nettle and colleagues found that artists and schizophrenics scored equally high on “unusual cognition.” But in contrast to "looseness," the constraint of ideas and work can enhance creativity.
It's a word that has a wide range of associations, including some pretty negative or dismissive ones. Many people connect "psychic" with storefront charlatans and stage performers. The Wikipedia page defines a psychic, also called a sensitive, as a person "who professes an ability to perceive information hidden from the normal senses." But the page also notes a 1988 report by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences concluded there is "no scientific justification from research conducted over a period of 130 years for the existence of parapsychological phenomena." I don't have any particular psychic ability, but am fascinated by it, and appreciate the more sympathetic depictions in movies such as "Hereafter" directed by Clint Eastwood, starring Cécile De France and Matt Damon as a professional psychic. In our interview, Judith Orloff, MD noted she had intuitive capacities at an early age, but her family did not encourage her to develop her psychic abilities. She is now integrating these talents with traditional medicine, and is an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at UCLA, and also has a private practice and leads workshops on intuitive ability and healing.
“Highly sensitive people are all creative by definition." Elaine Aron, PhD adds that it is "because we process things so thoroughly and notice so many subtleties and emotional meanings that we can easily put two unusual things together." Sensory sensitivity also comes into play in many creative endeavors. When Therese Borchard of Beliefnet interviewed me (her Huffington Post column has the title 5 Gifts of Being Highly Sensitive), one of the "gifts" I mentioned is the richness of sensory detail that life provides. The subtle shades of texture in clothing, and foods when cooking, the sounds of music or even traffic or people talking, fragrances and colors of nature - all of these may be more intense for highly sensitive people.