“I don’t believe that when you get into a creative place, you’re giving up thinking. You’re super-thinking – better and with more parts of your mind than you do normally.”
That is a comment by social psychologist, teacher and author Susan K. Perry, PhD from our interview.
She added that there is a ‘busy mind’ aspect of our thinking, which “means you’re fragmented, you’re unfocused, distracted, too many things on your mind.
“You want to get to a place which is both loose, relaxed, and focused.
“What I found in my studies of flow are that two things you need to do to get to this place where time stops and you can be most creative, are to loosen up, and focus in. It’s a paradox, obviously, to be loose and focused at the same time. And they overlap, and one may come before the other.”
“I just thought making movies was something done by geniuses, and I was very clear that I wasn’t one of those.” Jane Campion
When “The Artist’s Way” author and creativity coach Julia Cameron has asked people to list ten traits they think artists have, their responses have included: “Artists are broke,” “Artists are crazy,” “Artists are drug-addicted” and “Artists are drunk.”
Other myths and ideas about being an artist:
“Artists must be poor and sacrifice their well-being for their art.”
“Artists should accept the solitary life and find solutions on their own.”
“You can’t be a mother and a successful artist.”
“Artists are right-brained and aren’t very good at left-brain stuff like running a business.”
As creative people, even after achieving some recognition for our talents, we can experience self-critical thoughts and insecurity, such as impostor feelings – sometimes based on these kinds of myths we have picked up about creative “genius” or artists.
Director, writer and producer Jane Campion, praised for “The Piano” and other films, once commented, “I never have had the confidence to approach film making straight on. I just thought it was something done by geniuses, and I was very clear that I wasn’t one of those.”
“To assume, then, that such diseases usually promote artistic talent wrongly reinforces simplistic notions of the ‘mad genius.’” Kay Redfield Jamison
In an interview for the NPR radio program Fresh Air with Terry Gross, science writer Jonah Lehrer commented, “One of the surprising things that’s emerged from the study of moods…is that putting [people] in a bad mood — making them a little bit sad or melancholy — comes with some cognitive benefits.
“So sadness, although it is not fun and is not pleasant, it does sharpen the mind a little bit.
“And one of the long-standing mysteries in the field of creativity is this correlation — and this was first identified by Kay Redfield Jamison and others — is people suffering from various kinds of depression and creative output.”
He continued, “People who are successful creators — especially writers — are anywhere between 8 and 40 times more likely to suffer from bipolar depression than the general public. And no one’s known what to make of this.”
With the upcoming movie The Hunger Games generating so much media attention, I was interested in learning more about the author Suzanne Collins, who also co-wrote the screenplay.
First, though, if you don’t know the plot of her trilogy, a Parade magazine article summarizes:
“The story’s unlikely heroine is 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives in Panem, a country that’s risen from the ashes of North America after natural disasters and warfare took their toll.
“Once a year, boy and girl ‘tributes’ are chosen by lottery from each district and forced to compete in the Hunger Games, an event televised throughout the land and manipulated for maximum ratings. The last one left alive is the winner.”
The article notes that despite the violent content, “educators have been among the series’ most ardent proponents. Nicole Mailloux, a seventh-grade teacher in Clark, N.J… persuaded her school to buy enough copies for 60 students so she could base an entire semester on the trilogy, even staging a mock version of the Games.
As noted in his HuffingtonPost profile, Scott Barry Kaufman, PhD is “a cognitive psychologist specializing in the development of intelligence, creativity, and personality in education, business, and society.”
The British magazine Psychologies has an interview with him in a section titled TWITTER CHAT: Creativity about “kick-starting your creativity including how to cultivate a creative mind-set, dealing with a creative block and how to stretch your imagination.”
Here are some excerpts – with Twitter-submitted questions from a number of people, and Dr. Kaufman’s responses:
[How do I maintain confidence and self-belief in the face of rejections from fairs/festivals/exhibitions?]
Scott Barry Kaufman: Reconceptualise what rejection means. Everyone faces obstacles! Learn what you can from it and move on. Self-belief comes from within.
[See Part One if you haven't read it already.]
Motherhood and creative work
“I’d be in the middle of a sentence and someone needed to go to mall for new shoes, so the sentence would be lost.”
That is a quote by Amy Bloom, who has worked as a psychotherapist, taught at Yale University, and is Wesleyan University’s Writer-in-Residence.
In an interview about being a mother and writer, she commented, “When I started, I wrote late at night, after they were in bed.
“I could do that and get away with it because I’m not much of a housekeeper and I didn’t need much sleep.
“I liked my kids and didn’t care much about my house, so it worked.”
“I want to do wardrobe. I want to do hair. I want to do makeup. I want to do writing. I want to do directing. And I want to do producing. I want to do all of it. I like it.“ Abigail Breslin
“I must have been crazy to have donned so many hats.” Jennifer Westfeldt
Many multitalented people feel inspired and energized to pursue multiple creative projects, often at the same time. One potential downside is physical and emotional burnout.
Abigail Breslin made her comment above at a younger age (she is now 15), and has acted in a number of films since “Signs” (2002), including “Little Miss Sunshine” (2006), and expresses the kind of polymath passion that many actors, writers and other creative people have.
Jennifer Westfeldt wrote, produced and acted in “Kissing Jessica Stein” and “Ira & Abby.” For her new movie “Friends With Kids,” she not only wrote the screenplay, acted and produced (along with other people, including her long time partner, actor Jon Hamm), she also directed the “two-year, round-the-clock endeavor” as a Los Angeles Times article describes it – not an uncommonly demanding schedule for movies.
“I must have been crazy to have donned so many hats,” Westfeldt said. “It made good sense for me to direct it, since I was involved in every aspect anyway. But I’m not sure I’d ever do it again.”
Exploring the intricate “landscapes” of neuroanatomy has inspired a number of scientists to create visual art.
Heather Bimonte-Nelson, head of the Memory and Aging Laboratory at Arizona State University, creates paintings that add a new dimension to her research.
She notes, “Science is really about convincing people that your hypothesis or theory could be the truth in nature.
“And if you’re not a good storyteller, people will never believe it. You could have the best theory ever, but if you can’t communicate it effectively so others understand it, it doesn’t count.”
As described in an article about her work, this painting of hers, titled “GABA,” functions as “a portrait of her daughters’ seizures, and the quest to control them.
“Even tones of light green and cerulean blue streak down the canvas, but are disrupted on one side in a dramatic blood-red band.
“The colors represent neurotransmitters in the brain. The blues and greens are the inhibitory gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA, and the red is glutamate, an excitatory neurotransmitter.”
“When I don’t build in cushions of time between activities for reflection and creative synthesis, my writing suffers, my mood suffers, everything suffers.”
Those are comments by writer Lisa Rivero, who continues, “Without this imaginative life, we might still be productive, but at what cost?
“I know that when I give in to the temptation to pack every spare hour or moment with tasks…I may still write as much, just not as well.”
From my post Developing Creativity by Staring Out the Window – quoting from her post If you don’t value your imaginative life, no one else will.
[One of her books: "A Parent's Guide to Gifted Teens: Living with Intense and Creative Adolescents."]
Packing “every spare hour or moment with tasks” as Rivero puts it, is something I more or less constantly feel pressured to do. But, as she points out, at what cost? Stress and overwork and other challenges are among the consequences for me, and probably many writers.
What is the potential value of not always doing?
A new post by Scott Barry Kaufman, Ph.D. describes research indicating that creative people tend to daydream more, even while concentrating on tasks.