Greetings, Creatives! I posted an article on our Facebook page
today about marketing and creativity. Some of us may think those two concepts don't go together*. I don't think this is true. I'm not a fan of Emily Dickinson hiding her poems in a drawer, or the countless creative lights in many of our hearts that refuse to shine. Poems are meant to be read, songs are meant to be sung, and plays are meant to be performed. Creativity is meant to be shared. *Perhaps it looks something like this: "Get that marketing out of my chocolate!" "Get that peanut butter out of my creativity!" :)
I know that marketing is scary. I know that I tend to get a racing heart and a shaky voice when I try to put myself out there. I take comfort in the fact that I'm not alone, however. Everyone has been in the same boat at one time or another. I love listening to the "Star Wars" DVD commentary when George Lucas talks about what a struggle it was to put that "B-movie" together. He didn't just walk in and create a hit. Even his recently released movie, "Red Tails," about the Tuskegee Airmen, took years to produce because of opposition from studios. I think marketing can be a challenge for anyone, at any time. Yet oftentimes it's vital to an artist's survivial.
The article I posted on Facebook is "Marketing Yourself and Your Creative Work: Don't You Deserve a Wider Audience?"
Don't you? I don't want to disparage any Dickinson-esque creatives out there, but I think we all deserve to have our voices heard. And I believe we all have the power to do so, or at least we can learn some tips to help us along the way. In the article, art business coach Alyson Stanfield says: "It might seem as though your power is in the hands of galleries, curators, granting agencies, collectors ... anyone but you! But all of these people have only as much power over you as you give them.”
Take back some of your power by attending our special Creatives Coffee Klatch event
this Monday, Jan. 30 at 9 a.m.
We will meet at a new venue*: ArtLab Studios
in Normal Heights (just down the road from Cafe Cabaret), 3635 Adams Ave. Our guest speaker will be career coach and marketing expert Angela Martin (pictured above), who will discuss marketing creative projects in ways that are natural to us, as well as discovering our niche market. There will be a Q & A session, and complimentary coffee will be provided. The event is $10 (free for monthly C2K members), and you may RSVP here: C2K Presents: Guest Speaker Angela Martin
.*There should be plenty of parking on side streets; please be mindful of street sweeping notices to avoid a ticket.
Cheers! Have a wonderful, artful day. :)
I love playing cribbage. My dad taught me when I was 11. I remember the first time I won a game against him. He didn't have much of a reaction. He was just quiet, very quiet. He'd taught me too well.
Naturally, one of my favorite phone apps is a cribbage game. I'm proud to say that I'm currently ranked 510 out of 41,671 online players. Dad did teach me well, but there's always room for improvement. Over the holidays, I noticed myself feeling frustrated and thinking life was unfair when my opponent pulled three jacks on the cut during one game (I know that's gibberish to most of you, but trust me, it's annoying). I was losing and I didn't want to lose.
Then something happened. The voice of Ron Swanson from "Parks and Recreation" popped into my head. Really, it did. What he said was: "Get all of the points that you can." (Interestingly, this was in the same cadence as "Give me all the eggs and bacon you have."
) My game changed immediately. Every time I was dealt a new hand, "Get all of the points you can," popped into my head. Instantly I could see which cards needed to be discarded and which needed to stay to make the best hand. I then played the cards out to the best of my ability and scored consistently well. Even more intriguing, though, was how *I* changed while playing. I relaxed; I didn't worry about the other player's score. I didn't care which cards that person got. I was enjoying myself and learning how to improve my game by playing better.
When I apply the "Get all of the points you can" idea in my life, I use it to focus on my own stuff. Why do I care how much another person is making? Why would I feel bothered when others get "lucky breaks" (those darned upturned jacks!) and I don't? The fact is, I was dealt a hand the day I was born, and I'm dealt a new one every day, as are all of us. There's nothing we can do about that. What we can do is make the most of it. I can revel in the glory of life, be it ugly, dirty, or beautiful at any given moment. I can get all that I can out of the experiences I have, and I can share that joy with others along the way.
Do you find your biggest joy through creativity? Are you ready to get unstuck? If so, take advantage of our Get Results! New Year's Coaching Special
today. Your creative dreams are waiting...
I still remember the folded construction paper reindeer we were supposed to construct in fifth-grade. The visiting art teacher showed us how to fold, fold, fold, and voila! It's Rudolph. Only mine? Not so much. My creation might have been called Picasso-esque if it had involved any sort of artistic skill. I had failed at paper reindeer making.
I've always known that I don't make art easily with my hands. I tend to create with my ears and my eyes. I write, I sing, I take photographs. My hands do have a coordination with musical instruments in a way they never could with wielding a pair of scissors or a paintbrush.
To me, the soul of art is in observation. I look out my window just now and I see how the rounded tops of the yellow-green bushes echo the darker green flare of the palm tree beyond, and the similarly hued treetops beyond that.
I think some folks are originators of art and others are vessels for art to flow through. I consider myself of the latter variety. It's taken a long time for me to come to terms with my strengths and weaknesses when it comes to creativity, and it's an ongoing process. I don't make a lot of things that fit easily up on a wall. Sometimes I feel pressure to prove myself as an artist, yet all I need to do is point to me and my life. And to you and yours. We are creating every minute of every day. And sometimes we capture the essence of that creation, be it for a moment or for centuries. And in that observation is where the art is found. **Help me win a photo contest! A shot I took at Burning Man (see above) is climbing the charts on Hipstamatic's website. The top 5 winners get a bag of Wilco swag (neat!). You can vote via Twitter (up to 5 times a day) or Facebook here: http://community.hipstamatic.com/submissions/164170. Voting ends Sunday! Thanks in advance for helping me get over the paper reindeer humiliation. :)**
"You learn how to make your work by
making your work … art you care about -- and lots of it!" -from the book "Art & Fear"
One theme that came up at this week's Creatives Coffee Klatch
gathering was that of balancing effort with ease, masculine and feminine energy, yin and yang, or whatever we'd like to call it. I mentioned something my creativity coach taught me that has proved to be useful in my life, especially as a performer. When I have a task to do, I tend to get into the "masculine," left-brain side of my brain. I want to do it "right" because I don't want to be seen as incompetent, and I believe I can protect myself from this by being perfect (yes, my right brain is giggling at me right now).
One thing that helped me with my last solo in chorus, however, was when my coach (also a musician) reminded me that when I to sing and I do it "wrong," I'll still only be about a half note off pitch. I don't know if this is true for everyone or just me, but it worked. We tried a few experiments at the piano where I purposely sang off-key (my biggest performance fear), and I was able to quickly "save" the solo by improvising my mistake into something that sounded cool, if not exactly what was written on the page ("Yes, I meant to do that!"). It was also helpful for me to realize that when I did step up to the microphone, I wasn't going to start quacking like a duck. By this I mean that, for me, the left side of my brain is developed enough that I can trust it to know what it's doing.
For other folks who are more right-brain oriented when it comes to accomplishing creative tasks, it might be helpful for them to dip in the left brain a bit. Perhaps they can spend some time studying the music score and analyzing it to feel more grounded in their performance without losing their ability to improvise. It's different for everyone.
The key here is to balance both sides of the brain, which is a topic I've been reading about in a book called "Write. 10 Days to Overcome Writer's Block. Period,"
by Karen E. Peterson, Ph.D. I should mention that I found this book intuitively; I was doing an online library search for something unrelated and the title popped up and intrigued me. When I picked up the book from the library, the first thing I noticed was a blurb on the front cover from Kurt Vonnegut. I don't normally pay attention to those things, but ... Kurt Vonnegut, you say? As it turns out, I think the overly-famous-writer blurb is well deserved. I'll discuss the book more later (I'm about halfway through now), and I won't hesitate to recommend it now to anyone, writer or otherwise, who struggles with sitting down and getting the work done.
By the way, I feel the desire to mention exactly what my right-brain inner artist child looks like (the one who can improvise an awesome solo out of a missed note). I even have a picture of her, but I'm not sure where it is (if I find it, be assured that I'll post it here, dear readers.) It's of me around age 3, wearing underwear on my head, captured in mid-gallop with my mouth wide open in a song or a holler or a combination of both. What can I say; my inner artist child knows how to have a good time! :)Bits & Pieces
- "Midnight in Paris" See it.
- "Soul Proprietor" Read it.
- Kickstarter and Indiegogo Fund it.
- Speaking of funding, one of our C2K members is planning to help out with a breast cancer awareness fundraiser. She is looking for local San Diego County organizations that deal with this illness. If you know of any such nonprofits, please send the info my way. Thanks!
- FYI, there will be no C2k on Aug. 29 and Sept. 5. Gone fishin'.
At Creatives Coffee Klatch
on Monday, one of our members shared a quotation from the poet Rumi: "We may worry about death but what hurts the soul the most is to live without tasting the water of its essence." I loved this quote because it exemplifies the reason I created the C2K group and also why I started my creativity coaching business. Death is a given. What we do with our lives in the meantime is up to us.
Rumi's quote also reminded me of something Julia Cameron says in her book "The Artist's Way" about aging: "QUESTION: Do you know how old I'll be by the time I learn to play the piano? ANSWER: The same age you will be if you don't."
None of us knows what's going to happen to us or when we're going to die. It was brought up at our C2K session that for one member, making plans for the week almost assures that those plans won't be followed. I see this as life's way of showing us that we're not in control. This isn't to say that we're out of control, but rather though we may feel like we have power over our lives and ourselves (and sometimes even other people), the universe often steps in and shows us, again and again, that life is a mystery and we're all just along for the ride.
Whether we choose to shield our eyes or face life head-on is up to us, and it also changes from time to time. Several people at the meeting talked about how they feel like they're in a fallow creative period right now. The word "gestation" came up and we discussed how ideas and projects often need time to germinate before they're ready to be born. I think this time can be just as valuable as time spent "working." It's a normal part of the process and I try to respect it in my own creative life and let teach me what I need to learn (often the message is: "Slow down!").
Another reason I like the Rumi quote is because of his use of the word "tasting." He's not advising us to dive in feet first and live in our soul's essence 100% of the time. I think he's saying that it's good for us to know ourselves, to know what we're capable of and to know what we like. I also believe from personal experience that often knowing can be enough. As an example, a few years ago I started studying classical singing at a community college near Los Angeles. I took private lessons from a teacher who, among her other credits, had been an understudy for "Phantom of the Opera" on Broadway. I had a background in instrumental music, but this was the first time I completely focused on singing.
Although it was a hard work because I also had a full-time job at the time, I really enjoyed that semester of private lessons, choir, and a weekly recital class. I studied one piece in particular, an aria called Mon Coeur S'ouvre a ta Voix from the opera "Samson and Delila" by Camille Saint-Saens. I spent hours in the practice rooms listening to recordings, banging out notes on the piano, and singing the aria over and over and over. To my surprise, I didn't get bored with the song but rather found it even more fascinating the more I worked with it. One day, I knew I'd got it. I got the French down, the melody down, and most importantly, I could feel it in my bones. This song had become mine
and I knew it.
I sang the aria for my teacher the next day, and when I'd finished she was silent. I already had tears in my eyes. Finally she told me, "Rachel, you could sing that on any stage in the world." I started crying at that point because I knew she was right. And, interestingly, that was all I needed to know. My teacher wanted me to continue with lessons and even pursue a career as a vocalist. I never wanted it to be my job, though, because that's not what music is for me. I want to sing and play instruments for myself, not for someone else.
I took a break from school and six months later I got a newspaper job in San Diego and moved down here to start a new journey. I often remember that moment with my teacher, though, and it reminds of the power and the mystery of music and art. I tasted the essence of my soul that day and it's a gift that will stay with me forever.Art Notes:
We talked a bit about Ray at Night
and what a fun experience it can be to tour the open galleries, hear interesting music, and hang out with cool folks. This event happens 6-10 p.m. every second Saturday in North Park.
Keep your eyes on your inbox for an official annoucement later this week of my next "Artist's Way" series
. I'm so excited to be facilitating another session! If you'd like to see more information now, please click here: "The Artist's Way" preregistration
Drop in on C2K
at 10 a.m. Mondays at Cafe Libertalia in Hillcrest for some complimentary coffee & creative inspiration! (Suggested donation is $5 - cheap!)
These guidelines were developed for our Creatives Coffee Klatch (C2K)
weekly gatherings, and they can be useful for many other groups and situations:
- Safe: What's said here, stays here.
- Sacred Space: Please disable your technology. :)
- Speaking: Be mindful that each of us needs a chance to share. The facilitator will keep an eye on time and help include everyone in the discussion.
- Support: Please assist other speakers by listening thoughtfully. It's best to offer advice only when advice is requested.
- Statements: The most effective communication happens when we speak from "I" (not "you") and avoid general statements such as "all artists are.." and "all musicians are..."
Today at Creatives Coffee Klatch
we talked about improvising. We learned that one person's "mistake cake" can be another person's tasty treat, and that a crack in a gourd is often a wonderful thing when we're painting on it. It can be tricky for more perfectionistic personalities, but we can make our mistakes work for us. It's good to loosen up a bit and see what happens. And, as in the case of improv comedy, what happens can be hilarious (the title of this blog post comes from the improv comedy rule of saying "yes...and..." whenever we're presented with something new). Or with jazz music, for example, spontaneity can be sublime.
We also discussed the masks we often wear in performance and other types of art and how those can help us or hold us back. One of my challenges as a musician and facilitator is allowing my authentic self to come through, warts and all. I shared with the C2K group that while co-teaching a workshop over the weekend on The Four Agreements for Creatives
, I had a breakthrough moment where I read a passage aloud from the book and got choked up. I wasn't expecting to feel emotional, yet it was an honest response to the energy in the room created by my co-facilitator and the group participants. I felt safe and open and connected, which is always my goal with any type of art. I felt love.
Reference points: We discussed author Marcus Buckingham
and his work on strengths and how we can recognize them (tip: we look forward to something, we get into a "flow" state while doing it, and we feel stronger after it's over). We also read a passage from Eric Maisel's book "Affirmations for Artists"
about talent. Here's a sample from his affirmation about talent: "I am talented. That means above all else that I must work hard, for talent is a muscle; if I exercise that muscle, my art will grow strong ... but such skills are only a part of my talent: my greatest talent is in fully exercising my humanity."
We had a low-key, casual meeting today for Open Monday Meditation, Memorial Day edition. One major topic of discussion was artistic competition and feeling envious of what we perceive as the success of others.
I shared about how I recently looked at an online list from Rolling Stone
of the top 100 singers of all time. Reading over all of their accolades, I felt horrible. I thought my singing voice was terrible and I would never be able to express myself musically to anyone. Ever. These feelings of insecurity and inferiority led into our next topic of discussion: "The Work" of Byron Katie
Byron Katie suffered from severe depression during parts of her 30s and 40s. At one point she couldn't get out of bed for two years. Then one day at the depths of her despair she had an epiphany. She realized that, in her words, "suffering is optional." She went on to develop a system for questioning stressful thoughts. She calls this system The Work and it involves asking 4 questions about a stressful thought and then "turning around" that thought. The questions are:
- Is it true?
- Can you absolutely know that it's true?
- How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought?
- Who would you be without the thought?
The final step is to turn around the concept you are questioning, and be sure to find at least three genuine, specific examples of each turnaround.
As an example, if my thought is "I can't sing," I first ask myself if this is true. Maybe it is or maybe it isn't. Then I answer the next question, can I absolutely know that it's true? No, I can't absolutely know that. Next I would examine how I react when I believe the thought "I can't sing." I feel sad, despondent, and unlovable. When I ask myself who I would be without this thought, I realize that I wouldn't worry about whether I could sing or not, I would just do it and not care what anyone thinks. The final step, the turnaround, would be "I can sing." This is true because I sing on many occasions: with the women's chorus, with my band, and even in the shower! Another turnaround is: "Other people can't sing." This is also true, so maybe there is something to my singing ability. This is essentially how The Work works...
When I explained The Work to the group today, I did give the caveat that although I think what Byron Katie presents is valuable, I question some of her business decisions, such as charging exorbitant amounts for her workshops. I also have heard rumors that some of her tactics at these workshops resemble cult experiences. It may be more valuable for some people, in my opinion, to explore questioning their thoughts with a cognitive behavioral therapist who is trained in similar things and who is bound to a code of professional ethics. It's all up to the individual and what you think is the best course for you.
There was also a brief mention today of a website called Arrested Motion
that is based on a quote from William Faulkner. Here is the quote in its entirety: "The aim of every artist is to arrest motion, which is life, by artificial means and hold it fixed so that a hundred years later, when a stranger looks at it, it moves again since it is life."
I've been so pleased with how this Monday morning group has been developing, and it has become something more special than I even envisioned. I've been thinking about the best place for our group to meet that is both public and also provides a modicum of privacy for us to express ourselves and to feel safe engaging in our brief meditations. I think I've found that place, or the best place so far at least, and I will be making an announcement soon about that. In the meantime, all my best to all of you, both near and far. I hope you're enjoying your holiday weekend, and maybe even finding some art peace in the meantime. :)
This weekend the San Diego Women's Chorus
performed our spring concert, Our Romance, on Saturday and Sunday. We had been preparing since January, and two of our songs included choreography, something many of us had never done. As it turned out, the "dancing" songs were among the most popular with our audiences and, at least in my experience, the most fun to perform.
The topic of "daring to dance" was a central theme at today's Open Monday Morning Meditation (OMMM...). We had another eclectic group of artists: writers, poets, singers, painters, sculptors. Some of us feel more comfortable putting ourselves out there with our artwork, while others have faced struggles around wanting to be sure we "do it right." I shared my experience of what happened last week when I brought these types of fears to my music/creativity coach, Jamie. I was anxious about the poem I planned to read at our concerts, as well as a short solo I would be performing. Here's what we discussed:
Jamie and I talked about what happens when I start to feel anxious. Typically, I become super-critical of myself and my skills. I found this baffling, however, because the technical parts of the performance weren't a concern for me. Still, my left brain was on overdrive last week, trying to make sure I did everything perfectly at the concert. Jamie suggested that when my left brain starts to take over, it might be useful to begin engaging the right side of my brain, the more creative, playful side. I found this helpful because instead of trying to "turn off" my left brain, which seems like an impossible task, I could simple shift my attention to the right brain, if only briefly. It helped for me to realize that the left side of my brain was simply trying to protect me from what it perceives as harm - i.e. "messing up." When I recognized this about myself, I could accept it and make peace with my analytical brain's good intentions, however skewed they may be.
We practiced my solo a bit and Jamie pointed out that even if I started on a wrong note, I could improvise and make something new and interesting out of the "mistake."b She demonstrated this briefly and I found that what she sang was even more compelling than what was written in the music! With this newfound sense of freedom to be creativity, I had nary a nervous thought or feeling before, during, and after both of our concerts. I had a blast singing with the chorus, and I delighted in sharing my individual contributions with the audience.
One of the participants in our discussion at this morning's gathering brought up some food for thought: As an artist or performer, what is the promise you are making to your audience? Is it technical perfection or the sharing of human emotion? Maybe it's a combination of both? For some of us the goal is to show the audience who we are and to share our experience with them. Ask yourself this question: What is the promise you're making to your audience, even if it's just an audience of one (yourself)?
We ended our discussion today with a meditation practice called tonglen that I learned from the book "When Things Fall Apart,"
by Pema Chodron. At first glance, the meditation seems counterintuitive: Breathe in the dark, negative, painful emotions you feel and breathe out light, space, and peace.
"People say this practice goes against the grain of how we usually hold ourselves together," Chodron says. "Truthfully, this practice does go against the grain of wanting things on our own terms, of wanting it to work out for ourselves no matter what happens to the others. The practice dissolves the armor of self-protection we've tried so hard to create around ourselves. In Buddhist language one would say that it dissolves the fixation and clinging of ego."
Tonglen can be done formally or "on the spot," which Chodron describes this way: "...simply breathe in and breathe out, taking in pain an sending out spaciousness and relief."
Try it for yourself now: Sit for a few moments to settle in with your breath. Then close your eyes and breathe in any dark feelings of shame, guilt, or hopelessness you may be experience. As you exhale, give those feelings space and light. This practice also can be done on behalf of others who may be suffering.
Tonglen meditation can help transform "scary" emotions by offering them space to exist along with other feelings of peace and tranquility. As Walt Whitman put it: "I am large, I contain multitudes." We are all made up of dark and light, yin and yang, good and evil, the sacred and the profane. We are all human. In my experience, the only way to come to terms with that fact is to celebrate it with my friends and share it with the world in a creative way. This week, just like last week, I choose to celebrate.If you'd like to join us for Open Monday Morning Meditation (OMMM...), please drop in at 9:30 a.m. Mondays at Extraordinary Desserts in Hillcrest (2929 5th Avenue, between Palm and Quince). RSVP is requested but not required. If you have any questions or feedback, please comment below, send a note to Rachel or call her at 619-609-7278.