Monday, March 26, 2012

Deliberate creativity

Developing a Creative Process, part 1

Until recently, I thought creativity was something that just happened to you. When I make a song or write a blogpost or paint a picture or construct a dollhouse, it's a storm that falls on me: immediate, all-consuming, impossible to willfully incite, and over when it's over. This means
  1. I am not deliberate about content, so what I make is often overly personal 
    • (Or at least the seed for the idea is)
  2. I therefore become attached to what was created as an extension of myself
    • I place value on the creation as a product of the furystate in which it was born
  3. Once it is tangible, I abandon it because 
    • I don't like/can't handle criticism because it feels like criticism of me instead of the work
    • I don't want to "be" a musician or a painter or a writer so I don't "do" anything with it
    • I feel emotionally purged, so what else is there?
I am fortunate enough to have a couple of friends who think about art very differently than I do, and I've been pestering them about their creative processes and perspectives in hopes that it will help me develop my own instead of staying slave to the storm.


Joseph and Kay are the indie rock duo Bella Ruse (@bellaruse), and sometimes they play as a band with my hubz Nathan Eliot and our friend Alex (@alexyoungdrums). When Bella Ruse came back to the Twin Cities after SXSW, I was surprised to hear Joseph describe some of the changes that he and Kay were planning for their music careers -- really specific changes that they think will help them make their living as musicians. 

Since writing for me feels more like a dam breaking than a deliberate act of creation (Far Side at right is what came to mind as I wrote that sentence), my reaction was something like, "You can just decide that sort of thing?"

Joseph insists -- rather emphatically, actually -- that music or any creative endeavor is exactly no different than any other endeavor you do for money. It's a business. He loves making music, but the specific kind of music he ends up making is less important than him getting to spend his life making it.

I'mmabe real -- Gut reaction was "Isn't that selling out?" It honestly surprised me that Joseph has this perspective because his music and his lyrics are really, um, feely. I guess I just assumed he got the same emotional satisfaction from songwriting that I do, which he very well may for all I know -- but the point is that being intentional isn't being any less creative. 

I can be deliberately creative: I sketch on the canvas before I paint, I can outline the pants off an essay, and a lot of thought goes into the wallpaper choices of a dollhouse. But it's not the same with songwriting or even creative writing for me. Writing academically, doing stupid crafts, and even painting do not leave me emotionally clean and empty like when I write a song or journal (writing without my brain, what I call "heartbarfing"). I guess this is the line for me between "art" and "craft" : at some point in its creation, art provides an immediate emotional experience for the artist.
This is part of a series of obnoxiously personal and verbose introspective posts on the nature of art, why I'm not as good at it as I'd like to be, and how I'm trying to be better. Stay tuned with the tag Developing a Creative Process

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