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Saturday, January 24, 2015

Hacking the Creative Process

Well, that's troubling...

So, time to talk about creativity. It's a blog about acting (and writing as well... SURPRISE!), so you knew it had to come at some point, right? 

I dunno, maybe I've already talked about it. I don't keep track of these things. I trust the Interweb trolls to come out from underneath their digital bridges and berate me for repeating myself. Isn't that what they're FOR?

I had no idea trolls were so... CUTE.

And with those comments about trolls, of course I mean no offense to those genuine souls who are reaching out to help. We can usually tell the difference. Genuine souls don't typically start out by baring their figurative teeth.

Anywho... I'm four paragraphs in and I've already gotten distracted. ARTIST BRAIN STRIKES AGAIN!

Creativity. Right.

The problem with talking about creativity is that it can be such a subjective thing, right? I might think what I'm creating is incredible, but everyone else looks at my work and snickers behind their hands.

Dude, you're not even trying to hide that.

Therein lies the difficulty. Creation IS subjective. What I love, you might loathe and vice-versa.

That can be a deeply troubling idea to wrap our heads around. We like to have answers: yes/no, black/white, left/right, red/blue. We are creatures that love to live in a binary universe. Problem is, we're stuck in this three-dimensional monstrosity.

But what could be our greatest nightmare ends up being a wonderful gift if we look at it in the right way. Seriously. I promise.

Let's go back to that idea of the audience (or reader... see? WRITING, too!) snickering. Now, I'm not saying that never happens. We all know that's not true. And how do we know it's not true? Because we've probably done it at some point or another.

What would it look like if we stopped snickering at other artists? Yes, I know. Sometimes artists do silly things. Like make choices that we never would have made. HOW DARE THEY??

Man, I miss Malcolm in the Middle...

But would you really like to live in a world where every artist thought like you? One of the coolest things about art is that it shows us things from another perspective. And what I love about acting and writing is that I can step into another person's life or point-of-view. See things from where they stand.

The snickering is all about judgment. And judgment is never about the thing we think we're judging. It's about us.

Choosing to create is a risky endeavor. An artistic life takes guts, in addition to blood, sweat and tears (tears of sadness, of frustration, and occasionally of joy). Also, it doesn't pay well most of the time, especially at first. We never know if we're going to sink or swim from a financial standpoint, so fear can sometimes overtake us.

Right now, my main fear is that this person actually exists.

And when we don't stop to recognize that we're afraid, we lash out at others.

We are, perhaps, insecure in our own work. Therefore, in order to assure ourselves that our taste is good, we rave about the things we love and rail on the things we don't, hoping others around us will agree. This (when it happens) justifies our view of the world, and now we feel safe in our choice to become an artist.

Or...

We could just embrace the uncertainty. Here's the truth: when it comes to art, there is no right answer. Cue the sad trombone... wah, wah, wah, waaaaaaahhhh.

But if there's no right answer, the converse must be true as well. In other words, there is no wrong answer. Right? (see what I did there?)

Which means that we can make choices that best reflect us... our point of view, our unique way of seeing the world, our voice. And we can make those choices, safe in the knowledge that there is no wrong choice.

I think right and wrong need to be taken off the table. I think a better way of looking at it is connected or disconnected.

When we put our work out there, we'll receive a response. We don't have to take that response as the gospel truth, but it can be a good indicator of where we are in our process as artists.

If what we're creating causes a disconnect, then we take a look at that. Mess with it. Tweak it until it seems to be working.

Preach!

And how we do that is by opening up even more. Risking more of ourselves. As well as learning more about our craft.

Structure is awesome for writers. Technique is great for actors. When I'm stuck in my writing, structure gets me out. When I'm disconnected in my acting, technique serves the same purpose. It keeps us in a place where at least our work is CLEAR.

So we shoot for connected, but when that doesn't happen (because let's be honest, no one is ever perfectly connected), we shoot for well-communicated. We make sure our voice gets out there and is not horribly misinterpreted as it enters into the awareness of the audience/reader.

And we keep communicating. In other words, we keep acting or writing (or both!). As we continue, we get better. Our process refines itself.

That, to me, is creativity. 

At the end of the day, here are some good things to remember about writing and acting. Acting is getting up in front of an audience (either people or a camera) and speaking words someone else has given us. Writing is just moving words around on the page. Neither one is an epic battle for our personal redemption.

Do what you love. Put it out there. Receive feedback. Get better.

Rinse and repeat.


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