Tag Archives: creative

“I’m Ready for My Close-Up, Mr. DeMille”

JeffandBecky_1

To say that I was a ham when I was little is an understatement. I was playful, loud and very creative. I would dig through mom’s “rag bag” where worn out clothes found a second life as car cleaning rags, or if I discovered them first, they would be elevated to costume status in my latest stage performance. Mom’s half slips became floor-length sleeveless dresses for the princess, and old knee-high socks with the toe tips cut off became a pair of elegant long white gloves. A way-too-big pair of pants paired with dad’s funky shirt from the 60s and a random beret became an artist’s attire. You get the idea.

The costumes always dictated the story line, and although there was a loose script, most everything was improvised. The best seats in the house (the sofa) were always reserved for my parents who were our only audience. The wooden louvered doors served as our stage curtain with the foyer being backstage, and the green shag carpet as the stage itself. The play always contained several acts to allow for costume and set changes. Each sold-out performance ended with a full cast bow, a standing ovation and glowing reviews for the lead actress, writer, set designer, costume designer and director—all of which were me.

Then one day the curtain fell for the last time.

I don’t actually recall when or why this happened. Maybe I just outgrew pretend play, or maybe I started to become too insecure to be in the limelight. At some point, I became very aware that my parents were predisposed to applaud and love me no matter what I did, but the rest of the world didn’t have the same obligation. In fact, I would learn that they are very often harsh critics.

In 6th grade, the nun taught us this Bible verse (1 Corinthians 13:11), “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”

At the time, I interpreted this verse as a call to grow up and become more serious, more responsible, more like my parents. It was exciting as a pubescent teen to think that I was being considered in a more mature light, and I feverishly highlighted the Bible quote. But now, as a middle-aged adult, the same quote that once inspired me, makes me a little sad. I would love to recapture the unbridled sense of play and creative freedom that I had as a child on that green shag stage. Creating from the heart and free from worry of judgement or rejection. Confident that after every performance, there will be a standing ovation—and maybe even ice cream.

Definitely, there will be ice cream. Of that, I am certain.

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Mocked by Nike

My mother used to say that I spent all the time in the world getting organized to study for my exams and left little time for actual studying. And, she’s right. I would spend hours making flash cards, recopying my notes and cleaning up my work space before I would actually “get down to business”. Whereas in school my mom called this “procrastination”, as a business professional I dubbed it, “my process”.

It has taken me my whole life to establish my creative process, and it is absolutely necessary for me to accomplish anything. It is a four-phased process with the first being, “Outer Reflects Inner”. This is where I have to get everything clean and organized before I begin, so I can think clearly. I enter this initial phase with the same sense of enthusiasm and possibility that I had buying new school supplies as a child. New notebook and sketch pad? Check. Desk cleaned? Check. Full stock of favorite pens, highlighters, and Sharpies? Check. Check. And check.

The second phase, I’ve come to know as “Productive Procrastination”. This is the point where I am just starting to think about ideas surrounding the creative challenge at hand. It usually begins with a giant list of all the words associated with whatever topic I’m focussing on. In this stage there is no editing, just a complete brain dump. The goal is to be productive and fill up the blank pages before me, which gives my little OCD brain something to chug on while waiting for inspiration to hit.

These first two phases don’t take a lot of brainpower. It’s fun and a form of creative meditation. Phase 3 however requires coffee. Lots and lots of caffeinated coffee. It’s here that the “real work” begins. It’s also my favorite part of any creative project. This is where ideas start rapid fire popping up, one after another usually preceded by exclamations of, “Ooh! Quick, write this down!” and “Why didn’t I think of this before?” It’s at this point that I think I am a screaming genius.

This is immediately followed by Phase 4 where I think I am a complete poser.

This is the “Getting Down to Business” phase of actually producing something. And this is where my insecurities get the best of me. There are over 7 billion people in the world. I’m sure at least a fourth of them are creatives—writers, designers, illustrators, inventors and the like. How can I possibly create something that is uniquely mine, put it out in the world and have it be a success with that kind of competition? And even if I overcame my fears of failure and rejection, what are the chances that I could actually make a living doing it?

It is at this point that the voice in my head always utters the famous Nike slogan, “Just Do It.”

I ignore the voice and go get a burger.

I straighten up my workspace more and pour another cup of liquid caffeine. I watch trash tv followed by a bubble bath and a glass of wine and all the while I keep hearing a recorded loop in my head saying over and over again, “Just Do It.” “Just Do It.” It’s like Poe’s tell-tale heart and it won’t leave me alone until I actually do it. It’s the only way I’ve found to put an end to the incessant worry, the creative insecurities, and the mental nagging.

I guess my creative process actually has 5 phases: Prepare, Procrastinate, Create, Worry and Just Do it.

Oops, I did it again.