Tag Archive for: Creativity

Choking Creativity (Part 3)

This is Part 3 of my series, Choking Creativity. To read Parts 1 and 2, follow this link.

1. The Politics (But this is not about politics, per se).

The first few weeks of the Trump presidency have stoked the fires of outrage in this country (the fires of both left and right) and if the fires of outrage are good for anything, it’s powering the engine of opinion. The news (and #FakeNews) has an endless stream of topics to cover–the Muslim travel ban (“your words; not mine”); the Department of Education tweet; the Sessions confirmation; the Dakota Access Pipeline; #ShePersisted. CNN, BBC, Fox News, all of Twitter, everyone on Facebook, they’re all producing content these days. And here I am, producing content relating to all the content that’s been produced. (The irony is not lost on me).

There is a river of information, gigabytes streaming through the air and into our pockets.

Buzz… swipe… read… opine.

Buzz… swipe… read… opine.

Buzz… swipe… read… opine.

This is the endless rhythm of so many of our lives these days.

2. The Problem

In the first quarter of 2016, it was reported that U. S. adults consumed 10 hours, 39 minutes of media, up a full hour from the corresponding quarter of 2015. On average, two hours and ten minutes of that media consumption was through a smartphone or tablet. I suspect that during the first quarter of this year, media consumption will be even higher, the current political climate being what it is. Our smartphones and tablets, these have become the portal to the digital town hall, and meetings are always in session.

Don’t get me wrong, digital media is not all bad. It allows us access to news, commentary, and that long lost friend from Plano, the one that stuck the raisin up his nose on a third-grade dare. (He’s a brain surgeon, now; funny how life turns). But when digital media becomes habitual, addictive even, our consumption of it robs us of creative space.

“It’s so hard to find creative time,” so many of us say. But what if we carved out twenty minutes of creative space from those two hours (and change) of digital media consumption? What if instead of scrolling Apple News, or YouTube, or Facebook, or Twitter, we sat outside, pen and paper at the ready, and stretched into the quiet space of creating? What if we started our day this way, and ended it this way, too?

Would it hurt you to lose twenty minutes of digital media a day?

3. The Practice

We’ve discussed the practice of setting aside twenty minutes a day to practice creativity. Today, let’s consider another practice. Let’s consider the practice of unplugging.

Would you consider living the first and last thirty minutes of everyday digital-media free? If the pull of your smartphone is too much, charge it in another room instead of by your bed. Set aside this beginning and end of your day as a dedicated creative space. Journal; doodle; write a poem; brainstorm solutions to a tricky problem (even a work problem); mindmap; whittle; carve; sculpt; bead; play guitar, or piano, or banjo. The output of creativity matters less than the lack of digital input. Follow this practice for a few days, then ask yourself: how do I feel?

 

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Choking Creativity (Part 2)

1. The Pace

Drag to the kitchen. Pour the coffee. Wake the kids.

Stop that jabbering and eat your breakfast! Make your lunch! Brush your hair, for Pete’s sake!

The carpool, the drop, the hustle to beat the clock. Push the papers. Please the boss. Check the list. Microwave supper and scarf it down.

Stop that jabbering and eat your dinner! Gymnastics, basketball, karate, whatever is in thirty minutes!

Peddle down. Sit in the bleachers. Make pleasantries with the other parents. Slog through the bedtime routine, the endless cups of water, the infinite one-last-kisses. Find the bed, the recliner, the couch, whatever. Fall to veg.

What’s on Netflix?

2. The Problem

It’s a cultural rhythm, one with which so many of us are acquainted. The breakneck pace of activity–isn’t it all-consuming?

Yesterday, we spoke about consumption, and I made a working hypothesis, which is as follows: over-consumption kills the creative drive. And isn’t our anxious pace emblematic of over-consumption? Don’t we all try to suck the marrow out of every day, out of the endless opportunities? Are we told we should parent, work, and carpool our kids to every activity? If we do, what energy is left to create? How can we nurture creative thinking when every spare minute of thinking-time is consumed? Perhaps this kind of over-consumption is why American creativity scores are falling.

Consume; consume; consume–is this the thing that’s doing us in?

3. The Practice

Let’s not stop at the point of problem identification. Let’s take it a step farther. How can we break this endless energy suck? How can we incorporate spaces of quiet creativity?

For the next five days, carve out twenty minutes of uninterrupted quiet time. You might need to wake up early, or incorporate it into your lunch hour. Perhaps you’ll sit in the car during your child’s evening activity. Could you reserve twenty minutes at the end of the day, just before you scroll through your Netflix options? However you do it, make it your first priority to carve out twenty minutes of quiet, creative space.

What should you do with that space? I suppose that’s up to you. You might journal, or doodle, or brainstorm solutions to problems that have been nagging you. You might scribble a poem, or a short story, or start that novel you’ve always wanted to write. There are no rules to how to create, but it all starts with a conscious decision, a decision that may well turn into a manifesto: I choose creativity over endless consumption.

How will you use your twenty minutes? Jump over to Facebook and let me know.

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Choking Creativity

Man was the envy of the animals, first known for his opposable thumbs, then his creativity. We are an ingenious species, aren’t we? Innovation, ingenuity, genius, creativity–it’s all baked into our DNA, made in the image of God as we are. And throughout the millennia, we’ve applied imagination in every facet of life. We’ve become poets painters, sculptors, storytellers. We’ve created new means of value, have bartered and bargained our ways into new ways of doing business. We roll, rail, fly, and soon, we may be zipped down pneumatic tubes. Communication has been reimagined, and our virtual selves amplify messages that might have once been heard only by a handful of local folks sipping Saturday coffee in the town diner. Spirituality–we’ve innovated there, too, reimagined the limits of human enlightenment. (Don’t believe me? Here’s a list of new religious movements, most of which sprung up after 1900.)

Innovate; innovate; innovate.

Create; create; create.

We are a people made to make things. And yet, with each passing day, I’m finding more and more resistance to the practices of personal creativity. The tank runs dry far too often, and instead of creating, I found myself spiraling down the consumptive drain.

What’s on the tube? What’re the masses on Twitter saying? Which political thread is 100 comments deep on Facebook? The Times. The Post. The Gazette. CNN. Fox News. BBC. Whatever.

We’re known for consumption these days, and so often it displaces creativity in my own life. Do you know this feeling? Be honest.

Over the next few days, I’d like to explore the things that choke our creativity. I have a working hypothesis–one I can’t get back up just yet, but it goes something like this: over-consumption kills the creative drive.

We’ll continue this series in the coming days, but for now, tell me: have you found it difficult to carve out creative space these days? Why?

Please join the discussion on Facebook.

 

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The content here takes hours (and no small amount of spare change) to produce. If you enjoy reading my content, whether here, in the bi-monthly Tiny Letter, or in any of my free email campaigns, would you consider SUPPORTING THE WORK? (It’ll only set you back a cup of coffee a month.) And, if you enjoy this website and haven’t yet signed up for the bi-monthly Tiny Letter newsletter, sign up to receive it straight to your inbox.

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On Pain and Creativity (A Story Nashville Post)

This week, I’m traveling to the beautiful state of Tennessee to lead a breakout session at Story Nashville. I’ll be speaking about the intersection of pain and creativity. It was my pleasure to the below preview piece for the folks at Story.

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There are less awkward ways to introduce oneself, but for the sake of brevity, indulge me: I am a Christian drunk. Yes, there’s nuance to unpack, as everyone is so prone to say these days, and yes, I’ve been sober for some time. The truth is the truth, though, and the truth put another way is this: Gin and I are not good dance partners.

For a spell, I enjoyed the thought of writing the Great American Novel, and I gave it the old college try. I wrote in the evenings, always under the influence of gin or whiskey. The liquor loosened the voice of the muse—the Siren?—who distracted me from some very real pains in a very heavy season of life. At some point, the distractions became more more frequent, my lack of presence more pronounced. Alcohol replaces things, see. Replaces responsibility. Replaces creativity. Replaces family, perhaps.

Continue reading at the Story Nashville blog.

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Let There Be Light

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It’s been a while since I’ve last written. I needed space to clear cobwebs, to consider a sort of soft reset. There are times when it’s efficacious to stop it with the words, the blogging, the tweeters, the status updates.

When God created the heavens and the earth, he started simply. “Let there be light,” he said, and there was. These are the first words spoken in scripture, the Genesis of genesis. So, I think this is the most natural touchstone for my reset. I’m going to sit there a while.

I hope to stretch slowly this year, and I hope to share it with you. There will be blog posts, certainly, perhaps a poem or two. But I’m slinking back to the old words, too–like pencil scratchings in a journal, short stories written by ink-pen, and hand-written letters to friends and family. These things formed my love for writing, so it seems natural to return there.

Let there be light–a call to go back to the beginning of the creative process, when we first realized that there was power in the words of God, and consequently, our own, for we were made in his image, you see. I’m headed back to the beginning this year. I hope you’ll come along.

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