As a follow up to yesterday's post on creativity, here are eight more quotes from Brenda Ueland's wonderful book, "If You want to Write: A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit." Excerpts from her book are presented in bold.
(1) "Imagination comes, works, when you are not trying, when you have a peculiar passive clarity."
From my experience with jazz I have learned that I am at my worst musically when I am consciously trying to be creative, when I am forcing an idea or trying actively to "sound great" or to impress the crowd or other musicians. The best, most creative musicians I have played with "don't think nothin' 'bout nothin'" they just play (man). For many people, the best ideas occur when they are miles away from the office, figuratively and literally. You've got to "sharpen the saw." You've got to get out, to the sea, to the mountains, to the corner café, where ever it is that you can feel free.
(2) "The tragedy is that either they stifle their fire [creative spirit] by not believing in it and using it; or they try to prove to the world and themselves that they have it, not inwardly and greatly, but externally and egotistically, by some second-rate thing like money or power or more publicity."
(3) "You must discover what there is in you, this bottomless fountain of imagination and knowledge."
Do you you really know what's inside you? Do any of us? Even the geniuses of the world comment that they hardly scratch the surface of what they believe they are capable of. Sadly, many (most?) people go through life without ever discovering their hidden talents. Says Ueland, "If you have a million dollars in the bank and don't know it, it doesn't do you any good."
(4) "To have things alive and interesting, it must be personal, it must come from the 'I': what *I* know and feel."
It must be authentic. On the importance of telling a story, not just selecting words from memory, Ueland says, "Think of telling a story, not writing it. When you tell a story you have the instinctive sense of timing in it, of going into detail where it is important, of moving fast over the surface of the story when necessary."
It is not about thinking of words or memorizing a script, it is about the story. We do not tell a story from memory; we do not need to memorize a story that has meaning to us. It is in us. We tell it from our gut. Internalize your story, but do not memorize it.
(5) "When the sentence was not felt by the writer, it was dead. No infection ...there is no sense in writing anything I don't feel."
You can't fake it. You can't try to believe in your words. You believe in your story, or you do not. And if you do not, no amount of hyped-up, superficial "enthusiasm" or "conviction" will ever make your time with an audience (or reader, etc.) meaningful. If you do not believe it, do not know it to be true, how can you connect and convince others with your words? Your words will be...just words.
(6) On being in the moment, not over "thinking it": "Only when you are playing in a thing do people listen and hear you and are moved."
When you are totally in the moment, in the present and not over thinking it, then, says Ueland, "self-consciousness, anxiety, 'intellectualizing (i.e., primly frowning through your pince-nez and trying to do things according to prescribed rule as laid down by others will be untied to you, will be cast off."
It's important to know what the rules are. We must study the "proven ways" from our teachers and books...and then have the freedom and belief in ourselves to cast all that aside and be in the here and now, in this unique moment in time. "It is when you are really living in the present that you are living spiritually, with the imagination" Ueland says.
(7) "Enthusiasm! this is the sign that the creative fountain is in you." Responding to those who warn against mere enthusiasm, she quotes Blake: "Mere enthusiasm is the All in All."
Put your love, passion, imagination, and spirit behind it. I remember once a guy commenting on a successful long-term project I did. He said to me, "well, you have enthusiasm, I'll give you that..." It was a backhanded compliment. These are the people who get us down. Life is short. Don't hang out with people who dismiss enthusiasm, or worse still, with those who try to kill yours.
(8) "Do not try to make somebody believe you are smarter than you are. What's the use? You can never be smarter than you are."
Almost Zen-like in its simplicity and truth. Remember, we are talking about tapping into our creative energies. Trying to impress others or worrying about what others may think should be the last thing on our mind.
You are human, you are creative
Who told you that you are not creative? (It wasn't me.) Was it your parents? A teacher from the past? Your ex-? The "Auto-Content wizard? (Auto content -- are your kidding me?!!). Yes, some people are far more talented than others. But I'm not talking about a competition. I'm talking about getting the most out of ourselves. How you tap into your creative energy and your creative potential is up to you. But it won't come from worry about how great others are and how much we suck by comparison.
Forget about the others. For the moment at least, let's forget about the competition and the fear of failure. Think of the fun, the exploration, and the possible discoveries if we didn't have fear. A little fear is necessary (self preservation and all that). But fear is one of the greatest barriers to our ability to see deeply what is within us and what kind of imaginative thinking and inspired creativity we are cable of. This weekend take some time alone and sort of passively ponder this: What might you do if you could remove all the fear?
Notes: (1) Thank you to Hugh Macleod at Gapingvoid for allowing folks to use his wonderful cartoons. (2) The two color slides above are made with iStockphoto images in Keynote with Gill Sans Light. They are from an actual presentation.
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