I’m no scientist. I walked past all those impressive buildings with equally impressive funded research programs on my college campus right into the modest touchy-feely-English-Majors-Only hall; but I do know about cause and effect. I know how one person in a bad mood effects those around them. I also know a thing or two about how not snapping out of a negative mental rut throws the brakes on some quality creativity time faster than a new James Patterson novel lands itself on The New York Times Bestseller List. And I do know reaching your own personal Creativity Nirvana has more to do with a blissfully clear mental state than the position of the stars.
Unless you’ve been hiding out the last several years, you know buzz words like, “law of attraction,” “The Secret,” and “What the Bleep Do We Know” have infiltrated the popular culture and have possibly made us think a little differently about energy – more specifically, high and low frequency vibrations. Simplified and on a physical level, the aforementioned suggest we emit high frequency vibes when we love, laugh, are open to enlightenment and other smile making things. Equally effective are low frequency vibes; we emit these vibes when we’re feeling depressed, grouchy, sad, angry, misanthropic or are employed by any other frown and growl inducing action. We send out these frequencies like a radio tower emits a signal and we receive or feel them from others, like a boat feels the ripple or wave from another boat’s nearby passage.
“Good, good, good, good vibrations”
What does all this science have to do with creativity? EVERYTHING! Try writing when you’re smack in the middle of being annoyed with someone. You’ll be left with an undisciplined rant only you care about. Conversely, try writing when you’re in the throes of lust. Seems like a great idea, right? Oh yeah, I’ve gone back to re-read something I thought was totally inspired by The Muse only to be left rolling my eyes at my over sentimental, gushy, purple prose. Yikes! While it’s important to feel these feelings and let them inspire us to artistic action, the work doesn’t end there. Before I head full steam into a writer’s workshop about the revision process, let’s get back to energy and its effects on creativity.
We’ve got author, critically acclaimed musician and creativity guru, Mary Beth Maziarz with us again this week as we continue to explore Creativity, this month’s writer’s virtue. I asked MB:
"In your book, Kick Ass Creativity: An Energy Makeover for Artists, Explorers, and Creative Professionals, you insightfully guide artists of all ilk, writers and creative professionals toward finding and directing their brilliant creative selves, cheering them all along the way toward taking action in realizing their dreams. The foundation of this enhanced creativity lies in positive energy. Describe to us how you guide artists toward identifying negative energy and how they can recycle it to positive energy."
MB: I love that you mention the concept of recycling, Erin. It IS recycling. Negative energy is powerful, and if we can redirect that power, it takes us where we want to go in life. Left to its own devices, I find that negative energy mostly just sends me to bed or the couch. And it would prefer that I bring a bag of chips.
The simplest way to notice if you’ve stirring around some negative energy is to listen to yourself. We reveal a lot when we talk to our partners and friends. If you frequently find yourself saying things that include the words “no / never / not” (along with their expanded forms “don’t / can’t / won’t / shouldn’t”), you’ve got some attention on limitations and resistance. You can turn this around by using your complaints and frustrations to help you define what it is you DO want, instead of what you don’t.
Do this by “flipping,” a technique where you shift your words around to reflect a positive outcome. For instance, if you notice yourself complaining that, “I never have time to get quality work done,” you can flip it to a positive desire: “I want to have plenty of time so I can do my best work.” It can be a little challenging at first, since declaring our desires usually includes a call to action. Yep. We might have to get resourceful or creative. We might need to ask for (and accept) help. It’s much easier to keep a helpless / martyr / victim thing going with some good old mopey complaining, but it won’t move you closer to what you really want.
I’m also a fan of just going ahead and feeling the feeling in order to help move negative energy through. When I’ve read books about positive thinking, there’s a part of me that resists the idea of constant positivity. Life has contrast. If we’re taking risks and putting ourselves out there, we may very likely come up against the occasional discomfort, pain, or frustration. Pretending these moments don’t exist (or instantly trying to talk yourself out of a being sad or mad) doesn’t feel authentic to me. It’s okay to be hurt. Feel it. Cry if you need to. Think about it. If you have someone in your life you find helpful with this kind of thing, talk with him or her. And then, when it starts to pass, let it leave. Some people hold onto their hurts with such tenacity; they expand on pain by incessantly talking about it, ruminating on it, working it into their art, journaling about it until it’s a huge part of their lives. Concentrate instead on being ready for the moment when something you find exciting or energizing dangles into your life – this is the time when negativity almost effortlessly dissolves. Think about moving toward things you want, not escaping those that you don’t.
TLC: I love that last line: move toward things you want, not escaping those that you don’t. I’ve seen, read and heard about too many artists who confuse pain with passion. Passion is the fuel that drives us forward on our creative journey; pain or negativity is an emotion that needs to be dealt with. To explore this more, visit this past blog…Write No Matter What.
MB: Exactly! Yes! Passion is the fuel. Pain, lust, freedom, worry -- these can be like flavors in our work, but not the animating force. Intention + action creates a super passionate foundation from which to work.
So, lastly, have a few “feel-good” tricks in your back pocket. Know the things that help you feel happy and grounded. If you want to get your mind off negative crap and into more fruitful territory, turn to one of these people, places, or activities where you’re relaxed and content. I like to cook – I find that the engagement of all my senses, along with a pleasing feeling that I’m nurturing my body and my family, help me shift into a better state of mind. I also like really hot baths, talking with my husband Mark on a walk, playing computer Scrabble, and having a nice glass of wine on the deck. There are about a magic dozen things I know I can turn to when things are rocky. I actually have a list, so when I’m unsure of what might make me feel better, I can just scan the list and pick one.
TLC: Time to release your inner Maria von Trapp! Keep a list, mental or post it, of your favorite happy-making things at the ready for the crummy days that inevitably pop up. My fail proof “feel good trick” is singing tunes from musicals. Jesus Christ Superstar, The Sound of Music and Oliver! are all faves.
MB: I love it! I am such a Sound of Music junkie, it's not even funny. . . perhaps we're harmonizing with each other across the country! Perfect use of the kind of stuff I mean, and we can all find the ones that really feel easy and light and fun for us. There are more ways to approach negative energy and put it to work for you – I delve into it pretty deeply in my book – but I hope this quickie intro course helps.
Happy creating, everybody!
TLC: Thank you, Mary Beth! You’ve given us a great start.
Again, writers, I urge you to read Kick Ass Creativity. I rarely promote another author’s work on my blog…instead, I like to explore and promote their paths to success and share those stories and tips with you, but I do strongly feel Mary Beth’s book is a step in the right direction if you’re looking to stock your powerful creative toolbox for the most successful writing career possible.
Your exercise this week: Reflect on MB’s statement as you practice flipping negative energy to good. “Think about moving toward things you want, not escaping those that you don’t.” What does this mean to you? Does it mean finally dealing with the stuff that’s bugging you? Does it mean tying up loose ends? Start consciously recycling all that bad energy to good and see where it takes you.
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