Friday, July 22, 2011

Flashback Friday: Living the Creative Life: A Blogshop with Mary Beth Maziarz, author of Kick Ass Creativity

I've decided to add a new element to TLCG - Flashback Friday! So now, every Friday you'll received a blast from blogshop past to help kick start your process or introduce you to a new fabulous author. I'm kicking off FF with a post from last year with author, critically acclaimed musician and "kick ass" creativity muse, Mary Beth Maziarz.

The following post is from July 5, 2010

July is all about Creativity – how to prepare yourself for the best creative experience; how to identify and foster good energy, letting it flow into your creative work; how to distinguish and market your own unique voice amongst other commercial fiction authors; and how to get crafty with your platform.

So let’s get into it. We’re kicking off the month with a major two-part blogshop on preparing yourself: mind, body, soul and space for the most productive, pleasurable creative time possible. Our special guest expert for the next two weeks is critically acclaimed musician and author of one of my favorite books, Kick Ass Creativity: An Energy Makeover for Artists, Explorers and Creative Professionals, Mary Beth Maziarz. Mary Beth’s music has appeared on the hit WB shows, Dawson’s Creek, Party of Five, Everwood and Joan of Arcadia and in the films, Broken Hearts Club and The Real Thing. She’s also a sought-after presenter whose popular creativity workshops inspire artists, writers and creative professionals in all stages of their career.

MB and I connected as I was mid-way through her book. I was totally thrilled to find an inspiring text that seemed to reach beyond the “how to succeed” template with more perspective than the “reveling in the artist’s life” tomes and meatier than the sea of “law of attraction” books floating around. I wrote a favorable blip on one of my social media sites, she became aware of it and voila! We have a juicy two weeks planned for your creative inspiration! These blogshops will be longer than usual so plan to read when you’ve got a good chunk of time to digest, reflect and make plans for action.

Creativity is Life!

I’m happiest when I’m elbows deep in whatever I’m creating. Whether it’s writing, baking, chopping veggies for a fabulous marinara, painting with my kids – anything creative – I’m totally into it, getting messy and feeling nothing but pure joy. Life is great! Isn’t that what it’s all about? It took me some time to realize, though, creativity isn’t about plunking down in front of your laptop and banging away at the keys until something brilliant happens. Creativity isn’t solely about finding the perfect words for a stunning piece of work. Creativity is life unedited happening all around us! Look around!

Now that you’ve got our eyes open, take a closer look. This idea of living the creative life is ideal, right? What artist, writer, musician, creative person wouldn’t love to be plugged into this constant flow of creative inspiration? But ultimately, life gets in the way. We’ve got stuff to “deal with.”

· The Mind Stuff: Keeping our thoughts positive and making choices that benefit our lives and the lives of those we support.
· The Body Stuff: Eating healthfully regularly; drinking the right amount of water; getting adequate exercise and rest.
· The Soul Stuff: Securing our connectivity with the creative universe.
· The Space Stuff: Clearing our creative workspace of distraction and negativity.

R.I.P. Tortured Artist

All too frequently, I witness writers falling down the rabbit hole of neglect when they’re elbows deep in their masterpieces. The portrait of an artist as a mal-nourished, overly caffeinated, hung over, emotionally tortured writer with tunnel vision, glued to his computer writing away as piles of mail overtake the desk is outdated. People, this is not the writer’s life. Not anymore, at least. No matter how the movies depict the lives of our favorite authors from the past, there is nothing romantic about neglect.

What Today’s Successful Author IS

Today’s career writer is mindful of what they need mentally, physically, spiritually and spatially. Without a clear mind, you can’t create to the best of your potential. Without feeling good physically, creating confidently is a struggle. Without feeling connected spiritually to this universe, it’s difficult to create beyond yourself. Without a creative working space free and clear of big distractions and clutter, you’re facing major disorganization fallout. The most successful writers, those making a living from their writing, know this and live this the best they can.

Musician, author and creativity coach, Mary Beth Maziarz is a great example of this. I asked her,
"How important has clearing away the toxic clutter in your life been in your career as a musician and now author?"

MB: I’ll be honest: I’m not sure traditional clutter has been cleared from my life at all. If you were to look around my house on any given day, you might be inspired to call Oprah’s organizing team and suggest they head on over. But toxic stuff is another matter. I am vigilant about dealing with anything that gets in the way of my creative life. I have to be; otherwise I get sucked into energy drains all over the place and there’s nothing left for my writing or music.

TLC: Sure, there’s a difference between “happy little messes” that let others know life is happening and toxic clutter…the stuff that totally gunks up the works.

MB:
For me, relationship stuff can be very distracting. If I feel that something is ‘off’ with my husband, another family member, or a close friend, I find I need to sort it out (either with the person or in my own mind) before I can get quality work done. If I sense that the issue is something I need to work through on my own, I’ll journal or write an imaginary dialogue about it. I’ll also take a moment to figure out what I really want as an outcome, which can be surprising. A few years ago, I was really torn up about a long-term friendship that had become very difficult. When I put some deep thought into what I really wanted as a resolution, I realized I didn’t want things to go back to “normal” – in fact, I was finally ready to see that it was time to move on.

TLC: It’s especially important to recognize toxic friendships and relationships that drain you emotionally. Choose to recognize and resolve the issue and move to a higher place with that someone or choose to move on. Either choice is better for your overall well being.

MB:
Environment matters, too, but not always in the ways that you might think. In terms of home and studio, I find there’s a real sweet spot between huge distracting mess and so-perfect-you-don’t-want-to-disturb-anything where the good work gets done. When my environment starts bugging me, I’ll address it. Other than that, I have a gift (or curse) that leads me to let go of all but the critical things when there’s a project at hand.

TLC: Again, “happy little messes” are just fine. I like pictures of my children and family around. I like books handy for me to grab for reference. I love to light my
J.Bella Soy Candles to arouse the senses. This makes my office my office. This is different from obligations piling high in the corner and choosing not to address them. Always, always take care of the stuff that needs your attention before you sit down to write. It’s tough to be your most confidently creative self when there’s a dark, scary cloud of neglect looming overhead.

MB:
I’m also sensitive to isolation. I used to do weird things like write (even music) with the TV on in the background. Now I find that if I go to a coffeehouse where there’s a nice amount of ambient noise and “life” happening around me, I feel like I’m in the flow of things while still getting work done. I frequently find that helpful conversations and synergistic meetings take place when I work in public too, which reinforces the sense that I’m where I’m supposed to be as I work in public places.

TLC: Absolutely! Connecting to the universe around you breeds all good things. You never know who you’re going to meet, where you’ll pull inspiration from, what brilliant ideas will come to you or what great info someone might share that connects you to something awesome. Be open.

MB:
I think the biggest form of toxic clutter that people face today is media. Media is amazing – and many of us are hustling content for it – but it’s also become omnipresent. Learning to take breaks from sonic static has become critical for me as far as keeping an open connection to inspiration and ideas. One of my favorite things to do is to roll the window down and turn the radio off (oh, sweet NPR – I’ll listen tomorrow!), on my way home from a rich work session and just let my thoughts spread out a little. It helps re-center me, so when I walk in the house I’m present for my family in a much more satisfying way for all of us.

TLC: Right. One thing I coach writers on is the value is scheduling social media time and knowing when to put it to bed for the day. This outlet has become a fabulous resource for writers but you gotta know when to step away from your online communities. Now it’s easy for agents and editors to check up on their writers when they’ve missed a deadline; all they have to do is look at their author’s status bar and home page to know their author has been spending more time chatting than honoring their commitments.

MB:
If I were going to get instructive, I’d say that creative clarity for me is about BEING three things:


1) being present and available for inspiration

2) being willing to do something with it when it comes

3) being brave and clever enough not to get in my own way

Get Present & Available
Our lives are loud. We’re surrounded by news, music, TV shows, and a dozen other ways to keep our ears and neural pathways occupied all day long. Our minds are loud; even when there’s no media distracting us, many of us have to-do lists, errands, concerns, and other thoughts bouncing actively around our brains. Get present by creating a non-negotiable window of quiet in your day. Fifteen minutes is a good start. Sit quietly somewhere and use a basic breathing meditation; just notice your breath going in, and note it going back out. Keep a notepad nearby in case you get an incredible idea (or remember something so important that it will distract you throughout the rest of the quiet time if you don’t jot it down). Hint: the more you need this kind of quiet time, the more you will avoid it. It will prove to be exceptionally valuable to creative projects. Being quiet opens you up to all those wonderful, rich ideas that get lost in the chaos of our full days.

Get Willing
Once you have inspiration on your side, give it some love and attention by giving your ideas a chance to develop in a low-pressure environment. Grab a notepad and do some “story play” – sketch, doodle, or write out possible scenarios of how your idea/product/project might come to fruition. Find the part of the story that sounds fun and great (stay clear of anything that makes you nervous or causes you to cringe) and imagine how it would feel. For instance, if you’re playing with a book idea, imagine yourself holding your finished book in your hands or signing books at your release party. If your sparkle of inspiration feels half-baked, honor the partial idea by jotting it down in a dream notebook or idea box. Just taking the time to save your idea bits in one place will help cement them into your memory for when the rest of the puzzle begins to come together.

Get Brave and Clever
Some people are probably naturally courageous when it comes to putting themselves and their art out there. The rest of us need an occasional nudge in the right direction. A safe, ritualized creative space and process can help you get into the flow of work without entertaining too much resistance. Knowing yourself and your unique tendencies can help, too. Maybe you can trick yourself into a helpful energetic surge with a vitamin packet, or some caffeine or sugar. Perhaps you have a creative cheerleader in your life who always makes you feel competent and confident – a quick call or text might help you channel their certainty.


Use whatever works! Happy creating!

TLC: Great advice, Mary Beth! Thank you!


Ok, writers, if you’re already on this positive, balanced path, fantastic job! You are so on track. Sure, stuff happens and maybe we fall off track for a day. That’s ok. The important thing is to not beat yourself up over it and recognize what lead you off track. Address the issue honestly, promptly and resume work as usual.

For writers who have a little work to do in this area, your tools are right here, but you may want to take it one step at a time. As you make the changes necessary to create more freely and brilliantly, you’ll see and feel the difference. Start slow…either choose one area to concentrate improvement or take one step in each area: mind, body, spirit and space. Next month, work on two areas or two things in each category in which you want to see improvement.

Your Exercise This Week: Check out Mary Beth’s book, Kick Ass Creativity: An Energy Makeover for Artists, Explorers and Creative Professionals. And check out her
blog, too, for creative inspiration and opportunities to attend some of MB’s creativity workshops.

Questions, concerns, success stories? Let me know! Need one-on-one coaching to begin creating confidently? Email me at
erin.reel@gmail.com.

Here’s to a beautifully creative life, writers!

TLC

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