The Creativity Secret

First, as I often do, I have a confession.  When I discovered that Frances Mayes had a blog, I was filled with utter glee.  Since that time, my heart leaps a little with joy each time I see that she’s posted through my RSS feed.

If you’re unsure who Frances Mayes is, she wrote ‘Under the Tuscan Sun,’ which was adapted into one of my favorite chick-flicks of all time.  (She moves on when she doesn’t want to.  She rebuilds and reclaims a life, before the guy shows up.  No rescues here.  It’s filled with beautiful friendships and ultimately a second chance at life in a place completely unexpected.)

There are stark contrasts between Frances’ book and the movie adaptation, as there usually are.  Frances writes at length about food, walks along the Roman roads, flowers she sees along the way, the details of life that make it beautiful.

I’m not a cook.  I’m not a big walker.  I’m not even that into flowers.  And yet, I am filled with delight when given the opportunity to read anything she writes.


If I have so little in common with Frances and her choice of topics, why do I relish reading her so much?  Why does she make me wish I did cook and was a walker who noticed flowers?

It all comes down to what I feel.  Her writing is infused with her spirit.  As I read what she shares, I feel comfort.  I feel joy.  A smile creeps across my face gently.

It makes me love her for sharing stories that illicit that sort of response in me.  It makes me clamor for anything of hers that I can read.

I know that artists are passionate about their chosen medium.  If not, we couldn’t stand spending the time that’s required perfecting the craft.  But it’s ultimately not about the medium.  It’s not about the detail of the stories we share.

It’s about sharing what we feel.  It’s about what others feel when they see our work.  It’s about communicating what we see, what we feel and someone else connecting and thinking, “Yeah.  Me too.”

The details may differ.  The topics may be oceans apart from what normally interests us.  But it’s not about the surface.  It’s not about the shallows.  It’s about what’s underneath.

It’s about connecting, one human heart recognizing another human heart.  It’s about the story and the emotion underneath.

When we forget that, our work becomes cold.  It lacks meaning.  It becomes….just another story.  Just another painting.  Just another photograph.  Just another song.

What story are you trying to tell?  What emotion do you want someone else to connect with your work?

Start there.

(photo credit:  Deb Owen)

Posted in art, creativity

The Key to Creativity

Want to be more creative?  Start here:

Posted in art, creativity

A Declaration of Freedom – and Fear

Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it. – C.S. Lewis

A change in direction.  This is what is coming down the pike for me.  I know it and see it clearly.

And it’s terrifying.

I had a long corporate business career before working for the money alone was impossible to make work anymore.  And so I struck out on my own.  Originally, I worked out a combo-platter of continued corporate training/consulting work while making a living through photography and writing.

Things still continued to move and morph and change, and the corporate work became individualized work helping others in a whole different realm.

That was easy.  With that endeavor, I knew absolutely what I not only wanted to do, but what I could do and what I had to offer the world.

Next, it became time to refocus my attention on the creative firm.

The majority of my experience has been shooting for corporations.  It is financially rewarding, and there’s business to be had there.

One thing for which I have always been grateful is that I do have a strong sense of the business side of things.  There are all too many who suffer simply because there is a disconnect between what they love to do and how to pay the bills while doing it.

However, the more work I’ve done along these lines, the more my heart and soul started craving art, vision, creativity. Less a click of the shutter for hire and more bringing something new into the world.

I’ve decided to follow that call.

And I’m terrified.  Will it work?  Will it be good enough?  Will those who love to criticize rip it to shreds?  Will people understand?  Where is this all going?

It’s another piece on the path of my journey.  I’m excited.  I’m looking forward to the adventure of it and the new possibilities.  And I’m also terrified.

My intent is to do what C.S. Lewis described.  I won’t pontificate about originality or arrogantly dive into discussions of value and worth.  So much of that is truly subjective anyway.  I will, however, attempt to pursue truth.

There are many reasons, good reasons, to move in this direction.

Not the least of which is striking out towards my own destiny, with less worry and distraction of those whose egos lead to struggles over silly matters, less need to continually justify the value of my work to others — or more accurately, hopefully the freedom to work more consistently with those who clearly do while the rest can go find pastures in which to do whatever greener things they need do.

There will be much work ahead.  New websites, working through new channels, new art to be created.

The key that has made it possible for me to finally take that gasp of air before diving in:  knowing what I will and will not do.  Having come to a place of defined willingness that sends a clear signal to my soul:  there is value here.  And you get to determine where your boundaries lie.

There are many reasons to go in this new direction.

The greatest one is to fulfill a yearning deep in my soul to express something that I see so clearly — to tell a story and share a vision.

That, I look forward to.  And yet, I’m terrified.

Posted in art, creativity

Why We’re Not Ready for A Creative Age

Everybody is talking about it.  Suddenly, all my favorite creative gurus and pals have fallen prey to Seth Godin.  (sigh)  Seth is great at what he does, and I hear he’s a super-nice guy.  But I think I liked it better when the marketing circles held him captive.

I haven’t read Linchpin.  And I probably won’t because I can’t imagine that there’s anything truly new in it that others haven’t been covering for years.

But all the creative types out there are going ga-ga over something that has been trending in this direction for years:  the Age of the Creative Class.

This has been coming down the pike.   Some have seen it coming.  Some have prepared, some haven’t.  But overall, as a society and in our economy, we’re probably not ready for this next wave.  The reason?  We haven’t truly valued creativity in the past.

In fact, we’ve weeded it out of our schools as we began teaching those technical business skills we thought were going to be most necessary.  (I’d love to get into the idea of a well-rounded education at this point, but we’ll leave that for another day.  😉 )

In this 2006 video, Ted Robinson gave a TED talk on how schools kill creativity.  Think about it — and enjoy!

Posted in creativity | 1 Comment

Name It & Claim It

I’m not one to fall in with the “name-it-and-claim-it” crowd when it comes to theology.  (Also generally referred to as the prosperity gospel.)

But when it comes to you and that thing you do, I’m all for it.

Are you just a photographer?  Are you just a painter?  Or are you an artist?

Are you just a blogger?  Or are you a writer?

Are you someone who just owns a tiny little business?  Or are you an entrepreneur?

What you call yourself matters.  It matters to you.  It changes your mindset.  It changes your focus.

If you’re ‘just a photographer,’ you tend to focus on focus, the click of the shutter, you hold back.

If you’re an artist, you seek to communicate a vision of the world that you see differently than anyone else.  You view the world, and what you do differently.  It fills you with passion, makes working on the craft part easier, and allows you the freedom to put your work out there no matter what the critics might say.

It allows you to embrace your very existence, the work you’re doing right now, and appreciate that your work will improve, change, shift, and be better years from now than it is today.

And it allows you to embrace the joy of the process and the journey along the way.

Call yourself what you are.  Call yourself what you aspire to be.  And then get busy being that.

Name it and claim it.

P.S.  At the very least, take a baby step and stop saying you’re “just” anything.  Everything you do is worthwhile.  😉

(photo credit: Deb Owen)

Posted in art, business

The R Factor

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.

– Mark Twain

Creativity requires risk.

I could end the post right there.  But I won’t.  😉

Creativity requires risk.  So does love.  So does life.  (Unless you’re resigned to living in what Thoreau called ‘quiet desperation.’  In which case, have at it. 😉 )

Look.  We make creativity into this big, huge, mysterious thing that we think some people have and some people don’t.

But creativity is more simple than that.  Creativity is simply the act of bringing something into being that wasn’t there before.

It’s connecting two thoughts that people haven’t connected before.  It’s putting something out into the world that you see a little bit differently than other people do.  (It’s your vision.)

It’s the idea that is the solution to a problem that people haven’t found before.

It’s bringing love to a place where love didn’t exist before.

It’s simply bringing what wasn’t…..into being.

To do that, you’ve got to take risks.

You’ve got to risk being called crazy.  (The truth is: Later on,  you may be called ‘innovative.’)

You’ve got to risk failure.  (The truth is:  you will fail.  Before it becomes great, it will not be great.  It becomes great by risking, failing, learning, and risking again.)

You’ve got to risk rejection.  (The truth is:  some people will reject you and your work.  Other people will see your brilliance.  That’s just the way it works.  Find the people who see your brilliance.)

You’ve got to risk criticism.  (The truth is:  Some people just criticize.  They aren’t brave enough to do something themselves, so they just criticize.  Other people who have wisdom and experience may give you constructive criticism from which you will learn.  That’s awesome!  Ignore the first group.  Cultivate the second.)

If you’re in business, you don’t want to play it safe.  You don’t want to be like everybody else or be following the latest trend.  You’ll never achieve all you can achieve that way.

In love, you’ll never find the real thing holding back.  Play it safe and you may not end up alone, but you’ll never be loved for who you truly are either.

In life, no risk = quiet desperation.  Enough said.

Be bold.  Be daring.  Don’t be foolish.  Don’t do something stupid.  Don’t risk your heart, your hard work, your art on scams, schemes, and scoundrels.  Be smart about it.  Be wise.  Be calculated.

But don’t hold back.  Take the risks.  The risks are the path to destiny.

(photo credit:  Deb Owen)

P.S.  If you like this post, feel free to share it on Facebook, Twitter, wherever.  And sign up to get posts directly in your email inbox in the right sidebar.  😉

Posted in art, business, creativity, love

Doing Good Work Using Good Images

Non-profits, NGO’s, and churches often don’t invest in good images.

Either they’re focused on the good work that they do and view branding and images as an after-thought and unnecessary, which is short-sighted.  Or they convince themselves that they cannot invest in these things, as the money has ‘more important places to go.’

Just as a business has to invest in branding and imaging in order to attract clients, non-profits, NGO’s and churches need to invest in order to gain more volunteers, donors, and to do that good work that they do.

In other words, if you’re not growing in participation, if you’re not reaching people, this may be a big reason why. If you’re expecting people to just magically find you and be convinced yours is a cause worth joining, you’re misguided.  You’ve got it backwards.  You can’t do the good work you do without people.  This is how you get the people in the door.

Looking Like Everyone Else

Then there are those groups who have determined that a visual presence is necessary, but still won’t go so far as to invest.  So what do they do?  They go to stock photography sites.

What are the results?  They look like everyone else.  You can’t tell one church from another, one NGO from another, and it all looks like it might be run by Uncle Joe or someone with good intentions but who might not be capable of getting the work done well either.

After all, if you look like everyone else or don’t care enough to get your message right, how do I know you get the other stuff right?

Doing It Right

charity: water is a great example of using compelling images to tell stories that get people excited and get them involved.  They are up front and open about the money that goes to their administration, and to their branding efforts.  And no one minds.  People know this is a necessary part of getting people safe, clean water.

They get images, build videos, and tell a story that makes you think…..water.  The story they tell isn’t full of sad-looking people meant to guilt you into helping.

The story they tell makes you want a drink of water.  The story they tell is one of the results achieved when you help.  You see joy.  Yes.  They tell you about the problem, but the majority of their images and branding are unique and focused on the end result.

You don’t get them confused with anyone else.  They’re energetic.  They lead you to want to join in and help any way you can.

The Best Part

charity: water gets powerful, distinct images that not only tell their story well, but it makes people want to share them.  These images and videos get retweeted on Twitter, shared on Facebook, people email them to each other.

Why wouldn’t you want images powerful enough for your church or charity that speak so powerfully that other people want to share them and tell your story for you?

Take the time up front to get the images and the branding right, and watch as people share your story for you, leading your group to grow, as you become able to do even more of that great work that you do.

(photo credit:  Esther Havens for charity: water)

Posted in churches, NGO, nonprofits | 2 Comments