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So What, Now What?: Creating Wildly in Wild Times

Wildly Creative co-founder Shanta Lee reflects on the presidential elections in the United States through the lens of art and creativity.  Featured image is Truth to Power by Bill Dunlap.

 

It is difficult to turn in any direction in American life and not see any mass shock or despair over the outcomes of the recent presidential elections. While it is key to continue to move through the stages of grief and be where we are, yet there is another alternative as we try to understand what this all means as offered through art as a vehicle for our release.

“In dark times will there be singing?” Bertolt Brecht

The Vietnam War was a dark time that birthed a number of visual, written, and lyrical reactions from many artists. One of the most well known among these responses was John Lennon’s Imagine infused with the famous lines,

“Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion, too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace… You…”

A 2011 piece titled Kite by Abdul Rahman Katanani made a visual statement about the realities of the lives of children impacted by the turmoil in Gaza.

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Kite by Abdul Rahman Katanani

 

In 2015, Kyle Abraham, a choreographer with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, debuted the first part of Untitled America (a 3-part movement piece developed over a period of two years). Abraham’s work was a direct response to the prison system’s impact on black families in America.

 

Let me clarify my main point of using these examples. I am not saying that it must be the composers or songwriters, choreographers, poets, or any of the other shades of artistic witnesses among us who have the only license or skill to respond to the grief, dishevelement, and unrest within and around us. In fact, these are all sign posts (along with many others not mentioned here) and a more elaborate way of speaking to the famous lines offered by German playwright and poet Bertolt Brecht,

“In the dark times
Will there also be singing?
Yes, there will also be singing.
About the dark times.”

These current times, like many other passing moments in history, often stir the creative spirits of a sleeping populace.

And sometimes, the creativity and art that is awakened is in service to teaching us how to become better architects of our mundane lives.  When I woke up the morning after the election results after a few hours of sleep, I remembered Brecth’s poetic lines while thinking about a way to move forward with the rest of my week given the emotional pulse in the United States.

I was also reminded of an intersecting moment between national wounds, darkness, and art-making from this summer. On a Sunday afternoon, my partner and I journeyed to his family cabin in the woods with the hope of making art.  It was not unusual except on this particular day, we were stuck inside due to the rain while our ears were held hostage by the latest news commentary about yet another black life taken by a police officer. This time, the brutal act was captured on video for all to witness.  My partner was crafting a piece in response to all of this, I don’t know how to make art today” while I shifted uncomfortably in my skin and chair pondering about how these dark times would impact all of us.

Historically speaking, tragedy is not a new phenomenon. However, the moments of human trauma around the world seems to be accessible in such a way that we can all instantly witness the things that we may feel too powerless to control or address.  During that moment within that rainy summer day and in the middle of the shock I was witnessing the day after the presidential elections, I wrote. By that Friday, my partner and I decided that we needed to purchase watercolor paints and brushes. We stood hand in hand as he gave me a crash course in painting with watercolors.   The rest of the day was spent painting, writing, and putting the finishing touches on a dinner party we were planning with a few friends.

In reflecting on our post-election response, the words of Pablo Picasso and Elliot Eisner seemed to provide some additional wisdom:

“There are painters who transform the sun to a yellow spot, but there are others who, with the help of their art and their intelligence, transform a yellow spot into sun.” ~Pablo Picasso

“Art is literacy of the heart” ~Elliot Eisner

Perhaps what we will be doing is transforming this dark spot into words, movement, living and our being with each other as we move through the pain of it all.

Maybe this darkness will be the canvas that we have all needed to become the catalyst for unzipping our creative souls.

And if we allow art to soothe what is hurting right now, we might just become literate and fluent in ways of loving, living, creating, and being.

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Feminism, Creativity, and Breaking Boundaries: A Conversation with Anna Fishbeyn

“I only got onto the stage after I had my children. When I became a mom, it gave me an enormous freedom in thinking about myself.”

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Recently we got a chance to talk with Anna Fishbeyn who is a creative in many areas. The conversation with Anna covers the interesections between parenthood, unzipping the layers of definitions as an individual and as a creative. Anna shares that creativity is “something that is constantly moving and evolving” much like our lives from moment to moment.  Anna shares, “I find it very strange that society has defined titles for us like writer, actress or filmmaker. I actually find that they are all intertwined.”

Find out how her creative life began on stage in 2010 with an array of vignettes including The Nuts and Bolts of Espionage i.e. Sex I n Mommyville to some advice she has for swimming in your own creative waters.

You can see more of Anna Fishbeyn’s work including her winning episodes of Happy Hour Feminism on VimeoOnDemand ($1.99/video). If you are interested in also helping to support Anna’s projects, you can also visit www.patreon.com/xofeminist.

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Check out more of Anna Fishbeyn’s work and websites:

xofeminist.com

AnnaFishbeynFANPAGE

SexinMommyville FANPAGE

MyStubbornTongue FANPAGE

HappyHourFeminism FANPAGE

Anna’s twitter handle is  twitter/annafishbeyn and her instagram is Annafishbeyn.

MEET BAILEY MEZAN….CONTENT PRODUCER, EDITOR & CHIEF OF DREAME.ME

unnamed (1)Bailey Mezan, is 23 years old  originally from San Diego, California and now living in Tel Aviv.  Bailey is the content producer for Dreame, and the Editor and Chief of Dreame Diaries.   “I love reading abstract fiction novels, swimming in the gorgeous Mediterranean and playing the piano.”

Wildly Creative:  What is the advice you wish someone shared with you about pursuing your passions and feeding your creative self?

The greatest perk about being a creative is that it only gets better with age. By constantly creating, we are exercising every part of our existence – our humanness is being flexed. A great piece does not have to be mature or seamless, a great piece is the purest reflection of who you are at that time.

Wildly Creative:  What drives you wild with inspiration and passion?  What is whispering to you that inspires you to create?

I am inspired by the shared human experience. By putting my words and thoughts on paper, I am solidifying my place in a world of people searching for meaning and understanding. By immortalizing my own thoughts and reading the thoughts of others, I am not just adding to the larger cannon, but I am growing by indulging in it’s depths.

Wildly Creative:  What keeps you wild and daring to create?

The drive to create comes from having something you ‘must’ say. While many people experience this urge to share and transpose thoughts, being a creative means that my urge takes me to paper, pen, canvas or music. I dare to create because my need to speak and be heard leaves me with no other choice.

Wildly Creative:  Creatives are usually the ones breaking the rules and little bits of misfits. How are you making sure to hold true to breaking the rules?

As soon as I finished college, I decided to never compromise my creative side to accommodate the expectations of others. This means that if  I ever were to find myself on a career path or at a job that does not suit my creative passions, I would move on. While this way of life may seem frivolous or fleeting, it actually puts pressure on me to find new ways of enjoying what I am doing in that moment.

 

Thoughts on craft by Eila Carrico, who is a weaver, wordsmith , and recent Wildly Creative Contributor (Part 1)

Creativity is about flow. Wildness is about unpredictability.

Saraswati is the goddess of both.

She rides a swan and never leaves home without her veena (an Indian string instrument). She sings, she dances, she writes, and she paints. saraswati18(1)Her name means “in the current,” “possessing water” and “fluid.” She is the river personified, gracefully poised on the edge of perpetual emergence.

She is constantly in the state of becoming a new version of herself. Saraswati is one example of a powerful archetype: the image of the maiden river goddess. They are the keepers of beauty, the bestowers of blessings and the embodiment of grace. This archetype teaches us the value of wild feeling, imaging the unprecedented, and venturing into the vast landscapes of the unknown within ourselves.

A river creates her own pattern. She starts with a few drops of curiosity in one direction, followed by a trickle of play in another, and eventually the route is engraved for greater surges of creativity and streams of delight to follow.

Artists-learn-to-live-onSerpents of currents form over the land in patterns that may seem random, but these currents follow the law of their own hidden memories. The river these memories create feels her way along the earth’s surface, finding the way of least resistance, of acquiescent texture, and in this way she actualizes herself into the landscape as a sculptor, a painter, and a storyteller.

Artists learn to live on, dance on and surf in the wild wave of unfolding that greets us moment to moment. Artists feel deeply and magically grasp the intangible, catching snippets of the unseen and bringing them life, form, and meaning.

Bringing formlessness into form is a sacred service, one of the gifts that humans carry uniquely. It is valuable beyond measure.

“Poetry is the way we help give name to the nameless so it can be thought. The farthest external horizons of our hopes and fears are cobbled by our poems, carved from the rock experiences of our daily lives.” -Audre Lorde from her Essay “Poetry is not a Luxury.”

But our culture, which by and large values objective measurements and monetary success over subjective value and personal fulfillment, often makes it difficult for artists to find their place in the world.

It became popular in the industrialized world to consider it wasteful to allow a river to continue on her natural path, so the leaders wrote policy that protected profit and proudly erected dams to harness her energy.

It would outrage one’s sense of justice if that broad stream were to roll down to the ocean in mere idle majesty and beauty.’ Said the Director of the U.S. Geological Survey (1881-1899) A few years later, President Theodore Roosevelt noted that we must save the water from wasting into the sea.

But beauty is never wasted, and majesty refuses to be tamed.

Oshun is another embodiment of fresh waters who teaches us to value the wildly creative within ourselves. She is a maiden river goddess, like Saraswati, who is often pejoratively called little sister because of her innocence. But her youth is her strength. She is not jaded or calloused; her perspective is always fresh and her outlook always emerging. She finds ease and fluidness in any situation. Creativity moves through her as wide as a river rushing to the ocean.

Stay tuned for part 2 of more of Eila’s insights on Goddess Oshun and the ties to being Wildly Creative.

More About Eila:

Eila Carrico is a weaver and wordsmith who delights in the mystery and magic of landscapes and memory. She grew up in rural central Florida, and was inspired by her studies in journalism, anthropology and religion to travel around the world and teach in Paris, Ghana, Thailand and India before settling in the Bay Area in 2008.  Check out more of her work at:   http://www.eilacarrico.com.  The italicized quotes within this piece are from Eila’s upcoming book, The Other Side of the River debuting in 2016.

 

 

Meet Suzanne Kingsbury….Part Creativity Coach, part Author Maximizer, Craft Master, & More…

headshotAs the founder and director of Gateless Writing, Inc, I am part creativity coach, part author maximizer, part writing therapist, craft master and brand builder.

This incredibly fulfilling work started when my first novel came out 15 years ago. The Summer Fletcher Greel Loved Me sold in ten days for six figures to Scribner, it was optioned for film and sold widely abroad. With this sale, I was invited into a sort of “closed door club” otherwise called the Publishing Industry. Because I am not much for the closed door, after my second book sold, I decided to open the door to help new (and seasoned) writers answer the call to write and begin that fantastic journey toward making the written word part of their career trajectory.

I now run writing salons, lead retreats, offer career training for writers and work one-on-one with writers to show them what a wildly wonderful road writing can actually be.
Check out Suzanne at: http://suzannekingsbury.net/

Wildly Creative: When did you start nurturing your creative life and why?

Isn’t it funny how we keep creativity in the closet? It’s like a puppy someone gave us that we aren’t supposed to keep, but we feed it and pet it when we can and then one day, it gets too big for us to hide, and we let it out of the closet to love up the world.

This is what happened to me. I’d maybe call mine a friendly but fiery dragon. I started writing the summer before I went on my Fulbright, in a heat wave, at a writing workshop for women on a college campus in upstate New York.

The place was six hours away, and I didn’t know a soul. The conference gave you time to write in the morning and in the afternoon, you were to go to workshops so you could talk about the work. I don’t know why I went to this conference. No one famous was there. I’d stopped writing in high school, kept the dragon in the closet so I could pursue more viable careers. But I still remember that first morning, I had only ever written in my journal in tiny (often lonely) increments, and now here was a whole morning to create lives out of a blank page.  During those four hours time ceased existing. The words seemed to arrive out of the ether, as though passed down in swaths and ribbons that had been waiting for me all along. The world I had created felt more vibrant and real than the one where I’d been living day to day.

Afterwards, I felt almost post-coital. Everything around me looked incredibly vibrant. I was sure the breeze in the trees was explicitly there so that the leaves could wave to me. It was a drug, and I haven’t stopped writing since. It took me seven years from that morning until I published my first book. That might be because I didn’t care about publishing, I was in mad love with the blank page, and anytime I got to dance with it was pure bliss.

Wildly Creative: What is your advice that you would offer to anyone wishing to design their own creative life?

If spirit or the divinity of creativity has tapped you with its magic wand, know that doors will swing open if you answer its call. The call is playful, the doors may look different than what our small minds can envision, walk through them anyway. Be curious about what may be waiting on the other side.

165465_10152738236860374_1268890022_nIn order to know where to put your energy as you embark on your creative life, choose a goal that makes you feel good, that makes you feel both light and excited. This often starts with smaller goals. For me, I started with wanting to write fiction. But then I found this too limiting. So, I decided my goal was to share the ecstasy of the written word and help others make a living from it. But what if, I keep asking myself, my goal is simply to spread light? To show others the almost blinding brightness of their truest selves. That’s my definition of my creative life. Yours might be to portray the truth as you see it, it might be to paint on bigger and bigger canvases (whatever your definition of canvas tends to be), it could be to expose something about gender, race, whatever…. That goal will keep you company. Let it be as malleable as you like.

And know that this path never has to be mutually exclusive of surviving or even thriving. Our world has ordered it so that it seems creativity comes with scarcity, living off cans of chickpeas and homemade beer in a warehouse in the bad section of town so you can create. This is an egoic, small mind idea. The small mind doesn’t want us to change, it is always looking for stasis, so it will say all kinds of things to get you to stop expanding.

Lose the idea that we have to be poor. Creative minds are at the core of everything we value in this world from the invention of the wheel to the road that takes you home at night, these ideas were all born from the creative muscle. There’s no reason to starve yourself in order to exercise this creative muscle. There’s no shame in making money while you create. I love to show my writers ways in which their ideas for books and other writing can be monetized, how they can make enterprises of their creative ideas, and to ensure them that their material dreams can come true alongside their creative ones.

The sweetness of a creative life is not about just manifestation, living off canned chickpeas and some homemade wine.

Wildly Creative: Creatives are usually the ones breaking the rules and little bits of misfits. How are you making sure to hold true to breaking the rules?

Breaking rules is very important now in the field of writing. We have somehow imprisoned writing between walls of ivy. For whatever reason we believe that criticism is the primary tool to help writers with their work. This couldn’t be further from the truth. We approach the work as though it needed to be fixed, we look for what’s “wrong” with it. This is actually a broken model.

We know it is broken because cutting edge brain science has shown us that creative work thrives when it is nurtured. When our work is judged, the amygdala in the brain begins to move in reverse. When the amygdala moves in reverse, we are in fight or flight mode, we no longer have access to the imagination or long term memory, which is the core of creative work. And yet criticism is a mainstay to most programs.

In Gateless Writing, on retreat, in one-on-ones and classes, our biggest work is to get the amygdala moving forward. We can only create mind-blowing writing by showing the writers where she is unique, her talent and innate genius. She can then build from there. When you focus on what is strong, that is what naturally grows. For those pieces that feel like they need a little boost, we give the writer craft tools so she can always feel empowered on the page, no matter what she is working on.

A “thick skin” is something which is often coveted. But what we have found is that the thick skin is the worst kind for a writer. We want the thin skin because we want to be able to feel everything right down to the marrow, to write from that depth of feeling. In retreat, we area always letting the writer get to know again the person she was before the thick skin. We provide her with bodywork, chocolate, reflective feedback, craft tools, so that she can remember again the creative mastermind who lives inside.

Wildly Creative: What is the advice you wish someone shared with you about pursuing your passions and feeding your creative self?

Along the road there are so many shoulds, aren’t there? The advice is well-meaning, but often in its core it says this: You are not okay as you are, you must move away from the innate passion that claims you and forest your way into other, less organic, realms.

Theres-no-reason-toThis is simply a legacy we pass down to one another. I am not sure where it started, but perhaps it is part of the artist’s trajectory: to be steered away from what makes our true selves sing, to abandon it for conformity and conditioning, and then to have that time of unimaginable lightness of being when we discover it again. The rediscovery can give the creative an enormous amount of energy.

In truth we enter the world aligned with our heart’s purpose. If you look back at a life, you will often find a person’s purpose tucked into the activities s/he loved as a child.

For me? I loved to play pretend, which is so very much what we are doing when we write fiction. I made up fantastical stories and gave personalities to grasshoppers, hermit crabs, dandelions, believing each one embodied a spirit that I could somehow know and befriend. I also loved sitting by the heater and reading.

What if someone (who might have looked like Tasha Tudor) had come along and told me that my greatest gift would stem from this fantasy life? What if this gentle guide had assured me of how brilliant it was to dive into books the way I loved to, how smart to keep myself warm all day? What if an adult had been risky enough to say: Do exactly what you love, that is how genius blooms.