5 Questions About Creativity, from Melanie Sklarz

Here are my responses to Melanie's questions. Read the responses of other artists at her blog, Dose of Creativity. (I've added her link at my "Helpful Blog and Websites" section.)  These might be good questions for you to answer too, in your journal or in discussions with your mentors and friends. This is how I responded. What might you add to the conversation?

1. What does creativity mean to you?
Creativity is like breathing. It’s how I look at the world, and how I see it. It’s how I love the people in my life, and life itself. I realized some years ago that for me, as a creative individual, whatever I’m working on, creating is as critical to how I move through life as breathing. Creativity is as fundamental to my identity as faith, culture, my relationships, and my sexual identity. This is probably true for all serious artists to a significant degree, whatever their genre.

Not creating, we are living a kind of half-life. Creating, we’re more fully here. Let me try to explain: Just like everyone else, artists can go about our chores and meet many of our obligations. Beyond that, creative individuals (they don’t have to be artists, they may be creative teachers, lovers, even workers) also reside on what I’ve come to call “the gifted plane.” Merging these realms, the day to day and the gifted plane, through acts of creativity, artists get to “live more,” if that makes sense. They live more because they are living more fully as who they truly are.

2. What is your creative process, and what tools do you use to stimulate it?
I have many creative processes. For anyone who has read my blog, journaling is a critical aspect and a great tool. I’ve also adapted a 9-square brainstorming technique that was created by Mandel, the father of genetics. Someday I hope to outline it at the blog. It’s a way of going wide and deep to capture important details as part of a whole landscape that lives and breathes and evolves.

Contemplation is key to my process. I’ve practiced contemplative meditation for more than twenty years. Many of my ideas for stories, songs, poems or paintings are notions that actually began as distractions during meditation. I don’t stop to write them down then. The important ideas return to me later. Meditation is a key for helping me to know deeply who I am, to understand more deeply and fully my spirituality, and for freeing me to connect with my creative muse.

My process also involves writing-walks in the early morning with my little notebook. You’d be amazed how a reflection, poem, or more can begin and unfold as one walks by some unusual or mundane thing. Beyond that, I take artist field-trips (Corita used to teach art using these field trips) at least twice a month to unusual, artistic or beautiful places--not that the “beautiful” is always pretty--and often outside. The ecology of the world around us if chock full of metaphors that can speak (that beg to) through our art.

Finally, on the question of process: a half day of every weekend I shut down to retreat and be mindful of where I am on an “Art Spirit” level, so I can rest and just “Be” there. Often this will give way at some point to discerning where art and life are moving for me. Eventually I will use this time to explore what I like to call creative “serious play” with any of a variety of media. Before long, I get into a certain rhythm. Then it’s like magic, with poetry all around me, within and beyond the place where I may be sipping a glass of water, paddling a kayak, or oiling the moving parts of an old sewing machine.

3. What is your most creative time of day?
I don’t know if I have a most creative time. I don’t subscribe to the notion of writer’s block—I know that much. Every idea stimulates ten more. Ten is just an arbitrary number for “many,” or even “infinite.” I like to say, “Behind every door, ten more doors.” So any time I have available to me is most productive, creative time.

4. How do you infuse creativity into your daily life and tasks?
There’s always art, color, music, something creative going on, something to see, rest with, ponder, discuss, contemplate…all of it stimulating creativity. Because I believe in an infinitely generous creative all-knowingness--I doubt the Infinite Omniscience minds what name we use--and because this generosity is around and within me all the time, I am amazed and creatively stimulated by everything, from the variety of leaf-shapes and shades of green on a given stroll through my neighborhood, to the shapes, shadows and hues of light in the clouds, to the sounds and voices in a cafĂ©, to the multitude of worlds there are, with a world in every mind (as my grandfather used to say) within every car I see on the freeway.

Opening that door, did you ever stop to wonder about the conversations, perceptions, hopes, nightmares, dreams, of people you see in cars going by? And, opening another door, why are we all driving so fast, anyway? Where are we all really going? The same place, eventually. What’s the hurry?

5. What creative tip or resource would you like to share with our readers?
I write about this from time to time at the blog. Beyond journaling and meditating, artist field trips (to artful, strange or unusual places) and formal or informal retreats, I always suggest reading Robert Henri’s The Art Spirit and Peter Senge’s Fifth Discipline. One was a painter and mentor to many artists, the other is one of the brilliant M.I.T. think-tank business shamans. His concepts of creative problem-solving in learning organizations apply to creative artists in every milieu.

But the most important tip I could share is simply not to let anything go to waste. Create from the rough times, the difficulties, the times we fall short of our vision, when things seem to fall apart, every sad moment, without clinging to the sadness or letting it define us--because we are so much more than our sorrows, and heartache is not less and not more valuable than anything else, than the beautiful, passionate, joyful or sublime for making art. Create from all of it, because it's all important for connecting with others, and communicating what’s truly meaningful and wonder-full, as we are all in some way, hopefully, learning and growing throughout this precious amazing life.