Thursday, May 20, 2010

Five {5} Creative Questions with Liz Massey

I am honored to introduce our Five {5} Creative Questions guest this month, creative extraordinaire Liz Massey.

Liz Massey is a writer, editor, media producer and a creative agent provocateur. Experienced in artistic disciplines as diverse as music, photography, filmmaking and journalism, Liz has a deep hunger to understand how the creative process works. She began Creative Liberty in 2007 as a way to share what she’d learned about developing and maintaining creative momentum.

Liz holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism and has worked as a magazine editor, a training content developer, a video producer and a publicist for a county library system, not to mention such “character-building” jobs as veterinary assistant, call center operator and bank correspondence proofreader. She lives in Peoria, Arizona, with her partner, thousands of books and a small, independent-minded dog.

1. What does creativity mean to you?
At its root, creativity is all about utilizing the present moment to bring something new into being — whether that is a work of art, a poem, a delicious lunch made with 3 ingredients or a new way home from work.

I mention the “present moment” part because every person must start from where they are, with the tools around them. We can certainly plan to purchase new tools, take classes to improve our technique, etc. – but in the end, getting into the habit of plunging in and making an attempt to create something NOW is more important than planning to “get it right” in some far off future that never arrives.

At my blog, Creative Liberty, I try to include news and tips from the art world, business innovators, inventors and social entrepreneurs who are trying to better our world, because all those fields demonstrate the creative process in action.

2. What is your creative process, and what tools do you use to stimulate it?
I try to make the most of my creative strengths – I know that I like to spend time planning a creative project before plunging in (hence my advice around the “present moment” in question 1 is for myself as well!) and that I must let my ideas “simmer” for a while before bringing them to life. I’ve often joked that what looks like laziness or procrastination to the outside world is actually “incubation,” a recognized part of the creative cycle and an afternoon spent at the coffee shop may be just the trick for jarring great ideas loose!

I am a dedicated idea harvester, and I carry a small notebook with me most of the time to capture thoughts about current or upcoming projects. When I go for long walks, I’ve also used the audio-note recording function on my cell phone to dictate an emerging idea before it dissipates.

Another significant tool I use to stimulate creative thought is the process of cross-pollination. I have created an RSS feed system on My Yahoo that contains incoming links from dozens of blogs and websites, on topics ranging from world travel and website usability to instructional design, endurance sports, cognitive psychology and filmmaking. I visit this feed system regularly to expose myself to information from outside my range of expertise, as well as fresh ideas from other industries.

3. What is your most creative time of day?
I am typically at my creative peak in the late morning. But by paying attention to diet and exercise, and generally just giving my body and mind what it says it needs throughout the day, I find I can work productively on creative projects during most of my waking hours.

4. How do you infuse creativity into your daily life and tasks?
By questioning assumptions and playing with what appear to be limiting conditions.

As I said earlier, I tend to be a planner and orchestrator, and it helps me break out of my rut to occasionally turn all my plans on their head and do things in the reverse order of what I originally planned to do, or pick one thing off my to-do list (hopefully the one that’s truly the most significant) and pour ALL my creative energies into that. I find that when I get clear about which creative projects and household/family tasks create the most happiness, I get more done and it feels good to accomplish all these things in ways that I had previously not considered.

As far as limits go, much has been written about limits actually spurring creativity, rather than restricting it. There is a French term, bricolage, which refers the process of creating something out of whatever is at hand. One who practices this is a bricoleur. Bricoleurs instinctively understand the old saying, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” By accepting limits as challenges, rather than judgments, it’s possible to create something that surpasses what might have been made if one had everything in the world at their disposal.

5. What creative tip or resource would you like to share with our readers?
Never underestimate the power of putting creativity first on your daily agenda and getting into the habit of practicing your favorite forms of creativity.

Most of us experience some awkwardness when we begin or return to a creative discipline, and it’s hard, with all the other modern-day demands on our attention, to stay focused on our projects, which may take a while to take shape or demand that we refine our technique to more completely execute our vision. But deciding that, each day, we will do certain things in service to our art (or to our ideas) can go a long way toward ensuring that we will remain connected to our creative endeavors.

Julia Cameron, author of “The Artist’s Way” and many other books on creativity, calls this building one’s grid. The habits that form our grid help make creativity inevitable, instead of something that happens all too rarely. Whether you have 10 minutes on your bus ride in which to dash off a sketch, or a month of vacation in which to film your documentary, working on building up your “grid” will ensure you’re able to use the time you have available to move your beloved project along.
  • THANKS Liz!

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