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Arts Life & Philosophy Productivity & Work

Artists are scavengers and tweakers

Artists are scavengers, modern-day hunters of information. And they pluck inspiration from everywhere: people, places, and things. 

They even gather resources through error. Mishearings, misspellings, and mistakes are idea producers. 

The creative process is two-fold. Ideas bloom, and then they require execution and management. The producer thinks about them, reads about them, talks about them, and ultimately acts on them. What emerges is something fresh and original.

Artists are continually developing novel techniques, ways of seeing, thinking, being, and diligently applying those efforts from various tools onto the canvass. 

The painter studies the way light falls on an object; the sculptor manipulates a hunk of marble to carve a figure; the poet converts a banal phrase into a haiku; the photographer reveals an obscure item plain eyes miss; the musician observes how a note lingers and uses it to create a melody that fits the song’s mood.

No matter what medium is involved, the creative process is the same. It starts with experimentation, struggles with tweaks, and ends with precision.  

The best artists study, learn, practice, and perfect the skills they need to imagine and design. Creativity is impossible without attention and effort.   

The never-ending search to consume and build something unpredictable keeps life interesting. Like nature, art is not static and remains subject to change. 

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Arts Creativity Productivity & Work

Creativity is a game of inches

It comes as no surprise that lousy work begets good work — the more one creates, the more they have to play with. 

People mistakenly believe that successful artists excelled all along. In reality, what the viewer sees are remarkable stories told by people who decided never to give up

The internet is a great liberator because it allows anyone can show their work. Of course, that doesn’t guarantee anyone’s going to see it. 

It’s nearly impossible to stand out when everyone’s an Instagram photographer. The world’s drowning in jpegs that all look alike, punctuated by countless candy-colored apps begging for attention. 

It’s no surprise that artists do their best work while toiling in obscurity. They may emulate conventions at first, but starved of significance, the creator begs to be different. 

It takes a lot of time and a ton of practice to develop both good taste and a unique craft. 

When we create for ourselves, rage into our work, the world becomes our oyster. “It is a joy to be hidden, and a disaster not to be found,” once said English pediatrician and psychoanalyst D.W. Winnicott. 

From stylization to originality, cultivating talent unfolds slowly into a game of inches. The only guarantee is the willingness to try repeatedly for a breakthrough.

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Creativity Life & Philosophy

Head to head

Two people live inside our heads, one left-brained and analytical and the other right-brained and more free-flowing and creative. Together, the two opposing cognitive forces work in harmony.

There’s also a part of the brain that spaces out and permits the subconscious to connect the dots. The mind works like a dishwasher amidst sleep and daydreaming, cleaning out toxins during times of rest. 

The mind’s left-right dichotomy provides a double-helping of self-narration. Certitude leads to extremes that preclude the emergence of infinite variety. Multiplicity makes one dizzy, a toss of abstractions.  

The quest for fact and the art of spontaneity is a tussle between who we are and where we want to go. Cognitively busy, all we can do is listen to ourselves and deploy the headwork that’s needed most.

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Life & Philosophy Poetry Psychology

The reeducation of emotion

At peace with the thinking, not always with the thought. The lizard brain generates emotions that are not immediately subject to reason.

Emotion-action often leads to undesirable behavior, independently of our control and without our understanding.

Therefore, it’s of the highest importance to recognize the issue at hand.

Intelligence restrains the worst of our emotions and potential wrong actions. We aim for a reserved response.

Stoic in our appeal, we successfully pause. We even set aside time or reflection. Listening closely with an intense examination, we stem the tide of self-destruction.

Quick on our feet, even quicker in perspective. Don’t meet rudeness with rudeness — there are many failed attempts along the way.

Emotional intelligence is a skill that fortifies holistic thinking and tames collisions of thought.

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Arts Life & Philosophy Productivity & Work

Tighter the brief, the deeper the craft

Once we commit to a creative project, we make choices within it. We narrow down everything into a tight brief so we can build something conclusive.

The frames in place help guide our unconscious decisions. There’s no blur between what we’re making and what we want to make. 

Slowly but surely, we commit to a process despite all the doubt. We gather a proper stream of blood flow and breathing, focusing free-flowing talent into a concentrated effort.  

Distracting opportunities have to die for the most important craft to live. 

We don’t need more of anything; instead, we play with what we already have. We hunker down on the front lines and figure out how to shape our materials. Boredom is welcome, as it provides the opportunity we need to have the next big idea. 

And once the art is out there, it’s out there. We try not to take feedback personally — not to repress or ignore negativity — but to acknowledge we shipped! 

How we perceive our work is more important than how others look at it. Society is either too polite or doesn’t care. Passion, care, sticktuitiveness — these traits are leverage. 

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Creativity Life & Philosophy

Less is best

We achieve breakthroughs because of restraints, not because of endless options.

There’s a reason we feel satisfied when someone removes the cashews at a party; it eliminates the temptation to snack on them.

Our willpower is generally weak. And a surfeit of choice further aggravates self-control problems. Even worse, we transmit vices to others.

When we have a limited offer or altogether remove what we can use, eat, etc., we’re more cautious in our entire approach.

Constriction is a life-enhancing passport to better decision making, a challenge of a challenge that forces us to cope with what we already have.

Less is best, and more. Everything else appears as a nice-to-have pleasant surprise.

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Arts Creativity

The critics

The critics try to impinge as much as possible on the artist. It is their job to find weaknesses and room for improvement. 

The irony, of course, is that they couldn’t repeat the artist’s work. Critics are inadequate makers, no matter how masterful they are in their feedback. Said French-American painter, sculptor, and writer Marcel Duchamp, “Not everyone is an artist but everyone is a fucking critic.”

“Not everyone is an artist but everyone is a fucking critic.”

Marcel Duchamp

From the artist’s perspective, criticism is at least more actionable than a handful of compliments. Creators learn from negative feedback: what to ignore, what to tailor, and how to approach the next project, even it’s to double-down on their existing craft. 

The artist does it for themselves. They create what they want to see in the world regardless of humiliation and fear. What matters isn’t always the most popular

It’s not the artist’s responsibility to predetermine interpretation. The brain makes inferences whether it likes to or not. The maker makes — work so straightforward it echoes like an answer through a marble hall. If the craft becomes the lightning rod for criticism, so be it. 

The viewer or the critic, for that matter, should judge without prejudging one’s possibilities. However, they’re still permitted to scan with remarkable precision. And the artist goes unshadowed by their threat. 

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Arts Life & Philosophy Nature

Adventure by design

A step into the wilderness with no path in sight, the only certainty is the next crunch of leaves.

One can’t see the forest for the trees without first seeing a tightly sealed version of the world. Each stick of bark aggregates into a sum of parts individually wrapped and bending into each other — passing signals above the shrubby floor.

Nature holds the strongest connection.

For better or worse, humans have the elemental need to keep moving on terra firma. Unlike water running effortlessly over rocks, we force progress by messing up the Earth that feeds us.

We put our minds in the void and bleed design everywhere. Restless, the mind and energy keep going. Life is one big party. 

We build societies, unplanned, over and over again on top of ruins, sucked into history. While humans may be disorderly, at least the cosmos tells the truth. Now we have to consider the unexpected and negotiate for a vastly more dependable calm. 

For every action, there’s a reaction. Thankfully, while the left brain remains fixated on the individual trees, the right brain plants new ones. Growth by giving back also flows from brain to brain, in accord with more universal vibrations.  

As they say, “the best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The second best time is now.”

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Creativity Life & Philosophy

Where comparison fails

We discover our uniqueness through failed conformity. We’re not here to follow and jump through hoops. We endeavor to bend standard practices in strange and wonderful directions.

Thinking different is the ultimate motivator. It carves us into individuals. 

We are who we are — purple cows instead of mindless little robots — and do not accept anything that does not feel authentic. 

“Originality consists of trying to be like everybody else and failing.”

Raymond Radiguet (view books)

When we wield the paintbrush, our imaginative grip never dies. We can invent systems that free us from the tyranny of sameness.

Yet, no matter how individually wrought, we sell our stems to the world for others to imitate and recast as we did to works before us. 

The hope is that our craft encourages others to chase their own fancy version of creativity. The lemmings, forever unoriginal, suffer for nothing.

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Creativity Life & Philosophy Productivity & Work

Throwing a rock into a hard place

Stuck between the intention and the act, we often fail to carry out what we’re meant to do. 

Motivation is fickle. Distractions are plentiful. Doing is not a matter of talent but discipline. Every repetition is a bicep curl for the brain. 

Wrote William James in The Principles of Psychology: “This very day I have been repeating over and over to myself a verbal jingle whose mawkish silliness was the secret of its haunting power. I loathed yet could not banish it. What holds attention determines action.”

What holds attention predetermines action and protects us against the pitfalls of the next shiny object or stirred emotion. 

Focus is our only guard, without all the narrowness of attention. We need to keep our eyes on the donut over the donut hole. 

So we keep going, showing up despite there being no guarantee of happiness at the end of the tunnel. 

Greater use of the palette insulates the individual from the dizziness of anxiety and the needless aim for the pedestal of fame.  

A creative flow hardens the brain’s sticktoitiveness and summons a type of artistic unity. 

We throw the rock into the hard place. The daily practice is our only durable storage.