Tuesday, September 21, 2010

So here I am sitting in what I believe to be a place where all the elements that are conducive to my creativity come together...
I am sitting on the southern tip of Africa in a place called Kleinmond - where majestic mountains dip their feet into a fresh water lagoon that runs into the great Atlantic, surrounded by vines that produce the finest Chardonnay. The landscape is arid and the weather unpredictable.  Cloud may froth and spill like champagne over these mountains at any given moment - chased by winds from the interior and then close in to incubate this fertile area with rain.  This is when I feel like removing myself  from the world outside and create a song, a painting or a piece of writing.  But what do we do if we're in a place that is much less conducive to our creativity?  How do we manage being productive artists when time is limited and it feels like we are racing on a steamtrain to nowhere that we cannot stop? 

And yet, I've heard productive artists comment that nothing brings out the muse more effectively than a deadline - and how the count-down to make the deadline can feel like an excruciating childbirth.  While some of the world's finest crafts and textiles are created in areas with severely limited resources and by people who are living in extreme poverty - such as Rajastan in India.

I recently read a Turkish designer's view on creativity - that it is the ability to create something useful & beautiful within a limited period of time and with limited resources.  It seems that simplicity and the absence of clutter are elements that nurture an artist's ability to create - to see clearly and to focus on the process of creation.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Baby steps to fruitful creativity

Welcome to my bi-weekly e-musings!

So this is my first attempt at writing a blog that I dreamed up while on holiday in New Zealand.  My initial idea is to diarize the journey from being a corporate career person to becoming a full-time, productive artist by recording my thoughts and experiences.

What triggered the idea was when a friend sent me a link to a webtalk given by author Elizabeth Gilbert  – where she talks about creativity and her theory about where artists find their inspiration.  She pointed back to Roman times, where artists were seen as messengers of the Divine – she suggested that this might very well be a more acceptable perspective, given the immense pressures that creative individuals are subjected to today – especially after their initial success.  Many writers or artists suffer from addictions, psychological difficulties and even suicide due to these pressures.

Elizabeth’s point of view had a profound impact on me, because when I am at my most creative, whether I am writing a song or doing a painting – I always have a sense of an amazing, loving presence keeping me company during these hours.  And if I haven’t been creative for a while, I always have a sense of longing to experience this presence again…  Almost as if a small voice in the back of my head keeps calling me to come away – sometimes in the craziest of places – like around a dinner table with friends or in the middle of a business meeting.

And therefore the name for this blog - “In pursuit of the Muse".  It will focus on the journey and practice of growing into a productive, full-time artist.  Now that I have made a radical change from corporate professional to full-time artist – this pursuit becomes critical because I feel that my creativity will need to bear fruit in order to justify this change.

I guess the first thing that needs to change in order for me to be effective as an artist, is to change the way I think about myself.  I am not a Human Resources Manager nor a Psychologist.  I am a singer, musician and artist.  There it is in black and white….  When I fill in any formal documents or applications in future, this is what I need to write in the “occupation” line.  When people ask me what I do for a living – this is what I should tell them.

At this stage you might want to know what my medium or form of creative expression is…  Well, that’s another story, because I do not believe that an artist should necessarily have one medium alone.  My media or rather, creative activities, are interlinked – almost like an ecological subsystem – one feeds on the other.  I do admit that it might look like a lack of focus, or even indecisiveness on my part, but let me say in my defence that at least I am very clear about the order of priorities that these various activities take in my current creative pursuits.

1. Singing & performing
2. (Song)writing
3. Sketching, collage & painting
4. Playing piano
5. Playing flute
6. Photography

I might surprise myself and find in my blogging, that the amount of time I dedicate to these respective forms of expressions point to a surprisingly different order of priority.  Should that be the case, then so be it – this would be part of what I need to discover in my pursuit of the muse.

I believe the only way for me to ensure that I grow in my craft and become productive, is to plan and structure my week.  If I don’t, it becomes very easy to meet fellow artists and friends for coffee or get bogged down in domestic chores because I have suddenly become more flexible and available with my time. So here is an outline of activities for a typical week:

Mornings – Vocal coaching; Afternoons – Administration, planning gigs & marketing; Evenings – Music theory
Mornings – Sketching & painting; Afternoons: - Vocal coaching of students; Evenings - Blogging
Mornings – Vocal exercises & developing my repertoire; Afternoons – Vocal coaching of students
Mornings – Spiritual practice (Waiting on God); Afternoons – Piano & flute practice, songwriting (I need more original music!!!)
Social meetings

I should view these activities as non-negotiable and not allow myself to be lured away.  This is what my job entails now!