Creativity Vs Commerce

Writing prompt: “The deepest secret in our heart of hearts is that we are writing because we love the world, and why not finally carry that secret out with our bodies into the living room and our porches, backyards and grocery stores? Let the whole thing flower: the poem and the person writing the poem. And let us always be kind in this world.” from Writing Down the Bones

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Art installation made of old life preservers in Copenhagen.

I am realizing how deep the conditioning of capitalism is in my life. I carry the automatic monetization of everything I do in my head like a calculator on auto pilot. If I write the travel guide, is it worth it, as in will it make money? The bitter irony is that nothing creates resistance to creativity like this cha-ching habit. I can’t get JK Rowling’s fabulous financial success out of my head.

As a self-employed person, wait, let’s examine that phrase. We are all “self-employed” deciding how we will spend our time and creative resources even if it is to give it to an organization for 8-10 hours a day. As a consultant paid because of a contract, I have been listening to Side Hustle School podcast by Chris Guillebeau. I am realizing that I let it feed the monetization monster. All of my side hustle ideas started with my long time writing projects. I told myself that this would be motivational.

In fact, what I know now is my creative life works best when I give it space to happen and enjoy it for the pleasure of being a human with opposable thumbs that can create art or write with a pen.

My life works best when I have a work/life balance that holds the space for art and respects my need for creativity. This was thrown into relief when I thought of a side hustle that is truly commerce only. And the thought that I could pursue my collage/assemblage and writing projects without pressure to make money was so soul lifting and smile making. Confirmation that it is the right choice for me.

Growth as a Boredom Buster

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I doubt anyone would call artist and writer Julia Couzens’ life dull. She is an art critic for the Sacramento Bee, and a productive fine artist. She recently gave a presentation as part of the Centennial Lecture Series at the Sacramento City College Art Department. Her first slide said:

It’s the journey, not the destination.

Questions live longer than answers.

Sometimes the back side is the piece.

She also distributed the “Incomplete Manifesto for Growth” by Bruce Mau. This manifesto, she said, is the secret of life. It certainly is the key to understanding her creative life. In the subsequent slides she showed us her work. “I like chaos. I like dissonance.” Her work shows 3. Process is more important than outcome and 4. Love your experiments (as you would an ugly child). 

I was able to participate in this lecture series because I enrolled in a Collage/Assemblage studio art class at Sacramento City College. It has been terrific for opening up both sides of my brain to more creativity.  I recommend all leaders find a creative expression that helps them to be more intuitive and get back in touch with something you enjoy doing.

This weekend I caught up with my major professor now retired from USC. John Odell is taking voice lessons and sings in two vocal groups. He is finding great pleasure in this creative expression. Don’t wait until retirement to make time for this in your leadership life.

I am realizing that much of my redesign at 49 has evolved into finding the space for a creative life–writing, doing art, or taking naps. And in so doing I am approaching all of my work challenges more creatively. Taking the class this semester has helped me be much more intentional. Listening to Side Hustle School podcast has helped motivate me to work towards it every day.

Last week I listened to Rob Bell’s podcast “The Importance of Boredom” but I don’t think he really meant boredom. What he was really talking about is making time to unplug and allow creative thought. I am finding since I started the class that I am less interested in watching movies or television shows and more interested in creating my own stuff. And it is anything but boring because you inevitably grow and change when you create.

One last thought, I looked up a few of Julia Couzen’s reviews in the Sacramento Bee’s Arts & Theater and loved her review of the Diebenkorn and Matisse show at SFMOMA (March 23, 2017). It is is a beautiful example of Mou’s Manifesto #23. Stand on someone’s shoulders. You can travel farther carried on the accomplishments of those who came before you. And the view is so much better.