In this issue ~~
Creativity can be a lonely business. You're either in your office or studio, writing, painting or practicing -- alone -- or sending out pictures and resumes or query letters in hopes that they won't represent another set of rejections. You need social contact, and you need support. In other words, you need a life outside your work.
Creating community is particularly important these days. Few of us have a tightly knit family unit or neighborhood anymore. In fact, the families of many artists would rather see them in a three-piece suit climbing the corporate ladder and aren't very supportive of their creative work. In their love and concern for you, they may unintentionally undermine your confidence.
Community serves two important functions. First, we need support. As inspired and engrossed as you may be when you're creating your art, the rejection you face when you're trying to sell it can be devastating. And those who are not artists per se may have to face yet another grueling board meeting or another cold sales call. You need someone you can go to for encouragement, for a shoulder to lean on during discouraging times, and to celebrate with you when you succeed.
You also need to spend time with people socially. No matter how much you love your work, you need to take a break from it sometime. Create a social community that you can just hang out with and have fun. They may be colleagues, friends, family, neighbors. Or join a group around a common interest, something different from the work you do. That could be some type of spiritual community, a hobby group or a bowling league.
If you feel that community is lacking in your life, get out, literally or virtually. Join a special interest group. Take a class. Take part in an on-line community or forum. Make conversation with people at the gym. Go out for a drink with friends or co-workers.
As the old saying goes, no man (or woman) is an island. Spending time with people will replenish your creative juices and enrich you as a person, which will ultimately enrich your art and your life.
The flip side of community is solitude. While community is important, some quality time for yourself is also essential.
Life is busy. We work, take care of the house and personal business, tend to our loved ones, spend time on our hobbies and interests. Oh, yes, and somewhere in there, we have to sleep. It's enough to make your head spin!
It's hard to think clearly when you're in the midst of a whirlwind of activity. Once in awhile, you just have to get away from it all. Break the routine.
A few years ago, when I was on the verge of making several important decisions, I decided to take myself on a solo retreat for a few days where I could get some perspective on the various issues going on in my life. Since money and time were issues, I found a waterfront hotel that was on the commuter line from my home city and booked a weekend there. I packed a couple of books, borrowed a friend's laptop, and set off. I didn't give anyone the number and didn't check my answering machine. I read, wrote, took walks by the water and in the quaint village nearby. No chores to do, no busy work. Just peace and solitude. I came back feeling refreshed and ready to tackle the matters at hand.
Taking a personal retreat is something I highly recommend. If you live alone, be aware that solitude means not just being by yourself, but also having time to be quiet, to think and relax, without the bombardment of the TV, the telephone and the Internet. Take yourself away from your normal environment, where there's always something that has to get done or a ringing phone. Go to a hotel or borrow a friend's country house. Break your routine. If you live in a city, get out into nature. Do the things you never have time to do at home. Give yourself a break.
And when you get back home, set aside some time each day, or at least each week, for solitude. Write in your journal, listen to music, draw, meditate, exercise -- whatever feeds your soul. You may feel like the time is hard to find, or a sacrifice, but you'll find that you come back clear-headed and refreshed, and your work time will be more efficient and productive.
If you're feeling blocked in your creative process, stop. Take a walk, see a movie. Part of the creative process is letting go and giving your ideas time to gestate. You'll feel refreshed and the ideas will begin to flow again.
"You must have a room or a certain hour of the day or so where you do not know what was in the morning paper ... a place where you can simply experience and bring forth what you are, and what you might be ... At first you may find nothing's happening ... But if you have a sacred place and use it, take advantage of it, something will happen."
(click on the book graphic to see a description at Amazon.com)
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