I’m ready for a vacation. We are six months into 2011 and my artist plate has already included producing a five-day multi-location run of my play Running: AMOK, and facilitating multiple writing workshops while working with three authors as an editor for their books. You may laugh at my opening sentence if you had a chance to catch my last blog post about being a producing artist. While I follow my own advice and practically produce just about every production that me or my work is featured in, I also can admit that it’s hard work a lot of times and requires a mastery of balancing and down-time.
Rejuvenation is essential. What I’m learning is that to continue on an artistic path– and continue to love it–it is essential that time is carved out of your day to be free to reload, reflect and re-energize. So, it’s only fitting that following last week’s post that offered tips on becoming a producing artist, I present my five tips to rejuvenating your artist spirit. But first, I wanted to give a little back-story.
Dissipating Your Artistic Energy
From 2006-2010, around the time I penned an arts column for a DC-based newspaper and interviewed numerous performers while also starting to produce large-scale artist events in the DC area, including the Capital Hip Hop Soul Fest, folks I began to meet became familiar with me as a producer of events or journalist more so than an actual performer or creative writer. After a while, I somehow became pigeon-holed into those categories. But, it didn’t bother me in the least, for I love producing events and being a journalist.
But, as it happens, while I gained more opportunities to produce and get work as a freelance journalist, I was losing touch with the circle of people who knew me as a singer and poet. I didn’t realize that that connection kept me in the loop of opportunities to perform or create. Perhaps my work as a producer or arts writer led me to ignore my own artistry or my role as a mom to a toddler gave me other priorities to focus on, I’ll never know. But, I do know that I didn’t pay much attention and didn’t really do anything about it until, as a few years past, one day, I realized that I hadn’t written anything creatively in about a year. That was a major blow to me.
To put it into context, since I was about 18 years-old, I was writing creatively, finishing a piece of poetry, a song, a short story or a one-act play at least once a month, meaning I was writing something just about everyday. (The nine-months I was pregnant with my daughter and year afterward being my most fertile moment of creativity.) So, here I was, looking up and realizing that my artistic energy had paused in a way where my art was no longer in the forefront. As someone who believes that my ability to be creative and artistic heals other areas of my life, I took a really good hard look at my life and noticed that the lack of creating had created a routine that I had always vowed I would never fall into as an adult. A rejuvenation of sorts was in order.
Here’s what worked for me.
(1) Go On An Artist Date
Writer and artist motivational expert Julia Cameron, in her book The Artist’s Way assigns readers seeking to recover or discover the inner artist to participate in two activities that support the efforts. The first of these activities is “Morning Papers”– a morning activity of free writing where you write uncensored and in a stream of consciousness type way and put the writings up without reading and editing. Then, days later, you revisit them and reflect. The second one, the hardest one for me, is the Artist Date. This is when you make time to hang out by yourself and go somewhere where you can exist without censure and without requirements. A time where you can explore something that interests you– and you alone– and is not privy to the whims of a travel companion.
Well, I hadn’t read “The Artist Way” yet when I went on my first artist date, but, at that point, I knew I had to go somewhere by myself. I started taking time out during my work day to pause. My personal favorite spots have been walking through the city via public transportation and perching somewhere to simply people watch. My mind dances with this opportunity to be still in the midst of busy-ness and what inevitably happens is I start to create characters of the people I see which often inspires my future writing efforts.
My play Running: AMOK, while born from my own experiences as a mom, was also inspired by my people-watching and three of the characters in the play embody personalities I created on a people-watching jaunt.
(2) Pay Attention to Others Who Share Your Craft…and Those Who Don’t
One of things I always tell the authors who hire me as an editor to do is to read the work of other authors to get a sense of different writing styles and book presentations. I think the best writers are the best readers. I also think that seeing the work of others in your craft is inspiring as well. I love theater and every time I attend a play, I pay rapt attention to the particulars– from staging to phrasing– that influences, if even the most minute way, some aspect of what I bring to my next production. But, then, again, I get inspired when I watch dancers and visual artists as well– two forms that I don’t have much expertise in. So, really, the point is to witness creativity in the works. The energy rubs off on you.
(3) Hang Out With Little Kids
I have a 7 year-old, so I have easy access to the giggles, hugs and wonder of a little person at my disposal. For anyone looking to rejuvenate your artist spirit, you have only to hang out with little kids and the creative juices will abound. Whether its seeing things in a new perspective, finding the awesome wonder in blowing bubbles or finding out how doing something the “wrong” way is probably more fun, being around kids can be an inspiring and rejuvenating experience if you choose to be open to it (and, perhaps, if you can return them to sender if they’re not your own kids).
(4) Say “Yes” to Something New
This should be self-explanatory. For me, I was totally rejuvenated when I decided to attend a crystal workshop one year off the cuff. Learning something new and attending a workshop– not because I had to go for my job or learn a new skill for a new project, but just because I wanted to and I had never done it before, brought a really good feeling that really activated my artistic muse. I learned “by accident” also crystals that enhance creativity and made sure to share my learnings with other artists I worked with later that year.
(5) Create As If No One is Watching
If you’re like me and steadily producing opportunities to showcase your work, you start to come in contact with criticisms and feedback that make demands on you to create art that caters to certain things, people and ideas. These demands impact your ability to monetize your art and try to get you to start producing without really creating anything new. We’ve seen that happen in the music industry where something once original becomes a genre or a gimmick to be mass-produced.
To get outside that mode of creating, rejuvenation is key. To rejuvenate after steady producing, it is essential you set time aside to create as if no one is watching and no one will ever see the finished product. What would you write if you thought your church family wouldn’t read it? What would you sing if you weren’t already known as an “R & B” singer? What play would you write if you didn’t think your past supporters would be part of your audience? Whatever is born from this moment of creation is usually our authentic voice speaking and is substantial proof that you are steps closer to rejuvenating your artist spirit.
JOIN ME TOMORROW
Join me on Saturday, June 18 at noon for a workshop with the DC Black Theatre Festival on using music as a theatre device. Click HERE for more information.
If you are a playwright like me and would like to learn more on how to bring your script from “Page to Stage” on a meager budget, come and learn some of my own personal tricks at a free workshop with @knowledgecommonsdc on Wed, June 23 @ 7:00pm at Southwest Neighborhood Library in Washington DC.
And, lastly, celebrate Juneteenth with me and artists from LiberatedMuse.com at Martin Luther King Library in Washington DC, sponsored by the DC Public Library System. Visit LiberatedMuse.com for more information.
As always, thanks for reading.