Friday, March 30, 2018

#190 out of a thousand ways to have a happy artist's life; Mistakes are GOOD!

"I Love You" collage by Lani, textures by FlyPaper.

This one was SUPER fun. I was listening to a YouTube video lecture by Professor Ellen Langer, Department of Psychology, Harvard University, on Mindfulness. She's considered the "mother of mindfulness" and has been studying mindfulness as well as mindlessness since the '70's. In this particular talk she described the benefits to creative efforts of making mistakes. Yes, making mistakes are GOOD! Wow, how freeing is that thought!

Her premise is that we mindlessly follow rules and routines because we are afraid of making mistakes. She set up a research design with three groups of creative people working on essays or art. One group was just working away on their essays or art. The other two groups were deliberately misled about a directive so that they all created mistakes. One of these groups were told that's alright, we all make mistakes, just move on. The other group was told to find a way to incorporate their mistake in their final work.

As you might imagine, when all the creative efforts were finished, the drawings and essays with the mistake incorporated into them were much better actually, than even those that had no "mistake" AND the group had a lot more fun. They were kind of forced to be mindful. A mistake is a cue to wake up and be present, to take advantage of opportunities which you might not notice if you were mindlessly following rules and routines. Also, mistakes can make your final product more interesting.

So yes, mistakes are GOOD! They wake us up and when we are awake we can be happy!

Friday, March 02, 2018

#183 - 189 out of a thousand ways to have a happy artist's life; Creating Connections

"Your Gift to the World" collage by Lani, textures by FlyPaper.

Do you ever find a book that grabs your attention, opens your mind, and shows you a larger perspective?

I am enjoying just these qualities in Johann Hari's "Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression - And the Unexpected Solutions. I'm pretty sure Edith Kramer would have enjoyed his thinking, as well. He takes into account our biology, our environment, and our evolution. He teases out the differences between extrinsic and intrinsic values, motivations, and rewards. These topics were all part of the discussion at Edith's table if you were lucky to be there when she was taking a tea break from her art making.  As an artist she always enjoyed the bigger picture. Johann Hari's book definitely steps back to take in the bigger picture at modern western culture, looking at much of what makes us uncomfortable, depressed and anxious, today.

As you can gather from the title, the book is about connections, not just our connections with each other but connections to groups, to meaningful work, meaningful values, sympathetic joy, our past, and our sense of a possible future.

So how this might work for the Happy Artist's Life? Here are my versions of Hari's connection building ideas.

1. Develop connections with other artists, more creative fun with others. Create art making workshops in your community, opportunities to be with your "tribe."

2. Look for places where art can useful in the service of the greater good, where it can be a part of social justice or community building.

3. Find ways to bring art and creativity into your work life. This will ensure that you are attending to your intrinsic rewards while earning a living.

4. Do some art journaling around the topic of values. What does our culture teach us is most valuable? Spend some time on exploration of intrinsic values, what do we really hold dear? Can it be expressed in art?

5. Learn to take more and more pleasure in the pleasure people get from their own creative efforts. This is huge. A constant source of joy is all around us when we feel the joy of others.

6. Use your art journal to explore and resolve old stories from the past. Often we hang on to these stories as a way to keep ourselves safe, but in actuality we are hurting ourselves by hanging on to resentments. It is possible to release old stories, especially if you use metaphor and art.

7. Create art about a possible future. Step back from your current view of life and look at the bigger picture. Again, this is something that artists can play with fairly easily in their art journals.

Who knows, as we play in our art journals we may find new ways to build connections.