fun

The Importance of Creativity

This weekend, my boyfriend and I watched a documentary called, “Long Strange Trip,”  which followed the Grateful Dead band from their beginnings in Palo Alto, CA to their eventual expansion as a worldwide phenomena. It was informative and inspiring and as we plowed through all 6 episodes, something notable began to happen.

We are musicians and before Covid hit, we were playing out regularly at a few local bars and restaurants. Our setlist was growing and we started bringing in other musicians and expanding our sound. It was always fun and the performances motivated us to dig deeper, practice harder, and experiment with new ideas. 

Once everything shut down and we were restricted to playing alone in our own space, we lost motivation. We tried recording some videos and posting them on social media, but it just wasn’t the same. Eventually, we found ourselves practicing less with minimal enthusiasm. 

Recently, we have felt a spark begin to re-ignite as the pandemic wanes and the promise of more abundant live music emerges. We have been looking at new tunes and considering a variety of styles, and after nearly a year of rest, something feels novel and promising. It is a growing ember and we are hoping that the flame will catch soon and we’ll be on our way again.

The documentary was perfect timing. 

One of the most interesting parts of the story was the Dead’s innovative approach…to just about everything. Not only did they merge several styles of music (bluegrass, blues, folk, R & B, jazz, classical, jug) into their own unique form of improvisation but they also had a singular approach to handling the business of the band. Instead of following the conventional models of other popular acts, they created their own methods, allowing the journey to unfold and the long strange trip to come alive. Instead of focusing on making money or selling lots of records, their goal was to connect with their audience and create something together, something that was fun and free form, and that’s exactly what happened. 

Innovation and creativity are strong values for me and so, this type of story gets me going. It makes me want to tap deeper into my own potential and find ways to allow more of what they had to flow through me.

As I began to think about ways to do this, I remembered a book I had read many years ago called, the Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. In it, she points out that everyone has an unlimited creative potential. It is part of our birthright. As children, our connection to this source is vast and unblocked. We easily move in and out of unique imaginings and creative experiences. We are open. We observe. We experience. We create. Then, as we grow and move through our lives, our creative essence is slowly eroded by society until we reach a point where we can no longer find it. Sometimes, we can’t even remember having it. 

Cameron’s book helps those committed to discovering and recovering their creative power begin to unleash this buried gift. She has several techniques like writing morning pages to drain out distracting thoughts and tap into more wisdom. She also talks about planning a weekly “artist’s date” in which the reader takes their “inner artist child” out on a playdate, seeking new adventures and mysteries. All of the experiences and observations gathered are added to our ideas reservoir and become resources for our imaginings. I also believe that when we seek out fun and joy, we find our true selves and in this discovery, our creative potential opens up.

It appears that during the pandemic, my ideas reservoir had been running dry. I had limited social interactions and not a lot of places to go and things to see. I had plenty of valuable walks in the woods but that’s where it ended. My access to new sights, sounds, smells, touches, and tastes was limited. My imagination felt dulled, and I was not bringing much to the music. 

Now that I have been vaccinated and the world is opening up, I plan to begin “stocking the pond” again and scheduling a “weekly artist’s date.” I am already a daily journaler and will continue that with the intention of clearing the way to my inner creative self. I may even commit to following the program outlined in Cameron’s book. 

And as I think about the lives and accomplishments of the amazing Grateful Dead band, I will listen to more innovative arrangements, spend quality time with my guitar, work on new approaches to a variety of musical styles, write regularly, focus on fun, and take my hand off of the wheel, allowing the journey to unfold. After all, there may still be a “long strange trip” within me, waiting to be born.

To begin manifesting your best life, visit my website here https://www.mysoulpurposeproject.com/.

Jumping into Free Play

Peter and I having fun during a photo shoot in 2017. Photo credit: Kelly Fitzsimmons

I am a musician and since the pandemic hit last winter, I have been unable to perform live. I play lead guitar and sing backup vocals in an acoustic trio called Wendy Darling and the Lost Boys and over the years we have built a following and secured gigs at a number of local restaurants and festivals. The live events are always a lot of fun as are the practices leading up to them, each giving birth to an abundance of laughter, cheerful conversation, delightful consumption, fluid movement to the music, and an overall relaxed and joyful experience. Working and playing with the band has added a great deal of happiness and play to my life.

Over the course of the quarantine, however, it has become increasingly difficult to maintain an energetic and creative musical practice. Where at first, we tried new approaches like putting out Youtube videos and sharing material through GarageBand, these methods eventually got old and punctuated the absence of the brilliance that can only be captured through live interaction, the interplay of sound, ideas, emotions, surprises, and improvised reactions. 

I have felt myself falling into a slump and have had trouble regaining momentum. 

A couple of weeks ago, I confessed my growing disinterest to my guitar teacher and he quickly offered me a book he said would help re-energize my approach. The book, called Free Play: Improvisation in Life and Art by Stephen Nachmanovitch, outlines the benefits of using play to ignite passion, creativity, and progress. He gives examples of renowned musicians, artists, writers and inventors such as Beethoven, Bach, Picasso, da Vinci, M.C. Escher, Van Gogh,  Einstein, William Butler Yeats, and William Blake, all who have created in this way.  He talks about opening ourselves to divine play (known as Lila or Leela in Hindu philosophy ) in which we surrender our consciousness and need to control the outcome and open ourselves to whatever inspiration may come through. This approach allows us to tap into the spiritual collective and ultimately, join it with our own individuality to bring forth new and unique ideas. 

As distribution of the Covid vaccine moves swiftly and the world begins to open up, I am beginning to see the point as it applies to my life. I am realizing how much play time I have been missing. I miss performing with my band in front of a smiling crowd. I miss travelling, get-togethers with family and friends, team sports, parties, farmer’s markets, festivals, walking downtown with a street full of people, eating out in a lively establishment, watching the latest movie in a sold out theatre, laughing my head off with a group of friends. When I think about my pre-Covid self, I realize when there is play in my life, I am extra productive, a better learner, and relaxed. I have deeper and more meaningful relationships and increased imagination and creativity.

I am only part way through the book, but I have already begun to approach my daily guitar practice differently. Instead of making a to do list and going through the scales and songs with mechanical effort, I have been allowing the process to come forth. Some days, I play whatever happens to be on the music stand. Other times, I take a band standard and try it with an entirely different guitar tuning. I experiment. I create. I dance. I play. 

I am finding that all I need to do is show up and allow myself this opportunity, to lose all inhibitions and bring forth that which makes me happiest.  I am beginning to regain my enthusiasm and new ideas and accomplishments are starting to surface, just as Nachmanovitch promised.

As the pandemic cloud lifts and we are able to get together in larger groups, there will be more opportunities for play, and I recommend taking them. There may still be a period of waiting before it is safe to rush out into the world, but even now, we can begin to approach all endeavors with the child-like perspective of fun, surrender, curiosity and joy. We will certainly be happier and we may even discover a hidden treasure or two.

Other Websites.   Body: https://www.inbalancetherapeutics.net/   Soul: https://www.mysoulpurposeproject.com/  Music: https://www.wendydarlingandthelostboy.org/