A Creative Life

Here are my goals in developing my creative life:

  • Dedicate time every week to being creative.
  • Bring the process out of my head and into reality.
  • Find ways to bring creativity into everyday life
  • Problem solve without creating more problems
  • Write the things that I want to write.
  • Foster new creative skills in myself

Taking to the time to be creative – I’m not a schedule guy. I’m not good at structuring my days and weeks so that certain activities take place at specific times.  Having a toddler doesn’t help this schedule fluidity.  But if I’m going to put creative time as a priority, I’ll have to carve out a niche.  It might be one night a week after everyone goes to bed, and I spend some time writing.  When it happens is not important.  What is important is that I carve out a little bit of time each week.  It can be as simple as writing a funny blog post or a series of poems.  Or it can be a story that gets written little by little.  It could also be about spending time designing and building something (in the other context of creative but also will require quite a bit of problem solving).  The idea is also to build a little momentum.  If it is something I do regularly maybe I get better at it, maybe it becomes more part of a routine.  Like a brain work out.

Getting the creative out of my brain:  I spend a fair bit of time inside my head, thinking, planning, designing.  But my goal for a creative life is manifest that internal creativity into something more tangible.  It doesn’t have to be Huck Finn or Moby Dick; it needs to be words on the page.  The same can be said for other creative endeavors whether that is building some shelves or a dining table or just think about how to better arrange the garage for optimal usefulness.

  • Try to write a blog post per week: Currently I think I’ve written about 75 blog post since I started in 2013.  There are some significant gaps (mostly associated with life demands). Those gaps have created a sort of backlog of ideas in my head (and some sketched out or as at least a title/theme).  Trying to write more frequently and more consistently will start to get some of those things out of my head and onto paper. Plus, I don’t know a better way to chronical the things that are occurring around me, to me, and because of me.  I can’t sing. I can’t play guitar; I can’t draw or paint. But I can write, and the more I write the more I can find my voice and the more I can let that creative hobby shine forth.
  • Break out the good camera: I own a nice camera, a DSLR, which when I use it takes amazing pictures.  Coupling this goal with the travel and nature goals could perhaps take me to some amazing places, where good photos would shine.  The key for creativity is to think beyond the snap, to think about composition.  That short video makes me want to go out and take lots of pictures.  Even Katie, who is I’m sure in the running for the most photographed baby in history (tied with every other first child born in the era of cellphone cameras), could be a great subject for some creative photography.  I have a nice camera. It is time to use it.
  • Keep writing Friday haiku: I have my friend Spencer to thank for this little creative outlet, as I copied what he was already doing in writing a haiku on Facebook every Friday.  I try to do it every week and mostly I do.  While some of the haiku are abstract, the best, and my favorites were accompanied by a picture.  The idea of a picture described in the minimalistic haiku fashion is appealing.  It does not over explain things (which is something I do all the time – for example this post and almost every other post I’ve ever written).  The scheduled nature (it’s called the Friday Haiku) provides me a guaranteed creative outlet every week.  Even if I didn’t take any good pictures that week, I have thousands of other pictures that I could choose to use.
  • Take time to describe the photos I do have: With literally thousands of photos, from all kinds of places and involving all types of subjects, I think that a simple way to make manifest my innate creativity is simply to describe the pictures.  Just a few lines or thoughts onto paper can create a record for posterity of what was occurring and where it happened.  It is also something that can be done quickly with just a few minutes.  All the photos of the Amazon and other adventures could use these types of captions.  It would also drive other creative forces as I’m sure it would jog loose anecdotes and other thoughts.  I image, eventually, a book of all these things I’ve thought and written and done, something that could be passed down to Katie so that when she is older she can know what we were thinking or what we were doing rather than just looking at pictures trying to guess what is happening and who is in the picture.  This isn’t something like haiku Friday, that I put out on the internet, it can just be for me, or us, or anyone who wants to look at.

Define the problem – what is the solution – is there a better solution:  Some of this will fall under the idea of a building life.  For example, we have more books than places to put them.  A solution might be to buy a bookcase.  But in looking, things were either too flimsy (think Saunders/sawdust bookcases), too bulky, too expensive.  So the creative thing to do was build my own that would fit the space I had, the needs I have, sturdy enough to be moved multiple times without falling apart, and versatile enough to fit into new spaces.  The big thing is to put those plans into action.  I spent a lot of time being creative in the development of those bookcase, but I need to spend time creating them.

Problem solve along the way – while the designing was creative, the building also has opportunities to be creative, as there will be much problem solving needed along the way.  Even if following someone else’s design there is opportunity for your own artistic flourish or creative solution.

Figuring out what I want to write: I spend a good deal of my life writing.  As a scientist, I write to explain my research and propose new idea and connections.  It is not the same as creative writing, although there are parts of it which greatly benefit from creative thinking.  But when I think about writing I think about the things I want to write, the things I have dreamed about writing since I was in 5th grade and wrote short stories for our advanced language arts class (I was a multiple regional award winner in both 5th and 6th grades).  If I was going to be anything but a scientist, I would be a writer, a novelist.  Of the things I want to write, a novel tops the list.  But a novel is not going to get written this year.  It is something that I will have to build towards, but doing many of these things I’ve described will certainly help.  If I can I would also write my Dad’s biography.  We’ve talked a little bit about this and it would be great if he tells me the stories and I write them down.  It is more of a ghost written autobiography, but it is something that would be both creative and profound.  I would also like to write my own autobiography, although in some ways that is what this blog is.  The idea that people might want to read about my experiences as a non-famous person is a bit presumptuous, but even so I would like to start at least a few chapters now, before they fade further into memories.  Perhaps what might be easiest to write is a book of fish poetry.   Sure, this would have an even smaller interest group than my autobiography, but fish are something I’m passionate about and thus fish poems.

Building small pieces into larger creative endeavors.  I think this part is about how I may end up writing a novel or a book of poems.  Or create a nice piece of furniture.  It all needs to occur in small steps.  A series of short stories. A series of character development exercises.  These are things I can do to build up to a larger whole.  I don’t have six months to spend in a cabin in remote Wisconsin to write my masterpiece (listen to Bon Iver).  I have thirty minutes while everybody sleeps to get down some ideas.

Writing down the process does not reduce creativity – Taking the time to write things down will help you remember the process so that if you do it again you can do it better.  This goes for cooking or building or writing.  Building these creative compilations will be useful in the end.  If I have something great, I can share it with the world (see problem solving in making goetta).  If I have something that didn’t work, I can remember not to make the same mistakes again.  This takes a bit of time, but almost always it is worth it in the end.

Compile the book of haiku – as part of the idea of writing everything down, one good project would be to create a single haiku repository.  Right now there are notebooks and post-it notes and Facebook posts and random scraps of paper with haikus written on them.  By putting them all together I can start to look for patterns in my writing or topics that I’ve commonly explored.  This might bring inspiration and direction.  Plus, who doesn’t want a book of haikus about dogs or fish or weather (common themes I’m sure) as a Christmas present.

Being creative in the same way can get boring – So far haiku are not boring me, but there is a world of rhyme and meter out there to explore.  It may be a great creative challenge to write in a new style, to develop a new thought pattern.  Something like trochaic tetrameter might become a new creative muse.  In the same way, while I’m not good at things like painting or sculpting or music I should be open to the idea that they could improve my ideas.  Or perhaps think about some collaborative efforts.