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Ideas have ancestors

geneology of ideas

“Look at Shakespeare, who borrowed all of his plots. In ‘A Song of Ice and Fire,’ I take stuff from the Wars of the Roses and other fantasy things, and all these things work around in my head and somehow they jell into what I hope is uniquely my own.” George R.R. Martin

It’s all been done before…and that’s fantastic!

Ideas are the seeds of creativity. And yet, as artists and writers we often get discouraged thinking “It’s all been done before.”

That’s the good news. No, really. It IS good news because I’m not sure anyone is wholly original. We build on each other’s ideas. That’s why I say that ‘ideas have ancestors.’ We can trace their lineage.

Shakespeare wrote Romeo and Juliet (and it sounds like he got his plot elsewhere.) Along came the creators of West Side Story who basically told the same story but changed it. George R.R. Martin took a story from history, amped it up and made it his own.

You’re probably thinking “But, Aprille, what about Leonardo da Vinci?” (Insert any creative hero here.)

They got their ideas from somewhere else, often the natural world around them. They saw what everyone else saw but  through the lens of curiosity.

Make it your own

What could you create today starting with the inspiration of something else? How would you change it to make it truly your own? I’m not advocating copying. That’s just plain bad karma.  But inspiration? That’s a good thing.

Inspiration always starts somewhere. Steve Jobs got his design idea for the Ipad on a Zen retreat. The designer of Velcro was a hunter who had to pick cockle-burs off his pants and wondered how they stuck there.

The geneology of an idea

Austin Kleon, in his brilliant book “Steal Like an Artist” talks about the ‘geneology of ideas’. I love this concept. So much in fact, that I did as he advised and spent time reading about an artist I greatly admire. From there I tracked down her influencers and saw how they inspired her.

From that I got a whole slew of creative ideas, all of them uniquely mine and yet…not. I can trace their family tree.

See what I mean? It’s not about being an original. It’s about seeing things in a new way by building on our creative ‘ancestors’. I’m not sure anyone starts from nothing. Ideas have family trees.

Gives a whole new meaning to recycling, doesn’t it?

Who are your creative heroes? How have they influenced you? Share in the comments. I’d love to hear from you!

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Pricing Your Work and Other Things: Business advice for creatives

You need some basic business skills as a creative if you want to earn a living from your work. Pricing your work isn’t always easy.

Here’s some advice on this podcast I did with my friend Joan Sotkin on her Prosperity Place show. 

Highlights:

  • Telling your story is how you connect with your market.
  • Even creatives can learn basic business skills.
  • Too many creatives undercharge for their work or services.
  • We talk about why it’s difficult to decide what to charge for your work.
  • Because your art comes easy doesn’t mean it has less value.
  • Many creatives are multipaths and multipotentialites who are good at a number of things.
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13 Ways to be Creative Every Day

In my last post I suggested we need to be creatively active every day in order to ‘stay in love’ with our muse.

When I first came across that idea, I balked. I couldn’t always be in my studio. Sometimes, life gets in the way. Or I need a break because the well is dry.

Then I shifted my idea on what “being creative’ actually meant. After all, I’m the first one to tell others that creativity isn’t necessarily art, dance, literature, etc. Which, of course, is what many people flash on if you say ‘creative’.

Apparently, I’d fallen into the same narrow mindset.

So I dusted it off (my mind, that is) and put my thinking cap on. Surely I could come up with a list of alternatives for those days when the Muse takes a break.

Some suggestions

1. Try a new recipe. I confess. Cooking isn’t my favourite thing but I do love baking so my new recipe will probably be a sweet treat. No one in my house will object.

2. Do a small daily sketch for 30 days. Committing to 15 minutes a day during a Passion Project is what started me down this road. I highly recommend it as a practice. Cathy Nichols, a mixed media artist I follow is doing hers on small tags. I may give this a try myself.

3. Do some gardening. Get your hands dirty. If you live in an apartment, offer to help a friend. Gardening is guaranteed to fire up all your senses.

taking a walk4. Walk with your camera. Toting my camera, I notice more details and special moments. So yes. You could just take a walk, but I find the camera is a good reminder to stay present and not make up a shopping list in my head.

5. Get out old art materials and see what ideas they trigger. I bought the materials to make rubber stamps awhile back, made a few stamps and had fun. Now the materials sit in a basket in a cupboard. Time to get them down and make some new ones.

6. Quilt. It doesn’t have to be a large project but fabric offers pattern and colour. Piecing a project means deconstructing and re-imagining. Totally creative and inspiring.

7. Have projects bookmarked in magazines and books? Grab one randomly and do the first marked project. Or go to the library and browse a section you don’t normally visit. Pull out a random book and see what it inspires.

8. Rearrange the furniture.  A fresh perspective on a familiar place always gives me a lift.

9. Draw a mandala. I love these geometric forms. I don’t have to think about them the same way, especially if I use a compass and protractor but they always feel so satisfying.

10. Zen Doodle. Not much to add to that. Highly addictive.

11. Browse Pinterest. Find some artists you admire and see what they have on their boards. (Here’s a link to my boards in case you’d like to check them out.)

12. Again on Pinterest, create a  board of images that inspire you.  No need to second-guess or  explain it to anyone. Let it be your highly personal source of inspiration.

13. Hang out in the Creative Fire Café. This is my online creative community and the conversations are inspiring and helpful. Join us?

That’s my list. Thirteen creative alternatives.

What’s on your list? Share your ideas and inspire us!

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What you should know about Creative Resistance

Creative Resistance

Let’s talk about Creative Resistance, shall we?

I believe we notice it more at the start of a new year because we revisit our resolutions and good intentions and wonder WHY did last year get away from us…again?

There’s hope

What is it? Where does it come from? Why do we avoid our work (even when we say it’s important to us) and how do we beat it?

The good news is , you’re not alone in this battle. We all experience resistance in one form or another. There isn’t a creative soul out there who hasn’t felt it pushing them away from their work at some point.

Here’s what I’ve learned about this tricky little blighter on my own journey.

Creative Resistance is…

invisible but it’s effects are very real.

Move through the ResistanceIt’s aim is to keep you from doing your work. And, while it may seem to come from outside of you, it is self-generated and self-perpetuated. It is also a force of nature and a liar.

It’s fuel is fear.

So ask yourself, “What is it about my creativity that I’m afraid of? If I did something about it, what is the worst that could happen? The best?”

(Weirdly, it’s usually the good stuff that scares us more.)

Get that fear out where you can see it. Don’t let it fester in the dark. Write about it. Make an art journal page. Dance it out. Whatever it takes.  Get that fear moving and you are no long stuck.

The Resistance Compass

Creative Resistance is actually a very good compass , pointing the way to what truly matters to you.

Creative resistance is a compass pointing you to what's really important. Click To Tweet

In fact, the more you resist, the more valuable that thing is to you. That’s information you can use! Use your Resistance to navigate by and discover what it is you really need to be up to.

The more important a call or action is to our soul’s evolution, the more Resistance we will feel toward pursuing it. Steven Pressfield, The War of Art.

If your Creative Resistance is BIG then it’s a good indicator that something BIG is waiting to come through you.

Procrastination is a common symptom of Creative Resistance because it’s the easiest to rationalize. (After all, the dishes MUST be washed.)

But when you put off doing your art, you put off important work. Not to put to fine a point on it, but you could end up putting off your life’s work. After all, something is calling to you to bring it into the world. Pay attention.

Change your response

You can do something about this right now. Sit down and create something. Anything. Even a doodle counts.  You’ll be thumbing your nose at Creative Resistance, when you do.

It’s that simple… and that hard.

Want to learn more?