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August 22, 2005

Get Creative

San Francisco Chronicle (CA):

I remember the day I gave up my dream of becoming a famous singer. It was in sixth-grade glee club, and we were auditioning for parts in the holiday recital. I had to sing an a cappella soprano solo and I was so nervous that I could barely breathe, let alone sing (or bother to mention to the director that I was actually an alto). Needless to say, when the moment came to hit the high note, I squeaked out something that sounded like a bird that been hit with a BB gun. I was kindly but swiftly relegated to the back row, buried with a bunch of choral wannabes whose part consisted of 50 measures of rest, followed by the brief, but glorious shout-out of "Jingle Bells!"

Life is rife with dream-crushing experiences like this -- the drama teacher who patted you on the shoulder and mumbled that you "had other talents, " the art instructor who joked that maybe you should "keep your day job." A teasing sibling who asked if you knew how to sing "Far, Far Away." And before you knew it, you were toiling away in a windowless cubicle, a bubbling cauldron of repressed creative energy with nowhere to let it out except for the occasional drunken karaoke night with the office gang.

Pep talk from the coach

"Not accepting that you have to make lots of mistakes is the biggest obstacle to creativity," says Eric Maisel, a noted San Francisco creativity coach and psychotherapist, who's authored myriad books on the creative process, including the recently published "Coaching the Artist Within" and "Fearless Creating."

"You tell yourself, 'I'm an idiot, this is no good,' rather than honoring the process, so that you never see things to completion," Maisel says. "Anxiety is the other thing. Studies show that choosing provokes anxiety, and everything you do as a creative person is choosing. So unless you can embrace anxiety, you won't do it."

Maisel, who counsels singers, dancers, painters and poets in how to lead and maintain a creative life, also offers these tips to struggling artists and those of us who hope to infuse our workaday world with creativity:

-- Recognize that there's never a perfect time to start being creative, that you're always creating in the middle of things.

-- Affirm that what you're doing matters.

-- Create a life mission statement that includes your creative pursuit and a simple plan for implementing it, such as "I will sing every day."

-- Create first thing each day, not after a long day at work. "Getting up two hours earlier is a profound lifestyle change, and a big step in committing to your creative life," he says.

Beyond that, look around you. San Francisco abounds with creative outlets -- from workshops to help you push your writer's block over a cliff, to classes for people who always dreamed of joining the circus -- all designed to coax your inner artist out of hiding. Maybe permanently.

Remember, it ain't over till the fat lady squeaks.

Posted by acapnews at August 22, 2005 8:52 PM