Dream [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

When does a dream turn into a goal?

Lately, I’m having conversations that confuse me. Business thinking, engineer minds, make models for creation. Creativity plans as action templates and guides.

Screen writers make plans, too. Step outlines. The difference is in the process. A creative mind makes models and plans with full intent to throw them away. To discover the best story, their plan involves making space for the better idea. Open up by tossing the model. Clear the deck by shuffling the plan. Sketches and rough drafts. It’s a conversation with the muse. Muses are notoriously structure resistant until the story makes an audience sit forward. Movement first. Then, the structure begins.

The engineer mind works in the opposite direction. The dream must wear the mask of a goal or it is considered invalid. Too squishy. Construction begins immediately with targets and tasks. Order. It is, in fact, the same process as the creative mind, only it is less forgiving of space. It forces the muse to move. Time is of the essence. Structure first. Then movement. Efficiency is a tree with shallow roots.

It confuses me. Dreams do not wear ties or leather shoes, yet, scrape the blueprint and you’ll find a dream every time. Perspective requires stepping away from the canvas. Standing too close for too long and loss of vision is the result. Every time. It’s not a mystery or voodoo. It’s physics. Great ideas and idea-break-throughs happen in the shower or walking on the trail. A clear mind. A different focus creates space. Too tight thinking, too close in for too long, sucks energy.

Once upon a time I worked with organizations and educators. They also confused me. Squeezing the air out of their space they’d gasp, “We can’t breathe.” A little bit of space, some play, a refocus on the relationships was good medicine. Fresh air. Step back and see the painting. The point of perspective is to see. The secret: permission to remove the status games and need to be an authority and, for a moment, reconnect the players to their dream.

At the nucleus of every goal beats the wild heart of a dream.

read Kerri’s blog post about DREAM

Feed It [on KS Friday]

“The devaluation of music and what it’s now deemed to be worth is laughable to me. My single costs 99 cents. That’s what a single cost in 1960. On my phone, I can get an app for 99 cents that makes fart noises – the same price as the thing I create and speak to the world with. Some would say that the fart app is more important. It’s an awkward time. Creative brains are being sorely mistreated.” ~ Vince Gill

I am the first in line to tell you that everyone has a creative mind. Everyone. That river of ridiculousness running between your ears is nothing other than creativity-run-amok. What else? Telling yourself that you are not creative is, in itself, a creative act. Seeds planted early in life grow into mighty obstructions. Creative wastelands are created. If you want to hear a terrific appeal to educators to nurture rather than stifle the creative mind, listen to Sir Ken Robinson’s 2006 Ted Talk. It’s appropriately titled “Do Schools Kill Creativity?”

I’ve listened to numerous school boards tell me how much they truly value the arts – until it’s time to pay for it. Sadly, it’s not a question of whether or not they value the arts; it’s that the arts, the creative minds, do not fit any of the standards of valuation against which all things are measured. They do not know how to value the creative minds that they steward. Arts organizations and artists, mostly, are not money makers. Creative minds, creative acts, do not fit in the boxes and are not measurable on standardized tests. Thinking outside of boxes is, after all, the point of a creative mind. Metrics and goals stop a creative mind and heart in its tracks. The cruelest thing you can ask any artist to do is write a grant.

And yet, an artist has to make a living. Yaki asked me if I had to choose between making a living and making my art, which would I choose? I answered, “Art, of course,” but that it was really a question of Maslow’s hierarchy: it’s hard to make art when you are not surviving. What I didn’t say is that his question perfectly captured the reason schools kill creativity and creative brains are sorely mistreated: it is assumed one must choose between. Making a living and thriving creativity are understood as oppositional.

How many parents have tried to dissuade their children from following their passion for the arts? How many times have I heard Kerri say of the stacks of music on her piano waiting to be recorded, “What’s the use?” How many times have I sat in my basement studio looking at my stacks and rolls of paintings and wondered, “Why bother?” We do it to ourselves, too.

And then, the phony metric falls and we breathe, pick up our brushes and sit at our keyboards. There is a river of riches that runs deeper than money. It is, after all, a creative act to kill a passion. It’s also a creative act to feed and nurture an artistic soul. Both. It’s what the school board doesn’t understand: the choice is not between making a living or living as an artist, the choice is between feeding inspiration, expanding a creative mind, or smothering it.

read Kerri’s blogpost about CREATIVE MINDS

Kerri’s albums are available on iTunes and streaming on Pandora

watershed/as it is © 2004 kerri sherwood

Move Toward Wholeness [on Two Artists Tuesday]

When I look at the bowl of green tomatoes, each plucked from the vine before we pulled the plants from their pots, still moving toward red ripeness, I think of Joe. He was fond of saying, “Life moves in the direction of wholeness.” It’s important to note that his fond phrase included nothing about outcomes. Joe was particular and knew that life is movement and not arrival.

I am revisiting the word ‘rehearsal’ these days only this version of rehearsal is not on the stage with creative minds. It is over Zoom with decidedly analytical minds. Actors in rehearsal halls move through a process of exploration that leads to specific choices. The goal, if there is one, is to embody a state of moving presence within a story. The analytic mind comes with a template overlay that is placed atop the experience before it actually occurs. The language reveals all: content items. Telemetry. The mathematics of movement. Rehearsal is predicated on precision.

As I’ve probably written ad nauseam, these minds are not in opposition. They are complimentary. Freedom of artistic expression comes from years of study of technique. The path to mastery winds through repetition and constraint. Saying more with less comes after a lifetime of saying less with more. The creative mind is one step closer to the senses. The analytic mind applies language, gives voice, to the experience.

Many years ago I participated in a workshop with an actor/director of Noh Theatre. The process was strict, exacting. The movements precise. There was no room for error. We, the participants in the workshop, knew we’d never achieve proficiency since it takes years and years of rehearsal to perform even the simplest of symbolic gestures. No one sings opera in a day. We did our best and failed and failed and failed. That was the point. That is always the point. Each failure is actually an exercise of muscle memory. The body learns. The mind is impatient. Rehearsal is rarely about the mind, despite what the mind insists. At the end of the day, our workshop leader gave a short demonstration of his art form. His ease of movement, born from years of repetition within constraint, was breathtaking. He was free.

Many years later I was helping John in his wood shop. He was a master wood worker. I watched him look over his lumber, preparing to build a cabinet. He ran his hand over the wood, feeling his way into his project. “Ah,” he said, laying his hand on a piece of cherry wood. “This is it.” John was like the Noh actor.

“How did you know?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” he said, “it just feels right.” Then he smiled and added, “Plus, I’ve built a lot of crap.”

Life, moving toward wholeness.

read Kerri’s blog post about TOMATOES