February 21, 2014

Learning the Stages of Creativity: The Story of an Artist Accepting Normalcy.

Photo via Rain Fingerhut

These past few years have brought me closer to what I believe skydiving would feel like.

I have moved from San Francisco to Los Angeles to Houston to Marin County, California, and then to Hawaii. I have lost my grandmother and grandfather. I have lost one of my best friends. I have abandoned my inherited culture because I couldn’t handle all the trauma, thus causing familial conflict. Throughout it all, I was going through a terrible break up. And then I fell in love again (which is never easy).

General feelings of solitude and spiritual death and re-birth plagued me, and while redefining everything I believed in (or re-examining everything I had overlooked), I kept harping on myself for not playing music.

Sometimes just plucking my guitar for a minute a week, just to remember it was still there, was exhausting. Eventually I would have to preserver, right? Things will start feeling good again, right? Music will start flowing again, I’m sure! This had to be depression, and it would lift eventually.

Sometimes when we forget about where we are, or where we’re going, a lot of time will go by very fast. Everything we had wanted gets lost in a fog when we are stricken with life’s train wrecks.

To my surprise, that “inherent creativity” I thought I had wasn’t coming back. I wrote a couple of songs here and there, but nothing mind-blowing. Things weren’t the way they used to be. I couldn’t just walk outside and become immersed in a thought, and have a full song written by that evening.

The most depressing side note? Before that creative “slump,” my life motto had been “Stay strong, and stay inspired.” Well, what the heck had happened to me?

“Maybe my inherent creativity,” I realized, “is simply not as straightforward as it used to be. I’ve never been more creatively frustrated in my life!” What I didn’t realize, was that I was in a different creative stage.

Here is a list of our life’s creative stages:

1. Raw, Genius, Un-Edited Creating. What I thought I had lost, and probably the most fun—Art! Music! Painting the walls purple! Getting into trouble! Having random adventures!

2. Reflection Creating. Assimilation of the stories from your past and your relationship to them.*Note* This is when you start reposting a lot of online articles and life quotes on your Facebook page.

3. Future Creating. Success-oriented planning and action. You hear a lot of “Booms!” during this stage.

4. Self-Creating. Determining beliefs, goals, and mandatories. This is usually a very inspiring stage for everyone involved.

5. Life Creating. Day to day approaches and routines. This is probably the most relatable stage. *Cough. Photos of the dinner you cooked.

6. Relationship Creating. Building personal and group relationships. And boy oh boy, for me, this one takes the most energy.

Some of these “creatives” overlap, but sometime we don’t work on all of them. Or, sometimes we make the mistake that by having one, we have to leave the other. We abandon the career for the marriage, or the marriage for the future. We abandon our future because we believe so much in our routine, and so on.

In my case, I abandoned that raw, genius, un-edited creating to create a relationship. It sounds silly, but for me, artistry is very self-involved, and at that point in my life, I needed to build a strong foundation in my new love relationship instead.

The point, I realized, was that I could switch things around if I wasn’t happy. There are many places to develop and celebrate our relationship with creativity. Nothing had to be abandoned, and nothing was abandoned forever.

It’s not that the creativity goes away. And it’s especially not that some of us are creative and some of us are not. The fact of the matter is, all of us are always living in a state of creation. The trick is learning which stage we’re in, and appreciating it all the same.

So in a sense, my “Stay strong, and stay inspired,” didn’t change. It just switched stages.

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Editorial Assistant: Karissa Kneeland/Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo: Rain Fingerhut

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