LivingArts: Creative Control

As we enter a new year many people look for new beginnings and make resolutions to that end.  This year, as in many years past, I have reflected and come to the conclusion that I would most like to improve my organizational skills, especially as they relate to my artistic passions. With many areas of interest and other immediately important tasks, like remembering to buy orange juice, it can be easy to lose track of deadlines and goals.  

I have had discussions with artists in many fields about organization, mostly over coffee and often with frustration, and have come to the conclusion that balancing the creative, passionate, sometimes impulsive urges to make art with the planning, record keeping and troubleshooting necessary for a successful and sustainable artistic process is a common challenge. When inspiration strikes, waiting a few weeks to turn it into action can seem stifling. However, for a project like a theatrical production often more than a year is required to properly bring a production to fruition. How do we as artists reconcile our passion and our patience? How does one schedule inspiration? Is control over the creative process even possible?

Step one: find a tool. I was once given the incredibly important advice: “You don’t have to reinvent the wheel.”  If you are facing a problem such as formulating a recipe for stage blood that is both safely edible and will not stain costumes, while also staying within the props budget (this is a real scenario that I have faced), no matter how unique it feels there is a chance that someone else has also attempted to solve this same conundrum and so why not borrow from their experience? What I found is The Passion Planner, a tool developed by Angelia Trinidad, an artist herself, to help people with various interests to accomplish daily tasks while still moving forward with their passions a little each day. Best of all it is available to download and print for free. If a free organizational tool that helps you to remember to buy orange juice and to go to your writing circle doesn’t make you feel good already then the fact that this young entrepreneur has made a pay what you can option, 100% of which goes to a different charity each month, may.  

So now we have a tool that can help set aside creative time; however I still find myself apprehensive about creating on demand, even if that demand is coming from me.

Step Two: organized inspiration.  Even if specific time has been set aside to work on a creative project it isn’t always easy to switch your creativity on and off like a light switch. I have often set aside time for writing only to find myself staring at a blank document or aimlessly wandering the internet. In one of my many wanderings I came across a powerful TED talk by internationally bestselling author Elizabeth Gilbert about the creative process, the pressure it can place on artists, and how we might look at it differently both as artists ourselves and as a culture in general (if you haven’t already discovered TED Talks, prepare to be addicted). Gilbert discusses the idea of giving ourselves a certain distance from the creative process, allowing for the possibility that we may set aside time to do our creative work and that if it doesn’t happen to be a particularly productive day, not internalizing that as a personal failure.  She is articulate, funny and totally worth 20 minutes of your time.  

So here’s to a new year of creative and organizational possibilities! Perhaps the two are not all that dissimilar after all. It is clear that much creativity went into the creation of The Passion Planner and sometimes, despite our best efforts, our organizational muse may not pull their weight some days and we may find ourselves eating breakfast without our orange juice. Not to worry, we can always start a new page of our planner or of our next script tomorrow.