Category Archives: Free writing

Of Resilience and Creativity

Notes on Creativity theme of the week:
The Artistic Personality

In the post below I mentioned that there was a time in my life when I was so hypersensitive that every action around me seemed to land directly on my soul, and that this period did not last long. The ability to bounce back from such a state is essential to life and living it, as well as essential to our creativity. What’s interesting is that the relationship between resilience (the ability to overcome adversity) and creativity is circular: resilience allows you to continue to be creative and being creative allows you to be more resilient.

While research shows that mild negative emotional states can increase creativity, excessive negative emotions can hamper creative problem-solving as well as artistic creativity. The ability to acknowledge and navigate to the other side of these emotions and their causes brings you back to a place where you are open again to creative inspiration and action.

Conversely, thinking creatively to come up with solutions to what is dragging you down will help you get back on track. What’s more, doing something creative (e.g., painting, writing, landscaping, etc.) gives you confidence in your abilities to create. This confidence can translate into belief in your abilities to take action that will take you to where you want to go, building your resilience.

For me, turning how I felt into abstract short stories with unexpected positive twists helped me take the energy I was turning against myself into work I took pride in. It also gave me a new perspective of my situation. This was a big factor in getting met back on my feet and back to what’s important in life.

(Link to ways to build resilience)

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Today’s 4 Minute Writer

The White Rose

I stumble upon them on the side of the snow filled trail. Somehow, through the months of cold and wind, they have remained, sticking their stalks and heads out, daring to hope for a bit of sun. They are so vulnerable, but don’t bother to notice- theirs is to continue the task of showing Beauty to the world. I am drawn to them. They remind me of the group of youth in Germany so many years ago who named themselves after these delicate flowers. The White Rose. In the face of the cold, death-producing regime of their time, they also stood strong, believing that Beauty would always prevail. Even as they were led to death by hanging, they maintained this impossible view. Though they were not permitted to see it, when the cold was driven out and the winds stopped, the world discovered that they were right.

Monday’s 4 Minute Writer topic: Data Entry

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The Hypersensitive Experience

Notes on Creativity theme of the week:
The Artistic Personality

I have a snapshot in my memory of me in the kitchen of a friend’s house, her father slamming down a meat tenderizer over and over again into a raw, blood-filled steak. Each blow landed directly on my soul and hammered it further and further into a dark abyss. At that time in my life it was as if there was no protective cover for my soul, it was completely exposed, and the world acted directly and deeply on it.

I am glad that this hypersensitivity did not last very long and that I was able to regain the protective shell around my soul. It gave me a glimpse, though, into just how great an effect the tiniest of our actions can have on others. And who knows, maybe the highly sensitive experience of life is truer than we know. 

(Link to Pearl S. Buck quote on high sensitivity and creativity)

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Today’s 4 Minute Writer  

Fear

It started when she was seven, some horror movie about a ring. Since then, she had an intense fear of circles- rather inconvenient really as there tend to be a lot around. She bought square tea cups, never rode a bicycle, had special doorknobs, never ate sliced tomatoes, and refused to pay cash so she wouldn’t have to deal with change. Her parents put her in therapy after she had a hysteric fit in the middle of gym class during a unit on hoola-hoops. The shrink told them she was simply defiant and would have to be consistent in their discipline.

In grad nine, she burst out in tears when the teacher handed out standardized scholastic aptitude tests in which students had to shade in bubble sheets to answer multiple choice questions.

Somehow she made it into adulthood and was now considering a career in the military… (Write your own thoughts on what happens next.)

Tomorrow’s 4 Minute Writer topic:   

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Creativity and Empathy

Notes on Creativity theme of the week:
The Artistic Personality

It’s easy for artists to get lost in their own experiences of ecstasy, desire, despair, or rage. They mine these depths and share their treasures with the rest of us. Artists also need to be able to enter into the inner experiences and feelings of others, to have empathy. This allows for the creation of vivid characters and dynamic performances. It is not, however, without its dangers. Entering too deeply into the inner workings of another person can create a loss of identity and perspective. Developing the ability to control the entering in and leaving behind of the experiences of others is essential- as is the ability to delve into and come out of one’s own depths so as to not become lost.  

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Today’s 4 Minute Writer

Fish

Sea kittens. Yes, that’s right, I said sea kittens- the PETA marketing campaign. If fish had the face of kittens, we would care about their welfare. Just like the baby seal thing- so cute we would want to protect them.

Is that what human beings are like, favouring the lives of the cute over the lives of the ugly? Do parents love their pretty children best? What if what was once beautiful becomes old and shriveled, does society turn its back? Yes. Look at how we discard our seniors- yes, our seniors. We are all responsible. We are collectively shallow.

But, why not love the pretty more? Why not lavish affection on what is pleasing to look at and brings warm feelings? All good to say until you’re the ugly one who is cast aside.  

Tomorrow’s 4 Minute Writer topic: Rental cars

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The Writer’s Personality Type

Notes on Creativity theme of the week:
The Artistic Personality

Do writers have a particular personality type that draws them to their craft? According to research done by Jane Piirto of Ashland Universit in Ohio, writers tested with the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) personality test scored overwhelmingly as INFPs  (Understanding Creativity).

INFPs are introverted, intuitive, feeling, and perceptive. They have a rich inner world with intense feelings and committed values. They are creative and are often gifted in language. As they are introverts, writing lends itself easily as the outlet for their creativity. Their curiosity to understand others and their continual search for new ideas allow them to see the potential for writing material all around them.

How much of yourself do you see in this description?

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Today’s 4 Minute Writer

Longing

He waits for her. Hours pass, and still he waits. Dozens of people walk by. They take no notice of this old man sitting on the park bench, alone.

A soft wind rustles the grass beyond the path they used to walk together to get here. They would sit arm in arm, looking out into the fields, sharing the sandwich she had made and laughing at the inside jokes they shared between them.

He sits alone, waiting for her. Daylight fades into dusk, then night. Still, he waits. This was their sanctuary, the place they came to week after week, their world in the midst of the world, yet set far apart from it. There is no other place he would rather be than here, with her, so he waits until she comes to him again. He has been too long without her, the months of hospital visits as he watched her slip further and further away until it wasn’t her anymore. He knows he will find her here. Eternity lay in the time-bound moments they shared here. This is the place he will connect with that realm and be with her again.

Tomorrow’s 4 Minute Writer topic: Fish

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The Artist’s Dynamic Tension

Notes on Creativity theme of the week:
The Artistic Personality

“The artist lives in a state of greater dynamic tension than the nonartist and so is likely to demand more, desire more, withdraw further into herself, witness better, laugh harder, and bellyache louder. This may not be easy for anyone to take- the artist included…” -Eric Maisel in Creativity for Life

Can you relate to that quote? A state of greater dynamic tension… The line in the Verve’s Bittersweet Symphony resonates with me: “I’m a million different people from one day to the next”, as do the lyrics to “I’m a bitch, I’m a lover” by Meredith Brooks. In that song, she talks about the extremes in her personality coming out from one moment to the next and then says “You know you wouldn’t want it any other way” and “You know I wouldn’t want it any other way.” And I wonder if I agree with that…

Of course, we all only know what it’s like to be ourselves, really, and even that we’re not completely sure of. From my limited corner of the universe, looking through the window I’ve been given, I marvel at how most people around me seem so even-keeled, without a significant degree of variance or contradiction. How do they do that? Life seems like a kiddie train ride for them instead of the roller coaster it can sometimes be for me. They appear so content and… so numb. Maybe Meredith does have a point after all…

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Today’s 4 Minute Writer

Wine Glasses After the Party

The four of them stand motionless, ignoring each other, forgetting that just a few short hours ago they were swinging in each others’ arms, then interlacing them as they drank from each others’ glasses as toast after toast rang in the new year.

Now, they are silent and empty, perfect strangers. Half eaten chips and shelled peanuts lie strewn on the counter at random, meaninglessly. Where did all the buzz and to-do go? Nothing is left but a mess to clean up and a status quo to re-establish.

It’s that awkward in-between time now, the moment suspended between festivity and the mundane, the quiet chaos that excessive merriment leaves behind.

Tomorrow, Jenny will be back at the office, Tom will be on a plane to Vegas, while Herold and Tiffany play mom and dad to their five year old twins. To the people around them, they’ll talk about the weather and traffic, and how the price of everything is going up and how fast time is going by. They’ll be back to their molds, shaking hands on cue and smiling at the person serving their morning coffee. And when they see each other out shopping for groceries or standing in line at the bank, they’ll make polite conversation. It won’t be like it was that night, when they were suddenly the best of friends who let themselves loose, embracing the spontaneity of the moment.

Tomorrow’s 4 Minute Writer topic:

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Why So Serious?

Notes on Creativity theme of the week:
Blockers to Creativity

A few months ago I learned a very valuable lesson about being in the right frame of mind to allow creativity to flow through me, unhindered. And, like with so many of the really important lessons in life, it came through pain and being humbled.

I was involved in a project that became extremely important to me. I spent hours, weeks, months on it, thought about it in-depth throughout this time period, discussed it incessantly with others, studied it from every angle. The culmination of the project was several presentations infront of a few hundred people. The first few presentations I gave it my very best, my all, but somehow it didn’t come off well and I could not understand why. Of course, my inner critic was much harsher than others, but I knew that I wasn’t portraying what I had to give with the real creativity I felt. I was frustrated and confused.

Just before one of the last presentations, I kicked back with some friends and we got into a great round of banter, laughter, and down-right silliness. I was in a great mood! That evening’s presentation was magic. I was in flow, and each moment took on a life of its own, portraying exactly what I had meant it to.

I learned a powerful lesson about not taking myself so seriously that I become over-invested in my projects and lose sight of what they are meant to be- fun, in the truest sense of the word. Let go, relax, and enjoy the ride.

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Today’s 4 Minute Writer

Angela

Tonight, 11:57pm, she’s sitting on a bar stool at Eddie’s Taphouse. Tomorrow night, 11:57pm, she’ll be laying on the floor in this same spot.

She spends nearly every minute she’s not at work here. It’s where she and her friends celebrate all the significant and not so significant occasions in their lives. It’s where she comes because she has nowhere else to go.

Just like on the tv show Cheers, everyone here does know her name, and they really are glad that she comes. She always feels welcome and appreciated here. Tonight, she has no idea that just under 24 hours from now, she’ll walk in for the last time.

Monday’s 4 Minute Writer topic: Wine Glasses After the Party

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No Idea Where to Get Ideas

Notes on Creativity theme of the week:
Blockers to Creativity

Perhaps your life is full of the routine- bills to pay, traffic to fight, deadlines to meet, errands to run. You want to infuse some ‘heart and soul’, some creativity. And you have no idea where to start. So you don’t. And life goes on- the bills, the traffic, the deadlines. It’s a rut, but you have no idea where to start.

So many times, the answer to seemingly difficult questions is to go the simple route. Instead of arbitrarily adding something to your life, use the mundane you are already involved in to ignite ideas. Start to really pay attention to the world around you as you move about in it. When you sit in traffic, look around- what is the person in the car beside you doing? What does it feel like to be inching along for what feels like hours? What is your opinion of the flashing digital display advertising teeth whitening? Hone your skills of observation and be aware of your gut-level responses. Write these down and see what direction they take you in: maybe you start a blog about what you notice, or discover a new interest to explore further. The more present you are in your life, the more you’ll find your ‘heart and soul’ and find opportunities to pursue it.

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Today’s 4 Minute Writer

Big Brown Puppy Dog Eyes

Her eyes go wide with excitement, turning into perfect circles, framed by protruding triangular ears. Her tail swings so rapidly- can that thing fall off if it moves too quickly? At other times the eyes are shaped like sideways almonds, head hung low, tail drooping. She confesses even before I notice the garbage torn apart on the floor.

Right now, her eyes are barely open. She’s had a long day full of chasing sticks and making sure the neighbourhood dogs know that this is her turf. Her body begins to twitch as her eyes glaze over and start to see images in another place.

She’s a good dog, knows what she wants out of life: a little playing, some petting, peeing in the tall grass, sunning on the back deck, and the more food the better!

Behind those closed eyes she watches the plate of KFC that’s sitting too close to the edge of the counter tumble down right in front of her face. Now she can spend all night enjoying the aftermath as the scene replays itself over and over again. What a happy dog.

Tomorrow’s 4 Minute Writer topic: Angela

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Dealing with the External Critic

Notes on Creativity theme of the week:
Blockers to Creativity

Every time you create something, a piece of you goes into it. Sharing that creation with others can be intimidating, especially if you are sensitive to the opinions of others, which most “creative types” tend to be. There are several things to consider in sharing your work like : the relationship you have with those you share with and the type of feedback you have received from them in the past, how important it is to you to get your work “out there” regardless of the response, and what thoughts you have in the back of your head on what you might do if you get a negative response (“I’ll never get up in front of an audience again!”)

Here are a few key tips to help you evaluate how you share your work:

1. Are you open to feedback? Getting an outside perspective/constructive criticism allows you to see your work in a new way. This can be a great opportunity to make your work even better.

2. Try to be objective Separating yourself from your work can be difficult. Remember that the spark that produced the work is still in you and has an abundance of ways of expressing itself. Passion and skill work hand in hand. We can always learn more skill.

3. Consider the source Any feedback on how to improve your work should be done with the intent to help you. If you perceive that this is the intent, weigh the comments- take what you can work with and leave the rest. If not, consider the comments more a reflection on the speaker than on you.

When our emotions are at stake, things get tricky. That’s part of what keeps life interesting…

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Today’s 4 Minute Writer

Vibrant

I see it and my eyes light up. A gentle electric current zaps my pleasure receptors and I know the serotonin is flowing. I am taken into the world of flaming oranges and crisp greens. I’m flying now, through depthless oceans and golden dunes. My tongue is dragging behind, lapping freshly squeezed grapes from grandma’s vineyard. All night long I careen through canyons, run marathons without breaking a sweat, and belt out amazing lyrics to adoring throngs. I don’t want to be taken away from this world, hurled into the strain and striving of waking life. There the confines of my blinders keep me in mental locked-in syndrome, unable to climb the heights or soar like I do when I’m asleep.

My only consolation is that one day, while I’m riding alongside a group of wild horses, I’ll just keep riding and not have to stop.

Tomorrow’s 4 Minute Writer topic:

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Banish the Inner Critic

Notes on Creativity theme of the week:
Blockers to Creativity

“I can’t believe I said that! What an idiot I am!” Admit it, you’ve heard that voice inside your head. And then, what do you know, you feel like an idiot. And you stew on what you did. And you dig yourself deeper and deeper into a hole. It’s dark down there, way, way down there. Depressing place to be.

It’s that same nasty voice that tries to convince you not to pursue your creative dreams. “Your stuff isn’t any good. No one will like it. You don’t have any ideas.” Well forget that voice! Rather than listening to it, relegate it to the realm of insignificance. It’s not about debunking the content of the voice, the inner critic. Trying to fight on its ground just digs you a hole. Pushing it to the side and continuing on your journey leaves the critic sniveling in the corner- no one’s listening. So what if your stuff isn’t good or no one likes it? If you want to write, write! If you want to dance, dance! Enjoy the process, getting words out of your head and onto the page, or learning new ways to express who you are- enjoy the discovery along the way. The 4 minute writer is the perfect way to bypass the critic and enjoy the ride.

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Today’s 4 Minute Writer

Food

Pass the pizza
Pass the pretzels
Don’t let my ice tea run out
Waitress, can you get me some more hot wings- extra sauce.
So much trash! We call this food? May as well head to the back alley behind McDonald’s and chow down, same dif.
How is it possible that we eat so much crap and still live to our mid-80s? Do our cells slowly transform into plastic proving to be durable until critical mas and then we just cease to function? Maybe that’s what cancer really is, the plastification of he human body caused by excess chemical intake.
We don’t even know what real food is anymore. Even Farmers’ Markets bring us ‘local’ food from hundreds of miles away- and who knows what they have to do to get it here ‘fresh’.
But, this is the world we live in- artificial food, artificial flowers, synthetic fibers, fake smiles and facades for relationships.
Does anyone still look for ‘Real? Does anyone still take the time to look at what may lay beneath the rug, between the pages of hardcover books, or inside the eyes of their lover?
Take a moment, maybe two. Look deeply into the eyes of your love, unflinching, unwandering, undistracted. What do you see? What do you feel with no escape, no distraction to take away this glimpse into what’s Real?

Tomorrow’s 4 Minute Writer topic: Vibrant

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