Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Your Creative Autobiography

I believe that we all have strands of creative code hard-wired into our imaginations.  These strands are as solidly imprinted in us as the genetic code that determines our height and eye color, except they govern our creative impulses.  They determine the forms we work in, the stories we tell, and how we tell them. […] “I suspect many people never get a handle on their creative identity this way.  They take their urges, their biases, their work habits for granted.  But a little self-knowledge goes a long way.  If you understand the strands of your creative DNA, you begin to see how they mutate into common threads in your work.  You begin to see the “story” that you’re trying to tell; why you do the things you do (both positive and self-destructive); where you are strong and where you are weak and how you see the world and function in it.”
“Another thing about knowing who you are is that you know what you should not be doing, which can save you a lot of heartaches and false starts if you catch it early on.”
-Twyla Tharp

The past few years I have come to realize that I am not good at everything.  But more importantly than that, I've realized that I don't have to and shouldn't be good at everything.  For years I ran a business trying to force myself to deal with situations that my personality just wasn't equipped to handle.  I beat myself up everyday telling myself that I was a weak individual and that I just needed to suck it up and deal with it.  I mean, other people seemed to have no problem dealing with the smallest tasks that left me completely frozen with fear, obviously I was just a failure in comparison.

Eventually, I decided I needed to step back from the situation I was in as it was becoming increasingly difficult for me to deal with mentally and emotionally, which in turn was causing profound negative physical effects on my body.

At first I felt ashamed of my decision and like coward or some sad individual that just couldn't muster up the courage to forge ahead and get over the challenges facing her.  I felt weak, and broken and like I had given up.

However, as time passed something occurred to me that I had never thought about before: what if I wasn't supposed to be good at those things?  The idea was quite startling to me,  I mean there are whole seminars for how to improve yourself, "Become a people person in 9 easy steps", or "Introvert to Extrovert in one weekend".  Our culture is constantly telling us that we should and can be good at everything if we just try hard enough.

The culture we live in likes to focus on our failings, so we can IMPROVE ourselves.  They are constantly trying to barrage us with attributes they view as short comings simply so they can market a solution to our problems to us.  Did you know that nobody cared about body oder until somebody invented deodorant and needed to sell it? Nobody was interested in their product until they invented a shame campaign telling everyone if they didn't wear deodorant they would no longer be acceptable, or loved.

What if instead, we focused on our strengths?  

My husband recently finished reading the book "StrengthsFinder 2.0" for a mentorship program he is involved with at work and after discussing it with him I was struck by how similar it's concept is to what we are trying to do here this week.  The whole concept of the book is this:

"The most successful people start with dominant talent—and then add skills, knowledge, and practice to the mix. When they do this, the raw talent actually serves as a multiplier." 
-Tom Rath

He basically breaks it down to say that "hard work X talent = your level of success" so you can work at a 5 and have a talent level of 2 and you would get a 10.  OR you could have a work level of 2 and a talent level of 5 and still get a 10.


I know I know, here the bottom line: If we focus on our strengths instead of our weaknesses and work on the things that are unique to us, that only we can says, it's going to be extremely hard to fail when any amount of effort is put in.  Our innate talent and passion multiply our hard work exponentially, so why do we sit around trying to copy other people?  We need to get to know who WE are as artists, get to know OUR strengths, OUR passions, so we can nurture them and watch them explode.

Now if you are stuck on this weeks challenge or having a hard time getting started with your creative DNA bubble map, give this exercise from Twyla Tharp's book "The Creative Habit" a try.  It might just help you get the juices flowing.


1. What is the first creative moment you remember?

2. Was anyone there to witness or appreciate it?

3. What is the best idea you’ve ever had?

4. What made it great in your mind?

5. What is the dumbest idea?

6. What made it stupid?

7. Can you connect the dots that led you to this idea?

8. What is your creative ambition?

9. What are the obstacles to this ambition?

10. What are the vital steps to achieving this ambition?

11. How do you begin your day?

12. What are your habits? What patterns do you repeat?

13. Describe your first successful creative act.

14. Describe your second successful creative act.

15. Compare them.

16. What are your attitudes toward: money, power, praise, rivals, work, play?

17. Which artists do you admire most?

18. Why are they your role models?

19. What do you and your role models have in common?

20. Does anyone in your life regularly inspire you?

21. Who is your muse?

22. Define muse.

23. When confronted with superior intelligence or talent, how do you respond?

24. When faced with stupidity, hostility, intransigence, laziness, or indifference in others, how do you respond?

25. When faced with the threat of failure, how do you respond?

26. When you work, do you love the process or the result?

27. At what moments do you feel your reach exceeds your grasp?

28. What is your ideal creative activity?

29. What is your greatest fear?

30. What is the likelihood of either of the answers to the previous two questions happening?

31. Which of your answers would you most like to change?

32. What is your idea of mastery?

33. What is your greatest dream?

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