Friday, November 5, 2010

Be Creative . . . While you Sleep!

Did you know, that when you are asleep, your brain is firing off cells as if it is still awake? Recently, Monkey + Seal were listening to a podcast by Radio Lab about "sleep and dreams". When a rat runs through a maze during the day, when he goes to sleep, his brain is firing off the same information as if he is going through the same maze! Each turn, each jump, everything - his physical and mental experience, the brain recorded it and played it back to-the-dot in his dreams. When the rat ran two different mazes during the day, when he slept, he dreamt of "a mix-and-match" parts of both mazes.

Meaning: when we dream at night, we free-associate and create new meanings from all of the experiences we had ever lived through.

Well, what's this got to do with being an artist you might be thinking? 1.) If we are creating in our sleep, then . . .You can also use your dreams to solve your artistic problems/questions. Write your question at night before you go to bed, "what shall I create tomorrow" or "should I paint that dog blue or red?" "how shall I end this novel?" etc. You'll be surprised. Trust us, it works. Most likely you'll find that an answer is presented to you when you wake up. (Don't forget to write it down!)

So, we use our dreams for creativity, what else? If we repeat the similar experiences of our waking moments even when we are asleep . . .We can solve an even bigger life problem. What if your life experience has been filled with past disappointments, broken dreams, and unfulfilled creativity? Wouldn't you, then, keep playing the same negative record over and over again in your biological cells when you sleep?

Science would say: Yes.

The same would be true if you filled your everyday life with creativity, love, and meaning-making efforts. You would then dream of the same encouraging dose of positive energy.

Seal recently tried this experiment out on herself. And it works. Prior to listening to this podcast, Seal mainly dreamed of harsh critics, being stunted in her art, and of scarcity. Because, unfortunately up until a few years ago, that's all she had ever known. So for the past couple of nights, she decided to give it a try. During the day she painted, whether she was feeling like it or not. She went on adventures, drank pumpkin spiced latte, attended a storytelling performance, filled her life with more creative endeavors. Before she went to bed at night, she would meditate on the positive experiences of the day while breathing deeply. In the morning, when she woke up, she felt immediately the surge to face her easel right away. This is new, since it usually takes several hours for Seal to get out of bed and into creative mode. The new change also allows Seal to have more clarity during the day. She can hear the positive voice getting stronger with each day - that voice that says, "you're enough" and "why don't we try that" or "that could be fun."

Have you ever noted how you feel, the very moment you wake up? Are you filled with energy? Are you ready to create? To face your paper and the easel? Or do you feel sluggish, un-rested, and un-creative? Isn't it then worth it to spend our efforts in making new, creative experiences in order to re-live them in our dreams, in order to feel refreshed and ready for more creativity?

The very second you are "awake" is the moment of a very important decision: will you create today? Will you make meaning today?

MonkeyandSeal hopes you are creative during the day and dreaming of creativity at night. Isn't your dreams worth trying?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Pursuing Your Dream

Monkey + Seal, as you probably know by now, are pursuing their dreams of living their lives as financially successful artists who are able to change the world (for the better) through their art. In the very subjective art world that is usually only interested in sure-sales (after all, who goes into the business to not make money?), this can be difficult.

Most people grow up learning that art doesn't pay the bills, that professions like engineering or medicine or law are the way to go, since they're higher-paying jobs. Acting is too competitive. Dancers don't make money. Artists are always "starving." With such a background, we get asked (and sometimes we ask ourselves) "How do you do it? How do you follow a dream that seems impossible?"

The super-cool, quotable movie-one-liner is "How do you not?" (and then we put on our sunglasses and walk away, with the person asking the question totally dumbfounded and cut scene to us back in the studio painting). In all seriousness though, it's really the honest answer.

To abandon one's dream, to give up what you want to do with your life is an incredibly difficult choice. While we often think that it's not a choice, that it's the safe, responsible, socially-approved way of going about life, it is a choice. It's a choice that goes against your inner you; it defies your core self and is a constant day-to-day battle. If you're unhappy at your job, because you'd rather be doing something else, it's obvious that you're not doing what you really want to be doing, because let us tell you that if you're doing what you love, it doesn't seem like work.

If we hated painting and making art and screenprinting, we wouldn't keep doing it even after working a day job then coming home and doing laundry and cooking dinner and ohwaitwhyisitalready2am and then still deciding to break out the paints. We wouldn't spend three days reworking our webstore, or using our savings to buy t-shirts to print on, or show at craft fairs without sleeping if it wasn't what we really truly loved.

Doing all that stuff, which seems crazy and difficult, is still crazy and difficult, but we do it because in the end, it's working towards our dream. Is it scary at times? Oh most definitely. But what we find more scary than trying and maybe failing is not trying - after all, not trying has a 100% rate of failure.

If we have kids, we never want to force them into following a dream because we never chased it. At the end of the day, failure is okay. Failing is learning what didn't work so you can make it work next time. Failure is more experience. Not trying..well, not trying is nothing to write home about, and that lingering "what if" will always be there, haunting you.

Following your dream is scary, but what is scarier is the thought of growing old and having regrets. When faced with these two options, what will you choose?

Monday, November 1, 2010

Create in the Midst of Chaos

Sometimes life "gets to us." We are always in the midst of chaos, in the middle of "to-do lists," deadlines, and laundry. Yet at the same time, we still MUST create. It is a difficult balance. Most people do not do it. Most people come to four types of conclusion:

1.) They do not create at all. (A terrible tragedy.)
2.) They create sporadically, only when the timing, the mood, the inspiration hits, when all circumstances fall into place. (This is not only very rare, it is also very impractical and you become at the mercy and whim of fate.)
3.) They create, but not very deeply. Just skidding the surface, the potential of the artist you are meant to be. They half-heartedly create. They remain on the outskirts of their skills, and subject matter.
4.) Or They withdraw from life, they break up with their spouses, withdraw from friends, hobbies, any and all pursuit except for art. (This is also very extreme and in the long-run very damaging to your creativity. As all creativity stems for being engaged with life).

Although the above four solutions are possible, very easily doable, they all prevent you from both fully living and fully creating. So how do artists create in the middle of life, in the midst of chaos?

For starters, name what you are "in the middle of."

For example, Seal is in the middle of:
multiple deadlines
physical tiredness
not enough sleep
fear of failure
fear of not finding the right style in her art, etc.
continual freelance
growing pains in her experimental skill sets

Now that you have listed your chaos. How do you plan to continue creating despite of it? You have to find your own answers for that because each answer will be different and personal.

For Seal, art needs to be a priority for her. Her laundry, dishes, and friends wait, until she creates first thing in the morning. Then afterward, she will address her emails and call her friends. She doesn't withdraw from life, but she lets the people closest to her understand that she loves them and at the same time, there will be hours or days before phone calls are returned.

Seal also likes the AA saying, "suit up and show up" regardless of what's going on in your life. Meaning: show up on the page. Paint, draw, doodle - something - regardless of what you're feeling and having to do that day. (acknowledge your feeling "I feel blah, I don't want to paint" but convert it into action, "but I will anyways" "I will create today.")

State you intention and do it! "I will write for 15minutes before I go to work." A novel is made with one word at a time.

Other creative solutions people have come up with is: paying friends to do the laundry for you while you paint.

Quiet the chaos. Center your mind and body and focus on the intention of creating. Most seeming "emergencies" can wait until you create.

Remember to be gentle with yourself, this is a daily practice that gets better each time!