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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Eight Ways to Find Your Creative Spark: Part Two



Innovators, renaissance men and women, and artists are some of the most interesting and admired people on the planet. These are people who shunned convention and created something personal that touched the lives of hundreds, thousands, or even millions. 

Anyone can be a creator and innovator but where does someone like a Larry Page, a David Mamet, a Wynton Marsalis, a Robert Shapiro—how do these kinds of people find their creative spark? 

The good news is that these folks are just like you and me but they know how to ignite their creative spark and harness its power. Here are four ways to help you to find your creative spark. 

Take a Shower: A mindless, every day task like a shower, a long drive, or cooking a meal can spur creativity. These easy tasks leave little room for thought and give room for bigger thoughts to appear. 

Read and Observe: It’s of the utmost importance to look at other people’s work similar to your own when trying to create. If you’re a writer you read a variety of novels, memoirs, and magazines. If you’re a dancer, you watch the Alvin Ailey Dance troupe or even go to your local dance studio and see what kinds of combinations are being choreographed. By doing this, you’re working as a freelance apprentice and learning your craft the way any great artisan would.

Revisit the Pain: Ever hear the phrase, “Comedy comes from tragedy?” Sometimes it’s okay to revisit a bit of personal or familial pain you’e experienced in the past. It can be therapeutic and cathartic but will also give your creation a real piece of humanity and truthfulness that can be redesigned on an assembly line. Give yourself permission to fully explore your pain and if you need, work with someone who can help you harness the pain and turn it into art. 

Eliminate the Distractions: Turn off the phone, shut off the email, and find a time of day that works for you when you’re most creative. If you don’t have time to be creative—put it in your schedule. Make time for it and abide by it at least once a week. 

Two ingredients with any creative process or project must always be present. 
One, it has to be fun—it can’t be a chore to work creatively, and two, it has to be intriguing—it can’t be something as interesting as watching water drip from the faucet, it has to be something you can’t wait to sink your teeth into!

I hope that helps—now go out there and create! Write a symphony, knit a new scarf, write a new play, and go change the world.

Oh and wondering where part 1 is? Here it is: Part 1

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Physician, Heal Thyself (A blog on Mental Health Management)



Phew, what an interesting week. I got a chance to go to three U.S. States (New York, Pennsylvania, and Iowa) and one Canadian Province (Ontario) to speak about the importance of mental health and suicide prevention. 

The overall response I got in all of these places was just tremendous and helping and healing were some of the by-products of being able to speak to the communities I visited. But there was one person I forgot to help while traveling those 3,100 miles this week, and that was myself. 

While I generally shy away diary-type blog posts, talking about this is supremely important because if am someone who goes around stressing the need to talk openly and honestly about mental health, I should be someone who does the same thing and so here are some things I learned about my mental health management this week. Hopefully you’ll be able to glean something useful from this for your own mental health management.

Scheduling: 
Just because someone asks you to go somewhere or do something doesn’t mean you have to do it. In my want to please everyone and to take on the world, I realized I need to take care of myself first and foremost. I can’t schedule in so much work without scheduling in exercise, down time, and friend time and not expect to feel burnt out. If I can help someone and it fits in with how I’m feeling and what I need for my mental health, great, but if not then perhaps we can schedule it for another week.

Learning what I can handle: 
Going forward, I will never schedule four speaking appearances in a single week. I love doing what I do and I wouldn’t trade it for the world but there is a point where doing too much becomes a flirtation with burnout. And burnout causes me (and I’m sure others) to resent the thing that they love in addition to exhaustion and making bad choices—all things I’d rather stay away from.

Think (more) before you act:
If I’m flirting with burnout, which I certainly have been this week, I need to avoid making big decisions. Wait and think things through before making a rash or what could be a semi-destructive choice. Let your exhaustion subside and continue to hash things out and speak to your personal advisers and friends before taking action on something important.

Smile for no reason:
Is this one pretty lame? Maybe. But this one came to me as I was writing this post. After scheduling the important pieces of what makes me mentally healthy, a good smile is a wonderful reminder to your frown that “this too shall pass,” and we always have choices whether we can see them presently or not.

I hope any or all of that was useful and it’s something you can take with you in your day or the weeks to come. And stay tuned...because refreshed-Josh is coming back and will have more fun, funny (hopefully), and useful posts very soon.

PS. the title photo is from: http://www.mooddisorderscanada.ca/page/elephant-in-the-room-campaign; a Canadian organization doing great work, that I learned a bit about while up North this week. Check' em out!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

A Blog Post from My Friend Calvin’s Grandmother



A Blog Post from My Friend Calvin’s Grandmother 
aka 
The woman who got put in a headlock in church


Hello there friends of Joshua

I am so very glad I finally get me a voice—a say into how I’m portrayed and a chance to done set the record straight.

In Joshua play, he call me “my friend Calvin’s grandmother,” but I am so much more than that. My name is Gladys Hightower and I a mother, sister, grandmother, child-of-God, disco enthusiast, and used to do my own one-woman show much like Joshua but mine is about the Biblical character of Rahab—look it up if you don’t know who that is if y’all ain't a bunch of heathens.

I don’t know why Joshua refer to me as “Calvin’s grandmother,” because I don’t even like Calvin very much. He a skinny lay about with his rap music who probably hide my slippers and my social security checks from me.

But anyway, to set the record straight—in his play Joshua talk about how the deacons at his church got me in a headlock and escorted me out after singing the real words to the disco hit, “Everlasting Love,” during a Sunday service. 

First of all, the headlock was more of a sleeper hold because I done passed out after they dragged me into the vestibule. And second of all I didn’t go down without a fight. I shook those banana suited deacon monsters off me on first contact but went down only after one of them fish-hooked my mouth and elbowed me in the spleen. I’m a fighter and always have been—in the streets and in the pews.

And don’t be headlocking people up if you gonna play disco music in church is all I’m saying. 

Let me tell you one last thing all you friends of Joshua—I don’t even know this man too well and I don’t know why he got me up in his play. He don’t pay me no royalty checks and he don’t even try to sing like me— but thankfully he cute with a tight butt, just like Tom Jones and Harry Belafonte, Lord have mercy. You ain’t but heard the last of me. I won’t be silenced. I’ll write to you all again soon.

Now you all be good and go and see this boy’s show when it come out. 

Grace and blessings,
Gladys

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Make Communication, Make a Team—Wise Words from an Illiterate Sushi Chef



“Make a team. Make Communication—very important,” were just about the only things Mr. Noryaki, an illiterate sushi chef I used to work with in a seafood restaurant, could say.

Despite his own communication skills or lack thereof, Mr. Noriyaki was right that honest and open communication is so important—and I’ll take it a step further and say especially through use of the written word.

If we don’t know how to express what it is we’re feeling we’ll never be able to get what it is that we want. Love will be unrequited, frustrations with bosses or unrealized political reform will go unresolved, and creativity—an absolute must for any human being wanting to live a complete life—will go untapped.

Schedule in at least one hour each week whether that’s handwriting a letter, practicing writing a blog, scribbling out a short story, or typing out a portion of your new manifesto.

Keep up with your writing schedule and watch your colleagues begin to call you expert, your partner thank you for being more present in your relationship, your creativity and problem solving skills become Jedi-esque.

“Make communication,” through writing and make your life become more complete.

--

P.S. I'm doing a portion of my one-man show The Gospel According to Josh in New York City to benefit The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Saturday, November 17th at 10:45 a.m. Tickets are free and location and registration is here: http://afspnyc.eventbrite.com/ . Feel free to come for the show and stay for the educational sessions afterward...or not. I look forward to seeing you there!!