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How can we boost our artistic productivity and develop creative insight?

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Estimated reading time: 17 minutes

I am constantly dealing with this challenge. There is a long list of projects in the docket. Even though I am not the most renowned of artists, I am creatively profuse. The following are priority questions that facilitate artistic productivity and creative insight.

Key Questions For Artistic Productivity And Creative Insight

Some questions to ask:

What stories are you telling yourself? Are you telling yourself the truth?

Do you understand the path you are on? What are you seeking and, how far are you willing to go?

Which goals do you ignore? Are they the difficult or simple ones? Is ignoring these goals intentional?

How do you visualize yourself? Based on your self-image, how do you frame your daily decisions?

How about the community you have established with others? Have you identified a creative culture for yourself and your collaborators?

The Stories We Tell Ourselves

We are the stories we make up about ourselves. Are these tales of positive reinforcement or, are you deriding who you think you are? What are you telling yourself?

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Embrace the things you study. Getting to the core is the foundation of understanding: comprehension from the inside out. An essential spirit exists between ourselves and the subject matter. I prefer to believe the things I research have the essence of life and breath.

Don’t forget the element of self-interest! We want to intensify our levels of engagement. Of course, this takes on a degree of selfishness. There is only so much time, and resources can be limited. The outside world has to be shut off. Creation becomes a refuge and a sanctuary.

Mastering the creative process requires fortitude and an ongoing connection to real life. Life happens; there are going to be obstacles. Perseverance is the birthplace of creativity. The key is to pay attention to where all our creation grows and flourishes. That place is the present.

Understanding The Path You Are On

Do you have a mentor? One of the keys to creative insight is to have someone who can help develop you. Seeking a mentor will also help in your artistic productivity.

Many of our fellow citizens are divesting themselves from reality in present-day society. As we pursue our dreams, we must seek the truth. There is no burying our heads under the sand, hiding under rocks, or seeking shelter in the trees. We must understand the reality of our abilities; it is imperative. If your mentor isn’t giving you tough love, find someone who will.

You want a strong counselor who will hold up a mirror and show you your true reflection. A true mentor will reveal your strengths and weaknesses. They will assign you the correct challenges and then give you feedback on your progress.

Learn to thrive on overcoming your shortcomings. Grow a thick skin and accustom yourself to criticism. You want to be confident, but what good does confidence exhibit based on smoke and mirrors. You will develop tangible confidence when your mentor supplies important and realistic feedback.

Develop your vision. Beg, borrow and steal from every resource you can. Study and learn everything related to your line of sight. Remember, copying one person is a form of plagiarism; copying everyone is research. All you can do is all you can do.

The Goals Of Artistic Productivity And Creative Insight

What are the goals you have set for yourself? There is a big one; it might be, “I’ll only be happy if?” Another example is, “I want to be able to hang with the best.” The ultimate goal you have is personal, and it’s not mine, your friends, or your pets.

I have found forcing creative insight doesn’t work. You may have had a different result. When it comes to creativity, there are no hard and fast rules. I can only share what I know and what works for me.

Do what you can to discover what works best for you. There is a myriad of resources available everywhere – find them. Sources available are blogs, video tutorials, self-help books, mentors, and teachers. I have read so many self-help books, it makes me want to puke. I had hundreds of those books in my library. They ended up as donations to St. Vincent De Paul. Someone else may find them useful.

Finding mentors has had the most significant effect on me. Finding teachers who I can relate to and understand has taken years. When I found those people, then the process became tangible. I can relate to them because they are like me, having gone to the places where I want to dwell.

Roadblocks

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The biggest challenge I have is with roadblocks and the externalities. These can choke my artistic productivity and creative insight.

A significant roadblock I run into is technical issues, especially with podcasts. These can rear their ugly heads when I’m doing a mobile recording. I always try to consider my guest’s time constraints and convenience.

The challenge is controlling the environment. I can’t always be sure of the situation. There are a ton of variables. Will the location have too much ambient noise? An air-conditioning system, or heaters, may run loud. A band might be practicing in the room next door. Kids and pets could be a distraction.

I mobile-recorded a podcast in the heat of summer; fans were running to keep us cool. When listening to the playback in my studio, the hiss of the fans predominated the interview. I would EQ and re-EQ, trying so many different variables, yet I couldn’t get the ambient noise out.

A friend told me about Audacity and how the noise reduction was relatively good. I ran the wave file through the software; the result was better but inadequate. I kept attempting to filter the annoying frequencies out of the track but lost fidelity in the recording.

Weeks later, after many failed attempts, I happened upon Izotope noise-reduction software. The results were better, not perfect, but the playback was palatable without losing too much fidelity.

This process took a long time. I had pretty much given up.

More Obstacles

Time constraints are a huge factor; put aside finances, job, and social responsibilities. All of these factors are interrelated, but time challenges take the gambit. Everything we do costs time, and we can’t get it back. I will share a few things about how we can measure our priorities against the value of time spent achieving our goals.

Like most everyone else, I have a job and household obligations. The goals we have and the tasks to accomplish them are in direct competition. Each one is exclusive in its needs required for completion. In my case, finishing my book, writing blogs, creating podcasts, practicing, and recording music have their unique labor demands.

Another problem revolves around too many goals. My life fits in that category; that’s pretty obvious.

Goals And Analyzing The price You Must pay

I made a list of costs and benefits. There was extreme importance in listing my short-term and long-term goals. Being specific in the price of each goal’s cost gave me a deeper insight and understanding of what I would face.

There were many worthy considerations in the costs involved:

  • Time spent away from those I care about
  • Commute time to my job and other travel considerations
  • Investments in tools
  • How much brainpower and energy I able to spend
  • Sleep is essential. I have shorted myself on sleep on many occasions. My facilities lack focus when I do that   
  • Planning meals and their preparation. I made the decision years ago to stay away from processed food  
  • There are various other considerations applicable to costs

Then I took a look at the benefits that could accrue.

  • I could function with more energy
  • My attitude would be better in this constant battle with complacency
  • I’m always looking for less stress
  • I could save time by being more efficient in my tasks
  • I could spend less money
  • There would be motivation to keep plugging away, even though I would be crawling to my goals
  • Better health is always a consideration
  • Other factors that would put me in the plus category

Estimate Your cost-To-Return

Resources are precious, and rewards are often are subjective and intangible. Results are not a given; it’s best to be aware of the risks undertaken.

For both the cost and benefit, I assigned a value of 1-3.

For the cost, one is the lowest and three the highest. One has the slightest advantage for the benefit, and three has the highest.

It’s hard to foretell long-term outcomes; short-term outcomes are spotty enough. We all have a pretty good understanding of the assets we can commit and the chances we are willing to take.

Survey Says-

In the pandemic layoffs, I would go for days in deep zones. I spent 10 to 14 hours daily in artistic production on many different levels. What I learned at that time was mind-blowing. I now know who I am and what I can do.

I do not want to work for the man any longer. Each day spent working the job is one more day that keeps me from being the person I know I am. However, working has the benefit of an income I can depend on, more or less. There are resources I can draw upon to further my passion. Emotionally, it is a necessary evil. From a practical standpoint, it is a blessing. What’s the adage, six of one and a half dozen of the other? There isn’t another income stream at present. Status quo it is.

Writing And The Importance Of Search Engine Optimization

I began to write in high school and developed a love for it. Shortly after that, I put it down. Many years later, I had to make some decisions. Blogging seemed like a good path to take. Keeping it simple seemed like the right idea; it’s short attention span theater out there, or so I thought. Naively, I thought quickly grabbing people’s attention and getting out was the way to go.

I read a lot. Many years ago, I researched Search Engine Optimization. It seemed like the correct path to take. The Dummies books are excellent references, so I bought SEO For Dummies. There were many hours of vacuous staring at the text; my comprehension was nil.

YouTube And SEO

YouTube is a great resource. I watched every SEO video available and soon discovered that implementing the process could take years.

The YouTube videos did not mince words: a commitment to SEO requires a minimum of two years to see serious results. My tenacity is my most valuable asset. When I find something worth hanging on to, I don’t let go.

Google recognizes long-form blogs (1500 words plus) more than short-form (less than 1500 words). People who commit to reading those long posts are the folks who have a vested interest in following you. They spend the 9 – 18 minutes reading your thoughts. These days, that’s a huge commitment. Consider this process the first steps of copywriting.

So, I can justify my commitment to writing blogs. I’m not releasing two blogs a week anymore, but I will only release the highest quality of content when it meets my standards.

Podcasting

I love Podcasting; I’m good at it. I can produce professional-level standards of fidelity and congruence. The challenge is the time commitment. Since I have gone back to work, I don’t have as much time as I used to. My average podcast takes a minimum of twelve hours of production. I need to put podcasts on hold and come back when I have more time.

There are many of my podcasts that can convert to video. That’s a fun exercise, but it is time-consuming. I love the process; it appeals to my audio engineering sensibilities. The operative here is time. I am constrained by what I can do. My job holds me back.

Video is on hold till my schedule opens up.

Drums, what can I say about that? I am living proof that neuroplasticity can improve with age. I will share on later blogs what it is I’m doing. There has been the journey of thinking entirely out of the box. Identifying our voice is critical to understanding what we can do.

Drums are the foundation of everything I do. In the pandemic, I increased my rehearsal time. Since my time constraints have multiplied, increasing personal practice has intensified.

Why Write A Book?

I am in the process of writing several books. My first is in its third re-write. Self-publishing appears to be the most viable solution for release.

Number one: Authorship is considered the quick path to legitimacy. Today, with higher education taking a back seat as a standard for career advancement, penning a book has become the new PhD. 

Number Two: Everyone has at least one book in them; what better way to share your voice. It doesn’t take much. If you write 100 words a day, you will have written over 36,000 words in the next year. That, my friend, is close to the average self-published work.  

My first attempt was autobiographical in nature. There was no surprise when, after writing nine chapters, I discovered I wasn’t Luke Skywalker.

Creating the Arc Of The Hero was daunting. Trying to identify my personal Darth Vader and defeating the Empire proved allusive. Let’s not forget that my chosen subject matter was dull.

Through the centuries, there have been innumerable artists who have overcome their circumstances in varying societies. Why write about myself when there is the resource of their successes. They represent the epitome of The Arc Of The Hero.

Because I decided to move in this direction, inspiration has motivated me to brainstorm twelve other works, three of which are in now process.

Yet again, time rears its ugly head. Writing is as big a priority as a personal rehearsal schedule.

What Actions Are You practicing

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When practicing creativity and artistic productivity, it comes down to changing your behavior.

It’s the daily discipline that I have found most effective. I can’t be more specific than to suggest getting habits into place. I’m not a list person; notarizing daily tasks has never been my forte. Call it my downfall, if you will. Making lists might work for other people, but not for me.

Predict your goals and follow up with action. Verify your results. Can you replicate your initial insights? We have to consider the necessary steps to achieving our goals. Are some basic foundations in place to further the ends we want to achieve?

There are simple, easy to achieve goals, followed by the intermediate, and then on to the ultimately satisfying objectives.

The benefits I garner:

The discipline of practice has been helpful; it is the constant repetition of tasks at hand. It is a form of training that helps me develop my locus of control. The more iterations of discipline, the less I concentrate on externalities. The internal focus of my priorities allows me to believe and feel that I have more control of my life.

How Do You See Yourself?

The mental picture we have of ourselves is self-image; this is a big one. I like to apply the concept of the four types of knowledge as analogous to self-image:

A) You don’t know what you don’t know
B) You don’t know what you know
C) You know what you don’t know
D) You know what you know

Likewise, the four types of self-image:

A) How do you see yourself?
B) How do others see you?
C) How do you perceive the way others see you?
D) How do you perceive yourself seeing yourself?

Self-image affects our confidence, the people we choose to associate with, and our life decisions. If you want to understand yourself a little bit better, think about taking The Twenty Statements Test. It takes about five minutes; the things it will reveal to you may be surprising.

Community

Who are the people you are hanging around? Do you know them, I mean, know them? Do you know yourself? Is there respect and admiration shown towards one another?

These are aspects of social intelligence. If you don’t know about social intelligence, here are a few considerations:

We learn from the success and failure of our personal and work relationships. We gain from the attributes social intelligence: common sense, tact, and discretion.

Learning social rules and roles is vital. Interacting in a community helps us develop verbal and non-verbal language skills. Acquiring the ability to listen is part of the interaction with others. Developing empathy is an enormous talent; understanding people’s emotions is a great tool. Governing your social roles and projecting self-image is part of social intelligence.

Every community is a sub-culture, each having has its own set of parameters. Different rules of interaction apply to families, friends, work associates, and collaborators. Some folks aren’t able to separate the nuances. The ability to navigate the differences is key to social intelligence. If you feel you lack these attributes, a little research will help you discover these qualities for yourself.

A Collaborative Community

The creative partnership is a modus operandi in my world; I am not a one-person show. I know people who are. My good friend, Michael Clune, is an example. He is a singer, songwriter, keyboardist, drummer, percussionist, guitar player, flutist; you get the picture.

Michael is a part of my collaborative community. We have worked on many projects together.

Adam Puchalski is another. He is a super-great guitarist, audio, and mastering engineer with an incredible set of ears. We barter tracks and performances with one another.

There are many others I have worked with through the years. Our community’s sub-culture has been a bulwark of my artistic productivity.

If you have ever heard of the concepts of Appreciative Inquiry or the Open Space method, then you will understand what collaboration means to me.

Creating A Mastermind

There are no shortcuts, no life hacks. There is no way around it; anything worth doing will take time and effort. If it were easy, everyone would do it. Whoever thought up the term life hack was a genius. I hope they made a boatload of money off that because they created a term for something that doesn’t exist.

I would instead think in terms of a tool chest. Reach into that box of tools, find the screwdriver or pliers, fix what needs fixing, create what needs creating.

In my world, inspiration and accountability could use some repair. I would also like a hotter fire lit underneath my butt. I approached four of my most talented and proficient friends, asking them what they thought of creating a mastermind group. There was no sales pitch involved; they all said yes, not even batting an eye.

Everyone is busy, so we do a Zoom meeting once a month. The object is to listen to one another’s projects, share ideas, and have some degree of accountability. It is incredible to have a group of peers keeping me focused.

It’s all part of a collaborative community.

Take It Away, Al:

Why pursue artistic productivity and creative insight? I firmly believe it is our main purpose in life. We are all born with an urge to create, to express ourselves, to validate who we are.

I can’t say this any better:

Don’t think about why you question, simply don’t stop questioning. Don’t worry about what you can’t answer, and don’t try to explain what you can’t know. Curiosity is its own reason. Aren’t you in awe when you contemplate the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure behind reality? And this is the miracle of the human mind—to use its constructions, concepts, and formulas as tools to explain what man sees, feels and touches. Try to comprehend a little more each day. Have holy curiosity.
—ALBERT EINSTEIN

Thanks, Al, You’re the best.

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