022: Reader Mailbag

Season One May 25, 2020

This is part of an email I got from my friend Jen.

I had asked about her creative practice.

This is an (edited) excerpt of her response.



A drawing of an email inbox


"You have to pursue what you find interesting - and the more you start to compromise along the way, the more these decisions are really hard to separate from who you are becoming. Because as you compromise for situations, others (etc) you end up living the compromise, so it can't help but become a part of you.

These kinds of reminders reinforce how grateful I am to have this season for discovery, reflection, and intentional action. They're some of the best guardrails against compromise. My takeaway is that our pursuits shape who we become.

My creative process depends on whether I am working, or practicing a craft like dance and writing. It's different because of how I see myself in those contexts.

I actually think I tend to approach my work more like a creative: For example, when I need to create a strategy or a powerpoint, I grab a white sheet of paper and write / draw all my thoughts. Once everything is on paper, I start to organize, structure, and solve. Because I am less personally invested in the work, I am able to suspend judgement when I'm creating.

However, when I dance or write, I tend to be creator and editor all at once because I care SO MUCH about the outcome - it's probably because I identify as dancer, so if I produce bad choreography, it reflects poorly on me. The same goes if I write a bad essay - it suggests that my skills are weaknesses, not strengths.

For me, getting creative is all about depressurizing. I learned that I am most creative when I break big tasks into bite-sizes, suspend judgement, and allow myself to iterate towards good, versus expecting perfection from the get-go (apparently one of my college internships engrained the principle "get it right the first time" too deeply in my mind).

I wish I could say that I have habits for creative practice, but I don't... I'm the kind of person who has to write / dance when I feel the muse (which is probably why these arts papers are taking so long to draft!).

There are a couple of things that I do that get me into a more creative state of mind.

First, I must complete a challenging task: If I don't feel like I accomplished something demanding, I will have less momentum throughout my day, even for tasks where I am intrinsically motivated. The minimum viable challenging task is a morning workout, hence the ridiculous planks and pushups.

Second, I listen to music. Music evokes emotional responses, which can be good stimuli for various creative tasks.

When I look at my journey as a choreographer, I've noticed that my creative process has changed over time.

When I first started choreographing in high school, I only focused on movement - I just imagined which movements would go well together and figured out timing with counts. I didn't choreograph with music because I approached dance like math - as long as the counts match the beats, you got a dance.

In college, I started to develop a movement aesthetic and character - I started to choose music to express these qualities, then I'd choreograph the steps. After college, I started to view music as a story and dance as its visual expression.

So, I started paying attention to the gender of the vocalist, the quality / layers of the beats, the lyrics etc. I haven't choreographed a story yet, but now, I think about all these things when I am trying to put together a combo. While my choreographic approach changed, one thing mostly stayed the same - I resist looking at other people's choreography to the same song choice because I want to be able to create from a fresh perspective.

Anyway, long story short is that creative practice is malleable, based on the influences / feedback we let in or keep out."



Can you relate to what she wrote?

I appreciate the dialogue!




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