Posted by Peter Himmelman
The stories we tell ourselves to deflect from doing the things we dream of doing are wonderfully written. They’ve got nuance, detail and incredible dialogue. In fact they’re masterworks of searing influence. Marv, (that's the name I give to the internal critic - that voice in our heads that keeps us afraid and unwilling to take risks) works with our imaginations and together, they're like a team of brilliant filmmakers in our minds. They are the very crew that makes all our creativity possible - let’s call them Dreamators Ltd., except in this case, they are working against our dreams. Marv get’s them riled up and says:
“Look Dreamators, I’m afraid Peter’s going to get himself into some serious trouble with these ideas of his. I need you guys to get busy coming up with a movie that we can put up on the screen of his consciousness to stop him, hell, we can even play the thing as he sleeps, but it’s got to be convincing, it’s got to make him understand that he will fail and when he does he needs to see how much harm the failure’s gonna bring him. He’s gotta understand that failure means death. There’s no other way to convince him. Peter’s a smart guy so we’ve got to put him in touch with some of his most vulnerable emotions. You know, the ones he’s carried around since childhood. He’s got to be made to feel that if he fails and makes himself look bad, he’ll be cast out, shut out, cut off, rejected, friendless, loveless, hopeless and alone. Make it look tragic. You can do it guys I know you can.”
The thing to remember is that the stories we tell ourselves are as powerful as the creativity we muster up to pursue our dreams. In truth, they are one and the same. The more creative we are, the more creative the Dreamators are. The one thing that breaks the cycle is when we recognize just what’s taking place in our minds. When we understand that the negative feelings that crop up to quell our dreams are really the products of our own fruitful imaginations, we need only begin to take the specific small actions towards our goals. When we do that, we change the Dreamators directives. Instead of working for Marv, they immediately begin working for us.
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October 17, 2012 | 4:58 pm
Posted by Peter Himmelman
1 - Feel, don't intellectualize
2 - Don't try to be good- just be
3 - The goal is to finish within the form
4 - It doesn't have to mean anything, it just has to make you feel everything
5 - The world seems like disconnected pieces, show its unity
6 - Find freedom in structure
7 - There is no wrong answer here
8 - There's no need to be correct
9 - If what you create baffles you, that's a good thing
10 - Don't stop to analyze
11 - If you're stuck try something new
12 - Say the first thing that pops into your mind
13 - There is nothing to fear
14 - No one fails here
15 - Be brave enough to laugh at yourself
16 - You're not a bad person or a good person, you just …are
17 - Stop judgment for now
18 - You can fly here
19 - You can breath under water here
20 - You are invisible here
21 - You are- indefatigable, invulnerable, immeasurable, invincible
22 - Laugh at yourself, cry for others
23 - We are all exiles here
24 - You can't create anything new, only new combinations of pre-existing things
25 - Don't overthink
October 12, 2012 | 4:54 pm
Posted by Peter Himmelman
Imagine that our boundless joy, the kind we get when we’re walking around with the sense that our lives are full of endless possibilities is a gigantic Milky Way bar. I don’t care if you don’t like candy or even if you don’t like Milky Way bars -just for the moment imagine that you do. Picture that sucker. It’s huge, maybe twelve feet long, three feet wide and two feet tall. It’s laid out on some enormous picnic table and it represents the kind of joy I just described, all chocolate, caramel and pure unfettered creativity. That’s what you get immediately after you start taking the kind of small actions towards fulfilling your dreams. Not sitting around dreaming: I want to be a baseball star, but - I’m going to the ballpark to practice my swing for forty minutes.
Imagine that beside that enormous Milky Way bar is a tiny blade of grass. It’s dried up and skinny. Now take that blade of grass, which is around an inch long and cut it into ten pieces with an exacto knife. You should have ten pieces of skinny dry grass that are about a tenth of an inch long. Take nine of them and throw them away. In the palm of your hand you’ve got one tiny bit of grass. That represents the amount of pleasure you get from keeping your dream safe inside your head. It’s not a lot. In fact it’s hardly any at all but the complicating factor is that the dream-in-hiding does provide a modicum of… well, I wouldn’t, couldn’t call it joy. That would be way overstating it. It’s more like some wan, pathetic, vaguely pleasant sensation about which Marv (the nagging internal critic) says:
“Hey why risk the benefits of this great piece of grass. I know what you’re thinking, you’re saying to yourself there must be more but in fact, for you, there really isn’t more and why risk losing this? Besides, this grass is yours, no one can criticize it or take it from you. You can accomplish anything you want but just not today ok? Oh, and here’s a good thing… there’s no way you’ll ever run the potentially tragic chance of failing. Forget about the Milky Way bar alright? It’s not for you, it’s for someone else. Someone you know… better than you. You’re a grass person right? Yeah, now you’re talking!”
And that’s where most of us stay. Safe and sound with a piece of dry grass no bigger then a tenth of an inch in the palm of our hands. No possibilities, no joy, just a vague sensation that barely passes for pleasant. Oh, and here’s another thing you can do with that blade of grass:
Take the piece you have and divide it again by ten. Throw the nine other pieces away and you can do this wonderful thing that people with a nearly microscopic piece of dry grass always do- you can sit around and criticize the people who are eating the Milky Way bars. You can comment on how, if you had a chance to write a song, or act in a movie, or start a business, or get up and dance- how much better you’d be at it then them. Now it would be a lie to say that this kind of thing yields no joy at all. The truth is that it does. It gives the person a pleasure that is perfectly commensurate with a piece of thin dry grass that is exactly one twentieth of an inch long. Not a Milky Way bar, but something right?
October 4, 2012 | 10:46 am
Posted by Peter Himmelman
Why do we humans have such a strong need to create? Might identifying that need help us when we’re having trouble making a dream manifest? Perhaps our need to innovate is tied to our need to generate money for ourselves and our families. But then what about the nine-year old kid who sits and draws for hours on end like I used to do? I can tell you for sure, I never thought about making money when I was nine; my dad was doing that. I was making what was in my head come alive through crayolas and paper. At that time it was a gang of monsters called Glirches -who of course, lived in Glirchville.
There was something so fulfilling about creating this town of Glirchville. A special place wrested from my own imagination where I could be the mayor, the policeman, the banker and the jailer all in one. Even as I was busy drawing away, there was often this thought in the back of my mind that the pictures I was making might get noticed for their brilliance by someone special, most likely my mom.
That brings us two more possible motivators for creativity: One is the joy of the actual immersion in the drawing itself. The process of getting the Glirches out of our imaginations and quickly down on paper. There are no thoughts of outcomes or judgments or expectations fulfilled. It’s a much more pure process of allowing the thoughts to be made immediately manifest on the page. This is the place where we get lost for hours, where time flows freely and imperceptibly. Being in that creative space, with its freedom and possibilities is a truly magical part of our life experience.
The other side Glirch-making is being aware of outcomes even as we create. To be drawing while being simultaneously aware that our Mothers could soon be complimenting us, scotch-taping an original Glirchville on the refrigerator, or talking about how creative her son or daughter is. It’s not to say that this kind of motivation, this praised-based impetus, is without merit. Doing something for a reward does have the ability to motivate. It’s just that it’s far inferior to creating without any expectations at all. Once there’s an external factor looming in your thoughts, like a refrigerator exhibition, there’s also a corresponding:
What if it’s not good enough to go on the refrigerator?
While it’s noble to strive for the ideal of creating Glirches with no expectations, the reality is more complex. There will always be a blend of the two motivators. In our efforts to create we will continue to find ourselves going back and forth between the two. First, we’ll be drawing a scene of a Glirch swimming in the Glirch Sea, adding some glirch-birds and maybe even coloring the water Burnt Umber –just because it looks cool. Then suddenly, without us even noticing, the idea that our mothers will come in to our bedrooms and shower us with praise will come to us -followed shortly by the frightening thought that our mothers won’t shower us with praise.
The benefit of motivation number one, the purer of the two, is that it has the potential to enrich our lives in a deeper way than praise ever can. Praise after all, is contingent on outside forces. Something that is bubbling up from the wellsprings of our own imaginations and curiosity is far likelier to make us happy.