Creative Contradiction

Mathew Schuler wrote on his blog about a book called: “Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention” by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. The book discusses creativity as the writer interviews 91 different artists. The resultant idea is that creativite people are full of contradictions. One of these contradictions that Schuler discusses is:

Most creative people tend to be both introverted and extroverted. Many people tend toward one extreme or the other, but highly creative people are a balance of both simultaneously.

This resonate with me because I feel caught at these two extremes; people are wonderful to be around but I don’t always want to be with them. Visiting a coffee shop or an airport is great because I’m at that in-between state. I’m introverted because I’m not interacting but I’ve extroverted because I’m near them.

It’s difficult to explain this to a person who hasn’t felt it. There are days that I need to go out but it isn’t to interact with people. It’s simply to be around them. Energetic environments motivate me but for some reason interaction with people is draining.

Even further I’m incredibly outgoing if I’m in a group of two. Add more than four and suddenly I’m introverted. Talking with one other person is great but I don’t know what to talk about if there are more people.

These contradictions are unusual and I cannot explain why I feel them. They are a huge part of who I am but yet there are two opposites inside of me: introversion and extraversion. Why do I need people but need independence? It’s bizarre and baffling.

Mathew’s post is interesting and I suggest you check it out. It’s titled “Why Creative People Sometimes Make No Sense” and you can find more information about the book I linked above. Creativity is such an odd and interesting topic! What contradictions do you experience in yourself?

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P.S. Mathew B. Crawford (“Shop Class as Soul Craft“) is releasing a new book next March titled: “The World Beyond Your Head: On Becoming an Individual in an Age of Distraction“. I can’t wait for it! If you haven’t read his first book, you need to go to the library and check it out now!

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“Everyone Wanders”

“Everything you’ve ever done,
every person you’ve ever met,
every experience you’ve ever had,
is a part of who you are today,
adding interesting layers to your being,
and colorful depths to your soul.
Everything needed to be as it was,
so you could grow as you did and do.”

-Karen Salmansohn

This quote inspires me to seek adventure and, when I’m going through a rough time, to see the bigger picture. The person I am today is a compilation of who I was yesterday and the day before, returning to the day I was born. You are built on your daily life and the years are comprised of months, which are held together by days. Fill each day with as much experience as you can.

My old blog http://www.EveryoneWanders.com/ is being repurposed into a side project of this blog. Here I write daily and this has become more of routine than a creative expression. Though I enjoy writing every day, this has become more tedious than a way of expressing myself. There are days that I cannot stop writing, while others I feel dry.

To force yourself into expression creates a dull piece of art. The purpose of a 365 is to learn this balance and to find a point where you can create regularly. Ultimately it shows you that you have a greater capacity to write (or photograph) than you think. After 30 days of writing, you realize “wow! I never knew I had so much to say!”.

Eventually that wears off, maybe around day 150-180, and you just have to push yourself through the rest of the project. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoy writing and blogging. However, right now I’m just waiting for it to be finished. Not so that I can be done writing but because I want to produce greater quality work, which can only be produced over days of writing.

Everyone Wanders is a collection of my side writings, a place where I can release content that I feel fits me but that I don’t want to edit. It’s more raw and rigid. For the next few days I’ll be back-posting and updating previous writings.

As a side note, check out the band Trademark. “Getting By” is a beautiful song recommended by The Howling Fantogs.

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Where’d your stuff go?

As a person who regularly views art online, I find it incredibly frustrating when an artist removes most of their work. YouTubers like Randy Phillips create fantastic videos but decide, for whatever reason, to remove them. In fact, I would say that often, they choose to remove their best content. Many photographers I know have done the same thing on Flickr. Bloggers like Jay Brannan and Davey Wavey choose to close their websites.

I say this not in an effort to badger these artists’ work but to pose a question: what is the purpose of your content?

Photography is the easiest content to talk about because I know many artists and I’m a photographer myself. For many in my community, we share our work on Flickr. When I was active on the site, it served as a community where we critiqued one another’s work, as well as documented our progress.

Many photographers chose to do 365 projects, similar to how I’m blogging daily. This produces a lot of content, which floods our profile. As more work is produced, the quality improves. Eventually artists have a clear distinction between their new (quality) work and their old work that they learned through. This gap creates a difficult because it goes back to the question: what is the purpose of your content?

In 2010, one of my favorite photographers shut down her Flickr profile and hid her 365. This absolutely devastated me because I loved all of her work. Everything about it was beautiful! I felt as if part of my soul was ripped away when she took down her content. From her perspective, she was clearing old photographs that no longer represented her quality of work. She didn’t want others to see old images because she wanted to display only her finest content.

Her purpose for posting this content was to show her greatest work. This meant removing the work that she believed wasn’t good enough. While on the other side of the country, I’m at home looking for her content. I didn’t look for only the ‘best’, I wanted the full feeling of her work. It took me years to get over this loss.

YouTubers have done the same thing with their channels. Randy took down almost half of his videos and I don’t understand why. Perhaps the purpose of his content was to represent himself and he didn’t like how half of his videos looked. Again, I watched his content for the whole feeling of it, not just the quality of one.

Davey Wavey is a famous YouTuber who began as a blogger. On his site http://www.breaktheillusion.com/ he wrote almost daily about his life. It was interesting to see his perspective on the world and I loved reading it. Everything felt fresh and timeless. I’ve spent many nights re-reading old posts because I related to them so well. A few months ago he took down his site and moved to another domain. While this was probably to upgrade his previous site, he removed his blog. This is such a shame because I really valued his writings.

Let’s turn the question to you; what is the purpose of your content?

Why do you share yourself online? Some share to create an image of themselves or to document their lives. Others do it for building a portfolio or to gain fame.

Is it right to take down your content?

Well it is your content. You are free to do anything you like. I write this post because I want others to know that readers like all of your content. Having 10 perfect posts is worse than having 75 alright posts. I would rather have much more quantity and a better representation of your work.

I have no right to tell you what to do but I would like to request that you leave your content online. Even if you push it to another site or another location. It’s unfortunate to see so much fantastic art disappearing online because artists want to clear up their profile.

Why do you create? What is the purpose of your content?

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Word Count

Last year I earned a reputation as a blog-pusher, which is a person who enthusiastically attempts to get others to blog. I fell in love with writing online, so naturally I spread the passion to friends. I spent a lot of time asking friends to start a blog and usually I was met with much resistance. Often I heard the excuse, “I don’t know what I would write about”.

After writing for eight months, I still don’t know what I’m writing about. Some weeks I write about artists, and other weeks I review things that I like. There are even days that I blog about about blogging (like today!). However, I can always push out 100 words a day for this project. Anyone can.

When this project was created, the minimum standard set for myself was 100 words a day. Like others, I thought that it would be too difficult to write. I feared that eventually the words would run out and there’d be nothing left. Today I installed a plugin to read how many words have been published since December 2013, when I began this blogging project.

I have published 111,117 words. According to Wiki, a common thriller has between 60,000 to 80,000 words, and a mystery could have 100,000 words. While writing a book requires much more organization, I feel like blogging has shown that I have the capability to write over 100,000 words.

This fear that you don’t have enough to write about is completely irrational. It may take time but you can fill a page. If you did a project like this and wrote the bare minimum, you would finish with 36,500 words. Even that is incredible and a low commitment! You just have to spend time building it and cultivating it.

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Fill a page with words

If you aren’t blogging, I don’t know what you’re doing. You are missing out on an incredible experience. Yes, I know that most blogs are boring but wait until you find one that really catches you. When you fall in love with a lesser known actor and discover that he’s been writing a blog for years. At that point you realize that it’s not the content you’re looking for. It’s the experience of the person – which is achievable through reading their blog.

When you discover an artist that produces beautiful work, you crave more. Their work is impressive to you but it only says so much about them. Finding a their blog gives you the opportunity to see their process. You have the opportunity to understand something that you otherwise couldn’t have known. You can learn about being an actor or a lower budget musician. Their writings give you a guide when you need it.

After you become accustomed to reading blogs, it’s difficult to go back. Twitter is only half of a paragraph and Facebook posts are often bemoaning. One day you’ll be scrolling through the internet and find an amazing artist. You’ll fall in love with everything they’ve produced. Low-and-behold they only have 15 pieces total online and there’s almost no information about them. Discontent isn’t an exact enough way to describe the emotion you feel when there’s only so much of a person.

That’s why I want you to blog. Take a moment everyday, or a couple of times a week, to write something. It doesn’t have to be a recount of your day or anything you don’t want it to be. Just find some time to fill a page with words. I know you don’t think you have them but you do. You won’t run out of them. Your creativity won’t stop. The world may not hear your voice or listen but it’s about filling that page out for yourself. It’s also about filling it out for that straggler who runs across your page. Maybe your words will connect with someone.

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The Beginning of Blogging

Waking up to my 100th day in Charleston tomorrow is going to be strange. Ever since I’ve started this 365 project the days have flown by. Tomorrow will also mark the 200th day of this project and I feel forced to re-evaluate the reasons why I started blogging. After all, I’ve spent more time blogging than I care to admit and to an audience that I could count on my left hand. The point of this post isn’t going to be to entertain. I just want to write this one for me.

The whole project originates back in 2009, when I first ran across Anna Szczekutowicz‘s work on Flickr. She was a younger photographer at the time and I found her work around 100 days into what she called a 365 project. It’s where she took a photograph everyday and posted it on the site. There usually wasn’t much writing but man were her photos breath-taking.

By 2010 I had decided to do my own photography 365 project. I tried it, usually only making it to day 20 before giving up. On my 6th try I made it all the way through. Another artist named Carolyn Snyder helped motivate me and kept me accountable for my posts. Around this time Anna took down her photo-stream and I felt like somebody had ripped a carpet out from under me. Removing your original inspiration leaves you with a hole and forces you to see what truly motivates you.

What I found motivational turned out to be my need for expression. The project gave me an outlet to get away from the world and do my thing. While it was escapism at the best, I found I grew more with photography than anything else in my life. The bug had bit me and I was forced to scratch that itch for years.

My project completed in early 2011 with no hiccups. Photography coursed through my blood at this point and seemed to be the only path I had. Many of my friend knew me because they saw me carrying a camera around. I had shot a dozen senior photos and most of my friends had modeled for me during the 365 project. I lived and breathed art.

Another great inspiration at the time was Linus Hui of Linus & the Feel Good Factory. He completed three 365 projects and evolved my concept of the project. Linus’ art was photography but it had a different take. Instead of just being a beautiful photograph, he included paper crafts that he designed. In addition, at the bottom of his posts, he wrote a tutorial on how to be or do something. “How to fake interest in conversations or on dates” was just the fourth day of his 3rd project.

What Linus showed me was that there really aren’t any rules on a 365 project. When I worked on my photography 365, I was strict and wanted a full year of only images. After that, I realized that art was so much greater than the limitations that we place on it. Restricting myself to taking photographs produced a portfolio but it didn’t satisfy my creative itch. I need something more.

I spent years looking for what that scratch might be. I delved into a 90-day project (like Anna’s) and found no satisfaction.Producing art had always given me fulfillment but I couldn’t figure out why it stopped. Perhaps this is something all artists face occasionally.

2012 was a great year because I finally found something that satisfied me. At this time, the photography community shifted from a photo-sharing site (Flickr) to Facebook. Involvement with up-and-coming photographers on Flickr gave me the ability to be friends with photographers on Facebook and interact with them on a personal level. These interactions lead me to becoming active on WordPress.com, where I could interview and write about artists.

The most satisfaction came from writing about artists and reviewing their work. This time bore “The Anatomy of a Dreamer“, “The Memory Get-ter“, “Navel Oranges“, “Eric Albee” (original personal blog), as well as many other projects. The inspiration that lead other artists to create inspired me. I suddenly understood why people create and I felt it again in a greater sense.

Mid-2012 I changed career fields and spend June and July immersed in training. I didn’t have access to the outside world until September and I was so wrecked from training that I didn’t know who I was anymore. The damage the training incurred made me have to reconstruct who I was and who I wanted to be.

Blogging came back naturally in slow increments. I experimented with other mediums like painting and vlogging as a way to figure out who I was. Inspiration came sporadically and I didn’t have very much time to myself. The nights I spent painting were often concluded with a sigh and a lack of satisfaction. The skill I desired needed more time than I had to give to it. I wanted to be good at these things but I couldn’t spend 10 hours learning a new skill each day.

The interesting thing is that although I didn’t feel satisfied, I still felt compelled to create. Something drove me to go to art and I couldn’t explain it at the time.

Stress ruined me from September to October and I turned to many Buddhist texts. I found that the advice I read could relieve a couple of hours of stress and give me an emotional break. Essentially these books helped me rebuild myself. Everyday I woke up and dreaded going to work. I would come home after 9 hours and cry in the shower or sob on the phone seeking consolation. Books like “The Power of Now” taught me coping mechanisms and released the clamp I felt I had on my head.

In October I met another artist who lived in the same building as me. We shared our frustrations and meeting him released a lot of stress. Suddenly I knew that I wasn’t alone and that other people suffered through the same things that I did. We spent a lot of time talking about art and just hanging out. It was good to physically know an artist.

I was forced to move away from that friend in October.  I didn’t have anyone to have deep conversations with anymore. Blogging filled that hole and shifted purposes. It gave me a way to create a monologue of what I wanted to say. Although there wasn’t conversation, I was able to express myself again.

Around the end of November I had an emotional charge about censorship. I couldn’t contain myself and it was like a last burst before I started blogging regularly. The truth is that I’ve blogged since my 2010 trip to Spain. It wasn’t until this emotion charge that I felt compelled to write more often and with purpose.

December 2nd I decided to start another 365 project. Instead of taking photographs everyday I wanted to write. It didn’t matter what I wrote about as long as it was 100 words every day. My job couldn’t take my life away from me and I wanted to prove that to myself. I was an artist and it was in my soul to create.

That unnerving lack of satisfaction I dealt with disappeared. Even though I didn’t have my camera or the equipment I could produce something that was my own. Days passed by and I had writing to prove that I was alive. No longer did I feel totally repressed.

After about 15 days I knew the project was going to stick. The words started off philosophical and my posts revolved around dealing with stress. These were things I knew and could easily write about. I was recording my life at one of the most stressful times I had ever experienced and sharing that with everyone.

As the year concluded my mother flew down to visit for Christmas. When the holidays were over,  the stress about work changed to homesickness and loneliness. I felt alone again and I wanted my old life back. My blog reflected this with about 20 posts about missing my cat and house.

The reason I started my 365 was to relieve this stress and to talk about it. Perhaps blogging was more of a conversation with myself than it was with anyone else. Photography was an expression that other people could appreciate even if they didn’t understand the message. Blogging is very different. It was direct and a tool I needed to rebuild a broken Eric.

As time progressed blogging documented my life events rather than hopeful Buddhist advice. When a boy unexpectedly kissed me in class, I wrote about it. Going home was a huge time for me, so I spent a week writing about it. Finishing training was a huge event. Moving to Charleston on day 100 was a huge life change. Becoming involved with another openly gay guy here lifted me up through 5 posts (and shoved me back down afterwards with 10 posts). Blogging was a way to digest everything that was happening.

As tomorrow marks day 200 out of 365 days, I really have to look at why I blog. Is there purpose to write for another 165 days? The answer is obvious; yes.

Blogging means so much to me; It records my life at any given moment it allows me to digest thoughts and things that I’m thinking about regularly, it opens my eyes towards what I’m doing with my life. Blogging reminds me that I still have some say over what’s happening. It gives me the opportunity to share my passions and experiences with other people. I feel human after writing. Blogging gives me something to share. It is medicinal after a heartbreak. Writing this fuels a fire within that I cannot put out. I feel compelled to create everyday and I haven’t found anything that satisfies me greater than caving in to that desire.

That is why I blog.

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I apologize for how long this post became. This past year has been filled with a lot of emotions and I didn’t want to restrain why I blog. That would almost be self-defeating. If you made it this far, thank you for reading. I really urge you to start your own blog over at WP.com. It’s life-changing, free, and will take you only 10 minutes to learn.

Share your Life

People travel around the world without writing a word about it. Others do amazing things daily without even wincing at the thought of sharing it. The things people do don’t usually seem spectacular to them. However, to others your life may be interesting. Your ideas, your thoughts, and your existence may be amazing to somebody else.

When the moment is said and done, what do we have left of it? Our memories fade with time and our perceptions change. What we once knew will go into the back of our mind until it eventually disappears. Writing is a way to remember. It’s a way to digest what we’ve experienced and to record it for others to see.

The difficulty is convincing people that their life is worth sharing. We all carry this idea that our lives are boring. We think that everyone else is living the grand life and that we’re just piece of hay in the haystack. Maybe we don’t put it that way but that’s how a lot of people feel.

A couple of weeks ago I tried to push my friend into blogging. Much to my dismay she said something along that lines of “I don’t want to contribute to the static. Everyone is speaking now and I don’t think I have anything to offer into it. My views aren’t unique or different.” I wanted to shake her and tell her that I wanted to read about her life. I wanted to go online and hear her opinions or what she loves to write about. What makes her feel happy and the ecstasy of doing the things she loves.

Another one of my friends lived in France for a year where she was a nanny for two school children. I wish I could have read about that. The truth is, I can’t experience a lot of these things. My life is too short and I’ll be too busy pursing other dreams. If you share about your experiences online, others can experience things that they never could have imagined.

My best friend moved to America for a year and didn’t write about it on a blog. She made posts on Facebook that are long gone and forgotten. The life she lived here is just committed to her memory. While there’s nothing intrinsically bad in this, she could have remembered so much more if only she wrote it down.

When I ask you to start blogging, it’s because I want to read about your life. I want to understand your struggles and be there with you in your triumphs. Your experiences enrich the lives of everyone around you. While you think you don’t have much to say, I don’t believe it.

If you don’t want to share your opinions, don’t. Just write objectively. Tell us about your greatest accomplishment or your greatest shame. The world is full of storytellers and I want you to be part of them. Definitely live your life but contribute to the pool.

There are so many voices in the world and yes, sometimes it feels like static. Yes, there will be times when your experiences won’t be amazing. But when you have a wonderful experience, you’ll have it in front of you. When five years have gone by, you’ll have a portrait of yourself. If you ever feel alone, you will be able to look back at yourself and know that rough times come and go.

Blogging is so much more that people give it credit for. When you write, you digest it in your mind. You have to recount what you’ve experienced and give it meaning. You realize what you’ve experienced and what it means. Maybe not fully but you have to put it down in front of yourself. Making your life tangible can seem difficult but I can assure you that there’s no better feeling than going through old posts and remembering a good time that you forgot. Like reading about people you used to hang out with or movies you used to love.

I want you to contribute to the static. Add your piece in and find yourself. If you don’t do it for yourself, do it for others. Share your passions and maybe you’ll spark something in somebody else. The world is in desperate need of you and what you have to say. All you have to do is speak.

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