Creative Accountability Group

The Creation of Adam by Michelangelo

I have been part of an online creative accountability group for two months. Each day we post our goals for the day regarding writing, art, and filmmaking endeavors, with each person addressing his or her own type of creativity. At the end of the day, we report how we did. We also share work, offer critique, and cheer each other on. The best part? The group consists only of the members of my immediate family. We know what each other is working on, and it’s a delight to share details in an exclusive group of those we trust. Sure, our critique may sometimes be subjective, but it is the steadiest critique we receive. It can be a strengthening, empowering process to have those closest in our lives, who are also knowledgeable in what we’re doing, to be the first to vet a project before it moves on to other non-biased panels of experts. But mainly, our group effort was born out of a need for more accountability and accomplishment. And it has worked to that end. We have each made more progress in two months than we had previously done.

If you want to start such a group, use whatever medium works for you. We use the Facebook private inbox feature. Although we currently live in the same house, we wanted something that felt “official”, yet we wanted it to be simple enough that we would likely stick with it. Accountability is vital in the creative fields where much of our work is done alone. Look for a person or group wherever you can find one, on or offline, and don’t discount those closest to you. You don’t even have to be working on similar projects to gain the benefit of reporting your progress to another.

“Whiplash”–Disturbing or Inspiring?

Clapboard & cinema reel

As Oscar season approaches us again, I want to draw attention to a fine movie that was nominated last year for best picture, an independently made film that had its debut at the Sundance Film Festival and went on to receive critical and box office acclaim. “Whiplash” is the story of a young, talented drummer, Andrew (Miles Teller), studying at a music conservatory, and his merciless mentor, Fletcher (J.K. Simmons), whose methods of drawing out the best in his students venture into abusive territory (think Simon Cowell with singing contestants, except add blood). Although audience members may sway back and forth between respect and annoyance, and dare I say, amusement at Fletcher’s extreme personality and methods, I know of several people, myself included, who report that the movie ends up inspiring the creativity in us. We need that toughness, I think, to bring out what simply cannot be discovered in us with just family and close friends telling us, “You’re great. You’re the best.” That kind of biased critique is what leads the unsuspecting to embarrass themselves in front of crowds, or to self-publish books that have not been vetted by the professional world.

I always am in favor of accepting honest and helpful, yes, even brutal critique. Of course, it’s hard, but if you want to be a professional, you will have much harder things to deal with in your career than critique that might hurt. Suck it up and take your medicine!

There is a fine line, though, between helpful critique and flat-out abuse. The kind dished out by Fletcher would break the dreams of the most flimsy creators. I’m not sure that that’s a good thing. Many who might give up under those circumstances may actually be geniuses in waiting who need not only the brutal critique but also some uplifting encouragement. My feelings about Fletcher’s methods can be summed up by addressing one telling scene near the end of the movie. Fletcher famously says, “There are no two words in the English language more harmful than, ‘Good job.’” I would say that the seven most powerful words in the English language are, “Good job…but it could be better.”

 

Need Help Getting Motivated Creatively?

“God left the world unfinished for man to work his skill upon. He left the electricity in the cloud, the oil in the earth. He left the rivers unbridged and the forests unfelled and the cities unbuilt. God gives to man the challenge of raw materials, not the ease of finished things. He leaves the pictures unpainted and the music unsung and the problems unsolved, that man might know the joys and glories of creation.” ~ Thomas S. Monson

Isn’t that a marvelous quote? Doesn’t it just make you want to go create something?

At our house creativity often strikes in the middle of the night. Not sure why, except I have read that creative people tend to be night owls. Here’s my son burning the midnight oil doing filmmaking in the backyard studio.

Burning the Midnight Oil

My husband has done some of his best painting during all-night sprints, and I would venture a guess that 90 percent of my book writing is done between midnight and 2 a.m. Whenever the mood strikes you, don’t resist! Creativity rules!

Disabilities vs. Abilities

 

Stolen ideas

In recent years, there seems to have been a rise in the occurrence of mental and emotional disability labels on children. Whether that’s due to a changing, unhealthy environment, or an increase in those seeking professional diagnoses, or both, is unclear. I tend to think it’s some of both, but I also think we as a society have become sort of mental hypochondriacs. Since the advent of the internet, I know I’ve diagnosed myself with all sorts of maladies, some real, some imagined! Time was, we used to receive a doctor’s diagnosis and trek around to other doctors getting second, third, and fourth opinions. Now sometimes we trek around to different psychologists until one does diagnose something that placates us.

But the concern I have is for those children out there who may be, as it were, held back by some label of “abnormality” placed on them by well-meaning adults, an abnormality that, but for the label, they would never know they had. “Treat the disabled normally. They don’t want to be singled out,” the labelers beg of us, when they themselves have already singled them out by placing the glaring label on them for all to see.

Consider my analogy, simplified I know, but it makes sense to me. Suppose half the people of the world prefer blue as their favorite color; the other half likes red as their favorite. It’s been that way for centuries with no notice, but then, during our “enlightened” 21st century, some highly degreed doctors get together and decide that liking blue best is what they’re going to call “normal”, and liking red best is now “abnormal”. The sad news for red-lovers is that there is no cure for their condition. The best hope doctors have for the families of red-lovers is that, perhaps with some medication and/or ongoing therapy, they might get those so disabled to at least like purple, then they could have some semblance of a productive life.

Blue-loving families everywhere demand equal treatment for their unfortunate red-loving family member, but those who haven’t watched the news didn’t even know there was a blue-red debate going on.

And color preference is relative. What about the family made up of all red-lovers, except for that one single blue-lover? Might “normal” have a different definition to them?

Now I’m not saying that “abnormal” doesn’t exist. Genes can go awry. If a person is so obsessed with the color red that they paint every visible object red, the lamps, the carpet, the TV, the dog, then yes, they need some intervention, especially before they go painting the neighbors’ house, lawn, and dog red. But don’t let such persons give all red-lovers a bad name. Most likely, there are a commensurate number of painters whose work has gone unchecked during their blue period.

But if you look at history, you’ll see that it’s been both the blue and red-lovers who have made progress in our world. A worried someone once told me their child had the same disorder as Einstein, Isaac Newton, Mozart, Bill Gates, and Steven Spielberg. “And this is a problem why?” I sorely wanted to know. I submit that if those illustrious figures had not possessed such a, so-called, abnormality, we would not have the scientific discoveries, inventions, and profound cultural arts that we have today. Oh, they may have been trying at times to their mothers, but thank goodness they weren’t medicated and therapied into some ordinary human’s definition of “normalcy”.

We have a family member who no doubt could’ve been diagnosed with a certain disability. I’m not sure because we never took him to a doctor. We bought him a video camera instead so he could give form to his creativity. And our home has often been a hangout for several friends with varying degrees of disabilities. We’ve never noticed anything abnormal about them…I guess because we’re just a bunch of red-lovers over here, happily ignorant of the box we’re thinking outside of. And for the record, my favorite color really is red…..and green, but that’s a whole ‘nuther blog post!