Conflict

When you’re caught up in the mire of conflict and stressful situations, all you want is to climb to stable ground where you can move freely. You think that if you could only find peace, then everything would be okay. But then the drama ends and you find yourself lost in the silence, wondering what to do with yourself. Before you realize it, you’ve gone and jumped into another sticky situation just so you can feel alive.

I’ve found that writing gets much easier when I’m propelled by stress, anger, or pain. Now that my life has become more peaceful in the past few days and the river of my emotions is no longer overflowing its banks, the inspiration seems to have receded along with it. What I realized is that I’ve been getting too comfortable with life, and I need to push myself out of my comfort zone to keep my mind active and evolving.

Storylines are meaningless without conflict—and so is life. A “good day” isn’t a day when everything goes my way. It’s a day when I overcome insurmountable challenges that push me forward. And that’s how I’m going to live my life.

So stretch yourself beyond your limits. Wrestle with unorthodox ideas. Force yourself to do the impossible. Spend time with people who disagree with you. Dance with fear. Relish the intensity of Life.

Some Days

Some days it’s easy, and the words come bubbling up from my subconscious, spilling onto the page.

Then some days I wonder if I’ve offended my Muse—if she’s off somewhere sulking in a corner, refusing to grace me with her wisdom. Must I go find her? Do I need to beg her forgiveness and promise never to forsake her again? Or is she whispering in my ear at this very moment, and I’m just refusing to listen?

Writing is hard. So far in this personal development project where I’ve committed to blogging daily for 30 days, it hasn’t been so bad. Something about the deadline that I know I can’t miss because people are counting on me makes it easier. It removes the option of not doing it.

But that doesn’t mean there aren’t bad days. Days when my fountain goes dry. And none of the half-baked posts in my files are tugging at my sleeve. And I’m not feeling any heart-wrenching emotions that I have to set free. When just the thought of staring at my computer screen for one more second brings a throbbing pain to my head.

When this happens, there’s nothing to do but press forward, because this is the game and I’m not going to lose. And maybe, just maybe, my dedication will earn me the favor of the Muse, and she will return.

This is assuming that Steven Pressfield is right in The War of Art when he explains the secret of real writers:

When we sit down each day and do our work, power concentrates around us. The Muse takes note of our dedication. She approves. We have earned favor in her sight. When we sit down and work, we become like a magnetized rod that attracts iron filings. Ideas come. Insights accrete.

On Creativity

instagramsunset

I’m that person. That girl who takes dozens of pictures of every sunset, every pretty view, just so I can find the perfect one to post on Instagram along with some inspirational quote.

It turns out, a lot of people don’t like that person. News has been trending recently about a camera that supposedly “prevents cliche pictures” dubbed “Camera Restricta.” This camera uses GPS tracking to find out how many pictures have been taken at your location. When it decides that number is too high, it will block the shutter from opening again until you move to a new location. The video describes it as “a disobedient tool for taking unique photographs”—the idea is that it forces you to be original, to photograph places no one has ever gone before.

Sounds like a great idea, right? Considering how viral the video has gone, a lot of people seem to think so. The world doesn’t need any more pictures of Buckingham Palace or the Eiffel Tower, right?

Wrong.

Think about it. Are any two pictures ever exactly the same? They may look similar, but nobody has ever stood in exactly that spot at that precise time, under that exact lighting and with those particular clouds. Even more importantly, the person who takes the picture has never been in those specific circumstances or that state of mind. Sometimes a picture serves to capture an experience more than anything else. Not to mention that you might want to take a picture of a person who has never been there before. When you think about it that way, every picture is unique.

This invention and its popularity illustrate everything that is wrong with the way we think about creativity.

There’s this idea that nothing is worth doing unless it’s completely unlike anything that has ever existed. They say pop music is unoriginal because most songs use the same 4 chords. You know what? Those chords resonate with us for a reason, and they also allow for a huge variety of melodies and harmonies. They say movies that recycle plot lines are ripoffs. Really? Maybe that’s because there are reoccurring themes in the human condition. These ideas set nearly impossible standards for originality, implying that creativity is only accessible to the select few who are able to escape the crowds and be struck by some sort of divine inspiration. It’s enough to discourage anyone from attempting anything new.

Thankfully, that’s not how creativity works. It doesn’t happen without influence. More often than not, the best creations come from normal people making changes to something that already exists. We’re all building with the same materials.

The video series Everything is a Remix demonstrates how so many of the great masterpieces of film, music, and technology are nothing more than novel combinations of preexisting work. Star Wars draws heavily on elements from numerous other films. Led Zeppelin took many of their lyrics and melodies from Blues songs. 74 out of 100 of the highest grossing films have been either sequels or remakes of earlier films or adaptations of stories from other sources. Even the inventions that have changed the world, like the personal computer or the industrial assembly line, were discovered by combining and transforming other ideas. Thus, the three foundational elements of creativity: copy, transform, combine.

Anyone can be creative. When you create things, you’re creative. To be human is to have that potential. There’s no magic to it—it’s simply a matter of making the effort to learn about what has made a difference in the past and then building on that by making connections and putting things into a new context. I believe that creations shouldn’t be judged by some ridiculous standard of “originality,” but rather by their meaningfulness and influence.

That’s why it’s okay to start a blog, even if you feel like all your ideas have been said before by someone else. Maybe you’ll be able to phrase things in a better way or reach someone who would never have been exposed to those ideas otherwise. Or maybe you’ll simply develop the skills and credibility you’ll need in the future when you do come up with a great idea.

So don’t feel guilty about taking the millionth picture of a palm tree with the sun hitting it just right. Just make it meaningful.

Blogging

When I was 6 years old, my Grandma gave me and my sisters diaries for Christmas. Mine was pink. Although I was somewhat resentful that I was supposed to like pink just because I was a 6-year-old girl, I was excited at the prospect of having something to write in that would be just for myself. But then I encountered a problem: what are you supposed to write about in a diary? I remember asking my sister about it. She told me to just write about what I did every day, so I started. After a few days, for some reason I became convinced that I was doing it wrong, so I went so far as erasing several pages of writing (oh for the days when I wrote everything with a number 2 pencil). Then I went back and started over, writing what I thought was correct. My writing gradually evolved from describing my everyday activities to exploring deeper emotions and venting about the trials of growing up and the horrors of high school. By the time I moved out of the house, I had filled up at least 8 other notebooks with my thoughts.

My journal became my best friend, and I learned that it was deeply cathartic to get my feelings onto paper. It made them real and significant. It made me feel like I mattered, at least to myself.

Whenever I go back and read my old journals, I always wonder—could the person behind those words really be the same Kristina? So much has changed. I don’t even remember ever thinking so many of those things. Sometimes it seems like the only thing I have in common with that girl is the ugly, deformed handwriting. And I fear losing that part of myself, forgetting who I used to be. Because whether I realize it or not, that part of my life shaped who I am. That’s one of the reasons I’ve faithfully kept a journal over the years, and still do, now in digital form.

There is another way I’m the same as that Other Kristina. I love the idea of writing a blog, but I keep thinking there’s something I’m supposed to write, or at least something I’m supposed to sound like. So I look around at other people’s blogs and try to imitate them and inevitably fail.

At this point, I don’t think there is anything I’m supposed to be writing about. And I know you’re not supposed to qualify sentences with “I think.” But at least I’m confident in my insecurity, so that’s how I’m going to leave it.

I’m not trying to be persuasive here. The only thing I’m trying to prove is to myself, that I can overcome my fear and get my thoughts out there. I think there’s value in writing just to express myself. But this time I’m going to let The Whole Internet watch.