Robert Dilts, expert in hypnosis and its recent variants, has made a study of the working mindsets of all sorts of people, of the very past and the recent past. He found that Walt Disney had a distinctive way of keeping hard boundaries between stages of creativity and creative production. The boundaries protected one stage from being contaminated by others too soon in the creative process. This allowed Disney, and therefore his staff, to give each phase its due, taking a project in all directions and depths without worry about how that stage would fit with the others. However, when the time was right, Disney would pull away the boundaries and let things mix.
This makes great sense. How often have we killed a good idea within minutes of it popping up? How fast have we moved from creative vision to creative destruction brought on by the Inner Critic? Disney held off the critic (inner and outer) until it was time for the critic to enter the stage.
Holding boundaries between parts of the creative process we let our creative juices to flow unfettered. Sometimes that means keeping up boundaries for an hour, a day, a week, or even a month. With this approach, we can: immerse ourselves in an idea; this immersion will fire up other creative insights, and, not to be overlooked, we can have time to enjoy our work.
Ideas need: space to grow; time to develop; energy to percolate; other ideas to relate to and mingle with; a dark place to incubate.
Walt Disney kept boundaries with conceptual personas in mind.
Disney’s personas included:
- The Dreamer - the visionary who brings creativity into the world
- The Realist - the pragmatic producer who makes things happen
- The Critic - we all know this one; the critic refines or convinces us to dump ideas
I think his Realist can be cast into better terms: The Builder, The Doer, or The Mechanic capture the notion that this persona puts their focus on getting things built and done, turning a vision to a real thing.
Personas of What, How, and Wait, Let’s Take a Close Look At This
The Dreamer is the what of creativity. What are you seeing/envisioning?
The Builder is the how of creativity. “Ok, I get your vision, here is how it might be constructed.” Caution: Most of us bring the critic along with The Builder. We ask, “Do I know how? I don’t? Kill the idea immediately.” Or, “I’ve heard it is hard to build this so….dump the idea.” Let’s keep the Critic out of the picture (boundaries, remember boundaries). How can we go about building the idea without concern? We can concentrate on the assumption that our dream can be built. Now is not the time to question, now is the time to figure how the heck the vision can brought into this world.
Enter the Critic. The Critic differs from the Dreamer (the what) and the Builder (the how) and gets into the issues of: why, probabilities, comparisons, weighing, testing, leaving open uncertainty so we might be driven to look at other options (the good side of doubt), and slowing us down to look both ways before we race across the street. Not fun stuff but must be done.
The Critic should not be confused with the painful Inner Critic. The Critic brings purposeful, healthy, and sound examination and judgment to the process. The Inner Critic brings fear, doubt, and pain to the situation that has been haphazardly programmed into our brains to stir our heart and guts when we get out of line, in its opinion. The Critic is like an accountant or lawyer at work whereas the Inner Critic is like the drunken bar-room brawler.
-Setup a safe zone in terms of time, judgement, and even space (Disney had a room set aside for The Dreamer and non-dreamers were not invited in).
-Setup a safe zone for your builder and don’t let your dreamer come in and constantly revise the vision you are building towards until you have given a dream time to be figured out logistically.
-Setup a safe zone for the critic and don’t let it be smashed by the dreamer or builder because each is disappointed that it can’t go ahead. That disappointment can be very hostile and hostility is not very open minded.
-Set a safe time for each persona to thrive, without criticism from the others.
-Go deeper with your imagination and turn these conceptual personas into flesh and blood characters in your mind. Give them a face, a voice, a style. This well make boundaries more real and more air-tight when you need them to be sturdy.
-Set a time to mingle personas to learn what they all have to offer. You will have to revise, rebuild, or maybe, drop an idea.
For more, see:
Detailed paper by Robert Dilts on the whole Disney method
Dilt’s CD on Disney’s method and includes a guided imagination to work with each persona
Dilts on YouTube
To do any sustained work, a pace has to be selected. A pace can be very light, say: “I will work on my project on Saturday afternoons from 1 until 5.” Or it can be quite dense: “I will work every day from 10 am till 1:30 pm.” The latter pace is something for pros and semi-pros to keep up with. The rest of us shoot for a middle pace: “I will work two days during the work week and four hours on Saturday or Sunday.”
Pace is like a wedge. The wedge/pace will, by necessity, move things out of the way.What it moves is everything we are doing before interjecting a working pace into our lives. It has to be this way because: 1. everything takes some time, 2.our time is limited to so many hours in the day, 3. two things can not occupy the same time slot. I know what you are thinking: “I can multi-task; I can fill one time slot with 5 things.” We are talking about high quality effort and creative exploration here, not knocking things off the to-do-list. Quality work is demanding and will not share time slots with something else. With this new activity, our old lives will be changed. Lower priority activities will be dumped or crunched and our creative work will assume that time. Something(s) will have to give.
If you are thinking that you have “free time” so you can work this pace in without any giving whatsoever, that is not true. Our free time has been carefully, consciously and unconsciously sculpted over many years. “Not doing” is still doing something with your finite amount of time. Our unconscious is more in control during free time than is our will and reason of our conscious mind. The unconscious is doing things with this time whether we realize it or not.
Pace changes our life and change is not easy. No matter how strong we want to do something or how ready we think we are, adding something new with a regularity takes a lot of work to assimilate into our lives and to adjust many of things we were doing before that addition. Returning to wedges, pace wedges up-turn the prior order of our lives. If we set the pace way too high, which almost out of a universal law, we always do, some our energy goes to sorting out a new order. If we are pacing to high, our cat will get angry because it feels ignored, our clothes will hang more often at the dry cleaners than in our closets, and our bills will have bills. Many things get stirred up to the point we are finding that we are spending increasing amounts of time and worry playing clean-up, catch-up, and repair of what and who the wedge has moved aside. So, just as we cut loose with a pace, again, 99% too high, we have to juggle our creative work at greater intensity and the wedge-victims, sentient or not.
Why do we set pace too high? Because we are ambitious and because we have no real knowledge of what each level of pace entails. For instance, lets assume (and that would be right) I want to loose weight. Twenty pounds has a nice ring to it. Twenty shows I’m really serious and it is a nice even unit of measure (whoever sets their sights on losing 18.79 lbs?). Also I “ought” to lose that much and I “should” be able to do it. With that pace target in mind, I pick up something like: The Bollywood Fast and Easy Diet Plan. In that writing I learn that I “should” be able to lose 2 lbs per week because the author’s sample group, stars and starlets in India were able to accomplish this feat. Let’s review: the first part of my pace was set because 20 lbs has a good ring to it and the second part of my pace, shedding two pounds per week, comes from stars and starlets of India. What do you think my odds are to hit my pace, right out of the gate, to have a smooth and easy transition making this lifestyle change, and to hold to the pace most weeks?
Odds are low (or is it just me?). Not because of lack of discipline, that can be there as well, but because of the unexpected turmoil and unanticipated complexity of what I want to do. Not only do those things catch me off guard, I have little practical experience with the required logistics and how my body and mind will handle these changes. Very early on I will feel that something is wrong and I won’t understand why I can’t hit the pace and handle the changes. I will fail a lot. I will be filled with doubt about the diet but especially about me. Why can’t I do this? What’s wrong with me? With lots of failure, confusion and self-downing, the conditions are ripe for me to give up on this diet and perhaps any diet.
Getting to Your Best-Fit
1. Sit down for five minutes and talk to yourself about how pace setting is a refinement process. That it will take time to get it right, for you. Also, talk to yourself about how you will be failing a great deal in the coming days, weeks, and months and that is o.k. It really is o.k. You will work hard to hit the pace but you are also working hard to adjust towards the best fit for you.
2. Set an initial pace. Stop! Don’t implement it! It will be wrong for you!
Do one of these:
- Adjust Downward – Take your initial pace that you think is “sensible” and cut it in half. Next, cut that in half. Use what remains for your pace for a week or so. If you can’t keep up, cut the pace in half. Once you can hit the pace more often than not, adopt that as what works for you.
- Adjust Upward – Pick the most absurd smallest pace you can think of. Do that for three days. Only when you have done the most absurd pace are you allowed to adjust that pace. Think of three other absurd small steps and add them to your initial absurd pace. Do that for a week. Continuing adding small chunks until you hit the right pace.
3. Observe everything, every time you use a trial pace: what happened when you worked at that pace; how close you got to it; what held you back; what supported you; what got wedged out of the way to make room for the pace.
4. Adjust downward or upward again and roll-out your new pace.
Watch how your feel about the pace. If it is still driving you nuts after a week or two, adjust. If the other things in your life can’t handle you working this pace, adjust.
If you are more frequently than not, missing your pace, adjust. If you feel in pain, overwhelmed, guilty, self-critical, and ready to quit, immediately adjust. If your creative work feels dead or wrong, adjust. If your creativity had been flowing easily before this pace and now it runs like molasses, adjust. If you are always scrambling to make up for missed work sessions, adjust.
5. S…l…o…w…l…y… you will find a reasonable pace that is your pace. Keep adjusting until you got it.
Centuries of introspection has shown that we, for all practical purposes, are made of many “parts.” You know, part of me wants to go to the family event and part of me wants to do anything but that. Part of me sits on my right shoulder and tells me how to be good and part of me sits on my left shoulder and tells me how to be bad. Part of me wants to knock my assignments right after I get them and part of me wants to wait to the last minute of Sunday evening. And so on.
Most days we flit between various parts taking center stage and donning our body and doing its thing through us. That actor leaves the stage and we sort go along in neutral for a few days. By next week, a different part comes forward with its mood fog and we are in and act of a funk. So goes our month.
Parts are formed in our heads as things we learn from our family members, peers, and society. They can start as we copy someone’s attitude, beliefs, style, perspectives, the way they carry themselves, their tone of voice, words, etc. Our head takes these seeds and shapes them into something like personifications–sometimes close copies of those who put these ideas into our head and sometimes as general poetic renderings.
So large part of psyche is structured in the shape of people. This is our core programming as we age and move about in the world. We are actors, sometimes playing our unique selves but very often playing the roles of others.
How Parts Can Keep Us From Creative Engagement
Undoubtedly, in our vast cast of parts, we have some that aren’t lined up to help us do our creative work. They have their own agendas to follow. Some pull us to move towards those things they favor. For instance, a part we can call The Spa Recluse is that part that wants to hide out from the world by melting away into our best passive selves at the spa, all-inclusive resort, the large park, the museum, or anywhere that feels indulgent and where we get attention.
Others like: I’m Not Moving From the Couch Slouch; Mr. Burnout; Lost in a Weekend TV Show Marathon; It’s Too Late in the Evening to Start Something New; I Don’t Want to Talk To Anybody; Following a Wild Hair—want us to move towards what they favor and throw off clear messages that even the idea of doing something else is not where we should go. These jealous parts signal this by a slight feeling of repulsion in our gut, head, and hearts towards the idea of doing something involving work. Yuck. Don’t go there.
Parts can also shape what we do by helping us “forget” some of the things we promised ourselves that we want to do. Active parts keep us so busy we remember everything on our things to do list, but our creative work. Parts can put us into a cloud of amnesia dust.
Parts have real power. They largely control you and what you do, feel, think, and sense.
Steps to Finding Your Non-Working Parts
If we get good at spotting parts of all types, we can see who is on stage at a particular moment, who is shoving and shouting hard to get up there, and spot which parts are being ignored. Recognition of active parts is a huge first step. In a later post, we will look at how to learn from and negotiate with the parts.
Step 1: Look inside your head/heart/guts and ask the question: Who doesn’t want to work?
A good way to kick off possibilities is by remembering your best times when you were the most relaxed, the most carefree, and the times you were the most exhausted and had to withdraw. These instances can be large experiences or small events such as the part of you who enjoys a cup of coffee.
Step 2: Can you give a title to each of these you’s? This will greatly help you to understand what you have found and to spot these parts of you when they pop up later. If you can, sketch out a profile of each.
Don’t rush these steps. Take time to get to know each of your parts as if they were a person that just walked in the door and told you that they were a long-lost close relative. Indeed, they are.
Building a Regret
“My mind has changed during the last twenty or thirty years… Now for many years I cannot endure to read a line of poetry… I have also almost lost any taste for pictures or music… My mind seems to have become a kind of machine for grinding general laws out of large collections of facts…”
Speaking a Regret
“If I had to live my life again I would have made a rule to read some poetry and listen to some music at least once every week… The loss of these tastes is a loss of happiness, and may possibly be injurious to the intellect, and more probably to the character, by enfeebling the emotional part of our nature.”
The Autobiography of Charles Darwin, (pp. 138-139)
Ending/Preventing a Regret
2013 approaches and with it, resolutions. What creative project will you do this year that will end a regret? What creative project will you do in 2013 to prevent a regret?
Setting aside the likelihood that this novelty insults some Buddhists (and makes other Buddhists laugh), let’s use it as analogy.
First, we need to understand how this novelty works. The “buddha” starts off about 1.2 inches tall when taken right from the package. “Made of a sponge-like non-toxic material”, the small buddha expands 600 times when submerged in water for 72 hours. So you know have a 7 inch “buddha” in a jar of water.
What Do We Need to Grow 600%?
There are many things we would love to grow 600% in just a few days: our talent, skills, knowledge, insight, marketability, recognition, and more. Add water and boom! That would be nice, wouldn’t it.
Not on the list is something that makes a big difference. It is something that remains hidden, that seems insignificant because it is subtle. But subtle stuff can have a big impact.
Look here at this example at something that starts off small but thing grows many, many times: I asked my wife when she “knew” she was a runner. She answered that it was some time after she completed her first half-marathon. Makes sense. An unsurprising answer, one that most of us would give. My follow-up question: What difference does it make now knowing you are a runner? Answer: I feel more confident. I have put on the mantle of ”runner” and with that, embraced much of what that role entails (the glory, the expectations, the challenges). I now have a place to stand; I feel more secure and centered in my practice running, recovery, and doing other races.
O.k., fine, but what was she before she completed that particular race? Running ten miles at a time didn’t count? Running eight miles three times a week to build up for this race didn’t count either? Is the only difference 13.1 miles? Or was it the over-sized, unattractive, medal she received at the finish line? In her mind, only this race was important enough to convince her she was a runner.
Another example: A friend didn’t realize she was a painter until she cataloged her works, added up her recent framing bills, and saw her calendar filled with the things painters must do to get their works in show. Putting all of this data down, the picture emerged that she “was a painter.” This accidental analysis, “made things real.”
Question: Do we have to wait so long down the line in our efforts before we can get the benefits of “knowing we are a Creative”?
Back to the Grow A Buddha, non-toxic novelty (I will make this analogy work no matter what).
This buddha is smarter than the majority of us. You put the 1.2 inch buddha in a jar and pour in water. What does it do and do very well? It soaks up the obvious thing that surrounds it and it grows. We however, surrounded by things pointing to the fact we are a Creative, don’t grow fast. . We hide from ourselves the aha experience of realizing what we are: we are a Creative (or a painter, or a photographer, or a writer, etc. if you prefer those terms). We stunt our growth by picking some big goal, way down the line as the point at which we can start to grow into the role we have already been living. There we sit, surrounded by that which could make us expand 600% but nothing happens. We would toss out our Grow a Buddha if we saw nothing happening in our water filled jar. “Hey, what is this? I followed the instructions but it just sits there (like a buddha).”
We can’t afford to stunt our growth. The risk is always very high we will be diverted from our work, lose interest, drive, inspiration for our project. We have to see early progress or we are highly likely to give up. Progress outside and progress with a creative market can take a very long time to make itself evident so we must be very attuned to recognizing progress within ourselves.
When we have a gut felt and heart-felt certainty that we are a Creative, things start to happen. Our confidence increases which means we take more risks, we tend to have more energy, more focus, and certainly more dedication. We expect more of ourselves and we go out and do it. Our earlier scattered thoughts and energies align around our new role as a Creative.
How to Grow Quickly Towards Your Own Knowing:
-Don’t dismiss minor milestones for the really big accomplishment way in the future
-Don’t poo-poo insights, half-ideas, fits and starts, raw drafts. Throw out nothing. Every action and thought on your journey counts. All expand you.
-Define for yourself what it takes to call yourself a Creative. Don’t adopt other people’s definitions of what makes a creative or when a person becomes a creative. 99% will have no idea or a very distorted view at best.
-Think of yourself as being on a map. Sketch out your starting point on your creative journey. Next, mark down everything you can think of that has come after your starting point (everything you have done; lessons learned; people in the field met; training; etc.). Take a few days to add to this list. Don’t short-change yourself by leaving things out, list it all.
That’s where you have been. Looking at all of that, where are you today? Where do you stand now on this map? Appreciate the distance that you have come. Visualize your starting point and contrast that with where you are now. Play through your mind’s eye your journey. Savor and embrace how you have changed. Now for the real question: Is there somewhere on that map you can clearly mark that you, by your definition, became a Creative?
We can grow dramatically like the non-toxic* buddha if truly work the steps above and watch for growth signs every day. We won’t grow 600% in 72 hours but we get much, much larger faster than we ever thought was possible.
* Actually: Ethylene-Vinyl Acetate Copolymer, Acrylic-Based Water-Absorbent Resin, Pigment
Where to get a Grow A Buddha (if you must) – link
The word Grit may someday replace the words persistence and perserverance. Grit has a nice sound to it. It is short and sharp, and has a no-nonsense quality about it. It reminds one of something solid and something down to earth, like a farmer or a coal miner. Of course, we all know the movie True Grit. Most associate the Grit part with John Wayne or Jeff Bridges and that makes some sense, but the main catalyst of all action is 14 year old, Mattie Ross. She is willing to go through danger, humilation, dismissal, expense, discomfort, and threat to find justice for the killing of her father. Neither John Wayne, nor Jeff Bridges would have moved a bit without the bull-dog persistence of Mattie. She was the holder of Grit while John Wayne/Jeff Bridges simply looked gritty.
Grit is different than willpower. Willpower, as research is showing, is like a muscle that can do intense work but only for a short time. Willpower simply does not have the capacity for anything beyond, short, intense sessions. Grit/perserverance is in for the long game. It is our ability to endure and bounce back and to stay on the trail, again and again. Grit easily out distances honorable willpower.
”We define grit as perseverance and passion for long-term goals. Grit entails working strenuously toward challenges, maintaining effort and interest over years despite failure, adversity, and plateaus in progress. The gritty individual approaches achievement as a marathon; his or her advantage is stamina. Whereas disappointment or boredom signals to others that it is time to change trajectory and cut losses, the gritty individual stays the course.” “… individuals high in grit deliberately set for themselves extremely long-term objectives and do not swerve from them—even in the absence of positive feedback.” - A. Duckworth - Grit: Perseverance and Passion for Long-Term Goals. -
Angela Duckworth, assistant professor in the Positive Psychology group at the the University of Pennsylvania, has focused repeated studies on Grit and is the leader of the study of this character trait. She reports that Grit has two aspects: first, there is the widely recognized endurance we just mentioned that extends across years and many obstacles. A second factor is less noticed and that is the fact that people with Grit lock onto a single interest and hang onto it for dear life. For some reason, a field, a project, or a problem has fascinated that person and the fascination doesn’t wane over many years. The fascination even deepens as the person learns more, experiments, struggles, and succeeds. While others of us lose interest in something and move on, the Grit person stays, and stays, and stays.
- Fascination attracts and that attraction leads to a commitment similar to marriage vows (in sickness or in health; richer or poorer; until death do us part).
- Work it for years
- Work it when things are tough
- Work it when things are uncertain
- Work it even when others don’t understand
- Don’t rush, there is no where else that is better/there is nothing as fascinating as thee
What are your fascinations? If you have been following one for awhile, what about deepening your “relationship” by going deeper and broader? Finding your fascination leads to endurance and that leads to Grit. What are willing to marry and let go only “until death do us part?”
Take a Self-Test developed by Angela Duckworth to get a look at your Grit (the test is free but registration is required; look down the page for the test): The Grit Scale
Video- Angela Duckworth basic intro to Grit: True Grit (18 minutes)
I declare that I will begin again, this coming week, in small ways to more fully develop my commitment to myself to bring my creativity into the world. I will start small because I enjoy discovering how my creative work can expand, piece-by-piece, in my life.
I declare that I have something to offer to the world, may that be an idea, a product, a reason to go on, help to my fellow creatives, a smile of support, or acting as a role model.
I declare that I have the unalienable right to explore, to experiment, to grow, to be puzzled, and to chase after what I consider important.
I declare that I can bounce back from no’s and from distractions, dips, and dives.
I declare that I can seek others as role models but I do not confuse their lives as my own, nor will I unduly admonish, berate, or in other manner, criticize myself for not being like those other creatives. I have my own path, my own life, my own obstacles, my own strengths, my own potentials to deal with. Role models provide information, they are not meant to provide me the ground for self-recriminations.
I declare that I have the right to take some time to be creative. While I may face actual or imagined criticism about taking time to be creative, I know that this can be done without harm to others. In fact, as I become more creative, great benefits accrue to those around me as I at last gather my life’s meaning and potential around me, sparking great happiness for me that I pass onto others in countless ways.
I declare that I am free to have many, many what others will call “false starts.” These are not false starts but are inquiries and experiments that feed my learning about myself and the world of creativity. I can’t grow without them.
I declare that I can follow my own voice.
I declare that I believe in myself.
I declare my independence from guilt associated with not meeting previous deadlines, missing opportunities, or not following through. When the time is right, I can look back at these experiences and learn from them. As of today, I release the burden of carrying this guilt. I face the now and the future.
I declare that I can spend money on the tools of my trade without undue guilt.
I declare a greater allegiance to my inner calling to be creative. While I will maintain my standing obligations, I will let my inner calling flourish.
I declare that, without hesitation, I will step forward to be in the community of my fellow creatives, sharing what I can and learning where I can. Regardless of where I am in my creative endeavors, I have a right to be part of this community.
It is self-evident that I have been called to be a creative and I declare to follow that calling, to the best of my abilities, to whatever, to where ever it calls me.