The writer focuses on practicing choice, keeping a vision and seeing how positive and negative experiences are vital to success.
Whitney Ferré is the author of The Artist Within, A Guide to Becoming Creatively Fit (Turner Publishing) and the founder of The Creative Fitness Center, which first gained national recognition on HGTV. Whitney’s approach to creativity is based on principles that underlie design and she teaches how to strengthen one’s natural creative abilities through her technique of accessing and strengthening right-brain abilities. Her corporate clients include American Express, YMCA and Columbia HCA.
Meredith: Why do writers so often struggle with what appears to be so natural—creation, creativity, expression of the deepest self? It’s really a struggle against oneself, in a way.
WHITNEY: If someone was having a writer’s block moment of sorts, I would advise them to check their mindset first. Creation IS a very natural activity, but it is more a function of our right brain abilities. Often, when art becomes “business”—as in the case of authors, songwriters, and freelancers—the creative inspiration gets lost in the left brain, task-oriented, logical side. To get back to the place of inspiration and passion we simply need to connect to the side of our minds that is responsible. While the left brain is predominantly logical, detail and task-oriented, the right brain is more interested in the big picture, the mission or passion. We all have so much on our mental to-do list that we need to, in a sense, file that list away so that we can focus on our creativity.
Meredith: Now answer this: If creativity is a natural state, why do we get stuck?
WHITNEY: Creativity is PART of our human state. It is not all of it. We need our other talents and faculties to maneuver and excel in this world. You may be mentally stuck in a traffic jam because of the barrage of things to do, details to cover, and logistics of our modern day. To get unstuck, one has to clear the lanes so that there is no congestion and our ideas can sail right through from our subconscious, our intuition, or from spirit, without getting side tracked.
When I am stuck, whether it is an inability to create (write or paint) or a mood in which I am wallowing, I use exercises from The Artist Within. Performing simple creative exercises like covering a page with purples doodles can radically change my perspective, the way I am thinking and my mood. It can feel almost miraculous. You might be sitting in front of the blank screen, getting more and more anxious and simply cover a page with your doodles, marks, lines, dots, zig-zags…and all of a sudden an idea pops into your mind. Bingo!
Meredith: What purpose does rejection serve in the process of creation? Tell us how we might reframe it a way that transcends the old adage: “every ‘no’ gets you closer to a ‘yes.’”
WHITNEY: Another old, but equally relevant adage, is that we learn more from our mistakes than from our successes. Just as every word, sentence, brushstroke adds to the overall work, so does every experience, positive or negative, lend to the creation that is our life. You can CHOOSE to see rejection as something negative or positive. YOU create whichever reality in your own mind. There isn’t a bestselling author out there without some incredible stories of how they overcame this or that. That is why they are successful. They have depth. Just as the contrast between lights and darks contributes to the success of an image, so these positive and negative experiences are both vital to our success.
Meredith: Does inspiration feel like something particular or specific to you?
WHITNEY: I feel inspiration all the time. It is like a wave gently crashing over my consciousness when I see a gorgeous fabric, painting, or image. It feels like a rat-a-tat-tat of being bombarded sometimes with so many ideas that immediately after they hit I am sorry that they may never make it to fruition. It can feel so spiritual. It can be those ah-hah moments where so many pieces fall into place and you realize that you have been heading there all along.
I also feel inspiration when I am painting, but also when I am managing my business or networking in social media world. It is a connection no matter what. It is a connection of ideas that together make a whole or a connection of minds, when I find people to compliment each other. It is when I am able to communicate a new idea or life skill to one of my children or connect on a new level with my husband. Regardless, it is when I am completely present, not sweating the details, conscious of my mission in this life, and caught up in the tide that is flowing THROUGH me. I feel lucky to have caught that wave.
Meredith: You talk about no rules, no limitations and no critics in your book, The Artist Within. I love this. But tell us how you take the next step, taking the unconditionally loved creation you’ve brought into the world and help it grow to reach a new height or place.
WHITNEY: I think you are asking how once the creation has been created, in the case of my book being published, you can continue the inspiration to see it run its course. The book is such a great example. When Turner Publishing told me they would publish my book, I was ecstatic…for about a minute. Then, the reality of the work ahead settled in on me. It was like, “OK. Step one, check! Now, step two.”
Then, the book was printed and in my hands. Everyone commented on how proud and excited I must be. “Yes, but this book does no good in my hands. It is not a trophy. Now I have to send it out into the real world (keep in mind I had been writing this book for 10 years—all that time it existed in a very small circle). What if it doesn’t match my intention? What if it does not inspire? What if it meets indifference? So my next thought (when others think I should be having a party) is “Wow! There is a lot to be done.”
This is a perfect example of the choice we each have daily, with each task presented to us. Do we get overwhelmed at the magnitude of the task, the loftiness of the goal, all the reasons why it should not work, or should not hit the bestseller list? OR do we re-focus and channel all of our energies to that vision of hundreds of adoring readers emailing us daily, thanking us for our work? Do we supplant discouraging thoughts with all the reasons we embarked upon this mission—which I feel HAS to be to have a positive impact on our world? Right now, for me, I relish the emails I get from readers on the other side of the country thanking me for the inspiration and the tools my book has provided them. THAT is when I get excited. The book in and of itself is just a bound collection of pulverized tree fibers and ink. It is the emotion and inspiration that it creates that is of value.
So, in answer to your question, once the “product” has been produced, focus on the ripples it is going to have on the ocean of life. Then, it is a never-ending creative expression.