Monthly Archives: April 2012

5 Considerations to Get Your Creativity Flowing + Take it to the Next Level

April 26, 2012

In writing this I realized I could write a whole post, if not a book, on each of these topics. So CLEARLY I will be writing about this more. If any of these topics spark your interest and you want to know more about them let me know in the comments and I’ll explore it more soon. Also, I host a 3x/mo Sunday evening Creative Mojo Conference Call that’s free to try out and super affordable if you decide to stay on where we discuss all these sorts of things and much more. Join this Sunday if you like! And, now, without further ado…

1. Put your muse in control of your creative flow

Let’s get to the heart of the matter straight off. You’re not creating as much as you’d like because you listen to the critic more than you listen to the creative inspirations of your muse. This is, of course, totally normal given the cultural conditioning and educational system most of us went through but if you want to THRIVE as the creative being YOU ARE, then you need to shift this around and put the muse on heavy rotation and the critic on the way far back back burner (or tune it out completely).

What keeps the critic in control is that on some level, you BELIEVE it’s judgmental criticism and instead of saying that’s an abusive pack of lies GET OUT!, you say you’re right and cower down, which is what it wants you to do. It wants to repress and silence your creativity and aliveness. It wants you to feel insecure and stuck. So, if you feel these things, then it’s a safe bet that it’s been playing you… because who you really are has nothing to do with insecurity or playing small. If there was a score card of you versus the critic, every time you dismiss a creative impulse because of insecurity, it scores. And every time you start feeling more vibrant and flowing, that’s a good indication that you’ve scored… which is unquestionably the direction to go in.

2. Free the creative child inside

I’ve taught a lot of creative classes (painting, voice, and dance) and to neutralize the playing field, I start with asking folks if they’ve ever had an artistic trauma. Almost everyone says yes. They then tell their story and almost ALWAYS, it was some self-hating adult squashing a child or young adults efforts at expression through thoughtless criticism, jabbing a rod of doubt into their vulnerable creative spirit. And, what happened? In most cases the person stopped creating shortly after, if not right there and then.

One of the first times I remember this happening to me was in elementary school. I skipped 4th grade and was put in the TAG (Talented And Gifted) Program but after awhile, I was dismissed from the program without explanation. Did I not perform well at playing chess or creating palindromes (go-hang-a-salami-I’m-a-lasagna-hog)? I didn’t understand but soon after my mom and I ran into the TAG teacher in the grocery story. My mom asked her what happened and she said “Robin didn’t sparkle”. Oh my lord, are you serious!? Yes, she was. I can gasp now as an adult but at the time I was crushed and that, combined with other challenges of the time, definitely led to me pulling myself in quite a bit.

I share this story because, crazily, it’s normal. So we have to have A LOT OF COMPASSION for our artistic selves because it’s likely that the person in you who wants to create isn’t your chronological age, but the age you were when you were shut down… or somewhere in between as it’s learning to grow up. Would you dump vile loads of silencing criticism on a child? Of course not. So you have to consider who the critic is really dumping on when it dumps on “you” and, like any good parent, you need to put your foot DOWN, create a fun, allowing, and permissive space for yourself to create, and go about it like you’re letting a kid create because most likely, that’s exactly who’s doing the creating.

3. No more excuses

Now that you get what’s going on here and you can see how the critic’s been controlling you through re-hashing your childhood traumas on a daily basis, you’re ready to get REAL and drop any lingering excuses you’ve got going on. Right? Right.

For instance, you may say that you’re too busy to create. This seems like a possibly viable reason but if you check Facebook more than 5 minutes a day, check your email more than twice a day, watch tv, cruise around on the internet, or tolerate or create any kind of drama in your life then it’s not true that you’re too busy – it’s just that you’re choosing to do something other than follow your creative impulses and dreams.

So, too busy, too tired, not good enough, don’t know how, want to do too many things how can I choose so nothing gets done, etc. are all STORIES designed to keep you STUCK. If you really LOOK at these excuses, what you see is the work of the critic. Not good enough – well, that’s obvious. But, in general, we come up with excuses to avoid actually creating because if we create, we have to FACE the critic and where we’re still hooked into it. I feel you – this is not a comfortable moment and every single time I choose to create, my critic, which can be vicious, launches a full attack ranging from you suck to you don’t know what you’re doing to you should be doing something more responsible. So, if I want to create, which I DO so deeply I crave it down to the core of my being, I have to CHOOSE to tune that tyrannical force out, connect with the creative inspiration of my muse and carry forth.

To create, to be a creator, is the opposite of victim. You are not a victim to your critic, skill level, time, financial responsibilities, or anything else. If you want to create, you can. You just have to decide to. Dr. Seuss painted from 12-4 every night while working full time in the NYC advertising industry. One of my art mentors, Shiloh Sophia, paints every morning from 6:30-8 before working a full day every day and many of her paintings are created in 15-minute intervals throughout the day in what she calls “in between moments”. Where there is a will, a passion, a twinkling desire – there is a way.

4. Show up and start

“Amateurs look for inspiration; the rest of us just get up and go to work.” -Chuck Close.
“Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.” -Pablo Picasso.
“Don’t wait for inspiration. It comes while one is working.” -Henri Matisse

Almost everyone wants to start with an inspired idea. But guess what – it doesn’t always happen like that. It often happens by you showing up to create and once you start, then the inspiration begins to trickle in.

Imagine if you had a friend who always asked you for advice but never followed what you suggested. After awhile you’d stop offering your advice. But, if they starting making advances in their life, whether from your counsel or of their own accord, you might become more receptive to sharing your ideas when they asked.

It’s like that with the muse. If you’ve been neglecting this relationship, then your inspiration in-box may not be brimming with tangible ideas. But if you start, as in pick up your arm, dunk a brush in paint, and start moving your arm over paper, or open your mouth and begin making sound, or move your body any which way – INSPIRATION WILL COME and the creative flow you initiated will grow.

To be clear, this does not mean the critic is going to lay off. Many artists I read about who are quite accomplished in their fields, so you’d think they would be critic-free, say the entire time they’re creating they’re hearing you suck, this sucks on repeat but they carry on anyhow knowing that if they don’t make whatever it is, they’ll never find out what its purpose or value may be.

In my case, the vast majority of paintings I’ve made start with me only having a starting point. Like, the contrast of two colors, a shape, or a mood. If I ask for more of a beginning point than that, all I get is silence. So, I begin with what I have. And, like unraveling a spool of yarn, as I keep painting, the rest of it comes.

5. Play

In general, we take ourselves really seriously. We’ve been trained to believe serious will keep us safe. It’s a tight and heavy way of living that we’ve unfortunately become so used to we don’t fully question it. But being serious cuts OFF the creative channel and fills the space with the energy of the critic.

Play is the opposite. It’s light, fluid, flexible, experimental, and fun. It’s discovery, laughter, wonder, openness. It’s kids playing on the play ground, screeching like delighting wild animals. It’s a magic fairy dust elixir of joy and permission that’s the ultimate Roto-Rooter for your creativity.

For example, when I’ve taught painting classes, I have folks do warm ups like make 10-20 minute paintings together on paper. Canvas can make people feel serious. Paper reminds them of kindergarten and it’s wild to see how much more experimental many people are on paper than canvas.

Forcing it and being serious are weapons of the critic. Play and intention (which I’ll get to in another post) is the work of the muse. Children GET this. They haven’t had the critic beaten into them yet so we have a lot to learn from them in terms of how to stay open, expressive, and in the flow.

One of my most favorite vocalists is Bobby McFerrin. In this video he talks about when he had a music epiphany and how he trained himself as a vocalist… which was 1 part focus, 1 part experimental play (aka. improvisation). VERY INSPIRING.

Viva la creative revolution!!

Robin Clark is a holistically oriented coach, teacher, and artist in the
Bay Area who’s been wearing one hat or another in the healing arts for 14 years.
Her passion, both personally and professionally, is the expansion of self,
self-expression, and empowerment that comes through waking up.
She believes we are each wildly creative, each in our own way, and
we’re here to experience the fullest expression of who we can be.
You can find her: at

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Henri le Chat and Erik Satie: Partners in Ennui

April 19, 2012

My friend Jasmin S. Kuehnert, a cat lover like myself, sent me this video of Henri, a very French kitty.

The music—most appropriate for this video– is by Erik Satie, who left the Paris Conservatory—his teachers called his piano playing worthless-— to play in the more accepting milieu of piano bars such as Le Chat Noir in belle époque Paris of the late 19th and early 20th century. The music is from his most famous work, the Gymnopédies (gymnasts) of 1888. Debussy gave Satie’s career a boost when he later orchestrated these pieces. The 3 gymnopedies became well known in the U.S. in the 1960s, when Aldo Ciccolini recorded them for EMI/Angel.
Henri le chat has complexes worthy of Sartre’s character in his first major work, La Nausée (nausea). Satie, for his part, was a real character: preferring smoky bars to concert halls, night life to a busy concert schedule, and was called “The Velvet Gentleman” because he had 22 velvet umbrellas and a whole wardrobe of velvet outfits. He lived in the Montmartre of Toulouse Lautrec, and called his compositions all sorts of crazy names (cold cuts, pieces in the form of a pear). In his ballet score for Parade, he used a typewriter. Tutti Camerata, a studio arranger, once recorded a great album of Satie’s works called The Velvet Gentleman in the 1960s which came out on the Deram label from the UK. Satie preferred to be called a “phonometriste” rather than a pianist.

Henri, the anguished black cat in the video, might even echo Satie’s unrequited love for Suzanne Valadon, an artist’s model and artist whom he fell in love with. He proposed marriage after their first date, but was rebuffed. She moved into the room next his on Rue Cortot. Having her so near physically but so far away romantically tortured Satie. When she moved out after six months, Satie wrote that he was left “with nothing but an icy loneliness that fills the head with emptiness and the heart with sadness”. Apparently this one night of romantic ecstasy was the only intimate relationship Satie ever had.

So perhaps Henri the cat and Satie have more in common than we thought. No wonder Satie’s music provides the musical backdrop to the story of Henri le chat noir and his existential angst.

Tom Schnabel, M.A.
Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres
Host of music program on radio for KCRW Sundays noon-2 p.m.
Blogs for KCRW
Author & Music educator, UCLA, SCIARC, currently doing music salons

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Packing My Bags & Heading South to NZ

April 12, 2012

Karori and Cook Strait, Wellington, New Zealand, 14 Nov. 2008

While catching up on my backlog of newspaper and magazine articles, my eyes caught sight of this headline in this piece from April 2, 2012 in the NYT: ”New Zealand Casts Itself as Destination for International Students.”.

It seems that our friends in the island country in the south Pacific have a great plan to attract and retain international students. While we here in the U.S. tighten our borders, implement stringent visa requirements for international students, increase tuition fees, and put more pressure on our college administrators to become part of the bureaucracy known as SEVIS Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS), our counterparts in New Zealand are doing the exact opposite.

In fact, the government in New Zealand has embarked on a strategy of reducing tuition fees for international students, and making it easier for students from countries like India and China to apply for visas. Their immigration department has opened offices in India, China and Hong Kong that serve as application centers to help students applying for visas. They are even, as stated in the NYT article “enticing students to stay on after they graduate by offering a one-year graduate job search visa. If the student finds a job relevant to their qualification, they are then eligible to apply for a graduate work experience visa for up to three years.” Given these perks, why would anyone in their right mind turn down an offer for a hassle-free student visa application, lower tuition and the prospect of employment after graduation? Not to mention, with a population of about 4.4 million, and blessed with spectacular natural beauty, New Zealand is an ideal place to seek serenity and a peace of mind.

Just this morning, on my way to work, I heard on the radio news of two international students from China who were shot dead in their car while parked outside the campus of a well-known private university here in Los Angeles. This is, according to LAPD, the fourth such shooting in this particular area.

In the words of a second year international student from Vietnam studying for her bachelor’s degree in commerce and administration at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand is not only cheaper “than Switzerland” but the country has “less people…it’s quiet and peaceful…its affordable.” Heck, if I were an international student, I’d pick New Zealand over Britain, Australia and the U.S. in a heart-beat.

The Frustrated Evaluator

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Celebrating 18 Years of Business!

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