Tag Archives: creativity

The Pain of Creating

From the desk of Cady McClainI’m going to be honest with you. Creating is not easy.

Making anything, even a quiche for goodness sakes, take effort, thought, concentration and caring.

Making a film? Fogettaboutit.

NOT EASY.

Since I’ve started on this journey I’ve had a handful of breakdown/breakthroughs. I’ve cried wondering why some men in show business can be so thoughtlessly dominating. I’ve cried wondering why some women can be so competitive and cruel. I’ve cried from feeling a lack of support. I’ve cried wondering why I chose such a difficult subject.

I’ve cried the hardest realizing how so much of all of this is really about my mother.

Mom… Truly, the most powerful influence in my life was that nutty, brilliant, madwoman. She who often gave up on herself, but who (despite her harsh words sometimes) never gave up on me.

Her pain at feeling like there wasn’t a place for her voice in the world sunk deep down into my bones. Her fear at putting her work out there echoed into my heart. Her loneliness, her anger at men, her wounds… they have been my encyclopedia of womanhood.

The other day I turned to Jon and said, “My mom at my age was massively overweight, fighting cancer, a heavy drinker, and unemployed. She had all but given up on herself in every way. I could hardly blame her.  Life had ostensibly beat the crap out of her from an early age. So when I live a life completely differently, without any other woman who I am holding onto for guidance or support, I am not only breaking the mold of what I was taught being an adult woman is, but I am forming an entirely new one completely on my own. And that, sometimes, is very scary.”

However, for me, there is no option but forward. Because one day not so long ago, I realized I can only go in one of two directions: toward drinking, overeating, giving up on my art and myself and getting sick; or toward health, spirituality, and continuously risking to make the art that calls to me. That’s it. One way or the other. Because it’s the way my DNA is coded, the way the story came down to me.

I can choose: one way or the other.

Sometimes I feel guilty for being a survivor, for not following her path of suffering. Who am I to succeed, to thrive, to be well?

I am my mother’s daughter. And I must believe that despite her pain and loneliness, she would not want for me what she endured.

I am my mother’s daughter. And I must believe that despite her pain and loneliness, she would not want for me what she endured.

So, I hang onto the motto: NEVER GIVE UP. Because by not quitting, by staying on the path, by gluing myself to the task at hand, I know I am evolving myself into what my soul wants me to be. I am the EVOLUTION of my mom, and all the women in my family before her on both sides. I know she, and every one of those women, would want me to be more than a survivor.

They would want me to shine like an exploding sun.

And I, in turn, want that for every one of you. Because we are all capable of great things, and of lifting up this beautiful, troubled world up, together.

We CAN ALL be heroes… one day at a time….

 

Share

Can You Live Without Comparison?

Me and my Co-editorAs some of you might know, for the past year I’ve been working on a documentary about women directors. It’s kept me a hella busy, so I apologize for not blogging more!

One of the directors I spoke to (Kimberly McCullough)  had an interesting insight. She said that making independent film is a lot like starting a business… over and over again.  In my experience that is absolutely right.  Every project you make is it’s own entity that you hope has a long life of it’s own from inception to distribution.  But you are always starting from the beginning, and that’s hard work.

So it’s really important if you think you want to make a documentary or any kind of film to think about the whole journey.

Ask yourself, “Who is this story for, really?”

This will guide you through every step of the decision making, and get ready because there are tons of decisions to be made.

If I’m brutally honest with myself,  I started out making this film for me, because I felt really lonely as a director that happened to be female. Every festival I took my short films to was crammed with dudes. In 2015, I didn’t see any women treated like “up and coming visionaries,” only young men were. One time I was given a “producer” tag when I was the producer, writer, AND the director, as well as costume and production design… In short: it was my vision! My film! And someone doing the tags at the film festival basically couldn’t believe it.

Winning Moment

(note: the pink sticker, qualifying me as a “producer only.”)

This, as you can imagine, sucked. And then I won an award for “Best Comedy Drama Short!”  Ironic to say the least.

I recall looking at the few women who were at these festivals. I can’t say they looked that happy about what they were having to deal with either, which was, if it boils right down to it, a basic lack of imagination.

Men aren’t the only people who can have a vision and execute it. What’s so hard to imagine about that?

Because of these experiences I realized that I couldn’t just make the film for me or even just for women in the field, because the issue isn’t relegated to women directors.

It’s much, much bigger than that.

The issue is one of perception. How we as a culture SEE women.

Sometimes it feels like any time a woman really steps out and stands up for something, like crabs in a barrel, there are thousands of people (men AND women) who are ready to tear her down for her smallest faults or imperfections.

This really needs to stop. We are all so much better than this.

One woman’s success does not mean your failure.

In fact, it means there is a strong possibility that YOU COULD DO THE SAME THING.

Bethany Rooney, a director of over 200 episodes of television, gave me this wonderful quote: “Can you live without comparison?” Think about it. Instead of comparing, how about we get inspired by great women? Instead of thinking, “Oh I’m not good enough,” saying, “What do I need to do in order to be my greatest self?”

Here’s a fantastic video to help you start to see just how powerful and amazing women can be! Yes, someday, YOU could join this amazing list of women who have overcome incredible obstacles.

And how wonderful would that be?

 

Share

Great APP’s

I just returned home from day one of the mediabistro conference on App building.  Want to share with you some of the more interesting information I learned today!

KWIK is a new plug-in that allows you to use your original photoshop content to create your own APP.  It’s a bit of work but is the least expensive and most flexible program I heard about.  It uses a language called Lua/Corona that transforms your work into either an IOS, Android or MacOS application.  You don’t share revenue with anyone and are in full control of the marketing.  You can create audio, video, animation, even “in APP” purchasing using KWIK.

STORYDESK is a platform that allows you to organize and structure your APP ideas based on relative importance.  If you have a catalogue or a presentation you’d like to turn into an APP, this is the program for you.  It’s also great for travel books, cooking manuals and other kinds of information heavy content that also would benefit from visuals, interactivity and maps.

I was told that content should always be the main actor in your APP.  I learned today that no matter how many bells and whistles your APP might have, if the content isn’t compelling, it isn’t going to succeed.  The most compelling example of this is an incredible new APP I discovered today called “The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore.”   Created by a Pixar animator, the story is of about a bibliophile whose life and work is turned upside-down by a storm.  I simply cannot recommend it more highly.

Here is the bad news:  If you use a (very cool) platform to publish your APP Magazine, like MAZ, you will pay $99-$299 a month, depending on your level of interactivity.  That’s not cheap, and according to their owner Paul Canelli, you most likely won’t make your money back in 2012 unless you are extremely proactive about self-promotion.  However, you will be one of the first to create a magazine APP, and since it is still a small but exploding market, the odds are it’s a good long term investment.

If you use a developer, you will most likely need to have a budget of 15-20 thousand dollars available.  That said, if you go with someone like Arseny Lebedev at SignusLabs.com, you will most likely be getting excellent quality.  His company mostly focuses on games, but he said right now they are also creating an interactive book that has some game interactivity.  Interesting, no?

If you are looking into turning your comic book into an APP, check out either Graphicly.com or Comixology.com.  Both are at the cutting edge of APP publishing of graphic novels, comic books and other strongly visual storytellers.

The big question seems to be iPad versus Kindle Fire.  Bottom line, it comes down to preference and price point.  Kindle Fire is mostly for people who want to use their Amazon e-book/mag/story purchases and leans heavily on TV/Movie use, where the iPad has a better screen for reading and has further functionality.  The iPad is really quite elegant, but it isn’t necessary.  It’s also expensive.  That said, The Fantastic Flying Books APP or The Charlie Brown Christmas APP look gorgeous on it.  Mashable says “it makes the iPad feel like magic.”  Pretty nice recommendation.

I also recommend Sandra Boynton’s Going-to-Bed Book, especially if you have little kids.  It’s mesmerizing, even for a 40 year old.  It’s interesting to note that both the Charlie Brown Christmas App and the Going to Bed Book App where created by Loud Crow Interactive.  Located in Vancouver, Canada their work stands for itself.  Gorgeous.  I’m in awe.  Ditto for Moonbot Studios out of Shreveport, Louisiana.  Check out their promo of their new APP “The Numberlys” located on their site (I used an image from their promo for the photo to this blog.)  I think I’m kinda in love.

 

 

 

 

 

Share

Gentle Discipline

Everyone asks me, “Doesn’t writing take so much discipline?”  I say, “well, yes it does, but everything else worth having does, too.”

Think about it, doesn’t it take restraint not to yell at a stranger when you are really angry?  That’s discipline.

Or to NOT eat the entire carton of low fat ice cream, even though you really, really want to and “C’mon, it’s LOW FAT?”  That’s discipline.

Discipline is a word that has such a hard edge to it.  It’s definition brings up words like “obey, punish, obedience…” not fun or juicy words.  Cold words.  Ick.

However ALL learning takes our willingness.  We cannot change without our implicit participation on a fundamental level.  So here is another way of looking at it.

To be disciplined in your creativity is to give yourself the gift of being willing to learn from the Great Wah in all it’s forms.  To be disciplined in your creativity is to be open, to be soft, to be teachable.

The funny fact about creativity is that it really teaches YOU more than you teach it.  It is more like going into conversation with a very particular part of yourself, a wise and old part of yourself, that is not always verbal.

“Okay,” you say “I AM disciplined, and I DO sit down at the desk (or where ever you like to work/play) and it’s agony.  The critical mind just won’t shut up.”

I hear you.  This is why I include spirituality and healing in the same category as creativity, because for me this always happens.  The “guardian a-hole” starts talking.  Yappity yap yapping away about what an idiot I am.  Quietly at first and then sometimes so loud I have to stop what I am doing and go find a cupcake to dive head first into.

I believe the reason more of us aren’t creative more often is because of this voice.  A voice that was put in us when we were little by some most likely well meaning teacher, parent or friend. This voice says that we are one of many things, but most likely stupid, untalented or wasting our time are some of those things.

And you wonder why you don’t want to pick up a paintbrush or write that song you keep thinking about?

When the message is always negative, we shut down. Of course we do.

So how do we change these messages?

More discipline.  (YUCK!)  But wait, here’s the really fun part.  You  probably won’t change until you really want to and you know what that usually means.

Yes, you guessed it!  PAIN.  Whoo hoo!  Fun’s a poppin’!  Aren’t you glad you are reading this??

In order to want to change we usually have to feel some kind of pain first.  That’s WHY we want, need, become COMPELLED to change!  To STOP feeling the pain.  Ain’t it grand to be a human.

Here’s a quote that has helped me stay willing to be open to the messages from pain:

“The wise man (or woman) embraces pain because s/he knows that it will teach him (or her)”

In other words, again: “wise people stay open to learning.”

Sounds like a paradox, doesn’t it?  But if you think about it, what it means to be WISE is different that what we think of as SMART.  To be WISE means to have real understanding, not just knowledge.  I remember a boyfriend who I used to say to, “for a smart guy you are pretty stupid!”  Because for all of his knowledge, he just had NO CLUE how to function in the world of people.

Or as someone else used to say, “If common sense were common, everybody would have it.”

You will find lots of quotes and teachings about embracing pain out there and they are all right and in essence, all pretty similar.  Pain exists to teach us and as soon as we become willing to learn, the pain begins to subside and transform into wisdom.

“Okay,” you say, “I AM open and willing and disciplined and STILL not happy with myself or my work.”  Gotcha.  I feel your conundrum.  So here is the next step:

Apply GENTLENESS.

We cannot beat ourselves into perfection or at being better at our creativity.  Art is the application of self through another form.  It grows through practice.  Practice takes time.  Time… takes time.  While time passes, we must take ourselves by the hand like a good parent and lead ourselves toward the art, the desk, the page, the museum, the play, the book, the script… gently.

Because of my parents early passing, I tend to have such a strong awareness of death that I can stop everything that takes time because “what the hell, I’m going to die anyway, so what’s the point, huh, right?!”

Pretty good rationalization, huh?  Yea, me!

Or as I have often said, “Do you know how old I will be by the time I finish this book?”

Answer:  “The same age you will be if you don’t.”  Right.

Yes, it’s hard sometimes.  But guess what?  It’s actually REALLY FUN sometimes, too.

SO here is the BIG QUESTION:  Can you allow yourself to have fun AND grow?  To play?  To experience something NEW?  Yikes!  That’s the scariest thing I’ve said yet!

Why is the idea of FUN being a CALLING so scary?  Because if you follow your calling, you are going to change.  And there is NOTHING scarier than that.

So what do we need to face all these fears?  Oh yeah… COURAGE.  I think there is a tendency to believe that anyone who is successful has no fear.  I can guarantee you this is absolutely NOT TRUE.  I think they have almost always experienced regular bouts of crippling fear.  I know I have.  I have shaken in my shoes, literally, but you know what?  I did it anyway.  Why?  Because I really wanted to.

And that made me strong.  Strong in such a profound way that I would like to now share how to get strong with you.  The very first step?  Get ready, you’re really gonna love this one: CLEAN YOUR ROOM.

Are you LYAO yet?  I hope so!

 

 

Share

Steps

Step One:  CLEAN YOUR ROOM

I’m not kidding.  Cleaning out the painful reminders of the past and the useless junk of the present is the best way to create space both exteriorly and interiorly for new life to come in.  It’s hard to make beauty when all around you is chaos.  So if you are serious about changing your life, healing your past and becoming the fully actualized super creative WOWSA person that you know you are MEANT to be, or just somebody that stops complaining “I wish I spent more time being creative instead of (fill in the blank here),” strap on those rubber gloves, get out the trash bags and start vacuuming.

Step Two: GO FOR A WALK

“Oh my gosh,” you are saying, “this is so stupid.  This is too obvious!  I want a pill, I want TV, I want to get out a hammer and build me an ark, but a walk?  No thanks.  I walk all the time and it’s not doing me diddly squat.”  I hear you.  But HOW do you walk?  My guess is that you are walking to work, or walking to the grocery store or walking to the car or maybe walking on the treadmill for exercise (which is great but not the kind of walk I am talking about).  I am suggesting that you go for a walk JUST TO WALK.  Not for any other reason- not to exercise, not to get somewhere- just to WALK.  Why?  Because when you walk for no reason, you look at the sky and the plants around you, and sometimes even other people!  This it starts to open up your thinking and get you connected to your feelings- and it’s from listening to your feelings that you will start to get an idea of what you are missing in your life and make a little space for that sneaky little idea to come creeping in.  That missing thing wants to be HEARD but when you are constantly distracting yourself, you are drowning out it’s voice.  Watch how you convince yourself that you DIDN’T hear it, or notice how you forget to write it down when you do!  It’s CRAZY how we sabotage ourselves, but the fact is, we are really just AFRAID.  Frightened people need help to feel SAFE and that is what this is all about.

Step Three: GET A SMALL PRETTY THING

I am talking SMALL.  Make a tiny little flower arrangement.  Do a tiny little doodle on a piece of paper.  Write a three word poem.  An itty bitty pretty thing.  Now put it somewhere where ONLY YOU you will see it every day.  This thing is going to represent the little YOU inside who is trying to get out.  And if you can’t bring yourself to MAKE it, I give you permission to BUY it.  “CHEATER!” I hear you scream, “THAT’S NOT FAIR, THAT’S CHEATING!”  No it’s not.  It’s actually being kind to yourself.  Some people have a voice that is so mean and so loud that it won’t allow them to even doodle on a page.  I know.  Been there.  Got that.  So buying a tiny pretty thing can be a nice way to get around that.  It’s still YOUR pretty thing that YOU bought FOR YOU.  Just put it on your desk or next to your bed so you can see it EVERY DAY, made or bought.  It will help.  It’s like a secret between you and yourself.

Step Four: BUY A JOURNAL AND A NICE PEN

“Ah HA!” You say, “MORE SHOPPING!”  Yes, it’s true.  You can MAKE your own journal if you want, but frankly, I like to buy mine.  There are so many beautiful and interesting ones out there that it is fun to browse them.  It’s a creative act, trust me, looking at the colors, the textures, the small or large styles.  The only rule is to try to choose something that speaks to YOU- not to your mother, or your best friend, or your boy/girlfriend.  Believe it or not, that can be hard for some people.  The desire to please others, even when you are going on a journey to please yourself, can be loud and proud inside of you.  So be gentle on yourself.  Hide your journal and pen if you need to, but get the ones YOU LIKE, not the ones your mother does.  Love the moms, but she can buy her own darn journal.

Step Five (I promise it’s getting harder): WRITE EVERY DAY

“What? Wait a minute- what am I supposed to write?  I’m not a WRITER, I don’t WANT to be a writer, I am an artist that wants to paint, dance, sing, act, twirl a baton, spin on my head (etc) why do I have to WRITE?  Argh!!!!”  I get it.  Totally.  The fact is, there is something about putting a PEN or PENCIL on a PAGE with your HAND, not a KEYPAD, that opens up little rooms in your mind.  The goal is three pages.  That’s what Julia Cameron from “The Artist’s Way” suggests, but I gotta be honest, sometimes I get down half a page and stop and I am lucky to get that out.  Just write how you are feeling and about what you feel is MISSING in your life.  What do you wish you were spending MORE TIME doing?  Write it down.  And do this every day.  I promise, you will get answers.  Big, LOUD answers that might be hard to hear.  Don’t worry, no one is going to read it.  Just you.

Step Six: BECOME WILLING TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT

I know, it sounds harsh but I don’t mean it that way.  The fact is, nothing is going to change in your life without your participation.  I’m not saying you are lazy, I’m saying there is a reason we don’t do what we know deep down that we need to do to be happy.  So becoming willing is a really big deal.  Through daily writing and on the walks, you can start to ask yourself “what am I so afraid of?  Why don’t I just go take an acting class or take out that beautiful box of watercolors I got for Christmas?”  You will be amazed what the answers will start to be.  They usually look something like this:

-Because everyone will laugh at how bad I am.

-Because there is no way I will make money at this.

-Because I am not worth it.

When you start to become aware of these beliefs, doesn’t it make you sad?  Who made you believe these terrible things about yourself?  No matter, the problem is that YOU decided THEY WERE RIGHT.  Now you gotta decide that they are WRONG.  TO decide they were WRONG is to BECOME WILLING to believe otherwise.  This step needs you to begin to have some COMPASSION for YOUR SELF.  Compassion for who you used to be, and compassion for who you are now.  It make take you a day, it may take you five years, it may take a lifetime.  It’s up to you.  Trust me, I know it’s hard.  But when are you going to take that tiny little LEAP OF FAITH IN YOURSELF?  Only YOU can decide.

Step Seven: GRIEVE

It’s sad that we have been so hard on ourselves, not allowing ourselves to be WHO we really are.  It truly is.  So I think the fair thing is to take a little time and FEEL sad about it.  I’m not suggesting that we indulge in self pity, again, I am talking about real compassion for YOURSELF.  You got screwed.  Or you screwed it up yourself.  Either way- that sucks.  Grieving is part of the process to let it go.  Comfort yourself somehow, if you can, but make it real.  Give yourself a big hug, or take yourself out to lunch with a really good friend who you know will be compassionate and listen.  It’s okay to say, “I AM SO SAD I DID NOT BELIEVE IN MYSELF MORE.  DAMN.”  In fact, I think it’s great, because it really opens the door to move forward.  If you can feel sad about it, then you can also feel other things that are somewhat unpleasant, like anger.  To be angry is sometimes a good thing.  It is part of the process of healing and can be a real motivator.  Just TRY not to beat yourself up or anyone else.  You just didn’t know, or you weren’t strong enough to be able to change it then.  NOW you are just a little more aware and a tiny bit stronger.  So beat the bed with a tennis racket if you need to, just don’t beat up yourself.  If you hang in there, you are going to start to feel soooo much better.

Step Eight: FORGIVE

Sounds like a Christian word, but the idea of forgiveness doesn’t belong to any one religion.  It’s not as easy as it sounds, but the idea is to try to look at the person or institution that put the negative belief system in your head and take the power back by seeing that they, too, are flawed.  Yes, they really messed up.  Yes, they hurt you.  Yes, they were stupid and mean and tragically misguided.  But what are you gonna do now?  If you are still in a relationship with that person or place, you CAN leave (that’s a good idea, don’t have to be a martyr) but on your way out the door you can also FORGIVE THEM.  By forgive I mean to allow yourself to stop being mad at them.  This doesn’t mean they weren’t wrong, it means you have made a decision to stop hating them for whatever it is that they did.  FORGIVENESS IS FOR YOU.

I suggest you do this in order to let go of this part of your life so you can move on.  You don’t have to forget, in fact you probably shouldn’t, but you don’t have to HANG ON to your anger like a flag you wave in a war.   When you forgive, you decide to STOP DEMANDING THE OTHER PERSON BE PUNISHED FOR THEIR ACTIONS.  That’s basically it.  You “drop it” or “let go” by believing that somewhere that person was (as misguided or totally screwed up as they may have been) doing what they thought they had to.

Even more important, I suggest that you try to forgive YOURSELF.  Life is not simple or easy, and you have no doubt been doing the absolutely best you could every step of the way.  If you have been hard on yourself, it is because you felt you HAD to be.  If you stayed in the bad relationship too long, it’s probably because you truly believed in the love you shared.  That doesn’t make you a bad person.  It makes you a human being, full of flaws and trying to learn just like the rest of us.  Now is the time to let yourself off the hook.  You were trying, I am sure you were.  You just fell asleep and got lost.  Now it’s time to let it go into the past and wake up to what’s happening now- IF you want to.

Step Nine: FIND AND INTERACT WITH YOUR GOD

There are a lot of ways to pray, but the fact is, nothing will change your life more than engaging regularly in some kind of spiritual practice.  We as frail and foolish human beings really NEED it.  Ask anybody who has been through the wringer and you know what they will tell you?  “If it wasn’t for this ONE THING I never would have made it,” and that ONE THING to THEM is God.  THEIR God, not yours.  That’s the hard part.  You gotta get out there and find YOUR God and not get hung up on telling other people who theirs SHOULD be.

Maybe it’s sports.  Maybe it’s Buddhism.  Maybe it’s group hikes in the Sedona Desert.  Maybe its singing in a choir.  Maybe it’s playing tennis, or walking your dog.  Maybe it shows itself in the love you feel from someone, or the good feelings you get when you help a stranger.  Maybe it’s getting on your knees every night and praying to the god of your childhood.

There are a lot of ways to pray, a lot of ways to meditate.  Just find the one that works for you.  It doesn’t have to be church on Sunday- it can be- but it doesn’t HAVE to be.  Wisdom is everywhere, if you LOOK for it.  What speaks to YOU?

Step Ten (are you ready yet?): TRY TO DO IT EVERY DAY

UUUGGH!  Yes, by now, with all the writing and the walking and the praying and the forgiving, you have SOME idea (I guarantee it) of WHAT it is that you are missing in your life creatively.  It might be working in the garden, it might be working with art supplies, it might be building a motorcycle or building a house.  It might be expressing yourself through song or dance or acting, or it could be sitting in front of the computer and writing a book, but the point is, WHAT WORKS FOR YOU, works for YOU and YOU alone.

How will you ever become that great author, that person with a law degree, that owner of the most glorious garden in the neighborhood if you don’t COMMIT to it?  I know I sound like some personal trainer from “The Biggest Loser” but it’s not like I am trying to beat you up with the discipline thing, it’s just a fact.  If you do what you LOVE every day, even in the smallest amounts, you will have a much higher chance of achieving your goals.  In fact, it will be hard NOT to achieve them HAPPILY.

And isn’t that the point?

Lather, rinse, repeat.

Share

Inspiration

What “inspires” you?  What does it mean to BE “inspired”?  As an actor, artist, musician, writer and someone who has spent years looking for meaning and pursuing personal healing I am constantly in the process of looking for this thing called inspiration.  It is an endless search for an exciting idea or thought, image or sound that will help me to create work that feels authentic and satisfying to me.  I am endlessly seeking “a spark” to send me off in a direction that feels true.  I think Oprah calls this her “ah-ha” moment.

In my journey towards this “spark” I have discovered that there is a deep connection between the spiritual and the creative.  In order to be the MOST creative I can be (and therefore the most happy) I MUST be connected in some way to what I call “The Great Wah.”  I have found it everywhere and in everything.

I have decided to share with you my process.  Everything I have learned from and been healed and inspired by.  I feel that I can now share some of these ideas in a way that might really help you in YOUR process of self discovery and expression.  Where I cannot I am sure others can and so I am also sharing with you all kinds of books, artists, doctors, teachers and ideas that have taken me in a new and exciting direction.

Thank you for visiting, and please… enjoy!

Share