The following was written as a response on the
Creative Cow “Art of Editing” Forum.
Name: Dave A. Anselmi
Date: Jan 12, 2003 at 10:41 gmt
Subject: "Creative energy" & methods for building it up
As Marco wrote,
> It just takes "a lot out of me" to write music and it's something
> I don't want turn into a fast food chain. I can do visual work
> (compositing, 3D, video, etc.) day in and day out and never get
> drained from it. With music, I do. I don't get sick of it, but it
> phyiscally takes something out of me.
> Does anyone know what I'm talking about, or do I sound like a freak?
Freak? No-way... you're just aware of something all of us experience, but are sometimes unconscious to its effect.
The Taoists distinguish different kinds of energy in the body: "creative/spiritual" (yin) and "body-energy" (yang). The latter can be re-charged by simply eating a good meal, get some exercise, and sleep a good night's sleep. Creative (yin) energy, on the other hand, does not re-charge so easily.
The Industry [tacitly] recognizes this, when they acknowledge the more-physical laborers on the set can work 12-14hr days... but the editors shouldn't work more than 8hrs/day. Even the software industry knows this, & tries to make-sure engineers take vacations somewhat regularly... b/c analysis has shown that engineers who don't take vacations tend to burn-out/quit/etc. Kinda a different perspective than the Sales/Marketing division, who views vacation as a "reward"; the Technology division views vacation as a "work necessity" ;-D
Basically, what you can do "rote", and/or doesn't need much "creative" input, doesn't deplete the yin reserves in your body. Thus, [Marco] can edit "day-in & day-out" w/o issue... but as soon as something gets creative, he finds that it "takes something out of [him]". Bingo--you're depleting yin energy, & eating/sleeping doesn't re-charge that.
Symptoms of lack of yin energy (while having a surfeit of yang), include being "dead on your feet", and/or "can't-sleep". You sit (or stand), tossing & turning, your mind racing, words or images flowing... but you seemingly have no initiative, no "energy" to do something creative with this outflow. Prolonged occurrance of this condition leads to a myriad of medical conditions... to which western doctors like to prescribe drugs, most of which are basically "tranquilizers". Beer works just as well... which is to say, not-very. ;-P
Instead, there are a lot of yin "energy practices" which can increase the yin energy in your body. However, the root of all of them is a simple concept: awareness of your body, and stillness. Being distracted, being "pulled-in-all-directions" is a symptom of, and a causitive of, yin energy depletion. So a good first step for re-couping your "creative energy", is simply to sit-down, be quiet, and allow your body, mind, emotions, etc. to "settle" for a while.
There are infinite 'techniques' to do this... mental, physical, spiritual, etc. Find one that works for you. For instance, keeping your eyes gently on a single spot, for instance green. Maybe standing still, feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent, arms "holding a barrel" in front of you (standing meditation). Maybe sitting-up straight in your chair, sitting forward on the edge of the chair, shoulders relaxed, hands cupped in your lap, eyes gently closed. Maybe repeating a single word (ie, give your brain something calming to do). No word in particular is better than anything else; Krishnamurti liked to say "If 'Peace' works for you, use that. I like to use 'Coca-Cola'". ;-DDD
No matter the technique, it's good get-outside, b/c fresh air works absolute wonders for your mind, body, & spirit... & looking at something [different] than the work on your desk helps bring-back perspective. Think: is this as important as all that? Will you be sitting in your rocker at 95yrs old, really proud you did this? When you realize [things] are not "so very very important", that helps you get more neutral, less caught-up in the chaos... & retain [ie, build] more of your own creative-energy.
The Foundation of a good creative-energy building practice is to make sure you do it regularly, and even-better if it's in the same spot. For instance, a special chair in your house, away from telephone/etc., & which is NOT used for other things (ie, your TV-watching chair isn't a good idea). Or, a corner of your yard, the roof at your work, etc. which is quiet & away from distractions. Keeping your body in a relaxed posture is key. Note: slumping your spine is *not* considered "relaxing" ;-D Instead, it puts pressure on the rest of your back, shoulders, neck... and thighs, calves, etc. Plus, it messes w/ your internal organs functioning, digestion, etc. (ergonomics)
If all of this is too "fuzzy", you can also do what the Samurais do. [NOTE: If you're not a martial-artist, you might want to skip-ahead 3 paragraphs ;-D] The samurai warrior uses the most-drastic method, constantly asking himself: "will this kill me?"
*If the answer is "no", he doesn't worry.
*If the answer is "yes", he also doesn't worry--b/c he has spent a LOT of time already, meditating on death.
If meditating on death works for you, go to it... but I'm not really recommending that. In fact, it can kinda freak-out the ppl around you; you get a weird 'vibe', or maybe it's just that look in your eye... that look of "I could really give a fecking XXXX".
If you combine that 'vibe' w/ a wicked smile & some quick repartee, it works wonders in bars... er, or at least I remember it did. ;-D
- - -
The previous describes "energy mechanics", as part of dealing w/ creative inspiration.
There are a lot of good non-energy-based techniques that work excellently as well:
Dorothea Brande in Becoming a Writer talks about *avoiding* the printed word, when one is in the throes of writing. She advises doing something 'wordless', such as sitting on a park bench feeding pigeons, or listening to a symphony. When you return to your [written work], you'll be "bursting" with stuff to write.
I'd extend idea that to include visual arts as well. Thus, if you're editing/compositing/etc., & want to [recoup] your creative impulses, try doing something that is NOT visual and/or storytelling-based. That same symphony idea, or perhaps something physical. Working up a good sweat is useful, and doing something incorporating bodily-awareness is even better. Thus, the Taoists turn to T'ai-Ch'i ;-D
It's also good to keep what you're working-on (and care about, ie. "creative work"), to *yourself* while you're creating it. Brande notes a well-known writer friend would find himself losing all interest in writing/finishing a story, [if] he'd "talked it all out" to someone [before] he wrote or finished writing it. Norman Mailer refuses to talk about his works-in-progress for the same reason.
In the Eastern vein, these techniques are best used as "preventive maintenance"... rather than "fixes" when you're *already* burned-out. By building a good habit of practicing physical & energetical techniques, you'll not-only avoid "burn-out". You'll probably notice a significant increase of your creative inspiration as well, over time.
In the end, these techniques not-only keep your body healthy, but they tonify your emotional states as well. In a word, you tend to become happier, or at-least 'less un-happy'.
Hard to quantify, but there you go.
Copyright: Dave A. Anselmi, 2003