How I Create: Q&A With Author & Artist Christine Mason Miller
I’ve already had the honor of interviewing Christine Mason Miller, a writer and mixed-media artist, for several pieces for Psych Central. (See here and here.) I love her take on creativity along with how she lets creativity infuse all areas of her life.
Miller is the author of the recently published book Desire to Inspire: Using Creative Passion to Transform the World. She loves to travel, wander and explore, whether on her own or vicariously through others. Learn more about her work at www.christinemasonmiller.com.
Below, Miller offers more wise words on getting inspired.
1. Do you incorporate creativity-boosting activities into your daily routine? If so, what activities do you do?
I don’t have any specific daily creative routines. Life around our household is pretty creatively full in a variety of ways: I write, paint, design, my husband plays violin, and we entertain a lot. Everyone jokes that we are running a bed & breakfast!
The nature of my work is such that I am working on a variety of different projects throughout the year – anything from gallery shows and writing a book to designing licensed greeting cards and, at the moment, organizing a creative retreat. Between all of those projects and details, both personal and professional, my creative muscles get a good workout every day. Just figuring out how to manage the day-to-day of all of this feels like a creative act.
Which brings up an important point: I don’t compartmentalize my life into “creative” and “non-creative” activities. My belief is that we incorporate creativity into just about every aspect of our lives whether we realize it or not.
I like to take advantage of the many opportunities I have each day to be creative even when I am not doing specific artistic work. Setting the table is a creative act, as is wrapping a package, addressing an envelope and even deciding what to wear.
2. What are your inspirations for your work?
I am inspired by the smallest details of life, and how those details – rather than the “big moments” – give us the purest glimpse of all the beauty and love and truth that is available to us everywhere, in every moment. I am inspired by the way my husband’s face softens when he stares at our granddaughter. I am inspired by the memory of my grandma’s hands. I am inspired by the way my entire outlook can change after a walk on the beach.
I am also a passionate traveler, and after every trip, I come home filled with ideas and inspirations. But while they may be inspirations from another country, they are still usually about the smaller moments I experienced and witnessed wherever I was – the textures, snippets and details.
Everywhere I go, I collect all of these little bits of beauty, and try to figure out a way to express them in my work, whether it is a painting, an essay or a class I’m teaching. How to channel the potency of a brief moment in time into something written or visual is the kind of artistic challenge I love to tackle.
3. There are many culprits that can crush creativity, such as distractions, self-doubt and fear of failure. What tends to stand in the way of your creativity?
I am prone to distraction and can get easily derailed if I start comparing myself to others.
4. How do you overcome these obstacles?
Deadlines are very good motivators for me. With a deadline I become extremely focused, because I know what needs to be done and when. I look at it as my opportunity to dive in and do my work – the best work I can offer.
One of the most difficult steps in any creative project is often the first step – taking the leap to make a commitment and begin. With a deadline I don’t really have the option of not starting unless I want to risk losing whatever opportunity has given me that deadline in the first place.
Without a deadline, another “trick” that works for me is to imagine my 80-year-old self cheering me on. Because if I live to be that old, will I regret not taking a creative leap, however nuts it might feel sometimes? I don’t think so.
5. What are some of your favorite resources on creativity?
Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking by David Bayles and Ted Orland and The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield.
Also – the writings of John O’ Donohue, David Whyte and May Sarton, the poetry of Mary Oliver and Hafiz, the work of Robert Rauschenberg, Mark Ryden and Michele Mikesell.
6. What is your favorite way to get your creative juices flowing?
It is the simple act of beginning – a new project, a new day, a new phase of whatever I am working on – that excites me the most. And in those beginning steps, allowing my work to be whatever it needs to be – good, bad, imperfect, messy, unformed, and full of unknowns.
When I begin something, I tend to just dive right into what I want to do without a whole lot of pre-planning, so the beginning stages of a creative project are always exciting to me because I’m not really sure where it is going to take me.
7. What’s your advice for readers on cultivating creativity?
Creativity is not about “being an Artist.” For some reason, this is the idea that most people have in their heads. Unfortunately, it is also the idea that blocks them from the truth that they are capable of beautiful creative expression, artistically and otherwise.
We are innately creative creatures, and we engage in acts of creativity all the time. So cultivating creativity is not a pursuit that requires anyone to start from nothing; it is more a matter of learning how to tap into what is already there more consciously – with the specific purpose of personal creative expression.
My advice is to dive in, be messy, and be open to the possibility that it could be a marvelous disaster! I have a long list of ideas that were perfectly formed in my mind and completely fell apart when I tried to make them real – both with artwork and writing. I also have a long list of experiences where my mistakes were the most important step toward something totally unexpected and even better than what I had originally envisioned.
Follow your intuition. Take a wild leap. Try it and see what happens!
8. Anything else you’d like readers to know about creativity?
Offering our creative expression to the world does something the world desperately needs: It creates beauty. Beauty comes from the examples and inspirations those who engage in creative acts give to everyone around them.
Think of someone who inspires you because of their passion, whether for gardening or cooking or painting or travel or music. That thought is a bright light, isn’t it? This is the gift we give others when we honor our creative selves and nurture that which is literally coursing through our veins.
When we honor our creative selves, we set an example, and when that example is followed, the ripple continues to flow in all multiple directions. Doing what we love is exactly what the world needs. Isn’t that a wonderful thought?
Tartakovsky, M. (2013). How I Create: Q&A With Author & Artist Christine Mason Miller. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 29, 2015, from http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2012/07/29/how-i-create-qa-with-author-artist-christine-mason-miller/