Posts Tagged ‘creativity’

Creative diversions yield fresh inspiration

I’m fortunate that I get to be creative for a living. Whether I’m writing, strategizing or executing an idea, my work demands creativity.

assassinslineupv2But even the most creative among us needs fresh inspiration from time to time, and I found it by pursuing an avocation I’d set aside for six years: theatre. I just finished nearly three months of rehearsal and three weekends of performances as Sara Jane Moore in Stephen Sondheim’s Assassins. I’ve already written about what the show means to me, but now I find myself reflecting on the experience of the production itself and how it’s seeped into the rest of my creative life.

As anyone who knows the music of Stephen Sondheim will understand, preparing and performing the show was a challenge — one that I welcomed. One reason I’m such a devotee of Sondheim’s music is the puzzles he constructs. I revel in sorting them out and finding the solutions that reveal the magic of what he’s created. Making sense of the character and the show’s structure were equally stimulating exercises, and ultimately rewarding ones. Sondheim consistently reminds me how important it is to be intentional about what we create. Everything for a reason.

But what I gained from this experience is about more than simply flexing creative muscles I haven’t used in a while. For me, being onstage requires a leap of faith and a willingness to bare my soul. It means taking risks and being brave about them, putting myself out there in a way that daily life doesn’t necessarily require — but perhaps it should.

Some of my favorite directors have taught me that a good performance is about being in the moment, one moment at a time, and being present with your fellow actors with every breath and every line of music or dialogue. While the mechanics of stage business matter, the ideal is to let all of that become second nature so you can maintain your focus on the moment you’re in, with the people you’re in it with. The sensation of “waking up” onstage to realize you’ve been fully immersed in the moment is indescribable and enormously satisfying.

The same thing is true about everyday life, and the interactions we have with people. If we’re not being present with others — if we’re not being open to the leaps of faith life requires or the courage that’s needed to face challenges head-on — there’s a good chance we could miss out on something. When it comes to creativity, we almost certainly won’t be open to taking the kinds of risks that can spark compelling new ideas.

I almost didn’t audition for Assassins. I thought I was too busy, that I needed to focus on my work, that I had been away from theatre too long to jump back in. But that would have been a terrible mistake. Because as I reflect on the experience of being part of the production, I feel more inspired than ever about my work and my life. I feel motivated to be more daring, more open, more collaborative. I’m inspired to continue stretching my creativity in new directions, even when I’m sitting at my computer.

Perhaps it’s the insight that comes from stepping outside yourself for a few hours a day to become someone else, or maybe it’s simply the jolt of energy that comes from a new experience. Whatever it is, I’ll take it and run with it. My creativity — and the work I produce as a result — will be all the better for it.

[Photo credit: Bryan Clifford, courtesy of Avon Players. I’m at left in the image, in the brunette wig.]

TEDMED: What’s next?

The first day of TEDMED was one week ago today. While everything I learned there is still simmering in my brain, I’m already thinking: what’s next?

TEDMED places its focus squarely on that question, while exploring how we got where we are and how that propels us forward. But, feeling a bit like I just came home from the best, most brilliant summer camp ever, I can’t help but wonder what lies ahead for each of us. The presenters, the delegates like me who attended, and the work we do in the world outside TEDMED.

Delegates

This idea was amplified by an excellent post by Juliet Rogers, President & CEO of Blue Cottage Consulting. It beautifully expresses how TEDMED gets inside our bones if we let it — something I willed myself to be open to before I even arrived.

Over the course of the week, I found myself making connections in my brain between something I’d seen onstage and something unrelated I chatted with a fellow delegate about during a break. I also discovered the “unexpected connections” TEDMED heralds, finding surprising links between seemingly unrelated presentations.

For example, the work of Eli Beer, Founder and President of United Hatzalah, which mobilizes trained volunteers to help save lives in medical emergencies, might seem on the opposite end of the spectrum from the work of Michael Hebb, a leader in staging themed dinners, with his latest project bringing together people to talk about death¬†and how they want the end of their life to be. But both these concepts revere and celebrate life, using innovative grassroots approaches to create new ways of looking at — and contributing to — the world. Their imagination and passion is changing how we address life and death.

Or consider the seemingly unlikely connection between Richard Simmons and U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin. But on the first day of the session, Benjamin talked of bringing joy back into physical activity. A couple of days later, Simmons emulated that with his inimitable exuberance. I danced with them both onstage as the entire conference found the joy in getting moving.

Future of HealthOver the course of the conference, I found myself continually connecting the dots, just as TEDMED Curator Jay Walker helped us see connections between ancient books about science and ultra-modern medicine. I’m still uncovering new connections as I reflect on the week and dig deeper into the work of the presenters and delegates. It’s a scientific fact that learning creates new connections in the brain, so it’s fair to say that TEDMED will change how each of us sees the world.

Because I’m the only one of me that exists, I drew connections in my mind that perhaps no one else will. It’s true of everyone who was there. It’s true about the innovators onstage and those of us in the audience who came as delegates because of our passions, our curiosity, our dreams of doing big things.

While we were there, the seeds of new ideas were being germinated, scattering through the conference as we made connections. Who knows how they’ll blossom or when?

FlowersBack to Juliet Rogers. We have a mutual friend and had spoken many times, but the first time we met was at TEDMED. We forged an instant friendship, finding a comfortable connection from the start. But what’s even more remarkable is that I had the same experience with other delegates I met.

More than once, there was this feeling we’d met before. Or we discovered common threads not just in our networks but in our thinking. Not every conference creates the opportunity to chat with a Tony Award-nominated actress or hug a game-changing doctor within minutes of meeting.

We can’t be sure yet what these connections mean or where they’ll lead. But there’s one thing I’m certain of: The connections we made with each other are as powerful as the connections we made in our brains. We’re a community of unique, dedicated, inquisitive individuals. There’s no telling what we’ll do next. And I can’t wait to find out.

TEDMED: Experiencing Transformation

TEDMED is, I’m realizing, much more than a meeting of the minds. It’s a place where transformation happens on the spot — where the very experience of being surrounded by so much passion, innovation and creativity transforms you.

Resistance is futile. And, really, why would anyone want to resist? I certainly don’t. I’m pretty sure many of my fellow delegates feel the same way

Some of them, like me, are in active pursuit of transformation. We’re expanding our careers and dreams in new directions, and came to see what insights we could absorb. Others may have come for different reasons, but many seem to be experiencing transformation anyway

20130418-221528.jpgHonestly, it’s nearly impossible to resist the pull of the transformational gravity in the room. Nearly every presenter is sharing an experience of their own transformation, whether it already happened or it’s in process.

Over the last two days, I’ve had the honor of witnessing some remarkable storytelling from the stage, told in words and music and dance. Stories of healthcare, of science, of innovation. Stories of sickness and health, of life and death.

Stories like the one told by Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett, who transformed his city from one of the country’s most obese to one of the most fit, simply by starting a conversation about it with citizens.

Stories of similar community engagement, like the one created by Keep Growing Detroit, which is transforming abandoned open spaces into urban gardens — making citizens healthier and inspiring them to take action in other ways to make Detroit stronger.

Stories of innovators like Jonathan Bush of athenahealth, Zubin Damania, MD, of Downtown Project Las Vegas, and Sally Okun, RN, of PatientsLikeMe, who are transforming healthcare by reinvigorating its humanity, each in their own way and with their own passions.

So many of the presenters’ stories are personal and often visceral.

Gary Slutkin, MD, of Cure Violence, believes that violence is an epidemic — and it can be cured using the same approaches used to cure epidemic disease. It’s working, which is a powerful message in the week of the Boston Marathon bombing and the Senate’s inaction on gun violence.

Peter Attia, MD, tearfully admitted his regret over judging a patient for her obesity, which prompted him to ask new questions about the real causes of obesity that may ultimately lead to new revelations about treatment.

Salvatore Iaconesi, a poet, exuberantly shared how he turned his brain cancer diagnosis into an open-source online community of creative inspiration and knowledge — and is living, cancer-free, to tell the tale.

Andrew Solomon told revelatory stories of people whose identities aren’t defined by their illness — giving us a moving reminder that sometimes, the most powerful possible cure is love.

And Amanda Bennett, who eloquently shared the story of her husband’s life and his death from cancer. “We never said goodbye,” she said, “because we never gave up hope.”

20130418-221717.jpg

Every presenter was inspiring, from the experts talking about how mobile technology will help us reach, communicate with and treat more patients to the artists whose talents expressed truths about the human condition.

The dance troupe that translates how cells move within the body into physical movement to aid researchers. The tap-dancing duo who helped us understand how our brains experience sound. The opera singer who has had two double lung transplants, but never stopped singing even though she had to learn how to breathe all over again.

Tomorrow’s the last day of TEDMED, and I’m going to miss being with this remarkable community. I’m sure I’ll be processing everything I’ve learned for weeks and months to come. But there are two things I’m sure of.

Opportunities for transformation are always in front of us, whether we seek them or not. And, no matter what, we should always hold on to hope.

+

Learn more about the TEDMED 2013 presenters and their work here.

« « View Older Posts