Posts Tagged ‘writing’

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.]

Immersing Myself in Imagination

I’m heading to TEDMED this week, and I have no idea what to expect.

I couldn’t be happier about that.

Of course, I know the tangible details of what TEDMED is all about. It’s is a multi-disciplinary gathering of people eager to share ideas, innovation and inspiration that can create a better future for health and medicine.

I’m thrilled to have been chosen as a delegate for TEDMED this year, joining attendees from across multiple fields — healthcare, science, technology, music, art, education, communication … you name it. I’ll also be part of TEDMED’s first-ever Great Challenges Day, where small groups of delegates work together using storytelling to help clarify and communicate some of today’s most complex issues in health and medicine.

Part me of wants to learn as much as I can about everything and everyone involved before I get there. The other part of me wants to put down my iPad and stop trying to absorb it all. (Especially at night, because the dizzying thought of the whole thing makes me too excited to sleep.)

Immersing Myself in Imagination

Instead, maybe I should just clear my mind and immerse myself in the experience, letting it wash over me as it comes.

Don’t get me wrong. I want to be prepared. I want to make sure I don’t miss a thing, and there’s a lot to take in. But I think there’s a reason every day of the conference starts with the option of running, yoga or meditation. It’s a chance to invigorate our bodies and spirits before we begin. Exercise and meditation always clear my head; they help me see things I might otherwise overlook and prepare me to experience things in a different way.

Which, when you come right down to it, is the essence of TEDMED. We’re there to learn, of course, from the impressive lineup of presenters. But equally important, we’re there to create new connections that can spark innovation, to contribute what’s unique about each of us to the larger goal of uncovering new ways of seeing health and medicine — and the world around us.

Each of us will bring our knowledge, our curiosity and our dreams for what’s possible to TEDMED. The event will be organic, shaped by everyone who’s there. Which means there’s really no way to know what to expect.

I do know this: TEDMED will be a great adventure. So I plan to experience every moment as it unfolds, with a heart and mind open to the infinite potential in each of us. Because when we do that, great things can happen.


Photo: Sue Austin, a performance audience and presenter at TEDMED 2013, “aims to find dramatic and powerful ways to reveal the ‘Hidden Secret’ of disability.”

A guest appearance

I recently had the pleasure of contributing a guest post for #Michipreneur Magazine, a terrific new online publication.

I’ve been following #Michipreneur from day one. They provide great coverage on the many innovative things happening in Michigan, plus inspiration and tips for thriving in whatever you do.

Because I’ve been too busy to post to my own blog lately, sharing my guest post below counts, right?

Reinvention for Entrepreneurs: Or, How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love the Journey

I’ll continue following #Michipreneur and hope you will, too.

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