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Creativity: The Encourager April 11, 2013

Posted by jayocallahan in Creativity.
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Years ago my friend Doug Lipman and I were leading a week long workshop in creativity and storytelling in southern France. Our whole group – the Creative Monsters – were staying at a large house where we were served beautiful meals and were also given painting lessons.

Most of us were new to painting. I painted a window of the house and still have that in my study. The instructor said to the group, “Jay’s painting captured an image we’ll never forget.”

I think that was true. I’m sure the painting was amateurish but he saw what was alive in it and pointed that out. That delighted and encouraged me to create more.

All of us have this vast mysterious playful side to us. There’s a great playground in us and out of that playground comes the work of Picasso. Out of that playground also comes a song we might sing, a drawing we might do, a kind but creative word to a friend. There are huge negative voices that perhaps are cultural, but those voices are destructive. They say, “There is no time. I can’t draw” or “I can’t write” or “I’m not creative; that’s for talented people.”

Nonsense! You are creative. Let it out, plunk on a piano, whistle, try a pickle on your peanut butter sandwich. Or even take a workshop and find out how helpful it is to have a supportive, trustful, playful group.

Creativity: Cultural Voices That Say “No” to Us March 27, 2013

Posted by jayocallahan in Creativity.
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Why does our culture squash creativity so often? Many of us were told as children that we couldn’t sing or couldn’t draw or our handwriting was terrible or an essay was awful. Or we were told we were not the right shape or size.

Why hasn’t our culture developed an eye for what’s alive, what’s beautiful, fresh and original? I found most adults put their creativity away because they’re convinced they are not creative. That’s absurd. We all are creative. I remember being at a television station when I was performing Pill Hill stories at the Merrimack Theatre in Lowell. I did part of a story called Chickie. After the story the cameraman shook his head and said, “I can’t believe it but I have stories just like that.” He was astonished.

What draws our creativity out? Encouragement, support, a listener who has an eye for what’s alive.

That eye for beauty can be developed. And if it’s truly developed we can use it in everyday life. “That soup was tasty. What herbs did you use?” or “That color is perfect on you” or “What a beautiful voice you have.” Developing the eye for beauty is not just for workshops, it’s for life.

Creativity – What Are Your Dreams? March 7, 2013

Posted by jayocallahan in Creativity.
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What are your dreams? Do you dare to say what they are?

In my April creativity workshop you’ll have a chance to draw your dream with crayons, to dance your dream, to tell your dream to a partner. You’ll have a chance to put the world away for a weekend and listen, feel supportive and create.

Whether it’s a writing workshop or a storytelling and creativity workshop, I use “sparks” – short words like the word shoe or dance to draw out memories, which are deep inside and just need a chance to emerge.

Dream! Herman Melville’s Moby Dick is one of the great novels ever written. Sadly, it was not well received but he wrote it. He did it! After Melville’s death, his family found taped inside his desk a piece of paper saying: “Keep true to the dreams of thy youth.”

For information on my upcoming workshops visit my Workshops Webpage.

We’re All Creative! February 25, 2013

Posted by jayocallahan in Creativity.
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We’re all creative! I’ve learned that giving workshops – storytelling and writing workshops – for over thirty years. I’ve also learned that there is something in our cultural genes that fashions invisible doors inside which we learn NOT to create. As a result . . . crayons are put away when we’re seven. Clay is put away after camp. Poems are no longer written after high school or college. On and on.

This is absurd. Life is short. Create! Sing a lullaby to your child. Make one up. Who cares if it isn’t “good.” Wink at someone. Plant a lettuce you’ve never tried.

What helps with our creativity? Support, encouragement, playfulness – a listener. And perhaps a workshop. The purpose of my creativity workshops whether they’re storytelling or writing is to lead you through the invisible doors to create. In a storytelling workshop you discover the seeds of a story. In a writing or storytelling workshop you may write a poem, find a tune, discover something new about yourself. We’re all creative. You can walk through the invisible doors.

April 26-28, 2013 I’ll be leading a Creativity and Storytelling Workshop, When Arts Collide We Discover Something New. Tara Law, an intermedia artist, will co-lead the workshop with me. We will explore art and story without dividing lines. For more information on the workshop visit my Workshop Website Page.

Drawing Creativity Out of People February 14, 2013

Posted by jayocallahan in Creativity.
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My task in a workshop is to lead participants out of the boxes we all make out of ordinary life. In one workshop I worked with breaking the restraint of proximity. The participants broke up into pairs, they stood up and I asked them to imagine they are on a subway in Japan. They were so close to a Japanese person they avoided making eye contact. The participants were told they did not speak Japanese and the Japanese subway rider did not speak English. They were given thirty seconds and asked to find someway to make contact. One participant smelled something very odd and was able to make a face indicating it was the smell that allowed her to communicate to the other person. Another participant waited almost twenty-nine seconds and then shifted quickly to the right as if the subway car had jostled her, and her eyes flew open and that’s the way she communicated. The idea of this was to find a creative way to make contact with a person you’ll never see again without offending them.

Each day presents small or large opportunities to be creative. At this time in my life what interests me most is drawing creativity out of people.

Creativity Through the Senses February 5, 2013

Posted by jayocallahan in Creativity.
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Maple Leaf In a recent workshop I gave participants several maple or oak leaves I had found in a corner of the driveway. I had participants shut their eyes and handed out one leaf to each. They were to touch the leaf for a minute and then open their eyes and look at it for another minute or two minutes. And finally they wrote a short poem about the leaf. After writing the poem they held the leaf up and the leaf was suddenly alive and important to us.

My own leaf was a maple leaf. It reminded me of an owl’s face. It was very thin, it had hundreds and hundreds of tiny brown dots, it was cut in places, there were holes and it was blackened at the bottom but it was intact. It was as beautiful as any painting I’ve ever seen. It reminded me of the face of a person who’s experienced a great deal of life. I remembered the face of an old man coming across the desert in Mali long years ago.

This exercise gave us a chance to imagine after touching and seeing and the poems were all fresh and alive.