We're just a million little gods making rainstorms...
June 20, 2007 12:42 PM   Subscribe

LostPassionAndCreativityFilter: How does one rekindle one's skill in the zany, lateral, eccentric, imaginative, radical, random, funny, artistic, and kind?

Maybe this is one of those "quarter-life crises," but I find myself in a multidimensional rut when it comes to everything from having quirky ideas for writing and art projects, to making absurd jokes with chums on the fly, to engaging in random loveliness for the benefit of friends and lovers, to acting out freely in public, to having good instincts on how to fill free time creatively.

These used to come easily. I used to be known to many as a consistently funny, often impulsive, sometimes sloppy and dangerous but always interesting, and generally imaginative and inspiring person. As adulthood and the concomitant responsibilities have taken hold in earnest over the years, I find I'm just not that force of random loveliness in my life or the lives of those around me anymore.

What do you do to keep yourself open, to chance, impulse, yourself, and others?
What pushes you artistically?
What keeps you creative and light on your feet?
What is it that makes you inspiring to those in your life?
What allows you to keep your life a choose-your-own-adventure?
What weird little things do you do every day to stay awake, stay human?

Answer in whatever way moves you. Meditation techniques, books, specific pursuits or disciplines artistic or otherwise (ie., I used to be in theatre - maybe I need that again), explanations of vague perspectives you try to hold, obscene haikus, tales of weird acts you engage in, advice on places to visit, or just long rants on the beauty of life and all the small unnecessary ways in which we cheat ourselves of it.

I hope this all makes sense. Please run free with it.
posted by regicide is good for you to Human Relations (21 answers total) 99 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Morning Pages. I usually write about all the mundane stuff that's bothering me -- the emails I haven't sent, the projects I haven't finished yet. Writing the boring stuff down, day after day, mentally closes the loop for me and frees my brain up to think more creative thoughts instead of worrying about the dry cleaning or making an appointment with the vet.
posted by junkbox at 12:49 PM on June 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

Do something different everyday.
posted by elisynn at 12:54 PM on June 20, 2007

Best answer: I am one of those choose-adventure "will try anything twice" kind of people, and the main difference I find between me and my friends is that they worry all the time about being tired, and I do not. That difference means that I'm much more apt to go out, to stay out, to travel, to get up early, to wait in line, to watch a movie, to read a book, to take a new class after work, to do projects after work, to eat a snack and keep going, etc.

I am usually the inviter/instigator and what helps with that is that I read a lot of event blogs and magazines, so I always know what new things there are to do and try. This way, if I know I have to go to neighborhood Y to buy glue, I also know that a new gallery opened up there that I can check out. In this way I "tag" a lot of interesting things on to the end of mundane things.

By the same token, I always take a class. Every semester, even though I got my BA 12+ years ago. Sometimes it's a weekly class, sometimes a weekend intensive, but I don't go three months without pursuing some kind of knowledge/experience. I also arranged to assist my artistic hero with his work (unpaid); he inspires me every day I work with him.

The Artist's Way is a great book for encouraging this kind of lifestyle, especially the concept of the "artist date."
posted by xo at 12:58 PM on June 20, 2007 [5 favorites]

Best answer: We have spent so many years being trained how to act and what is appropriate that we have learned to conduct ourselves correspondingly no matter how our mind batters at the bars of its cage. You can go on for a lifetime like that, watching yourself go through the same motions every day, sensing obscurely that you are alive and vital somewhere inside, straining to hear the crying and beating of wings deep within, feeding it bits of music and art and film, but consuming these only makes it grow, and eventually you have to let it out or it will smother in your breast.

What do you do to keep yourself open, to chance, impulse, yourself, and others?
I never presume to know what I should be doing or feeling based on previous, similar moments.

What pushes you artistically?
The urge to exhale into the world as much as I inhale from it.

What keeps you creative and light on your feet?
The willingness to appear foolish. The equal (and indistinguishable) thrills of potential failure and potential victory, and the private satisfaction in knowing that since all failed art is just fertilizer for future endeavors, that victory is the only long term possibility.

What is it that makes you inspiring to those in your life?
I help them discover and design their lives as new mythology, and when I'm not looking, they do the same for me.

What allows you to keep your life a choose-your-own-adventure?
Remembering the impossible things that some people have survived, and the mundane things that just as many others haven't.

What weird little things do you do every day to stay awake, stay human?
Alternate between feeding and starving every sense, never allow myself to think or do anything without being able to also conceive of doing or thinking the exact opposite.

Now get moving.
posted by hermitosis at 1:11 PM on June 20, 2007 [8 favorites]

Get enough sleep. Get enough exercise. Eat right. You can't get by on six hours of sleep and a bag of peanut M&Ms anymore. I went through a similar phase (though I was never a "force of random loveliness"), and the thing that brought me back the most was embracing these basic restoring activities. You say quarter-life: that's about when my metabolism started to change and I didn't wake up to what I needed to do for years.

Your physical state absolutely and fundamentally impacts your spirit. I find that sometimes we've heard too much "mind over matter" blah blah blah to take our bodies seriously but it's really important. TAKE CARE OF THE ROBOT AND THE ROBOT WILL TAKE CARE OF YOU.

xo is also spot on. Look for the oportunities in the mundane and never stop learning.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 1:30 PM on June 20, 2007 [4 favorites]

Take this with a huge pinch of salt, but sometimes mushrooms can be the appropriate catalyst for these qualities.
posted by BobsterLobster at 1:52 PM on June 20, 2007 [2 favorites]

It won't help much, but here's an obscene limerick (I don't have any haikus, sorry).

There once was a man named Dave
Who kept a dead whore in a cave
He said "What the hell,
I'll get used to the smell.
And think of the money i'll save!"

In seriousness, however, I think part of your answer is quit worrying. Quit worrying about the little stresses in life (this will come with organization and good task management). Quit worrying about not being creative. Take little active steps to boost your power, but don't fret if nothing comes to you. You're just having a little dry spell. RELAX.
posted by The Esteemed Doctor Bunsen Honeydew at 2:10 PM on June 20, 2007

Seconding the metabolism thing. Start getting 7-9 hours sleep a night and eating at least one square meal a day and see if that changes things. I hit a wall when I was 24 where I could no longer function on all cylinders without food & sleep.

(This does not mean you should avoid doing things so you can slavishly stick to a sleep schedule. Experiences are always better than sleep. But don't do that shit every night.)
posted by joannemerriam at 2:52 PM on June 20, 2007

Working 9-5 is, for me, the most effective way to kill my creativity. Maybe it's not for you, but think about it.

I quit my office job and am about to start temping and have already written a 30-page website just since I gave notice two weeks ago.
posted by loiseau at 3:49 PM on June 20, 2007

Best answer: Seconding the "Artist's Way" books (and also the proverb that says "After three days without reading, talk becomes flavorless.") Otherwise: Go to weird parts of town. Buy different groceries. Sit on balconies or on the roof of your house or on the highest floor of a tall building. Watch. Absorb.
posted by oldtimey at 3:52 PM on June 20, 2007

nthing artist's way, plus drugs.

also, try making lists of things you could do and randomly selecting one. if you make a really long list, like a hundred possibilities, you will really stretch your imagination. then use dice or some other method to pick one, and you have to do it no matter what (if you allow yourself to opt out even once then this method will be a lot less effective in the future).

and follow your tiny, stupid impulses. if you suddenly feel like standing on your head for no particular reason, do it. i find that practicing that makes me a lot more open to all sorts of wacky ideas and impulses, including much more significant ones.
posted by lgyre at 4:48 PM on June 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

Pick up the newspaper, the local alternative weekly, and whatever 'lifestyle' magazine your area has (and don't we all have them these days?). Look at the event listings. Find something that makes you go 'now why the heck would anyone do that', and go to it (providing of course it's not morally offensive or dangerous).

If you're not averse to a drink every now and then, find a local bar, preferably not a nightclub, but an actual 'corner bar/pub' feel sort of place. Sit down at the bar, and talk to the bartender, join in a conversation at the bar. You won't immediately have an epiphany or anything, but it's new people and conversations. This also works at a local diner really well.

Carry a camera if you can, and set up a flickr account. If you see something cool, take a picture. Get some cheap cards (moo seems to work for a few folks I know), put the url on it, and if someone asks if they can get a copy of the pic, give them the card.

If someone on the street hands you a flier, take it, and when you can, take a look at it. Who knows what you'll find.

I guess what I'm saying is notice the people around you, the interactions we normally filter out in our routines. I made a point of talking to the guy that made my sandwich in the cafeteria line, the guy at the coffee cart, the guy you always seem to share a subway or bus stop with, everyone that I realized I knew by sight, and that was it. Even just a simple greeting, and you'll start meeting new people, and other people is where the spark comes from. I've found myself so buried in what I 'had' to do that I stopped paying attention to what was going on around me.

At least for me. YMMV.

I seem to be kinda wordy tonight...
posted by pupdog at 4:53 PM on June 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

I agree with everything above (hey, even mushrooms), but the number one most important thing is to surround yourself with creative people who are doing all the zany, amazing things.

Number two for me would have to be exploration - go somewhere you haven't been before, even if it's around town. Open yourself up to everything 'different' than your normal life.
posted by teststrip at 5:03 PM on June 20, 2007

Shit! Just join the Army!
posted by humannaire at 6:56 PM on June 20, 2007

Best answer: IANAD, but you sound like you might be going through the depressive phase of an as-yet undiagnosed bipolar disorder. Ring a suicide help line & get some psychiatrics meds, NOW!!!


my life should be full of strangeness,
like a rich painting.
but it gets worse day by day:
i'm a potential DJ!
a creeping wreck,
a mental wretch.

being in a rut can stifle you in all sorts of ways. did you see the thread the other day on doing something new & awesome every week? a lot of the answers here seem to be aiming at injecting some of that kind of fresh & varied experience into your life, so it could be worth finding that thread & having a read.

personally, i'm not convinced that zany friends, eclectic experiences etc are the whole of the answer. as wilde (i think) quipped, "if you feed opium to a pig farmer, he will dream of pigs". the answer is not so much in what stimulants are around you, but in what is internal to you - your own reaction to these things, what you make of them. this could be what requires "unblocking" (although i despise that model / metaphor).

How does one rekindle one's skill in the zany, lateral, eccentric, imaginative, radical, random, funny, artistic

Kind can take care of itself, but perhaps a tiny tip on the others: i find it fun sometimes to set up frameworks for, um, deconstructive manipulations of ideas, phrases etc. the way it works is this: pick a phrase, any phrase. it might be a random thought, a snippet of news or conversation, a quote from a famous philospher or politician, a random line from an economics textbook, whatever. apply a series of transformations, like:

- replace all/some terms with synonyms or antonyms
- replace prefixes and/or suffixes, or else leave these where they are, and replace the root word, either according to some scheme (one that rhymes, the next noun/verb etc in the dictionary, a random one, perhaps)
- put the phrase in the mouth of a tiny child, a senile pensioner, a drug addict, the dalai lama etc
- split the phrase up every, say three words. each of these becomes the beginning of a new sentence. fill in the rest of these sentences.
- invent other transformations & apply. coming up with these is as much fun as carrying them out. see if you can work out how the resultant phrases reflect back on the original one.
- continue until you get bored or achieve miraculous insight into the fundamental nature of absurdity.
- try to slip the most ridiculous results into conversations without people noticing.
- and so on.

and, if you aren't already familiar with it, take a poke around www.freewillastrology.com - i've FPPd this place & recommended it a coupla times in AskMe, but swear i have nothing whatsoever to do with it! "zany, lateral, eccentric, imaginative, radical, random, funny, artistic, and kind" sounds so much like something Rob Brezsny would write that it might just suit you to a T.
posted by UbuRoivas at 11:03 PM on June 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

When I hit a rut like this, I studied improv at Second City for a little while and it was incredibly fun. A lot of the warm ups for the classes were the very physical games I used to play as a kid (certain kinds of tag, etc.) and it was nutty and fun. The people I met were very cool. It didn't hurt that a lot of my fellow students were cute and funny single guys (at a time when I was single).

I began to regain my ability to take more risks and just get out of my head. It was a great time.
posted by jeanmari at 5:41 AM on June 21, 2007

In the spirit of your obscene haiku request: when you have a minute to daydream (like when you're taking care of the "responsibilities" that are repetitive or less than stimulating), you could make up a poem in a form with at least two characteristics that don't seem to fit with each other.

"obscene haiku"

"non-rhyming sonnet"

"experimental feminist spoken-word epic about how cool NASCAR racing is"

Here I'll start you off with an obscene haiku:

Gaping holes beckon
in the first mists of morning.
Where's the Astroglide?
posted by allterrainbrain at 6:21 AM on June 21, 2007

Best answer: Your creativity is no longer a kitten. It used to run after anything that caught its attention, leave tangles of yarn strewn across the sofa, stalk and leap upon and bite your toes in the middle of the night, and generally make an adorable mess of itself in the middle of everything.

Now it's an adult cat. It is more discriminating in its pursuits, though its logic in selecting them is perhaps inscrutable. Sometimes you won't see it at all for hours at a time, day after day, and then discover that it has been savoring the small nook behind the drainpipe under the sink. Sometimes it will keep watch from atop the refrigerator for anything worthy of its notice and decline to be coaxed into lesser pursuits. Sometimes it will unexpectedly revert to its kitteny love for being in plastic bags.

Point is, it's still alive and it's still around. Keep its dish full (with good cat food, which includes an amino acid not found in dog food), keep its water fresh, keep changing the litter box (being creative still entails dealing with a lot of crap produced in-house, and it's no longer 'sorta cute' like it was when it was small, and novel, and milk-fed). Enjoy it when it rubs your leg or purrs in your lap or plays with the feather toy, but remember that it is not only at work then; it is still, 24/7, quietly vitalizing the place where it dwells.

And don't worry if it doesn't fetch sticks and bark at strangers, either. It's doing fine.
posted by eritain at 5:05 PM on June 21, 2007 [16 favorites]

Best answer: did you see the thread the other day on doing something new & awesome every week?

I have now, and link to it here in case anyone's still following the thread.

Also, there was this, from a while back.

This question didn't attract the hailstorm I'd hoped for, but all the answers it did get are lovely (especially yours, eritain). Thanks to everyone.
posted by regicide is good for you at 9:10 PM on June 21, 2007

P.S. from Sir Francis Bacon: 'Reading maketh a full man;conference, a ready man; and writing, an exact man.' I think Bacon would be proud to see that all three facets have already come up, repeatedly, in the thread.
posted by eritain at 9:32 PM on June 21, 2007

creativity by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi [isbn: 978-0060928209] I can't recommend this book anymore, ahhh.. I read this in my freshman seminar (titled 'Creativity' - spare the pun) in college [undergraduate].
I'd recommend to read the whole book, but near the end, there's a couple brief chapters on being creative in your everyday life.

I still sometimes think that I'm not as creative as I used to be: but I just try to encourage myself to think about more why people do the things they do when you see them do them [especially for things like love] and not to be self-conscious if you decide to do something in public like jumping in a rain puddle or looking goofy because of the way you dressed a particular way.
posted by fizzix at 11:40 PM on June 21, 2007

« Older HerniaFilter II   |   Outdoor gear repair, or Help unstick My Zipper Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.