Sreenath Sreenivasan

Thriving Mindfully

Category: Creativity

On the Magic of Showing Up

Today marks the end of the third week of December. It has been 21 days since I started the December edition of ‘The Power Of Everyday’ project.

For this month I had chosen the task of writing and publishing a blog post every single day. And I am happy to share that so far, I haven’t missed a single day.

It was daunting to imagine at first that I would be able to write and share something meaningful every day. But three weeks into the challenge, I feel confident about my ability to keep up.

Today I would like to share my experience so far, and what I learned from other like minded people in this journey.

A few years back, I had read about an intriguing morning routine of a world class gymnast. She did away from having an elaborate plan about each day’s routine.

She had only one rule to follow.

Every morning, at 4:30 am she had to be waiting for the public bus that took her to the training facility.
She did not have the aim of practising everyday.
The rule was to show up at that bus stop.
And every single day, by the time she reached the bus stop, she had already won over any inertia that held her back.
Training was then only a natural consequence.

I was inspired by this novel approach and got thinking about how I could design a similar framework for my own writing endeavor.

The simple rule I came up with was :

‘Show up at your writing desk at 8 am, every single day.’

I would already have a minimal and organised desk that I’d prepare the night before. A blank leaf of my journal would be open, waiting for me.

All I had to do was to show up at 8 am and sit in the chair.

And then, the magic happens!

Over the course of the past three weeks, I’ve come to realise that making art is more about the discipline than inspiration.

Here’s a brilliantly illustrated comic about why inspiration comes to those who master their disinclination.

If you wish to improve on your art, form habits that align you in the direction of your dreams, and live a creative life,
You just need to follow a simple rule.

Show Up.
Every single day.

It might sound sterile and counterintuitive to the idea of spontaneous creativity. But inspiration will only come to you, if it finds you working.

Do not aim to say, paint everyday if you are a painter.
Sit with your sketchbook in the park, every single day.
That will make sure you will make art everyday.

Create a framework.
And stick to it.

Once you show up, you’d realise that
The idea is already waiting for you.

It really works. Try it !

I wish you good luck 🙂

On letting art happen

It’s common to feel from time to time that you’ve lost your creative spunk, your muse has deserted you and all you mojo has withered away.

This feeling is as common as art itself.

You would feel that there’s nothing truly artistic coming from within you.

But does art ever come from within someone?

Perhaps that’s an egocentric way of looking at the process of creation.
And once we start to identify the art we create with our ego, it is easier to succumb to pitfalls of vanity or diffidence, as far on the spectrum of confidence they might be.

There’s another way of looking at the process of creation.

Maybe the art comes through you, and not from within you.

Maybe you are not a source, but a channel.

Maybe you are just a conducting wire that completes the circuit of creation,
And the art flows as a current through you, illuminating the world each time an idea materialises.

In such a case, you are just responsible of having a clear channel, with no distortion, resistance or roadblocks.

And the art will flow through you.

And you will be able to create without attachment, emancipated from the self worth you derive from the art you create.

You’re neither the battery nor the lightbulb.
You’re just the wire that connects the two.

Once you accept the  vastness of field of creative energy, and humble yourself to be nothing but a channel for the creative spirit, art will shine through.

In the end of the day, what’s more important?

To be an artist?
Or to make art?

Let’s strive to be a good channel in the circuit of creation, beyond our ego.

For once we let the muse breathe through us,
Wouldn’t each living moment undeniably be art?

 

 

Finding honest critique in the age of constant gratification

In today’s age of hyper-connectedness it is easier than ever before to share your your life, your work of art with the world.
We have cleverly designed platforms that we choose to express ourself through.
While these social media platforms have simplified the act of expression,
It has also sowed inside us, a seed of constant hunger,
Of seeking validation.

Today, the act of creating itself cannot find the isolation it needs.
We are busy sharing that we are going to do something, we have just started doing something…..Up until we are finished with doing something.
We fail to shut the door on the world to actually get to the process of creating something without distractions.
It is the result of the clever architecture of these platforms that are dictating our behavior and psychology.
We need to feel we are relevant,
We matter…
We are but,
human after all.

As a contemporary artist, I’ve always felt the process of creation never finds the isolation, incubation and single minded dedication it calls for.
The continuum of creation is always interfered by the parallel world of validation (read social media) we choose to dabble with.
In a way we are driven to be ‘Like’ minded .

This culture is detrimental to an artist’s growth in the long run in my opinion.

Once an artist shares his labor of love, he expects people to take notice, like it and share it with the community at large.
The feedback comes through a single click,
A like button, a heart shaped button and their many cousins…
This cursory appraisal is only valued when it comes in numbers.
There is no way of knowing how much what you created affected another person.
Maybe a masterpiece of a portrait you worked on for months got 20 thumbs up and a goofy selfie of yours got 200.

But maybe the 20 people were moved by your art, and majority of the 200 encouraged you out of habit and the prospect of reciprocity.

A pertinent question here is,

‘How does an artist find honest critique amid this culture of numbers, of short attention spans and a juggernaut of new feed?’

Here is where good old friendship and mentorship stands strong.

On social media you’re more likely to find cursory attention than love, virulent hatred than critique.

A friend or a mentor on the other hand, cares about your growth. You are more likely to find honest opinion, encouragement and suggestions about avenues to grow, when you share your art with them.
It is a matter of privilege to have these handful of people around.

If you still wish to get a sense of how many lives you touched through your art through social media,
Look for how many people took out the time to write something about your art.
Did anyone feel moved enough to leave you a comment?
The written word means so much more than ten thousand clicks on an icon.
What would you remember more,
A number or an emotion you stirred in someone’s heart through your art?

As an artist, for the sake of better art, we need to stay clear from the culture of constant gratification.

Only when we give ourself the isolation to work with all our heart,
Can our work add up to something remarkable.

Also, as responsible consumers of content, we should choose the written word to express our feelings more often than giving someone a thumbs up.
We are capable of being more articulate about our emotions than that !

Once we look at life as art in making and choose to voice our opinions in a more conscious manner, we will enable a better atmosphere for art to find expression and constructive critique.
And Life,
as art,
will inevitably,
Thrive.

 

 

On an artist’s state being

‘So what music are you listening to these days?’ I asked my friend Vijay over a phone call.’

‘Ah, I must share this artist’s music with you. His playing is absolutely mesmerising. It is a wedlock of poetic expression with reckless abandon. He plays as if he doesn’t care who is listening or not listening for that matter. He just does his thing. I wonder how long it would have taken him to have that state of being.’

‘Sounds fascinating ! Do share his music with me !’

‘I will, when we hang up.’

And we went on with our friendly, fruitful conversation.

The way Vijay described the musician’s state of being made an impression on me.
I remembered a phrase a dance teacher used to say when people were shy to sway. He would say,

‘Dance as if nobody is watching.’

While that helped people for a while, of course their conscious state of mind came back to them in no time.

But when kids dance, they know the whole world around them is watching. Their expression spouts out in bountiful measure nevertheless.
They don’t dance as if nobody is watching !

Maybe the way to dance best is to dance with a subtle awareness. An awareness that people might be watching. Or not.
Consciousness is such a gift. It should never be stifled by being ‘conscious’!

As a musician, I have also felt this state of being ‘conscious’ while playing. It happens even to the best of us.

We all fall in that trap of trying to be ‘good enough’ as someone. That someone could be your favourite artist, a contemporary or  your own mentor.
But in reality we can only be as good as our best selves. We can never be as good as someone outside our own being.
We can only push further and reach the heights we are capable of. The moment we stop having an external benchmark, a sense of emancipation will dawn on us.

While you should always strive to learn from everyone,
from a master to a novice,
The goal should always be to reach your best possible expression,
Your truest artistic splendor.

And it is best achieved by not striving to ‘be like someone.’
Surprisingly, it is not even achieved by striving ‘to be the best version of yourself.’

The most natural way to progress is just by ‘being’.

It might sound psuedo-spiritual.
And I must admit that it is a difficult state of being to win back.

But we had that state of being as kids.
I am not talking about mastery. Kids are not masters at an artform per se.
I am talking about that subtle awareness.
And the state of just ‘being’,
and expressing until you’re spent for the moment, for the day.

We all had that state of being.
We just have to unlearn.
Unlearn the habit of self-doubt, comparison, and the state of being ‘conscious’.

Now that I wonder about my friend’s question of,
‘I wonder how long it would have taken him to have that state of being’,

I think that the artist preserved the childlike ‘being’ he had as a kid.
Maybe he has always had that state of being.
Like we all did once upon a time.

And we can all strive for that state of being.
In the interest of our best artistic expression.
In the journey of being the best human we can be.

Sometimes the fastest way to learn,
Is to Unlearn.

 

 

Art, Man and Motherhood

As a kid, my mind was always full of questions. I clearly remember one question that kept looming in my mind.
As a kid I used to feel,
‘Why can only women become mothers?’
‘Men should also be able to give birth !’

It is funny indeed to think about it now.
But that was the first time I felt unequal to women in some sense.
Over time, I realized how naturally empowered women are !

Recently a friend shared how she is sometimes frustrated when she has to go through the agony of getting periods every month.

I could only share,
‘But you are the source of all creation! You have the ability to support a life inside your body. To me you are the most powerful force in the world that I know.
This recurring inconvenience is nothing as compared to the gift of creation you possess!’

Once I said this, the old question I used to have as a child came back to me.

‘Why can’t men give birth?’

Then I thought,
Maybe a man can’t nourish a child like woman. But he still has the choice to create art.
The two are quite alike!

Whenever we create a piece of art, we feel as if it is a part of us.
It is our baby so to say.
Anyone who has ever created art would relate to it. It could be an old poem you’d written that you still remember, or a song that you’d composed when you’d fallen in love for the first time, that day when you baked your first cake or knit those socks for your newborn niece…
It could scale up to more serious pursuits in art, depending on how much it means to you.

Through art, a man gets access to motherhood.
The more lovingly you create, the more the work of art feels like an extension of yourself.
And just how a well brought up child takes care of his parents when they need him,
The art you create will heal you as you’re at it, and bring you joy, satisfaction and recognition as it ages with you.

A man can be a mother, repeatedly, through his whole life. He has the liberty to be a better mother as he understands and evolves with the process of creation.
Biological motherhood doesn’t offer this latitude!
Women are lucky indeed, for they can create babies and of course, art!

Now, I believe I can give birth.
With my art!

And just how important making babies is for perpetuation of our species,
Just as important is art, in revealing what the universe expresses,
Through the fascinating experience,
Of being human.

To our collective experience of the joy of motherhood.

Make art ! 🙂

Giving and Growing

As creative beings , we all get good ideas through our existence. And they come at unexpected quarters. Often we feel they are such good ideas that we try to hoard them. We think we will apply/use this idea when the time is right. We prize the idea too much to use it casually.
As a writer I experience this quite often. I have a good metaphor and I try to save it for an opportune moment to add zing to piece of writing I deem fit.
But today, as I cycled through a rustic village in central Thailand, I got to questioning this method.
All along the way there were mango trees lining the streets for miles and miles. Since it is the season for mangoes, all tress had abundant fruit hanging off of them. The trees exhibited an exuberant spirit of sharing their very best . They did not wait for the next season to blossom. They bear fruit the moment they’re ready and did so without inhibition. Watching such unbridled creative output was a spiritual awakening of sorts.
I got wondering as I witnessed this.
No tree waits for the next season to bear fruit. It express its life force as soon as the time is right. Because deep inside it has the belief that it can never run out of creative energy. It is a law of nature, the more you create and share, the more you mature. And you are in a position to be even more creative down the years.

Hoarding ideas takes up the mindspace that could be vacated for new ideas to blossom. Looking at the mango trees today, I realized, it is only natural to express your best ideas, your highest creative energy, now.
Only if you do that, you will have bigger and better ideas the following season.
It just takes trusting the subliminal law of nature,
Of giving and growing.