Creativity and the New Year

The Beauty of the Bonfire—Never too late to have either a literal or metaphorical bonfire for throwing away the old and making space for the new.

Preview: Episode 31 Welcoming the new year with Rosemerry & Christie

What have you accomplished in the last year? What’s been left undone? What do you dream of for the next year? In this episode, Christie and Rosemerry have a conversation about Christie’s ritual of looking back at the past year as a springboard for looking ahead. We talk about Rosemerry’s reluctance to name goals—and tools she has used to trick herself into it. And, beyond resolutions, we talk about creative mottos and themes we’re hoping to employ this year.


Things We’re Reading:

Rosemerry:

  • If you want to completely wreck the rest of your life because you don’t want to stop reading, I suggest A Court of Thorns and Roses. I managed to read all three of the books released in this series during Christmas. This was a terrible idea—I stayed up till 3 a.m. most mornings, but dang, I loved the way Sarah Maas tells this fantasy story—magical, human, heroic, sensual, and dang, talk about plot twists.

  • Keep Moving. That’s the title, the main thrust, and the goal of this very bright orange book, subtitled “Notes on Loss, Creativity, and Change.” Maggie Smith’s book is perfect for this time of year—inspirational quotes and essayettes on how to meet a difficult time and move through it. Pick it up and flip to any page for the inspiration to start again, start again.

Christie:

  • I didn’t know I wanted to read an entire book about toilets and sewer systems, but I could not put down Chelsea Wald’s forthcoming book, Pipe Dreams: the Urgent Global Quest to Transform the Toilet. The book is full of fascinating facts about toilets and sewage systems, but it’s also about the human condition and how we live in the world. Wald doesn’t just discuss the technology of sanitation systems, she also captures the human and cultural aspects that drive how we deal with our shit. As one researcher explains, people don’t just need money and resources to adopt toilets; they also need a shift in their mind-sets.

  • The first book I read this year was Megan Rapinoe’s memoir, One Life. It was a Christmas present from my dad (thanks Dad!) and I really enjoyed it. The book felt more like a dispassionate recap of her life so far than an intimate memoir, but Rapinoe’s telling of her activism and how she came to it make it well worth reading. It would be hard to read the book and not feel called to action on social justice.


Don’t Read This, Please

“I won’t hit a deer on my way home,” I told my dad last week.

“You mean, you’re going to drive home safely,” he corrected.

“Right,” I said. “I’ll drive home safely.”

Dad’s right. As usual. I remember this from my linguistics degree. In cognitive terms, “not wanting to hit a deer” is not the same as “arriving home safely.” The negative phrasing tends to keep the “negative” idea at the forefront of the mind.

When we think about the new year and our hopes for it, it’s important that we phrase them in the positive. For instance, instead of “I am not going to be distracted,” we say, “I will be focused.”

My favorite example comes from cognitive scientist George Lakoff, who writes in “Don’t Think of an Elephant” the following exercise: “Don’t think of an elephant. Whatever you do, do not think of an elephant. I’ve never found a student who is able to do this. Every word, like elephant, evokes a frame, which can be an image or other kinds of knowledge: Elephants are large, have floppy ears and a trunk, are associated with circuses, and so on. The word is defined relative to that frame. When we negate a frame, we evoke the frame.”

It’s sometimes difficult to think of positive ways to phrase something, especially if there’s some necessary haste. For instance, how would you immediately rephrase, “Don’t eat that mushroom!” Hindsight suggests “Spit it out,”  “Drop it” or even “Stop!” would be good choices. But the mind easily races to the worst case scenario.

Solution: Listen to the statements that come out of your mouth, especially the ones that relate to your creative practice. When you hear a negative come out, rephrase it immediately in the positive.

Don’t listen to what I say. Try it yourself.


Two Questions:

(share your answers with us here on Substack or in our FB group)

  1. If you had a magic wand, what creative goal of yours would miraculously be completed?

  2. If you could choose one word for your creative process in the next year, what would it be?