As part of my ongoing quest to explore what it means to live a creative life, I periodically invite kick ass creatives to come play with us on the blog.
Creating your way past rejection, swimming for inspiration, and the power of wishing the world a good morning.
I’m so excited this week to be interviewing New Yorker cartoonist, writer, and performer, Liza Donnelly. I met Liza on Twitter, where I meet all the cool kids. On Twitter, Liza manages to be funny, incisive, outspoken and compassionate. And as if that’s not reason enough to follow her, she also does things like spontaneously illustrating the Academy Awards. (Her doodled versions of Barbara Streisand, Jennifer Lawrence and the rest of Hollywood’s luminaries were my favorite part of the Oscars.)
In addition to her work for the New Yorker, Liza is a weekly columnist and cartoonist for Forbes.com, specializing in politics and women’s rights, and she draws a weekly cartoon on gender issues and women’s rights for the news site Women’s Enews. She is a Cultural Envoy for the US State Department, traveling around the world speaking about freedom of speech, cartoons and women’s rights, and as a public speaker, Donnelly has spoken (among other venues) at TED, the United Nations, and The New Yorker Festival. She’s been profiled on CBS Sunday Morning, NBC and BetterTV, and has been interviewed on radio and in numerous magazines, newspapers and online.
Donnelly is the author/editor of fifteen books. Her most recent book (and the name of her blog) is When Do They Serve The Wine? Her new book, Women On Men, is due out in 2013. And here’s the thing… I’ve only begun to list all that she has done and is doing. You can read the rest of her bio here.
Needless to say, I thought she might have some thoughts about living a(n outrageously) creative life… and she did!
j: Life is demanding. What are your tricks for getting into a creative space?
Liza: I try to start first thing in the morning and make sure there are no pressing things to do for a few hours. Also, I don’t listen to the radio, and I make sure all the emails have been answered the day before – doesn’t always happen that way.
j: What’s the weirdest thing that inspires you?
Liza: That’s a tough question. Sometimes you don’t really know what inspires you. Obvious things inspire me, like reading the newspaper, walking in New York City, looking at the work of my favorite artists. I get energized by swimming, perhaps that’s unusual. It gives me time to think, without my computer, tablet and iPhone invading my thoughts. And I feel physically energized as well as mentally. However, I have learned not to trust all the ideas I come up with while swimming laps!
j: How do you deal with critics?
Liza: With humor, it’s easy to convince myself that humor is subjective. My humor is not going to resonate with everyone. That said, it still stings sometimes when you read an online comment that is critical, even knowing how online comments are often just from angry people. The business I am in is full of rejection, and, in a way that’s criticism, and it’s difficult. I just keep pushing, because the more you create, the better you get (usually). The key is to leave rejection behind you and move forward.
j: What energizes you, solitude or engagement?
Liza: Both! I love being alone in my studio, but I also love being with people – parties and dinners are things I enjoy (not good at doing lunches – it takes away from my work day). I love Twitter for the sense of engagement it brings me. I tweet “Good Morning” on Twitter every morning for that reason. It’s a great way to start me on my day. And I love that sometimes I get responses from Uruguay or Jerusalem!
j: Some old 45s, a beach ball, colored twine and a hanger. What will you make?
Liza: One of my other joys, other than cartooning, is making other types of art. I am a painter, and so I might make a painting construction with those items. I would probably deflate the beach ball (sorry), and cut up the hanger, and put them all on a canvas with some kind of glue. And with oil paint, make a Raushenberg-like piece that says something about playing.
I LOVE this. It’s Liza’s self-portrait. First of all, it looks like her, which, as a budding doodler feels well beyond my capabilities, but mostly, I love the stuff she chose to include. Not just her work table, but her work table covered with drawings and supplies, her trashcan overflowing, spilling out onto the floor. It’s not just a portrait of Liza, it’s a portrait of the artistic process, which is all about doing, trusting that each attempt brings you closer to your vision (or something that surprises even you).
This week, I finally wrote a difficult, self-revelatory piece on an important subject that I’ve dreaded and desperately wanted to write. It’s for Kind Over Matter, and it will go up over there next week, but I was reminded (AGAIN) of the most necessary part of creation: just start.
Before your idea is fully formed, despite the noise your kids are making or the fact that after your full-time job, you’re tired. Even though you only have an hour, and you inbox is overflowing, and the laundry pile is getting scary. Even if the creative project is daunting (maybe especially then)… just start.
After that, it gets easier.
At least for me. What’s the most important lesson in creativity that you keep having to learn over and over again?