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.
Productive procrastination, the magic of an amazing mullet, and what it *really* means to be creative.
I first met Lyn when she wrote to tell me that she’d stumbled upon my poem, “My Religion.” She told me that she’d read it to a room full of yogis and they loved it. I got her email on a day when I was feeling overwhelmed and blue, and it totally turned my mood around, as out-of-nowhere love notes tend to do. Since then, I’ve learned that Lyn just generally has that mood-lifting effect on me.
Besides teaching yoga, Lyn is the founder of We The Wholehearted (where she interviewed me!). She blogs at Love Yourself Naturally, shares her unique view of the world on Instagram, and writes kick ass travel pieces for sites like Johnny Jet and Fam Tripper. Lyn also designs inspiring t-shirts and hip accessories, which she sells in her Etsy shop. (I love how she describes her design style: “vintage, eclectic – think punk rock meets Alice In Wonderland”.) You can like Lyn’s Facebook page and/or follow her on Twitter.
Lyn just got back from an impromptu 3-month trip to India. I know. An impromptu trip to India? The answer is yes. In a bit of magical synchronicity, the opportunity to go to India more or less dropped in her lap, and Lyn said yes, because that’s what Lyn does. Her emails, blog posts and photographs from that trip are funny, fascinating, and deeply insightful… as are her answers to my questions. (I love what she has to say about dealing with critics… one critic in particular. And her last answer… I think she could start a creative revolution with that one.)
j: Life is demanding. What are your tricks for getting into a creative space.
Lyn: Not having a separate creative space. I’m always looking at my world in a layered way and my regular life IS my creative space, you know? There isn’t a ‘creative head space’ that I have to get into. It’s all about who I’m being and what I’m doing. It’s about what I consume as much as what I produce. I people watch. I am the queen of finding quirks in people and images. I love love love to find the absurdity in life. My inner world is pretty serious, I’m an obsessive thinker and dreamer, so I love to find ways to keep it light-hearted through conversations with quirky people and random strangers.
I spend hours finding and listening to music. I call people who inspire me, I write long, descriptive emails to friends because, inevitably, the casualness and comfort of writing to someone I care for will spark an idea or a sentence I’ll probably use somewhere later on. I keep a notebook and pen, or some kind of record keeping tool at all times so I am prepared for spontaneous ideas or sentences or direction. I listen really intently to people. I embrace my own quirkiness. Outside of work engagements, and a few important social events, I keep my schedule spontaneous. I let myself daydream A LOT. I try to be as honest and raw as I can to the people I trust because that ALWAYS generates something genius from my friends that I can expand on.
When I want to procrastinate, I organize and clean my apartment because it simultaneously makes me feel like I am doing something constructive and allows me to daydream. Then I always have a creative idea that I have to act on which is why my places are often only half tidy. I mostly don’t believe I own the creativity so I just try to stay open for it. The short answer? I observe.
j: What’s the weirdest thing that inspires you?
Lyn: It’s hard to say because there isn’t one thing. I’m often surprised by what inspires me. Most recently, while I was in Melbourne, Australia, I saw a man walk into the trendy cafe I was sitting outside, and he was sporting the most amazing mullet and a safari vest. It inspired a short story that I am currently writing. And synchronism. I’m an absolute sucker for omens and signs and mystical collisions in the universe. It annoys me sometimes!
j: What do you do when you feel blocked?
Lyn: I just don’t buy into the energy around being blocked so I stop trying for whatever creative spark I am seeking and move the momentum somewhere else. I practice yoga. I write unconsciously. I meditate. I go for a walk. I call my friends. I entertain my vices. I have come to understand that when I am feeling blocked it’s because I haven’t mentally, emotionally or physically released the everyday-ness of life to let the magic in.
j: How do you deal with critics?
Lyn: I sit her down and say “Lyn, you should probably have a glass of wine and the chill the f@*k out.” I haven’t met a harsher critic than myself. In regards to others, mostly I feel relieved that there is one less person I have to worry about whether they like what I’m doing or not. I’m forever wondering when someone is going to call me out on something, so when I don’t hear anything, I often have that “oh, I’ve gotten away with it this time – but I might not be so lucky next time” feeling!
But, actually, I embrace intelligent critics. I start to mistrust myself if everyone is liking what I am doing, or saying, because it makes me lazy. I have been fortunate enough, so far, not to have been on the receiving end of anything really nasty, but I consider those who are actually offering intelligent criticism a gold mine for me, creatively. They push me to do better. I think it’s also the culture that I grew up in. Being Australian, we were raised not to take ourselves too seriously. In fact, you get criticized if you are actually doing well. It’s called the ‘Tall poppy syndrome’ and it’s very indicative of commonwealth countries. I’m probably a little bit more comfortable with criticism than I am with praise.
But, I am human – no one likes to be told they suck or that someone else doesn’t resonate with what they say or write. So, there is always an initial gut reaction when someone unsubscribes from my newsletter or they don’t come back to a yoga class, but I move on from it pretty quickly and think about the positive feedback. I think that’s the best way to honor the people who do support you.
j: You just spent 3 months in India on your own. I imagine that’s like a crash course in living creatively. What was your most important (or most surprising) lesson?
Lyn: Gosh, I want to be simple with this answer but it’s just so ripe for depth since every day felt like I learned an important and surprising lesson. First and foremost, Bless the s*@t out of your life, even if you don’t have a God you believe in.
Yes, India is fertile ground for creatives because the order is in the chaos and they are not as interested in living in a structured way as they are a spiritual and spontaneous way. It’s a very boldly human society – if that makes sense. You know, you have an entire country either shitting, pissing, farting, burping or snotting in public – all the extremely natural ways a biological human being unravels and detoxifies, and not blinking an eye at it. There are people practicing very extreme and illogical ways to get closer to God, and doing it publicly so it is built into the system to create your channel to the source. And they just allow you to be so expressive and unravel before God, so whatever that looks like for you, you can own it. For creatives, our channel, or the way we express a connection to a divine source, is usually the art we create. But the west, in contrast to India, likes order and we sacrifice our creative, spontaneous and very bold human tendencies to spend our days creating a kind of order that keeps us clean, but emotionally toxic, hard-edged, and pointed – an order, ironically, that we need to be medicated to endure.
Also, they don’t have a lot of distraction like TV and videos and technology – not outside of the cities anyway – so there is just so much time in India. I think it is true to say that, for most creative people, the need (and having the time) to unravel and be spontaneous and raw is paramount. I came across a lot of people who started drawing again, or writing, or singing, or taking photos after many years of not even feeling the desire for it.
What I was most surprised by was the version of myself I stepped into. I didn’t go to India to find myself, or contemplate the meaning of life, or write another Eat, Pray Love memoir, you know? I just accepted an invitation and let that be all that I knew before I got there. I just let things happen – and by that I mean I let my instinct be just as important as thought – which left me wide open for some pretty wild experiences and also forced me to be vigilant in a way I wasn’t used to. It taught me that it really doesn’t matter where you go, or what you do if you are honest and kind, but go somewhere and do something. Whether you decide to sit in mediation for hours on end, practice asana everyday and get your foot behind your head, hold your arm up for the rest of your life to reach God, sit in groups and talk about enlightenment, or take hallucinogens, uppers, etc., and dance your ass off all night; you can’t escape yourself. It’s all just a way of being in this world.
But, most important or surprising was having the tangible experience of my creative self as being ‘myself’. To be creative doesn’t mean to produce a type of art, or a product, or some kind of tangible expression for the world. It’s about you and your interactions. To be creative means that, when the children who are holding children and begging for money come to you and you see a lifetime of experiences they should not have had yet in their eyes, instead of feeling uncomfortable and sorry for them and brushing them off with 20 rupees and a wish that life wasn’t like that for them, you lean in and give them the kind of fun, playful attention children need. You talk about their pretty dress, ask how old they are, tell them that their smile makes you smile, ask them what games they like to play. You give them time and feed their self-worth. They’ll feel like children for that brief moment, and you’ll see those children take your 20 rupees and skip down the street. And even when other people flippantly hand them money which they hungrily stuff in their pocket, they’ll hold your note in their hand and smile. You’ll feel like you just created an exceptional piece of art – called connection. I experienced emotion and connection with a clarity I hadn’t before and that was just as fulfilling as anything I’ve produced.
I learned countless lessons that I’m finding it difficult to stop writing. But, I also learned to let simple be enough! So. Namaste.
I love Lyn’s assertion (and her example) that being creative is not about producing tangible evidence of your creativity; instead it’s about the way we live our lives, the quality of our interactions, and the depth of our connections. I’d love to hear what you guys think, about that and about all the rest of what Lyn had to say.
I timed this interview to coincide with the release of my new Yoga Life cards. Here’s one of the set of five…
I’m so excited about these designs that I’m going to give a free set of them to a commenter chosen at random. And Lyn is so excited (or maybe she’s just so incredibly cool) that she’s going to give away one of her sweet yoga shirts to yet another commenter. (Click here to read the wonderful story behind the shirts.)
Join the conversation! We’ll chose winners first thing Saturday morning.
Congratulations to Bron and Naomi who won our giveaways!