Oct 16, 2022

Ep 10 - You And I Make A Thing with Mercedes - The Duel

In this episode, I speak with my friend Mercedes about the duel that takes place between the many inner voices that encourage and discourage us as artists.

Links mentioned in this episode:

The B0ardside - http://theb0ardside.com/



Hello and welcome to the Creative Shoofly podcast. I'm Thomas Beutel.

This podcast is about exploring the creative journey as an artist. And in this episode, I wanted to try something new and improvisational. I call it, You and I Make a Thing. I invited my friend Mercedes to come up with a theme or project that we could do together. And then talk about.

My intent was to combine two recordings, one where we decide on what to do, and then the second, a week or two later where we talk about what we did. Well, it turns out that Mercedes was way ahead of me as you'll see. I think you'll like this conversation.


Well, Mercedes, welcome to the Creative Shoofly Podcast. I'm so excited to be talking with you today about our topic and we will expand on that in just a bit.

I know you as a musician, a songwriter, a painter and a writer of words, and I'm sure many, many other things. I'm just curious to know, are there any creative projects that you're working on at the moment?

Mercedes: Well, first of all Thomas, thank you so much for having me here. This has been a great experience preparing for this and yes, there are a lot of things going on in my mind.

So, you know, I am multipotentialite, so I don't have one project in hand and usually have a fan of them. But basically I'm working on using my mediums, music, performing basically my piano, fine arts, painting some cards and canvases and doing some writing to incorporate my idea of soul making and this connection to the inner power into my work.

I've been like going around it for several years naming it as creativity or life skills, but I want to put it in a way that I can share with other people what the artistic journey has been for me. But most of all, how it has taught me to live, to live from authenticity.

Thomas: Mm. Right. I love that. I love that notion of creating from authenticity, because that's when it feels right, when it feels the most true. And you mentioned being a multipotentialite, and I am a multipotentialite too, so I can totally relate to having so many different creative projects going on at once.

It's the same for me, and part of the reason that I continue to do this podcast, the Creative Shoofly, is also to discover what the creative journey is for me. So thank you for that.

You know, when I spoke with you Mercedes the last time, I didn't record our session. And the reason was that we were just talking about, you know, what is it that we wanted to do?

And I told you I had come up with this idea of You and I Make a Thing. And my concept there was that we would have a conversation about what type of things do we want to work on that we might not have done before.

And you asked me some questions at the time, and I gave you an example. And I said, Mercedes, this was back about a month ago. I was working at the time on creating a comic and it was about a bit of local history here in San Francisco. It was called the Broderick-Terry duel, where two politicians had a duel and one of them was killed in the process.

And it had a big impact on local politics here and on California for that matter as well.

And I was telling you how, I was struggling a little bit with that because I'd never made a comic before. and you said, I love that idea. Let's do the duel!

Which was a little bit unexpected at that point because I was just giving what I was doing as an example. But actually, it's kind of perfect because I really was struggling at that point.

You said the duel is a sort of perfect metaphor, so I'd like to know a little bit about what were you thinking in that moment and why did that resonate for you?

Mercedes: Well, it is because for me, being an artist wasn't an easy choice. It was not what everybody was expecting from me, not even myself. For many times in my life, I even felt it like this very funny series called Monk, always comes to me -- it's a blessing and a curse.

Thomas: Uh-huh.

Mercedes: You know? So the discovery of being an artist that started with being a musician, for me was kind of a blessing.

I thought like something marvelous had opened, but the journey was very painful. Because I started very old because there was a lot of opposition and lack of support. So…

Thomas: Lack of support from people around you?

Mercedes: From people around me, from the country, from lack of resources.

Thomas: Yeah.

Mercedes: I started to be a classical musician at 17 where everybody's graduating.

Thomas: Oh yeah. Uh-huh.

Mercedes: Yeah. But what I discovered through my experience as a student, as a teacher, as a lecturer and all that, was that when I was teaching and doing music, it was beyond music. I was teaching and learning about life.

Thomas: Mmm.

Mercedes: And from since I was ever a kid, my search was about the meaning of life.

Why it seemed around me that life was so lack of luster, like so much suffering, so much lack of enthusiasm, engagement, when what I saw was a lot of beauty, wonder. And I couldn't understand that because I felt it completely different.

Thomas: Yeah.

Mercedes: So I discovered that part of the things is that since we are born, we are taught not to be yourself, not to free, not to answer the call of our souls. But it's there openly talking to us when we are kids, through imagination, through the joy, through the exploration.

So instead of growing up into that joy, exploration and embracing of the call, you know, we grow apart. We bury it. We even see it rejected with shame or guilt.

So my journey as an artist has to rediscover that spark of divinity that we come from, is actually the life that will take us in a long journey of a fulfilled life.

My music taught me a lot about it because when you're learning to play an instrument, I always told my students and or people around me, it's like a polygraph. It's a truth machine. You cannot fake it.

Thomas: Yeah.

Mercedes: You might, after a lot of time, a lot of training and technique, you might fake it.

But artistry cannot be fake. Real connection with that magic, that it's beyond you. That when it's not about you, your ego, but about the beauty of the message you channel, that cannot be faked. And that needs complete commitment and surrender to who you are and who you will be.

And that's very scary, Thomas, extremely scary because you feel completely vulnerable.

I think that I felt most of my life completely naked and, and incapable of protecting myself. What I did was to start building protections. But if you build protections and you quiet the inner voice of your soul, of your purpose, you don't become happier. You don't become more creative.

My solution at the time was to become secretive. I hid all my talents. I just share it very, very little with some people or didn't share it at all.

But when you have this fire inside of you, for me, what's completely impossible to quelch, that's why I mean it's a curse. You know, I try many times to quit. But I couldn't, so I found this weird ground where in which, okay, I will keep growing as an artist, growing all that is inside of me, but I will do it in secret.

Thomas: Mm. Okay.

Mercedes: Which also beats the purpose because the idea of art is transcendence, is transformation, is to share it with others. It's not for you. You are just a vessel, just a channel.

Thomas: You mentioned the word enthusiasm. and the root of that word, actually, if you look at it, means filled with God or filled with spirit.

And, enthusiasm used to be an insult. It meant that these people are dancing around for no reason whatsoever they're being animated by some spirit and it's not themselves, but it's actually the opposite is true. When you're filled with that spirit, that's the true you coming through, That's the true part of you coming through.

Mercedes: And the problem Thomas, I see in today's world is that not only we criticize, it's that we have become suspicious of everything that we cannot see.

Thomas: Yeah.

Mercedes: Suspicious of all those invisible and intangible things that actually make for our humanity and connected us with that eternal part of us, which we are supposed to enjoy and expand.

And that's the place where the metaphor came from. When you talked about the duel for me was, you know, all my fireworks inside my head went on because I said yes.

Thomas: Say, say more about that. Say more about what the duel meant for you.

Mercedes: Okay. It's about the journey of, you know, we have seen this in a hero's journey. We have seen this in books and stories.

I wasn't battling the outside monsters or dragons or an army. I was battling my own demons.

Thomas: Yeah.

Mercedes: So the duel was this battling of what I call my angel voices, which are the voices of my inner power, of my source, of my, of my soul, telling me this is what you are meant to do. “Do it!”

And then the voices of my demons, which is the voices of all my training, experience, past wounds. The beliefs that constrain me that say, “You cannot do that. You don't deserve it. What are you doing? No, you cannot do that. That's not how the world works. You know? You have to follow the standards. You have to do what other people say. You cannot be different. That's not right!”

So this duel has been a constant in my process of growth to become an artist, you know?

And I couldn't escape it so that duel continued and just expanded. There was sometimes when somebody very important to me told me, “You have to stop being a musician. You don't see that. That doesn't pay. You have to study something else. You have to become some something else.”

And I say, “Okay, I became a fine arts and sculptor.”

Thomas: Uh huh.

Mercedes: “No, I didn't tell you. that wasn't what I wanted you to do. I want you to do something else.”

Thomas: So these are outside voices telling you.

Mercedes: These are real voices that were in agreement with my inner (demon) voices that constantly remind me of what they said. Every time I failed or felt doubt of things didn't go well.

A part of me was terrified. What if what all these people told me it's true. And I am just, you know, to myself.

Thomas: The inner demon voices were getting validation from the outside, is what you're saying.

Mercedes: Yes. Yes,

Thomas: I see, okay.

Mercedes: So they come in the sense of constant doubt, the fear of showing up as I am, they're trying to use white gloves to decorate my way of feeling talking or expressing in a way that can be understood or not attacked by others.

But the problem is, Thomas, that for example when I paint, when I write, especially when I play my piano, I cannot use white gloves because it doesn't come out.

You know, music.

Thomas: You can't use white gloves?

Mercedes: No, what I can say is that I cannot fake it. And that is what is so terrifying about being in stage for me was, as a pianist, is because I couldn't fake it. I couldn't make the truth sound less, ethereal or soulful or more standard.

I couldn't, and it was terrifying then to show up and say, “Well, I'm sorry. I cannot fake it here.”

It's not that I can fake it in other stages. But what I'm trying to say is that when you are an artist, if you really want to express, there is no way you can use logic rationalization. It's not the frontal lobe handling.

It's something inside of you that takes over. Because if not you will, you will go nuts. You know, there are too many things that are happening at the same time. No mind can handle them all.

Thomas: Well, Mercedes, I know that this discussion, of the inner duel inspired you because you surprised and delighted me by sending a recording to me, maybe a week or week and a half after we had our first discussion.

And it's a wonderful recording, and what I will do is I will put portions of your recording at the end of this podcast.

You describe in your recording this idea of the artistic journey as a hero’s journey and the duel that happens within. And you interleave that with your piano compositions, the songs that you composed specifically for it.

And I thought it was so wonderful because you were really expressing emotion through your piano performance. I was just so delighted to receive that from you. So I want to say a big thank you for doing that.

I have some questions about that. We've already gone over some of in our discussion already. You mentioned in your recording, one of the things that you said was emotions are mirrors to the deathly unconscious beliefs, myths and impossible standards.

Say a little bit more about that. I like how you say that emotions are mirrors.

Mercedes: Okay, so remember that one of the premises we decided for this experience was to do something we have never done before.

Thomas: Yeah.

Mercedes: So for me, composing in the moment. And as I was thinking about putting words was like, “Okay, I'm completely vulnerable here. I don't know what is gonna come out. I don't.”

I wanted to do something completely new that I didn't feel I had like, you know, once like the right, because you know, I'm not an expert in this because I wanted to bring all those emotions on.

So when I say the emotions are mirrors, it's that every time we feel these complex emotions, and I'm talking more about those emotions that constrains us.

I’m not talking about love. I'm not talking about wonder or surrender or appreciation.

I'm talking about fear. I'm talking about guilt or shame. these emotions come all up and interrupt the process of creation.

Thomas: Right.

Mercedes: So you’re playing, and instead of playing naturally, your hands are completely stiff. Your muscles start to feel painful.

You have butterflies in your stomach and you start missing notes.

Or the ideas just go away, or you are like stuttering over something, that it's your own voice, your own creation.

But why is this? Well, this is because I'm bringing up a bunch of, and I'm gonna name it trash from the past that I've given so much importance that has become my default.

Thomas: Mm-hmm.

Mercedes: So the only way I can, I can actually understand this is by facing them, which I won't say is an easy task.

Thomas: It isn't.

Mercedes: After you pass this shame or, guilt. And I am grateful to you Thomas for giving me the opportunity to do this because the fact that I promise you I will do it, made me continue to do it.

Even though, all those emotions were coming, you have to feel all, those emotions and let them go. To reach appreciation, to reach gratitude, to understand, oh, the why I do this.

It's not because I need to prove something. It's not because the world is asking me. It's not because this is what musicians are supposed to do.

It's because I love it. It's because I breathe music. It's because when I am doing this and I get goose bumps in this moment, I feel more alive than ever.

It doesn't matter if my mind tells me, “You don't deserve it. You are not good enough.”

My heart tells me, “This is you!”

Thomas: Right Mercedes, I felt almost exactly the same thing when I was going through what I was going through.

So I'm a member of a local artist collective called The B0ardside. There's four of us, and I was asked to contribute to an upcoming zine, and in this case it, it was a comic about the Broderick-Terry Duel.

And I had never created a comic before. So I felt the same thing. It's like, I was grateful and thankful for them giving me that prompt, And I've done many, many creative things in my past.

I'm a maker. I like to make things, but I've never done this specific thing before and I didn't read a lot of comics when I was a kid. I read, some MAD magazine and when I was a little older, I liked the Far Side from Gary Larson.

And here I am saying yes to drawing comics for the first time.

You're so right. It's like, it was a struggle, right?

I had to learn new tools. I had to learn how to use procreate on the iPad and I had to figure out how to use comic life on the Mac. And how do I make these things? How do I make it look like something?

And I got the first panel done, I had to do a total of nine panels. And when I got the first panel done, You're right. I felt so alive by it. I felt so like, wow, I can do this. “I can actually see a path, a creative path through, creating the final product.” A

And that aliveness is just, it's indescribable really. It really is indescribable. I was definitely battling imposter syndrome. “Who do you think you are drawing comics?”

I was feeling just massive resistance. And I finished that first panel and it felt amazing, and it's like, “Okay, now I can move on.”

Mercedes: And I have to say that he shared it with me and it was really amazing.

Thomas: Thank you.

Mercedes: And I would like to add Thomas that’s part of the problem. I say first is that when you learn some techniques for one piece, when (you) play an instrument, those techniques will serve you as an scaffolding step for other higher level pieces.

So what I'm trying to say is that the skills we learn, if we learn them well, they are transferable to any field.

Thomas: They really are.

Mercedes: Yes. And part of the problem we have as artists and as everything in this society of today, is that we think we have to be perfect from the beginning because what we see is the results.

We don't see the journey, the hero journey. We don't see the battle. We don't see the failures. We don't see the pain.

We don't see the rewards would you only see all these artists is just great? Look what he did. And then if you try to compare yourself to that end result, and you know the, the gap, it's impossible. It's impossible.

Thomas: I'd like you to, to comment a little bit about… you mentioned in your recording about mentors and about going to YouTube and different places. Talk a little bit about that.

Mercedes: Yes, of course. I've been a rebel student. I am a very good student, but I'm also a rebel.

I'd like to gather information and I like to feel that information that is given to me is not only solid, grounded, but it's, but also can help me see the world in different ways.

So nowadays… you know, when I was a student, because I was too old supposedly, I couldn't go to music school. So I have to somehow do what you in America can do in some humanistic careers, which is build your own.

Thomas: Uh huh.

Mercedes: So I'm the kind of person who builds her own mentorship, a group of associates help first. You know, of course I would love to have people around me or go to school sometimes or do things, and sometimes I can.

But there are other resources, and for that internet nowadays is fantastic. If you know how to research, you can find amazing, amazing, amazing information.

So my mentors are, of course, some of the teachers I had in life. But most of all, Thomas, my mentors have been books. I have been looking for things in your truth to get inspirations and listening to myself, even if it's all twisted, I'm full of doubt listening to myself.

Thomas: Yeah. I totally agree with that, and we are actually so blessed nowadays to connect in so many different ways.

Sometimes mentors come along sort of unexpectedly, and wouldn't have guessed that that's where, an important message comes from. For me, I was really stuck and I needed a diversion.

And so I put on Disney Plus and there was a documentary about Industrial Light and Magic, the company that made the special effects for the original Star Wars.

Mercedes: Okay.

Thomas: And they were in a sort of a similar place. They were trying to create effects that had never been done before. They had already spent a million dollars, creating the cameras and the equipment to take the shots, but they hardly had any shots done whatsoever.

And the movie was just months away from being released in the theaters. And, so at one point it looked like they were going to fail.

But the one word that sort of permeated that a whole organization was persistence. The documentary said that's what it was about. It was all about persistence.

You know what's funny about that is, I'm sitting there, I'm thinking about it. I'm thinking that's exactly. What I need at that moment. I needed to hear that at that moment to just persist. And, and so like I said, I wasn't expecting to hear any particular mentoring messages at all.

I just needed a diversion at that point. But it was the right message at the right time for me. And I said to myself, that's what I need. I need to persist. I just need to keep at it and keep at it and keep at it, and I'll get through it. and so it was a really nice message to receive at that point in time.

Sometimes I feel like the universe just is there for you,

Mercedes: Yes,

Thomas: If you're listening, if you're open to it.

Mercedes: Yes. And if you allow me, I would like to say that I had a similar experience as yours in one of the worst, lowest moments of my life. A real, real, real, real dark night of the soul.

I came up with a series a BBC series. It was like, you know, I was like numb. I'm gonna say I felt so bad that day that I even told my soul that it was fired. “I fire you!”

Thomas: Oh no.

Mercedes: And this, I watched all the episodes. It was a BBC take of Merlin as a youth.

And that inspired me, the path I am now in life. That series caused me to reflect on many, many things that I knew and perhaps have forgot.

And, you know, you touch also about something that we as human beings and as an artist, forget that it's easy when you are traveling a path that others have traveled to gain insights and I Thank you.

Thank you for all of you who share so generously your findings and your knowledge through all these channels, books, and YouTube have made it accessible.

Now there's a difference when you are doing something that never has been done because there are no models, and that's the moment where you wrestle with so many demons and doubt and where you need a lot of persistence and trust the truth of your vision because you're going to fail a lot.

And we are in a society that doesn't understand failure as a step of exploration, as a compass to, you know, to go back into the correct track that will take you where you want to go.

So yes, it's very hard when you are doing something that nobody else has done or where you see a vision of something that you cannot find other’s responses.

But then you have to trust to gather whatever little insights you can gather around and trust your intuition. That's a tall order nowadays because we are not taught that.

Thomas: It is, it is. But I like what you said earlier about how every skill is transferable. And that's something we always have to keep in mind, that, this is actually very true for multipotentialites, right?

We sometimes lose sight of the fact that we have all these different skills that we've gained from all the different avenues that we've gone down.

And that is something that's powerful that allows you to do something that's never been done before because you can take little bits from this and that, that you've learned all these little bits, and put them together and create something brand new.

Mercedes: And I was thinking about, yes, multipotentialites can make of that an event like the four-of-live because we can put so many skills and transfer so many skills that you can see fireworks going everywhere.

But we have to remember that everybody, everybody is creative.

Thomas: Yes.

Mercedes: Everybody is creative and that is the essence of creativity.

Whatever can be used in multiple ways, just if you give it a chance.

Thomas: Yeah. Mercedes, so how did you feel once you finished your recording for me? What came out of that for you?

Mercedes: Okay. I felt excited. Nervous. Surprised.

Thomas: Surprised?

Mercedes: Yes, because I am sometimes surprised of the things I can do when I put my mind into.

Thomas: Right.

Mercedes: And one of the things I love about doing this kind of thing with, like what you proposed, Thomas, or in other communities that I've been involved is I always go for the challenges.

Because the challenges, and I do it in a natural way not to prove anything, not I try, if there's a challenge inside of me, something asks, “Well, let's try it. What if?”

And that's how I discovered I could write poetry. That's how I discovered I could write books or tell stories because somebody, throw a challenge as a doubt, you know.

And I said, “I'll take it!”

And then yes, I sweat. I might cry, I might tremble, I might, you know, knock my head on the wall and say, “Why the big mouth? Why you always have to do this?”

But at the end, things come up. And when you are at the end of the journey, I look back and think, “Oh, oh my God, really? I can do this?”

And you might not continue to develop that specific skill or specific thing you were doing, but you know how many doors open when you discovered that you have more skills or abilities that you ever thought possible.

Thomas: That's so true. It's so true. And I was surprised too. You know, I'm surprised on a couple levels. One is I'm surprised about what's come out of this journey that we're doing right now in this podcast. and I was also surprised when I finished the comic.

And I said, “Wow, I can do that!”

And, and you're absolutely right. I don't know if I'm going to do another comic at some point. But now I know I can and it's just a wonderful feeling. It's a great feeling.

What a gift it is to surprise ourselves.

Mercedes: Yes, it is. It is.

Thomas: It's amazing. It's amazing. Mercedes, thank you so much. This, this was a wonderful conversation and a wonderful journey, a wonderful project. I want you to know how, grateful I am for you to play along, to discover and to be surprised.

I'm just so grateful. Thank you.

Mercedes: Well, thank you to you too Thomas for giving me this opportunity to explore and learn more about myself, the creative process, and to have an opportunity to tell others.

All that wonderful richness of creation of power is also inside of you. You don't have to be a multipotentialite. You don't have to be an artist.

You just have to be you and the world is blessed for having you.

So you know, dare to explore. Dare to fail. Dare to succeed. Dare to try things.

Dare to allow your, your inner force, your soul to come up and guide you because what comes. It's wonderful.


Thomas: That was You and I Make a Thing with my friend Mercedes. I really enjoyed exploring this idea and I'm planning to record more episodes like this. So please stay tuned.

My Broderick-Terry duel comic was published in issue number 4 of the B0ardside Zine. And I'll put a link to it in the show notes.

Mercedes recorded her thoughts of the inner duel as prose and music. And rather than link to it, I've added it to the end of this podcast. So here it is. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.


Jun 14, 2021

Ep. 9 - The Joy of Making Art with Doug Gorney

In this episode, I chat with my friend, Doug Gorney about the joy of making art.  What I appreciate about Doug is his passion and warmth on the subject. I think you'll really enjoy hearing about Doug's creative journey.

Music Credit: 

Reflection Flow by Doxent Zsigmond (c) copyright 2018 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial (3.0) license. http://dig.ccmixter.org/files/doxent/58328 Ft: Javolenus, Rocavaco, Siobhan Dakay

Links mentioned in this episode:

Doug Gorney’s website – https://gorney.studio

Doug’s Instagram - https://www.instagram.com/outeravenuesart/

Sunset Sketchers - https://www.facebook.com/groups/SunsetSketchers

The B0ardside - http://theb0ardside.com/

Outside Lands – Western Neighborhoods Project - https://outsidelands.org/

Outside Lands Podcast - https://outsidelands.org/podcast/

Books mentioned in this episode:

The Artist's Way, by Julia Cameron

The above are affiliate links.


Hello and welcome to the Creative Shoofly Podcast. I'm Thomas Beutel. This podcast is about my creative process, and one thing I've found is that I really get in my way a lot when it comes to making art and being creative. I want to do this podcast because I know it will force me to think more deeply about creativity. I'm hoping that doing this will push me and challenge me to create better art.     Well, welcome back everyone to the Creative Shoofly. Today I have guest and a friend of mine, Doug Gorney. He is a brilliant artist. He's the founder and organizer of Sunset Sketchers, our local  urban sketching group here in the neighborhood. And also a member of the B0ardside collective.

Doug welcome. I've been looking forward to have you on today.

Doug: Thanks, Thomas. Well I'm very excited to be here and to talk about creativity with you.

Thomas: Doug, can you start by telling us just a little bit about your background in the creative world? How did you get started?

Doug:  Well,  my career path is rather circuitous, but  I  was always interested  in the creative arts. I  spent most of my time in high school, in the  art room or the art teacher's office,  hanging out and doing art and taking as many art classes as I could.

I sort of majored in art in high school, as if there were such a thing. And then  going on to college,  I came back to art in my senior year, sort of minored in art and then  got a lot of encouragement from a sculpture teacher   who told me that this was really something that I should consider doing for a living. That I was, that I had some facility

with it.

And  I was majoring in history, which is a springboard into many fields like unemployment. So I was  open to suggestion and this seems like a sign. So I went on to art school from there. Once I graduated from UC Berkeley and really was going after another bachelor's degree because I didn't have  the equivalent of a BFA that would have allowed me to get a master's degree.

And I didn't, also  having been away from art and then just come back to it. I didn't really know what I was doing. So another a BFA program seemed appropriate.  I started at,  then California college of arts and crafts now, California college of the arts, and then transferred to  the school of the Art Institute of Chicago, where I was for a year and a half.

And that was very interesting and seemed to be pretty promising. I was  developing more of a  sculptural style, sculptural language of my own. But life took a series of left turns as it will. And  I didn't come back to art for another 30 years after that point. I didn't really even pick up a pencil during that whole time.

What I was doing  for a lot of the time was, well, I've been  practicing transcendental meditation since I was 13 years old. And  this was a practice  that was very fulfilling for me on an, on a very holistic level.

So I went in,  I became a teacher  of the TM program and  was full time  in the TM organization and  teaching  TM for a number of years.  And then  another sort of compass shift occurred.

And I while still enjoying the practice and enjoying teaching, I started to feel that I should be doing something more creative, something more personal. And so I  came back to the Bay Area after traveling and living all over the continent and in the UK for awhile.  So I came back to the Bay Area  with a vague notion that I should be doing some creative stuff. And  I was trying a bunch of things  in music.  I was with the stars agency here in San Francisco doing  commercial acting and modeling

and voiceover. I  was  working with my brother, making a comedy CD.  And also  with some little success  doing design. 

But  what really stuck at that point was writing. So I basically became a writer,  primarily commercial copywriting, but with as much creative writing as I could.

But  nothing that really seemed like  that it was my life's direction.  Now  at a certain point around 2011, my father had a stroke. And  he lived up in Napa.  He and my stepmother lived alone and she was going to need some help,  taking care of him as he recovered.

And so I moved up there to Napa and live there for a year and a half.  During that time, you know, he was a very  accomplished surgeon and really...

Thomas: your father was.

Doug: He was, yeah.

And an  important figure in his profession and in bed here. He was quite reduced.

One thing though that he still could do and always had a facility for was art.  He had a studio that  he had put together in his home. And  so he was doing art  during the day. And to have something to do with him, I got a sketchbook and some pencils for the first time in almost 30 years started sketching with him.

And he enjoyed that. And I did too. 

Thomas: Was he sketching or was he painting or what kind of art that was doing?

Doug: He was doing a little painting. His preferred medium actually was colored pencils. Yeah. He was quite, quite good with the colored pencils. Sometimes I thought he, he liked collecting the colored pencils more than actually using them. And actually  he since passed on and I have inherited about 8,000 colored pencils and I don't really use them,  but they're gorgeous anyway, so.

I found in sketching myself, sketching him in large part, and I'm so glad that I have those sketches,  that I hadn't even in my time away from  creating art and mind you, I really hadn't done anything in art at all.

I really don't. I think I did a single even doodle during this whole time,  that I hadn't lost it. It was still there somehow. And if anything, it had gotten a little more mature. Somehow, it was as if in the back of my mind, somewhere in consciousness, I had been working on that neurophysical connection that creates a visual art.

And  so I moved back to San Francisco. And then  was really when I moved to the  Sunset that, and, and I should say that I kept, I kept sketching a bit. I kept  my sketchbook up having reestablish the practice, but it was when I moved to the Sunset in 2015 ish, I was  so inspired by the light and space and forms of the Sunset, which even though I had grown up in San Francisco, was a new place to me. Really, the marine light and the Dolger homes. It all seemed very strange and foreign. I'd never, ever been out here. And so I really seem to inspire me to call me to, to sketch it, to render it

Thomas: I think you had written somewhere that you grew up  in North Beach.

Doug: That's correct. Yeah. Telegraph Hill, really. I sometimes say North Beach just because it's more general and people might know it more and it seems maybe a little less elite. But it was really, it was really Telegraph Hill, that I, uh, that I grew up on. I was born, uh, technically I was born in the Mission in San Francisco, but that was just the hospital. But I for all intents purposes, I was born on Telegraph Hill. Grew up there until college really.

Thomas: A native San Franciscan.

Doug: And one of, one of like three or four total. But  so anyway, I started really drawing the Sunset. It became my muse, seemed to call out to me to, to tell its story because San Francisco, of course is a, is a much storied place.  And Lord knows we have many images of it and in art and music and movies and television and so forth.

But  the part of  San Francisco in which we live the Western part, the Sunset District,  is often ignored and not even San Franciscans, such as myself know much about it.

And so, uh, it seemed to want  another person to help,  to help tell a story to, to paint its picture, so to speak. And and so that's become a thing for me. People started asking me  to paint their houses. I do, I should say watercolor, by the way, is my primary medium,  sometimes  pen and ink fountain pen, but always watercolor.

So people started giving me commissions  to uh, paint pictures of their houses here in the Sunset. And I've been doing that  pretty much full time for the last  three years. And  that's that's been very fulfilling.

Thomas: That's fantastic. Can you  tell me a little bit about,  how the Sunset Sketchers started.

Doug: Sure.  I started  of course, I don't think anything, any of this, well, any of it, as far as my career goes  would have been possible without the internet. Which was,  you know, I'm  of the pre-internet generation, I'm that old. And, uh, and so  when I started to sketch the Sunset, I put my

 stuff online on,  Facebook and Instagram and Nextdoor and whatnot. And this not only got me a nice reception  from homeowners, as I mentioned before, but from other artists, which was very important to me, who said this is very nice work  and also would it be nice to sketch the Sunset together?

There are quite a few creative artists out here in these Western neighborhoods, but  it's more, it's more quiet out here. It's more spread out.  There are fewer gathering places, gathering points.  I think  there is a tendency to feel  cutoff or at least not not have a community, a creative community out here.

And that's something I should say that we're we're doing more, not only with the Sunset Sketchers, but with the B0ardside collective, which you had mentioned, in which you and I are both part of. And so artists got in touch when I post something and say, wouldn't it be fun to, to have a sketching group.

So I coined the name, Sunset Skechers. It's not a real reach creatively to go with that one.  And then uh, Tammy Tsark, who's  another  very talented Sunset artist,  helped me and created a Facebook page to  act as a gathering point and an announcement place for meetups.

And  we started  meeting  a few artists and I had both full-time professional artists and also very talented um,  part-time, I don't want to use the word hobbyist because it's  such a value judgment to it. But, but artists who were professionals at other things  but had an art background.  And  we have been meeting for about three years now.

And  it's been growing quite a bit and  we've met now all over the Sunset District, our five miles square area of Western San Francisco, but the beach as well as other adjacent parts of Western San Francisco.

And  it's been a lot of fun.

Thomas:  I've been utterly delighted  to meet so many of the artists because  you don't know until  they sort of come out and you meet them and it's like, yeah, there are a lot of artists in the Sunset.

Doug: There really are.  And another podcast  from the west side of San Francisco, Outsidelands uh,  which I've gotten a lot from,  has had some episodes where they've talked more about  the creative professionals and innovators  who have  come from, lived in, or grew up on or grown up on the west side.

And there really seems to be a tradition,  here  in the outside lands of, of thinking outside the box. I mean, we are, we are at a remove from the rest of San Francisco. And also if you look at it  from a space where we moved a bit from the rest of the continent, we're really on the edge here.

Uh it's  you know, next stop Japan.  And  there is a, there is a feeling of being, of being in some kind of liminal space that I think is a good, good, good place for artists to create. For us to be able  to think creatively, to get in touch with our creative selves, without being distracted by the, the Hurlyburly  activity of  the central city.

Thomas:  For my listeners who are not particularly familiar  with San Francisco,  We are on a peninsula.

We're surrounded  on three sides, the west, north, and east side with water. But the center of the city is a set of  Hills that are, that are almost a thousand feet high, so almost 300 meters high. And so the city is really divided, even though it's just a small, you know,  seven mile by seven mile  square place.

The, the city is divided in that way. And one of the unique aspects. Of being near the ocean is, is that we on the west side get a lot of fog,  because the water's cold here and the east side of the city, which is only a few miles to the east, they have a lot more  sunshine than we do out here.

Doug: It  should be noted that the temperature, the ambient temperature can vary between one point in the city and another by as much as 30 degrees Fahrenheit. Uh, and that, and we are usually the low point, uh, and the hub of that, of that variance here in the Sunset District.

   Thomas: So Doug, the creative Shoofly is about breaking through blocks  and finding joy in the act of creating. So I'm wondering what,  aspect of making your art  brings you the most joy?

Doug:  The, the notion of doing this full time, of being finally a full-time artist. Which I guess I was supposed to have done or was, was in the process of doing,  35 or so years ago. Um, The notion of actually doing that is so radical.  That someone could  indulge themselves in creativity and have as  their means of income

being a creative artist, seems so radical and revolutionary. And almost I can, I can do this, I can get away with this,  that, that in and of itself just doing it is joyful. It's almost a giddy sense of joy that, Hey look,  I'm creating art, full time. People are paying me to do that. I'm paying my rent that way.

And  I am an artist. So that is almost a, a radical declaration of creative independence that has a fierce joy,  in and of its own. And  of course there are many aspects to creating the art and some are more joyful than others.  One thing that I am, dealing with these days is that  my bread and butter, if you will.  Which is, I do primarily portraits of people's houses, watercolor, and some of watercolor and pen and ink portraits of, of the distinctive architecture that we have out here  in the Sunset District,  for our homeowners.  Which has been,  it's such a gift to be able to do and has taught me so very much about the medium and about art in general.

 In pursuing that as a vocation,  and particularly in creating  as realistic or representational, an image as I can of someone's home, someone who has entrusted me  to render an image of their  much loved home.  So that, that has been a great. Discipline. And, and it provides me with profound satisfaction when I can do that.

But there is also artist inside of me that is interested perhaps in exploring other spaces.  An artists that was doing that sort of exploratory training and research if you will, in art school. But then there was this kind of arrested development,  as I was doing other very important things to develop me  as a human.

 I had really left art and now that I've returned to it,  there are things that I want to find out things that  I don't even know what they are yet. But I want to see  what lies out there, what I might do, what I might find inside me. So I have been taking more time of late,  each day,  trying to carve out some time from my mornings,  similar to the, to the process you have mentioned in your podcast that you have been going through,

 to do stuff that's just for me, mostly going out,  just getting myself out of my studio slash bedroom, which has been really important,  just for, you know, breathing fresh air,  and getting out and sketching the world  from life. And  doing it in a way  that is not for any audience,  not even thinking of,  sharing it with anyone,  and just trying stuff.


Getting into the sandbox

Doug: Exactly. Getting into the sandbox and playing, just trying stuff, getting messy, pushing myself to the point of making mistakes and through making mistakes.  So that has  been a tremendously joyful addition  to my art practice. And  that's what's currently providing me the most joy.  In that process too,

it's a little bit like a visual morning pages, you know, the Artist's Way talk about, talks about the importance of doing your four morning pages of writing. Right when you wake up just don't don't edit, don't direct it. Just let it go. Just write whatever's on your mind, whatever comes out. So it's kind of that, but in a visual sense.  And that has, that has opened the door to some very other interesting lines that seem to be coming out of more abstract  work and some collage now.

And I'm really excited by it. And I can see it going somewhere  as  more finished and possibly when it was  marketable line of art.

Thomas:  When you start your morning and you you're going out into the sandbox  that metaphorical sandbox, do you have any, any mantras or any rituals or anything that you tell yourself when you go out there?

Doug: I not sure. The, the act of, I would just say that the act of doing it, of actually doing it, not just thinking about, well, I really should do something like that as you really should take some time for myself to the act of actually getting up, putting on my, my little day pack with all of my,  paper and watercolors, then my drawing kit in it and getting out of the house, putting on shoes, getting out of the house.

That is, um, that is quite  again a radical act and also a little bit of a ritual.  The more I do it and the more I do it at the same time,  the more that in and of itself becomes a very, very important ritual.  And beyond that,  I think that's the main thing and I'm, so I'm really, so,  amazed still, or maybe amazed is putting it a bit strongly, but so surprised to find myself

out of the house,  in the morning, just by myself, sketching, what I want and doing what I want.  That I'm, I'm still so suffused with,  the surprise and the excitement of, of the possibility inherent in that act.  I'd suppose that's the main thing at this point. That's kind of the, the only thing I can even think about is wow, I'm out here. Yeah. The, I should say too, that the Sunset Skechers has provided that too.  We do it every weekend.  But that's, that's of course just one day during the week. And also being  the organizer, which is not an onerous task at all. It's really a great, it's very gratifying to create a space and a place for

artists to come out and sketch together from life.  Many, many of these artists being my friends now. Um,  But there's still  there's some organizational tasks involved in all this. So you, you can't just  completely lose yourself in it for as long as you want, as I can with  this  personal artist journey that I take each morning.

Thomas: That  makes me think of another aspect of being in a place where we have so many artists that live around us and have so many different talents. And that is one of collaboration.  We also have  the B0ardside collective, which is a highly collaborative  venture. 

Doug: Yes,

Thomas: And.

You know, I know for myself that  almost all of the art that I practice is done solo, is done  on my own.  But there is something that is just  so exhilarating  when you collaborate on a project. And I'm wondering what your thoughts on that is.

Doug: I absolutely agree.  It's a very different, a very different kind of thing.  It's the joy of, of teamwork and cooperation first. And even more primarily,  the aspect of human fellowship, which is something that you can really miss well at. So many of us have missed  around the world during this pandemic.

 But also which one can really miss as a, as a creative artist in this society.  And particularly where we're doing so much of our stuff online.  And I have to say with regard to the pandemic that  my life didn't actually change very much at all during the pandemic, because I, you know, I tend to, I get up  and I

 go to work on the commission I'm working on at my desk.  And then I may,  give myself a treat and go out for lunch and see someone on the sidewalk when I'm doing that.  I'm not a lonely person, but,  it, it can be a little bit isolating, I should say,  professionally.  So  the B0ardside and the Sunset Sketchers  have been great opportunities to have fellowship with fellow creatives.

Thomas:  One of the things that, um,

Doug: Yeah.

Thomas: that I noticed during the pandemic is how, how well and how strongly we pull together as the Sunset Sketchers. As an example, we, we figured out how to  sketch together on Zoom.  And the B0ardside as well is, you know,  we were staying in touch and we were collaborating on things, even though we weren't necessarily meeting.

 And so feel  that in some ways  our collaborations became even a little bit stronger just because by, you know, because we needed to.

Doug: I agree. I agree.  I think that,  as you say, figuring out those other channels of collaboration really  strengthened the way that, that we work together in the, in the work that we've done.  And it has also shown particularly in the case of the Sunset Sketchers,  how strong of a desire there is for people to create together.

Um, And  I should just say that. that's there's always a feeling that San Francisco, the rest of the world kind of ignores you, won't come to you, so you have to do something yourself.

 But we, in that self-sufficiency, we were the only group who was when there wasn't a lockdown  who was actually meeting. We found a way to meet together, wearing masks and being appropriately distanced and so forth. And we, we still are as of this recording. We're still the only sketching group in Northern California that I know of that is doing in-person  sketching meetups. So  that's been wonderful, but I wanted it to come back to, to one thing that we had been talking about. Before, um, about  the B0ardside  collective. And one of the ways in which it has been wonderful is in this area of collaboration that you were speaking, that we were talking about it a little bit earlier.

 It is uh, a truly collaborative effort. The B0ardside is two things, primarily. First of all, it's a physical space. Um,  It's in the back of a residence,  near the beach.  And  the owner of the house, our friend Thorston Sideboard has  really wanted to turn it into a space for the arts, for visual art exhibits, and also for concerts,

readings and other creative events. And we have worked together very well to make that happen. We've had a few shows now. We're actually having another show. So the 19th and 20th,  (June 2021w) the Art of Entropy, the artist Bianca Nandzik who goes by the name of Entropy. A wonderful multimedia installation,  and in  curating  and, and mounting these exhibits,  it's really an all hands,  situation where everybody  plays a role and contributes  and thinks together about the best way to

put these things on. And then on the day of and it's always wonderful and festive, and we have bands music, and the neighbors are cranking up their bubble machines. But everybody is collaborating  to really make  a creative event happen.  The other primary function of B0ardside collective is the zine that we put out,  which is called oddly enough B0ardside. And  that is  something that all of us contribute to, all of us collectively edit.

Thorsten I should say does the lion's share of the  design and layout and so forth, but we've all written things and  created art to go into the zine, created the covers for it. So it's a very cooperative and very fulfilling effort and something that it's by its nature

 probably wouldn't happen if we were doing it individually.  It's very existence, to say nothing of its nature is  due to the fact that we are a collective and they were that we're working collaboratively.

Thomas: One thing that's so exciting to me is just the great variety  of art styles and types and talents. I mean, we have visual artists, we have sculptors, we have people who use code, uh, mute,  create music, do writing. I mean, it, it, it really covers almost everything you can think of, uh, in, in terms of, uh, what you can do creatively.

It's, it's pretty amazing.

Doug: I just, uh, and this is just a, maybe a sidebar to the story, but  in thinking about how we work as a collective,  beyond fulfilling the specific tasks that we've set out for ourselves, or the  the purview of our organization.  It's also,  something that I think has paid off as far as  acting as a resource for us to use  in our individual medium, media, mediums.  I'm thinking just as one example of  a project I was working on, a commission that I had for someone.  They had a house with a beautiful view of the  western avenues  and the ocean beyond. With a  beautiful 180 degree sweep from Bohemian Grove to the south,  to Marin county, to the north and the Marin Headlands.

And they want to be  to capture the whole thing, that view, but in a way that would  let them remember because they were about to move, let them remember their beautiful living room.  So I was wrestling with how to do this. Because if you sort of stood in the middle of the living room, of course you would see the windows, but you couldn't really get

the view  in any way that would,  register. So,  this was, this was just kind of bouncing around in my head.  One of the wonderful things about the B0ardside is that,  upcoming show or not, we always have a weekly meeting to discuss. There's always something to discuss.

It's just nice to have that as a, as a creative get together  that you can have during the week. And I, I brought this up, I just sort of floated this idea  and Thorston Sideboard, who I'd mentioned to you earlier  is a very talented comics, artists, comic book artists.

Thomas: And graphic novels,

Doug: Yeah, exactly. And so he thought about  my visual problem from his perspective, and he came back with  a great solution, which was very much comics centered. And he said, well, just do it panel by panel,

just like we do in the comics. And each panel will be one window. And you could look at the window and sort of center the window frame within the frame of the, of that comics panel, if you will, and  if there are four windows, then you do  four panels and each one is a slice of the view.

And,  that made a lot of sense. And that's exactly what I did.  It worked out pretty well and the client was delighted, but  I just liked so much that it was that kind of collaborative, creative thinking that really drew upon the strength  of a collective I've always wanted.

I must say since my, since my younger days of  being so fascinated by the Dada artists and  Fluxus and various of the other Europeans, slightly anarchic, very sort of beyond modernist movements that were  going on that  really created  the visual art of the 20th century.

I wanted to be part of a collective that just seemed like the greatest, the greatest thing. And now I am, and it's,  very fulfilling.

Thomas: It's very emergent, right? There's just so much that can, can come out of, of being in a collective.

Doug: Yes.

Thomas: I want to end with this question. I'm wondering, what you are most looking forward to, or what's exciting you, in terms  of art.

Doug: Well it's  interesting  you should ask that. Because  coming back to earlier in my conversation, I had mentioned this new style or this new  line of work that seems to be coming out of its own accord, more expressionist,  more abstract, more, more out of the box.

And  that really has me very excited.  Because it is more personal. Because I don't know where it's going. And  that sense of the unexpected and the sense of taking a journey. You never know exactly what you'll find on your journey. That's kind of why you're taking your journey.

And also this  art is  driven very much and in a way that's, that's more unlike the, the more detailed, precise representative work that I do. It's driven by the  very inchoate, very  expressive, and emotional, I might say.  And sometimes messy creativity that's inside. So

certain of  the work that I'm doing now  starts with me just putting my pen on the page and then an automatic process takes over,  in which the pen just really, it's going to sound very woo woo, but the pen just moves to really of its  own accord, um, 

Thomas: The art is using you as an instrument

Doug: Well, yeah.

Thomas: to create itself.

Doug: Now that that is an interesting thing right there,  you said, and I, I feel, that idea of writ large is really almost what's governed my whole career as an artist, if you will. But it's  a very pure distillation now  where I'm coming up with things that are  drawing themselves.

Sometimes I'm just looking at my arm moving. It's okay. Are we done yet? No, we're not done. We have to keep going. Okay. Now. No. All right.  And then that that part of it finishes and I  may use a bit more of my, my intellect slash super ego individualized personality, my conscious self to make some decisions about what should be done to take it to a next level, make it more presentable by adding watercolor within some of the fields of squiggly lines.

But that all is, is very exciting and  it feels very integrating. It feels like  a journey on which I'm just beginning and I don't know where it will go and where it will take my art, but it has me and I, I keep returning to this because I've been, I've been talking to people about it, how excited I am, and it's kind of scary,  and  what does this mean for my career, et cetera.

But it's very exciting and it's exciting I think,  now that I'm talking to you. I think it's exciting mostly because it gets to the core of the creative process. It's just sort of pure unfiltered unmitigated, uh, Uh, on adulterated creativity

happening. And that's, uh, a really interesting  process.

So who knows where it will go, but  it sure is exciting.

Thomas: well, Doug, this has been a wonderful conversation. I just want to acknowledge how, I mean, I'm, I'm feeling excited just by you telling me that. By telling me  how you're feeling about it and what, what comes up for you. So, so thank you.

Doug: Well, thank you, Thomas. And I, I, I've not only enjoyed working with you and as a part of the board side collective  and as a  fellow Sunset Sketcher, but also so enjoyed seeing your creativity expressed itself in the completely Sui generis work that you are doing,  with your, uh, particularly well with everything you do,  your wide and very creativity. I particularly, uh, enjoy the, the way that you're able to wed your

background is, a technologically, adept person and a maker,  with your, with your creative vision and come up with some really  singular creations. So, and, and also, uh, now I'm really spreading it on thick, but I've really, really, really been enjoying your podcast.  Particularly what you

are saying about creativity and so much of it resonates with the processes that I've been going through and as well it's, and I've listened to a lot of podcasts.

I mean, working by myself all day, I can listen to a lot of podcasts as I scribble away and yours is exceptionally well produced and thoughtful. And,  it's always a pleasure to listen to.

Thomas: Well, thank you, Doug.  I really appreciate that.  I am so excited for the near future, you know,  with B0ardside and with  things opening up again,  I'm really excited for what's going to happen. 

Doug: well, thank you, Thomas. Thank you for the opportunity to, to talk. It's been a lot of fun.

After my conversation with Doug, I realized that I'd forgotten to ask how people can view his art or ask for a commission. You can visit his website at gorney.studio. That's G O R N E Y.studio. His email is [email protected] You can also see his art on his Instagram  @outeravenuesart. 

Doug mentioned both the Sunset Sketchers and B0ardside. You can find the sunset Sketchers on Facebook. Just search for sunset Sketchers in the search bar, the board side has a website.

It's theb0ardside.com.  Except that it's spelled this way… T H E B the number zero A R D S I D E.com. And as always, I will have all the links mentioned in this podcast at the top of the show notes. Once again, I'd like to thank you for listening to this podcast.

I really appreciate that you take the time to listen. I hope you enjoyed my conversation with Doug and I hope there was something in our conversation that will help spark your creativity.  And I would love to get any feedback that you have. You can email me at [email protected]

I hope you'll join me for the next episode of  Creative Shoofly. Until then, stay safe and stay creative.


Jun 2, 2021

Ep. 8 - Effie, The Blind Spot Bot

In this episode I learn about my blind spot and how to respond to it.

Music Credit: 

Reflection Flow by Doxent Zsigmond (c) copyright 2018 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial (3.0) license. http://dig.ccmixter.org/files/doxent/58328 Ft: Javolenus, Rocavaco, Siobhan Dakay


Links mentioned in this episode:

Personality Hacker

INFP Personality Type

Blind Spots



Hello and welcome to the Creative Shoofly Podcast. I'm Thomas Beutel. This podcast is about my creative process, and one thing I've found is that I really get in my way a lot when it comes to making art and being creative. I want to do this podcast because I know it will force me to think more deeply about creativity. I'm hoping that doing this will push me and challenge me to create better art.    

I stay pretty busy. I have a great client base that keeps sending me interesting projects. I also have a bunch of my own creative projects, things I've started, things I've planned, things that I still dream about.  As I mentioned in a previous podcast, I carve out two hours each weekday morning to work on my own stuff and I've been sticking to it.

So why does it feel like I'm not accomplishing much? Why do I have a nagging feeling that I'm just spinning my wheels?

I recently read up on my Myers Briggs type. INFPs like me are said to have vibrant, passionate inner lives. They're said to be creative and imaginative and introspective to the core. That all resonates with me pretty well.

INFPs are also said to be unrealistic self-critical and often unfocused. Yep. That pretty much nails it too. 

I was looking over my 15-month goal calendar recently and an inner voice showed up. "Why aren't you finished yet?" It's like a bot, no feelings, no compassion. Just nagging. "Look at all these goals you need to hurry up and do them all now."

I gritted my teeth. As someone who is introspective, I needed to understand where this voice is coming from and respond to it somehow.

Maybe I can appease it, satisfy it, make a compromise, something so that it would just shut up.

My first thought was, I'll speak to this voice daily. Last year I started a daily completion journal. This is where I write down what I work on creatively that day. It feels great to look at that journal and see all the things I've worked on since I started it. But writing down what I've been completing didn't seem to be satisfying that bot-like voice. "You have so many goals," it kept saying, "how are you going to do those?"

I also do a daily check-in and reflection. It's part of my scrum-for-one process that I've mentioned before.

The scrum or huddle is just me. It's a solo huddle where I check in with myself and ask, "How are things going? What's working well? what's getting in the way?"

So I tried adding a short conversation with that bot voice, a sort of dialogue with Mr. Hurry-Up-and-Finish.

But I found that I was not very effective in arguing on my behalf. No matter what I said, pointing out how much I was doing every day, every week, explaining how much progress I was making, and learning new techniques, the bot voice would just say it wasn't enough. "Hurry up!" it always said.

I work with a wonderful coach on these very issues, and she pointed me to a resource on INFPs that I hadn't seen before. 

It's called Personality Hacker. They have an interesting approach to Myers-Briggs. Instead of being focused on behaviors, they focus on how the mind works and how each personality type learns information and makes decisions.

One of the things they propose is that each personality type has a blind spot. My blind spot is called Effectiveness.

For INFPs, it's the voice of unrealistic expectations. It asks things like, "How can I make this work?" and "What will it take to get the job done, regardless of feelings?"

Effectiveness is a type of extroverted thinking. And for certain Myers-Briggs types, it's actually the primary way of thinking and decision-making. It's their strength.

But for an introverted-feeling person like me, it's really the opposite of the way I do things. Effectiveness is my blind spot. 

So I decided to call it Effie the Blind Spot Bot.

When I thought through why I was making any progress in addressing Effie's nagging... I realized that it was Effie's voice that was driving that conversation.

Have you ever had a big slap-on-the-forehead moment when you realize something really basic and all you can do is laugh at yourself?

That impulse to use Effectiveness to figure out how to get the job done, regardless of my feelings... that was exactly what I was trying to do to appease that Effectiveness voice, to satisfy it somehow and calm it down.

I was chasing my own tail, going round and round and never quite catching it.

Effie my blind spot bot says, "How can we get this done, regardless of feelings?" It sounds straightforward and it sounds like a reasonable request.

But what I've learned is that leading with my blind spot doesn't work. It isn't a place of strength for me.

My strength is introverted feeling, the I F in INFP. When I start something creative, the question that I ask from a place of strength is, "Does it feel right? Does it feel authentic?"

These questions focus on alignment.

And when I ask these questions, I find that I have more energy around a project, and I'm far more committed over the long-term to get it done. As Personality Hacker points out, each of the personality types has its strengths and blind spots.

If you're interested in learning about yours, I recommend checking out the Personality Hacker website and their podcast.

I've always found that examining my own motivation, especially around creativity is the strangest thing. It seems so elusive and hard to figure out. It's like an internal database without a query language.

That's why I appreciate resources like Personality Hacker. They build a language that helps with that examination.

All of this is a wonderful revelation to me. Had my coach not pointed me to Personality Hacker, I would not have learned about Effie. Now whenever that voice speaks up and tries to hurry me up, or complains about not finishing projects, I remind myself to think about alignment. I ask myself, does it feel right.

By doing that my creative projects are now far more successful and satisfying. I recently embarked on a new project of learning live coding for music. It's complex and it has a really steep learning curve. But it's so rewarding when I create music that feels good to me.

Thank you so much for listening to this podcast. I really appreciate that you take the time to listen. I hope there was something in this podcast that will help spark your creativity. And I would love to get any feedback that you have. You can email me at [email protected]. 

I hope you'll join me for the next episode of creative shoofly. Until then, stay safe and stay creative.



Apr 12, 2021

Ep. 7 - Dealing with My Creative Killjoys

In this episode, I identify the killjoys spoiling my creative sessions and talk about what I did to defeat them.

Music Credit: 

Reflection Flow by Doxent Zsigmond (c) copyright 2018 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial (3.0) license. http://dig.ccmixter.org/files/doxent/58328 Ft: Javolenus, Rocavaco, Siobhan Dakay


Links mentioned in this episode:

Amy Isaman's Dear Creativity, Let's Play Podcast 

Ep. 52: To Get Creative, Own Your Weird with Jeff Harry

Brené Brown



I have to admit something to you. As much as I like being creative and making things, I struggle during my creative sessions. In my imagination, other artists are playfully splashing colors on the canvas, while when I get to the canvas or work bench, I just sit there and struggle to get something done.

Recently, I was in my studio working on an idea for a painting, and whole time I experienced delays and interruptions. It was late evening. It was after a full day of work and I was tired. And on top of that, I was listening to a podcast on politics and it was making me angry.

I just told myself I need to change something. I'm not being very creative and this just isn't working for me.   

My approach to creative time has been quite haphazard.  I usually try to fit studio time into the cracks and crevices of my schedule.  So my first attempt was to look for a regular time in the evenings.  I thought that shouldn't be too hard because I wouldn't be giving up much except maybe a few TV shows and a bunch of web surfing.

I thought I could just turn that after-dinner time into time for my art, but after a few tries it wasn't working. The evening is often our family get-together time. When I disappeared into my studio, I felt guilty about not spending time with my family.

And even if it wasn't family night, I was still getting interrupted by phone calls and text messages.

Also, I couldn't let go of being entertained in the evening. So I'd listen to podcasts. I didn't realize it at the time, but it was another more subtle form of interruption.

Also being the end of the day, I was tired. My work during the day usually involves programming creative solutions for my clients. So even if I wasn't physically tired, I was mentally tired,

Needless to say, my creative sessions weren't really satisfying.  They usually ended after about 20 or 30 minutes.

And that even put more pressure on me knowing that I had so little time to work with.

So I thought, okay, what about the weekends? I could give that a try. I could schedule some longer sessions where I could spend maybe five or six hours on a project. But that didn't work for me at all.  Weekends for me are unpredictable. We often go out as a family, whether it's  traveling or doing some errands or whatever.

There's also lots of cool stuffthat happens on weekends, so it was really hard to keep a regular schedule. Even if we weren't going out, there's stuff that needs to get done around the house. 

I ended up having so few weekend sessions that I wasn't creating anything at all.

So I thought, well, how about finding more focus for my evening sessions? How about committing to creating something every day and then posting it to Instagram?

I like Instagram, almost all the people I follow are artists, and it's inspiring to see their art. And it feels great to get likes, you know, and the more I posted, the more likes I got that really felt good.

But eventually I was noticing I was creating things that I didn't care about. Instead of making things that excited me, I was asking, what can I make that'll get likes?  My art was becoming performative in, uh, you know, "Hey, look at me" sort of way. 

None of these attempts at having good studio sessions were working for me.  I was really frustrated, and I was feeling stuck. I wasn't creating, and I wasn't learning anything new.

In the past few months, I've been doing some thinking and reading about the intersection of creativity and play. And I wondered if there might be some clues there about having better creative sessions.

I recently came upon Amy Isaman's Dear Creativity, Let's Play podcast.  It's an awesome podcast, and if you're wondering about the process of creativity, I really urge you to listen  to her podcast episodes. I'll put a link to her podcast and the website in the show notes.

In particular, you should listen to Amy's conversation with Jeff Harry. He's Vice President of Fun at Play. It's episode number 52 and it's called To Get Creative, Own Your Weird

Jeff is an amazing person, and he's done a lot of thinking about play. In his conversation with Amy, he really explains how creativity and play go hand in hand.

I want to highlight here what he gave as the definition of play.

His definition of play is:

  • you are fully present;
  • time vanishes,
  • you forget about time;
  • you're not thinking about anything;
  • you are fully you;
  • and you're excited about life.

So, I thought, wow, this, this really resonates with me, and it explains so much of what I'm not experiencing during my creative sessions.

So for instance, instead of being fully me, I'm thinking about how others might react to what I'm making.

Instead of being excited about life, I'm just frustrated by my lack of progress.

Instead of being fully present, there's always the specter of being interrupted.

Instead of not thinking of anything, I'm listening to a podcast.

And instead of time vanishing, I have that pressure of like only having 20 or 30 minutes before I need to do something else.

I decided to call these my little killjoys.  Each of these thieves steal playfulness from my creative sessions. Here's how I'm now approaching each one.

I started with the one that always has me thinking about how others might react to what I'm making, creating. Let's call it the Instagram effect.

Instagram is a great way to share your art. And like I said, I follow a lot of artists there, but I've also found that it it's a lot, like those infomercials on TV. You know, the one that tries to convince you that your life will be so much better with an Instapot.

Just like an infomercial, scrolling through Instagram is a bombardment.  The images go by so quickly, and they only show the bright side of things. Your friends seem to be living beautiful lives and look how productive they are all the time. 

At least for me, it's, it's a little bit overwhelming and I can't help but compare my own experience with all these beautiful images. And I start to feel a little bit inadequate and guilty.

And the other thing that I realized is that Instagram was just reinforcing my craving for likes.

Once I started posting my drawings and creations on Instagram and getting likes, that positive reinforcement made me look at everything through the lens of, you know, how many likes might I get? 

I think that Instagram is a great way to make connections, especially if you're an artist, but there is that temptation to create solely for the like button.

I've stepped away from Instagram for now. I'm trying to build a habit of satisfying myself first, letting my curiosity run and letting my inner voices speak. My goal is to be much more deliberate about the art that I post there.

I want to take care that I'm posting an authentic version of myself, not the version that I think others are wanting of me. And what that's done for me is that I'm already feeling much more playful when I get into my studio.

The next killjoy is being frustrated by a lack of progress or a lack of skill. This thief shows up, particularly if you're a multipotentialite like me, someone who's interested in many topics and enjoys trying out many different skills.

This frustration is one of the major feelings keeping me from feeling excited about life and about my creative process.

I have all the time in the world to create. And yet that feeling of excitement is kept at bay. 

The image I get is me as a kid, looking through the window at a playground where all the other kids are playing and creating and having fun while I need to do my homework.

I overcome this by reminding myself that creating is itself a vulnerable act. Every time I sit down to create something new, I expose my true self. That is, I expose what I'm capable of and not capable of.

And I expose my heart. I expose what I'm thinking and feeling and that vulnerability makes me want to hide.  I don't want people to think that I'm a fraud.

And so here's where I lean on the findings of social researcher Brené Brown.  She points out that vulnerability leads to connection. The courage to be open with another person is where the connection happens.

I've read most of her books. And so I know, like on an intellectual level, I know it to be true and I've actually even seen it happen in my life, many times over.  But I can tell you this particular one, this killjoy, this being frustrated by lack of skills and lack of progress is really the hardest  to get rid of.

So I'm working on it. I just keep reminding myself that it's not just okay, but it's actually necessary to be vulnerable in the stuff that I do, and in the art that I create.

So when those feelings of vulnerability show up, I celebrate, I express gratitude. I know that not everyone will understand the things that I make and the things that I create. But I celebrate those who do. And learning new skills is hard. So I just celebrate the fact that I'm trying.

And here's something that's really helped. For every little bit of progress I make in my creative journey, I celebrate that progress by writing it down in a completion journal. I have this daily completion journal, and every time I do something, even if it's just starting something or making just a little bit of progress, I write it down.

And I celebrate that. That journal has been so incredibly helpful. Every time I open it up, I see how much I have accomplished every day.

If you're someone who likes to dabble and likes to try lots of different things, if you're a multipotentialite, I can't recommend enough having a daily completion journal. It's been so helpful.

Let's move on to that specter of being interrupted, the one that was preventing me from being present.

I think of it like being a prisoner subjected to water drip torture, you know, always wondering when the next interruption, when the next drip will happen.

So the first thing I did was to silence all notifications. Emails, apps, everything, but phone calls.  All my devices have a do not disturb mode and I turn it on from 6:00 AM in the morning to 10:00 PM in the evening for all of them.

No more notifications. I was worried that I might miss something, but it turns out I was missing anything at all. 

As I'm working on a piece of art, I'll often listen to a podcast or if I'm not listening, I'm still kind of carrying on a heated conversation in my mind about politics with that imaginary uncle.

Just like with interruptions, listening or having those inner conversations were preventing me from having my mind open to what's unfolding in front of me as I'm doing my art. 

So I'm no longer listening to podcasts during my studio time. And I'm noticing how nice it feels to be in silence. I'm also using my mindfulness training. I do a 10 minute meditation every morning  to strengthen my mindfulness. And I'm using that mindfulness training to just simply notice when I'm not present.

Before the pandemic, one of my favorite ways to reduce interruptions was to spend some time at a local cafe or at the library. But you know, that hasn't been an option for over a year.

So I thought more deeply about where and when these interruptions came and it occurred to me that most of these interruptions were coming in the afternoon and evening.

I decided to do something radically different. I've decided to schedule all my creative sessions in the morning. 

And what I found is that this is a great time to be creative. My mind is clear, there's almost no interruptions. Most people are still asleep or focused on getting their workday started. 

So scheduling two to three hours of creative time in the mornings has effectively eliminated the specter of being interrupted.

It also eliminated that other killjoy, the feeling that I was only getting 20 to 30 minutes of time  to be creative.

And I'm starting to feel that feeling of timelessness, of being lost in my work, that is so, so essential to feeling joy and play.

So here's the good news. All of these changes that I've just spoken about have been helping me to be more present. And that playfulness that I've been looking for is, is really starting to appear.

Scheduling my creative sessions in the morning has been really helpful in reducing interruptions and giving me that sense of timelessness. 

Being mindful and turning off those podcasts has definitely helped me be more present.  Staying away from social media, especially as it relates to how I think about my art is, you know, it's still a struggle, but I'm working on it and I'm working to be more vulnerable and authentic in my art.

And I don't always get there, but just keeping this in mind has helped me focus on the art that really excites me.

And I just want to say I'm excited for 2021 and beyond.  I think we have an incredibly creative year ahead and I can't wait to see what it's going to be like.

Thank you so much for listening to this podcast. I really appreciate that you took the time to listen. I hope there was an idea or two that will help spark your creativity. And I would love to get any feedback that you have.

You can email me at [email protected]

I hope you will join me for the next episode of Creative Shoofly. Until then stay safe and stay creative.

Feb 18, 2021

Ep 6 - Highly Sensitive People (HSPs) and Creativity with Rayne Dowell

My guest Rayne Dowell and I have a conversation about highly sensitive people (HSPs) and how they approach creativity.

Music Credit: 

Reflection Flow by Doxent Zsigmond (c) copyright 2018 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial (3.0) license. http://dig.ccmixter.org/files/doxent/58328 Ft: Javolenus, Rocavaco, Siobhan Dakay


Links mentioned in this episode:

HSP World

The Highly Sensitive Person website

Sensitive the Untold Story, the movie

Alanis Morissette

Podcast episode where Alanis interviews Dr. Elaine Aron


Books mentioned in this episode:

Unmasking: A Page-Turning Espionage Thriller, by Rayne Dowell

The Highly Sensitive Person: How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You, by Dr. Elaine Aron

The Highly Sensitive Person in Love: Understanding and Managing Relationships When the World Overwhelms You, by Dr. Elaine Aron

The above are affiliate links.



Thomas: Author Pearl Buck once wrote, "The truly creative mind in any field is no more than this: a human creature, born abnormally, inhumanely sensitive. To him, a touch is a blow, a sound is a noise, a misfortune is a tragedy, a joy as an ecstasy, a friend is a lover, a lover is a god, and failure is death. Add to this cruelly delicate organism, the overpowering necessity to create, create, create.

So that without the creating of music or poetry or books or buildings or something of meaning, his very breath is cut off from him. He must create, must pour out creation. By some strange unknown, inward urgency, he is not really alive unless he is creating." 

Thomas Hello, and welcome to the Creative Shoofly Podcast. I'm Thomas Beutel. This podcast is about my creative process and one thing I've found is that I really get in my way a lot when it comes to making art and being creative. I want to do this podcast because I know it will force me to think more deeply about creativity. I'm hoping that doing this will push me and challenge me to create better art.   

Thomas: Today, I've invited a guest to talk about the relationship between the highly sensitive trait and creativity.  My guest is Rayne Dowell. She is co-creator of HSP world and also an indie author.  She's published a book called Unmasking, a Page Turning Espionage Thriller. I've read it, it actually is exactly that it's, it's definitely a page turner and it's thrilling to read.  

Hello Rayne, how are you doing today?

Rayne: I'm doing great, Thomas. Thank you. Thank you for having me. 

Thomas: I'm so glad to have you here to talk about this. You know, we both identify as having the HSP trait. HSP stands for Highly Sensitive Person. And I'm wondering if you could just speak for a moment about what the HSP trait is.

Rayne: Okay. So what it means to me? 

Thomas: Yeah. 

Rayne: Yeah. Okay. Sure. For me, the sort of the way I find easy to relate to it is, basically having a nervous system that's highly tuned. So as opposed to 80 to 85% of the rest of the population. So having a nervous system that's highly tuned, that's gonna mean noticing subtleties in my environment.

That's going to be noticing temperature changes, subtle smells, You know, can relate to food.  it can relate to hearing. So it's like, say, an HSP and a non-HSP walk into a room. A non HSP, will notice, you know, five things in the first 20 seconds. An HSP will notice, you know, 15 things in the same amount of time. 

So basically their nervous system is just highly tuned and food, all kinds of things can affect that. Other people's energy.  You know, all kinds of things. So that's how I find it easiest to relate to it. 

Thomas: The HSP trait comes out of research done by Dr. Elaine Aron and she's written a number of books about her research.  The main book is the Highly Sensitive Person and I'll put links in the show notes to the books.  

She's also done a lot of work around parenting and especially highly sensitive parenting.  She's also written books about HSPs or highly sensitive persons in relationships.  

So she's developed a fairly large body of work around this trait and there are a number of other researchers that are starting to pick up on it and do research on it as well.

Rayne: There's also a movie that I found when I was running an HSP meetup group. We would have showings of her movie called Sensitive the Untold Story,  which is an amazing resource for people who maybe aren't sure if they have the trait or not. Or if they have recently discovered they have the trait and they'd like to know a little bit more information on it, but they don't want to dive into the book yet.

Sensitive, the untold story is a great movie to watch. And it's not really that long. I think it's about an hour long, something like that, but it's on Amazon, so you can rent it and stuff. 

Thomas: I'm glad you mentioned that because one of the people in the movie is a singer songwriter Alanis Morissette. And she identifies with the HSP trait and has talked about it quite a bit. 

And for people who are interested in learning more about  the HSP trait, she has a wonderful podcast episode where she interviews Dr. Elaine Aron. She and Dr. Aron go over something called the D.O.E.S. acronym, which stands for Depth of processing, Overstimulation, Emotional responsiveness and Sensitivity to subtle stimuli. So I highly recommend that. 

And again, I'll put this in the show notes so you can listen to it.  

Alanis is an amazing artist and this sort of is a good segue into my interest in creativity and how the HSP trait relates to creativity.

How do you relate creativity to the HSP trait? 

Rayne: Well, to me from what I can gather so far when I look at how creativity kind of works for me, and how I've noticed it work for other HSPs are, one of the things HSPs are good at is noticing patterns and then noticing anomalies in patterns.

And sometimes those anomalies are subtle. HSPs process information differently. So I think that's something to...  You know, it took me a little while to kind of feel into that one and, and understand it.  Because we're always coming from only our own perspective. Right? 

Thomas: Right. 

Rayne: So realizing that oh, okay so everybody else doesn't process information like this. But maybe, you know, 15 to 20% of the population processes information somewhat like this, similarly, essentially. So I just find that, to me, because HSPs process information differently, so noticing the subtleties, noticing any anomalies and patterns, gives way to such a rich plethora of ways that they can then express that. 

So if you think of it in terms of music, there are music chords or patterns essentially. Right? 

Thomas: Right, right. 

Rayne: And sometimes those anomalies add really interesting twists and can bring up really,  powerful emotions in us.

A lot of the things that resonate with HSPs are things like music and plays and movies and books and things like this.  Because I think that's part of the, um, I don't know what you could call it. That's part of the creativity. There's a level of angst that comes with it.

Thomas: Yeah. I would say that's an understatement!

Rayne: Because,  you know, we can feel it when we're creating it, that no, it's just, it's not capturing what I know is there. And so going back to it or sometimes leaving it because it's like, no, it's just not the right time for that particular piece of art, whatever that is, whether it's a song or lyrics or a poem or whatever it is.

So yeah, there is the level of angst that comes with it as well. 

But it's also really cool in that it's exercising your creative muscle.  It’s actually really fun because it's about being curious and experimenting. And seeing where that takes you. 

And that I think is, that's one of the things we tend to lose. When you look at children they're intrinsically happy and curious and creative and so that's one of the things that I think is so wonderful about creativity is it can, it can bring us back into that state. 

Thomas: Into that playful state. 

Rayne: Absolutely. Where we don't have any expectations and we're just doing it for the enjoyment of it.  And just being, being in it, you know, 

Thomas:  We're not thinking about social judgment. 

Rayne: No, no, not at all. No. 

Thomas: I'm curious about something you said, you said noticing patterns and anomalies. I'm curious about the anomaly part. What are you thinking about there when you're saying that? 

Rayne: Okay. So one year for three or four months, I drove to Alaska and  I worked there for about four months during the late spring and in the summer because I don't want to spend a winter there.

So with that of course there are different smells there. There are different trees, there are different plants. So some are similar, you know, and some are the same as where I'm from, but some are different. 

Of course, different humidity levels, which you can smell in the air. You know, all that type of thing.

And one day I was working in a cabin and I could smell propane and it's smelled quite strong to me know.  And I noticed it about two minutes after I walked into the cabin and I thought, Hmm. So I waited a moment because I knew that someone else was going to be coming along shortly. So I could ask them because you know, that's a danger sign.

And a few minutes later, someone came along and opened the door and I said, can you smell propane? They said, no, they couldn't smell propane. And I thought that's really odd. And I knew another person was going to be coming along shortly after. So they came along and I asked them, can you smell propane?

And they said, no they couldn't smell propane. And they were both really good. They both, you know, stood there and, you know, really smelled the air and they couldn't smell it. So after the second person, I thought well, this is ridiculous because it's all I smell. So strong that I just don't understand why they're not smelling it.

So I told both of them, there's a propane leak. I know there's a propane leak and I can smell it really strongly. And, you know, can we check it out? 

And so they went and got some water and some liquid soap and the propane tank was sitting outside the cabin right next to it, but outside of it. And using a bit of water and some soap, they put it where the cones connect to the propane tank. And sure enough, there were big bubbles, big bubbles. It was really, it was leaking very badly. 

So that's what I mean by anomalies. 

Thomas: When things are out of the ordinary, 

Rayne: Out of the ordinary. Absolutely. 

And it can be noticing things out of the ordinary in terms of sight, smell, sound, taste, all kinds of things. You know, you'll sometimes hear people with the HSP trait saying, “I just knew something was off by the way they text.”

Thomas: Right. 

Rayne: You know, so it can even get as subtle as that. Because it's that's energy essentially, you know, somehow,  getting that understanding from how long it takes that person to respond to you. The exact words they say and how they say them and you know, all of it, to come to the conclusion, hmm, something's off. That's an anomaly for this person essentially. Right? 

So, yeah, that's how I understand it.


How do you understand it in terms of HSPs and creativity, Thomas? 

Thomas: Yeah, for me it relates to subtlety. I notice that in myself, I tend to notice very subtle differences when I'm out and about when I'm in nature.  

Or even when I'm painting or whatnot. I'm very much paying attention to what let's say, I'm painting with watercolor and I'm really paying attention to what the watercolor is doing, how the pigments are flowing. 

And for some reason, this is funny to me, but I like gradients and I don't know if that has anything, you know, I'm just relating it sort of freeform right now in my mind.

But one of the beautiful things about watercolors is that you get these wonderful gradients where things can go from light to dark. And so there's something for me about subtle differences and those seem very interesting to me, you know? 

Rayne: It’s interesting because when you talk about gradients in relation to watercolors, that reminds me of emotions and the gradients of emotions, we can feel. And how that must be such a wonderful medium to express yourself, you know, depending on how you're feeling, the gradient can be really bright and rich or more subtle and soft.

Thomas: Well, one of the things that I know that I struggle with is how to translate all those emotions, whether it's a painting that I'm doing, a drawing, or if I'm writing, how do I tell a story?  

So there's something to that, about how you translate all this great emotional material that you feel that you're picking up all the time from having the HSP trait.

How do you translate that? 

Because I think there's always that desire to explain your experience and have other people see it, as a form of connection. 

Rayne: Yeah. Yeah. I can see what you mean by that. 

Thomas: So I want to explore the topic of inspiration because I think that has some relationship to the HSP trait.

Do you think about how inspiration arrives to you? 

Rayne: Well, yes I do. Because, you know, it's funny, I believe a lot of artistic people are like this or, draw their inspiration from this. 

And to me, it's about states of consciousness because I believe I'm just a vehicle.

I'm just kind of a physical vehicle here and that's coming through me. It's not really mine... like it is, but it's not, you know? 

Thomas: I have read so many artists say that exact thing. Like they're just the vehicle. They're just almost like the translator. 

Rayne: Absolutely. And it's a very different experience to, I guess you could say, devote yourself to that.  Because it does take discipline. Because I have to say my understanding of different states of consciousness.  

And I didn't realize it at the time, but it came at a young age from when I drowned.

So when I had a near-death experience and I drowned, I left my body. My NDE is a little bit different from what I've heard. Other people say similar things though. 

But essentially when I drowned, basically everything went black around the outside of my vision, and then it kept closing into a white pin. You know, pinhole type of thing. 

And then that pinhole started opening and that light kept getting brighter and brighter. 

But at the same time, I felt like I was being hurdled forward really fast, like really fast. And then I was just in this other place and I didn't have a form, you know, there were no physical bodies.

There were no trees and whatever, it wasn't like that. It was pure energy, pure energy,  pure, enlightened consciousness.  

It was like unconditional love that hopefully more people understand what that means, but it was just, it was amazing. It was just amazing.

Thomas: Yeah. 

Rayne: And then I was sort of told that I had to go back. Meaning back to my body. 

And I was like, no, I like it here because you're not constrained there. Right?

You're not constrained by anything so. But anyway, that was one consciousness I experienced. 

And then when I came back through that tunnel, I was essentially hovering over my physical body, which was laying on the deck by the Lake.  

Thomas: And at that point, you have been pulled out?

Rayne: I must've been, yeah. Yeah. But I mean, I wasn't aware of it because I was in that other consciousness. 

But when I came back to the second set of consciousness, I was kind of like ghostlike, and I had a brain and I was hovering over, like I was looking over the top of, down on my body and my grandmother was giving me CPR.

Yeah. And I was very detached like, “Oh, Is that me?”, you know, what's happening? 

Isn't that interesting? Like not worried, you know, not concerned at all, but it was also a different form of consciousness, right? 

To then all of a sudden feeling like that spirit part of me had been slammed into my physical body.

And that's when I regained, I don't know what you call it because I guess the third form of consciousness, right, where I was inhabiting my body, my physical body and rolling over and heaving and throwing up water and all that unpleasantness. 

So it was kind of confusing to me growing up because  I knew I was different and I knew part of that was the HSP trait.

But I think also part of that was from having experienced those different types of consciousness. 

Thomas: Right. 

Rayne: When I am like that with my practice of connecting to that state of consciousness,  where I was actually, where it was just all energy. 

For me, that's where a lot of it... It doesn't, it doesn't happen. The inspiration doesn't come when I am actually enjoying myself there. 

But it might be afterward when I go for a walk. And I'm just on a walk, not thinking about anything, and then all of a sudden an idea will pop up, right? 

Or I'll see something and it, or I'll read something or have a chat with somebody or whatever it is. And it'll be like, Oh, wouldn't this be cool?

And that's where the different inspirations pop up. So it's not like I expect these inspirations to come to me when I'm in that state of consciousness, because I don't, I'm just enjoying that state of consciousness. And using it as a way to allow that energy to use me as a medium, I guess, or a tool. 

Thomas: But it sounds to me that you are very open to hearing the inspirations when they do come. 

When you're not thinking about being inspired when you're just doing your walks or whatever you might be doing, you say, “Oh, look at that. There's something that came out of nowhere!”

Rayne: Yeah, absolutely. Yep. And it'll usually come up, “Oh, wouldn't that be cool.” You know? “Oh, do I want to try that? Yeah, let's try that.” 

And then, and then trying it. Yeah, absolutely. 

Thomas: Do you, do you perceive any downsides to having the HSP trait and creativity, you know, like burnout or... 

Rayne: Well,  I think the most common thing for HSPs is that they try to behave and live their lives as non-HSPs. 

Thomas: Oh yeah. 

Rayne: And that is a big creativity killer to me because we require a lot more downtime, a lot more processing time.  

You know, being highly creative, you have to create those pockets and enough space for you to actually do nothing. As weird as it sounds, do nothing. 

I think there have been studies done whereby reducing work weeks down to 30 hours a week, employees are far more productive than employees working 40 hours a week. 

Thomas: I've heard that.

Rayne: Right. And, you know, these are scientific studies that are proving it. And so you add that on top of...  because that essentially is telling us that that's an unhealthy lifestyle basically, right? 

Because to be productive, you know, if you're productive, that's what we want.

Right. And for an HSP, you might as well double that. You might as well double that because,  they can be highly, highly productive. 

I mean, when I get on a creative thing, I'll go for 16 hours a day, like nothing will stop me. It was just 10 minutes to eat maybe, you know what I mean? Because I am so enjoying what I'm doing and I'm so loving it. And I'm so just in it, you know what I mean? 

So that after that whatever has been created, that's it. I'm exhausted. I'm done for a while. I'm gonna relax, you know, I'm going to relax and rest. 

And then connect to know higher consciousness and that next inspiration will come to me.

And then away we'll go again. You know? 

So it's, it's very different from,  say a nine to five job where you do-do-do-do-do, you know, it's not like that. That's very kind of monotonous, whereas when you're in a creative way of being, it's more like waves, you know? 

Thomas: Yeah.

Rayne: They really are more like waves that you go up and you're highly, highly productive. 

And then it's like, okay, because it's like, it just has to burst out of you. 

It's like, it's like, Oh, this is so cool. You know, and all these ideas are coming to you. And so you're just so excited and it's just so cool.

Thomas: That's pretty much me all the time.

And you really hit the nail on the head. I know for myself, I do not give myself enough time to just sit and do nothing. Because there's just that energy that's just there. 

Rayne: Yeah, that expectation that you must be productive at all times or producing something or whatever it is.

Yeah. I could produce something, but will it be the quality that I know I'm capable of? That I'll be like, “Oh, this is so cool!” Like that. I know I won't care what anybody else thinks about it. I'm just in love with it. Like, I think it's the coolest thing ever.

And then, you know, like doing it for your own enjoyment.

Yeah. I think that's one of the things that's the biggest thing for HSPs is to just understand that, giving yourself that time. 

Thomas: You need that downtime. 

Rayne: Absolutely. Absolutely. Yeah. It's downtime because you're actually processing information in that downtime.

There's a lot of information we're taking in that we don't realize we're taking in that we're, processing. And giving ourselves that space where we can just to allow ourselves to do that. 

And that could mean just relaxing, doing nothing, listening to music or not listening to anything or reading, or, you know, like you say, painting or drawing.

 Or I recently got a calimba the other day and it sounds like this.

Thomas: And that's great. 

Rayne: Isn't that cool? 

Yeah. So just giving yourself different things to play with that you enjoy, in your downtime and just enjoying it. 

I think that's the thing is, we feel pressured to produce something, 

Thomas: That sense of obligation. Wherever that comes from. We make it up, you know, we make it up in our mind, but it's, it's there. 

Rayne: Yeah. We make it up in our minds. Or comparing to other artists, you know, or whatever it might be. 

I mean, it's all basically just finding what works for you, you know? Finding that nice, nice, good rhythm. It's a rhythm, really? 

And then when you find that rhythm, you know, stick to it, stick to it, which means having good, healthy boundaries and saying no to other things. That kind of thing, because creativity is just an absolutely amazing outlet for HSPs.

Thomas: It really is. 

Rayne: It is, it's healing, it's engaging, it involves our imaginations and involves our senses, all the things that were... I mean, everybody's blessed with those things.  

But HSPs, basically if we have to put up with the downsides of having the trait, which is,  getting overstimulated and you know, all these kinds of things, then we might as well enjoy the good things about it.

Thomas: That's right.

Rayne: Absolutely. Yeah. 

Thomas: Well Rayne. Thank you so much. This was a wonderful conversation. I really appreciate you taking the time to talk to me about this. 

Rayne: Oh, thank you, Thomas. I really, I really enjoyed it. I like talking about it. We haven't chatted about this before in this way, so I appreciate it.

Thank you. 

Thomas: Thanks, bye. 

Rayne: Okay. Bye-bye. 

Thomas: And thank you so much for listening to this podcast. I really appreciate that you took the time to listen. I hope there was an idea or two that will help spark your creativity.

And I hope you will join me for the next episode of Creative Shoofly. Until then stay safe and stay creative.

Oct 13, 2020

Ep 5 - Multipotentialites and Creativity, a conversation with Melissa Dinwiddie

Hi, it's Thomas. I'm continuing to explore the concept of multipotentiality and in this episode, I have a conversation with author and creativity instigator, Melissa Dinwiddie. and we talk about what it's like to be creative when you have so many different interests. I learned some new things in this conversation, and I think you'll enjoy it too.

Music Credit: 

Reflection Flow by Doxent Zsigmond (c) copyright 2018 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial (3.0) license. http://dig.ccmixter.org/files/doxent/58328 Ft: Javolenus, Rocavaco, Siobhan Dakay


Links for this episode:

Melissa Dinwiddie - melissadinwiddie.com and creativesandbox.solutions


Books mentioned in this episode:

The Creative Sandbox Way, by Melissa Dinwiddie

Refuse to Choose, by Barbara Sher

The above are affiliate links.


Thomas: Hello, and welcome to the Creative Shoofly Podcast. I'm Thomas Beutel. This podcast is about my creative process and one thing I've found is that I really get in my way a lot when it comes to making art and being creative. I want to do this podcast because I know it will force me to think more deeply about creativity. I'm hoping that doing this will push me and challenge me to create better art.    

Thomas: Hello, Melissa. How are you doing?

Melissa: Hi, Thomas. I'm doing pretty good today. How about you?

Thomas: I'm doing great.

For my listeners, this is Melissa Dinwiddie. She is the author of one of my favorite books on creativity. It's the Creative Sandbox Way, Your Path to a Full Color Life. Melissa's art includes drawing and painting, calligraphy, singing, dancing, music loops, animation, stage improv.

And I'm sure there are a lot of others.

Melissa: It's kinda, it's kind of neat hearing them listed out.

Thomas: Melissa, I've been thinking a lot about, and learning a lot about this concept of the multipotentialite.  And you refer to it as passion-pluralite, which I love the term because it really gets to the core of the way that I see it. And that is having lots of different passions. 

And one of the things that I've been wondering about, and the reason I wanted to have this conversation with you is about, how do passion-pluralites stay creative when they have so many passions?

Melissa: I like the way you asked the question, because so often what happens for people who have lots of different creative interests is we get paralyzed and we end up doing nothing because I think what a lot of us do is we feel like, well,  if I pick one of my creative loves, then that necessarily means that I'm saying no forever to all of the other ones, all of my other loves.

And so, it feels like you're killing all of your darlings, and that of course, that's paralyzing.

And, and so you either, it's kind of like this black and white thinking makes you feel like you either have to do all of them all the time, or none of them. Which is like somebody is holding a gun to your head.

Nobody's actually holding a gun to anybody's head. 

But I remember a moment. I was in my mid-thirties, maybe early thirties, and I was living in an apartment. And I remember I was, I was going out of my mind because I think at the time I was taking fiddle lessons. I pulled out my Viola after 28 years and I was playing viola, I might've been, I've been borrowing a violin at the time. I can't remember, but I was taking a swing fiddle lessons again, or, you know, for, for seven years and years and years playing violin again, or voila whichever one.

And I was sewing. And I think I was signed up to take like a couture sewing workshop or something, and I had a calligraphy business and that was really important to me.

And I think at the time I had gotten, I think this was right at the time when I was starting to get into jazz singing, or I hadn't been before I was getting into jazz singing, but I was doing a lot of singing.

And I was, I can't remember all the other things that I was doing, but it was just like, there's so many things that I was trying to do at the same time.

And I was going completely bonkers. I mean, there was no way I could do all of them.

And I suddenly had this realization that, it seems so simple now looking back at it. But it was like, this epiphany, it was like this light bulb moment when I realized, "I do get to do everything, just not all at the same time."

And it was like, bing!

And so I thought, I thought, okay, okay.  I know that I can’t limit myself to one because I'll be miserable. Cause I've tried that in the past.

For years, I had thought to myself, if only I could just focus on one thing and become, you know, like the best at that one thing, then I'd be happy, but I could never do that cause I couldn't be happy. I would get bored and I would just be miserable.

So I knew that one was not the answer. So I thought, well maybe I could pick two, and that, no, I knew that that wasn't going to work for me.

So I thought, okay. Maybe, maybe I could limit myself to three.

And I was in my kitchen and I looked at my stove and it was, you know, a typical traditional stove that has four burners.

And it occurred to me that there’s a reason that your typical stovetop has four burners. 

I mean theoretically one could make a stovetop that had, say 20 burners. Or a hundred burners. I mean, you couldn't really fit a hundred burners in a typical kitchen, but let's imagine that you had a stovetop that had 20 burners on it.

Your typical person, chef, let's say, cook. There's no way that you would be able to keep track of 20 dishes, whatever, pots on a stove. With 20 burners, you couldn't keep track of all those pots.

But four, you can actually kind of manage, you could have, I don't know, pasta boiling on one pot in the back and a sauce simmering on another pot in the back and something else,  I don't know, another, a pan of something cooking on one burner on the front.

And then the front-right burner of the stove that I happened to have in that apartment, the knob said high-speed, it was the high-speed burner. It's the big one. And it cooked hotter than all the others. So guess where I did most of my cooking? It was the high-speed burner.

And that's the only one that I could be actively like holding the pan and moving it around and stirring it. Cause I have two hands, that's the only one that I could actually be actively engaged, cooking, at that moment, but I can have other things simmering at the same time.

And so that became my metaphor and.

And I thought that, you know, maybe I'll, I'll try that. That seems like that might work for me. I could have four things going on my metaphorical stovetop at any given time. And I really liked that metaphor a lot because I could also have things in the refrigerator and in cupboards.

Thomas: Right. Ready to go.

Melissa: Ready to go and I can move pots around. We talk about putting things on the back burner and you can move pots from the back burner to the front burner at a moment's notice. And I could take a pot, put a lid on it and put it in the fridge at any moment and bring something out of the fridge and put it on the stove at any moment.

And I could pull ingredients out from the cupboard and pour those into another pot and put that on the stove and swap pots out.

So that has been a really useful metaphor for me. And I call it the stovetop model of life design. So I can have four pots on my stove at any given time.

And, you know, four sort of areas of adoration as it were, where I'm, you know, really putting a lot of energy into those sort of pots. And there's one thing that at any given moment, there's only one thing that I can actively be doing and really focusing my active attention on at any one moment.

Thomas: It’s a beautiful metaphor. I really like how you narrate this metaphor, because...  well, for one thing, I totally identified with you when you were describing how you were doing your swing fiddling and, calligraphy and all the other things that you were doing all at once.

I felt like, yeah, that's me all the time.

And then you also mentioned about only having that one thing that you can go deep into. And to me, that’s sort of that cultural thing that says, "Here, just have this one main burner, the high-speed burner, and that's all you get."

Melissa: Right.

Thomas: Our culture sort of, tries to impose that, or at least tries to say that's the best way. And for those of us who know that we have so many interests, that just doesn't work.

Melissa: No, it doesn't work. I think it was Barbara Sher who wrote Refuse to Choose. She hypothesizes that this idea that we're only supposed to have one big thing that we specialize in, and we're not supposed to be passion-pluralites. We're not supposed to be Renaissance souls. She calls people like us, she calls us scanners. I don't really like that term, but that's what she calls us.

She hypothesizes that this started with the cold war in the West, at least that’s when people were encouraged to really specialize down in, into the sciences and math.

And I don't know if that's the case or not, but if you look back, Benjamin Franklin was a Renaissance soul and,  you know, Thomas Jefferson and a lot of people that we look at as sort of cultural icons  were passion-pluralites, and that was considered to be a really good thing.

And not like this weird, like flaky thing that it's kind of considered to be now.

Thomas: [I tend to think that it kind of started with the Henry Ford production line where everybody was like, okay, you're going to do one thing. And then a lot of companies took a look at that and said, “Oh, how can we apply that production line to everything?”

Melissa: Yeah.

Thomas: You know?  I want to go back to the burners though, because... and also something you said before about,  saying no and saying yes. 

Recently I had an opportunity… a friend of mine asked whether I would participate in an upcoming art collective show.

And of course my answer was, "Yes!" My answer is always yes to new things.

And it forced me to basically clear the stove top completely.

I had to take a lot of stuff that I had simmering and I was working on the stuff that I had in front of me.  It was really like, putting all that stuff away in the refrigerator and in the cupboards, it really was like that. And I sort of made the decision on a dime.

Now I have a process where I review, every Thursday, what I want to do, for my art. I review it every Thursday and, and write a, sort of a weekly plan.

And that sort of keeps me aware of  what's on the stove for me. And so I'm wondering if you also experience this... if you experience saying yes a lot to things.

Melissa: Oh, yeah.  I am challenged to say, "No." That, I mean, that's, that's sort of a leading edge for me, as they say.

Thomas: Oh yeah. that. I know that feeling.

Melissa: But when you were talking about saying yes, and having to clear the decks, having to clear your stove top, that reminded me of when I wrote my book, The Creative Sandbox Way.

I realized I had a goal of finishing the book by the time I turned 50.

And when I suddenly realized. Oh, shoot. If I'm going to keep that commitment to myself, that means I have like three months to do this. I suddenly realized that I was going to need to clear a lot of my sort of day-to-day activities that I was doing. I was going to really have to change my schedule around and get rid of a lot of the things that were taking up my time if I was going to get the book done.

And so I like, for example, at the time I had this kind of little competition with myself to see how quickly I could build up an Instagram following. I created a brand-new Instagram account around calligraphy and I was just making little calligraphy videos every day, just to see how quickly I could build up this Instagram following.

And. You know, I thought, well, maybe I'll maybe I'll build a, sort of a side business, sort of a side hustle around this. And start doing calligraphy courses and stuff like that.

And I realized that had to go.

Because it was taking, I don't know, an hour or two every day to, make these videos and post them out and stuff.

So boom, immediately gone. That was it. I had no time for that. I had to get this book done.

So, you know, that was just one example. And, you know, I needed to spend four hours a day working on this book and there was no way that I was going to be able to get it done if I was spending time on Instagram or anything else.

Thomas: I find that's the beauty of deadlines, right? Deadlines are one of the things  that  can get us focused when in reality we want to go everywhere else.  I know for me that I feel bad when I'm working on one thing and I'm not working on all those other things I want to work on.

I have that sort of down feeling. You know, it feels good to be working on one thing. And I am making progress. In fact, now I have a  book that I update every evening. I call it my completion diary. And I write down what I completed that day.

And then I have a little stamp that says COMPLETED! And I go and stamp it, you know? So there's actually a physical motion  to seeing that I'm completing things. So that feels great.

But I still have that regret in the background's like, well, I'm not working on that. I'm not working on that. And I'm not working on that.

But that's the beauty of deadlines. Deadlines have that lovely way of focusing our minds and allowing us and  giving us the space to actually finish things.

Melissa: Yeah, absolutely. You know, very little gets done in my world without a deadline. But what you just said about the, of this sort of regret that you feel when you're working on one thing and you feel good about getting that done, but sort of regret that you're not getting something else done. I really resonate with that.

And, you know, Thomas, I will be at say one of the retreats that I lead. In the non-covid times, retreats that are in-person and I spent five days and I'm off and I'm, you know, with people that I'm so enjoying being with, and I'm making art and out walking on hikes and laughing with people and just like, my favorite time of the year and it's wonderful.

And I feel like, Oh my gosh, I want to be, I just want to live here. I don't want to go home. It's wonderful.

And also at the same time, I'm missing the things that I'm not doing, while I'm at the retreat because when I'm at the retreat, I'm not able to have my regular, you know, I don't know workout routine. I'm not able to be with my cat.

I'm not, if my husband's not at the retreat, I'm not able to be with my husband.

I'm, you know, there's so many things that I'm not able to do when I'm at the retreat. If I, you know, I used to go to jazz camp every year and spend eight days making music and singing, and I would feel like, Oh my gosh, I never want to leave.

I want to be here all the time. I love being able to dive into my music and just really focus on that. And also I'm not making any art. And I really miss making art. I'm really frustrated that not making any art while I'm here. And also, I love that I get to dive into my music.

So yes, it's both things at the same time.

And you know, there there's a community of applied improvisers that I'm part of. And right now during the time of COVID, we have every Friday an open space on zoom that I participate in.

And when during the non-COVID times, there's an annual in-person world conference somewhere around the world.  And where there is as part of the conference, there's an open space section of the conference where the participants lead and create the sessions and you choose where you want to go.

And. Anyways, it's kind of magical.

And one of the principles of open space at the applied improvisation network is, you've heard of FOMO, Fear Of Missing Out?

Well at the applied improvisation network conference and at these open space events on zoom, we talk about COMO: Certainty Of Missing Out.

Cause you can't clone yourself.

These events are not recorded and you are going to want to go to many of the sessions. You can only go to one at a time. That is the way it is. And there, you are going to miss out.

That's the reality of life. That's the reality of being a human being. That's the reality of the day space, time continuum...

Thomas: Yep.

Melissa: ...as it is right now. Yeah. And so, you know, we talk about embracing the COMO, embrace the fact that you are going to miss out and just lean into it and be where you are in the moment.

Really enjoy it. And then wherever you are in the next moment, really lean into that.

Embrace the COMO that yes, you are missing out on the other thing and just be where you are right now. And if you don't want to be where you are right now, leave, go into the other thing.

Thomas: I mean, you have choices.

Melissa: [Yeah. And which is hard.

Choices are hard.

It's easier not to have choice. We don't like not having choice, but having a lot of choice is hard.

And I mean, that is, what's so hard about being a passion-pluralite because we have so much choice. It makes our lives, you know, gives our lives, that extra layer of challenge that, that we have to learn how to manage.

Thomas: And I would also say it also gives us a certain sparkle

Melissa: Oh, yes, absolutely.

Thomas: There something about being passionate in itself. That is, that is so sparkling.

Melissa: I mean, I wouldn't choose to be any other way. I love being a passion-pluralite. It also drives me crazy.

Thomas: Yeah, I know.

Melissa: And yes. Um, I, I love it. I mean, I love having so many different things that I love and it's challenging. I won't lie.

Thomas: I want to ask you something related to improv. 

So I've been to several of your in-person Sunday retreats and also online retreats. And you do some improv exercises at the beginning.  The purpose of which is to get out of your head,  and one effect is to help your gremlins go away for a little bit.

And one thing that I found that it also helps me, is that sometimes I get so hyper-focused on an idea or thing, or in an interest that it blocks out everything else.

And so one of the wonderful effects that I experienced when we do these  improv exercises, that it helps break that as well. 

And so I was wondering if you could speak a little bit to that, about how it seems to me that doing these exercises before you start a creative endeavor is really helpful because it scrambles the brain, or it clears the brain in such a beautiful way  that it opens up more creativity when you actually sit down and start.

Melissa: Yeah. Yeah, definitely.

I think we have a tendency to get kind of stuck in our ruts, you know, stuck in our patterns our ways.

Think about a horse on a trail ride. And they kind of fall asleep as they're walking along.

I went on a trip. I went on a cattle drive many years ago on the big Island of Hawaii, actually on a working cattle ranch, you can pay, I dunno, it was something like 150 bucks or something. It was not cheap.

And you, they put you on a real working horse. And they assigned him to you depending on your level of skill of horseback riding, and they instruct you to not let your horse follow another horse. 

If the horse starts to follow another horse, then it will kind of fall asleep and it will get into that, like we're going on a trail, right, duh, duh, duh, duh, plodding along.

And they do not want the horses to do that. They want the horses to be awake and they want you to lead the horse across that. You're just on a field. You're out there on this like wide-open field. And they tell you, “Okay, now we're going to start trotting.”

“Okay. Now those of you who are more advanced, you're going to take your horse into a canter,” and stuff like that. And it's very rare that you get the opportunity to do just kind of run wild with a horse.

Usually, if you're like a tourist, you go on a trail ride and you're just plodding along and super boring.

And that's like, that's what we want to do with our brains. Our brains are used to them plodding along like a horse on a trail. Right?

We don't want to do that. We want our brains to not know what's coming next so we can think of something unexpected, right? And I mean, this is what we want for our creativity.

Our creativity... creativity is by definition something that hasn't been done before. If it's been, it's unknown. If it's been done before, it's not creative.

That's, you know, by definition you're doing something that's been done before, it's not creative, by definition.

So we want to treat our brains like those horses. We want to take them off the trail out from behind the other horses, so it doesn't get into that trail ride rut and the improv games are kind of doing that same kind of thing.

It's like jolting the horse. It's like yanking the reins and going, Nope, we're going this way. Nope. We're going that way. Nope. We're going this other way. Nope. We're turning you around. Nope. Okay. Now we're taking you into a trot. Nope. Okay. Now we're taking you into a canter. Nope. Nope, no, we're stopping. Nope. Now we're going this other way.

That's exactly what they're doing.

Thomas: And it has that, the wonderful effect of just waking the brain up.

Melissa: Yeah.

Thomas:  And getting it out of where it was. And that's what's so that, that I'm finding so useful for me in those exercises is like, Oh, now I can, now it can be much more open to whatever may happen creatively.

Melissa: Yeah, absolutely. My favorite ones are the ones where if I feel like my brain has just kind of been. Fried a little bit

Thomas:  Yeah.

Melissa: Because I so in present time, like I'm, I'm out of the, whatever I was thinking about before. You know, whatever, whatever I was ruminating on, it's just gone.

I'm so like, wait, where are we? I'm like, I'm like, I'm trying to figure out what, what we're, what, what we're dealing with in this moment of improv craziness.

I was so fully present.

And that is where we want to be. When we're working on something, you know, some creative project. We want to be fully present.

Thomas: I do have a practice every morning.  It's basically a daydream practice that I do right after I meditate.

So I do a breathing meditation, you know, 10-minute breathing meditation every morning,  which helps by the way.  For the letting go process. Right?  It's very useful for, we were talking before about, about having regrets about not doing this and that. And so meditation in itself seems to help a little bit along those lines. 

But in the, in my dream practice, I find that I am most successful if I close my eyes. And just let everything drift away, including like even myself. I just, I sort of tell myself I want to drift away completely, so that I'm in nothingness.

And that seems to be the most successful way for me to attract wonderful, crazy, silly, stupendous ideas, which then I write down. Once the ideas form and they appear, I write them down in my bullet journal.

I'm wondering though, if there's something that I can do, even in addition to just closing my eyes and trying to disappear. I'm wondering if there's maybe a, I don't know. Improv sometimes it's a little hard to do just by yourself.

Melissa: You know, the closest thing to improv that I do is my doodle practice.

And I mean, I was, I haven't been doing it consistently lately, but I did for a few years, every morning, a doodle practice. That really, I mean, it is improv because I start from nothing and I just… I like to talk about letting my inner four-year-old inhabit the tip of the pen and I give my inner four-year-old free reign to do whatever she wants to do.

And, you know, I also talk about how we all have fear of the blank page.

And the way that I deal with fear of the blank page is I just make it un-blank.

And how do you make an un-blank?

You just make a mark and it doesn't matter what kind of mark you make, because once you make a mark, it's no longer a blank page.

Now you can have fear of the mark, but you can't have fear of blank page anymore.

So, whatever you got, we all have that pristine journal that somebody bought you, or that you bought yourself on a shelf sitting somewhere or that beautiful piece of watercolor paper that you're afraid to touch because you're afraid you're going to ruin it because it's so pristine and you're waiting until that time that you have such time as you're good enough to, you know, to, to put pen to paper or paint to paper.

And you're never going to be good enough. So you're never going to touch that journal or that piece of paper.

And I say, pull it out! Make a mark on it!

And then your inner four-year-old is inhabiting the tip of that pen or that brush or whatever you're using, your pencil or whatever.

And let her play. And let her or him just... now her job is just to play.

And your job, your sole job is to be vigilant and watch for gremlins. And those gremlins are going to appear, just like your breath, just like your thoughts are going to appear as you're breathing, as you're doing your breath meditation, and every time your thoughts appear, you notice them and you let them go.

And every time your gremlins appear you thank them for their concern, and you send them off to get a pedicure.

That's it!

So your inner four-year-old is inside the tip of that pen and just responding, just reacting to that mark. However she wants to.

And your job is to let her have free reign and to watch for gremlins thank them when they appear and send them off to get another pedicure.

And that is the practice.

Thomas: I'm going to try that actually, I'm going to try, because it never occurred to me that that is really an improv practice that can help clear the mind, but it, I can see how it is.

Melissa: Yeah, it's um, it's so related to meditation to me. 

And it is improv because you are... it is completely improvisational. You start from nothing, you are responding. You're making an offer. Improv is all about offers and building on offers, accepting offers, and building them. The shorthand in the improv world is Yes, And.

But we're not necessarily literally saying yes, we're accepting the offer and building on that offer.

And an offer can be in the world of improv when you're on stage, an offer can be anything, somebody walks on stage and does something, or they say something and your job is to accept the reality of what they just endowed. And to build on that reality somehow.

And with your pen and your paper, or your paintbrush and your paper, or canvas or whatever it is you're working on.

Or if you're, if you're, you know, playing your guitar, it's the sound that you made with the guitar, whatever. Your job is to accept that, whatever just happened, whatever mark was just made, except that.

That's the reality.

You're not going to cross it out. You're not going to erase it. You're not going to... your gremlins might say that sucks. You're not going to accept that. You're going to thank them for their concerns. They're just trying to protect you, send them off to get a pedicure, protect your inner four-year-old. 

And so this is the reality, your inner four-year-old made a mark, and now your inner four-year-old is going to, you are accepting the reality of that mark. Your inner four-year-old is going to respond to that market in some way and build on it.

Thomas: I want to ask you about a variation on that. And that is once you start drawing and once you start making a mark, there's a variation where you don't lift the pen. Where you just keep going. 

I started doing a little bit of creative writing and one of the things that I'm doing is once I start writing, I don't stop. Like I don't, I try not to, I don't stop to think or to edit or to criticize or critique what I just wrote.

And I've been finding that very useful in, in sort of breaking through and finding new ideas in terms of creative writing. And I've also noticed that in sketching and drawing that sometimes that is useful because you allow yourself to accept whatever the mark was. Even if, the Mark didn't land where you wanted it to land, you just accept it.

Melissa: Yeah. I love that variation.

Thomas: Well, that's cool. I'm going to try this. I'm actually going to sandwich this (doodling) between my meditation and my daydream practice. I'm going to sandwich doing this to see specifically to see how it affects my daydreaming and see what kind of ideas show up. 

Because sometimes some days I come up with 10, 11, 12 ideas that get into my journal, and some days it's like one or two.

And you know, there are reasons for it, whatever they are. My mind is present or not as present as it could be. 

But I'm always looking for ways to be more open, particularly when I'm giving myself that luxury of having, I usually give myself 20 or 25 minutes to daydream.

That's a luxury and I really like it. I enjoy it.

And the ideas that I've come up with are just crazy and wonderful. 

I'll be curious to see how this turns out. How it affects that practice.

Melissa: Yeah, I'll be curious too.

Thomas: And I'll be sure to post all my stuff on my Instagram feed. Of course. I mean, if I'm going to doodle, I might as well post it.

Melissa: Oh, yeah, definitely.

Thomas: Well, Melissa, this has been a wonderful conversation. I really appreciate that you took the time today to have this conversation with me.  I hope that it resonated with you.

Melissa: Well, I appreciate you inviting me. I always enjoy chatting with you, Thomas.

Thomas: Well, thank you. And thank you so much for listening to this podcast. I really appreciate that you took the time to listen. I hope there was an idea or two that will help spark your creativity.

 And I hope you will join me for the next episode of Creative Shoofly. Until then stay safe and stay creative.


Sep 16, 2020

Ep. 4 - Being a Multipotentialite, a Conversation with Robyn Penney

Hey, it's Thomas. Welcome to Episode 4 of the Creative Shoofly Podcast. In this episode, I'm doing something a little bit different. I have invited a good friend of mine, Robyn Penney, to have a conversation about being a multipotentialite.

This term was somewhat new to me and I learned a lot in this conversation with Robyn.

I really enjoyed having this conversation. And I hope you'll like it too.

Music Credit: 

Reflection Flow by Doxent Zsigmond (c) copyright 2018 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial (3.0) license. http://dig.ccmixter.org/files/doxent/58328 Ft: Javolenus, Rocavaco, Siobhan Dakay


Books mentioned in this episode:

Refuse to Choose, by Barbara Sher

How to be Everything, by Emilie Wapnick

The above are affiliate links.


Links mentioned:

HSP World Podcast


Intro: Hello, and welcome to the Creative Shoofly Podcast. I'm Thomas Beutel. This podcast is about my creative process and one thing I've found is that I really get in my way a lot when it comes to making art and being creative. I want to do this podcast because I know it will force me to think more deeply about creativity. I'm hoping that doing this will push me and challenge me to create better art.  

Thomas: Hello Robyn.

Robyn: Hi.

Thomas: Hi! This is Robyn Penney, Robyn. You are my first guest on my podcast, so thank you for that.

Robyn: Oh, what an honor. I didn't know. That's fun.

Thomas: I'm so glad we're doing this. I wrote to you a while ago and I said, I am learning about, and I'm reading about this idea of being a multipotentialite and you responded by saying, “Great, let's have a conversation about that.”

So that's what we're doing right now. So thank you.

Robyn: Yeah. Thank you.

Thomas: I'm going to start by going over what a multipotentialite is. A multipotentialite is someone that has lots of interests and creative pursuits, and there are many different names for a multipotentialites:

Polymath, Renaissance man or Renaissance person.

Renaissance soul is actually the term that I like to use. It's gender-inclusive, I think.

Scanners another term for it.

Generalist, multi-hyphenate, multi-passionate or passion-pluralite. That's another one that I like a lot.

And some people that are identified as multipotentialites:

Isaac Newton, Benjamin Franklin, Beatrix Potter.

Hedy Lamarr, Julia Child, Geena Davis, Maya Angelou

Queen Margrethe of Denmark

Probably any of the MythBusters, but for me especially Adam Savage and Kari Byron.

I really like Tom Lehrer, the satirist, singer, songwriter, mathematician and professor.

And of course Leonardo DaVinci. He's sort of the prototype Renaissance person because he lived in the Renaissance.

And so that's just a small sample. Obviously there are many many people that I left out. What do you think of that list? Did I miss anybody that you want to mention?

Robyn: I think that, no, that's a nice comprehensive list. Well I mean comprehensive… it gives us a lot of good ideas across the ages and you've got men and women in there.

I was wondering maybe you'd like to do it in your own words how you would actually define the concept? So you heard a few names for it, but like how would you explain briefly what is meant by multipotentialite?

Thomas: I think for me is just someone who has lots of different interests and doesn't specialize in any one thing. Maybe to sort of broaden the concept I would say, someone who has more interests than typical. Is that a good way to put it?

Robyn: Yeah, because I think it's more than just like what we would call a well-rounded person. Like a well-rounded person who's maybe a person who has their job and then a couple of hobbies and interests that they occasionally do. Right?

But these are I think there's a level of passion and perhaps even commitment and skill that would come out in more than one of the person's area of interest.

Thomas: There's a Russian term I think it's called Ras which means passion. It's often used in terms of people who go on mushroom hunts or foraging for mushrooms. They're said to have a Ras for mushrooms and that term, I hope I'm saying it right.

(Editor's note: the Russian term for passion is страсть, pronounced strast')

But that term sort of speaks to me in terms of the passion that I feel for all the different things that I like. Like it's not just a passing interest. It's like, “Oh yeah I get into it!” Yeah. How about you?

Robyn: Yeah, I would say so. I think having multiple interests that almost feel like viable career opportunities or business opportunities. They aren't all, right? Because I don't have the time energy or expertise to devote to every single thing that I'm interested in.

But I would say probably every one of my passions is something that at some point I seriously entertained, “Okay, you know how in-depth can I go with this?” Right?

I had a moment… and maybe for example if I think of maybe dance… I was not very likely that I would get to a professional level of expertise there, but I do remember having a little moment of grief one day. It's around when I turned 30 and I was like, “Oh I guess that's it! I guess I'm never going to be a professional dancer!” Right?

So even if I kind of knew on some level that I didn't really have the skill to become a professional dancer, my interest in it was such that it felt like a very important part of me. And it didn't feel like something that I was… it didn't feel like just a fleeting interest that I would do for fun.

No, it felt like something very very central to what I want to do and how I want to spend my time like there's no one center.

That's the thing that's so tricky about this, right? It's ever-elusive and there's not necessarily one center. That's certainly not at the center of my life but it's an important piece.

Thomas: And you know here's the thing. You could easily find a partner and find a place at a local studio and say, "I'm going to give lessons. Come show up!" and people will show up. So you know that you could do it.

Robyn: Yeah. I did have… well there was a point actually when I was working with one professional dancer and he said, “Yeah, you should get into teaching.” Because I am a teacher by profession, just not in that area, that, “Oh you should get into it.”

And so I think I probably could have so I could have. Yes, I could have had some level of professional or expertise in it. But it didn't feel… it felt like that would then it would make it too close to my other job. So I didn't want that, but I do have lots of friends actually who become dance teachers kind of as a side gig.

Thomas: Right.

Robyn: So yeah I guess another way to describe multipotentialite is someone who actually kind of likes having a bunch of side gigs. The gig economy got several downsides to it, but one upside is that if you are someone who wants to try different things often and wear different hats and use different skillsets, you can be benefited from this economic situation. That definitely allows for it.

Thomas: I think so And that that would definitely describe what I do I been self-employed for 16 years now doing basically whatever clients come and ask me for, whether it's setting up a website or working on databases or creating APIs, application programming interfaces, or combining it all, integrating them.

It's kind of neat because I don't advertise myself as just one thing. People, just by word of mouth, come to me and say, “Thomas do you think you could do something like this?” And I look at it and say, “Well let me give it a try. You know, why not?”

Robyn: It's that creative spirit, right?

Thomas: Yeah

Robyn: Yeah, it's wanting to find ourselves in situations where we get thrown in and someone says, “Okay, I trust you to just use whatever skills are at your disposal to figure it out.” Right?

And I think if you are a multipotentialite I think there's a kind of thrill that comes from being like, “Oh, okay, I'm in this relatively or even totally new situation. Can I figure out what has to be done here? And then comes the really cool part which is, you start drawing on your diversity of experiences and knowledge and training and saying, “Okay, how can I approach a situation uniquely?” Right?

Thomas: I'm curious, when do you did you first sort of sense that you had all these interests, that are more interests than other people did?

Robyn: Yeah I can't put my finger on one specific place. I think I actually knew for a while. I think I even knew as a teenager.

I'm reminded of how when I was applying for different programs at university or thinking about what I would apply to a university. A lot of people were telling me, “Oh, you should go into med school. You got good grades going to med school. Be a doctor.” Right? Because people equate good performance at school with an ability to succeed in the medical world and it’s not necessarily the same thing but that's just kind of a stereotype that was floating around.

I remember my dad when... he is really quite a laser-focused specialist. He's a scientist and he said, “No, Robyn shouldn't go into medicine. You need a lot of passion to be in that field. And she doesn't have it.”

So he was right about one thing and he was wrong about one thing. He was definitely right, I mean, I don't know, right. So it's a life I didn't take… I didn't go to med school.

I think he's right that I didn't have the single-minded focused that it would have, and commitment that it would have taken for me to get through med school. I mean I see people who even just the process of applying who will spend years of their life doing whatever it takes to get into the program and that's just to get in. Right?

And so I mean that's a level of commitment to one area of expertise. He's right, I just did not have that but where I think what he said wasn't correct. It's not at all true that I don't have passion. I just have too many passions to necessarily translate into one career, that would take me in different directions.

And I was more passionate about seeing what connections can be made. I used to love doing that, you know, when you're in school? One thing I liked about school is that they would allow you to take all sorts of different courses.

Especially in pre-university courses, where I was in a science program. But I had to take philosophy classes, English literature, language, sports/ We had to do all of that. And, yeah, I remember I'm really enjoying that mix and wanting to think, “Oh, okay, here's this question about the human condition. How did the psychologists answer it? And how did the philosophers answer it?”

And I would love like playing with the same idea back and forth and seeing it from different angles. I ended up going into university in a program that was half arts, half science. And then I finally settled on psychology, which for me was like a nice marriage of the two, but then you know I didn't settle on that either.

And then, I mean I won't get into my whole story just yet, but I think right around that age that you start having to think seriously about what your career path is going to be.

I was already resisting uncomfortably. I didn't feel good about it. Right? I didn't want to be someone who was doing multiple things… I wanted to be the single-minded expert type.

It probably would have been easier if I had just said, “Oh, okay, it's very clear, chemistry is for me. And I'm going to stay with that forever.”

I'm not saying that it's easy to study chemistry. Just it would have been clearer and simpler, but there are still are advantages.

And I think they crop up later. I think it takes longer, right? When you're planting a more diverse garden, takes a little bit longer for everything to grow in. And to see what shape it's going to take, and how the different.

I can't keep going on this metaphor. I don't garden. But maybe just see how the different colors fit together. I don't know.

I think it takes longer to reap the benefits, but they are definitely, there are definitely some.

What about for you? When did you put your finger on that narrative?

Thomas: For me, it's been sort of slow in coming. Although I already sort of knew when I started work out of college that I was a generalist. I wanted to be a generalist.

What's so funny about how you were talking about you know getting that laser focus… When I went into high school I was absolutely convinced that I was going to go into some sort of life science: biology, zoology, something having to do with animals, maybe microbiology, I don't know.

But it was like, that's what I wanted to do. I wanted to work with animals. That was it. And I had sort of designed my high school coursework in that way to be heavy on the sciences and all that kind of stuff.

And in my sophomore year, a friend of mine pulled me aside and he says… so this is now 1976… He pulls me aside, “I got to show you what's in his closet over here!”

And so this is on the third floor, which is like the math and science floor in our high school, and we go in this closet. There's a teletype and it's connected to a computer across town. A bunch of kids got together and formed a computer club and they were renting this so that we could actually sit on a computer, a real live computer in 1976. Right?

This is you know in the era of mainframes and stuff like that and it didn't take me like a week or two to decide, “Oh! This is what I'm going to. I'm into computers now. Forget biology! I mean who's going to make money in biology!?”

That was one of the things that was in my mind. Right? Because I was sort of steeped in that, you know, go get a job, a career here, whatever.

And by the end of high school, I had already started tutoring other kids how to program and all that. And when I got into college I decided, you know, I've had enough of software… I'm going to get into electronics. So I actually got my degree in electronics.

So now that I'm thinking about it, I definitely had that multipotentialite flexibility of just like, changing on a dime. Ooh, this is interesting, let's do this… And then, oh look over here…

So I ended up working in Silicon Valley as a test engineer, as opposed to being a hardware designer. And test engineers are generalists. We basically get whatever we get and we have to figure out how to test it so that we can sell it. And so there was a lot of MacGyvering and working up solutions on your own to figure out how to do this.

But it was around that time when I was in maybe a couple of years into my career and I thought, “This is what I want. I don't want to become a specialist in anything. I want to actually stay a generalist.”

And I was able to parlay that into vastly different jobs. I went from test engineer to software configuration management. Then I became a consultant and then I became an I.T. director and then went on my own. And now I'm everything. Sort of.

Robyn: There’s a couple of things that stand out there for me. One is I think kind of a good takeaway for anyone listening, who identifies with this profile, is you know pick up a generalist skill.

In your case, I guess it was being a test engineer. Right? And then in my case, well it's teaching.

These are things that you can then kind of pour out, into different contexts, and keep it interesting without starting entirely from scratch each time.

I feel like if you are embarking on a career and you're like, “Well, I don't see myself fitting into one thing where I get interested in so many things…” If you can pick up a skill set that can be used in more than one context, I think it gives you a good chance to feed that side of yourself.

Thomas: And I'm making a conjecture that being a generalist is actually more and more important nowadays. In the sense that jobs are changing so fast. I kind of think that (the focus on) specialists were sort of emphasized in the 20th century.

Whereas before, I mean we talked about the Renaissance era and times before. The people that really stood out in those times we're the Renaissance people, the Renaissance souls, the people that sort of did a whole bunch of different things.

And then now we're sort of getting back into the time where, I think again it's just sort of a conjecture, but being a generalist is not a bad thing to be.

Robyn: Well it might be a little bit too early to say, but I think you have a point that there's some reason to think given the current global situation that people who have adaptable skillsets, transferable skill sets, and who actually excel at moving quickly from one context to another one, would be an advantage right now. Right?

Because we're living in a very quickly evolving time that's full of uncertainty. Right?

I'm thinking back to the beginning of the pandemic when some people who are used to having stable employment and the stable paycheck are quite worried about, “Oh, this is awful! I don't know when I'm going to be paid next! I don't know what I'm going to be doing in six months!”

And I think a lot of us freelancers we're sitting there going, “Welcome to the club!” We've been doing this for years. I mean, I go through periods of being paid more regularly but I go through periods where, okay, one contract is up and I don't know in six months what project I will actually be working on. Right?

Yeah, I don't know exactly where the money's going to be coming from. It all always sort of seems to work itself, out especially the more you build the client base with a series of contracts that are related to each other and you have a good network.

That definitely makes it easier to get consistent work, but underpinning that you know… and not every multipotentialite is a freelancer either or self-employed… But I think it's a lot of us and so when that happened I was like, “Eh, this again.”

Now I'm not the only one. At least that aspect of it, the uncertainty aspect, right? Which is never pleasant but I think you do build up a certain resilience. An ability to deal with it, or if nothing else, just a familiarity with it.

And I think more and more people are going to be faced with that. So yeah it does give us an advantage.

Thomas: I don't want to argue that that being a generalist is in any way better than being a specialist. We need both.

I guess the only thing I wanted to point out is that I think there was a little bit of an overemphasis of specialization and I think we're now getting to understand a better balance, I think.

Robyn: Right. I mean specialists will continue to be extremely valued, I think. Yeah, in any context, especially the more that we do have particular problems with climate, with epidemiological problems. Right? I think that that will take a lot of specialist knowledge.

So it's not as if expertise is going away.

And it's also not to say that generalists don't have expertise. They do. It's just not necessarily condensed in one area. It's more about being multidisciplinary or interdisciplinary as well.

I think you're right. That there will be hopefully, maybe we'll see how it goes, but there may be more room and more appreciation of that skill set.

Thomas: There there are a couple of books that I've been reading. One is called Refuse to Choose, by Barbara Sher

And the other one is How to be Everything, by Emilie Wapnick, and I'll put links to these in the show notes.

I haven't gotten very far in Emilie's book yet. At least in the beginning it's more focused on careers.

But I'm really, really enjoying Barbara Sher's book Refuse to Choose. Because one thing we haven't spoken yet Robyn is about the challenges of being a multipotentialite which there are many.

Robyn: Oh yeah.

Thomas: And the Refuse to Choose book has really been an eye-opener for me because Barbara Sher goes through and describes so many variations or styles of being a multipotentialite.

And there's one style that I particularly identify with. She calls it the cyclic scanner. (She refers to multipotentialites as the scanners.) And that is someone who will go back to certain interests over and over again.

And that describes me so well. For me, it's trains and then it's fishing and then it's mushrooms and it's music and dance, and I'll always come back to them. I'm always coming back to them.

Robyn: I can relate to that too, in my case, I've always had an interest in psychology, philosophy, language, literature, education and teaching and personal development, and then also dancing and music. And these have always come back in different forms.

When I was saying that it may take longer for us to reap the benefits of this profile, I think sometimes it's because it may just take us a while to notice the pattern and see the cycle. Right?

I'm actually coming back to... I'm closing a loop that has been kind of open for a long time. I spent the last eight or so years as a language teacher.

And just this session, I got offered a contract to teach psychology, which was my undergrad. So, you know, several years later I'm actually drawing on this. I had never lost my interest in it. I was continuing to read books and listen to podcasts and lectures on the side.


But it was always like this weird, you know, painting my room and listening to lectures on ADD, and my roommate was like, “What are you doing?” Yeah. Okay. That's weird! But it was because it was an enduring interest, that now I don't do. Now I'm not listening to psychology podcasts because I'm preparing a course on it.

So then I've cycled away from that habit because I've put it somewhere else in my life.

I think that that pattern is there. I am a familiar, a little bit more with the Emily Wapnick book. I've read that one and I've started getting into Barbara Sher's book. I think Barbara Sher says more specifically, or it goes a little bit more in-depth about the different profiles, with the different types of scanner that you could be.

I think they both share a general message that people may have a sense that there's something wrong with them. Because it comes with certain challenges. And then both are trying to say, here's maybe a different way to look at this profile.

So instead of just saying, Oh, you can't commit, or you're scattered, or you never finish anything, instead of saying that saying like, well maybe... I like the way Barbara Sher puts it. She says, well, maybe what your objective, your goal, or your reward in doing something is different than what a specialist would be looking for.

A specialist would be looking for, how can I find out as much as possible about this? How can I reach a certain level of knowledge or skill or expertise that most people don't have, because I love this thing so much?

Whereas for the scanner, the objective could be very different. It could simply be, you know, let me find out everything I can about this area. And then once I've found everything, I move on to the other thing.

So if you have a more general interest, let's say in, in learning and education. And so you stay in one area and you think about, “How does knowledge about biology affect this? What does that tell me about learning and education?” Okay, great.

Now let me go find out. I don't know, let me go look at arts education at home. Okay. “How do you, how do you learn art? How's it different from learning science at home? Or where do I learn as someone who's becoming an artist?”

“What do we notice about my process of education and growth in this area?”

So it's less about, let me learn about biology and more like, let me take what I need from this.

I think this is a really good metaphor…

So I think my reading habits reflect what it's like for me to be a multipotentialite. Even, even the fact that I've often internalized a negative view it, so I've always said I'm a bad reader, in the sense that I have so many unfinished books on my shelf or books that have kind of, you know, meant to read, but didn't really get to.

I'll just read a couple of chapters at the end, you know, or in the middle and then kind of left for something else.

And then I realized, I noticed at some point that it's not that I was, you know, picking up a book, getting bored and leaving it. Sometimes that happened.

Oftentimes times I keep coming back to a book and I would say, okay, now I'm going to read chapters three and four. Okay. I'm done. And then, ah, chapters, I don't know, six and seven are catching my interest. Oh, let me go read it.

And then two years later, I said, you know what? I really want to read that book religiously. And then I'll go back and read the whole thing, start to finish.

And I noticed I did this with a lot of books. And again, I think it's that cyclical nature coming out. And I think it's because I often I was, I was looking for whatever was relevant.

I was getting whatever I needed from the book. I wasn't a slave to the book, you know, I wasn't there to say, Oh, what does this author have to say about this point.

I was trying to take what was relevant to me from that book. And if something wasn't relevant, Okay. Maybe I'll it's noted in my mind. I know it's there. Maybe I'll come back to it and maybe I won't and often I do.

Thomas: I so appreciate that she (Barbara Sher) put it in that language to, she put it in that way, that you go get what you need and you get out.

And that describes me to a tee. I don't know about you, but I have probably close to 30 books that are lying next to my bed. And they're all partially read. Right? I haven't read, I haven't completed a one.

I mean, I've completed a few. So sometimes there's something that's so wonderful and it reads well that it holds my interest. It's just a joy to read.

But for the most part is like, yeah, I'm getting in there. And, and I'm reading this one chapter about this specific thing. And it's like, Oh, that's interesting. That leads me to think about this other thing. And now I'm in a different book, you know?

Robyn: Yeah, exactly.

Thomas: So Barbara Sher's book has been a great help for me, specifically in the suggestions that she gives in how to make the most of this profile. I used to drive myself nuts with making plans like here, I want to do this project.

And then I would make a checklist and all that kind of stuff. And lo and behold, I would start out and do some of it and then put it away and it'd be sitting for two months, three months.

And I would feel bad because I'd looked at all these checklists that were just, you know, a few things checked off and now I'm doing something totally different. I'm taking just a portion of all these different things that I might want to complete.

For cyclical scanners, she says, develop a 15-month goal calendar.

Fifteen months!

But I did that and sure enough, I have maybe a dozen things on there that I'm wanting to accomplish in the next year.

And so the metaphor she uses is like the school day. Like, you get to go to different classes, like five different classes. Right? So I do it in the terms of a weekly, I call it my weekly sprint.

But I pick just certain tasks from all these different goals, my 15-month goals, and put them on my weekly list.

And now I'm finding that I'm I have a lot less stress about it because I'm am completing stuff. I'm actually going through and, let's do this little chunk here. And let's do that little chunk here. And tonight I'm going to work on this. And tomorrow night I'm going to work on something totally different, but it all comes from my 15-month calendar.

So I really appreciate some of the suggestions that she's come up with to work with it.

Robyn: Yeah. One that I got from the book was the idea of having this, I think she called it a day book, but you can call it a dream book or a potential project book.

And I have this book that's just full of little tabs and every time I have a new idea for a project, I start a new tab and I jot down what I think would be involved. And potential resources that might be in there.

And then I leave it and I come back to it as often as I want or need to. And it's nice because it feels like everything… It feels like there's a place for it. And it allows me to worry less about, “Am I going to get there?” Right. Because it's there, it's written down. So in case I do come back to it.

Thomas: It's not going to get lost.

Robyn: Exactly! It's there for safekeeping. But also when I see the number of projects that I have there, it also is a nice reality check.

And I tend to not beat myself up as much for not doing it like, oh, okay. I came up with 10 projects. I only got two of them done this year. That's okay. You still got something done. Did you really think you were going to do 10 projects in one year?

Depends who you're talking about right. I know some people can accomplish 10 projects in one year, but I think that's something that helps as well is just seeing how many places our mind is taking us and accepting that it's okay not to get everything done at once.


So doing this method, like on the one hand, it's a reality check. It allows you to not feel bad about not doing everything. And then it also gives you a more workable way to come back to the things that are important, because I have seen that when things come up again and again and again, I do find ways to get to them.

I had been thinking about doing a podcast for a couple of years and I was taking notes and basically it's just timing, right? It's just waiting for the right opportunities to come along. Sometimes we have to go out there and seize those opportunities. But other times, especially if it's something creative, you kind of have to let go of the control a little bit and let it come to you.

And actually, interestingly, that's what happened with our other podcast there, HSP World. I was starting to look around at ways to get it off the ground. And Rayne just came to me and said, “Hey, I'm getting a podcast going. And would you like to be a cohost?”

So I think had I not already been clear with myself and had a section in my book, dedicated to that, it would have been maybe a bit harder. I would have had to think about it more.

But, yeah, it was easy and it was like, huh, okay. I guess this is done, you know, and I know also one day I'm going to move on.

This is another thing, right? You start building in this expectation one day, “I don't feel like doing this anymore.” Or I don't feel like I'm this topic anymore. I don't feel like doing this in this medium anymore.

And it's not, I already know that it's not personal. It's not a failure. Right. So maybe setting a goal about, you know, how far would I like to get, but then also not really having your, in your head yourself into it too much, either.

Right? Thinking about thinking more, more broadly, maybe not quantitative, right?

Maybe it's not about saying like, okay, I'll get out when I've done a hundred podcasts, but like, I'll get out when I feel like.

Thomas: You're done whenever.

Robyn: Yeah, whatever it was. Right? Like, whatever it is, whatever your reason for getting in, once you accomplish that reason.

And sometimes you can't necessarily put words on it until it happens.

Thomas: Right. It's just a feeling it's like, Oh, you know, this is done now.

And it may just be because there are so many other juicy, wonderful things pulling at you, at your interests. You know, and that's, that's been one of the things, one of the wonderful learnings for me is, this is who I am. I'm interested in a lot of stuff and there's nothing to apologize for.

Robyn: There's nothing to apologize for. And I am going to be, I know that if I move on, I'm not moving on because... I'm not moving on for bad reasons. Like I have valid reasons and I'm probably moving onto something else that's also worthy of my time and interest. Right?

So I agree. That was a very, that was a very helpful realization to say, well, it's not something to it. It's not something to fear. It's something to start building into your life.

Thomas: Yeah.

Well, Robin, thank you so much for having this conversation with me. I'm delighted to be able to share this with you and just to know that you are also sharing this journey that's similar to mine.

So I appreciate that.

Robyn: Yeah, my pleasure. Happy to talk about it.


Thank you so much for listening to this podcast. I really appreciate that you took the time to listen. I hope there was an idea too, that will help spark your creativity. And I would love to get any feedback that you have.

You can email me at [email protected]

I hope you will join me for the next episode of Creative Shoofly. Until then stay safe and stay creative.



Jul 12, 2020

Ep. 3 - Getting Back On The Wagon

In this third episode I explore why I haven't been creating much in the past weeks and how I'm getting back to creativity.

-Thomas Beutel

Music Credit: 

Reflection Flow by Doxent Zsigmond (c) copyright 2018 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial (3.0) license. http://dig.ccmixter.org/files/doxent/58328 Ft: Javolenus, Rocavaco, Siobhan Dakay


Books mentioned in this episode:

The Creative Wound: Heal Your Broken Art, by Mark Pierce

Mastery: The Keys to Success and Long-Term Fulfillment, by George Leonard

The above are affiliate links.


Links mentioned:

Scrum for One, by Dustin Wax



Hello, and welcome to the creative shoofly podcast. I'm Thomas Beutel. This podcast is about my creative process and one thing I've found is that I really get in my way a lot when it comes to making art and being creative. I want to do this podcast because I know it will force me to think more deeply about creativity. I'm hoping that doing this will push me and challenge me to create better art.

Why Creative Shoofly?

When I started this podcast, I was casting about for a title that would represent the idea of getting out of my own way. I mean originally I just was going to call this podcast Thomas Gets Out Of His Own Way. Which was you know I thought that was okay but it didn't have the word creative in it because this is really about my creative endeavor.

One day I was talking with a friend and for some reason that the concept of a shoofly popped in my head and I thought, yes that's it! Creative ShooflyThat's exactly what I want to call the podcast.

I'm using the term shoofly the way railroaders use it. A shoofly track was a track that was built around a problem. Like a maybe there was a washout on the main line, or maybe a tunnel collapsed, or maybe there was a wreck or something like that. And they had to build a temporary track around that problem.

And that temporary track is called a shoofly track and the shoofly track is used just as long as it takes to fix whatever the problem is.

For me a creative shoofly is a way to get around myself sometimes. Sometimes there's something standing in my way and it's usually myself. Something that I'm making up in my mind or or whatever distraction that whatever it may be. And so the idea about the shoofly is to find ways to get around that and get back to creativity.

Getting Back On The Wagon

One of my all time favorite writers on the subject of creativity is author, creativity instigator and friend of mine Melissa Dinwiddie and people often ask Melissa, how do you stay so creative? How do you do it? How do you do this day in and day out?

And as she writes, she says her answer is not very glamorous at all. It's a very simple principle of just getting back on the wagon and she says you're gonna fall off the wagon often. And the idea is not to make a big fuss of it, not to thrash or anything like that. Just go go back on and don't make a big deal of it. Just go back and get back to whatever you're creating.

I really liked this concept and that's what I'm going to be talking about today. It's about getting back on the wagon and finding out a few things along the way about myself.

Off The Wagon

So the first thing I have to say is I feel like I've been off the wagon for a good six to eight weeks. I've just I've been feeling very low energy. I feel like my energy's drained and and I couldn't quite figure out why I was not feeling good about creating. You know, where did the motivation go?

And I know that many people have been dealing with this. There's a lot that's been going on in the world and it all made what I was doing and what I was thinking seem so small and insignificant. And of course all of this was happening during the damn pandemic when we're stuck at home. When we can't go visit our friends, we can't just go where we want to go. It's been very frustrating!

I know it's all a part of it.

However as I mentioned in a previous episode I'm kind of a planner. And I've built these structures around creating that were very helpful to me this past year and I was wondering why aren't they working? What's what's going on here?

Tools I Use

There's a number of tools that I use in my creativity. Prime among them are mind maps and doing a weekly sprint with scrum check-ins. It's a technique that's called scrum-for-one. And I'll put a link in the show notes if you're interested about that.

I'd been doing my weekly sprints in the weekly sprint I basically decide here's something that I want to work on this week and I was going through the motions and I would put down, oh you know, I want to work on whatever it was, maybe tinker with some music or Design an automata or something like that.

And I was going through the motions and yet I was not doing any of it. So you know imagine this checklist with nothing checked. And I was thinking, what's that about? What in the world?

I mean this really hadn't occurred before. I'm usually pretty good about deciding on what I want to do and getting a good portion of it done. So I needed to I needed to really dive into this and try to understand what is it that is getting in the way here - how am I getting in my own way.

And what I found was actually a number of small things. And this is when it's tough, right? It's like when it's not one big glaring thing, you can just look at it and say okay I can work on that.

So the first thing was just basically about the scrum-for-one. And one thing that I had to remind myself about scrum-for-one it isn't the sprint plan.

What's most important about scrum for one is that you actually do the daily check-ins. That's the beauty of the scrum process is that you do these check ins and you can ask yourself what's going on, what do you need, what's blocking you?

Again it's it sounds kind of weird to do it just by yourself but it really does help me. I find it very useful.

So what I was not doing was sitting down every day writing about how I feel and asking myself is there anything in the way. That's the important part of scrum-for-one. It's really important. And it only takes five minutes each day at most to sit down and think about it write about it.

But by asking that question every day it keeps you focused on the project at hand and it also keeps you focused on what may be getting in the way and it's very useful, and I wasn't doing that, so that's one thing that I discovered.

Instagram Algorithm Trap

The other thing that I discovered was this I had fallen into what I call the Instagram algorithm trap. Some of you may know what I'm talking about but the idea is that you post something, and then like 10 minutes later you look and to see if anybody liked it, and then you check again 10 minutes after that.

And the algorithm is designed for that. It's designed to make you post things that will get more likes. So it becomes performative. It you're you're no longer posting the things that you want to do or you want to work on.

You start thinking about, oh you know, if I made this then people will hit the like button. So I was starting to make things and think of ideas and think of things that weren't necessarily sparking joy in me, because I was thinking about how they might spark joy in others.

Wow! What a dangerous path to go down.

The Creative Wound

In this process of reflecting I re-read a book called The Creative Wound by Mark Pierce and it was actually quite illuminating. The first time I read it I did it to sort of get some ideas for being more creative.

But now I was reading it from the point of view of being stuck and being drained and I think it actually spoke to me more effectively. The main things that I got out of it was, one, to spend more time daydreaming and, two, to commit to a project, full stop.

I want to talk a little bit about daydreaming and why it was so nice to get it reinforced when I was rereading the Creative Wound book.

I have something that I call a daily dream practice. The purpose of the daily dream practice is to set aside a small amount of time and empty my mind and come up with new ideas and new inspirations for being creative and for making art.

And here's the thing I was only giving myself five minutes to do it. What I would do is I would do a 10 minute breathing meditation. And then right after I would say, okay now I have five minutes to come up with an idea or two, and most often I would come up with one or two ideas and then I would write them down in my bullet journal.

But Mark Pierce in his book made a pretty good argument for why we are not giving ourselves enough time for this free and open creative time away from distractions. And in his idea it's absolutely necessary to make space to daydream.

And of course I immediately recognize this as my dream practice. I wasn't calling it a daydream practice, I was just calling it the dream practice. But it's really the same thing. It's letting my mind just go wherever it wants to go. s

So what I'm doing different now is that I'm giving myself 25 minutes for daydreaming. I certainly could give myself longer but I'm finding that 25 minutes is a good expansive amount of time. And in that time I usually come up with anywhere from five to sometimes 10 ideas that I then I'm write down in my bullet journal.

The only thing now is as I have to I have to commit to to actually doing it every day. I've been sort of I've been falling off the wagon again in terms of doing the daydream practice, because sometimes I wake up in the morning and say I don't have 25 minutes to do this. I gotta do this other thing.

Well just like everything, you have to make choices about where to put your time. But I really do think it's important too, to set aside that time to daydream to come up with new ideas. I do listen to a little bit of music in the background sometimes, you know, usually it's instrumental but it needs to be distraction-free.

And it needs to be a gift that I give to myself in lieu of say surfing the web or whatever.

So I've recommitted to myself to have a longer daydream practice.


Mark Pierce makes an effective argument for fully committing to your project. Seeing it from beginning to end.

Hoo boy, there's one that I find difficult! I'm the type of person that likes to start lots of projects but not necessarily finish them. I know this is something that I need to work on and I'm still exploring why that is. Why is it that I get excited about so many new ideas and start many of them but not necessarily finish them? I'm still working on that.

I think there's a part of me that is fundamentally curious and likes to find new things. And there's also a part of me that likes to be distracted or allows myself to be distracted. I don't know.

But I've now restructured my weekly sprint plan to commit to a specific new project. One of the things that was happening with my sprint plans was that I had five or six things going on. And you know what was nice about that, is that I could at any one time I could look and say, Oh yeah I'm going to work on this one here. And then I'm going to work on that and whatnot.

So now what I'm doing is, my sprint plan is about one specific project instead of being a major project and five minor projects. I'm looking forward to seeing how this works out. I have a pretty good feeling about it though. I think it will really help me stay focused and it will help me to finish a project.

Comparing myself to my past self

The last thing that I wanted to mention that I found out through all of this reflection was to remind myself that even though I feel like I'm stuck and I'm just on a plateau, that's not true. I'm actually growing quite a bit right now. I had to remind myself to avoid comparing my current self to where I was last year and early this year.

So last year I had the good fortune to put on an art show and to be artist-in-residence at a local art gallery. And what I tell people is this like you know it's like winning your own personal Superbowl. It's just it's an amazing experience. You get so much validation, you meet so many cool people and cool artists and it's really out of this world.

And then once it's over you think of yourself as like hitting this peak. And then there's nowhere else to go but down.

Of course it's not really true, right? You haven't hit a peak. What you've really done is you just hit the next plateau and I'll talk about that in little bit. But it was important for me to realize to stop comparing my current self with that previous self.

It's not entirely fair to do that. What I was doing is I was comparing how productive and how much art I was making last year in the run up to the art show, compared to what I was doing now which was feeling very aimless and just not finding something that I could sink my teeth into.

As I thought about this I came to realize that I am still growing. I'm still creating. After all, I started not only my own podcast, but I was asked to collaborate with another podcast called the HSP World PodcastAnd I've been busy collaborating on Coffee and Creatives.

So even though I felt like I reached a pinnacle with my my art show, the truth is that I had simply reached a plateau and then almost immediately started climbing again. I wasn't giving myself any credit for the work and the growth that I was doing.


I use this metaphor of climbing a mountain a lot when I speak about the work that I do in computer programming and also in my creative life. It really does feel like I'm climbing mountains when I am learning something new, when I'm doing something that I haven't done before.

And that reminds me a lot of a book that I read many many years ago by George Leonard called Mastery. In it he talks about martial arts and aikito. And he basically points out how important practice is and how you will feel like you're not making much progress for a long long time as you do practice.

He likens it to climbing up the mountain and then being on a plateau for a long time before you are climbing. Your progress is a sort of a series of spurts where you climb a little bit and you're on a plateau for a long time. And then you climb a little bit again and then you're on another plateau.

And this series of plateaus is in his mind where you want to be, right? You want to be on that plateau doing the practice because that's what's going to eventually get you to the next level, the next plateau.


So as you can see I think I covered a lot of ground during this time that I was off the wagon. I now feel much better having done this reflection. And again, this is one of the reasons that I love doing this podcast is I get to think out loud and I get to figure out where those shooflies are that let me get back on the wagon.


  1. Making sure that I do my daily checkins for my scrum for one process,
  2. Avoiding the Instagram algorithm trap,
  3. Extending my dream practice so that I give myself enough time to find new ideas,
  4. Committing to projects,
  5. Redesigning my scrum for one so that I'm working on one project, not a bunch of them so that I can actually commit to it and finish it, and
  6. Not comparing what's happening now to what happened in the past.

So that's it for this episode.

If there's something that you liked or, or didn't like, or want more of, let me know, send me an email at [email protected]creativeshoofly.com and let me know what you think. I'm really curious get your feedback and I do appreciate it.

Thank you so much. And thanks for listening. Stay well and stay creative.



May 23, 2020

Ep. 2 - Me and the Fabulous Tim Toady

Welcome to the second episode of my podcast! In this podcast I explore the principle of There's More Than One Way To Do It, and how that helps me get around creative block.

-Thomas Beutel

Music Credit: 

Reflection Flow by Doxent Zsigmond (c) copyright 2018 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial (3.0) license. http://dig.ccmixter.org/files/doxent/58328 Ft: Javolenus, Rocavaco, Siobhan Dakay

Books mentioned in this episode:

Crash Test Girl, by Kari Byron

Utopia Parkway: The Life and Work of Joseph Cornell, by Deborah Solomon

The above are affiliate links.



Creative Shoofly Podcast, episode number two,

Me and the Fabulous Tim Toady

Hello, and welcome to the creative shoofly podcast. I'm Thomas Beutel. This podcast is about my creative process and one thing I've found is that I really get in my way a lot when it comes to making art and being creative. I want to do this podcast because I know it will force me to think more deeply about creativity. I'm hoping that doing this will push me and challenge me to create better art.

Waxing and Waning Energy [00:00:39]

One thing I noticed as time goes on is how my creativity waxes and wanes. I have these ups and downs that I go through. Sometimes I'm full of creative energy and other times there's just no spark whatsoever. I wonder about this. I'm kind of driven in a way. and I know sometimes that drive is at cross purposes with, a certain amount of relaxation and calm and presence and patience that creativity really requires.

In this past week, I found myself on the waning end of energy and there's a lot of reasons for that. One is all the work that I did to produce the first episode of this podcast, was a challenging experience. I also have had plenty of client work, so by the time the end of the day rolls around, my brain is just tired. It's all used up.

I find when I get into these lower energy States that it's easier for me to come up with reasons. Why I can't just sit down and work on something. I have all these voices in my head that say, “I don't have the materials to do what I want, or I don't have the tools or I don't have the knowledge. I don't have the time.”

I think it's just a way of my mind not wanting to work too hard. I don't want to figure out how to do stuff. I find excuses of why I can't start a project.

Tim Toady (TMTOWTDI) [00:02:15]

I've been thinking about the different tools that I can use to get out of my own way, to help me get unstuck. And there's a number of tools that I borrowed from the practice of computer programming.

And this one comes specifically from the Perl programming language. It's a programming acronym and it's pronounced Tim toady, but the actual letters are TMTOWTDI, and it stands for, There's More Than One Way To Do It.

Perl is a very expressive language and I used it for many years. I really liked using it. Perl, was created by Larry Wall, who is an amazing computer scientist and also a linguist. And that has a lot to do with how he designed the language.

This idea of There's More Than One Way To Do It is a little bit controversial. Perl is extremely flexible and that can sometimes lead to programming that is somewhat incomprehensible. One of the practices and in computer programming is to make your code maintainable. So the ability to express yourself in so many different ways is not necessarily a good thing for maintaining a computer program.

On the other hand, for the purposes of creativity, I think it's a really useful principle.

Making Drawers [00:03:49]

I did some more thinking about Tim Toady, about There's More Than One Way To Do It. And it can encompass all aspects of creativity.

One aspect is the tools you use. Certainly in painting and drawing, you can use different pens, fountain pens, different inks, watercolor pencils, crayons, oil paints, acrylics. There are many, many different ways to approach a painting, for instance.

When it comes to making something that's three-dimensional, oftentimes what I find is that I don't necessarily have the exact tool that I need, but again, There's More Than One Way To Do It.

An example of that is I needed to build some drawers for holding freight cars on my model railroad.

One thing that you need to do when you're building drawers is to have good straight edges. Normally the way you do that is you have a table saw. Well, I don't have a table saw and I don't have room for table saw, but I did have a Skilsaw power saw. So I built myself a jig and the jig basically helped me cut very straight edges.

And I was able to put together a set of six drawers that fit perfectly in the space that I had available. They pull out and push in really smoothly.

There's another example of There's More Than One Way To Do It. I love building jigs. It's another aspect of creativity, isn't it? It's like I need to build something. I need to build something to build something. I love it.

In terms of my model railroad, there's definitely so many different materials that I can use and I have used so many different things. I've used paper maché. I've used paper clay, I've used real clay. I've used plaster a lot. Of course, wood, paper, cardboard.

One of the bridges that I'm building as this large steel arch bridge with what looks like I-beams and whatnot, and I've been building it all out of paper and cardboard.

It'll be painted silver, so it'll look like a steel bridge, but in actuality it's just a façade. The actual part of the bridge that carries the track is the structural piece and the arch itself is just decoration.

Crash Test Girl [00:06:13]

Another example of Tim toady is something called kitbashing.

In model railroading, we do a lot of kitbashing. The idea is to take a kit or several kits and then use the pieces in a new and different way, for instance I've kitbashed several buildings, by not following the directions, but actually taking the walls and cutting them apart and then recombining them in different ways.

Artist and author Kari Byron talks about this in her book Crash Test Girl, she says, "We appropriated the model maker concept of kitbashing to create our prototypes. This is one of my favorite tricks I learned from working in Jamie's shop. It's the process of taking a store, bought models and kits or using random objects to create a new custom project. You can pull apart a model train and some plumbing parts, take some copper cables and a tire tread and kit bash them together to build a robot. As an artist, I thought could bashing was the perfect expression of creativity and doing it alongside a bunch of guys who worked in the industry for so long was like a dream come to life." End quote

Kitbashing is another example of There's More Than One Way To Do It because if there's something specific that you want to build and it's not available as a kit, you don't have to create it from scratch. You can take existing pieces and put them together. 

One of the plans I have for my model railroad is to build a small model of the San Francisco ferry building. And I already have collected four kits to represent the various parts of the building.

Joseph Cornell [00:08:03]

I recently finished a biography of Joseph Cornell, and I think he was an amazing artist, and one of the reasons that I was so interested in reading about him is he created collages and also box assemblages. It's the assemblages that interested me the most, where he would create a box and then place items and in a certain way to express an idea or to elaborate on on an interest that he had.

So for a while now, I've been thinking about making my own assemblages. I have a few ideas of what I want to make. I've been feeling actually quite stuck. I've started a couple and then abandoned them and I've had another idea in mind and I've never started that one. But you know how certain ideas stay with you and in some way or fashion, they're begging you to make them.

Part of my morning practice is to invite inspiration and imagine new ideas. This particular morning I was thinking about this idea of There's More Than One Way To Do It. I was thinking of Tim toady and it occurred to me that I could build this assemblage fairly easily and fairly quickly using cardboard.

The idea is this is not intended to be the final artwork, but sort of a study just as you do with paintings, you'll often do a sketch or a study before you do the final painting to get the values down and things like that.

And I was thinking, boy, cardboard is just a wonderful material. It cuts easy. There's lots of it. I've never run out of cardboard. There's always new Amazon boxes or cereal boxes. Cardboard is almost an unlimited resource.

So that's how I decided to build my first assemblage in miniature form using cardboard and paper and little bits of wire and things like that. And I had a blast. I really enjoyed it.

I was able to finish it in just about an hour. I'm really happy with the way it turned out. That it was a quick study. I do plan to make it sometime this year. That's now a goal, but now that I can see it, it's easier to envision the final product..

Conclusion [00:10:37]

By using the principle of, There's More Than One Way To Do It, I can find ways to make things quicker and simpler and using easy materials.

So Tim Toady shows up for me a lot in the art that I do and the things that I create.

And it's one that I'm glad that I was reminded of. I now know that as I approach things and I have ideas, I don't necessarily need to struggle to figure out the final idea right away, or how to make something or how to get time to make something.

So that's all I have for Tim toady. I really want to thank you for taking the time to listen to my podcast. I hope that you are able to take something from what I talk about today and use it in your creative works.

If you have any suggestions or any feedback, I would greatly appreciate it. You can contact me at Thomas at creativeshoofly.com I look forward to hearing from you.

Stay safe and be well and put your creativity out in the world.

- Thomas



May 4, 2020

Ep. 1 - Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru are still alive

Welcome to the first episode of my podcast! In this podcast I explore the role of not knowing in the creative process. I'm finding that as I practice letting go of what I know, the process of creating art becomes easier. I hope that you might find something in this podcast that you can use in your creative process.

-Thomas Beutel

Music Credit: 

Reflection Flow by Doxent Zsigmond (c) copyright 2018 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial (3.0) license. http://dig.ccmixter.org/files/doxent/58328 Ft: Javolenus, Rocavaco, Siobhan Dakay

Books mentioned in this episode:

Free Play: Improvisation in Life and Art, by Stephen Nachmanovitch

Wired to Create, by Scott Barry Kaufman and Carolyn Gregoire

Improv Wisdom: Don't Prepare, Just Show Up, by Patricia Ryan Madson 

The Wisdom of Not Knowing: Discovering a Life of Wonder by Embracing Uncertainty, by Estelle Frankel 

The above are affiliate links.



Lead-in [00:00:00]

I have to admit to you, I have a real love hate relationship with not knowing. I am an engineer. And so I just don't like not knowing. But you know what, it shows up all the time.

Intro [00:00:15]

Hello, and welcome to the creative shoofly podcast. I'm Thomas Beutel.

This podcast is about my creative process and one thing I've found is that I really get in my way a lot when it comes to making art and being creative. I want to do this podcast because I know it will force me to think more deeply about creativity. I'm hoping that doing this will push me and challenge me to create better art.

Sunset Sketchers [00:00:49]

Back in the fall of 2018 I discovered a Facebook group called Sunset Sketchers and it was a fairly new group. I think it was started in the middle of 2018. It's an urban sketching group, and they go out to various venues and parks and open spaces cafes and bars, wherever, you simply pull out your sketchbook and you sketch, what you see right there.

Now I've been sketching, but I wouldn't consider myself an urban sketcher. But I had been sketching mostly mechanical things because the type of things that I create are usually mechanical. But I'd never really sketched from outdoors and from real life.

So when I found the group, I said to myself, yeah, that's something that I want to do. And other people around me, he had noticed it as well and suggested it to me.

But I felt so much resistance. I can't tell you how much anxiety I felt about joining this group. Why did I feel that anxiety? A lot of it has to do with not knowing. First of all, I didn't know the people, but I also didn't know what is expected and what would I be doing and how would I be doing it and with what materials. So it took me quite a while before I got up the nerve to go to the first sunset sketcher event.

Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru are still alive [00:02:24]

It reminds me of a scene in the original star Wars where Luke is called to go on a great adventure with Obi-Wan. Obi-Wan asks him to come along and help fight the Empire and save Princess Leia, but Luke hesitates. He has all these reasons that he can't go.

There's a point though where he realizes that his aunt and uncle are in danger and he goes back and finds out that Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru have been killed by the Empire, and it's at that point where Luke realizes that there's nothing holding him back from joining Obi-Wan, and so he does join him. It's a dramatic storytelling tool to show the audience that Luke is just like us, that he hesitates just like any of us would.  

Of course in real life, it doesn't happen this way. There's usually no great dramatic turning point that forces us to go and try something new.

In my version of Luke story, my inner Luke goes home and he finds that Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru alive and Uncle Owen will probably cuss him out a little bit. And then my inner Luke hides in the garage and comes up with eight more reasons why he can't join Obi-Wan to go on a great adventure.

Not knowing [00:03:44]

I have to admit to you, I have a real love hate relationship with not knowing. I am an engineer, and so I just, don't like not knowing. But you know what it shows up all the time.

And boy has as it come up a lot lately with all that's going on in the world right now with the pandemic, with staying at home, with not knowing if there's going to be work.

Not knowing when I can go out again. So not knowing is showing up quite a bit, and I'm sure it's showing up for you as well

But there's an aspect of not knowing that is deeply bound to creativity, and that's what I want to explore. Not knowing comes up a lot for me in my creative process, almost every creative project that I start starts with how am I going to do it? How am I going to build it? How will it turn out? Is what I create going to look like the idea that I have in my mind.

I actually like this. form of not knowing.

The reason that I like the subject so much is the natural tension that I feel when I start a creative project. There's that tension of, Oh, I can, I can sort of see it. I can sort of taste it. I sort of have an idea of what it might look like or I sort of have an idea of how I might go about doing it, but I really don't.

And so I just have to trust in the process. I just have to trust that as I do the creating, as I build or I paint or I write, or as I'm creating this podcast right now that, it'll turn out to something interesting. .

But boy, it's so frustrating! And here's the thing that I've learned about this is that it's uncomfortable and I have to sit with it even though I don't want to sit with it. It really sucks.

But, It's, it's a faithful partner...

Free Play [00:06:16]

I've been reading a lot of books on creativity, and all of them touch on this idea in some way or another. But it wasn't until last year or so that I really started to understand what it meant. In his book Free Play, Stephen Nachmanovitch has a whole chapter called Disappearing, and this is what he says. He says, "For art to appear, we have to disappear... And when we disappear in this way, everything around us becomes a surprise, self and environment, unite attention and intention fuse, we see things just as we and they are, yet we're able to guide and direct them to become just the way we want them. This lively and vigorous state of mind is most favorable to the germination of original work of any kind."

What I like about Nachmanovitch's idea of disappearing is it speaks to this idea of getting out of my own way. And just letting the creative ideas come forth, from wherever they come from.

And I also get a sense that I disappear from the final result as well.

Wired to Create [00:07:41]    

Another book that I've been drawing inspiration from is Wired to Create by Carolyn Gregoire and Scott Barry Kaufman and they have a chapter about intuition, and they write this: " Reflecting on their biggest breakthroughs, many innovators have described elusive solutions as coming to them in a sudden flash of insight, while artists often described their best ideas arising as if out of nowhere."

In another section, they quote Ray Bradbury, and here's what they say, "Author Ray Bradbury even insisted that a writer ought to avoid developing his rational thinking skills for fear that they get. In the way of his intuition.

“The writer himself kept a sign above his typewriter for 25 years that read, Don't Think! As Bradbury explained in the 1974 interview, the intellect is a great danger to creativity because you begin to rationalize and make up reasons for things, instead of staying with your own basic truth, who you are, what you are and what you want to be." End quote .

This idea for me has been one of the hardest things to incorporate into my creativity practice, because I love to figure things out. I love to think, and so I've had to make a conscious effort to not know and to be open to not knowing when I am looking for new ideas.

I find that I'm most successful where I can turn my frontal lobe off and get into that state of not knowing and just see ideas for what they are. What I've learned about this is that I can do all that figuring out later.

And that's part of the fun of creating is figuring it out, but I don't need to figure it out when the creative impulse first arrives.

Improv Wisdom [00:09:37]

Another book that has been very helpful to me and one that I reread often is Improv Wisdom: Don't prepare, just show up. It's by Patricia Ryan Madson and in her chapter about not preparing she talks about letting go of our egos as part of the process.

She says, "When we give up the struggle to show off our talent, , a natural wisdom can emerge. Our muses can speak through us. All of our past experience, all that we have ever known prepares us for this moment."

For many years, I have enjoyed watching improv, particularly here in San Francisco at Bay Area Theater Sports. And I've always thought, boy, wouldn't it be great take a class in improv? You know, what a kick that must be getting up on the stage. And for all those years, I just couldn't do it.

I just felt so much anxiety and fear about going up and getting on that stage. Last year, I finally did it and I can tell you it was a blast. You can't really imagine what it's like. You just have to go and do it.

And that's what I that's why I liked this book so much. And it really is true. You need to get up there without preparation, without any planning, without any thinking. You just go up and respond to whatever's in front of you.

And so I've been working on taking some of these ideas from improv and incorporating them into my creativity practice. But it's hard because again, I'm a planner. I love to plan things.

Wisdom of Not Knowing [00:11:23]

There's one more book that I want to mention, that really speaks to this. it's called the Wisdom of Not Knowing by a Estelle Frankel. The book pulls, many ideas and stories from the Torah and from Jewish mysticism. She talks about the many ways that not knowing shows up for us in our daily lives, in spirituality, and also in creativity.

In her chapter about not knowing and creativity, she says this, "Since the heart of the creative process involves bringing previously unconnected things together to form something new, this can only happen when we let go of what we already know and embrace the unknown. In the spacious state of mind of not knowing and not thinking new connections easily form.”

For me when I read this, it was sort of a startling revelation but it made sense as soon as I read it. It's like you can't make connections that form between unrelated ideas, unless you unlearn what do you know about how those things are connected.

Roaming Eyes [00:12:31]

I recently made a kinetic art piece that I call Roaming Eyes. It started with a test tube. I often go to Michael's and just roam the aisles and see what's there. And out in front they have a sale area where they're getting rid of little knickknacks for $1.50 or whatever it might be.

And in one of the bins I found this test tube was about three quarters inch diameter and maybe six inches tall. And I picked it up and I had no concept yet of what I might use it for, but I thought, well, it looks interesting. It looks a little bit , like a cloche jar, a bell jar that you can put over art pieces.

In one of my dream practices, I was imagining this test tube, and for some reason an image of an eyeball appeared. And that stuck with me. It's like, what's an eyeball doing inside of a test tube? But I wrote it down in my bullet journal and a while later I came up with this idea of having several eyeballs that would, you know, move around.

I guess my subconscious was working on it. I had no idea how was going to put it together. but that's when the fun began. And so I took that idea and eventually I built it with a few motors and some electronics and a little bit of programming.

And it turned out even better than I imagined it would. It's an example of where I can go if I just allow an idea to happen and just let my subconscious work on it over days and weeks.

Sunset Sketchers [00:14:26]

I finally did go on that great adventure. I joined Sunset Sketchers and it's been great. I've made a bunch of new friends. We've been getting together just about every weekend. Especially now with this pandemic, we've been doing our meetups over zoom. And that's been working out really well.

What I learned, it's all about just showing up. My better sketches are the ones where I don't overthink it too much, where I just look at shapes, where I'm just looking at light and dark. It's really helped me to see in a different way.

And here's what happened, in May of 2018, Sunset Sketchers held their first art show, and I displayed some of my art there. While I was there, I asked the program manager if I could use the venue for a workshop that I've been thinking of giving, and the program manager suggested, why don't you just be an artist in residence?

And I'm thinking, what? I don't know how to do that.

But guess what, I did. And it was, it was great. It was all great learning.

Outro [00:15:44]

Thank you so much for listening to this podcast.

I really appreciate that you took the time to listen. I hope there was an idea or two today that will help spark your creativity.

I would love to get any feedback that you have you can email me at [email protected].

I mentioned a number of books and I'll put links to those in the show notes at creativeshoofly.com.

Stay safe and stay creative.


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