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The Emotions of Creativity

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The Emotions of Creativity

I find that photo above my mantle irresistible. If I gaze into it long enough my spirit sings; I’m there, in that place where the photographer found a peaceful moment early in the morning. What I feel is the intent of the captured moment. The photographer – Paul Camponigro – did a great job of connecting his experience with mine through his creation.

Emotions are the simplest reality; our first awareness. Our thoughts can carry us to complex reaches of imagination, but our feelings are more primitively connected to the earth. Emotions lead the mind; we feel before we think. In effect, a statement like, “I can’t believe the way I’m feeling about this” implies that there are two of us: our thinking selves and our feeling selves. Emotional feelings are distillations that can explode into complex thought. Both learned and inherited, we have emotions before we know what we are feeling. We are indifferent until emotions are triggered

It’s difficult to discuss emotions relating to creative artistic expression without digging at the roots of emotions themselves, but it’s not hard to experience the emotive nature of creativity. Artistic expression or performance has an emotional component: Etta James in full voice, an Ansel Adams retrospective, or a dance company performing the Nutcracker are good examples. Back in the 80’s, I choked up watching Larry Bird trade baskets with Dominic Wilkins during a critical NBA playoff series; a creative human performance at its most inspiring. Perhaps a Brahms Concerto brings tears to your eyes or is it the accomplishments of the 17th Century Dutch Masters? What’s up with that? How do these feelings reach us?

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Peppering a musical staff with shotgun holes and playing them as notes is music. It’s music because it is in the form of music and can be played. Provoking as it may be, shotgun music is bad unless you are lucky enough to shoot holes corresponding to a Beethoven Symphony, or at least an emotive measure or two. That is, an emotion other than anger at being subjected to noise. Like a computer randomly selecting musical notes, the artist (marksman) made no attempt to interpret, reveal or otherwise transmute a feeling about their creation. Yet, I wouldn’t discount luck.

The next rung on the “low emotion” musical ladder is that designed for public soothing; those homogenized tonal equivalents of raw tofu. A grocery store tune crackling through a 4″ speaker is an emotional wasteland. Imagine you’re eagerness to connect a friend with the best psychiatrist you know if they boasted an intense emotional connection to a Musak interpretation of the “Long and Winding Road”. His psyche would need investigation, don’t you agree?

Wedding bands play mechanical versions of old favorites, as if the goal is to add as little of their own style as possible. “Hey, that sounds exactly like …” Fill in the blank. At a wedding last month, a version of “Stairway to Heaven” was close enough to the original to make me groan out loud. It was followed by the best “Last Train to Clarksville” replication I’ve heard since the Monkeys split. Each member of the band is a talented musician producing near soul-free versions of familiar once popular tunes. At the same time as the music is played, creativity is scantly identifiable without a fresh contribution from the artist. Show me emotion; risk something.

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Sharing our feelings makes us vulnerable. With artistic expression, emotions offer a distinction between artificial and genuine art. The artificial are those masquerades – no matter how well performed or polished – that pretend to be creative through imitation or rote. Even a small emotional connection at the right moment can change lives. While that may seem melodramatic – it’s frequently true. Artistic expression sans emotion is a dead end; it connects with no one.

Great artists supply emotional tension to invariant forms. A rendered tree can be a child’s pencil line of trunk and branches, but the tree in a Camponigro photograph carries a stronger emotional tension. A tree Paul Cezanne interpreted may prevent me from seeing a tree the same way hence. My past is projected on his interpretation; I visit emotions that the image evokes. In a sense, I find new meaning in the tree through his illustrated perceptions; I draw analogies from my past upon viewing the intimately rendered tree that make me feel something new. He created imagery that left room for my own interpretation: mixing old with new, mine with his.

In his landmark book, “The Courage to Create”, Rolo May offers this insight: “Artists pursue meaninglessness until they can force it to mean something …They immerse themselves in chaos to give it form.” In other words, form is an interpretation communicated through their world view, and artists bring emotion, once buried in chaos, to the surface.

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Emotions disturb equilibrium – at equilibrium we’re neutral. Exceptional art isn’t neutral and neither are significant artists. The stereotypically tormented soul of a painter, sculpture, musician or writer, removed from their torment, risk equilibrium thus dulling creativity. Offer an emotional pillow; comfort, or long term contentment and a muse may be ignored. Orderliness, comfort, and contentment, eliminates the turmoil in which artists plunge to reveal their creation. An artist in emotional retreat is comfortable; no longer struggling against turmoil or challenging complacency.

While I’m not suggesting that all great artists are tormented, [although it may seem that way] I do claim, however, that they challenge reality in a way that peaks them emotionally. Stereotypes don’t emerge from nothing; the artist temperament is well documented. Much has been written about why artists act the way the do. Google it and you’ll see.
Why are artists so damn sensitive [I hear you ask]? Perhaps it’s because they’re receptive and stay emotionally in tune with their surroundings. Or, maybe because they are hopelessly insecure – they are, after all, “putting it out there” – so to speak. I believe, In part, they appear sensitive because of risking emotional vulnerability. That is, if they’re any good. Artists need to stay receptive, like an antennae pointed toward the sky; emotionally open to feel the encounter with reality that brings together imagination, craft, and emotions to the act of creation.

Imagination confronts reality through its muse. Creativity is, at least in part, the manifestation of the artist’s emotional encounter with a muse; imagination merged with reality filtered by an emotional world view.
I know from my experience as a photographer that clicks of the shutter give a nanosecond peak of pleasure; a joy of being in the moment. The best photographers don’t look for that moment so much as they feel it. Once in a target rich environment – whether staged or found – the intellectualizing is over and the fine nuance of emotional connection begins. At that point, composition and other skills take a back burner to the subject / artist connection.

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Finally: conformity, authoritarian power, material success, and apathy corrode our creative powers: these are anti-creative forces. In contrast, childlike emotional freedom, when added to adult passion for creating the immortal, amplifies creativity. Like the ultimate creation we achieve through sexual relations, artistic creations return a potent pleasure.

The Author: Bruce DeBoer is a marketing/creative consultant and photographer who can be found at http://www.BruceDeboer.com , http://www.HireBruce.com , and http://www.synthesiscreative.com

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Last Updated on July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

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How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

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