The other day I asked Mr. Velvet what I should write about this month, and he suggested the creative process. And my thoughts were “well, why not?” I wrote about it before – back in 2015, if any of you are keeping track – but that was about fear and the creative process. This will be different…

For me, I am preparing for a summer full of creative thoughts. I am taking an online class from Cera Byer entitled “Unlock Your Authentic Creativity” that started this week. I also signed up for Kellita’s beta BIO e-course, which starts later this month and is about yourself but also creating as part of the process. On top of that, I am in process (we started in January) of creating themes and content for a three-woman burlesque/theater show next year with the working title of Dollhouse Monsters. And then, there are the rest of the creative type things that I am working on and will continue to work on. Projects/choreographies imagined and sometimes embraced, sometimes abandoned, fleeting thoughts, and insipient brain weasels of ideas which won’t let you NOT do something.

I am always learning about the creative process and it is different for everyone, so this is by no means a treatise on the subject. Creating can also be different every time and whether you are working together or in a pair or in a group. What I can tell you about the creative process: It’s a mess.
Some people may tell you that their creative process is smooth and linear – good for them. Occasionally I suppose mine are. But if they succeed in appearing that way it is only because creation is based on your lifetime of input and sometimes you manage to have these epiphany moments where things just smoothly pop into place. But without a lifetime of information or the development and practice of other creative processes, it just isn’t that simple. Of course creation appears magical – to the observer!! But it is a lot of thought and work and effort for the creator!

If you haven’t read Twyla Tharp’s Book, The Creative Habit, I highly recommend it. She takes a good look at creative processes and stresses the importance of making the creative process a habit. Like any skill that you want to develop, you will never get better at creating if you don’t practice creating. She also talks about her creative processes. One of the things she does for a new project is to get a box where she puts ideas for the project. If she was inspired by something in a book, the book goes into the box. If she was inspired by a movie, that goes in the box. I don’t use this process and it may not work for you, but what I love about it is that it is a reminder that even with a choreographer as great as Twyla Tharp – she gets ideas from different places. She scratches around, digs around, develops thoughts, expands things until she develops her new project. It does not birth itself from nothing. It grows from many other experiences and the stepping stones of what people have done before you.

Now, this doesn’t mean in any way that you copy other people’s acts. But, there can be components that inspire you or prompt you to create something new. I have a sing and strip to “You Can’t Get a Man with a Gun” because I like the song and I loved the musical with Bernadette Peters in the title role. (The 1950 movie was so overtly misogynist I wanted to throw up, but I loved the music…) My costume is purple and turquoise because I saw that color combination on another performer’s costume and loved it. My costume looks nothing like her costume, but the color idea was inspired from someone else. I was inspired by Dale Evans movie costumes, fancy movie guns that probably don’t exist, and so many things I can’t even name…

So, let me give you an example of the creative process. I am driving in my car last week listening to Storm Large – some music that I had heard before but had not played in a while. I like a song in particular. I replay it a few times. Some simple choreography ideas start coming into my head and I think to myself, maybe this would make a good dance. What would I wear? What is the point of the number? After pondering it for a day, I listen to the song again – it is an angsty song with the broad theme of love lost. I think of a costume I have in my closet, and whether it would fit to the feel of the music. It has some flowers on it, so I think about flowers as a theme. Hmmmm. Then I think – what if I am Hades and I am pining away because Persephone is leaving me to go back to her mother Demeter for the spring and summer. Aaaa… but would anyone know that but me? Maybe I am the only one who needs to know that?? Ponder, ponder, ponder… So, a few days later I am having brunch with Mr. Velvet and I bring up this act idea and ask – should people know I would be Hades? What if they didn’t? If I wanted them to have some idea, what would be good indicators? He then takes this conversation and starts talking about a short story he wrote about Persephone and whether he should revise it. He then goes into a 20 minute (maybe it was less – I could be exaggerating) anthropological discussion (he IS a professor) about the hunter gather vs. agrarian society and whether this myth is actually a tale about the sociological changes that took place as a result (daughters leaving their mothers to go to a new town instead of young men roaming as a hunter.) He is pondering his short story. After the discussion I circle back and say – and the dance? And he says – bones. After we eat, let’s go to Paxton Gate and look at bones. So we do, and I see horns and bones and now I am thinking – Can I create a dance where I morph into what Hades becomes when Persephone leaves? Is Hades more human, more caring and loving when she is there? … And the creative process continues… and I continue to think about this number. Will I finish it? Who knows at this point? I have three other choreography ideas roaming around in my head and who knows which one will come out first or if they will make it to fruition at all.

So, this is the start of one creative process – which comingled with someone else’s creative process and may spark their creative actions as well. I don’t know entirely – that will be Mr. Velvet’s journey. But this is messy stuff. And sometimes things work and sometimes not so well. And sometimes you scrap an idea entirely and sometimes you scrap part of it, and sometimes you do it and it didn’t turn out as good as you wanted it to, or maybe you do it and it turns out better than you expected, and maybe sometimes you park it somewhere and come back to it a couple of years later to make it something amazing! And sometimes it is like that horrible crooked glitter Valentine you got from _____ (insert name or relationship here.) It is ridiculous, looks awful, and no one could love it but you. But you love it anyway.

Creation is messy. Have fun. Be a mess for awhile. Then see what comes of it…