By Sebastain Bourne
Dancers in Second Life are very creative people. Their ideas seem limitless and more fantastic with every show. There are times however when even the greatest finds their muse has taken a vacation. They feel they have lost their dance mojo. This is a list compiled from interviews with SL dancers and RL artists about how to get that loving feeling back and dance again with your inner muse.
First of all, cut yourself some slack. You are an artist. No one can be in the process of creating art every minute of the day. Life, family, friends, play time away from the studio, time for quiet contemplation; all of these are essential to balancing our lives. They are equally as important as our art and deserve to have our full attention. There are many ways to kindle your creative spark, some involve re-centering or re-energizing yourself, while other involve seeking inspiration.
Take Care of Yourself. You know the usual, get enough sleep by not pulling all-nighters on your work. Don’t forget to eat and make it interesting, not a bag of chips or a left over sandwich. Get up and walk around some, don’t forget there is a real life out there.
Do something mindful. Meditation is a proven way to clear the mind, focus attention, and help us be more in the present moment. It also promotes divergent thinking (when the brain can visualize a task and come up with different ideas on how to perform it), which improves the likelihood of creative problem solving.
Make Space to do nothing. It’s hard to nothing in today’s world, but necessary for attracting creativity. Find a way to fit “do nothing” into your schedule. When faced with a challenging problem, we tend to try to think harder about how to solve it. Sometimes this creates a lot of static under our craniums that increases our frustration without yielding a clear path to the answer. Taking a mental timeout can have the same effect as a short break during intensive physical exercise. Give yourself some space to just “be”, and don’t feel guilty about it.
Make your workspace inviting. If your build platform is full of old set pieces, other builds, a multitude of clutter, if it is uninviting and bland, your subconscious will pick up on this and weigh your creativity down. Clean your area up, put up some pictures that inspire you.
Make yourself inviting. Dress up in an outfit that makes you feel good about yourself. Get a haircut, try a new exercise routine, meditate, or go out with friends. It’s time to build up your confidence and feel good about yourself, because if you feel good about yourself then you feel good about what you’re doing. It isn’t self-indulgent to give yourself a little care. It’s critical to your creativity.
Let it go. What do you think about all day? I would bet it is not about the magic of life or vacations past and future. It’s more likely about someone else’s dance, or a slight done to you, the bills, the house needs work, or the multitude of things we weigh ourselves down with every day. Try meditation, listen to the music that fits your project (no, sit back close your eyes and LISTEN to it), write down everything bothering you and set it aside, exercise, or sing “Let It Go” from Frozen (okay stop grimacing, had to add it).
Reconnect with what you love. When was the last time you did something you really enjoyed doing? Something more than just watching a movie or going out to dinner or creating a dance. The idea is to stop renting your life and start owning it. There is a whole world out there where dancing is not the main area of concern. Get back into something you left behind, something that used to make you so happy you forgot about everything else. Or, try something entirely new. Novelty wakes up your brain, and helps you make new connections that may inspire your work.
Remember your bravery. Courage is everything to an artist. The courage to make a mess, the courage to ignore what others are doing and take your own path, the courage to face a blank empty stage and blaze ahead with color. Do whatever it takes to remind yourself that right now, today, no one is creating art that’s more relevant to you than what comes from your own hands.
Teach someone else. Step back and mentor a new dancer. Help them learn and explore their own creativity and you just might regain yours in the process. If you can see art through their eyes, even for an afternoon, you can possibly lure your muse back from the Caribbean vacation on which she’s slipped away.
Take a long walk somewhere beautiful. Inspiration exists everywhere in the world immediately around us- we just often can’t or won’t see it. It’s not stubbornness on our part, or a lack of imagination, that prevents us from keeping our heads up and our eyes scanning our environment- usually it’s as simple as being out of practice. Take some time to explore the forest behind your house, the local city park, or your back yard. You’re likely to come up with ideas while you’re out, so take some notepaper with you so you can jot them down.
“I, at times, find a fascinating texture that inspires a set. I build the set then find a song to compliment it, organize a costume and create the choreo. Try searching Google images: Fractal, Digital, or a particular color, even searching by a mood. Include the word “background” or “panorama” to discover some really cool textures that can inspire a dance.”
Go to galleries and museums both in SL and in your town/city. This bit of advice may seem like a no brainer, but really when was the last time you visited an art gallery or museum as an artist, rather than as a tourist? We forget that we actually understand this stuff, that it lives in our blood and we are active participants in the culture that produced such works. Find an artwork that stimulates your imagination, something that excites or affects you emotionally. Use this artwork as your muse to create a dance. You could go to pose shops and find a pose that inspires you to build around it.
Explore SecondLife. Go to the Destinations on the SecondLife homepage at: http://secondlife.com/destinations and explore the creativity of others through the worlds they have built. Visit some RP or fantasy sims, observe the atmosphere or characters that you meet there. See what sort of dance can be inspired by focusing on some of these outside sources. Draw from them to incorporate their stories into a story dance. Visit an animated texture shop such as Sanna or Sirius. Pick a piece that really stirs your imagination, and use that as your muse. Create a dance around it.
Collaborate with someone else. Create a dance with someone else. Split up the choreo and set build. Explore animation shops together, you may find one that inspires you. Have someone else select a song for you to create a dance to. This can be very uncomfortable. More likely than not, you will not like the song much. It is a journey down someone else’s road, in part, and a chance to see some things you would otherwise probably never see.
Find a costume. Sometimes while looking for costumes for one dance, I’ll find costumes that I want to create a dance for. Forget about the music and focus on costumes for a while. Go costume hunting. Visit some wonderful shops. Select a costume that is totally out of your usual style. Something outrageous, something fabulous! Then go build a dance around that costume.
Limit your options. Studies show that restricting one’s choices can more effectively trigger creative thought. That’s because leaving every door open makes it difficult to focus on which way to go, while having a more specific target helps you channel your thought process. And the target doesn’t even have to be logical. Try to create a dance entirely with items already in your inventory! Do not spend anything on this dance! No telling what you will discover that you forgot you had or never got around to using. Put that inventory to work!
Laugh out loud. Laughter helps stimulate activity in the prefrontal cortex and anterior cingulate cortex, areas of the brain associated with creativity. It can also boost your mood and help give you a more positive outlook that is conducive to creative activity. While it helps if you’re actually laughing at something funny, no punchline is required; the mere physical act of laughing provides benefits.
How do you tap into your creative brilliance? Play! Create for the joy of it, not the outcomes you think you should be creating. Go somewhere you haven’t been. Talk to different people. Invite new questions about what you ‘know’ – and don’t assume you know anything!!