Episode 1

Creative Fuel Episode Art_E1.png
We all know that spark of inspiration that easily happens when we go somewhere out of the ordinary, or feel like we're doing something for the first time. Do we need that sense of newness to spark creativity, and what do we do if we can't find it?

In this episode we talk to writer Amanda Machado and neuroscientist Christine Liu to learn exactly what's happening in our brains when we have new experiences and how it impacts our creative process. 
LISTEN NOW
Apple.png
spotify.png

Subscribe to Creative Fuel on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or anywhere you listen to podcasts.

Do We Need Newness

for Creativity?

FEATURING
christineliuphoto.jpeg
CHRISTINE LIU

 

Christine Liu is a neuroscientist currently conducting postdoctoral research at UCSF, where she explores how psychedelic drugs alter neural circuits. She earned her PhD research from UC Berkeley, focusing on the relationship between nicotine and the brain's dopamine system. She's an artist at heart, and uses art as a means of scientific communication and is the co-founder of the art collective Two Photon Art.

christineliuart.com

Two Photon Art

AMANDA MACHADO

 

Amanda Machado is a writer and facilitator whose work explores how race, gender, sexuality, and power affect the way we travel and experience the outdoors. Amanda has been published in The Atlantic, Guernica, The Washington Post, Slate, The Guardian, Harper’s Bazaar, NBC News, Vox, The Week, Outside, REI Co-Op Journal, Quartz, Sierra Magazine, and others. In addition to  writing, Amanda also is a guest speaker and workshop facilitator on issues of justice and anti-oppression for organizations around the world.

amandamachado.com

Amanda E. Machado headshot joshua tree 2.jpg
Kashmir Thompson.jpeg
KASHMIR THOMPSON

 

With a repertoire of black pop culture inspired paintings and a massive social media following, Kashmir Thompson is creating her own lane and dominating it. Her unique artistic creations have attracted the likes of celebrities such as Angela Bassett, Issa Rae, Spike Lee, Tisha Campbell-Martin, Tasha Smith, and more. Her artwork has been featured in Essence Magazine where it was affectionately referred to as nothing short of “black girl magic.” A graduate of the Cleveland School of the Arts, Kashmir is a credentialed, creative and credible artist with a sharp focus on building a sustainable brand and taking it worldwide. She desires to continue to create art that inspires others and attracts art lovers everywhere. 

kashmirviii.com

Show Notes

Episode 1: Do We Need Newness for Creativity?

 

We all know that spark of inspiration that easily happens when we go somewhere out of the ordinary, or feel like we're doing something for the first time. Do we need that sense of newness to spark creativity, and what do we do if we can't find it?

 

In this episode we talk to writer Amanda Machado and neuroscientist Christine Liu to learn exactly what's happening in our brains when we have new experiences and how it impacts our creative process.

 

Head over to CreativeFuelCollective.com for more creative inspiration, prompts, online workshops and a robust creative community.

 

Hosted by Anna Brones

 

Co-Produced by Anna Brones & Gale Straub

Engineering by Steph George

Theme Music is by cleod9 music

 

Season 1 is Made with Support by Big Cartel

 

Featuring:  

 

  • Christine Liu: A neuroscientist currently conducting postdoctoral research at UCSF, where she explores how psychedelic drugs alter neural circuits. She earned her PhD research from UC Berkeley, focusing on the relationship between nicotine and the brain's dopamine system. She's an artist at heart, and uses art as a means of scientific communication and is the co-founder of the art collective Two Photon Art.

 

  • Amanda Machado: A writer and facilitator whose work explores how race, gender, sexuality, and power affect the way we travel and experience the outdoors. Amanda has been published in The Atlantic, Guernica, The Washington Post, Slate, The Guardian, Harper’s Bazaar, NBC News, Vox, The Week, Outside, REI Co-Op Journal, Quartz, Sierra Magazine, and others. In addition to  writing, Amanda also is a guest speaker and workshop facilitator on issues of justice and anti-oppression for organizations around the world.

 

  • Kashmir Thompson (Featured in our Midroll): With a repertoire of black pop culture inspired paintings and a massive social media following, Kashmir Thompson is creating her own lane and dominating it. Her unique artistic creations have attracted the likes of celebrities such as Angela Bassett, Issa Rae, Spike Lee, Tisha Campbell-Martin, Tasha Smith, and more. A graduate of the Cleveland School of the Arts, Kashmir is a credentialed, creative and credible artist with a sharp focus on building a sustainable brand and taking it worldwide. She desires to continue to create art that inspires others and attracts art lovers everywhere.

 

Resources Mentioned & Places to Learn More

 

Sponsor Links

Big Cartel believes you don't have to sell out to sell online. With their simple stores for artists, makers, and creators, you won't be surprised by hidden fees and they don't take a cut of your sales like some other platforms. The sky's the limit on your sales and your success. Open your own shop at bigcartel.com

SUPPORTED BY
big_cartel_logo_clear.png

Creative Fuel is made possible thanks to the support of Big Cartel and

Creative Fuel Collective members. 

Domes_Blue.png
Arrow_Black.png
[Anna is walking outside. You can hear the sound of her feet on a path, and wind rustling the trees and cars driving in the distance.] Anna - Trillium Walk: I'm outside I'm walking up to my parent's house, on our little forest trail, it's a fun, cause there's a couple of spots on the trail, where the trilliums come out and they're just in full bloom right now. And they're so beautiful. [Playful, contemplative music starts up.] Anna Brones - Narration: In Swedish, there’s an expression called “hemmablind,” which literally translates to “home blind.” It refers to when we are so used to our everyday that we become blind to the things around us. We forget to pay attention. When I feel this way, it often feels like a creative block. It seems like I have no creative inspiration, and all I want is a dose of something new and different to kickstart that inspiration. Anna - Trillium Walk: So, even though I've grown up seeing trilliums every single spring, there's just something that feels really new and exciting about them every single time (ha!) that they popped back up. [Theme Music Starts Up] Anna Brones - Narration: But I’ve been home a lot these last couple of years. And when I look back at what I’ve created – papercuts, lesson plans, daily drawings prompts [etc]... oddly enough, there’s a richness there. Somehow in all that sameness, there was a spark of something. I managed to work around that homeblindness. Which has me wondering: just how much do we need newness for creativity? Anna Brones - Narration: To be creative is to be human. And exploring that drive might just help us understand ourselves a little better. I’m Anna Brones and this is Creative Fuel. [Theme Music ends] Amanda Machado: I want a creative deep feeling life, right? One that doesn't feel like it requires any kind of numbing in order to survive. And I think that's really connected to creativity for me. Anna Brones - Narration: This is Amanda Machado, and as you'll hear, a perfect person to help us explore the relationship between newness and creativity. Amanda Machado: My pronouns are she/they and I'm based here out of Oakland, Ohlone land. And I work as a writer and facilitator at the intersections of race, gender, sexuality, social justice, and the outdoors and the environment. Anna Brones - Narration: That's Amanda today. But back in 2011, Two years after graduating college, Amanda saved up and took a big leap into the unknown. Intent on traveling in South America, she bought a one-way ticket to Cartagena, Colombia. She ended up being gone for 15 months, an experience that shifted her course. Amanda Machado: After that, I just realized that. I wanted to live a little bit more of a non-conventional life, I guess. And so I became a freelance writer and a freelance travel writer, ultimately by the time I turned 30, I had spent about a third of my twenties abroad. Anna Brones - Narration: Having spent so much time on the move and experiencing new places, Amanda knows a thing or two about novelty. And of all of that newness, one moment in particular from hitchhiking in Argentina stands out in her memory. Amanda Machado: I was like sitting in the back of this pickup truck with my 30 liter backpack as like my pillow and the wind was blowing on my face and just in front of me were all these mountain peaks and it just looked like straight out of a dream. I see this beautiful mountains on this beautiful road. And I had no idea exactly where I was going to go next. [Uplifting music starts up] Amanda Machado: And there was just something about the freedom of that moment and the excitement and the bravery required to be there. That just made me think, like, I don't want to give this up. I don't want to ever not have this feeling of just feeling free and brave and alive and anything less than that is not okay anymore. Anna Brones: Do you feel like that type of a moment has been important to your creative process of writing? Amanda Machado: Yeah, absolutely. Audrey Lorde has an essay, the uses of the erotic, where she talks about like, once we've felt deep feelings of authenticity or creativity or eroticism, then we demand of all of our lives to have that same level of feeling and depth. I think that's what that moment felt like to me. Anna Brones: And do you feel that at the time, that sort of sense of authenticity, was easier to tap into in a new place? Amanda Machado: Yeah, I think there's a heightened sense of presence that I feel when I'm outside of a normal comfort zone or normal environment that I think makes it easier to tap into that. I also think, you know, honestly, as a queer person of color, as the multiple identities that I have, that I feel sometimes stuck to when I live at home here in the US I do think there is something about being anonymous, almost, when you're abroad and having your identities change based on the new context and environment, I think, also helped me just to see things differently and think things differently. And I think that ultimately came out in the way I started writing. [Music stings out.] Anna Brones - Narration: While Amanda's experience is entirely their own, what she said about presence is likely to resonate. When we visit a new city for example, and walk down a new street, our eyes bounce up and down taking in the doors, the signs, the plants. We listen to new voices, maybe even a new language. Our noses perk up at new smells. There's a kind of embodiment that we experience that we don't always tap into in our everyday. And whether or not you're a writer like Amanda, if you've gone on a road trip, eaten a new food, or flown to a place you have never been before, you can probably relate to the burst of potential that Amanda speaks of. And that’s no coincidence, because our brains are wired to seek it out. [Music transition] Christine Liu: My name's Christine Lou. My pronouns are she and her and I am a scientist during the week and artists during nights and weekends. Anna Brones: But probably an artist full-time at heart. Christine Liu: Oh, yeah. I mean, I can go on forever about how scientists are artists, artists are scientists, but we're going to talk about, you know, job titles in society and that's where we can kind of draw a line. Anna Brones: That's a, it's a whole different podcast discussion. Christine Liu: Yeah. [Laughter] Anna Brones - Narration: Christine just finished her PhD in neuroscience at UC Berkeley. She's super curious about this little chunk of meat in our heads that dictates so much. Her words, not mine. Christine Liu: My research project was on understanding how different doses of nicotine affect the brain, particularly the brain's dopamine system, which we know to be involved in addiction and learning. And when I did a little bit of research it sounds like it has quite a role in creativity as well. Anna Brones - Narration: My gut says that we need novelty. But I wanted to talk to Christine to better understand the mechanics of what goes on in our brains when we encounter it. So, welcome to our Intro to Neuroscience class here on Creative Fuel. Today we'll be focusing on dopamine. [Music in - informative] Christine Liu: So dopamine is a neurotransmitter that we make in our own brains. And it's used to signal all sorts of different kinds of things in the world around us, including when we encounter something new, when something feels good. And that's kind of the reputation it had for many, many decades is that it's, this quote-unquote pleasure molecule, but we found very recently in the past 10 or 20 ish years that that's not the full truth. While there are dopamine neurons that are extremely important in processing reward, dopamine can also signal pain and things that are aversive. And so the brain is extremely complex. We're finding more of that granularity every single day in neuroscience. Anna Brones - Narration: This notion, that brains are diverse, came up a lot in my conversation with Christine. And it has implications for the question we’re exploring: do we need newness for creativity? But we’ll get to that later. First, let’s learn a bit more about dopamine, a neurotransmitter that does all kinds of things for us. Christine Liu: Dopamine is being released when we encounter new stimuli. So something like, lights, fruits, objects, uh, sounds all sorts of different kinds of things that we encounter through our sensory systems, but over time, that fades, as we habituate to our environment and we assign value to the things in our environment that are going to be helpful for our survival. Anna Brones: Okay. So it's kind of like a cue for the brain to sort of continue to evolve and grow, knowing like what's good, what's bad what's interesting. Christine Liu: Yes, exactly. And I love that you use the word Q because that's the word that we use in the dopamine field. Anna Brones - Narration: The best example Christine gave me is a simple one. That of a sweet red apple. Over time, we associate a positive feeling with an apple because it helps to sustain us in the long run. So, the sight of the red object is the cue, and the reward is when you bite into it. After a while, just the sight of an apple will cause the reward of dopamine to be released. If there's a difference in what we expect and what we receive, then that's called reward prediction error. Christine Liu: If you then bite into an apple that's bitter or sour, the dopamine actually is going to get flipped and there's going to be less released. And so dopamine also manages our expectations of things that we have assigned value. Anna Brones - Narration: Dopamine plays an integral role in our learning and our survival. And while our brains are making the most new connections when we're young, we don't have to be set in or ways as adults. Anna Brones: If you're an adult working every day and doing all the things, is it good for you to be making these new connections? Does that help with your overall cognition? Christine Liu: It can, and it might not, right? That's true for everything in the brain. It seems there's often and just, this fine balance that we have of having too much of something or too little of something. And, one example of maybe neuroplasticity that is bad is, drugs that tend to be very addicting. Nicotine, heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine that act directly on the dopamine system. And what happens is that these drugs increase the amount of dopamine released much more than you would experience with an apple or cookies or hanging out with a friend. This can actually change our brain in ways that are maladaptive, so that we're assigning way too much value to the drug at the expense of natural rewards that are actually good for our survival. Anna Brones - Narration: Ok, so too much dopamine can be a bad thing depending on what's causing it, and what you're missing out on as a result of seeking it out. But on the whole, getting outside of our comfort zone and embracing the unfamiliar helps with our neuroplasticity, or our brain’s ability to change. We need new challenges in our lives. [Music comes in - guitar strumming] Back to creativity and newness. We know that novelty is an important part of learning, we know that we need it for our brain health. But what kind of novelty do we need to spark creativity? [Music out] For Amanda, for a long time, that was travel: [Music in ] Amanda Machado: When I turned 29, I decided settling at least in one location might feel good for that stage of my life. And so I still, pre-pandemic, would commit to leaving the country once a year and traveling and writing from somewhere else. And then of course the pandemic, like for many people, changed all of our plans. Anna Brones - Narration: March 2020 brought travel as we knew it to a screeching halt. Amanda shared earlier that travel helped them explore their identity and find their voice as a writer. Staying put was an adjustment. Amanda Machado: At first it was incredibly hard. I think what I realized during the pandemic is that in some ways, though I thought, you know, I had a good handle on it. I think there still is something addictive about novelty. I do think that the way we have pitched and told stories about travel, it's through this lens of consuming experiences and always consuming new experiences. And I think the pandemic made me realize that the way I was approaching newness and travel still felt capitalistic in a, in a very hyper consumptive way. And there wasn't necessarily anything inherently better about having newness all the time, right. Having gone to all these new trails or new countries or new cities or new places. So I think that's what. hit me hard during the pandemic. I think at first I was very resistant to that and similar to too many other addictive feelings, you know, feeling like a withdrawal of like, what do I do now? [Music comes in ] Anna Brones - Narration: We'll hear what Amanda did next - after this. [Midroll Break ] Anna Brones - Narration: Are you a creative who's ready to sell your work? Not really sure where to get started. Big Cartel believes in empowering creatives with simple tools to sell their work, including artist Kashmir Thompson. Kashmir Thompson: I actually have two Big Cartel stores. The main one is probably my art store, is called KashmirVIII. I paint and I graphic design and I put it on all types of cool stuff. And I am also a licensed aesthetician and I have my own skincare and body care business. Kind of a Jack of all trades over here. Anna Brones: Yeah. Doing a lot. So what do you like about utilizing Big Cartel for both of those online shops? Kashmir Thompson: Well, one of the main things that I appreciate about Big Cartel is the fact that they really have a great setup when it comes to their templates where you can customize them. So how you want them to look and make them you without having to know a whole lot about coding and graphic design at all. Anna Brones: So you've been doing this for a while. What advice do you have for other creators? Kashmir Thompson: E-commerce can be a little scary if you're just starting out but. Big Cartel honestly, makes it so easy and “If you build it, they will come.” Really, there's an avenue and an audience for everything. So just get out of your own head, stop holding yourself back and do it. Anna Brones: Hmm, I love it. Will you be my business coach? Kashmir Thompson: Of course, I got you. Anna Brones - Narration: Big Cartel believes you don't have to sell out to sell online. With their simple stores for artists, makers, and creators, you won't be surprised by hidden fees and they don't take a cut of your sales like some other platforms. The sky's the limit on your sales and your success. Open your own shop at bigcartel.com. That’s bigcartel.com. [Midroll ad ends] Anna Brones - Narration: Before the break, Amanda asked a question that a lot of us asked of ourselves at the start of the pandemic - and that we also ask ourselves again and again in the midst of a creative block: what do I do now? Without the option for traveling, Amanda had to find other outlets. She started taking a walk every day, in the same place, around the same block. Something that at first might seem mundane, that some might call mind numbingly boring – it catalyzed a perspective shift. Amanda Machado: You don't get the same hit to your brain, you know, from doing the same thing over and over again. But it doesn't mean that it's not a healthy or happy feeling. And I think what I've come to during the pandemic is just learning different forms of happiness and learning different forms of contentment and meaning that can't be quantified as what is better they're just entirely different feelings. Music comes in - ambient and soft Anna Brones - Narration: Amanda told me this reminds her of the poem ‘Now I know’ by L Mathis: Stability doesn’t necessarily mean happiness. It’s not a great light bathing you each morning. It is quieter. Softer. Now I awake in my body and my first thought is not to leave it. Amanda Machado: You know, it's not like this big, exciting high, it's not a boost that just is transformative all at once. Like maybe that moment in the pickup truck for me, but the quietness and softness of it is meaningful too. And it's maybe harder to articulate, but it doesn't feel less than. [Music comes out] Anna Brones - Narration: We have a tendency to crave and seek out rewards in big shapes: trips abroad, shopping sprees, grand declarations. But when we shift our attention to the small things, then we find that there are rewards to be found in our everyday, too. Amanda Machado: I'd like to believe that made me a better writer by noticing smaller things. I think even when I thought about the way I was writing before, I wanted to only write about big moments and nothing was ever big enough, you know? And so I think, in some ways it made me notice the smaller things and make them feel big and write in ways that understood how big they are. Anna Brones - Narration: Before the pandemic, Amanda was dedicated to living a creative life that didn't necessitate numbness to survive. And yet, in seeking out so much novelty, she was more distracted than she realized. Amanda Machado: During the pandemic, a lot of things that had happened to me years ago, I suddenly wanted to write about, and they kind of came flooding in and a part of me wonders if they just never had the space to flood back in, because I was never still enough to really listen to those things. But, a lot of stories of what happened, traumas that had happened and beautiful moments that had happened over the last decade of travel rushed in really quickly in the first few months of the pandemic and kind of didn't stop for the next few years. And I, you know, I'm grateful for that. I think there's an argument to be said that you need stillness to have that space to write about certain things and I'm not sure I would have gotten it if I had kept up at the pace that I was beforehand. Anna Brones - Narration: This plays out in the science, too. Christine shared with me that we learn best when our needs are taken care of. When you don’t feel secure, you’re less able to make new connections. Christine Liu: For people who are. Maybe fixated on experiencing so much novelty that it's hard to appreciate the simple pleasures, And sometimes I think just reframing that and taking the time to appreciate the things that are just right in front of us can bring that same sense of wonder and appreciation. That's the other side of the coin is like, you know, you can experience new things without necessarily being exposed to novel external stimuli because there's, there is so much stimuli in our environment, that's kind of assaulting our senses that we just try to brush off so that we're not processing so much information all the time. If you just slow down and take time to process the things around us, that can be a source of novelty, just because you're looking or thinking about something in a different way. Anna Brones - Narration: When we open ourselves up to slowing down and redirecting our attention, we open ourselves up to creative possibility. But it's not a cure-all for a creative block. Anna Brones: I have a friend who often describes it as like “feeling nothing.” Like you're not even like down, you're just I have zero. and so in those moments of block where you just feel like you're in a rut, just like nothing new as possible. What are your strategies for getting yourself out of that? Christine Liu: Yeah, of the little reading that I've done in terms of the distinction of creative block and creative drive, someone might have a lot of creative drive, really want to create something, but not have the inspiration. And so they're in a creative block and in that state, that might be something that is akin to being, kind of, depressed, not necessarily in a clinical state, but having some sort of block that might be from anxiety. They're not sure if what they're going to create is going to be good. Or it might be from a lack of energy or motivation, where no matter how much they want to do something, it's just hard to get out of bed. And so things like having things on hand in your own living environment that make you feel good, that might be a good way to break out of that too. But if all else fails, I like for my creative blocks take anxiety of it away from me. So I just try to turn off the little voices that say, oh, you should do that. You should do this, or plan this out better, or pull a bunch of references and just set up an uninterrupted period of time where I'm playing. [Music comes in] That's actually when I have no expectations or low expectations, that's when I often find myself to be very satisfied with the work I create. And that kind of ties back into dopamine, to have low expectations of something. And then when you do end up making something good, there's this large reward prediction, error that leads to a larger release of dopamine. And so I think taking the pressure off of yourself, whatever that might mean. That’s what I might recommend. Anna Brones: Well, I just love that. There's a scientific reason for lowering my expectations. So that's solid. [Laughter] [Music stings out.] Amanda Machado: I think I realized that writing couldn't just be a solitary pursuit. And I think by being forced to be alone so often I realized that that wasn't actually what was always helping my creativity. And so even though being with people was so difficult and the pandemic, it actually ended up being the time I was most social with my creative process. Anna Brones - Narration: Amanda put a two hour event on her calendar every Thursday. She said, hey, I'll be here writing by myself on Zoom, if you want to join in. And lots of people showed up. Amanda's network became a lifeline. Amanda Machado: The collectivism of writing just became really clear in a way that I don't think I realized before. And ultimately, what is most inspiring to me? Connection with other people. So in the moments that I felt the most blocked, the idea that I was going to send this draft to a friend or that I have to be on a zoom and see this person, and we're going to write together was actually the most inspiring thing out of all the other things that I could have done. I felt myself holding myself much more accountable to connection with people. That's what ended up getting a lot of work out during a really difficult time. Anna Brones: Doing that you are in a sense cultivating newness because every time that you show up, do you feel like you get something. new from your group? Amanda Machado: Yeah, absolutely. A new perspective, new, new feedback, new ideas that add on to the same thing that you're trying to figure out or write about. I started out writing when I was young because I felt lonely and I felt like I wanted to seek connection. And at that time it was just writing for myself was the way I did that. And then when I became a published writer, it was a way of reaching out for connection with other people. To me, it makes so much sense then that you could kind of bypass that process by making the connection part of the beginning of it. Right? Through writing with people all the time and sharing the process of creativity with them. There's so much novelty in that. You're so right. [Music Transition] Anna Brones: In terms of like dopamine or just the brain, are we able to get like a similar dose, if we challenge ourselves to seek out something new in our surroundings, like maybe you just challenge yourself to spend more time in your backyard and you start to look at the flowers that you've seen every day, but you look at them in a new way. Like, essentially, can we train the brain to get a kick of newness out of even the most everyday stuff? Christine Liu: I would like to say theoretically, yes. I just, you know, that's a beautiful experiment that I would love to be able to do, but it's very hard to measure. Dopamine in humans and also to design an experiment like that. Also, there's so much variability between people that rather than making a statement, like, can we train ourselves to have a similar amount of dopamine release in the mundane or in the stimuli already around us. I would maybe flip it and reflect on what makes me feel good that I'm already encountering in my everyday life. And how can I enrich that or center that, or honor that. And on the same side, What am I doing in my everyday life that makes me feel bad that maybe is a societal expectation to enjoy, or I think that I should enjoy, but I actually don't and really just checking in with my body and these things take time and they take a lot of really critical self-reflection. But I think that that might be the way to go because humans are so different, if something works good for everybody on average, it's probably not that very special thing that makes you joyful. And we should really focus on enriching those parts of our lives. Sound of birds chirping and waves lapping Anna Brones - Narration: For me and for a small group of women, that means getting into cold water every week, in the same place. Anna Brones: So it's a little bit after six on a Tuesday and I am getting ready to go to my Tuesday swim group. And I'm going to get changed into my swimsuit and then put my warm layer on top and then, uh, head out. Yeah, Tuesday has just become such an important part of my week. It just feels really special to go gather with those women and get in the water. [Sound of water lapping] Anna greeting a fellow swimmer - Good morning! Lisa: Actually, I feel excited to get in the water. I look forward to it. It's the thing that gets me up out of bed in the morning. It's a great way to start the day. Anne: I like paying attention to the reaction that my body has. Like I'm conscious of where I'm called first, where I get warm first. When I completely submerge, I love that rush that I get of my whole body being one temperature. I think that is my favorite part. And then it's exhilaration and satisfaction. Tracey: Number one, I started here working on my resiliency. Did I have enough mental courage to actually walk into water and be there for awhile where everyone said, you're going to get hypothermia, don't do that! And it transitioned into this peace and serenity that comes with being in nature and recognizing the small changes that come with every day. Lisa: Oh my gosh. Did you see, there was a seal just out there! Coming back to the same place. Every time is magical because it's different every single time. And I start paying attention to, uh, the light, the season, the change every day, it's different and every day it's beautiful Woman: I’m ready. [The women get into the water.] [Laughter and reactions to the cold water.] [Music comes in] Anna Brones - Narration: So do we need newness for creativity? Here's what Christine had to say: Christine Liu: From what I've seen in the research, it doesn't look like novelty seeking is particularly correlated with being creative or being able to be creative. So if you're someone who just likes to draw in the same place every day and limit the amount of extra noise you encounter, that's perfectly fine, too. If you're also someone that likes to be exposed to new things, and that's where you get your inspiration from, lean into it, go do that but there's no wrong or right way to get inspired or to get your drawings or writings out. We're all very different and finding what works best for you, I think is the key. Anna Brones - Narration: As for Amanda, they're not done traveling. But she's reframing how she approaches it: Amanda Machado: Something I'm thinking about a lot also is that in a lot of ways too, this is a really colonial mindset to like always need something new and to believe that the better thing for your life is not where you are, but it's somewhere else and you have to go travel to find it. And then once you find it, you will take it and bring it back. And I think as much as I tried to be, you know, a traveler who cared about human rights and all these things, there was something anti indigenous about the way I was doing it. To be indigenous is to be present and aware and to be in relationship with everything around you. And, that was entirely the opposite of what I was doing with the way I built my life.It's become even more of a priority to travel to places I already have connections to in one way or another. Anna Brones: It's interesting. It just makes me think like, just like your writing group that you see regularly, it allows a collaboration like with the place, when you know it.when you get to see that place and be in that place at different times and discover something new, even within the sort of well-known elements of it. Amanda Machado: Yeah. Yeah. That's exactly what it is. And I think creative collaborating is something that I think some artists are really good at, especially musicians. And I think it's encouraged in some forms of art. I don't think it's encouraged in writing. I think collaborating is something that the pandemic has had to teach me. And yeah, I think collaboration in terms of how you travel, like collaborating with place has never been. Something I thought about until very recently. Anna Brones - Narration: When we’re stuck in one place for an extended period of time, things can easily start to feel a little boring, like we’re in a rut. That sense of home blindness sets in and we become numb to what’s around us. But since our conversation, I keep thinking about what Christine pointed out, that no matter where we are, we’re surrounded by stimuli. We just happen to be a little better acquainted with the stuff we know well, so we forget to pay attention to it. But if we work at bringing that attention back, then a whole new world can open up to us. [Cut back to Anna on the trail, continuing her thought from the cold open of the episode.] Anna - Trillium Walk: So, even though I've grown up seeing trilliums every single spring, there's just something that feels really new and exciting about them every single time (ha!) that they popped back up. So I guess the point is there’s so much around to sort of spark a sense of newness I think. Even in these spaces that seem routine and well known, there’s always something new to find if we’re curious enough to seek it out. Anna Brones - Narration: This show is grounded in the knowledge that we are all creative, and we all have the capacity to be even more creative. But doing so requires a commitment. Because if we wait for that extreme dose of novelty to spark our inspiration, we might never get it. So instead, we have to take an active role in seeking it out. We can still crave new places and new experiences. I think I’m always going to long for a trip, that thrill of being in a new place, of discovering new views, new smells, new foods. That kind of novelty, it jolts me out of that sense of everyday sameness. And that jolt can make for really good inspiration. But the real trick for our own creative process is to figure out how to find that jolt no matter where we are - like Amanda, finding joy retreading the same trail again and again. Or lowering our expectations a bit like Christine suggested, in the hopes that doing so will make us a little more surprised by the end result. [Theme Music comes in] What if we focused on the things that feel enriching. What if we were intentional about cultivating connection and collaboration? What if we made a commitment to creativity? Thanks for listening to Creative Fuel, we’ll see you next time. CREDITS Anna Brones - Narration: This episode featured Amanda Machado and Christine Liu. Learn more about their work through the links in the show notes. Thanks so much to Big Cartel for making the first season of Creative Fuel possible. Big Cartel’s small-but-mighty team makes it easy for artists, makers, and creators to operate online on their own terms. Get started at BigCartel.com. Our midroll ad featured artist Kashmir Thompson. You can find her Big Cartel shop, Kashmir VIII, linked in the show notes. Creative Fuel is hosted and co-produced by me, Anna Brones. It’s co-produced and edited by Gale Straub. Sound engineering by Steph George. Special thanks to my weekly swim group, and my mom, Britta Brones. Our next episode will be out in 2 weeks. Follow Creative Fuel wherever you listen to podcasts. Head over to CreativeFuelCollective.com for more creative inspiration, prompts, online workshops and a robust creative community.

Episode Transcript

 

LEAF.png