The Importance of Creativity

Episode 4 of The Modern Prometheus is up, everyone! This week I talked about something near and dear to my heart: the importance of #creativity. I am someone who feels most at home in a #creative environment, celebrating works of the mind, and I know I am not alone. This episode is for everyone, but it will especially ring true to those who also love the arts. Share this with everyone you know!!  #podcast #author #art https://anchor.fm/damean-mathews/episodes/The-Importance-of-Creativity-e1mokmb

Using Personal Success/Creative Encouragement

Happy late August, everyone! Summer is quickly drawing to a close as Fall and the holiday seasons creep ever closer. Personally, I find the cooler months tend to either be nominally more successful for creative endeavors – or they kill them completely. Rarely is there an in between. Usually that thought would mortify me, but I am working harder at understanding to allow my body and mind to work at their pace and accept that sometimes the muse just is not there.

That does not mean, however, that I am not successful. The same goes for all of you. Past accomplishments are just as important today, tomorrow, and years in the future as they were the day you achieved them. That is something that is a little difficult to believe or maintain as a creator. When we look back at a huge project we finished at an earlier date and see that we haven’t done anything of similar magnitude today, it can be a little discouraging. You may even be tempted to feel guilty about it.

Don’t. Regardless of what horrible things your mind tells you, you are still a creator, and you are still doing amazing things. Knowing that you have accomplished huge things in the past should be enough to make you excited for your potential for the present and the future. When these feelings of inadequacy spring up, and I wish I could say they wouldn’t, but they probably will, it is important to look at what encourages us as a creator.

Personally, I find there are several things that encourage and inspire me – anything from the right music, to heavy exposure to nature and peaceful surroundings. Whatever it may be, it is important that you delve into these things anytime you are feeling even moderately less than awesome. It is also crucially important that we make an effort to reach out and encourage our fellow creators. If we know that we get down and start feeling like our work isn’t good enough sometimes it only stand to reason that other creators feel the same way. I actually spoke a lot about encouragement and inspiration in a recent podcast that I’ll link here in the bottom of this post.

I have noticed a lot of times lately that people will endlessly consume the arts, and let’s face it, that’s a lot better than losing yourself in reality. That is not at all a problem, of course. The problem comes when we lose ourself in these magnificent works of art, love them to bits, but say nothing of that love to the creator. I know each and every one of you who have shared your work with others have experienced what it’s like to have someone look at your piece or listen to your song or read your story and give it no reaction or the most minimal one. It sucks.

To know that you put that piece of yourself out there and someone just walked by it and barely gave it a reaction makes you feel lower than low. To know that this story that makes your heart pound and made you so proud you wanted to share it is just given the most cursory response is like a knife in the back. So don’t do this to other creators! Make sure if there is something out there that inspires any kind of emotion in you, you tell the person who made it happen! I have a lot more to say about this in my podcast, so head on over there and check it out. “The Modern Prometheus” podcast is available pretty much anywhere you listen to podcasts.

https://anchor.fm/damean-mathews/episodes/Creative-Encouragment-e1mfgc7

I also have started a Patreon geared toward writers and creators, if you haven’t heard that news. I have two tier levels that each have their own benefits, but both will offer you tips, writing exercises, free samples of my work, and more. Head on over there to become a patron and start reaping the benefits!

https://www.patreon.com/DameanMathews

As always, thank you for listening to what I have to say, and I hope you will all interact, listen to my podcast, and join me on my Patreon journey. Keep your eyes open for new work, news on my upcoming events and more! Have a great week!

Creative Freedom

Happy January, everyone! I hope this year has proven to be peaceful and calm for everyone so far. The last two years have, of course, proven difficult for most of us, but one thing I love about the human race is that we are ridiculously resilient. We keep fighting through the worst situations and do our best to overcome. One of my favorite ways to do this is with art. As always, I maintain that art is one of the most important, rewarding, and helpful facets of life. That is why, when my amazing wife got me the opportunity to teach some writing workshops in Lebanon, Va. I leapt at the chance.

The first of my workshops is a general creative writing workshop where I plan to discuss things ranging from journals, poetry, short stories, and longer fiction. It looks to be a great night with a community of like-minded individuals all of whom will hopefully walk away with some new ideas. I will put the information for the workshop at the end of this post for anyone who is interested. I want to use this post to discuss something I plan to push in this workshop, which is the importance of creating.

I feel, as creators, we focus too much on the results of our work. It is easy to get caught up in thinking about what our work can do, where it can go, what benefits it may reap, but in today’s society we are so focused on results and the return for our output that we have lost sight of the most important part of art – enjoying it. The creation of art is one of the most cathartic, relaxing, amazing parts of being a creator, and it is fast becoming an after thought. I am the first to admit that I have even been guilty of it in the recent past.

I am currently nearly 77,000 words into the sequel for my 2020 novel Moonlight, and I found myself trying to think about how my audience would react to a crucial plot point last week. I have known this was the way the plot is going since June, and I’ve been building toward it every time I write, but I became so focused on the end result I began second-guessing myself. It got so bad that I was stressing myself out over it to the point of being completely unable to produce more than a couple hundred words a day. Now, don’t get me wrong, that is a good amount of output, and there is nothing at all wrong with producing that much, but I felt like I had more to produce each day and was unable to do so. I walked away from each attempt to write feeling like I was holding onto more than I had been able to release, which is never helpful. My stress over my potential audience’s reaction was causing me to suffer from what I can only consider mental constipation, until I realized (after encouraging words from my wife) that it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks about it. This is my creation, a world that exists in my mind, and I know what it needs to move forward. I know how incredible it feels to have the release and freedom to create without considering what may happen in the future.

My point from all this is that we, as creators and artists for our respective crafts, owe ourselves the freedom of living in the moment. The sweet release of not thinking about our work in terms of return, end result, reaction, or anything else is so beautiful it can literally save our lives. I’ve mentioned several times before that my writing saved my life, and I know people whose talents and passions have done the same for them. If we offer ourselves the chance to create, without tangles, without expectations, without considering where it could go or where it could take us our art will feel richer and fuller than we could imagine. Utilizing the true freedom of passion and giving yourself the ability to create without thinking about the end result is the exact reason art exists.

I’ve often heard various quotes from different artists and influencers throughout history that, more or less, say it doesn’t matter how good or bad your creation is as long as you let yourself create it. That message has always been important, but it was only after dealing with this recent development that it hit me just how true it is. So, that is the challenge I want to issue to all of my creative readers here. Be free. Offer yourself the gift of creation without expectation. It doesn’t matter how good or bad your creation is. It’s yours. You need to do it for you, not for anyone or anything else. You should create because it is important to you, because it is your passion. You should not be afraid to create because you think you aren’t good enough. There is no such thing as good enough.

True creative freedom means it doesn’t matter how good or bad you are at something, you just DO. Create. Feel. Be alive. Be passionate. Let it out. The next time you set out to create, don’t think about the quality of the work. Just create. If you suck, suck. But do it honestly. If you are singer, don’t be afraid to belt it out, even if you sound like an elephant seal with laryngitis. If you play music, play to your heart’s content, even if you sound like a ghostly cacophony of rusted hinges. Do not allow fear of comparison stop your passion in its tracks. Just free yourself and let the passion flow.

I sincerely hope you will all take this message to heart and allow yourselves the freedom to create without expectations or limitations. If you are interested in some fun writing workshops, feel free to follow the link below to register. I know some of you aren’t anywhere near Lebanon, Va. and it won’t be possible to attend in person, but there is a Zoom option for the workshops if anyone is interested. We typically open the Zoom if we know someone is interested, so if you would like to attend that way please reach out to me and let me know that is your preference and we can make it happen. The first workshop is tomorrow, Thursday, 1/13/22. After this month, weather permitting, they will take place on the first Thursday of every month.

https://swcc-school-of-the-arts.square.site/

As always, I always love talking to anyone who resonates with my posts. If you feel like you can relate, or want to respond in any way feel free to reach out via comment or send me a message through my website.

March Like a Lion

Happy March, everyone! I hope February ended on a positive note for everyone. The third month of the year, which we’ve always heard can either come in like a lamb and go out like a lion, or the opposite, is definitely starting on a rough note in my region. With hard rain, wind, and flooding, we’re definitely seeing some rough and tumble behavior on the forefront of this one. On the positive side, I heard the first of the Spring Peepers yesterday evening, and I have been able to start the month out on a good note with some great news.

I recently wrote a short story entitled “Mountain Service” for a local writing contest. I began pondering the characters and letting their story flow a few weeks ago, after hearing about the contest. The main requirements for the contest were to present a 500-1,000 word short story that involved Appalachian living. From my love of the region, to my recent foray into the incredible writing of Appalachian author David Joy, I have been wanting to dive into a similar story for some time. I used this opportunity to begin exploring the lives of the Gardner family who lives in the heart of the Appalachian Mountains and embodies my idea of what it means to be an Appalachian. I have so much of their lives flowing through my mind already and I can’t wait to write more about them.

I turned “Mountain Service” in for consideration a few days after it was finished – coming in at 999 words. While hopeful for positive news, I like to try to put those things out of mind once I turn them in, otherwise I’ll never be able to think of anything else. It came as quite a pleasant surprise yesterday when I got the news I had won the contest! My prize for winning is a one year membership to the Appalachian Authors Guild, with whom I have worked closely in the past (especially during the unfortunately short-lived Appalachian Heritage Writers Symposium) and inclusion in this year’s Guild sponsored anthology. It is incredibly humbling and quite an honor to officially be a part of the Guild for the first time. I hope I will be able to do the organization justice.

I think it almost goes without saying that this particular win is one that automatically put me in a good mindset. It is very easy to get down on yourself, as a creative, between times of new creative success. Granted, finishing one novel earlier in the year, working on another, and finishing a short story also count as successes. It’s not always enough to grant a reprieve from the negative thoughts that follow an unfortunate rejection – of which I have received my fair share this year, but that should not be the case. I think too often creatives, myself absolutely included, put more emphasis on the public side of the creative process. It is too easy to look at how much we have accomplished through the lens of how much of it is in the public eye rather than just how much we have to personally be proud of.

I have spoken several times since the pandemic began about how hard it is to maintain any level of consistent creativity with the added strain and stress of the current state of things, and that hasn’t changed much. From the stress and worry this current world climate is causing, to the general exhaustion so many of us have been feeling, sometimes it is honestly near impossible to realistically create with any level of regularity. But so many of us keep trying. That is amazing. So many of us have pushed through the barrier of stress and strain to fight for our creative voice and maintain the habit of bringing our works into the world and, frankly, that deserves to be talked about. Heck, that deserves a reward in and of itself. I know as much as anyone else how difficult it can be to keep pushing ourselves to write and create when the world around us seems to be doing everything it can to keep us down.

Beyond a shadow of a doubt, though, I have come to realize that times like this are when we need our creativity more than ever. It’s one thing to write or produce our art on a bright, sunshiny day when nothing seems to be going wrong and we’re getting deals and requests from all around. Of course our creative spirit can bask in the ease and happiness that comes with positivity and demand. But times like this, when uncertainty lurks around every corner and rain is falling in torrents (literally and figuratively) around us, within and without, the spirit of creativity needs to be pushed and cherished with a renewed vigor. It is times of great stress and pain when the greater part of humanity find themselves in need of such an artistic boost. How many of you have found solace in binge watching your favorite shows or movies in the last year, or have devoured countless new books, or listened to hours of your favorite kind of music, or enjoyed other forms of art? How many of you honestly feel your current sanity and coping skills can be largely attributed to the ability to turn to art during such a difficult time? That is only the start of it. The world needs art in times of hardship, and it is no different for creators.

If you’re like me, you found a lot of peace with your favorite forms of art since the world started changing, and I’ve got to tell you, it doesn’t look like that need is going anywhere anytime soon. But, have you noticed the same thing goes for creating? When you put yourself in the world of your own creation it provides you with almost the same sense of euphoric peace that enjoying someone else’s creation can bring. The main difference being it is sometimes harder to open those doors these days. I have found myself feeling all the much more creative when I push myself to break through the walls of writer’s block and stress the world (not without my contribution) has placed on me to begin my work. It is often hard, and even the most powerful of personal accomplishments may not always have the power to shatter whatever chains are holding me back, but I know how important it is.

My wife often reminds me whenever I mention feeling like I am unable to create at the level I’d prefer, or if I ever get down because I have gotten a rejection, that it should not be about how much I am creating, or what anyone else thinks about it. At the end of the day, I write because I feel it is what I was born to do. At heart, sure, I want the world to see and experience my creations. I want people to read and fall in love with the words I placed on paper the way I do. I want to be someone’s favorite author – preferably in my lifetime. But that those things are not guaranteed. Those things are not even what started my journey. I started writing because I heard the whisper of a story within myself. Because when my purpose was awakened within me, I needed it in a way I didn’t even fully understand. My passion for writing and for the written word as a whole come, not from a need for validation from others, but from a burning desire to bring these ideas that exist within myself out into the open. That should be the focus for all of us. We should not limit ourselves to creating just for others, or making art with the sole hope for making money. Sure, that can be a goal. I won’t pretend for a second I don’t (no so secretly) yearn for the day I can support mine and my wife’s lifestyle solely with the profit of my own creation. But that may not be in the cards.

That does not mean I should not create. Writing is a big part of who I am, just like your art is a part of who you are. The main reason we have for embracing our creative talent and passion are because these things make us happy. These things are a part of us, and in their own way they help make us complete when we embrace them. That is our purpose. That is our motivation. More than whether or not the world will see and enjoy these creations, more than whether pursuing those passions will one day pay our bills, more than whether anyone will ever know our name or consider themselves our fans is the fact that these talents and passions are within us because they are who we are. We need to openly embrace a culture of creating just for ourselves, for just enjoying our worlds and understanding they can be just as therapeutic for us as they can for anyone else. Emily Dickinson kept most of her work locked up, sharing only 10 of her nearly 1,800 poems and only one letter during her lifetime. It truly is not about whether anyone else ever reads or enjoys our work, it should be about us enjoying the creative process. We should have our worlds close to our hearts and minds, and use them to fully embrace who we are.

That’s the most important thing to take away from this message. Rather than pursuing your art like a lamb, giving small portions of your attention to your creative tendencies you should charge in like a lion. You are the king, queen, ultimate master of your creation. You were given your ideas, your creative spirit, your creative nature because only you can create the things you are meant to create. Only you can produce your creations the way you can, and no one else could ever do it the same way you can. If for no other reason than that, I urge each and every one of you to take charge. Grab that creative nature by the horns and make it your own. Don’t ever hesitate to produce and create. There are few things better for a creative than seeing your own world unfold before you, and few things worse than having your world stuck inside of you. Never betray yourself in such a way that you lock your world and your creation away from even your own enjoyment. Regardless of what negative things are going on in the world, we need to fully embrace our creative nature and push aside anything that holds us back from that. I say, beyond a shadow of a doubt, we all need to march forward like a lion. Only we can tackle our creations in the way we are meant to. So we owe it to ourselves to make it happen!

As always, I welcome your feedback and commentary. I love hearing from you guys and I look forward to seeing what you all have to say. Feel free to share this message with anyone who could use the boost, and be sure to jump over and check out my podcast The Modern Prometheus. Keep your eyes open for new posts, new episodes, and all the news I’ve got coming up. If you haven’t subscribed to my newsletter, subscribe today to stay up to date! Most importantly, take the time to day and every day to accept yourself and create!

Living, Creating, and Self-Investment

Happy February, everyone. We’re not quite two months into the new year and things are going quite well so far. I hope you all have found the start of this year to be better than the latter half of the dreaded 2020. I know the state of the world isn’t quite back to the previous normal, and it may never fully return to that, but I hope you have all found ways to adapt and create your own happiness in the new normal, such as it is. My wife and I have been very blessed to have plenty to enjoy and plenty of opportunities to adapt, and I can’t thank God enough for that. It has, so far, remained a strange year for travel hopes, job stresses, life stresses, and the like, but I have been able to power through and continue writing.

I am beyond pleased to share that I have completed my as yet untitled fantasy novel after about five years of writing. It has been an incredible journey filled with quite a few days immersed in various fantasy movies, books, and games, with more medieval style music than I can name providing the background for my nearly 90,000 word first foray into the world I created. I have given the book to a couple of trusted beta readers to give their thoughts before I make my first edit, but it is very difficult parting from the world while I wait. I am incredibly excited to share this work with the world as soon as I feel it is ready. If you haven’t subscribed to my newsletter yet, make sure you do that, either through the pop-up window on my website or on the “Author Updates” tab on my Facebook page to get a sneak peak at the first few paragraphs of the book!

In order to maintain my writing habit, keep my craft strong, and move on to the next big thing, I have put my magic and fantasy down for a bit and have picked up my cutlass and bandana to dive back into the realm of swashbuckling pirates! I have always been fascinated with stories of pirates and high seas adventures and the like, but I really got slammed with my idea last year and started brainstorming and immersing myself in pirate literature and adventure tales through the summer – my awesome wife even treated me to a pirate-themed dinner show during our honeymoon to keep the creativity flowing. After I got my basic outline figured out and started a direction with my characters, I eventually put the pirates on the back burner so their story could simmer a bit longer. But now I am unfurling the sails and setting them free. I have big plans for my gang of pirates, from sailing to undiscovered places in search of the world’s mysteries, to encountering legends that have been passed down even to modern sea-farers. No stone will remain unturned, no body of water unexplored as I take on such a beloved topic.

On top of revisiting my pirates and eagerly awaiting feedback on my fantasy novel, I have begun working on a bit of Appalachian fiction again. I brainstormed a story about an Appalachian family last week and it has exploded with possibility in my mind. I wrote a story that came in at just under 1,000 words that gave me a feel for these characters and I have become increasingly excited to dive into their lives, as well. I am letting them roll around in my head and develop more of their personalities before I set them free on the page. I am very excited to see what their stories will be, and I think it could very well be a good, strong Appalachian tale that I will be pumped to develop.

Overall, it has been helpful for me to invest in myself and in my writing. I have been working hard to remind myself that I am, at heart, a writer. It is what I feel I was created for. It is the reason I have such a passion for the written word, and it feels great to allow myself to embrace that. I suppose, in essence, that is the point of this post. In light of the changing world and the stresses of change and pandemic, I allowed myself to stray from my writing. I fell off the track of investing and believing in myself, and I am working hard to get back on the right path. It is honestly because of my incredible wife that I am reminded of my purpose. She has encouraged me so much since we got together, and she convinced me to invest in myself again. It’s a great feeling knowing that she believes in me so much. I know not everyone has that type of support system in their lives, especially creatives, and that is devastating. I am telling you right now, I support you and and your dreams.

If you are a person who has a passion for art and creating, no matter your medium, you are incredibly important. Your creations matter more than you know. Even if no one but you is ever allowed to see them, you have been given your passion and ability for a reason. That reason may be so you can survive in such a crazy world by expressing yourself and your inner voice in an external way to release frustrations, or that reason may be so you can create something current and future masses will adore and consider amazingly influential to their own passion and creativity. From either extreme and everywhere in between, I fully believe everyone’s desires and passions exist within them for a reason, and they should be embraced. If your passions don’t involve hurting anyone else, I fully support you and your dreams and I promise that you deserve the chance to see them come true. So, I encourage anyone out there who has a passion to take a chance on yourself. Regardless of what anyone else may or may not have said about your craft (because, believe me, I know a lack of comment can be just as devastating as an insult), you deserve to invest in yourself.

The world we live in may not be the one we’re used to, and it may never reflect the past as much as we’d like, but it is ours, and we deserve to make it such. So get out there and draw, paint, sing, dance, write, do your podcast, act, whatever it is that you feel a pull for, make it happen. Take a little time each day to invest in yourself, believe in yourself, or even just allow yourself to do that thing. You won’t regret it. Even if it’s something you do in private and keep it tucked away in a closet no one else ever goes into, do it anyway. You deserve it. The stress of the world melts away for that little bit of time when you are taking a moment for yourself, trust me. It makes a world of difference to know that you embraced that part of yourself that allows you to express your innermost thoughts and creativity. It is a great thing. I want to give a thank you to my family and friends and everyone who has encouraged and supported my craft and passion throughout my life, and I want to give a huge shout out and a booming thank you to my incredible wife who reminded me, above all else, that I deserve to invest in myself, and that my writing and my creativity are important. Amanda, you are an inspiration to me every day, and you don’t know how much that means to me.

So, get out there and take the world by storm. Put your art out there and be yourself. Believe in yourself. Allow yourself. Invest in yourself. It’s an investment you can’t lose on.

How have you all fared through our mighty changes over the last 11 months or so? Have you found yourselves on a creative down-spiral, or have you kept your head up? Feel free to comment your stresses, your successes, your fears, anything at all. I’m open to any and all discussion, and I look forward to hearing from you all as the world continues to move around us.