Jill Badonsky is one of the most creative people I know. Her imagination apparently has no bounds. She writes, she draws and paints and creates delightful and whimsical illustrations. She leads workshops, teaches, and trains creativity coaches. She’s a poet, a speaker, and a sister provocateur. Her newest book, The Muse is In: An Owner’s Manual to Your Creativity, has just been released by Running Press. It’s truly a work of art: every page is alive with Jill’s colorful illustrations. I think you’ll like what she has to say about creativity, too.
I had so many questions for Jill and her responses are so great, I don’t want you to miss one good thing Jill has to tell us, so the interview will be presented in two parts. Here’s the first part:
For a time, when we’re little kids, we just are creative, but we aren’t self-conscious of it. When did that light bulb or realization go on in your head that you were “creative”?
In high school I noticed that I valued creativity more than most people. I was drawn to the offbeat, the quirky, and the original; I was compelled to do the unexpected. I’m not sure I identified this as me actually BEING creative. I still don’t. I just think creativity is the fabric of my happiness so I HAVE to do it for my peace of mind. However being called creative is one of my very favorite compliments.
Can you plan creativity? Like sit down at the table at 9 a.m. and say, “OK, I’m going to be creative now.” Or does it have to be spontaneous?
The more we stay aware of our creative project by daydreaming, free associating, and asking small questions about it, by having a regular time to show up for the work, the more creativity is there whenever we want to use it. The trick for being able to be creative at any moment is knowing which tool will work best in the moment. We have choices; here are just SOME of them:
- Simply showing up and starting with the flow of writing or art with no concern for what comes out,
- Taking a walk and musing over a possible next step
- Editing or modifying what we have already done
- Taking a break, filling with another creative modality and giving the idea a chance to breathe
- Exposing ourselves to what inspires us—other people’s works, things we’ve created in the past, a quote, a passage in a book.
So we can sit down and see where our Muse would be the most potent in the moment and know it doesn’t have to be according to someone else’s rules or be the same thing every time.
Tell us about creating The Muse Is In. You’ve produced 226 pages of amazingly wonderful and whimsical drawings—each page hand-drawn—plus hundreds of quotes and ideas and tips and questions and suggestions and on and on. This book is, as we say, chock-full. Talk about the process, how long it took to create it and how you kept after it.
This was the hardest of the three books I wrote because I had such a short amount of time to do it and I was in charge of all the illustrations and the design of the book as well. This brought up lots of pressure, fear and resistance. I’ve never designed a book before nor knew really how to do it. Although I had an eight-month deadline, after all the editing and redoing of an unacceptable first draft it took a year and a half to write, but those days were frequently 12-15 hours long.
It helped to create a take-off on an Owner’s Manual because I had a structure to parody and modify. I loved coming up with the Daily Care and Maintenance section, which is prompts for everyday of the year, because that was an easy outlet for my quirky sense of humor. But the tools, gizmos, and troubleshooting sections were a lot of difficult work and the only way I could get it done was by breaking it down to really small steps, listening to great music, going to cafes, and promising myself a cupcake when I got certain amount of it done. Luckily, I have an obsessed compulsion to get information out into the world; I use this pathology to my benefit by keeping my procrastination and easy distractibility less important than my creative work.
The first draft of the book was a monstrous disaster and my editor wouldn’t even read it without me removing two-thirds of it. Chopping it down was REALLY hard, but just saying to myself constantly when any block came up “SO WHAT! GOTTA GET IT DONE”… seemed to work. Often we get stopped because we don’t feel like doing something. The only way I can get things done is to work no matter HOW I feel. I had no idea how people would like the finished product until they finally started sending feedback. I’m liking the feedback.
Do you ever get tired of being creative on a deadline?
I love deadlines that other people set for me; I actually do best when I have them. Deadlines provide me with the structure I need to get things done and free me from all the resistance that comes up when I’m trying to do things without one.
Just curious—have you ever been angry at the Muse for what she’s assigned you to do? Have you ever said “no” to her?
I’ve never gotten angry at my Muse. I’m so grateful for all the ideas I am blessed. I listen to all her ideas, but there are far too many to execute so I say “not right now” on a regular basis and write ones I don’t get to in a journal. Often her ideas come together in ways I hadn’t expected. My Muse knows my taste in ideas so she usually doesn’t deliver ones I don’t want to do and I just ignore the ones she does.
Have you ever actually seen the Muse?
My muse is not visual. She is the full body experience of an idea being delivery. Her electricity directs my mind from the routine and the mundane to the vibrant possibility that an idea presents. She lures my participation by providing the bliss when I sink into the timeless flow of the creative process by engaging in the next intuitively guided step. She has a voice and a presence but not an image. It seems for me that her purpose is not to be seen, it’s to be felt and thus, ignite action.
We’re going to leave you here. Jill has much more to say about Creativity and her Muse and her new book. Part II of this interview with Jill will be posted next week. Watch for it.
Jill Badonsky, M.Ed., is an internationally recognized workshop leader, keynote speaker, creativity-coaching pioneer, illustrator, and humorist. As the founder and director of Kaizen-Muse Creativity Coaching, she consults with filmmakers, comedians, artists, writers, business leaders, and anyone who is experiencing procrastination and other blocks to positive changes. Jill’s other books are The Awe-Manac, and The Nine Modern Day Muses (and a Bodyguard). Visit her at themuseisin.com where you can play a little tune as you explore all the wonders she has to offer.