Creative Cognoscente Interview: Whitney Freya

I'm so pleased to present to you another amazing Creative Cognoscente Interview this Friday. 155728_1683903572662_1089793484_1870578_2225464_n 

Please welcome Whitney Freya and hang onto your hat as you read this because she is a force of nature.  I was pleased to invite Whitney to lead a workshop at the Writer's Loft last September and ever since then I've been wanting to get the chance to find out more about her and her work.   Whitney exudes passion for the topic of creativity.   It is impossible to talk to her, attend a workshop, or read her blog without getting excited about her right-brain activities.  

I feel especially lucky, because even though Whitney now lives in Nashville, this summer she's moving to Oregon.  I'm hoping this means our paths will cross more often now.  Be sure to check out her site here, and if you want to get a hold of her, her email address is at the end of this post.  It is a long post, but guys, its really worth reading.  This woman is full of ideas and tips.  I've been doing some of her creative right-brain exercises to enhance my writing, and they work!

You maintain that doing simple creative activities will change your life—can you explain why?

Before my clients became Creatively Fit, they would have wonderful, creative ideas, but they would never get further than the “idea”. Why? Because, with their left brain, logical, critical mind dominating their consciousness, their brilliant, creative idea was met with all the reasons why it would never work, why they weren’t qualified, etc. That is the job of the left brain—to protect the ego. Your creative, brilliant ideas are a threat to the ego because these ideas haven’t been done before and there IS a chance of failure and that would hurt your ego. “So what!” That is what your right brain says to the left brain’s logical, critical, self-absorbed perspective. Once you engage this voice in your mind, open up to your “Artist Within” and give it equal platform with your left brain voice by doing the Creatively Fit Workouts…THEN things can start changing!

One of the quotes that jumped out at me from your website is this one: "If you want to change your life, you have to do something different." Can you explain the process by which creating change through creativity happens?

Einstein is the one who said, “Problems cannot be solved by the same consciousness that created them.” He also said that it “all comes down to whether or not one believes in a friendly or unfriendly universe.” So if something in your life is not going the way you desire you have to CREATE change. You have to DO something different to get NEW results.

The way we have all been programmed to think and to act is very linear + logical. We think, “Well, if I do this, this, and this, then, this has to happen.” We are so busy trying to figure “it” out that we have completely ignored an entirely different skillset that we have at our disposal—our right hemisphere. This is the creative side, the holistic side, the intuitive side, AND the side that believes in a friendly universe!

When you engage yourself in one of the Creatively Fit Creativity Workouts you are throwing your left brain voice a curve ball. It will whisper (or shout!) into your conscience, “What are you doing? Have you ticked those last couple items off your to-do list? Have you called her back? Mailed the bills? Done the laundry?.....on and on!” This is how you can tell you are on the right track. This left brain, inner judge/critic voice is about to be given a well-deserved rest, but it will fight you. Just a couple of minutes with paper and colored markers and it MUST CHECK OUT. It doesn’t get it. Aaaaaaahhh…now your right brain, the one with the universal, everything-is-working-out-perfectly, YOU CAN DO IT voice, can check in. “Hello! How can I help you create the life of your dreams today?” This is when the inspiration hits, the “coincidences” start happening, your intuition gets clearer….

This is the REAL you. The you that is balanced and centered and knows when to access your left brain voice and when to access your right. Now you are mindFULL. You are living more authentically. You will feel more fulFILLed. It is all because you learned how to tune in to your WHOLE mind—not just the side that is broadcast from every street corner. Ooooh, it is fun!

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How does developing your brain and being more creative lead to a happier life?

Imagine you had been going to the gym for the last five years and only exercising the left side of your body. Imagine the difference that would exist between your left and right arm. How would you walk? Stand up straight? Then, imagine that you were able to balance both sides of your body, creating equal strength on both sides. How much happier would you be? It is the same with our minds. Maybe our right brains have not been so underdeveloped as I described above, but, for the most part, it is still left brain thinking, the linear, logical, factual, “scientifically proven” way of thought, that is the most accepted way of thinking in this world. Being more creative, which means doing, thinking, or being in a different way, will inherently contrast our left brain routine and bring us back to center, closer to our authentic selves and the way we are supposed to move in our worlds.

I know that when you present workshops, you talk a lot about your right-brain research. What's the latest?

The biggest themes coming out of advances in neuroscience involve three areas: 1) the brain’s neuroplasticity, 2) the greater connection between left and right hemispheres in highly creative people, and 3) Quantum Physics and the fact that we create our own reality.

When you look into any brain research, you will find that the mind is ultimately more intricate than just right/left. The greatest theme is that creative individuals use more of their brain, more areas light up under the MRI simply because they are thinking about things from many different angles. I emphasize “right brain” because there are confirmed distinctions between the left and right hemisphere and it is a fabulous working paradigm for us as we go through our day, “I just had a very left-brain morning doing accounting work, so I should balance with some right brain work this afternoon.” What the research into neuroplasticity has found is that we CAN change the way we think, develop new patterns, and “learn new tricks”. This is huge for the creative world. If I had a dime for every time I had heard, “I’m not creative,” I would be rich. Whether or not you FEEL creative, you CAN be creative.

Other research into the nature of the creative mind has revealed that highly creative people have a larger corpus callosum connecting the two hemispheres. These people are able to go back and forth, draw from a greater mental resource, than less creative people. Again, it is evidence that with regular diversion from the routine, new ideas and ways of doing things develop.

What does developing our right brain do for us? Watercolor-home

Developing your right brain in the Creatively Fit Program does two fabulous things (among many others): first, it teaches you to look at your life as art and to accept your role as the artist. This is a huge shift. It happens as you learn to paint. You learn about the value of contrast, the lights and the darks. Contrast is so important in our own lives. Contrast is the hard days vs. the good ones. With your new perspective of the art that is your life, those hard days become catalysts for new beginnings; they illuminate the good and take you there.

The second thing that happens is you, literally, completely change the way you think about things AND you change all the new ideas coming to you by diverting the flow from steady left brain to an even infusion of BOTH left and right. For example, any of the BIG dreams we have are not going to manifest themselves in our lives coming at it from “logic." In order to achieve those big dreams you have to do something radically different and, without a doubt, take a big risk, an act of faith. Your logical left brain does not thrive in that kind of environment. That is why it will shut you down, get you “stuck” before you can take action. Think of “writer’s block." What if you write something really fabulous? You will have to do all kinds of things that you have never done before and then there is that chance that you will fail. That would be horrible—ego voice. For the “Artist Within” (right brain) voice this kind of challenge is just like contrast in the painting. It is what makes the art (and the life) interesting and valuable. It will urge you to trust (in the friendly universe) and to take bold action. It is your right brain that will lead you into the uncharted territory of all your dreams and ideas—not the left. NOW, once you get into that uncharted territory, you are going to want your left brain back to help build the new structure and store all the new information you are learning. It is the classic yin & yang. Most of us have just been living with too much yin and not enough yang.

Another one of your quotes is that the "mind responds like muscles." Can you explain this in terms of creativity?

I just posted a video on our YouTube Channel  and I referred to the fact that we go to the gym to exercise and to create change in our physical body the SAME WAY that we can go to Creatively Fit and do the creative exercise to create change in our spiritual body. Thomas Edison said, “The mind can be trained just as a set of muscles, if one will only take the time to train the mind to think.” If you have watched the movie What the Bleep you have seen their illustration of how our minds create new neural networks when we do or think new things. SO, every time you do a creative activity you are reinforcing those synapses, strengthening them, creating a closer connection, so that you can summon those creative abilities whenever they are needed. Likewise, in the movie, it shows how if you stop using a neural network it will eventually disengage and you will lose that connection. I find this all SO fascinating!

I know you've been following the press that creativity has been getting, such as the Newsweek cover story last summer. What are we finding out about the role of creativity in our lives and the current state of creativity in our country?

It is so exciting to see in the media every week more and more about the value of creativity and right brain thinking. The February Oprah Magazine issue read like my blog—it was incredible! I just read another article about the increase, or addition of, right brain thinking in college engineering programs. A friend just shared with me that the keynote speaker at a huge conference for operating room nurses lead off his speech declaring that they were ALL artists. It is coming from all sides. The disconnect I see, and that I love to fill, is that there is not much advice on HOW to become more creative or HOW to strengthen those right brain abilities. Creatively Fit provides a HOW that truly works.

What are some examples of simple creative workouts we can do? Ferre2

I just got off the phone with one of the women in my Creatively Fit Coaching Training and she shared with me how the “Scribble Drawing” Creativity Workout rescued her from a breakdown in the middle of doing her taxes! This is the kind of news that makes my day! She was literally so frustrated and on the brink of tears (I SO get that—not a numbers gal) and decided to take a break and scribble. ALL YOU DO is scribble for 2 seconds on a piece of paper with whatever pen, pencil, marker you have handy. Then, you simply look at the scribble. What does it make you think of? Add that to the scribble. Do you see a face? Add the eyes and nose. Do you see a dog? Add the ears. Do you see a bird, or a car, or a platypus!? Just add to the scribble. Let one mark lead to another for 5 minutes. Then, write down the first five words that come to mind. Somewhere in those words is insight into your question, situation, OR a thought that can balance the “taxes."

Another “exercise” I just gave to a client was to simply cover a canvas with paint. I told her to pick two primary colors and white to put on her palette (I use a paper plate) and just scribble, color, mark the paint to cover the white canvas. I told her not to worry about WHAT she was going to paint, but to just paint. I guarantee that all those art supplies that she has accumulated over the years to collect dust in her corner will gain a NEW life, once she gets started. It is all about disengaging that voice that is pressuring us to PRODUCE something of “value” (as in $$ terms). She knows logically that she is not painting to create a perfect painting that will sell for $100’s, but that is still what is keeping her from doing it. You need to replace that with the “exercise” paradigm. It’s not like we are going to the YMCA anticipating our professional athletic career! We know we are just doing it because it is good for us. It is the same with these Creativity Workouts.

Another fun exercise is the Torn Paper Face Collage. You can see lots of these in the Creativity Workout Gallery on the home page of CreativelyFit.com. We created over 185 of these to send to women in Nigeria in January and February! So fun! The message here: JUST DO IT!

Do you have any specific suggestions of creative activities that writers could use, perhaps to warm up?

In my book, The Artist Within, I have 15 different Creativity Workouts that are really all fabulous for inspiring your writing. One of the most powerful exercises for my clients has been the unassuming “Scribble Drawing” (as I mention above). It is like stream of consciousness doodling. You can literally ask your Artist Within for the idea that you need, scribble for five minutes, look at the results and the ideas will come right to you. It is amazing. You basically summon up your subconscious mind and it delivers the answer. Doesn’t sound “logical”? Exactly why it works. You can see an example of the Scribble Drawing on my blog here. Here is another great blog entry for you, “Writing Prompts from your Right Brain.”

W4w1 I'm really interested in your global programs, Artreach. Can you tell us a bit about that?

Creatively Fit has been a partner with Women for Women International. Women for Women works with women in war torn countries to help them to rebuild their lives (to create change, right?). I partnered with Women for Women for last year’s National Women’s Day in New York City, so I had met with the marketing director and the founder Zainab Salbi. Then, this past July, I got an email from a woman in Nigeria asking for help. It was an incredible email and within 24 hours two people had randomly brought up Nigeria to me, so I took that as a sign. Because of that email from Vivian, I launched the Creatively Fit Coaching Training Program so that Vivian could learn the Creatively Fit System. The short version, this IS actually the short version of this story (!!), is that since Women for Women serves 4500 women in Nigeria, and since we would love for Vivian to be able to provide Creatively Fit programming to those women, we asked Women for Women if we could send over as many Face Collages as possible. We wanted these to be a visual symbol of our support, our hope and our creative energy to the women there. One of our participants named them “Faces of Hope” and women around the country gathered together to “Create for a Cause." It was incredible. We are still awaiting the news that the face collages have arrived. I am anxious to launch another ARTreach. I want these to always focus on empowering women who have so much less than we do, fewer choices, fewer opportunities, fewer freedoms, and fewer resources, but who have such ENORMOUS need and desire to CREATE change. If we send them our creative energy, it WILL make a difference.

What are you most excited about in your life and creativity right now?

Well, in my life I am MOST excited about moving to our ranch in NE Oregon. You all have to “google” Joseph, OR. That will give you a good idea of where we are moving. I feel very led there. It is a magical place. I am excited for Creatively Fit and for me to be immersed in the energy of this land. I believe it is going to influence greatly the content I create for Creatively Fit and, who knows, for new projects. There is a strong artist community there and I am already planning to design some light fixtures with the glass blower and the metal worker! Too fun!

In creativity right now I am most excited about a new spirit that is being infused into the Creatively Fit experience. For me, in my own Creatively Fit practice, the most thrilling results have always been on a spiritual level. The work creates such a tremendous connection to your subtle self, your spirit, your intuition, to your center. Up until now, I felt led to keep the spiritual benefits somewhat sequestered from my frontline marketing, etc. I did not want to put anyone off and I wanted to give everyone a chance to just get into the creativity work on their own and experience the shift organically—because I know it is an inevitable result of getting Creatively Fit. But now, literally in just the last 3 weeks, I have gotten so many “signs” that now is the time to lead more with this information. I guess more people are open to the fact that they have a spiritual side and that connecting to that side, that awareness, is going to bring them greater fulfillment. It has been really interesting to observe how scared this actually makes me and how comfortable I was to let this aspect of creativity linger in the background until people found it themselves. But I do believe our world is evolving rapidly on the spiritual plane. I believe more and more people are waking up to the shift that needs to happen in our world in order to create a more compassionate and sustainable future. We simply CAN’T keep going the way we have been going. This shift, this waking up, is SO exciting for me. It is the reason I believe I have been infused with this passion, since 1995, to provide an opportunity for people to explore art making, to re-define their creative ability, and to have a new awareness they can take back out into the art that is their life and CREATE the change they desire. The difference is now that everyone is blatantly aware of the need for change.

The other source of immense excitement for me is the Creatively Fit Coaching Program. Once I had created this program for Vivian in Nigeria, and posted it to the site, I had so many amazing women contacting me and joining the program. I have ALWAYS envisioned Creatively Fit as an umbrella that other women could come under to live their life + work focused on the arts. Now, there is a whole team of us, coaches, who are passionate about and working towards liberating everyone from their “I’m not creative” statements and coaching them through the process of creating the life they desire. It is totally thrilling. This spring I am travelling to Cincinnati, N. Virginia, and New York City to lead events with my new coaches. The possibilities have just been exponentially increased by this coaching program and we are ALL so grateful.

Anything else you'd like to mention?

Answering the question above reminded me to encourage everyone with the fact that I have NEVER had ANY formal art training. When I opened The Creative Fitness Center in 1996 I did not even know what color paints to order for the classes—in fact, I ordered all the WRONG colors. Even when they arrived I just thought, “Hmmm, these will make an interesting painting.” The colors were horrendous! So this has always given others hope, I love this about my story. You don’t have to have ANY artistic ability or ANY “creative talent”. Of course, you all have creative ability because it is what makes us human and what connects us to the divine. In fact, my clients who experience the greatest, most radical success in this program started without any art “talent” or history at all. The more these Creativity Workouts contrast your routine, the more powerfully they will move through you and infuse you with its transformational energy. It is such a gift to be witness to this work.

3 Things You Can Do RIGHT Now:

1) Go to www.creativelyfit.com and “Join Creatively Fit” so you can stay posted about all the exciting news AND download my free eBook that shares with you “7 Simple Things You Can Do NOW to Get Into Your Right Brain”.

2) Join me on facebook and “like” www.facebook.com/TheArtistWithinU.

3) Join the online program. Start with Step 1: Meet Your Artist Within. If it does not open up an entirely new world to you, let me know and I will refund every penny and spend an hour on the phone with you myself introducing you to this magically creative and inspired side of you!

I have to add a 4th….I would LOVE for you to buy my book, The Artist Within, and allow it to provide you with so much inspiration and so many tools that you can use to inspire your own creative side. I want to read YOUR book, so let me know when it is available.

You can reach Whitney at whitney@creativelyfit.com. Whitney is also available as a Creatively Fit Coach to train you to create whatever change it is that you desire. Email her for more information.

All images courtesy of Whitney Ferre and her website.

 

You can read the previous Creative Cognoscente Interview with Tara Sophia Mohr here.

 


Creative Cognoscente Interview: Tara Sophia Mohr

Thus beginneth a new feature, the Creative Cognoscente Interviews. 

For the record, Cognoscente is pronounced kon-yuh-shen-tee, and it means: persons who have superior knowledge and understanding of a particular field...

Nobody better fits that definition than Tara Sophia Mohr, whose interview kicks off this new series. Web_tara-sophia-mohr_crop   I'm not sure how I first stumbled on Tara's blog, Wise Living, but I know that once I did I stuck around for quite awhile to explore her many prose and poetry posts and to peruse her website.

Tara was gracious enough to agree to an interview and answer the many questions I threw her way.  I think you'll find her answers incredibly inspiring and I'm anxious to get right to it, but first let me tell you a bit more about her (and I hope she forgives me but I snitched this info directly from her site):

Tara's work focuses on teaching personal growth through coaching, writing and group programs.

Her writing on personal growth has been featured in USA Today, Forbes, Ode Magazine and many other publications. She's a regular blogger for the Living section of the Huffington Post, and is currently at work on a book about living an authentic life.

Tara is a certified coach, trained by The Coaches Training Institute in an intensive, two-year program.

CRD: I'm really drawn to your poetry and judging by the comments on your poetry posts, I'm not the only one. Can you talk a bit about your inspiration for, and the process of, writing them?

TSM: I truly feel the poetry has very little to do with me, but I feel very grateful to be the vehicle for it. Usually, I’ll start to hear a couple lines in my head and when that happens, I try to stop and take them down right away. I pull over on the road if I need to. I write on napkins in the bathroom if I need to.

That part is pretty much just being open to a voice that is coming through.

My role comes later – when I look at all that material and edit, filter, put in order, mine for the gems. This can be tricky because sometimes my conscious mind wants to edit out what is actually the best stuff – because my conscious mind doesn’t get it at first (or ever). So I’m learning to feel my way through that and be discerning.

My other role with my poetry is setting up the conditions in my life so that I can even hear that inspiration, so that I’m a good vessel for the poetry to come through. That’s the foundation for any poetry happening at all.

Those conditions include: making time for uninterrupted writing, staying in the habit of writing, reading other works that inspire me, processing my own negative emotions and icky energies so they move through me, being on my own inner path, and going to bed and waking up early – since the early morning is when I tend to be most able to really access something bigger than me in my writing.

CRD: Is your process for writing prose similar? Do you know setting out which you'll be writing?

TSM: My prose is more directed by me, by my left-brain. It’s more of a dance of equal partners between me and the muse (vs. poetry where the muse or whatever that other force is is definitely leading.) Prose is more informed by my personal experience, my knowledge my personality. With poetry, I’m learning from the poems as they come through.

CRD: You write for the Huffington Post—how did this come about? You also write for magazines such as Forbes, USA Today, and Ode Magazine (one of my favorites). I know many of my readers would love some advice for putting themselves out there and connecting with the big guys….

I started writing again about two and a half years ago, after a long hiatus that my inner critic helped me take.

I knew I wanted to write a book with a mainstream publisher. I started talking to publishing folks, who responded very positively to my writing, but said I needed a platform – an existing audience -- to get a book published. Some literally said, “We love your work! Call us back when you have 5000 people on your mailing list.” At that point I had 38 people reading my blog, so this was totally daunting.

It was a step by step process. I looked around for other personal growth blogs that hosted guest posts. I wrote the authors of those blogs with a full guest post submission attached – so that they could see that my work was quality. They ran my pieces.

As it turns out, more prestigious publications comb these blogs for quality content, and one of my posts got picked up by Forbes. Similarly, I posted a piece on Ode Magazine’s “Exchange” online forum, which is open to all, and it got picked up in their print magazine.

With clips like these, I had something to send to the Huffington Post team – and I did – just a cold email. That’s how I started blogging for them.

I’m not sure if that’s the only route, or if it’s replicable, but that’s what worked for me.

CRD: One of your popular posts is titled "Leaving the B+ Life." You've done this through your writing, coaching, and teaching. What's your top tip for getting out of the B+ rut?

TSM: Gosh, there are so many. It’s hard to choose. Here are a few simple things that I think can help us leave B+:

• Spend 15 minutes in silent meditation every day. If you do this, you will wake up to your life. Things will start to get really interesting.

• Trust and get curious about your discomfort. If you feel bored, dissatisfied, squelched in your life – that’s really important. We tend to avoid or try to numb those feelings. Lean into them and get curious about what is actually feeling off in your life.

• Listen to the nagging longings, the whispers, the creative ideas. See if you can trust them and welcome them – rather than jumping to judgment.

CRD: I loved reading your bio. You spent your childhood analyzing dreams with your family and then eventually got your MBA. Awesome! How do you balance these two different sides of yourself?

TSM: Oh lord! It wasn’t always easy. It’s been a struggle for me to really share my voice because often my perspective was so different from the mainstream one in whatever environment I was in. I’d be in personal-growth type circles thinking, “You guys need to a get a grip and use your logical brains here” – but I didn’t ever say that, because of course I also love harmony and fitting in. I’d be in the business school classroom thinking, “What we are learning right now is precisely what is responsible for the destruction of the earth” – but frankly, that wasn’t exactly a comment you could raise your hand and make in the middle of the lecture. Trust me. I tried it.

I feel I’m just coming into the integration of these different parts of myself now, and it’s all about learning it really is okay to bring my voice, my views, to the table. More and more now I am bringing a controversial view into the room, but doing it diplomatically, and finding it’s often welcome and appreciated.

CRD: Do you have a mission statement by which you live, or perhaps a favorite mantra?

TSM: Hmmm…not exactly, but if I had to pick one, I’d say this:

“Compassion is the natural expression of wisdom.” That’s what my lifework is about – teaching how this is the case, and hopefully, ultimately, changing our society in some key ways to reflect that understanding.

Compassion, compassion, compassion. I don’t believe there are evil, immoral people. I believe that there are sick people. I believe if a human being has the emotional capacity, they will do good. Otherwise they need some healing. When we get that, parents will parent differently, the prison system will look entirely different, the way we view terrorists will be different, what we fear and what we allocate our resources to will be very different.

CRD: How about some advice for writers?

TSM: To be careful about advice! Sometimes it feels easier to figure out what other people do and convince ourselves we need to do that –rather than look inward to see what fosters creativity for each of us.

Beyond that, what I think matters most is this: are you willing to allow something beyond your conscious thought take over in your writing process? And what helps you do that?

CRD: And finally, I'd love for you to share some information with my readers about your services and products.

TSM: First, there’s my blog, where I write articles and poems – about living wisely, about creativity, about creating an authentic, empowered life – a couple times a week. That’s here). Sign up!

I also have an exciting new program coming up for women leaders, artists, innovators, writers, entrepreneurs – anyone who has a message and mission they want to share with world. The program is for people who want to play bigger, make an impact, and realize a vision their world. It’s a combination of inner work - covering topics such as “Silencing Self-Doubt” and “Understanding Your Calling” as well as tactical trainings around publishing, public speaking, negotiation, etc. It is made up of the tools that have most helped me share my voice fully in the world. Click here for information about that program.

I have a free, email-based guide with my very untraditional (and effective) approach to setting and achieving goals. Your readers can sign up to receive that here

And since we are talking to writers, you can download a free short collection of my poetry here - but please do also sign up for the blog – because otherwise I won’t get to keep in touch with you too!

Also, for those of you in my hometown, Portland, Tara will soon be visiting Portland, speaking on the topic, "Unhooking from Praise and Criticism."  Learn more here.

 

CRD:  Thank you so much, Tara, you are a delight and an inspiration.