Monday, August 31, 2009

Sound Magician

Robbie Duncan works magic, getting the best from people and from sound. I talked with him about the creativity involved in doing that at his Braeburn Recording Studio.

“No matter where you are on the creativity scale the question is how do you get better than that? First of all do you want to get better?

My creative process is to do with play – that’s how I learn – I try 99 things and 99 things don’t work and the 100th thing – I’ve now got it! I’ll just keep on. How do you cope with so much failure – by enjoying the process and that’s where play comes in. It’s the Edison thing – it’s not failure, it’s just another step on the way to getting it sorted. So play is definitely part of it.

But there is another thing in the creative process and that is how do you develop beyond yourself? Once you’ve written that book, written that song, done that painting, recorded that album – how do you then do something else? Some people are happy to write the same book, paint the same picture but most creative people want to go further. I guess its about challenge.

So how do you get beyond your habitual way of doing things. I think play is apart of that too – but I guess it is intentional play. I want to get over there. being open to the process and open to the doors that show themselves.

Another aspect I’m beginning to understand is working within constraints. Why do poets do sonnets? Certain disciplines and sometimes working within the discipline gives you freedom as well. Because there is a large world out there some people are like moths to a flame – they’ll never develop – they’re just going off in whatever direction. So I did The Sound of the Sound album for that reason – to grow beyond my habitual way of doing things. I used tunings I never used before. It’s like building a vocabulary, then learning to talk, then turning off conscious thought then just making it up within the discipline of the tuning I had created. The tuning was the language.

Working with clients – there’s budget restraints and then there’s [perfection – what stage do you say this is good enough. All sorts of decisions – When is the picture painted? When is the album done?

My advice to others? If you’re looking at your art, your craft, your life I would say have fun. You’re not going to be creative if you don’t want to be. So first of all you have to want to be then have fun and then – part of having fun is not doing badly – the more you do it the better you become so part of it is do it, do it, do it, do it but don’t be a perfectionist about – but have high standards. The first thing is to get better than you are - challenge yourself. One way of doing that is working within constraints then finding new constraints."

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Creativity in the Paddock

Peter Charlton-Jones is half of a story-telling duo with Mary Kippenberger. I'm probably biased but I think they're the best in New Zealand. You can see more of what they do at In addition to being a very fine musician Peter runs song-writing workshops for children. He has applied the same model he uses for his workshops to his most recent CD of children's songs.

I asked Peter to describe how he went about writing the songs for the CD.

"Well I've been doing workshops with children - they write their own songs and I record them and put them on a CD and I give them the CD back. We use a model for that. We talk about the name of their pet, have them describe it and then tell about something that's happened to it. I've got used to thinking about what children think about animals and pets and things."

The inspiration for the songs came from his own childhood experiences, those of his grandchildren as well as from the experiences of the kids who he has worked with.

"I was lying in bed - I got the idea for the cricket ball song [The Cricket Ball Went Over the Fence] - that goes back to my schooldays at the Ormville Primary School where the neighbour used to keep the balls that went over the fence. I started there and thought now I just need another 11 songs. I thought about my grandchildren and they just came. I wrote them then and there - lyrics first - then I put a tune to them because that's what we've been doing with the kids in the workshops. The tunes are borrowed from various sources - I'm not sure where they came from."

Peter has written and produced 2 other CD's for children. You can find more about Peter and Mary and all the creative endeavours they are involved in at and if you get the chance to see them perform don't miss it - for kids of all ages!!

Habits for Creating

In my workshops I'm always on about the importance of habits to support one's creativity.
This arrived in my in-box from Dan at Coach Creative Space:

There's something exciting happening on CCS I wanted to tell you about...
We're relaunching Thirty Days Of Creating, for September
Thirty Days of Creating is simply that.
Create something, anything, every day for thirty days.
Habits are one of the most powerful ways we can train ourselves to be more like we want to be, and ultimately become happier.
When you do something each and every day for just a couple of weeks, you put in place the foundations for a habit that can last for life.
A habit you can then expand into virtually unlimited potential.
As creative people, the longer we go without creating, the harder it becomes.
So by creating each and every day you can gently stretch your creativity, warm it up and get it in shape, so soon you're creating not just once a day but many times a day, without any effort whatsoever.
You switch your creativity on, call it up, give it permission to gush forth and flood you with creativity!
Thirty Days of Creating is about creating SOMETHING each day. It can be a few lines of poetry, a journal entry, a sketch, a few melodies on a piano, a trip out with your camera taking photos, making a batch of cookies, dancing the night away, and any other of thousands of way of being creative.
What's most important is not WHAT you create but that you CREATE EVERY DAY.
This habit will unlock your creativity in ways you can't imagine.
All this would be very powerful on its own.
But here on CCS you have a whole community of like minded creative artists to share with and have support you and spur you in.
That kind of encouragement is priceless, and the combined energy of the group means each of us create more frequently and fully than we can under our steam, and maybe more than we've done in months, even years...So my fellow artist, are you with us?
Head over to the discussion on CCS and jump aboard!
Can't wait to see you there and get started...Happy Creating!
Visit CoachCreativeSpace at:

Monday, August 24, 2009

Seth Godin and Tom Peters on Blogging

Take a look at what Seth Godin has to say about blogs.
His comments may surprise you e.g It doesn't matter if no-one reads your blog!

Joint Enquiry

Joint Enquiry is an effective way for change leaders to engage with others when attempting to change organisations and create something new. Watch Stephen Billing explain Joint Enquiry in this clip.

Chase one rabbit

David Parrish writes the best of anyone I know about the business of creativity.

From Davids most recent blog:

Here's some ancient wisdom from a Chinese proverb:
"If you chase two rabbits, both will escape."
A useful thought for all creative entrepreneurs.
It can be applied to:- deciding which creative speciality to choose, from all the creative things you can do.- deciding which particular market segment to focus on, rather than trying to appeal to many types of customer.

This is discussed in more detail in his article: Create your own Business Formula.

See also:
Ten Things Google Has Found To Be True

PS: Another animal to take inspiration from is the Hedgehog.

You can also download his book 'T-Shirts and Suits: A Guide to the Business of Creativity'. It's a practical handbook for creative entrepreneurs to refer to and find information, examples from other businesses, and practical tips about using powerful business ideas in a creative context.

The book condenses over twenty years' of David's experience of working in creative enterprises, combined with learning from clients and from business school.

Download free eBook now
(PDF, 1.9MB)
[PC - Right click and 'Save Target As' to copy to hard drive.][Mac - Hold down Ctrl and 'Download Linked File'.]

Monday, August 17, 2009

Imagination and Fantasy

"People who are able voluntarily to enter the realm of fantasy - to take a theme, and then let an imaginative scenario unfold like a dream or a movie - have been found to be more creative than those who cannot. Interestingly, adults with more accessible and more powerful fantasy lives report that they have cultivated their powers of imagination since childhood. As children they were more likely to have engaged in imaginative play, and to have been able to 'lose themselves' in the fantasy world of a book, than were adults with less vivid or less ready imaginations. It is tempting to read this, conversely, as indicating that some children may be beginning to lose their imaginative birthright even at quite young ages."

A worrying trend?

Source: Claxton, Guy. (2001) Wise Up: Learning to live the learning life. Network Educational Press Limited: UK

Sunday, August 16, 2009

They came, they saw, they conquered

This just goes to show that you can be creative with most things.
It'll be musical chain saws next - although I guess that has already been done!

Hinemoana Baker

Hinemoana Baker's - poet, songwriter, performer - latest newsletter:, Click here to listen to puawai while you read! :
Source: Mike Moroney on the NZ Folk Digest, Vol 56, Issue 33

Creative Bedfellows

The New York Songwriters Circle and Fashion Fantasy Game Forge Unique OnlineMusic and Fashion Community Partnership:

From the Morph Team: "Morph is an alternative approach to art and culture. Morph is here to show that there's more to the arts than work seen in a gallery or performed on a stage; that creative geniuses abound in every guise; that art does not have to be elitist or high-brow to live up to the label; that life is encrusted with fine jewels of creative thinking; that artists are seers capable of transforming a society fast becoming one dimensional; that art encompasses all visions and emotions it is celebratory, analytical, critical, prophetic, heretic and breaks down barriers to the way the world is viewed. Morph promotes and celebrates local culture with a small is beautiful pro-community philosophy. Morph makes it possible to believe that the world we live in does not have to be a continued reproduction of earlier generations, an amble to planetary immolation; that there are alternative, creative ways of viewing and living in the world. MORPH was started by the Depot Artspace who wanted to share the privilege of exposure to so much significant city talent; artists, writers, poets, musicians, inventors, creative thinkers, skateboarders, BMXers and surfers. Everyone DOES have a creative bone in their body. Creating is as essential as breathing but maybe less evident because too many rules involving power brokers and gate keepers have put creativity into a small box and labelled it elite.Morph is about liberation of the creative spirit and that's why we are wide open to everything. Morph welcomes your input in any form: interviews, social commentary, poetry, photography, cartoons, illustrations and ideas all add to MORPH's identity.True to its name Morph will continue to transmogrify along with time, circumstance and perspective that you, Morph reader, are able to bring to it. We have shifted from being a print magazine to an online only magazine. This site feature many of the articles in the six print editions of Morph over the years. Copies of most editions are keep in stock and are available on request."

Check it out! There's even something in it for us old folks!!

Monday, August 10, 2009

David Woodings - Painter

Andrew Paul Wood in his blog described David Woodings work as: "large canvasses, photorealist in style but with a distinctly Pop Art suite of themes and candy-bright palette. Wooding homes in on the gleaming hard surfaces of cheerful, bulbous, curving objects: parts of cars, the magnificent Kiwiana of a Buzzy Bee. It is delicious work, full of comic-book vigour and populuxe-era utopianism, like something that shambled out of the consumer utopian visions of the 1950s. Rosenquist comes to mind."

I asked David to talk more about the role that creativity plays in his life.

David: I seem to have been involved in creative activities all my life. My earliest recollections are of either colouring in, painting or carving something. I was also heavily involved in singing as a child and performed in choirs and as a soloist either as part of the choir or on stage. I now paint full-time

Wayne: Was there a point in your life when you recognised that you were creative?
David: I suppose that at a very early age. I began to enter colouring competitions maybe as an 8 year old and won a number of prizes. I started painting and getting painting sets when I was 10-11 and even had lessons with a local painter when I was early teens.

When asked how he would describe his creative process David replied: I see interesting and stimulating things that can represent for me social commentary and depict them in paintings.

Wayne: What suggestions would you have for others who want to explore their creativity?
David: For those who are creative in an artistic sense, time must be apportioned to fully understand what that person wishes to achieve either singularly or collectively (with others), ascertain the correct medium to best give emphasis to their creativity and then spend time understanding how work they create is best delivered to be both understood as meaningful and personally rewarding

Wayne: Do you have ‘habits’ associated with your creative expression? e.g. a certain place to create, conditions when you are at your most creative, states of mind, special/favourite tools/equipment/media, any rituals?
David: There are certainly ‘times’ when one feels more like being creative than others. However I am a firm believer that by placing oneself in the right environment creativity can be measured. Sometimes it is hard work, but by starting something one often just works through the barriers and results come. I have always had a deep love of music (have very catholic tastes) and love to play music (sometimes but not always ‘loud’) when in the studio. The space filled with music enables me to concentrate more on what I am doing and the time just flies by. I like to have a full day in the studio, broken by ritual tea and lunch breaks (like being on the factory floor), and finish around 5. The only difference can be that my work in the studio can be any of the 7 days of the week. I have always had a love for oil paint and it has become almost an exclusive medium for all my work over the last 10 years.

Davids final comment about creativity: " It is the life force of the universe, without it we are nothing!"

No argument from me! More about David and his work on including work for sale - a better investment than almost anything else in this economic climate!

Corporate Creativity

I am always curious about people who create. Sometimes people who write about creativity aren't particularly creative themselves. Not so in this case.
I have featured Gaia and Andrew Grant in recent blogs so I emailed Andrew and asked him about his personal creativity. This was his reply.

Wayne: In what ways does your creativity get expressed?
Andrew: Designing programs to help people. There is nothing more exciting than to design a program (leadership, team or personal improvement) and then see how it can change people’s lives.

Wayne: Was there a point in your life when you recognised that you were creative?
Andrew: No one AHA! moment, just ongoing reinforcement from those around me to recognise and use my talent. I held onto creativity at school but the last few years were hard as school only rewards correct not creative answers. One example of this was the subject English which I failed at high school (as it was very much rote learning) but got high distinctions all through Uni (as it was about creating ideas). If I had not been rewarded at uni with these marks I may have never started writing the educational programs I do now.

Wayne: How would you describe your creative process?
Andrew: For corporate work it’s not good enough to just get people to finger paint or look at the clouds. Many corporate people have a left brain bias or a mix, so this needs to be acknowledged and used. They need to see the value of using both sides of the brain in the creative process. So I have had to think creatively to come up with a workable creativity and innovation models and experiential learning activities that engage both sides of the brains. For example, we have developed one exercise called ‘The Chocolate Factory’ that could be seen as a very left brain cross functional process redesign exercise - it borders on six sigma - but what we do is play the game twice with the second round making sure that the participants use creative thinking to come up with significant breakthroughs in redesign (not just incremental steps) and show how this can improve the process by over 200%. This excites the more analytical thinkers and shows them the value of a creative process.

Wayne: What suggestions / tips do you have for others who want to explore their creativity?
Andrew: Look for it. Be aware of it. Know when you are using it or need to use it. Surround yourself with creative people and learn about and practice skills and techniques to develop it. There are great books and seminars etc so there’s no excuse.

Wayne: Do you have any ‘habits’ associated with your creative expression? e.g. a certain place to create, conditions when you are most creative, states of mind, special / favourite tools / equipment / media, any rituals?
Andrew: My creative thinking can come when I’m focused at work - for example when I’m giving a keynote talk or seminar my mind is so focused that ideas that I may have read about connect with the principles I’m trying to teach, and they work together to make a very strong point. It can also come out playing sport like surfing, when I am away from the everyday hassles and stresses BUT I don’t believe that you have to climb a mountain to get inspired. I do believe, however, that doing mundane tedious work that taxes your brain enough to block creative ideas without opportunities for relief or release can be a big killer.

More about Andrew and his offerings at

Hands Up: Who Killed Creativity?

Andrew and Gaia Grant whose videos are featured in the previous blog ask the question "Is there a crisis of creative confidence in ther workplace?" This is their answer [reprinted with permission]

We could be facing a crisis in creative confidence. With budgets slashed and resources cut, many people are being asked to do more with less – but few feel adequately equipped. The future will clearly require superior innovative thinking and problem solving skills, and yet so many feel paralyzed to act quickly and confidently when it comes to finding new ideas and solutions. Who is to blame for the apparent crisis in creative development? And how can leaders create and nurture an environment that supports creative thinking and development?
Tirian has surveyed thousands of international seminar participants from companies based in Asia to ask if they think they think they were more creative at age 7 than they are currently. Of the respondents, over 80% have indicated they believe their level of creativity has declined, and many reveal that they struggle with being creative in their current work environment. This has led us to wonder what role – if any – the education process may play in the apparent demise of creative confidence.
As parents, we have been interested to observe how our children’s attitudes have rapidly transformed from the excited enthusiasm of early learning experiences to the ambivalence and then resentment as school becomes a chore rather than an opportunity, more of an information factory than an exploratory play space.
Certainly, as John Corrigan from Group 8 Education has pointed out, schools were originally designed in the 1800s primarily to discipline children as a form of social control. Up until recently schools have acted as information packaging factory lines - filling students with information then asking them to present this same information back out again through exams. Have schools focused too much on a rote learning approach, churning out individuals who are taught to repeat facts and figures rather than to think creatively and independently? As we attempt to emerge from this challenging past, we may continue to be limited by the accompanying shackles more than we realize.

More developed cultures are now gradually becoming more successful in breaking free from the stifling philosophy that hampers creativity. By emphasizing the importance of the process as much as the result, and by encouraging alternative ideas and strategies, the education system is evolving towards creative thinking and problem solving methodologies – and those that emerge from the most advanced modern education systems are now finding they have had their creative thinking skills enhanced rather than diminished. A recent survey by The Creative Leadership Forum has in fact found that for the Australians they have surveyed, over 80% of them believe they are creative as adults and managers.
While past generations may have been able to fulfill their work duties effectively as the output requirements were more limited, it might only be people with innovative thinking skills that will survive the future. As tasks and even information become more automated, higher level thinking skills will become more and more necessary.
Dan Pink explores this concept effectively when he talks about how today’s worker needs to be able to go:
beyond function to include design
beyond argument to include story
beyond analysing to include synthesis (the ability to put together the pieces)
beyond logic to include the need for empathy
beyond seriousness to add in an element of play
beyond accumulation to enrich this with meaning
What has your experience with the creative thinking journey been? Do you feel you have lost your ability to be creative – or has your creative ability in fact been enhanced over time, and what do you believe has led to this? How comfortable are you with the concept of creativity, and how important do you think it is as a skill?

For years both the schooling system and society in general have rewarded knowledgeable experts. The people who have been able to successfully negotiate these systems were blessed with high test results and grades, and were then promoted to high positions and paid according to their knowledge and expertise. Now, with a greater amount of information more widely available, it is becoming obvious that it is not possible to for one person to be the single expert, so learning and leadership models will have to adapt.
Leaders won’t now need to have the most information but be able to spot and encourage the smartest ideas. The traditional expert’s focus is very narrow, which means they can build a great deal of knowledge about one specific subject or area - but this can kill creativity, so the leader of the future may need to be a broad thinker capable of opening up thinking and ideas. De Bono believes that creative thinking at work requires a certain level of creative innocence. So how is it possible to ensure creative innocence in the workplace when it often goes against the grain? It is only the innocent mind – the mind that is open, the mind that is willing to become vulnerable and take risks, that can feel and think as a child, that is unpressured and uncluttered – only this mind can be truly creative.
This concept of creative innocence is now recognized as so important that some organizations engage children in the ideas generation process. Toyota has been known to put together a "board" of children to advise them on product development. Hasbro has done the same with toys, and at Xerox's Palo Alto Research Center they have asked school kids to attend a series of brainstorming sessions on the future of technology.
There seem to be a number of factors in the education and then work environments that have contributed to this crisis in creative confidence. These could include:
1) Insulation from diversity: We can become protected from the need to think creatively if we are not exposed to diverse ideas and people from diverse backgrounds. As we grow older we then end up continuing to protect ourselves from new ideas. To gain a feeling of security we often try to gather round us like minded people that insulate us from new experiences.
2) Insecurity and stress: Secondly, the pressures of the modern environment can actually inhibit creative thinking. Creative thinking needs to be processed through the more advanced reflective frontal lobe of the brain, which research company Group 8 Education refers to as the ‘blue zone’, and when we are stressed or anxious, when we feel insecure or not listened to, our brain resources are drained away to dealing with the immediate needs of the more primitive survival functions of the base stem of the brain – what they call the ‘red zone’.
3) Inability to play: Perhaps the crisis in creativity can also be associated with the expectation that we should become more serious and stop ‘playing’ as we get older. This idea was certainly implied through our survey. As we used a show of hands to indicate self assessments of creativity, there may have been a reluctance to admit to being creative over time. As many older children and adults seem to be reluctant to raise their hands in front of others when asked if they are creative, while children certainly eagerly raise their hands when asked the same questions, it has made us wonder if as we get older we do not want to be seen to be creative. Indeed, accompanying discussions of the definition of creativity can often indicate that creativity is associated with immature childish play rather than the mature seriousness of ‘real’ work. So creativity can become a quality you’d prefer to leave behind as you progress through life.
By dealing with these culprits and building environments that support the creative thinking process, it is possible to bring about dramatic change.

After reflecting on the results of our seminar survey, we decided to produce a video to get people thinking about creativity and their own creative thinking journey – a video we called ‘Hands Up’. We wanted to show what we had discovered first-hand through teaching thousands of school children, and then working with adults in adult learning environments.
Our findings, as revealed in the video as a decline in creative engagement and confidence, correlate to Group 8 Education findings* from research with over 1000 students that engagement drops off from Kindergarten to Grade 10 due to an environment that often fails to provide the respect and security needed to nurture open thinking and learning. In order to foster creative thinking, then, it becomes obvious that we will need to:
1) Encourage diversity: While many people continue to build homogeneous like-minded teams, it will be important to find structures to support heterogeneous diverse teams, and to allow for a range of individuals and ideas.
2) Minimise stress: Individuals report that in ideal school and workplace environments, says Group 8 Education, three key qualities stand out: 1. Teachers/leaders respect me. 2. Teacher/leaders are friendly, approachable and willing to listen. 3. Teachers/leaders encourage and help me to succeed. The Gallup organization has also identified that the best leaders create an environment in which people feel they can build trust and develop solid relationships. This environment provides individuals with the opportunity to take risks with learning and develop in a safe and accepting environment.
3) Design open ‘playful’ environments:Free play creates a mental state where it is possible to feel safe and secure and to explore ideas without restrictions. Research is now showing that adults who have less play time as children are less creative as adults. Melinda Wenner has revealed in the Scientific American that children (and animals) who do not ‘free play’ when they are young may grow into anxious, socially maladjusted adults. Free play is one of the conduits needed to ensure brain resources are diverted away from dealing with the primitive survival functions so they can access creative thinking. As a university lecturer in Taiwan has found, “The major problem for education here is the lack of curiosity and initiative among the students. They don’t ask questions and are reluctant to respond.” Smart leaders recognize that the work environment could be inhibiting creativity, and learn to ensure they maintain a creative development focus.
Management Guru Jim Collins consciously ensures that he spends only 50% of his time on administration tasks. He says that he turns down many keynote talks, consulting work and even the temptation to grow his company to ensure that he is disciplined enough to stay focused and creative. He is so adamant about this key point that he logs everything he does including his sleep. He knows that at the times that he is overworked with administration that his creative thinking and ability to focus on developing and researching new ideas suffers.
So do we lose our creativity as we become adults? It appears to be more the case that we lose our creative confidence, and as a result need to work harder to regain it. It appears that it’s not that adults are not creative, but rather the right environments and opportunities need to be built for creativity to flourish. And we must be committed to doing this in order to ensure we can all cope with the demands of the future.
How aware we are of your cycles, the causes and effects of your attitudes and behaviours?
How much time do you spend in a stressful adrenalin charge environment at work?
How can you consciously set aside time and be disciplined to develop your creative thinking?
Do you and your team feel: 1) Safe 2) Believed in, 3)Listened to 4) Respected?
For leaders, what type of environment are you providing for your team? Whats sorts of opportunities for creative development are you providing for them?

So. . . is there a creative crisis in ther workplace? Feel free to post your comments.

Who kills creativity?

Does school kill creativity?
Do people lose creative ability over time, and is our education system the culprit?
Find out for yourself in this fascinating video series ... as children get older, they often see themselves as less creative.

Gaia and Andrew Grant went back to school to find out if children have any ideas on how adults can become more creative.
They were not surprised to discover that their findings correlated with the latest research from Harvard.

These links will take you to the videos.

Community Creativity

Taranaki [that's on the west coast of New Zealand] has just finished yet another wonderful arts festival with a magnificent display of community creativity.
Jill White of the Taranaki Arts Community Trust coordinated the lantern parade involving lots of people making lanterns and then parading them through New Plymouth's Pukekura Park.

The weather was great, the atmosphere was superb and the sight of 2000 plus people parading with lanterns accompanied by drummers and other music was a real show of community creativity.

The departing creative director of the Taranaki International Festival of the Arts , Roger King, had this to say: "This is a fantastic finale for me . . . It's the light of our community and our hearts as well."

A sentiment shared by many who took part.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

The International Association of Teamwork Facilitators

A mouthful I know but . . . founded by Tom Heck the association is worth checking out by anyone who works creatively with teams. I just received a book from Tom entitled "Duct Tape Teambuilding Games". It contains the rules and instructions for 50 team activities all of which can be done with a roll of duct tape. Its great if you have to travel to work with teams - all you need is the book and a roll of duct tape!
The most recent newsletter from Tom contained the following:
Quiz Time: Which college degree is more valuable? An MBA or an MFA (that's Masters of Fine Arts).
Dan Pink says the answer is clearly an MFA - - at least it will BECOME more valuable over the next ten years.
Dan Pink is the author of "A Whole New Mind -- Moving From the Information Age to the Conceptual Age".
In this amazing book Dan describes why many of the "left brain" jobs are moving to India and Asia (outsourced) and why "right brain" jobs (jobs requiring creativity, non-linear thinking, etc.) are going to soon become more valuable here in the USA.
Listen to this audio interview with Dan Pink and learn how to help the teams you serve become more creative -- Alternate link:
Tom Heck
President & Founder
International Association of Teamwork Facilitators

The interview is well worth a listen and you might consider checking out the organisation as well.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Karen Clarke

Karen’s original music fuses her love of rhythm, smoky vocal delivery and a sensitive eye on life. The influence of both her Ngati Kahungunu and Celt lines are heard in the mix of contemporary folk, blues and femme styles. With an onstage style that critics describe as anything from raw to sassy, Karen is known for a strong, emotive performance.

I like it when Karen performs.

I talked with Karen about the place that creativity holds in her life.

Wayne: Was there a time in your life when you realised that you were creative?
Karen: Suspect I always knew. There were only two faces to our family life – work and guilt about not working when not working. My release from this tyranny was to cry to the moon and self comfort with words and song and movement and visualization all aimed at projecting me beyond the concentration camp into the life that I saw others had. I find that holding a “creative identity” such as “musician” in front of others is hard. Because I am not all trained and learnt up I often lack the confidence to hold my ground. Its often safer to be creative alone or in trusted enclaves where self concept is not at risk at the same time the musical offerings are. Yep, holes in my cheese.
For me each creative project has an internal process that accompanies the external process. The song is made and I am made simultaneously.
There is a Maori proverb that says in respect of carving a meeting house something along the lines of The man does not make the house. The making of the house makes the man. I know this well in myself.

Wayne: How would you describe your creative process?
Karen: I need to be still enough - creative time has to be tightly held and protected time for me because all of life’s “urgents” steal the gently held times for themselves.
Writing daily and a contemplative practice every day helps me find the place to create from.

Wayne: What would you say to others who want to explore their creativity?

Karen: Find ways to enter open space … Get out of mind …. Find permission for many, many experiments in, of and through yourself.
Be surprised and delighted with every little bit of fresh growth in a creative project – expectation and “thinking you know what its going to be” are tantamount to paraquat in my experience.
Do something - anything – to start. The creative process needs a spark …
If all else fails, pretend you are 6 or 90 and see what happens next

Use “dummy lines” and “holding ideas” to keep the flow even if the fit isn’t right yet
Get a creative coach to partner and share process. Hinemoana Baker was mine for a time – and there was love.

You can get more of Karen at

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Creativity Retreats

I love facilitating creativity workshops and retreats - and it seems the participants like doing them as well.

A little while ago I ran one for Anne and her team from Havelock Physiotherapy.

Here's some of their feedback:

A weekend of insight and the bonus of some fun! Julie

Wow - creativity where I thought there was none and lots of fun. Thanks. Leanne

A great eye-opener weekend on being ourselves and part of the team. Fun, informative and creative. Viv

Thanks Wayne for a great weekend - positive and inspiring. Also highly educational regarding learning and behavioural characteristics. We are all be having in an 'above the line' manner at all times now! Anne

A fun and fascinating weekend conducted by Wayne which inspired me to put some creativity back into my life! Beth

If you would like to have a creativity workshop or retreat and want to know more you can email me at or check out my web site Hit the create button and check out the retreat details.