Maria Brophy

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Creativity / Personal / Philosophy

HOW PLAYING IT SAFE KILLS YOUR CREATIVITY

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Stand Up Paddle Mag Fall Winter Cover SMALLI have a tendency to play it far safer than I should.  But I’m working on this weakness…

I’m careful not to use foul language or to write about my fabulous sex life.  I strive to maintain a professional image and at the same time I yearn to interject some real personality into my posts.

But it’s a walk on a tight wire, and I’ve got two left feet.

My first magazine article has been published in the new issue of Stand Up Paddle Magazine.  Even though writing for magazines was never a dream or even an interest of mine, when the opportunity came up to write it I excitedly said “sure!”

At the time this came up, my creative floodgates were free-flowing.  I had just returned all blissed-out from a writer’s meditation retreat and ideas and words poured out of me like a freaky, broken spigot.  It was beautiful and exhilarating and frenzied all at the same time.

My husband set it up with the editor of the magazine, because he wanted to share our experience of Paddleboarding in New Zealand and Samoa.  He and I collaborated on the story, but since I’m the writer in the family, it was my job to write it.  And that’s where the difficulty began.

All of a sudden I had guidelines to follow.  The article had to demonstrate the ease of paddleboarding abroad, the family aspect to the sport and the exciting lifestyle.  It had to appeal to the readership of the magazine.  The writing had to appeal to my significant other.

Seems easy enough, except…it had to be good.

Normally I don’t have to write for anyone other than my own business, and for you, my dear readers.  When I write for you, the only restrictions I have are my own self-imposed ones.  And if you don’t like my writing, well, you haven’t told me.  It’s not like WordPress is going to shut down my blog if they don’t like my content.

Writing for a magazine made me realize just how hard it is to write when you are trying to please an editor.  It doesn’t flow.  The words get stuck somewhere between your heart and your throat and don’t seem to travel to your fingertips.

Paddling in Samoa

Paddling in Samoa

I caught myself being overly careful to write safe stuff that’s guaranteed to not be rejected.  BORING!  Playing it safe killed my creativity.  I was holding back on so much inner emotion and reality that I felt constipated!

I gained a whole new respect for all of the artists I know out there, especially my artist husband, Drew.  He’s been earning a living by painting for different clients for years.  Now I get how sometimes he feels so frustrated.  You want people to love your work. And they might not.  It’s stifling trying to please others with your art.

The first draft of my short article took about two hours to choke out.  I read it to Drew.  He didn’t like it, and wasn’t shy about telling me.

Well, fine then.  I’ll just spend all day re-writing it!”  I said snottily.  Frustrated and confused, I started over.  I couldn’t understand why, just days before, I could have easily squeezed out a novel, no problem.  Now I had trouble putting down a coherent word about my own vacation story!

Eventually, through sheer force, I finished my tenth re-write, got Drew’s thumbs-up and submitted it.  I wasn’t in love with it.  I wasn’t even sure that I liked it.  But at some point I had to consider it done, because I couldn’t spend another minute writing it.

The feelings of inadequacy shrouded me like a smelly blanket.  I said all those things that your monkey brain tells you when you question your abilities, like “you can’t write” “the editor’s going to hate it” “who the hell do you think you are?”  “You suck. Go back to selling insurance!”

But I have this rule for myself that says that I’m only allowed to feel bad about myself for about ten minutes. That’s it.  Then I force myself to shake off those negative feelings and move on.

My boys in New Zealand

My boys in New Zealand

A couple of months later the issue with my article came out.  I was a little scared that the editor would hate my article so much that he’d changed it.   Surprisingly, he didn’t touch a word.

And as I read through it, I realized it wasn’t so bad.  As a matter of fact, I think I like it.  And the best part is that he used many of the photos we took on that trip to New Zealand and Samoa.

I have to admit, reading my name in print in a beautiful, full color magazine was a thrill.  It gives my mother bragging rights and it makes me want to try writing for another magazine again.

Only next time, I’m not playing it f#&ing safe.

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Below is the article.  And the cute girl in the big photo?  She’s someone I met in Samoa and I let her use my paddleboard.  Drew took the photo.  I wish I could remember her name…

Stand Up Paddle Mag Fall Winter 09 Maria Brophy Article-small

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14 Comments HOW PLAYING IT SAFE KILLS YOUR CREATIVITY

  1. Archan Mehta

    Maria,

    Don’t you just hate it when you suffer from writer’s block?

    It’s great to know you took the time to travel to exotic places. How nice.

    And congratulations for getting your story published in that magazine. That’s prestigious. Don’t stop now, keep on contributing to other mags. Given time, you’ll be able to come up with new ideas for sure.

    Write about your personal life too. Readers like that: easier to relate, sometimes. Taking a break with your loved ones is a welcome change too, and I support such endeavors. And the photographs are outstanding. Please include more snaps in the future too.

    By the way, how do you overcome writer’s block? Do share with us.

    Reply
  2. Heather

    Congratulations Maria! I saw the article in person and it is beautiful! Interesting article about pleasing clients. Sometimes I find that the work I am not the most proud of or end up wanting to rip up and throw away are other peoples favorites! I guess the same goes for writing too! Can’t wait to read more. :o)

    Reply
  3. Maria Brophy

    Thanks, Archan, Bryan and Heather! I appreciate the laughter, encouragement and kind words. This post was much more fun to write than the Magazine article! And that’s why I wrote it – it’s all about getting stuck in our own heads. Heather, that’s funny that some of your least favorite paintings are loved by others. Irony!

    Reply
  4. Joseph Tubb

    This was great!! I find myself doing that a lot, being especially hard on myself to strive to make it the best I can. And sometime stuck for hours or days to make progress. Than weeks later I re-look at a project or paper and than realize the real value and effort in it.

    Loved the article,
    Joseph Tubb

    Reply
  5. misty Maretzky

    love your raw honesty in putting your art out there in concrete…..Is it only art if someone likes it? wouldn’t it be a sad colorless world if that were true? you have definitely inspired and someday I might just get your cajones and stop stashing piece after piece and rambling after rambling and just take that leap! thanks for keepin it real and really real!
    ps…so glad to have stumbled on your blog…it has become a new friend to workout my art with. keep inspiring and pura vida in el arte!

    Reply
    1. Maria Brophy

      Misty, yeah, what is art? It’s defined according to the definer. I’m glad you found my blog and you like it. Hopefully, I can encourage you to learn to love your artwork and not be so hard on yourself!

      Reply
  6. Eric

    I feel that we all get writer’s block to help us learn to open our minds and receive new and exciting things and the block is there to remind us that new ideas are about to come. I’m writing an article about writer’s block this month… I encourage anyone to check it out.

    Good article! 🙂

    Reply
  7. Katherine Carey

    I HEAR YA!!!! THIS is EXACTLY how I feel about making custom hats!
    I have struggled with this for years and as a designer the magic happens when I am designing what I want and THEN letting someone purchase it.

    I know as artists we live for commissions but I rather feel like a bird with clipped wings. A specific pressure is put upon the project, expectations and room for rejection. How is one to be creative in that environment?

    Anyhow…brava my friend for pushing through. And YES! it does feel great to see the work when done. I say commission when one feels like taking on the challenge. For me I stated my thoughts in my blog…the link is here:

    http://paradisemillinery.blogspot.com/2010/01/defining-my-destiny.html

    A hui hou!
    Katherine

    Reply
    1. Maria Brophy

      Katherine, I read your blog post and love it! BTW, I tried to leave a comment but it required me to sign in on one of the many options, none of which worked for me. I wonder if you could get a new plug-in that would allow anonymous comments?

      My comment was this:
      I love that you wrote this letter. It tells a story, one that captivated my hard to capture (ADD) attention! Congrats on no longer making hats. Although, I have a funny feeling you will find yourself, once again, making hats in the future. Only this time, it will make you less crazy and delight you more.

      Reply

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