Jill Badonsky Interviewed by Stacy Magic
I believe inspiration is beyond the intellect’s ability to explain it. Somehow it comes from a beautiful concoction of ingredients that emerge from our intuition and imagination and includes the latest wake in the pool of collective consciousness; our personal drives, passions, history, personality tendencies, needs, quirks and even directions from our DNA. Which is another way of saying, “Heck.. I have NO idea where my creativity comes from, it just seems to be there when I need it and the more I use it the more it is there.”
Paying attention to what else is possible other than what’s before me, asking small questions, being curious, wanting to be whimsical and witty, the need to express what’s bouncing around in my being, all contribute to making creativity a priority.
I love that the word “amuse” is literally the words “a muse.” My creativity often originates from the value I place on amusement and inspiration. Like everyone, I was born with propensities – one of them is unfettered drive, the others are humor and teaching – so I’ve had an unstoppable drive to teach in a fun and playful way.
Sometimes my creativity comes from making associations, connections, and toying with convergences of thoughts; seeing things in a new way – extrapolating, expounding, and using different perspectives from which new concepts spring forth.
When I discover little inventions, prompts, or easy ways to access my own creativity, the teacher-DNA I was born with directs me to package them with humor or whimsy and share them with others. I get satisfaction from thinking I might be discovering something that can help others; a tendency which probably comes from the need to heal some dark, subterranean madness I harbor. I just go with it.
What did your creativity look like when you were a child?
It looked like a little girl with really short blond hair in the backyard pretending she herded cats or, if she had a towel on her head, it meant she was the ruler of a kingdom which required long hair. I also invented clubs with elaborately hilarious languages that I invited friends to join only if they were willing to change their name to Edith, Ethel or Gladys. My artistic and eccentric mother fanned the embers of my creativity by allowing me an incredible amount of freedom and solitude when I was little.
This question actually is a great follow-up to the first question about where my creativity springs, because the way I made sure to get attention from my parents was to do anything I could to make them laugh. So I think my need to share creative tricks with wit and whimsy was cultivated by this early attention-seeking behavior.
Have you written in a more formal genre than The Awe-Manac?
Yes, I wrote The Nine Modern Day Muses (and a Bodyguard): 10 Guides to Creative Inspiration for Artists, Poets, Lovers, and Other Mortals Wanting to Live a Dazzling Existence which was bought by Penguin-Putnam back in 1999. It the same voice as The Awe-manac but there are actual paragraphs and longer trains of thought.
My writing experience is derived mostly from my obsession with writing in my journal or from writing funny newsletters – either for my friends or for the jobs I held in Expressive Therapy departments on psychiatric units (as staff not patient). I do not have any formal writing training. I’m just obsessed with it.
How/when did you harness your creativity into concrete and shareable formats?
The newsletters I wrote at work in hospital were the first forms of sharing my creativity. In the early ‘90s I wrote a column for a magazine called California Woman about the creative process, and eventually spun-off into my own creativity-oriented newsletter in 1994 called Hammocks and Moons which was snail mailed to about 75 readers. Now I email a monthly Muse Flash e-zine to around 5,000 readers.
One of the biggest accomplishments that catapulted my creative life into full gear occurred in 1997 when I wrote and performed an hour and a half one-woman multimedia play called I Can’t Always Handle Reality But it’s Really the Only Place to Get a Good Cup of Coffee. I played seven different characters. The play was about a woman lost in the corporate world who was directed back to her artistic self by a cocktail waitress, a Marshmallow Queen (with long hair), a TV repairman beat poet, a detective and Guru Babaloo Nanda Nanda Bo Banda, Banana Fanna Fo Fonda.
Running creativity workshops and coaching creative souls for several years gave me the opportunity to invent prompts, exercises and tools to help people through creative blocks. This eventually became my first book, The Nine Modern Day Muses (and a Bodyguard) – 10 Guides to Creative Inspiration. Getting a book out there opens all sorts of doors, which continued to challenge my creative growth.
I am very drawn to your artwork. Are you doodling all the time? What are your favorite mediums? How does one find their medium?
Thank you, I do doodle all the time. In fact, my best doodles happen when talking on the phone, listening to books on tape, or watching TV, because my critic and left brain are engaged in something, while my right brain takes over in wild abandon on the page. Sometimes I don’t even realize what I’ve drawn until I’m finished. Picking a subject and rendering it in all different ways helps my doodles evolve. Right brain techniques help me deepen my artistic voice.
My favorite medium is ink and watercolor.
I think one finds their medium by exploring different techniques through classes or, just by walking through Dick Blick’s or Michaels and seeing what calls out to them.
Taking classes can help you discover techniques you may not find on your own, but finding what and how it works for you and ignoring all rules and comparisons to others is important.
One also finds their medium by allowing themselves to be beginners and not expecting perfection. Perfectionism is one of the biggest obstacles to starting, enjoying, and advancing our creative world. I’m constantly saying, “This is close enough” and “So what?” to quiet the tyrannical inner critic.
Which one: real book or e-book?
Real book hands down, no contest. Touching and turning pages, flipping back and forth, having books under the bed as comfort, highlighting passages, as friends, as opening and reviewing a quick reference or seeing what the page says. I don’t think e-books will ever replace the magic of a real book for me.
How does one discover their muse?
By paying attention to where they get their inspiration. It sounds obvious but many people will have “aha” moments while driving, in the shower, listening to music, watching a certain TV show or movie, in nature, or by reading something they love, but they’ll sit down to create without including any of these fertile activities as a conduit for starting and expect inspiration, then find themselves in avoidance.
Just engaging in writing without pressure for short periods of time can awaken a sleeping muse, as can asking small questions without expecting an immediate answer: “What would be a small thing my character might say?” “What would make this fun?” “What’s one small thing that would make showing up to my work easier?” “What if I approached this work 5% angrier, bigger, edgier, truer to my beliefs, wilder, tamer, more fluid complex, liberated, concise, abstract?
What one thing can I do each day to unleash my creativity?
Making time for creativity effects every area of life positively. It’s one of those essential activities that often gets ignored because it’s not urgent. Neglected creativity leads to crankiness and even depression.
Different things unleash our creativity according to our individual styles and because creativity is fickle, what works one day might not work the next, so it’s nice to have a variety of “unleashers” to choose from. Here are some that have worked best for the creativity coaching clients, groups and, companies I’ve worked for:
- reading and re-reading quotes, passages, or your own prior work to inspire you,
- remembering what worked in the past and doing it again,
- breaking things way down and lowering expectations to get started,
- taking a small, delicious question for a walk,
- writing lists and mind-mapping,
- dark roasted coffee,
- teaming up with a friend while working on your own projects at the same time,
- writing haikus or very short poems or paragraphs whenever you think of it,
and of course, reading The Awe-manac which was designed for this purpose.
What words do you love to say?
Table for two, please.
Where, in San Diego, do you like to spend time?
I live in a Banker’s Hill studio filled with windows that let in ocean breezes. It overlooks a canyon so it’s my creative den of invention, imagination and inspiration. It feels like a tree-house and most of the time, I simply sit on my futon doodling and writing bliss but when the grassblowers are in full throttle, Lestat’s in Normal Heights or Rebecca’s in South Park are my favorite places to write. My inspiring walks are to Little Italy, Balboa Park and to area cafes for inspiration.
Where do you go to be calm? Happy? Energized? Sparked?
As long as my creative inspiration is in the on-position, I feel those feelings anywhere I have space to write or draw. Having a sea-breeze, a view of trees, and my music is a plus.
I also get energized running and listening to my i-pod, in art galleries, museums, lectures, waking up between high thread count sheets and during massages.
I’m working on a book called Creativity: An Owner’s Manual which is a take-off of a camera manual but for creativity. It’s tongue-in-cheek but practical. It’s fun and entertaining to get your attention and filled with new illustrations and prompts. It will be designed to both make you laugh and give you sensible ways to easily install your creative action.
I’ll also be animating my illustrations and returning to the world of performance writing and film-making once the book is finished.
Thanks for asking! Let this quote inspire you to pay attention:
“What a wonderful life I’ve had. I only wish I realized it sooner.” ~Colette
Jill Badonsky, M.Ed., is an internationally recognized workshop leader, keynote speaker, creativity-coaching pioneer, illustrator, and humorist. She has creatively consulted with national magazines, filmmakers, comedians, artists, writers, women in business, and spiritual groups through-out the country. Her background is in occupational therapy, writing, marketing, educational media and instructional design. She writes a monthly column for Creativity Portal and is editor of the monthly Muse Flash.
Jill is founder and director of Kaizen-Muse Creativity Coaching. She is author of The Nine Modern Day Muses (and a Bodyguard): 10 Guides to Creative Inspiration for Artists, Poets, Lovers, and Other Mortals Wanting to Live a Dazzling Existence and the award-winning, The Awe-manac: A Daily Dose of Wonder from Running Press. Jill lives in the San Diego with two cats and a bougainvillea. Find her at www.themuseisin.com or www.kaizenmuse.com