My top 10 tips to finding the right teacher for the creative skill you want to develop
A question I’m often asked is how to find the right teacher for training and expanding the creative skill of your choice. The relationship between a student and teacher is a sensitive one and you should spend a little time on finding the right teacher for you. I‘ve put together a list of my top 10 tips to finding the right teacher, so lets dive right into it:
1. Recommendation: the „easiest way“ to get a name. Ask those who recommend the teacher why they love working with that teacher.
2. What kind of education does the teacher have? Do they have any formal training as a teacher? Could they have developed their teaching skills over time as a result of their experience as an artist? Do they keep learning and expanding their skill set?
3. What kind of experience does the teacher have in the art form you want to learn and of course in teaching it? Of course the more years they have been working in either area the more they have seen and learned and this should feed into their teaching. This is no guarantee, but experience helps. However, young and ambitious teachers who are very keen to be the best teacher they can be at the time can also be really good teachers! They can really be worth giving them a chance! And what I‘ve learned: someone who is a brilliant artist doesn‘t necessarily have to be a great teacher. They can be, but that is not a given one. That‘s why there are all the other factors that you have to look into when looking for the right teacher for you.
4. Are they specifically trained and/or experienced in the area you want learn from them? E.g. If you want to learn classical singing it won‘t make too much sense if you go to a teacher who has only experience in popular music. If you want to become a screen actor you need to find an acting coach who really knows what kind of skills you need for acting in front of the camera and how to teach them to you.
5. Are they flexible in regards to the methods they are teaching? Are they open to other approaches? Are they continuing to learn about the newest (scientific) findings in their area of expertise? Are they continuing to take further training to become even better?
6. You and the teacher have to be on the same page about your goals. You should have a clear idea about what you want to achieve and discuss that with the teacher. Listen to their opinion and ask questions to see if their answers are realistic.
7. You and your teacher need to have a good chemistry. The best teacher in the world will not be the right one for you, if you don‘t click. You can‘t force what isn‘t meant to be, but when it works you can look forward to a great journey ahead!
8. Is the teacher‘s studio conveniently reachable enough for your so that you are not going to use the distance as an excuse to not go there whenever you have a „lazy day“ or the weather isn‘t nice enough ;) ? OR:
9. Does the teacher offer online teaching via Skype, Zoom, Facetime, Hangout or whatever? If so this might give you the opportunity to more options in the choice of your teacher. Maybe from much farther away.
10. What types of classed does the teacher offer? One-on-one, small groups, bigger groups?
I hope this is helpful for you. Don‘t rush into anything, but don’t wait too long. At the end of the day you will only find out if the teacher is right for you when you give them a chance and take a few lessons with them.
Stay healthy, stay creative and be brave!
Lots of love,
„You’re too sensitive for your own good”
“You need to toughen up”
“You take things to heart too much”
“Stop over-thinking things!”
Have you heard this before? I have. I thought something was wrong with me until I learned about high sensitivity. It changed my life and how I see myself.
So if you these phrases sound vaguely familiar to you you might also be a highly sensitive person (HSP).
Great! But what does this have to do with being a creative person? Well, bare with me :)
First of all, high sensitivity is a trait that is normal. It is found in 15 to 20% of the population. It is not a disorder, but since we HSPs are a minority it isn't really well understood and our world is built in a way that we can make us feel as if something was wrong with us. In reality, it's most likely that we are just overwhelmed.
High sensitivity is innate. In fact, biologists have found it in over 100 species (and probably there are many more) from fruit flies, birds, and fish to dogs, cats, horses, and primates. This trait reflects a certain type of survival strategy, being observant before acting. The brains of highly sensitive persons (HSPs) actually work a little differently than others’.
We are more aware than others of subtleties. This is mainly because our brain processes information and reflects on it more deeply. We are also more easily overwhelmed. If we notice everything, we are naturally going to be overstimulated when things are too intense, complex, chaotic, or novel for a long time.
The German psychologists Eduard Schweingruber who wrote about the sensitive person as early as 1935 characterised the sensitive person as having:
An increased response to stimuli, and because of this a greater chance of excessive irritability, also as having complex emotional processes. And having more difficulty with releasing/processing their emotions. He also describes how all the stimuli also influences the body of the sensitive individual.
There are four main indicators/categories in which the characteristics of being Highly Sensitive is grouped:
Depth of processing
What does that mean?
So now lets come to the point why I'm talking about this here:
Studies have shown that the number of Highly Sensitive People is significantly higher in the creative community. When you think about, the typical traits a Highly Sensitive Person brings to the table really serve the creative process. We notice more details around us, we have a higher awareness of the world around us, a lot of us understand much better how someone else is feeling, we feel deeper. While sometimes this can be a disadvantage, when it comes to creating art this is a huge advantage!
If this rings a bell, if you feel this could give you some more understanding, you might want to try HSP expert Elaine Aron's self test.
📕Here is a list of recommended reading:
Elaine N. Aron, The Highly Sensitive Person*
Georg Parlow, Zart Besaitet*
Being sensitive is not being weak. It actually takes courage to live life in full awareness.
It is time for us to start honouring our sensitivity, embracing our inspiration, our passion, our creativity.
Lots of love,
“Being highly sensitive means being able to enjoy life in high definition, the natural world, light, music and art, friendship, comfort and solitude can all bring acute happiness. In the absence of stress, being highly sensitive can be beautiful.”– Kate Coady
Working with Actors
This is the recording of last week's lockdown session on Working with Actors I did for Raindance.
Lots of love,
Finding your own artist's circle
Hey my loves,
Many moons ago when I first made my way through The Artist‘s Way I asked a small hand full of my friends, who I knew were also creatively active, if we‘d like to set up a regular meeting to share our work, discuss our experiences, help each other when we struggle and to support our crazy ideas. Our ZÖAKL was born. (It‘s an Austrianized version of the word circle.)
It was about reading our poems, our short stories, our songs, we shared our plans for the next theatre project that felt way too big, too crazy to do, but we strengthened each other and helped finding or maintaining focus. Occasionally we did some exercises, we laughed, drank a lot of coffee or tea, held each other when we needed a shoulder, understood when the disappointment of a rejection was overwhelming, when an audition that didn‘t work out, when a piece of writing was ignored by the publisher, when self doubt became bigger than our believe and hope.
We met on a weekly basis for many years until our lives moved us to different countries.
It was before Zoom or even stable Skype connections. So we didn‘t keep up our regular meetings online as we are able to do now. But we still have our friendships and everytime I see them, most of the times individually, there is still this very special connection and I appreciate that we are these supportive pillars in each other’s lives to this day.
This is what the artist‘s circle has been for me for many years. A group of like-minded people who support each other through the jungle of crazy ideas and understand that creativity needs bravery and courage to enter the room of the unknown.
I think it‘s incredibly important for the creative to have a group of people around them, whether it‘s physically in the area where you live or online who are like-minded and supportive. Where you feel like you can share anything and you will feel comfortable about it, because you know they will not destroy your crazy idea while it‘s still a baby plant, but will help you to find the right fertiliser, learn how much water and care this plant needs to grow into what it is meant to be.
Think about who in your area or in your network, you can absolutely consider your worldwide network, there is zoom, google hangout, …. who do you think could be interested in being you artist‘s circle? Who could benefit from it, like you would?
Why not sending a friendly message introducing the idea and ask them? Not too many. I find a circle of 5 to 10 people is just right.
Maybe not everyone will jump on the train, that‘s okay too? It isn‘t the right thing for everyone.
Think about how often you want to meet. What platform you want to use. If you are able to meet in person, where is a good place to meet and talk for a few hours. I would recommend to plan for 2, maximum 3 hours.
A definite beginning and a definite end will help with people taking it more seriously.
Express what you are hoping this group will be for everyone.
And then just set up the first meeting.
On your first meeting listen to everyone to hear what their creative endeavours are, but you should also encourage them to share their ideas for your circle. Make sure everyone gets to speak and find a way to moderate when some tend to speak a lot more than others. Encourage the introverts to also talk. Make sure they feel part of the game.
Think about exercises you can propose for all participants to do so you also have some common ground for your following meeting.
Make sure you discuss some rules that are important to you, like punctuality, no phones during the meeting, being respectful, gentle and encouraging with each other.
Listen to concerns and negotiate solutions.
If you can‘t find enough people in your network, you could either reach out through for example dedicated facebook groups, but there are already open artist‘s circle available online you could check out and see if this is something that could work for you.
On my Patreon page I have set up a monthly circle you could have a look at. It‘s free for all „Something special“ and above Patreons. There is of course limited space, because otherwise it can‘t fulfill what it is set out to achieve. But maybe it‘s something you like to explore or take inspiration from to make your own one.
I wouldn‘t be the artist I am today if I hadn‘t had my ZÖAKL. It is to this day near and dear to my heart and everything I creatively do is rooted in one or the other way in this particular bond between a hand full of talented, brave, like-minded, brave, sometimes a little crazy, big hearted artists.
I hope I could give you an idea what this artist‘s circle is and inspire you to build your own one. It‘s powerful!
Share your ideas and questions in the comments below. Like this video, share it if you feel like it could be beneficial for someone and subscribe to my channel if you haven‘t already.
Lots of love,
This is the recording of the lecture junk of the Lockdown Session on Directing Children I did for Raindance.
Hope you can take away some beneficial information for when you're working with children on film.
Lots of love,
“I never promised you I would be a good writer. I just said I would be a writer. That’s all I have for you. I never said I would write good books. I just said I would write books. This book is as good as I can make it. I’m not going to go to grave with 75 pages of an unfinished novel in her desk drawer. This book is going to be finished at the level I can do it. And that’s all I have for you.” - Elizabeth Gilbert
Perfectionism is the enemy of art. I don’t know who said that. It just popped up in my mind this morning. Perfectionism is often seen as a virtue. But how often is it actually a curse? An obstacle to get anything finished or done? How often is perfection the excuse for delaying things you have been “working on but isn’t quite there yet”? If everyone was going for perfectionism the world would be rather empty and boring.
Is there anything such as perfection? And what lies beneath this aspiration for perfection?
Perfectionism can easily be mistaken for striving for excellence. Which isn’t bad. It comes from a place of love for yourself. When you want to make the best version of yourself without beating yourself up. Contrary, perfectionism comes with a believe that can be rather dangerous: I am not good enough.
What happens when we believe that? We fall into a circle of beating ourselves up, seeing only the flaws in our work, but does that make our work better. Maybe a little. Sometimes. Most of the time not. It increases, however, the pressure that you put on yourself. It causes stress. And these two, pressure and stress are really, really bad for creativity. They are like roadblocks that are suddenly in your way and you hit them full frontal. Ouch! Not good.
Creativity needs to flow. It needs the allowance or the option to make mistakes in order to discover and create something new. If you want to do things perfect right from the beginning, you’re bound to fail and we will be robbed from the creative gift you were about to make.
Perfectionism is really terrible. It has boycotted me so often over the years. I thought and to be honest I still catch myself thinking occasionally, until it isn’t like this or that I am too ashamed to share it. It’s not good enough. What I mean is: it isn’t perfect enough.
How about doing it as well as it is possible now? How about trusting yourself a bit more? I’m not talking about taking the first draft of a screenplay and just turning it to a film. A screenplay needs work before it’s ready. It needs more than a draft. It needs refinement. So does a novel or a painting. Sometimes the first shot hits all the right spots, but that is the exception to the rule.
How much more of my work could you have seen, read or heard? If only….
How easy is it to get lost in chewing on words and phrases until it is “perfect” until precious years have passed by that you could have used to create so much more?
How easily this can lead to losing all passion for the endeavour itself.
Over the last few years I have become a bit gentler to myself and I have learned to appreciate my creations more. I’ve also become braver to share my work. Some of my songs I wrote over 15 years ago and it was only this year that I started to share them on my patreon page. This little voice inside of me is still sceptical about that. But I can deal with it better. I’ve taken the leap and I think I rather share my work than let it rot away. Maybe it touches someone out there. And you know what? When I started to sing my own songs again at home during this lockdown, my older son suddenly started to sing one of them. He told me how much he loved that song. And he had no idea at that point that it was one of mine. If he’s the only one I was able to move with my song, this is enough for me now.
I want to close this video with another quote by Elizabeth Gilbert:
“This stubbornness to say that I’d rather have it to be done than to die on the cross of perfectionism is what made me able to write my first books. And now I don’t need to fight this battle anymore.” - Elizabeth Gilbert
Be creative. Be brave. And share your gift!
Lots of love,
P.S.: Here is the link to my song Desert Storm. Written in 2006... ;)
Writing compelling dialogue
As we're all still more or less on lockdown Raindance Film School is offering a wide range of lockdown sessions. This is a recording of one I did for them this week on writing compelling dialogue.
Lots of love,
Upcoming online lectures and workshops:
19 May 2020: Working with actors
26 May 2020: Working with children
6 and 7 June 2020: Casting Actors (incl. E-Casting)
When time and space are limited, how can we find just that for our creativity?
Adjusting to all sorts of living situations over the years I have found a way to have room for my creativity even when there is none.
Let me know what you're doing to have some me-time with your inner artist?
Lots of love,
Many people think meditation is about thinking nothing or to concentrate really hard.
The main meaning of meditation is to develop awareness, mindfulness so you can be present in the moment.
How does this affect creativity?
Creativity is energy that flows through you and wants to be expressed. Meditation helps you to connect with that flow.
Through meditation your brain function improves. The brain is very easy to distract, but through meditation you develop more control over it. You learn to use your mind more purposefully. If you want to make something creative meditation helps you to focus and stay focussed better.
Whatever you do it becomes clearer through meditation.
The filmmaker David Lynch is well known for his work with and for transcendental meditation. A very easily approachable form of meditation he has been practicing for over 40 years.
He explains that meditation expands our consciousness, our awareness. It allows to dive within that consciousness experiencing subtler levels of mind and intellect. In this unified field as it is called by modern physicists there are qualities such as bliss, intelligence, creativity, universal love, energy and peace. It‘s not about understanding this field intellectually, but about experiencing it.
By going there through mediation you enliven it, you unfold it, it grows and the final outcome is the full potential of all of us human beings and a side effect is that negativity starts to recede.
This negativity, like anger, depression, anxiety, is poison for the artist. It blocks creativity.
Meditation helps to grow the consciousness, the intuition and to find solutions.
It took me quite a while to get meditation. Mainly because when I first tried it in my early 20ies I was the type of person who has ants in her pants. I was always busy. A workaholic. It was before everyone had a smartphone, so I took books or print outs of things I thought I absolutely had to read even to the loo. I couldn‘t waste a minute. So sitting still for even 5 minutes wasn‘t possible for me, so I thought it wasn‘t for me.
The first form of meditation I encountered while I was like that did work for me was active meditation. The first part of it is shaking and or dancing to the point of exhaustion, followed by stillness.
Now, well I have become a bit more relaxed over the years, some of my perfectionism has dissolved, I have become pretty good at sitting still for 15-20 minutes to calm my mind, to focus on my breath and to stay in the moment.
What I want to say with that is that there is a huge variety of meditation out there, you can find all sorts on the internet, on meditation apps, YouTube, etc., and even if one isn‘t for you, there is probably somewhere a form that works for you.
Give it a go. And if meditation practice is already part of your life, I would love to hear your thoughts about it.
Lots of love,
It's a date! The Artist's Date
The third of those tools that have been immensely beneficial for my creative life is the artist‘s date.
Julia Cameron describes the artist‘s date as a receiving tool. During an artist‘s date you are opening yourself up to insight, inspiration and inner guidance.
But what is an artist‘s date? It‘s a certain period of time per week that is dedicated to „a date with yourself“. So no other people are allowed to join. It can be an hour or maybe even two hours per week that you take out for yourself to take yourself out on a „date" and spend quality time with yourself. Yeah, but what exactly am I supposed to do during that time?
Anything that makes you feel special!
What I found very helpful was to understand is that your inner artist is a child. What would you as a child have liked to do? Would you watch a certain film? Would you go to the zoo? Would you take a long walk along a river and throw stones into the water?
Would you like to attend a flamenco or a hip hop class? Maybe you‘d like to sit on a hill to watch the sunset or the stars.
Whatever you do, it is important to do it on your own!
Choose whatever feels like fun! Something playful.
It does really not need to be fancy at all! It doesn‘t need to cost anything. And if you can‘t go outside for whatever reason and you have a family and it feels entirely impossible to carve out just an hour for this important date with yourself, talk to your family and explain to them how important it is to re-charge your batteries.
Apart from nourishing your inner artist it will also help you to be a better partner and parent!
It‘s about taking care of yourself, giving yourself, your inner child the attention that you need.
What can help you to be more playful? Play is immensely important for creativity! Maybe it‘s taking the box full with Lego blocks and spend an hour with them to build something. Without the kids, of course. Just you.
This is really important.
You could also just put on your favourite music and dance like noone is watching. No one should be watching anyway ;)
These dates will help you to fill your creative cup. They will also improve your overall energy level, which will benefit all around you as well. Just in case you were worried about being selfish ;)
I would also recommend to keep a notebook or your inspiration journal with you, just in case an idea comes up. It‘s pretty likely that it will happen during those artist‘s dates.
And one more thing: Keep your phone off during those dates. Nobody appreciates a date that is constantly checking their emails, facebook or instagram. And neither does your inner artist or inner child! Turn it off and enjoy this offline time.
Let me know what kind of artist‘s dates you have been enjoying or you are planning to do. Come back and let me know how you did.
Share your ideas. We all benefit from each other!
Stay safe. Stay healthy. Be creative!
Lots of love,
P.S.: Here is the -> link <- to the mentioned Casting Actors workshop on 6 and 7 of June 2020.
More creativity boosting tools:
Romana Carén is an actress, film and theater maker (writer & director), and singing instructor sharing her experience with juggling all her creative interests, the struggle to feel that you have to decide to be good at one of them, to constantly feel the drive to learn more, learn something new and how this inner artist can be set free to express itself in a healthy and fruitful way.
THE VERSATILE ARTIST