As artists, we plant, cultivate, harvest our crops, and take them to market just as farmers do. Farmers decide how to ensure the greatest harvest, and we make decisions about our creative endeavors. We must choose, design, and organize our multi-talented creative lives to be most fruitful. Three basic strategies we can use are: 1) crop rotation; 2) companion planting; and 3) hybridization.
Farmers grow each crop separately, in rotation. Crop rotation replenishes and restores the soil to prevent depletion. Similarly, through identifying seasons of creativity, we can rotate projects and creative disciplines. These seasons might be either literal or metaphorical.
When I lived in Northern California I wrote, acted, played music, and designed outdoor art installations. I concentrated on discreet projects, each in its own time, rather than working on several simultaneously. I learned that my brain jams and my life scrambles if I schedule projects in more than one discipline at a time. A simultaneous approach forms a “tempest in my mind,” as Shakespeare said in King Lear. For me “that way madness lies; let me shun that; No more of that.”
In companion planting two or more mutually beneficial crops are planted close together to discourage pests and nourish the soil. In the southwest United States, early native peoples learned that squash, beans, and corn yielded the best harvest when they were planted as a threesome. In the life of the artist-farmer one discipline may influence and enrich another. Playing music makes our poetry more rhythmic. Dance and your acting becomes more graceful. Visual art, writing, and music all depend on the inventiveness and structure of composition. The underlying principles of artistic forms feed each other.
A hybrid takes two different things and brings them together to make something new. Mules and high-yield corn come from inter-breeding and cross-pollination. Myths and folktales have given us unforgettable hybrid beings. What child could forget the Sphinx, mermaid, or minotaur?
Combining art forms produces integrated products and art forms. Dance performances, for example, might include costumes, stage sets, scrims, backlit slides, music, light design, and choreography. When these elements come together, the whole becomes more than the sum of its parts. We can hybridize projects either alone or in collaboration with others.
Steward your talents wisely; become an artist-farmer. Bear in mind Ecclesiastes: “To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under the sun.” That reminder will enrich and multiply our work.
Pose questions about practical creativity; give ideas for future cycle themes; and join in the dialog. See the Creative Catalyst archive at http://bit.ly/9z1BQv. Learn more about our prize-winning audio book “Sightlines: A Family Love Story in Poetry and Music”at http://bit.ly/aZVd1e.