What You’ll Find at Live In Color Blog & Where Else You Can Read my Words

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Mother, wife, sister, friend, writer / blogger / creative organizer, budding photographer... These are just a few of the many hats I juggle each day. I believe creativity is oxygen for the soul. I created Live In Color blog to celebrate the beauty in every moment, from faith to inspiration and motherhood.And it is soon becoming Pray with Our Feet blog which will focus on the intersection of faith and activism. Follow the inspiration on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/praywithourfeetblog/
Emelda De Coteau
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Emelda De Coteau, Founder of Live In Color blog | Photo Credit: Keston De Coteau

I’m committed you all!

My Christian faith journey (mostly devotional style which discuss my walk with God and the lessons I want to share with you all) and mindfulness / awareness, activism (raising important issues… I have a heart for creating a just world and particularly feel a responsibility as a creative), and inspiration (I am naturally an optimist and believe what we feed our minds expand; you’ll find weekly posts to motivate you in speaking the language of possibility, Monday Motivation Moments + the ongoing series, now on Wednesdays, Inspiration For Your Ears & Soul, a weekly round up of inspiration from around the web).

Also, in the coming months, I’m going to begin a series of interviews (Q&A style) highlighting the work and words of my fellow creatives. And I plan to organize Live In Color blog meetups so we can hang out in person (if you are in the Maryland area where I am based). Stay tuned for details!

 

Artwork by Alyson Nailah Designs

You can read my words at Beautifully Said Magazine, where I am a columnist. I contribute to other online spaces too, including Pretty Entrepreneur (a community uplifting dope women of color who are entrepreneurs) and Positivity Warriors (which is also an amazing Facebook community).

Photo via Unsplash

We Say We Like Creativity, But We Really Don’t (Guest Blog Series)

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Mother, wife, sister, friend, writer / blogger / creative organizer, budding photographer... These are just a few of the many hats I juggle each day. I believe creativity is oxygen for the soul. I created Live In Color blog to celebrate the beauty in every moment, from faith to inspiration and motherhood.And it is soon becoming Pray with Our Feet blog which will focus on the intersection of faith and activism. Follow the inspiration on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/praywithourfeetblog/
Emelda De Coteau
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A few weeks ago, my good friend and fellow blogger Michelle Whitney wrote eloquently about creativity and how, sadly, our culture shuns it at every turn.  Her post was a response to Jessica Olien’s piece on Slate, Inside the Box.

Michelle is all about resistance and rebellion, and not blending into society’s narrow definition of who she should become.  She says without apology: “I choose to live creatively.  It is at the essence of who I am as a person in this world.”

When not writing at Surviving a Creative Life , Michelle creates everything from dazzling tiny ornate hats to yummy applesauce. We are pleased she is our first guest blogger for 2014!

creativity melting
Photo Credit: Michelle Whitney

Is your creativity melting away in this 9 to 5 world?

Jessica Olein has written an interesting article on Slate about how people say they value creativity, but they really want everyone to jump in line and dutifully follow the status quo, even if it is to the detriment to those who talked the talk about valuing creativity in the first place.  I hate to say it, but as someone who lives in the 9 to 5 world, she’s right.  I see it almost every day.

Though her company initially hired her for her problem-solving skills, she is regularly unable to fix actual problems because nobody will listen to her ideas. “I even say, ‘I’ll do the work. Just give me the go ahead and I’ll do it myself,’ ” she says. “But they won’t, and so the system stays less efficient.”

Ideas for how to manage projects, streamline workflow, and integrate technological advancements are nearly always met with metaphorical brick walls in the workplace.  If the ideas are presented from the bottom to the management then they are almost certain to fail or to be dismissed outright without even a friendly ear.  After awhile, people become apathetic and stop suggesting creative solutions to problems.  The resistance to creative change, even in the positive, is astounding!

Most people agree that what distinguishes those who become famously creative is their resilience. While creativity at times is very rewarding, it is not about happiness. Staw says a successful creative person is someone “who can survive conformity pressures and be impervious to social pressure.”

To survive a creative life we can’t let that apathy consume us.  I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve heard, “We’ve been doing it like this for XYZ, which is why we should keep doing it like this going forward.”  This is not a reason for doing something if there is a way to improve upon it–especially in our technological world of lightning-fast changes.

“Everybody hates it when something’s really great,” says essayist and art critic Dave Hickey.

I ran into this myself in a creative writing class back in 1990.  I had written a first-person short story from the point of view of a character who dies (not that my story was really great or anything, but who am I kidding, it was pretty awesome for a high-school kid).  The character continued to narrate the story from beyond the veil of death.  My creative writing teacher insisted that I couldn’t do this.

“You can’t have a narrator that’s dead.”
“Why not?” I asked.
“You just can’t.”

In 1999 the movie American Beauty was released, and guess what–that’s right, the narrator of the story was dead.  That movie won 5 Oscars and according to IMDB had 74 total award nominations and 94 wins.

Why again couldn’t I write a short story in which the narrator is dead?  It’s exactly what Olein is talking about in this article.  The story was something new at the time–it was definitely out-of-the-box. My creative writing teacher had quite a bit of jealousy rattling around inside her when it came to my burgeoning writing talent (there were many other issues that made this abundantly clear, but that’s a post for another day…).  And just because she had never seen someone write a story with a narrator who dies, she rejected it as an impossibility.

Unfortunately, the place where our first creative ideas go to die is the place that should be most open to them—school. Studies show that teachers overwhelmingly discriminate against creative students, favoring their satisfier classmates who more readily follow directions and do what they’re told.

And even if our teachers do support us in our creative pursuits and encourage new ideas and innovation in our thinking, what is our current obsession with testing doing to the creative among us?

Even if children are lucky enough to have a teacher receptive to their ideas, standardized testing and other programs like No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top (a program whose very designation is opposed to nonlinear creative thinking) make sure children’s minds are not on the “wrong” path, even though adults’ accomplishments are linked far more strongly to their creativity than their IQ.

I’ve had long conversations with a teacher-of-the-year friend of mine about No Child Left Behind and how it leaves no room for creativity in its curriculum demands. We also talked about direct instruction (mostly experimented with on low-income children, of course) being the same way.  We’re teaching our kids only to follow directions and stay within the lines.  Teaching a test is not teaching problem-solving, which is something that life requires of all of us.  Problem-solving often involves finding creative solutions to complex issues.  You can’t learn this by picking A, B, or C on a multiple-choice test.

To live creatively is a choice. You must make a commitment to your own mind and the possibility that you will not be accepted. You have to let go of satisfying people, often even yourself.

I choose to live creatively.  It is at the essence of who I am as a person in this world.  I’ve never really fit–I’m the proverbial square peg and I refuse to carve corners to try to wrongly wriggle into a round hole.  I choose to be myself and, accepted or not, here I am.  Now if I could just let go of satisfying myself…

As writer Anais Nin once said, “Perfection is static, and I am in full progress…”

Michelle Whitney creating art. Photo courtesy of the author.
Michelle Whitney creating art. Photo courtesy of the author.

Michelle was born a creative genius (really, I swear!). Okay, maybe not a genius, but definitely creative. She works a stressful 9-5 that is creative-adjacent, but lacks in actual creativity. In order to survive this situation while still being able to pay her bills, she seeks to find the creative in situations all around her.  It’s a survival tactic, because surviving a creative life is not always easy and often it makes you question yourself down to the very fibers of your being.

Michelle is a trained writer and photographer and an autodidact in just about anything else she can get her hands on.

 

 

Lessons from my Obsession with Beyoncé by Shannon-Eli Braxton

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Mother, wife, sister, friend, writer / blogger / creative organizer, budding photographer... These are just a few of the many hats I juggle each day. I believe creativity is oxygen for the soul. I created Live In Color blog to celebrate the beauty in every moment, from faith to inspiration and motherhood.And it is soon becoming Pray with Our Feet blog which will focus on the intersection of faith and activism. Follow the inspiration on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/praywithourfeetblog/
Emelda De Coteau
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Beyonce and Jay-Z in Cuba
Beyoncé and Jay-Z in Cuba

For several months this year, I’ve been obsessed with Beyoncé.  If there was a new picture of her, I had to see it. A new YouTube video, I had to watch it. But as spring started to bloom and the winter chill lifted, I noticed my obsession was making me depressed.

Though I would never admit this to anyone, I didn’t just want to see Beyoncé,  I wanted to be Beyoncé.  I kept trying to talk some sense into myself, reminding myself that no one has a perfect life no matter how perfect it may look online, on TV and in magazines. Then she went to Cuba and wore the cutest outfit EVER!

My next strategy was to harshly judge her lack of modesty. “I would never wear such revealing clothes.” And, “How could she promote the objectification of women after all we have to fight for?!” But that didn’t work either. Just when I thought I was over her, she became the spokes model for H&M, released a song called “Bow Down” and dyed her hair jet black.

So, a few weeks ago, as I sat staring at her latest citing, I whispered a confession to my co-worker; “Dan,” I said, “I’m really jealous of Beyoncé; she has the perfect life and no matter how hard I look for some proof of human flaws, I find none.”

In comes divine intervention…

Photo Credit:: Shannon Braxton
Photo Credit: Shannon Eli Braxton

Last Sunday afternoon my mother sent me a text that said, “The intersection of Park Avenue and Lexington Street is being named after your great grandmother today at 3pm.” Why she waited to tell me this and only gave me 2 hours notice, I wasn’t sure. Still, I headed to the street naming ceremony.

My great grandmother, Vashti Turley Murphy, was an activist for women’s rights and the co-founder of a large sorority with a mission to create equality, Delta Sigma Theta Soroity, Inc.

I grew up celebrated for being the descendant of civil rights leaders. Quite frankly, I never really thought it was that big of a deal. I mean, her accomplishments happened so long ago; I could never understand why people wanted to take so many pictures of me, her great granddaughter who was obsessed with Beyoncé.

Then, as if great grandma herself descended from heaven and disconnected my Internet, I got it. I totally got it. While members of Delta Sigma Theta encircled my family and guests, holding up pictures of young black women behind bars and groups of women standing in the cold with protest signs, a message became clear.

And as if those images weren’t touching enough, one of the oldest members of the sorority  stood behind the mic and asked, “What will YOU do to continue the legacy, and keep the civil right movement alive?”

After the ceremony, our family marched to see the unveiling of the sign and my life completely changed. What really matters is not Beyoncé, being pretty, funny or popular.  What matters is becoming a part of the solution for our world’s problems. It matters so much that only people who make huge contributions to creating a better society become immortal celebrities.

Not to diss Beyoncé, she is one of the greatest performers of all time, but all the booty shaking in the world ain’t gonna get a street named after you.  My new obsession is my
nonprofit to end the harassment of women. Please follow the movement: Help Stop Street Harassment.