Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Posts Tagged ‘creativity

Resist the Echo Chamber (AKA Negativity)

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Folks, I’ve heard a lot recently about negative reinforcement, which from here on out I’ll call “the echo chamber.” And it needs to be discussed, because too many of us never think about it.

Whether your echo chamber is from a person or from the news (as the news tends to repeat negativity over and over and over again, as that’s what many viewers seem to want), or even from your own past experiences, you need to throw it off.


Let’s put it this way: If you are inundated by negativity, it’s hard to create. It’s also hard to believe that anything will be any better than it is today.

(Which probably is why it’s so hard to create, if you think about it. Anything worth creating takes time, and if you are worrying yourself into a frenzy all the time due to the negativity you see around you, you can’t believe that time will be well-spent. Which is a lie, but I digress.)

One of the hardest things in this world to do is to throw off that echo chamber. It is liberating to do, once you realize you need to do it, but just getting to the point you can even have that thought is hard.

Some of you may be going, “Barb, what on Earth are you talking about this time?”

Simply this: If you live your life defined by negativity, you can’t help but be weighed down.

But if you see your life as full of possibilities, as best you can, you have a better shot at throwing off that echo chamber and doing whatever it was you were meant to do.

(In my case, it’s creating. I love to create, whether it’s music, words, cooking…it gives me fulfillment and peace, when I can do that. But since you’re here at my blog, you may have realized this already…)

You must throw the echo chamber away, and with great force, and lose those weights that confine you. Because they do not — I repeat, do not — define you.

How do you resist the negativity in your life? Tell me about it in the comments!


Written by Barb Caffrey

October 11, 2017 at 12:09 pm

Work/Life Balance: Is it Achievable?

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Folks, lately I’ve been wondering about the above title — is work/life balance achievable? And if so, how do you go about it?

See, over the past week or so, I’ve been dealing with family health issues. I’ve also been working on my writing, editing, and staying in contact with a few friends here and there in order to remind myself there are good things in the world.

In short, I’ve been feeling overwhelmed.

There are so many things in this world I can’t do much about. And when I’m confronted with those things, I sometimes forget about the things I can do something about — that is, take care of myself; get adequate rest; remember to eat properly; get a little exercise here and there; enjoy the scenery; work for positive changes wherever possible, but try not to completely exhaust myself in the process.

And I can’t believe I’m the only one to ever feel this way.

It’s sometimes easier to focus on what we can’t do, because we’re often taught that it’s wrong to focus on ourselves. Even in a good, positive, healthy sense, where we’re trying to create something or help others or do the best work we can, it’s hard to stay focused on that when everything else seems to be falling apart.

So, is work/life balance achievable?

I think it is, but it’s a tough go sometimes. It’s like running into a headwind; you have to remind yourself that you’re doing your level best, and it has to be good enough. Just keep trying, refuse to let the despair win, refuse to let the exhaustion win, and keep going long enough so it becomes an ingrained habit…then, maybe, it will give you peace of mind to know that you’ve done everything you can on your own behalf.

It’s important to do what you can for yourself.

But how do I put that into practice, under the circumstances? Mostly, I try to remind myself often that it’s perfectly OK for me to put myself first and get the rest, food, and time I need to do what I have to do in order to feel like a fulfilled person even as these other things aren’t working out no matter how hard I try and no matter how much effort I put into it.

Just remember that while you do need to work on controlling what you can control, it’s really hard to do. We’re taught to be rugged individualists, mostly, and having to leave so much up to the Higher Power is difficult. (It really is.)

But don’t stop trying. Definitely don’t stop believing that better things are possible.

Because they are. Even when you can’t see them.

So yes, I do think work/life balance is achievable. And I’ll keep working on it. (How about you? Tell me in the comments!)

Written by Barb Caffrey

August 16, 2017 at 3:13 pm

Mozart, and Persistence

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Folks, what comes to mind when you think about Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart?

Is it the fact that he was a gifted composer?

Is it that he was considered a virtuoso before the age of fifteen or so?

Is it that his father, Leopold, was also a composer and conductor?

Or is it that Mozart, like every other creative person on the face of this Earth (past or present), had to struggle at times, and not everyone liked what he was doing, or cared about it either?

Yes, Mozart was famous during his own lifetime. But he had struggles, too. (My conductor for the Racine Concert Band, Mark Eichner, pointed this out earlier this evening during his remarks.) For example, Mozart desperately wanted to break into the Paris opera scene; it was considered the “happening place,” back in the 1770s or so, and every composer who was anyone wanted to be known there.

So, he went to Paris. Taught some students, probably played some gigs here and there (as Mozart played any number of instruments, though he was known most for strings and piano), and managed to get a gig composing an overture for a ballet, “La Petite Riens.” (We played this piece tonight, hence Mr. Eichner’s remarks about Mozart. But I digress.) He thought that this would be his big break, as anyone who heard his music tended to adore it…but when he read the papers the next day after the ballet was premiered, he found out that his name wasn’t mentioned in the review. Nor was it mentioned in the concert’s program…

Yes, even W. A. Mozart could get treated badly, folks.

Anyway, the point here is that Mozart didn’t give up on his dreams after this setback. (It must’ve really smarted, too, considering.) He kept going. While it must’ve felt like a retreat, he went back to Germany, then to Italy, and elsewhere in Europe, and did what he needed to do in order to get his music played and published.

It may seem odd, that Mozart — the great Mozart — ran into problems. (This wasn’t his only problem, mind. He suffered money woes, health problems, problems with his kids and their health, difficulties with his wife’s family, and goodness knows what else.) But he was a human being, and as such, he had to deal with the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” like anyone else.

And it’s not like the man couldn’t compose. Anyone who’s heard any of his symphonies, or better yet, any of “The Magic Flute” (perhaps his best-known opera), knows that Mozart was an incredibly gifted and prolific composer…the large amount of music Mozart left behind, considering he died before the age of forty, testifies to that.

So, if you’ve run into problems with your creative pursuits, because you don’t think anyone cares, or you wonder what the point is, or you even wonder why you try so hard for so little of a result, remember what happened to Mozart.

Whatever has gone wrong this time, it is temporary. It doesn’t have to stop you if you refuse to let it do so.

So, remember this story…and don’t give up.

Written by Barb Caffrey

July 31, 2017 at 12:08 am

#MondayInspiration: Be Your Best Self

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Folks, I continue to struggle with the housing crisis. But I wanted to make sure I wrote a blog today, as it’s Monday…we all need inspiration, and Monday seems to be the best day to put something up that might help someone, somewhere.

“But why, Barb, do you say I should be my best self? How is that inspirational in any way?” you ask.

Um, because being your best self isn’t always easy. Things happen, like my current housing crisis, that can throw you off your game. That makes it harder for you to tap into your creativity, and harder to do anything positive, because it doesn’t seem to matter much anyway.

But it truly does.

When you think your creativity doesn’t matter is precisely when it does. It’s your way of striking back against the darkness in your life. Against the stuff that’s going wrong, that maybe you can’t fix, that maybe you can’t even fathom…it’s your way of saying, “Hey, universe, you may have me by the throat, but you can’t break me.”

Look, folks. The courage to create is often tied up in two things: being willing to look stupid for a teensy bit (in order to get something important out), and knowing that you might well fail time and time again (because only in failure can you find your way through to success). These two things seem antithetical to creativity, but for some reason, they can also be a catalyst if you work it just right.

Yes, it’s paradoxical, that you can use these two things to fuel your creativity and fuel yourself during difficult and stressful times. But it works…it allows you to keep trying, because you aren’t as afraid to look stupid. And it allows you to keep working hard, even knowing that your first, second, third, or even sixty-first attempt might not be what you want…but the sixty-second just might be.

The main thing I want to impress upon you, readers, is this: You have to keep trying. Whatever creative spark that is in you, you need to encourage it to flower. You can’t give up, just because times are hard and bad…you have to do whatever you can, even if it’s very small, even if it seems unimportant, because that’s your way of being your best self.

Or at least your best creative self.

Anyway, what do you do when you feel up against it, and need to create? (Watch cat GIFs?) I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

Written by Barb Caffrey

October 24, 2016 at 2:51 pm

Whither Creation, or, “Why Must You Write, Barb?”

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Over the past week or two, I’ve been pondering one single thought.

“Why must you keep writing, Barb?”

I write because I have stories to tell. (I know I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating.) And I write because I have to — what’s in me is to create something meaningful through words (and, sometimes, music) and bring a little happiness or illumination or at least something of value to the world at large.

I know. That’s a pretty gaudy statement, isn’t it? But it’s the main reason I get up in the morning.

I have things to do. Stories to tell. Edits to handle, for myself, and for others…music to play, and I hope some more music to write. (That has eluded me mostly since the day of Michael’s death eleven-plus years ago, because since then I’ve had one and only one major musical idea going through my head. Michael’s elegy. And as many times as I write it down, it just comes back in a new key or in a slightly different meter or in such a way that I start to think I’ll have to do something akin to Charles Ives’ “Variations on America” to it, in order to finally get it out of me once and for all. But as always, I digress…)

I have been a creative person for as long as I can remember. I don’t know why I’m this way; I just know that I can either work with it, and become the best creative writer, the best creative musician, the best creative editor, that I can possibly become — or I can leave my talents to wither on the vine.

And, quite frankly, I’m not exactly the vine-withering type.

So, my choice has been to keep working on my crafts. I write, I edit, I play music, I compose when I can (if I can ever get Michael’s elegy down in all its permutations, perhaps another melody will start to show up — I can live in hope, right?), and in this way I do my best to stamp my life as mine.

You are probably thinking, “Really, Barb? Ego? Is that all you’ve got?”

No, it isn’t. But I can’t quite seem to get at exactly why I do anything at all…except that I must do it, or I’d not be myself.

Or I’d not be my best self, at any rate. And as I firmly believe that if I’m going to be alive, I’d best do my best in all things, I’d better be my best self.

Or what’s the point?

So, yes, I’m going to keep writing. I’m going to keep playing music. I’m going to hope that one of these years, I’ll have another musical idea worthy of my time and effort…and of course I’m going to keep editing.

Because that’s what makes the most sense to me.

Written by Barb Caffrey

January 17, 2016 at 6:10 am

Three Days, Three Quotes, Three Bloggers, Day Two — #Creativity #Inspiration #MFRWAuthor

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Folks, it’s Day Two of the “three days, three quotes, and three bloggers” challenge. I was tagged by author N.N. Light, she who wrote PRINCESS OF THE LIGHT…and I struggled for quite some time before I ran across this excellent quote by Doctor Jonas Salk:

I have come to associate a kind of success that we are referring to, to individuals who have a combination of attributes that are often associated with creativity. In a way they are mutants, they are different from others. And they follow their own drummer. We know what that means. And are we all like that? We are not like that. If you are, then it would be well to recognize that there were others before you. And, people like that are not very happy or content, until they are allowed to express, or they can express what’s in them to express. It’s that driving force that I think is like the process of evolution working on us, and in us, and with us, and through us. That’s how we continue on, and will improve our lot in life, solve the problems that arise. Partly out of necessity, partly out of this drive to improve. (Emphasis by Wikiquote.)

Now, why did this resonate with me? As a creative person, I’ve often felt different than many others. What I’m driven to do is not well understood, oft-times. And yet I must create, or I am not myself.

If someone as learned as Dr. Jonas Salk, who came up with a vaccine for polio, understands this — well, then, there must be hope for me to understand it about myself.

Anyway, sometimes the path to creativity lies in self-acceptance. If this describes you — and it may — do not shirk from the knowledge that you are different.

Because once you accept that knowledge, it might just become an advantage.

Today’s bloggers to tag? Hm…how about Aaron Lazar, Maria DeVivo, and Jeff Getzin?

Written by Barb Caffrey

September 3, 2015 at 5:04 pm