You better really mean it if you’re going to put the word "portal" in the name of your website. You better have lots of links and lots of stories and cover all the seasons and in general be opening up your audience to all kinds of new stuff all the time. And if your focus is creativity, well, then you’ve really got to have it together. Creative types are always looking for fresh ideas and original concepts and new ways to further their own endeavors, whether they’re old hat experts or new to the craft. Well, Creativity Portal means it. The site, run by Chris Dunmire, is a launching pad to creative quick fixes and craft ideas, as well as in-depth explorations of inspiration and living the creative life. I interviewed Dunmire about Creativity Portal and creativity in general.
Why did you start Creativity-Portal.com?
Short answer: Because I’m a creativity enthusiast!
Long answer: I started the Creativity Portal Web site in 2000 shortly after leaving a corporate job at a company I’d been with for seven years — one that I originally thought I’d be with for several decades until I retired (it was that kind of company). However, in the years leading up to my departure, an astonishing number of life-altering events took place that forced me to take stock of my life and realize that I was undergoing a creative awakening that needed to be tended to and incorporated into my working life somehow.
As I was in the process of changing career paths, I began to embrace my creativity enthusiast nature more and knew I needed a dynamic "container" to pour my creative energy into. A Web-based project based on my creative vision became that container — the Web site known as the Creativity Portal.
How has the site evolved over the years?
Watching the Creativity Portal grow and evolve over the years has been such a satisfying experience. The site began with a hand-selected directory and profile of instructional art, craft, and writing resources and grew to include my own creativity-inspiring projects, articles, and book reviews. I opened up the site as a creative community project after an author approached me with her syndicated column series and asked if it could be published on the site. Welcoming that collaboration resulted in other creative professionals working with me to add their voices to the collective Creativity Portal project.
Today the Creativity Portal features over a half-dozen regular monthly columns in addition to ongoing contributions by various authors, coaches, and artists to help educate and inspire visitors no matter where they are in their creative lives. The site has earned a generous share of accolades as well. It’s been named a Writer’s Digest Best Web site (since 2002), was lauded as a Kim Komando "Kool" Site, and has appeared in Imagine magazine, a college textbook, and on Blogger’s Buzz. Several authors have also acknowledged the Creativity Portal in their books and on their Web sites, which is a great honor.
How do you balance a site about creativity with all your personal creative projects?
Serendipitously, the Creativity Portal is a continuous source of inspiration and motivation for my own creative life. The same articles and resources that inspire its readers also inspire me. As the sites’ creative director and publisher, I read every single article and project published on the site and work closely with its regular contributors in the shape and direction of new site features. All of this has a very personal and profound effect on me that spills over into my personal creative work.
It’s no coincidence that many of my creative projects are weaved through the pages of the Creativity Portal Web site even though I have my own personal site devoted to my creative play (www.chrisdunmire.com). I am thrilled to be the site publisher and an active contributor. It’s like running an ice cream shop while inventing new ice cream flavors on the side in the back room. It all just flows together in a fulfilling, creative dream kind of way.
We’re all creative beings, doing creative things all the time. But how important is it to emphasize creativity in one’s life?
I’m naturally biased about this and pro-creativity in the fullest sense of the word. Having said that, I believe the gauge on this is for each of us to decide for ourselves — how much or to what extent we should personally emphasize creativity in our lives.
You are correct in saying that we are all creative beings, doing creative things all of the time. Not everyone recognizes when their creativity is engaged as artists, inventors, problem solvers, or ‘outside the box’ thinkers. It happens in the kitchen, at the store, while we’re driving, during meetings, while we’re playing, and when we’re working. Creativity permeates every aspect of our lives, whether we label it as such or not, and we all benefit from the freedom to be creative. Creativity keeps us progressive, improves our lives, and gives us the opportunity to express ourselves and communicate with others.
How has your personal view of creativity evolved as you’ve built up and worked on the website?
My personal view of creativity has grown so much over the years — and I suspect it will never stop evolving for as long as I live. Every person I come into contact with contributes to the dynamic definition of creativity that I carry within me.
Long ago I used to think that creativity was only about artistic expression and problem solving, but I have grown to understand it also as a tool for healing, personal growth, and spiritual practice. It is a multi-faceted component to our lives that makes everything possible.
What kinds of things do you hear from readers of the site?
I’ve received an abundance of affirming feedback from visitors who enjoy the Creativity Portal’s vision, articles, projects, and resources. I get a lot of fun comments from people who’ve used my novelty Money Plant Project. I also receive kind personal notes from newsletter readers about my musings and the community projects I invite them into.
Recently, one reader shared with me how an article from the site discussing how "getting outside of your routine promotes creativity" helped inspire her writing life during some challenging times after Hurricane Katrina devastated the area in which she lived.
Other contributors to the Creativity Portal have also been recipients of life-changing feedback to their work. One author was approached by a popular health magazine after her article on creativity was published on the site. They wanted permission to publish her article in their print magazine! Another author received so much feedback on one of her articles about day jobs that she went on to write a book about it.
How does a creativity coach work? I’m sure each has his or her own creative approach, but for those who have only heard the term, can you provide some insight?
You are correct — professional creativity coaches, depending on their background and training, may have different approaches to their coaching style, focus, and philosophy. I have trained as a creativity coach under Eric Maisel, Ph.D., and his coaching philosophy is well-reflected in the many books he’s written on creativity and coaching.
In the broadest sense, creativity coaches help support artists and creators of all kinds with their creative work in working regularly and deeply, overcoming blocks, and achieving success in the marketplace. Some coaches have specialty niches and may work primarily with writers, visual artists, or performers in-person, by phone, or through e-mail.
For anyone interested in more information on creativity coaching, I recommend visiting the Web sites of Eric Maisel, Ph.D. and Jill Badonsky M.Ed., who are two well-known coach trainers.
When was the last time you were creatively stuck, and how did you get past it?
I get creatively stuck all the time. How do I get past it? Sometimes it’s a matter of allowing the creative process to work (you know, idea gathering, incubation…). Other times I need to shift into self-coach mode and figure out what’s going on with me. Do I know enough about a subject? Am I being a perfectionist? Am I afraid? Do I need to take a nap? Do I need to eat more cookies? And on and on it goes.
Sometimes getting past it means I have to put aside my fears and do it anyway. Sometimes it means accepting that doing things creatively average is okay. And sometimes it means scrapping an idea and saying "Chris, what WERE you thinking?!"
It’s summer time… Any good summer creativity prompts?
Yes, go outside to your favorite park, lake, or forest preserve and really notice what’s going on around you. Whether you see ducks floating on the water, little kids hanging on the monkey bars, or families enjoying quality time eating together, you’ll find all of the creative story starters you need to last you until autumn. Here’s your first one: go count all of the white butterflies you can in five minutes fluttering through the flowers and then write about what you think they’re really up to. These family-friendly prompts are brought to you by the letters C, D, B.
What’s currently inspiring you, and what are you working on?
I am currently inspired by flowers. Flowers are such amazing works of art. I am gifted with a teacher friend who is educating me on all kinds of flowery things and has some very cool ones growing in her yard that I’ve never seen before in my life. She’s recently sent me a postcard from her vacation in Minnesota featuring the state flower called "Showy Lady Slipper." The flower actually looks like an elegant slipper shoe!
I am working on many creative things. I recently finished a coaching writers training with Eric Maisel and have plunged deeper into my writing life. I have a growing list of writing projects that keep me busy, and when I’m not doing that I’m doing my best to chronicle my creative journey and reflect on the richness of being alive in the now.
Describe a perfectly creative day:
I think that it’s okay to live un-perfectly creative days. My current philosophy is this: I believe in meeting a day creatively where you are, knowing that tomorrow is another day you can continue on the journey if you are up to the challenge. If you’re not, rest and recharge. Some days I am exhausted from all of my spent creative energy, and other days I am resting and queuing up for the next exciting project. Occasionally, in between days I unplug from it all and put my creative life on pause. I’ll admit though, that’s really hard for a creativity enthusiast to do.