I first discovered blogger Christa Avampato through the blogroll of her friend, Amanda Hirsch. I find Christa’s tag line for her site, Christa in New York, “Curating a Creative Life,” to be completely irresistible.
Christa describes herself as a “recovering multi-tasker” and her career has been diverse and creativity-driven. She has worked managing Broadway shows and national tours, fundraising for nonprofits, and performing innovation work at several large Fortune 500 companies. As she explains on her “About” page: “I make my living in the field of innovation and product development, and I make a life writing about creativity and hope.”
Christa’s blog is a breath of fresh air, penned by a woman who is continually renewing herself and sharing the fruits of her creativity with others. Her interview discusses how yoga is a key part of her creative strategy (and her business life), the importance of practice in improving one’s writing, and how she picks creative projects based on how they impact her energetically!
Tell us about your creative pursuits, paid and unpaid.
Yoga is a big part of my life and in 2011 I am going to hold a weekly class for the first few months of the year. I’ve rented a studio space and I’m going to give it a whirl to see if I can build a consistent student base. It’s going to be challenging, but I’ve wanted to try this idea for a while so we’ll see how it goes. More details about the class are on the my company’s website, Compass Yoga.
My other big focus this year is my writing. On my blog, I am writing daily about having a beginner’s mind. My new year’s resolution was to try out anything new thing that grabbed my interest without worrying about not being perfect or an expert. I’m thrilled with this new intention and very excited about the year ahead.
I’ll also be working on a few new book projects and will independently publish a few:
- An illustrated book of poetry that I originally thought I’d never release – part of living fearlessly and exploring more visual art, which I’ve never done before.
- A book about personal finance and yoga – a kind of a roadmap that helps readers to use yoga as a basis for healthy finance habits. It will be fun and interactive.
- A children’s book that is a New York City-based treasure hunt/mystery.
- And I’ll continue to promote my first e-book: Hope in Progress: 27 Entrepreneurs Who Inspired Me During the Great Recession.
Do you have any formal training in your creative discipline(s)? Do you feel training is important in creative development? Why/why not?
In May 2010, I completed a formal yoga teacher training program at Sonic Yoga in New York City. In this instance I absolutely think that formal training is important. As a yoga teacher, I am responsible for protecting the safety of my students and training in how to do that is critical.
I am tremendously lucky that I had a wonderful undergraduate and graduate school education that helped me to become a solid writer and understand our financial system, two important skills for a small business owner. For me, my education was very important and I consider it a tremendous asset. That said, practice – in business and in writing – is every bit as important. Without the practice, the education would have gone to waste.
What habits do you cultivate to facilitate your creative “flow”?
I write every single day. Weekends, holidays, regardless of how busy I am. I’ve been doing this for about 3 years and the improvement I’ve seen and experienced is truly amazing.
I also meditate every day – even if it’s just for 5 minutes and I do at least a few minutes of asana practice (which are the yoga postures) every day as well. I roll out my mat, and even if I just work on one posture for 10 minutes, I feel the difference.
This Fall I adopted a dog, Phineas, from the Humane Society thanks to NY Dachshund Rescue and taking him on walks in the morning and at night is another activity that has truly spurred my creativity. Seeing the world through my dog’s eyes has inspired me. He lived through some pretty horrible circumstances and his resilience is truly astounding. I feel that if he could get through those hard times and move on, then I could certainly heal from any difficulty I face.
I’m a huge fan of creative habits. I feel good having these rituals and they help me recharge. Every time I sit down to write, meditate, practice yoga, and walk Phineas, I learn something.
What advice would you give to a “blocked” artist in your discipline to free up their creative energies?
Get moving! I find that movement spurs my creativity and creative work. If I feel stuck in my head or in my heart, I move my body. That’s been the best remedy for me and I use it all the time.
For writers specifically, I also recommend reading the works of others and taking a spin around your local bookstore. Nothing inspires my writing more than reading.
Which artistic project that you are working on excites you the most right now?
I would have to say my writing intention to have a beginner’s mind really has me jazzed. I wrote a piece for my friend Amanda’s blog, ZenYC, about how important it is to think like a beginner to live a truly rewarding, fulfilling life. That post got me so excited about trying new things that I made it my writing intention for 2011.
How do you select your creative projects? What elements of a potential project tend to intrigue you the most?
I really choose projects that give me energy. I don’t much care if they fit together neatly. I don’t think about what will make me money or bring any kind of notoriety. With my creative projects, I do what feels good. It’s all based on my heart and my gut. If it helps someone else in the process, then all the better!
I have to admit that I am also incredibly lucky that I have a good-paying job that affords me a lot of flexibility to pursue the projects I love without worrying about the money. I’m going through a process now trying to decide what to do next with my professional career.
Everyone says we should make our living doing what we love. I think that’s true, too, though I also question that premise, too. I used to make my living in theater; I was living my dream at the time. I found that spending all of my time in the theater also made me enjoy the art much less. Now that I don’t earn my pay check in theater, I enjoy going to the theater much more. The same thing happened to me when I was working for nonprofits. Because of these experiences, I’m exercising a lot of caution before making my next move.
Any other advice to artists to help them make their creative activity more satisfying?
Explore. If you want to try something new, don’t hold back. Trying something new creates connections that you may not otherwise make. It will bring a sense of excitement to your life that will benefit everything you do. Take a class, book that vacation, sign up to attend an event you’d never usually sign up for. Get out there and see what you can find. It’s all good material.