Please welcome award winning author and musician, Michael Brant DeMaria, PhD, as guest blogger today. Michael, his wife, and their extended families have been dear friends of mine for more than 2 decades. I always feel refreshed, inspired, and encouraged after spending time with Michael.
Michael is a psychologist with over 25 years of experience in helping guide others on their life journeys. He has published and presented numerous papers on the role creativity and spirituality play in the healing process nationally and internationally. Michael is the author of Horns and Halos (1992), Ever Flowing On (2001) and the book of poetry, Moments (2008). He is the youngest recipient of a Ph.D. in the clinical psychology program at
Leave a comment below and be entered into a drawing to win a free copy of Siyotanka – the Native American Award Winning album and #1 New Age Recording February 2009.
Let's hear what Michael has to share about creativity, writing, music, and life...
Q: Welcome Michael! You have won several awards for your music. Please tell us about that, yourself, and what books and CDs you have written.
A: Hi Kelly, thanks for having me. As you know I’m a big fan of your work so I’m honored to get a chance to share with your readers. I like to say I’m a psychologist by day and a musician, writer and artist by night. What’s amazing to me is over the last few years I’m a more and more a writer/artist and musician by day as well. As you know this last month my last album Siyotanka not only making it to #1 on the New Age charts in February, but then went on to win the Native American Music Award in the Native Heart category in Niagara Falls New York. It’s been a very exciting and fulfilling time.
My first love was music growing up in New England (
Q: Is the musical creative process different from or similar to the writing creative process? How so?
A: That’s a great question Kelly – one I haven’t been asked! For me all creativity is inherently healing – and what I mean by that is it helps us get in touch with parts of ourselves that are usually ignored during our day to day domestic lives. In this way there is something wild in the creative process – and I mean ‘wild’ in the good sense of the term – that is, fresh, raw, full of energy. To me this is very soulful energy – I see the soul as a child of nature and the ego as a child of society. The soul in this way is more instinctual, more wild naturally than the ‘ego’. So in all my creative work it’s about connecting to this more wild, untamed, energy – in that way I find both of them very similar. Writing a personal growth book for me is much more difficult and takes more time for me than say writing poetry or playwriting which are more like music for me. I like to tell parents, our children come through us, not from us – and I feel the same way about the creative process – because I see creative work as ‘giving birth’ in a very real way. There is the impregnation, the incubation, then the as always final painful delivery. For many indigenous people music is considered to be all around us and a musician is simply ‘tapping’ into that music and being a channel for it to flow through us. I’ll sometimes hear my compositions or read my poems and say, “who wrote that?” That is a great experience – and reminds me to stay very humble about the whole mysterious process of creativity.
Q: You are also a licensed psychologist. Can you share one or two techniques that work for you when you find yourself wanting to create but perhaps experiencing the dreaded writer's block?
A: Ironically, or perhaps not so ironically, music. I see music and writing for me like crop rotation. You know if you plant only cotton it depletes the nitrogen in the soil and after too many years you won’t be able to grow cotton anymore – so they alternate cotton growing with soil enriching crops like peanuts and peas. They even sometimes rotate the crops during different seasons in the same year – which helps discourage pests, help enrich the soil and make it more erosion resistant. Probably more than you wanted to know about crop rotation! So, I practice art rotation - alternate composing music, with writing plays, poetry, non-fiction and sometimes with painting. Of course, exercise is another wonderful way to ‘rotate’ throughout the day or week. Finally, I have to say that actually doing therapy is a form of crop-rotation for me. As you know the creative process is a very internal one – and you become very self-absorbed in creative work. After about 4 days of that I’m ready for my 3 days a week of clinical work where I can be there for someone else – sit across from them to listen to them instead of myself. Of course, after three days of being outside of myself listening to others I am SOOOO ready to dive into my creative work again. The old model (which I’m sure still works for many people) was to focus on one thing – for me that is the kiss of death – I always have multiple projects going in many different mediums – that keeps life interesting for me and prevents burnout or blockages. If I’m blocked I just move to something else for awhile until the inspiration comes back.
I want to draw one other analogy here from nature. Part of the creative infinity of nature is its commitment to diversity. If you look at the most durable, sustainable and resilient eco-systems they are tremendously diverse. The more diverse an eco-system is the more resilient it is to drought, storms, natural disasters. Now look at a corn field – a corn field is one thing and one thing only - corn. It’s a monoculture and there are few things more fragile than a corn field. It’s tremendously vulnerable to decimation by pests, weather changes, or natural disaster. So I learned early on to be very diverse in my creative life. It’s just the way my mind works anyway. Some work may go slower that way – but then when the energy comes watch out!
Q: From your perspective as a therapist, why is it important that people routinely access their creative selves?
A: Sanity. Plain and simple. Plato use to say that if you go into your madness voluntarily it won’t come out involuntarily. Jung said something similar, he said, if you bring out what is inside you it will free you – if you don’t bring it out it will kill or destroy you. This may not be true for everyone, but for the creative person I find it to be generally quite true – and have seen it in my own life. It is also inherently healing. It keeps our minds and hearts fresh – it puts us back into alignment – like a chiropractic adjustment for the soul. What is Creator doing all the time? Creating. So when we create we are aligning ourselves with the very fabric of creation – I’d say that is an important thing to do now and again – wouldn’t you?
Q: Do you have any upcoming workshops?
A: As you know I just have come off a busy few months of traveling with workshops and/or performances in
Q: Where can readers learn more about you?
A: My brand new website was just launched this last week at www.ontos.org or www.michaeldemaria.com – I’m very excited about it. There is a lot of new content, a blog, a free meditation healing space with a free track available off of Ocean – the most recently promoted album that we hope will be charting well in the coming weeks and it also has a very soothing video that accompanies the music and I guide the listener through a short, but very relaxing meditation.
From Kelly: Thanks for a great interview Michael!
Question for comments: How does tending to your creative side enhance your day to day life?
Leave a comment and be entered into a drawing to win a free copy of Siyotanka – the Native American Award Winning album and #1 New Age Recording February 2009.