Vocalist, artist and music producer Fifi Rong joined Dom Dalston for his show Walking in Wisdom. She spoke about creativity. This is a summary of the full interview which can be heard on Mixcloud.
(visitors from outside the UK listen to Fifi’s music by clicking here)
Fifi had just finished at a meditation retreat when she met Dom Dalston. As the interview progressed they strolled along Brighton Beach. You can hear the crunch of the pebbles and the sound of the waves on the recording.
Dom: What is the best way to overcome writer’s block.
FiFi: It starts with self-acceptance. No one is going to be able to produce great work all the time…..a lot of it is to do with your own ego and expectation. If it’s not going as well as you wish, detach and accept.
Dom: So, when nothing comes out it’s the ego getting in the way?
Fifi: Yes, and the memory of a bad day yesterday shapes the form of the next day. It causes stress. I’ve been there. I have such a high expectation for myself. So the first step is to accept myself.
Fifi’s EP is The Crown – it’s a collaboration with music producer LO. All the tracks are included in this episode of Walking in Wisdom.
Dom: Yeah! Write for the rubbish bin.
Fifi: Perfectionism is the biggest enemy.
Dom: We’re keeping on walking, we’re not stopping. We’ve got momentum. Do you think routine helps artists to maintain momentum?
Fifi: Yes, it’s really important. Especially if the artist is quite subject to temper tantrums. I recommend a couple of books here. The One Thing (Gary W. Keller, Jay Papasan) – it’s about using the best hours of the day to devote to the most important thing, creating art. Also, The War of Art (Steven Pressfield). Essentially its about training yourself to get into the habit of creating. If you can get into the habit of criticising yourself, you can get into the habit of creating right?
Dom: That’s a profound statement. So we should forget about creating for an audience, just make art for ourselves? Would that defeat the critical inner saboteur?
Fifi: Love is a higher frequency. Every emotion is frequency. Doubt is a low frequency. When you get into a bad mood you drop to a bad frequency. It gets you in to a whole chain of pain. In the past I’ve beat myself up hard. Then for every one step forward, it’s been one step back. Now I give myself a break, but I’m still in training. Creativity comes from a state of flow. It’s inspiration. The inspired action is very delicious. To get to it you have to stay in the higher frequencies and then everything just flows.
Dom: The water on the beach flows in and out like a heart beat. It strikes me that everything around us oscillates. Everything has a frequency. The thought that creativity itself exists on its own frequency doesn’t seem that far fetched to me. I’m intrigued by your thoughts on this. If the frequency of creativity is a loving frequency and bad moods are a low frequency then how should one create art that stems from pain?
Fifi: I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t let my music reflect my true emotions. Bad experiences in my life have shaped my music. But I’m in a different place now. Yes, I’ll write about the bad experiences, but then I’ll just let those go.
Dom: When terrible events happen they often cause us to grow to meet the challenge. When we’re in the process of growing isn’t that when we’re at our most creative?
Fifi: Yes, I’m very into writing about situations like that. Just make sure that you transcend them. Take the pain and turn it in to power. This is very important. This is my message.
Dom: People turn to art for consolation, just like they turn to God, or to nature for tranquillity and calming. When we don’t do that we turn to writing, poetry, art and music.
Fifi: The artistic outlet is really important. For artists this is their calling in life. Without finding your calling and following your path you are going to be miserable. Even when it’s difficult, the pursuit is fulfilling. That’s when you know you’re on the right path. But to take the first step requires courage. Then it becomes a question of finding out how to get better at what you are doing.
Dom: For the artist whose mind is fertile, a breading ground for art and it’s all just flowing for them, how can they re-engage the critical faculty to discern what is worthy of further pursuit? How can they find out what needs improvement?
Fifi: It requires detachment. For me creativity is a spiritual practice. It involves your true self and the ego self. You have to make yourself really humble. Look at your work from a third party perspective. If you didn’t know the artist would you be touched by his work? What’s the message? What is the artist saying?
Dom: If you’ve poured your soul into your art, what do you do if the audience doesn’t approve?
Fifi: Well, that’s all of life. That’s why you need to detach, detach, detach. Creation is just a souvenir of the process. The whole point of creating is the creating itself. The pursuit of the result is very hollow. If your mindset goes to reaching lots of people you’ll struggle and all artists are prone to this. When you’re thinking “Oh, that’s no good, people won’t like it.” You’ve lost your power because the power is the now. Right? The power is the fun and exhilaration of creating. You come as who you are and you express that.
Dom: Now L.S. Lowry’s mother was not supportive of his work. Yet he is an undoubtedly successful artist. What can parents do to nurture their children’s creativity.
Fifi: Whatever you do as a parent, you’re helping them. To protect me, my parents were always critical of my abilities. They kept telling me I was average. Nothing special. It sounds like they were really cruel, maybe in Western culture that seems the case especially. But this made me want to show them what I was capable of. If you’re a really supportive parent, that’s good too, because it will make your child really confident. If they doubt you, you’ll learn through life how to overcome the self-doubt. That’s a lesson in itself. But the very confident child will need to learn their lesson in a different way. All parents believe they are doing the best they can.
Dom: Let’s re-cap. 1. It’s important not to be self-critical at the beginning. 2. Artists need discipline and routine.
Fifi: Yes, I want to say that always working at night isn’t good for your health.
Dom: You have to find an optimal time? Through trial and error?
Fifi: I’m more of a night person. I find the zone then. At that time the Pineal Gland produces more melatonin. From 1 am to 3 am. Time just stops turning. In those hours the whole world is quiet. If it’s busy outside, you pick up interference, from the frequencies of others, or from phone calls etc. Lots of distractions. At night you get so tired you don’t judge yourself. Again that defeats the ego which is a distraction for your true self. The humble self. that’s why lots of artists create at night. But it’s not a good long term strategy. For one thing it forces you to sleep in the day. Then you don’t get enough sunlight and in the long term it leads to mental or physical ill health. It’s also bad for social life. If you want, early morning could work. Sleep from 8pm to 3 am, then write until 7am. There’s no rule.
Dom: The motivational speaker Bob Proctor once advised a mother who had no time to write a book, and if she just wrote 1 page per day, she’d have a 365 page novel at the end of the year. Can you get away with doing a little and often?
Fifi: Creativity doesn’t happen like that. You could spend many of the days just practising the craft. You need the flow to kick in, and when it does, you’ll just keep going. You’ll make the time for it. We make so many excuses at the start. That’s when the discipline has to kick in. We can hypnotise ourselves so well, we’re so good a lying to ourselves. Finding the truth within us is a life’s work.
Dom: Meditation is key for you. How can people go about incorporating meditation into their creative routine?
Fifi: Meditation is the hardest and easiest thing to do. Who can’t take half an hour just to be with yourself? But you will get agitated trust me, and I’ve been doing it a long time. You don’t want to do it some days, even though you might get better at it. You naturally have seasons in your life. Down seasons and up. I recommend searching online for an app or instructions. There is so much information out there. Actually I believe that we are going through a consciousness revolution.
Dom: How do you mean?
Fifi: There is a transition going on. More and more people are becoming aware of this information. It’s important in our city. We can get too stressed, too small minded. We get too competitive, going back in to low frequency feelings.
Dom: What should you look for in choosing a meditation teacher?
Fifi: Look for someone who speaks to you. In the end you’ll have to take responsibility for the life you choose. That’s an important step. It’s your life. Take charge. Don’t meditate to be trendy. Do it to find the truth in you.
Dom: So would you say that the answer to creativity is within ourselves?
Fifi: Yeah! We’ve got to silence ourselves to the point where the ego shuts up and you find the real issue. Then the voice will come. The wisdom comes from within. I’ve recently read A Conversation with God (by Neale Donald Walsch). The wisdom comes when you’re in the zone. Where does the information come from? Some people call it channelling. Some people get put off by terms like that but don’t judge until you’ve seen the information presented to you.
Dom: Can creativity cure a person?
Fifi: Yaah! There is a state of timelessness when you are creating. You feel cleansed at the end of it. It takes the stress away. Creativity combined with meditation, done on a continuing basis would be great. I don’t have any medical issues so it’s difficult for me to say for sure.
Dom: Well it sounds like you’ve been preventing illness to me. It’s prevention not cure in your case.
Fifi: Following your dreams makes you happy. There’s no grudge, or resentment or negative feelings. It makes you present in your own life.
Dom: I’ve noticed that people who express their creativity through gardening often look really young. That’s a good point. You can express creativity in so many ways. Not just music. It can come through in everything that you do.
Fifi: Exactly, look at Youtube, each person there expresses their creativity differently. It’s amazing what’s happening there. The book Big Magic (by Elizabeth Gilbert) talks about creative living. It’s a very powerful term. Nothing can stop you being an artist – if you’re not actively creating you’re actively destroying. We’re creative beings. Listen to your emotions. They are the breadcrumbs that will lead you to the right path.
Dom: 500 years ago someone who was doing what we now call beatboxing, might have been thought insane. We’re discovering new creative outlets all the time. Someone might be doing something they love, they don’t know what they are doing yet, but it’s actually the origins of a new art form.
Fifi: Wouldn’t it be sad if someone was prevented from doing that by a critic? By the way, critics are usually not following their own dreams. That’s where it comes from. If you’re happy with yourself, you’ll have the compassion you need to allow others to pursue their little weird things. We should embrace our uniqueness. We’re not all here to do the same thing. That would be boring.
Dom: Fifi Rong. I embrace you. You are an inspiration. Thank you so much for being on Walking in Wisdom.
Fifi: It’s a pleasure!