As a writer, what can you learn from other arts discplines? What can you learn from the arts as a whole? In this interview, Dr. Patricia Hoy shares her insights as a conductor, arts administrator, teacher, woodwind doublist, blogger and, now, author of the wonderful book Arts Awareness, just released by GIA Publications.
Charlotte: Why did you decide to write Arts Awareness? Where did the inspiration come from? Did the inspiration come at a particular moment or had you already been planning to write the book?
Patricia: For more than 30 years, I’ve kept notes about my experiences and observations. I kept these musings on little scraps of paper and stuffed them in a drawer.
The notes weren’t organized at all. In fact, they were crumpled pieces of paper and sticky notes that happened to be handy at the time.
About 7 years ago, I started looking through the piles of paper and realized there were clear patterns and connections between my own experiences and my observations of the experiences of others.
The decision to organize my thoughts and put them into a book came with some trepidation. I’ve never written a book before. But my experiences as an artist reminded me to simply begin.
I had fun sorting through these hundreds of pieces of crumbled and odd shaped notes, smoothing them out to see what I described, thought, or sketched over the years. It started slowly, but I soon noticed a thread of themes that spurred my enthusiasm. Finally momentum took over; it continued to build, making it increasingly easier to stay focused and make progress.
Charlotte: How did you decide what audience you were writing to? Did you write the book with that audience in mind? If so, what are some of the things you did in your writing to target and engage that audience, such as use a particular voice, vocabulary, structure, etc.?
Patricia: The book is written for open, creative souls and seekers. While it might initially appeal to artists, arts educators, and arts supporters, my goal was that it be accessible to anyone with an open mind and heart who is searching for growth and wisdom.
My experience, observations, and reflections have convinced me that there is a natural, beautiful, and deep body of knowledge embedded in the artistic process that we haven’t even begun to tap. I want to share that knowledge with anyone who is willing to consider facing today’s challenges with new ways of thinking and being.
While I used artistic examples, I strived to make the book accessible not only to artists or arts educators of one genre who might learn about another, but to the general individual who may not know the specific language at all.
Charlotte: Did you have to do any research before writing this book? If so, what did this research process look like? How did you turn the information you gathered into the book as it is now?
Patricia: My process didn’t involve research per se, but I did thoroughly explore the ins and outs of the stories of the people I observed. This was true especially for those whose experiences extended into fields that were unfamiliar to me. I found I could better understand their stories if I had a deeper understanding of their perspective.
I also have a large library, and as my work evolved over the years my collection expanded beyond arts, culture, creativity, and arts education to include books on leadership, management, psychology, human development, philosophy, strategy, and planning. While these books weren’t used as a research tool, ideas about many of these things are naturally integrated into my thinking and writing.
Charlotte: Can you tell us a little bit about your philosophy of creative consciousness? How did you develop this philosophy and how did you develop it into the seven concepts you describe? How did you develop it from a philosophy to written word in the book?
Patricia: My Arts Awareness philosophy evolved along with the process of studying my notes, but it also came about from using the reflective practice I learned through my arts education and life’s work.
As a performer, conductor, educator, and arts administrator, I learned that different people could perform the same piece of music, create a painting, write a story based on the same theme, or teach the same material in different ways, and each path can be fresh, imaginative, and inspired. The only requirement is that each person must use the creative elements in a meaningful fashion, working within, and looking deeply into the principles of the art form.
With further reflection, I realized that this same process could be used by anyone—a parent, leader, manager, or member of a community—to face daily challenges and create momentum to achieve a goal. I’m speaking of a truly authentic and meaningful result rather than the expression of an opinion or a judgment. This knowledge helped me see that the creative energy of each individual is a unique combination of their outer experiences and their innermost knowing.
The seven concepts of the philosophy I describe in Arts Awareness grew from sorting my years of notes and sketches into “concept buckets” and then expanding them from there. The title of each “bucket” didn’t come about until well into the sorting process. The philosophy and the book evolved together.
Charlotte: What did your process of writing this book look like? Can you describe what this looked like both in your everyday process and your long-term writing process? How do you think creative consciousness helped you write this book?
Patricia: My process started with simply writing thoughts about the information I found in each “concept bucket.” I discovered I could more easily find my inner voice if I wrote freely, not restricted by a certain form or perfect grammar. These initial sessions were transformative. Once I started, I became so engaged that I found I could write for hours, unaware of passing time, and I was often surprised when I went back to read what I had written that day.
When I started to better organize the material and the chapters (the old buckets) started to take shape, I set up a daily schedule and kept a journal of my progress and goals.
Each day I dated a new page in my journal and made a note of the beginning and ending times for each sitting. I wrote a sentence about what I worked on and how many words I wrote. I also made a note of anything I wanted to explore further and any questions I wanted to answer.
I made a list of stories or experiences I could use for the section I was writing. The number of words I could write per day expanded significantly. At the end of six months, I had written 50,000 words.
After several months I continued this process, but I also started a website and wrote weekly blogs. This was a tremendous help. It encouraged me because my daily writing sessions had developed my writing to the point where I could write a five-hundred word blog, refine it, and post it in a couple of days.
Finally, in the later stages of my process, I set a weekly goal and wrote every day to accomplish that goal by the end of the week. I knew from previous months what I needed to do to accomplish the weekly goal. I also started to refine and polish and reorganize the writing I had done so far.
I became more and more accomplished as I practiced like this and honored my commitment. Momentum built, and my enthusiasm grew at each step along the way.
Charlotte: How did the concepts of the book inform the process?
Patricia: Creative consciousness was present in every aspect of my process. For example:
- I kept an eye on the whole book while simultaneously exploring each “concept bucket” as a complete unit itself.
- The willingness to take a chance and simply begin helped me move beyond any feelings of fear or vulnerability.
- My desire and passion for what I was doing grew as I discovered what I wrote each day and as I saw the concepts begin to take shape.
- I was open to the opportunity of every moment.
- The structure I found in the “concept buckets” and in a writing schedule gave me the freedom to work naturally and find my way.
Charlotte: How do you think writers can benefit from your creative consciousness philosophy? How can they connect it to their writing process? Can you describe some of the methods they can use?
Patricia: There are many ways writers can benefit from the creative consciousness philosophy of Arts Awareness. Perhaps the most significant benefit is the opportunity to use the unique combination of individual inner and outer experiences to create something special that can be shared with others. It can be connected to your writing process in a number of ways. Here are four big picture categories that might be of help.
Approaching writing with an Arts Awareness creative consciousness mindset will allow a writer to develop a true sense of openness and authenticity.
Imagine a space with the sense and feel of dimension. Create imaginative and physical spaces in your home or writing environment that allow you to experience that kind of depth and breadth of openness. It is space that allows you to “play between the lines.” This expansive space allows you to experience emotion and movement from your own perspective as you begin your writing process.
When you create this kind of space, you enter the creative chaos of your world and the world around you with an imaginative spirit. You can work within structures and manage them with flexibility. And this kind of imaginative and physical creative space allows you to risk and simply begin without the fear of opinions or judgment.
Second, as you approach writing with openness, you are more able to make connections inside out and outside in, linking all aspects of your external world experiences and inner knowing.
When you seek this sort of connection and team up with all aspects of your innermost self and life experiences, you discover ways to form a bridge between you and the elements of your topic, as well as between you and your audience. You can begin to see connections, find patterns, and imagine alternatives you never before imagined. Although writing is a private experience, with this sort of connection it becomes uniquely inclusive.
A third benefit of an Arts Awareness creative consciousness approach is the empowerment and freedom that comes from setting an intention with focus and commitment—listening deeply, reflecting and practicing.
When you use reflective practice and listen deeply, you not only learn the “what” and the “how” of what you’re doing, but more importantly you learn the “why.” This experience strengthens the knowledge you gain in each writing session and creates the possibility of multiple pathways. You begin to focus freely from the inside out—not from words, rewards, or rules but from the limbic system part of his brain that’s responsible for emotion, motivation, learning, mood, insight, and memory.
Finally, the openness, connection, and empowerment aspects of Arts Awareness creative consciousness philosophy lead you to sharing and embracing yourself, your topic, and others.
When you engage in the writing process with this sort of effort, you’re driven by passion. When you’re driven by passion, you’re generous and you want to share, and learn, and connect. You find that the more you discover, the more you reach the point where you want to share with others—not just because you love it, and not because you have to, but because you want to—for yourself. Your knowledge deepens as you share your identity and express your values, and you respond to and embrace the world around you.
Charlotte: I noticed throughout the book there were specific aspects such as graphs and illustrations, review questions, quotes, and stories with different characters. How did you decide to include these features? What effect do you think they have on the reader? For the graphs and illustrations particularly, how did you envision and develop these features into a visual?
Patricia: I was a little overwhelmed with all of the information in my notes and drawings, so I created a chart of stories and quotes and categorized them according to my “concept buckets.” The chart was a simple table with one or two line descriptions of the stories or experiences. When I saw them in this format, other experiences came to mind and the list expanded.
Although the names of the characters are not real, all of the stories are either my own experience or those of friends, colleagues, or students. The table format made it easy to insert a story or quote when one was needed to clarify a concept. I had fun looking at lists of male and female names, choosing those that seemed to fit the original person.
I included the review questions and illustrations as a way to build and support my ideas and best communicate the information to readers. Additionally, I felt the questions, stories, illustrations, and quotes served as a quick reference for readers that reveal trends, patterns, or relationships that might otherwise be difficult to grasp.
As an educator, I knew that people learn in different ways. I wanted to present as many ways as possible to help the reader connect to the information. I sketched pages and pages of illustrations until I identified the simplest graphic that best represented the concept.
Charlotte: How did you decide on the specific format for this book, such as including “Continue the Quest” sections, “Concept Practice”, “Consciousness Queries”, etc? How do you think this format benefits the reader in absorbing your philosophy?
Patricia: Early in the process, and as the sections of the book started to take shape, I felt that this format would help clarify the chapter topics. The discussion, although filled with stories, was dense and I felt a consistent format that included moments of pause and opportunities for reflection, practice, and further exploration would benefit the reader.
Initially, my headings for these sections were a little dry, and my book coach, Lisa Tener, suggested the idea of more inviting titles to create interest. I looked at the ways other authors formatted and described sections in their books and ultimately created something that felt right for my book. The titles evolved as the sections became more clearly defined.
Charlotte: What are some of the steps you took to get Arts Awareness published? How did you choose this method of publishing?
Patricia: With Lisa Tener’s assistance, I spent months writing a proper proposal and then another few months sending queries to various agents. With the encouragement of colleagues who read some sections of the book, I decided to send a proposal directly to a publisher who is a highly recognized in the arts—specifically music—thinking they would better understand the breadth and depth of creative consciousness from an artistic process perspective. In a period of a year—from the time of sending the proposal to publication—things moved quickly and the book became a reality.
Charlotte: What do you think worked well with this method of publishing as opposed to other methods?
Patricia: The fact that this publisher understood what I was doing and recognized the full potential of the book in terms of the breadth of the market made this method of publication the best possible route for me. While the book will have significant exposure in the arts, arts education, and arts advocacy markets, it will also reach beyond those areas through a wider distribution process to include all creative souls interested in making their way in the world with greater confidence and success.
Charlotte: There are a lot of choices writers must make about who to work with on their book, such as publishers, agents, editors, etc. How did you decide who to work with? What advice do you have for writers on choosing who they work with?
Patricia: My suggestion would be to find someone who understands your intention and is willing to stick it out with you as you develop your work. Depending on your topic, you need publishers, agents, editors, etc. who are truly open, willing to take a chance on you, and understand your message.
Charlotte: What are some of the positive results or responses you have received since publishing the book? Has writing this book given you a particular insight into your philosophy that you didn’t have before writing it?
Patricia: The book was just released at the end of October, but the immediate response was appreciation for the look and feel of the book. The cover is attractive and grabs your attention, and the format—with wider margins and placement of quotes and comments—is appealing. In my first public presentation, people were very responsive and intrigued by the concepts. That day alone, the host sold 99 of the 100 preordered books.
My awareness continues to grow and deepen as I read and reread the book and as I speak at various events. I discover new insights and understandings every day. It’s a very exciting process.
Charlotte: How can our readers reach you?
Patricia: The best way to reach me is through my website, where you can sign up for my monthly newsletters. Through my website, you can also like Arts Awareness through Facebook and connect with me and follow me on Twitter. There will soon be podcasts and video on the site as well. My e-mail and phone are available under the Contact tab. I wish you abundant creativity and joy along with the greatest success in sharing your ideas and experience with the world.
Patricia Hoy is a musician and conductor, an educator and administrator, an author, and an inspiring and highly sought after consultant and speaker. She is the author of the book, “Arts Awareness—A Fieldbook for Awakening Creative Consciousness in Everyday Life.” As an artist, educator, and administrator for more than 30 years, Dr. Hoy considers the principles of creating and performing art, and the lessons and insight that learning provides, as central to thriving in the 21st century. Currently, “Arts Awareness” can only be purchased on the publisher’s website.