art, creative process, creativity, decision-making, dreams, theatre

This just in: Know when to dream and when to do

There's a time to dream and a time to do. Know and respect the two.
There’s a time to dream and a time to do. Know and respect the two.

“If you freeze an idea too quickly, you fall in love with it. If you refine it too quickly, you become attached to it and it becomes very hard to keep exploring, to keep looking for better. The crudeness of the early models in particular is very deliberate.” ~ Jim Glymph, Gehry Partners

Right now, I’m kicking around some ideas for a new theater project here in D.C. I’m excited about the possibilities that this community offers. It’s open and welcoming vibe is just what I’ve been looking for and it’s opened up my sense of what’s possible.

Whenever I begin a new project, I try to leave my mind open for as long as possible. Eventually, I do need to synthesize my ideas but I try to stay in the generation process as long as is feasible. Sometimes, we’re so anxious to get to an answer and then get on with the work.

This quote from Jim Glymph reminds me that there’s a time to dream and a time to do. Both of those states are equally important to the creative process and each deserves its due.

balance, beauty, books, choices, creative process, writing

This just in: The beautiful and terrible balance of the writing process

And so it goes...
And so it goes…

“Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid.”

I’m now digging into the next phase of the editing process for my novel, Where the Light Enters. I thought it would be easier than the first draft and the first set of edits, but the refinement process carries its own gnarly tasks. I’m now getting into critical detail where research and intense imagination are critical, when self-doubt is around every corner making it easy to throw in the towel. Self-doubt is really starting to get ticked off that I’m not giving up, and so its voice grows louder and its criticism more biting.

Quotes like the one above remind me that every process, every experience contains a certain amount of beautiful and terrible, light and darkness, frustration and ease. It’s a difficult and dicey balance to negotiate, but if we want to build anything of value and substance, whether it’s a piece of art, a relationship, or a book, we have to be willing to take the good with the bad. There will be times that we never want to end and times that all we want to do is give up. That seesaw is part and parcel to the creation process.

When giving up on anything feels especially enticing, I remind myself that I’m not perfect, that no one’s perfect, and so if something truly comes from my heart and gut then it will carry imperfection, too. That helps me keep going. It calms the small voice of self-doubt that is always present and wants me to abandon ship. I understand its fear and concern, and I also know that this same fear and concern is what helps me do the very best I can at any moment.

Back to writing…

art, creative process, creativity

This just in: Live life like a sculptor carves stone

A sculptor's capable hands make use of imperfections
A sculptor’s capable hands make use of imperfections

Rarely is a sculptor handed a perfect piece of stone to carve a work of art. Often the stone is craggy, jagged, and discolored in some spots. Imperfections abound. While there is the impulse to do away with all of those imperfections, the capable sculptor sees them as gifts to be worked into the piece rather than subtracted from it. He or she doesn’t fight them, but cherishes them and uses them.

Our lives are like these stones. If we have lived, really lived, we have been broken. Sometimes repeatedly. When there’s a fresh break, healing can feel like Oz, a destination we can see but never reach. But if we can sit with these disappointments, massive and painful as they are, we find that Oz is not so unattainable after all. If we can really let the light flow freely through them, if we can find a way to learn the hard lessons that brought them to us, then these misfortunes are as valuable as every triumph we ever achieve. Maybe even more so. We can make meaning out of them just as the sculptor draws meaning from every stone, imperfect as it may be.

creative process, creativity, leader, leadership

This just in: Fighting for what matters

Leadership is service.
Leadership is service.

“Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.” ~Ruth Bader Ginsburg

The creative process is always messy, always fraught with disagreement on some level. This is especially true when the stakes are high and there’s a lot of passion to fill the need that began the effort in the first place.

What I’m learning in my startup is that strong opinions need to be expressed with a lot of care and concern for the people who are hearing them, the people whom we ultimately want to win over and have support us. So often our point-of-view is so strong that we forget that it’s not so much about us voicing it as it is about it being received in the way we want it to be received. That takes finessing. We can’t lead if no one follows.

creative, creative process, creativity, legacy, writing

This just in: Isabel Allende’s cure-all for writer’s block and how to leave a legacy

“Write what should not be forgotten…” ~ Isabel Allende

“Write what should not be forgotten…” ~ Isabel Allende

If ever you find yourself with writer’s block, Isabel Allende offers you the only remedy you need. We will all, eventually, pass on. Writers leave a legacy, a trail of breadcrumbs open to anyone and everyone who arrives on our path. Most of the people who read our work will never meet us, will never have the chance to sit down and ask, “So how did your life go this time around?” Your writing will be what stands the test of time. Write what you want people to remember—about you, your life, and the world around you.

change, creative process, creativity, determination, work

This just in: The way forward

“I know you’re tired but come, this is the way.” ~Rumi

“I know you’re tired but come, this is the way.” ~Rumi

Invention, reinvention, and creation is a difficult, messy process. Change is tiring. Transformation wears us down. I’ve remade my life so many times, in so many places, through so many career paths, that I’ve almost lost count. I create a life, and then either it’s ripped away from me or I toss it away when I realize there’s no way to make it work going forward. And yes, it is tiring. Yes, sometimes I want to give up. Yes, it’s always hard to try again.

Luckily, I just can’t help myself. I like hard work and I have a real aversion to remaining stuck. I don’t wear hopeless or helpless well. I roll up my sleeves and get down in the weeds and make, again and again and again. That tenacity, that ambition, has been my savior all my life. It’s made my life, literally and figuratively. I want what I want, and honestly, nothing else is good enough unless of course, I stumble upon something that was better than what I imagined. And that happens a lot.

Rumi puts it perfectly. Yes, we do get tired but we can’t give in or give up. We have to keep going. Our way is right in front of us, and we are the only ones who can take it. When we feel depleted, we can find strength in others. We can ask for help. We can remind ourselves that on the other side of tired, there is a whole world waiting for us, and it’s exactly what’s meant for us.

creative, creative process, creativity, fear, feelings, work

This just in: Don’t unpack your bags – a lesson from Saturday Night Live

Saturday Night Live - 1980s
Saturday Night Live – 1980s

Yesterday I watched a documentary about Saturday Night Live in the 1980s. The show struggled so much after its first five golden years. It lost a lot of its people, its mission, and its way. And it wasn’t a matter of finding it again. A very small group of people, some original and some new, scrapped the entire format and started over from scratch. Brave, and frightening. Just like life.

Many of the cast members—Billy Crystal, Kevin Nealon, Dana Carvey, Julia Louis-Dreyfus—talked about not unpacking their bags. They all had month-to-month leases and were never really sure if they’d made it. Even when things were going very well, they were always on edge. In so many of those old sketches and outtakes, I could see the nerves, spontaneity, and spark.

It got me thinking that as much as we are creatures of comfort, habit, and routine, maybe we do our best work when we don’t have any of those things. Maybe those nerves that keep us on our edge give us our edge. We shouldn’t be looking for comfort at all. What we need to do our best, most creative work is a manageable dose of anxiety and fear. Our magic is not is doing the work we know we can do, but in biting of more than we can chew, in taking on precisely the projects that are beyond our reach. We should go where we think we’ll fail. We rise when we have something to shoot for that seems impossible.

courage, creative, creative process, creativity

This just in: The goal of every creative mind

The creative mind
The creative mind ~Dr. E.O. Wilson

“To bring the end safely home is the goal of the creative mind.” ~Dr. E.O. Wilson

Creative work is messy. Stay focused on your creative project’s goal as you wade through the chaos of the creative process. Transform the chaos into energy, fuel. Let all the doubt, fear, and difficulty of getting what’s in your imagination out into the world, motivate you to work harder and reach further. Dare to go far beyond any limitations you think you have, and bring back what you find.

creative process, creativity

Inspired: Grappling with the messy middle

The messy middle
The messy middle

Every creative project has its messy middle. I’ve felt it with every creative project I’ve ever done and I feel in now with my novel. It’s uncomfortable and at certain points you feel like you want to give up. That’s the nature of the middle. It’s confusing. But if you keep moving forward, inch by inch, you break down the enormous goal you’ve set for yourself into doable, bite-sized bits. Tackle each bit one at a time, and soon you’ll find yourself free and clear and heading for home. Don’t let the messiness get you down; it’s part of the process. Creativity isn’t neat nor logical; order emerges from disorder. Our only responsibility is to keep going.

courage, creative, creative process, creativity

Inspired: Create and taste the stars

Starry night
Starry night

“Come quickly, I am drinking the stars.” ~ Dom Perignon right after he created Champaign. Quote from The Fault in Our Stars.

This quote explains exactly how we should feel whenever we create something whether we write, paint, tinker, or bake. We should be delighted by the process and the end product. Once our creations make us feel like we are drinking the stars, we know we’ve found everything we’ve been looking for—happiness, success, wonder. Creation isn’t a luxury; it’s a vital force of human existence. It’s the meaning of life and it gives life meaning. It protects us from oblivion. Have courage. Create.