“The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you. Don’t go back to sleep.” ~Rumi
When everything’s quiet, late at night and early in the morning, there’s a magic time when anything we dream with raw creativity and hope. That’s when I write, when I’m fearless.
For a few weeks, I’ve been turning over ideas in my mind for a new live show I’m creating and co-producing. I did a lot of research just to feel like I was moving forward even though I was spinning. Not a single original idea was coming to mind.
So I finally did the hard work that I do any time I feel stuck in my writing. I wrote. I wrote down a load of really horrible, boring ideas. And I knew they were horrible and boring but I just kept going anyway. And finally, slowly, bit by bit, the ideas started to get a little better. And then a lot better. And then I had a whole plan cooked up for this live show. And this was a very good lesson.
As artists, the only way to make art is to just make it. Even if it’s awful, it’s part of the journey. Thinking about art doesn’t create it. Roll up your sleeves, put aside your inner judge and jury, and dive in. Make something. The only way to take a journey is with one foot in front of the other.
“How did you know what to write about that would sell?” someone asked me this week.
“I didn’t write a book that would sell,” I said. “I wrote the book I wanted to read.”
“But didn’t you look at trends?” he asked me.
“I started writing my book eight years ago,” I said. “Trends from eight years ago wouldn’t have helped me today.”
He was frustrated. He wanted a silver bullet, and there just isn’t one when it comes to any kind of creative work. All you can do is follow your curiosity, do your research, listen, and then get it all down as well and as honestly as you can.
You absolutely cannot make everyone happy. Some people will want the book to go faster, and others will want it to go slower. Some people will want more detail, and others will want less. Some people will say the book is too long while others will stay it’s too short. It’s all incredibly subjective.
Just know this—over the course of writing, rewriting, editing, and publishing your work, you will read / view / listen to it dozens of times. Maybe hundreds of time. You have to nurture it, love it, and then give it all away for someone else to interpret. That is the rub of creative work—you pour everything you have into it, and then it belongs to the world. It is all a labor of love.
“The world is full of magic things patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.” ~W.B. Yeats
We are hungry for magic and wonder. It’s around us everyday. In the weather, in nature, plants and animals, in our own biochemistry, in every time period of history. We don’t need to look far for magic, for Kismet, for inspiration. We only need to look and listen more deeply. Finding magic can sometimes take work but it is always worth the effort. It’s the best use of time we could make. Once found, wonder’s gifts last a lifetime and usually don’t cost anything except the use of our own curiosity.
“The sign of intelligence is that you are constantly wondering. Idiots are always dead sure about every damn thing they are doing in their life.” ~Vasudev, Indian yogi and mystic
Doesn’t that quote make you smile? And doesn’t it make you smile even wider when you realize it was said by an Indian yogi and mystic. I always appreciate a no-BS policy. We are all guessing, all the time. I love nothing better than hearing someone I admire say that they’re still trying to figure out what they’re doing. I love that they keep trying new things, exploring, and putting themselves in the role of a beginner. There’s a lot of pressure in the world to be an expert, to only do what we’re sure of. We hate doubt, but doubt is the key to everything. It keeps us hungry and hustling. It causes us to keep learning. It sparks curiosity and inquiry. It gets us talking and connecting with others. Keep asking questions, of yourself and others, and know that being uncertain puts you in the best possible company.
My 2018 resolution can be summed up in one word: Yes. My friend, Ria, recently told me about an article she read in which the author explained that when you commit to saying yes, your day ends up in a completely different place than where it started. And I’m all for that. Yes to:
I’m going to make 2018 the best year of my life so far in every way. And I’m going to lift others as I rise. We’re doing this.
I started my new full-time job this week, and I have to say that after just a few days it has exceeded all of my expectations. I recognize that I am still in the early days of this role with this company, and I think it’s worth detailing exactly what I love about it and why:
1.) I love artists. I mean, I really love them. All shapes, sizes, and genres. All of my colleagues are artists in some way. Musicians, writers, actors, dancers, directors, designers, producers, singers, visual artists, bakers, and improvisers. They literally bleed creativity. And then, we add to that the fact that we are an organization whose clients are all performing arts and cultural organizations. I am surrounded by art, and everything I’m doing and learning is helping to further art in all its forms. How cool is that?
2.) Artists are an accepting, helpful, and collaborative breed of folks. The doors are open, the hinges are off, and everyone is encouraged to grab a glass to toast to creativity. This is by far the most welcome I have ever felt at any job in my career. It’s also the most diverse and the organization of my training schedule is just stellar.
3.) We have lots and lots and lots of interesting, thorny problems to solve. There will never be a dull day at this place. Never. We work inside of Salesforce and the platform is POWERFUL. I mean, I’ll be learning something new about it every single day. It’s mammoth and nearly every organization in every sector is using Salesforce is some way. Getting that experience of working in Salesforce, customized for nonprofits, is a skill I will be able to utilize over the course of my entire career.
4.) I use every part of my brain and every part of my experience every day. My job combines all of my experience as an artist, and in business, technology, and product. In many ways, everything I’ve done up to this point has helped me to land right where I am.
5.) New York City is my muse. My office is near Carnegie Hall and I also have the flexibility to regularly work from my home. I love that I can walk to work and that when I step out of my office, I am smack dab in the middle of Manhattan.
I am under no illusions that I will never have a tough day. I’m sure I will. And even on the tough days, what I will most appreciate about this company and our incredible product is that there is a higher purpose and everyone here is on-board with that higher purpose. That’s the crux of it all: everyone here is driven to make the world a better place through the combination of technology and business to support and foster the arts. I couldn’t think of a better place to be right now.
What I imagine is as real as anything I can touch. I’ve come to believe, and live by, the principle that if the human mind can imagine it, then the hands and heart can and will create it. It will take time, effort, and dedication, and it will happen. Creativity is the most powerful tool we have.
I walked out of my apartment yesterday morning and found this old magazine on the stoop a few doors down. It’s just the research I needed as I am slowing carving out my second young adult book in the Emerson Page series. The stars are deeply entwined with her story and her future. Sometimes when we need inspiration for our writing, all we need to do is go for a walk and keep our eyes open.
I’m so honored to be part of the second Creativity Loop created by my amazing friend, insanely talented poet, and Penn roommate, KaRyn. Her organization, Writers Writing Alone Together, puts together retreats for writers. This is the gorgeous package I received in the mail. Then I used this poem to inspire a work of my own creation that I sent on to the next person on the list. Excited to see what our loop builds together. In these crazy-ass times we’re living through, being able to express our creativity together is what keeps hope alive. I wish each of you a creative, imaginative day. To learn more about KaRyn’s retreats, check out http://bit.ly/wwatwoodsinterest.