What To Do When Your Creative Work Isn’t What You’d Hoped

Each piece of writing illuminates. Sometimes the light is on process, other times on content. Sometimes it’s about learning why we say yes to a word, a phrase, or an idea. Other times it’s why we edit, saying no. Just like life – our choices shine a light on who we are right now.

And now.

This morning, a friend who’d just published his latest (perfect, in my opinion) blog post, was feeling that what ended up on the page didn’t match the quality of his notes. He asked if I could I relate?

Oy! Does the seeming brilliance of my mind always come out on the page? Hardly! Is this a comment on my writing ability or on the delusion of my own grandeur?

Perhaps it’s the over-reliance on language to convey our sensations, our wisdom. The magnificence of life is far better communicated by looking into another’s eyes while they share their story, or through tender lovemaking, or when inhaling the sea air on our morning walk. It’s fully taking in what is before us, deeply and with reverence. It’s why we have Art: words aren’t enough, except maybe Basho’s.

I often tweak each post, even after you, dear reader, get my latest in your inbox – for my clarity and pursuit towards fruition. You read essays-in-progress, and you don’t know at what point you stepped into the conversation. It’s like Matisse, painting the gardens of Givenchy over and over again or like hearing a funked up arrangement of an older Ani DiFranco song on a live album. Art is a constant reworking, seeing with fresh eyes and ears and heart.

I believe in the Wikipedia model – a constantly evolving truth. This speaks to my dislike of most journalistic photography – that we think a snapshot tells the whole story. What IS true in one moment is not necessarily true in the next. Truth is shifty, and ever shifting. Like Ani sings, “it took me too long to realize I don’t take good pictures because I have the kind of beauty that moves.”

Nature is fluid. “Capturing” reality is foolish. It’s thinking you bagged that great African lion on safari, only to mount its head on your wall and discover an empty prize, for his essence has been extinguished. Perfection lies in surrendering, not in holding tight.

Everything is in motion. Our unfolding. Our belief system. Our priorities, and yes, even our values. Let’s not lock ourselves into rigid forms, but rather allow our creativity to flow, flourish, reinvent itself, innovate, turn on a dime.

To my writer friend, I posed this, what if what was left behind needs percolating for some greater purpose? What if what made it into form today serves today, and what didn’t get translated was the “mother”, the starter dough for the next loaf of inspiration?

Judge not, for our creations are also our evolutions.

Honor what comes and keep hitting that Publish button. At the end of our lives the one song, the Uni – Verse!, will be beautiful, as it already is.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Check out this dispatch from last summer, another look at how each piece is part of the whole —>

The Commodore, a $3,000 Toothbrush, & Why I Love Maine

Reading Is Fundamental And Other 70’s PSA Riffs

People start pollution. People can stop it.

“So, what do you do?”

“I’m a writer. I’ve a collection of essays on my blog, about breaking through conventional thinking and living on my own terms.”

“Oh, cool. Are you published?”

Hmm. Didn’t I just say I’ve got a website? With words on it? Organized around a topical theme?

Isn’t this kind of programmed thinking polluting our creativity? (See: BOX, thinking outside)

Oh! You mean do I have an agent, a contract, and a book deal? Not yet, but it’s curious this leveraging game that’s going on. To get the traditional folk to take a gander, the online platform must have viral-ity. And for site cred, a NYTimes bestseller sure doesn’t suck. Good thing, that penchant for having my cake and eating it, too. Hey, I’m just doing my patriotic duty. The pursuit of happiness and all…

Conjunction, junction. What’s your function?

I’ve been practicing the best of both worlds for a long time and I’m just as comfortable on a John Deere as I am in a Jag. Lifestyle agility, if I may suggest, is a virtue to cultivate. Being nimble enough to position yourself in front of the ball gives you time for strategic visioning. Score! That we embrace the models which have informed and brought us here, along with the exciting tranformations-in-progress – didn’t Dr. Seuss say it best, “Oh! The places you’ll go!” Doors are flying open, because…

The gatekeepers are gone! The keys are in our hands, and not just mine, but yours too. Technology has gifted the tools for us to articulate our madness, er…brilliance. Innovation lies not just in the realm of the few anymore.

Think: Inspiration.

Speak: Intention

Act: Creation.

You’re published when you write. You’re an artist when you paint or sculpt or dance. You’re who you say you are. Declare it. Eyes and ears are everywhere; so is opportunity. It’s taking the best the evangelicals and Darwinists have to offer and leaving certainty behind. We create AND evolve. In muse we trust.

I live to investigate and identify what’s true. Ditch the conventions and assumptions I inherited and reframe how I see the world, and I’ll tell you, it’s not my father’s Oldsmobile. Not a Prius either. Actually, it’s still car parts and chicken wire (nod to Ani DiFranco) since I’ve cut back on the ‘master’s tools’ habit. While it’s too radical to go cold turkey, (still need the Mac, a wireless connection and the USPS) I can see a new horizon and it’s architecturally magnificent! All these fellow life hackers supplying the necessary juice to keep us revved. There’s a whole lotta lovin’ goin’ on in 2012! Look around and see many like-minded souls rejecting the limitations of the previous, and even their own, generation. Truth and passion and optimism ripe for the picking. Online and off. Never before have there been so many ways to get your voice heard, your writing read, your message disseminated.

On deck here are a slew of writing projects. Seeds of new business ideas poking up out of fertile soil. I’m on the verge, folks. And so are YOU.

So remember…

RIF. Reading is fundamental.

It’s not just writing that’s being redefined. Reading, also. Have you heard that more people are cracking the kindles, nooks, and good old-fashioned books more than ever? It’s not all black and white, anymore.

Think about your RSS newsfeed, your favorite magazine, your horoscope, yours truly. None in hardcover or even sitting on the shelf. Digital. Ethereal. Cloud-like.

We’re immersed in words, in all their old and new forms. From Facebook and twitter to whizzing billboards, daily weblogs, ingredient + nutritional stats, Ron Paul newsletters, overflowing library stacks, and those creepy pharm ads (check out the side effects – you’ll never consider popping Lipitor again).

Amidst the cacophony, there’s wisdom to widening our lens. We’re exposed like never before, and great responsibility is called for. Notice how words are used and consumed. Become more conscious of what you put in your mind – for it determines what you think. Our mind is the only place that’s truly ours to govern.

Have you ever closed a book and reveled in the story, wishing it hadn’t ended? The characters live on, in our imagination. They have staying power when expertly rendered. Sometimes even when they’re not, so isn’t it better to be as discerning with our mental appetites as we are with our New Year’s ones? It’s easier to decline entry to those freeloading poseurs than to evict them. Just as we trim the fat from our diets, we should be careful with what stories we give our mental real estate over to.

Onward from my 70’s rugrat days, I scoured whatever I got my hands on. Voracious, I was. It started with the back of cereal boxes and Nancy Drew mysteries. Then there was my vampire phase. (version 1.0, that is ~ Anne Rice). My tastes have become more discriminating, as I satisfy my word cravings with more nutritious fare.

Here’s what’s on my reading list now:

  1. Drive by Daniel Pink (masterfully documenting what we intuitively know to be true about human motivation)
  2. The latest issue of Orion with a don’t miss interview between Terry Tempest Williams + Joe DeChristopher (the auctioning activist, post-jail term)
  3. This quote: Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing. Helen Keller
  4. Issue #5 The OCCUPIED Wall St Journal (nabbed while touring the OWS offices in NYC last week)
  5. The Flinch by Julien Smith (FREE ebook on amazon – what’s stopping you? go get it!)
  6. The “map” of my new book (in progress) – How I’m going to revolutionize the interview process for the 21st century – you’ll never hire the wrong person again. Book proposal gratitude to Danielle Laporte & Linda Siversten.
  7. A new yoga studio’s schedule (oh how I miss you, Rachel)
  8. My dad’s Christmas card, for the nth time
  9. My 2012 list of intentions, declarations, and wouldn’t-it-be-marvelous-if’s. Tinkering, still.
  10. To my nephew: Tikki Tikki Tembo by Arlene Mosel and Blair Lent. Because the single biggest determinant in the success of a child – across the board – is being read to.

Only you can prevent wildfires.

Together, we can start them! Change your mind, change your life.

What’s on YOUR nightstand? What do YOU do?

Entrepreneurial Everest ~ Base Camp Mastermind

Numerous are metaphors instructing us to unite for outcomes both lofty and anchored ~

Many hands make light work.

Two heads are better than one.

The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Reaching oceanic depths and Himalayan heights only happens with linked arms, minds, and legs. Consider the top headlines from 2011 – Arab Spring, the Wisconsin public employee protests, Occupy Wall Street…collective uprisings that reveal discontent and not so dormant frustrations at the state of our present realities.

While I’m not carrying a placard or camping in Zuccotti Park, I am participating as an agent of change. I believe many of us are transforming the world as we contribute our talents, skills, and passions more fully along the spectrum of our potential. For some, that means consciously raising children to be kind, loving, and curious. For others, it’s sharing expertise as teachers, public safety officers, business owners, or blue collar workers.

For me, it’s writing…developing my voice…discovering what’s meaningful and essential and building that into lifelong, sustainable revenue streams. I’ve plunged head first into the creative class.

I believe that the more of us who come alive and come together collaboratively will allow a just society to bloom and prosper. The smaller the better, for now, so that we can truly see and hear each other…in order to understand what’s meaningful and essential to us, our families, and our communities – and what’s not acceptable anymore.

After decades of conveying what was not wholly mine (not necessarily a bad thing if the environment is wisely chosen) or either reflexively reacting to other perspectives or swallowing my own point of view, I’m learning to listen more deeply instead. What’s tricky is I’m formulating ideas of my own and giving voice to them – maybe my most courageous act so far. Yet, sometimes these two dynamics are at odds: curiosity for what lies within another versus what lies within me. I’m not always successful with navigational balance. Ah, the joys of toddling…

Yes, it’s all about listening…and gathering. Co-creating community. Organizing a like-minded alliance to support our individual efforts.

I had the good fortune recently to attend a few gatherings of changemakers: one, a Marianne Williamson-inspired spiritual powwow, another, a combination TED talk / dance party / professional women’s conference.  The most intimate happened around a Brooklyn dining room table, over a lovingly prepared meal. Four of us shared our growing ventures and their inherent challenges, and we gained valuable insight ~ in the spirit of those opening metaphors.

1 + 1 + 1 + 1 = Mini Mastermind.

What do you get when you mix a kick-ass red-carpet photographer, a heart-centered personal trainer, a radically optimistic writer, and a hands-on healer steeped in both spiritual and academic methodologies? A base camp of golden insight with a view of grand peaks. Care for a crampon? Here’s a few takeaways to grab an entrepreneurial foothold of your own:

1. Invest with your competitors occasionally. See how they’re doing what they’re doing. You’ll learn something new, keep an eye towards new ideas and trends, and most especially, you’ll feel better about YOUR work – because no one ROCKS it like you do!

2. When your guiding force is to help others, becoming a financially healthy business or organization allows you to continue providing value for your clients and customers. Charge what you’re worth. This may be the most responsible action we can take for the work we believe in. “Sustainability” is not just an overused mainstream ploy – it’s LIFE.

3. When we’re in tune with our deepest passions, we are a tidal wave of power, enthusiasm, and magnetism. This makes us irresistible to people, and our future prospects. This is soul-centered marketing, when we’re just being our fabulous selves!

4. Social media is your friend. It’s permission marketing at it’s most widespread, it can be fun, and…it’s free. Use it to promote your good work in the world, and to support those who are, too. Reciprocity rules!

5. Set daily, weekly, and longer term intentions. Do it out loud, preferably within a support network. Follow up with actionable steps and a timeline. Be very specific.

However you’re engaged with making the world a better place, know that millions are doing just the same, in diverse and convergent directions. In gratitude for the collective energy & wisdom, I’d love if you shared one of your mindful masteries below. I KNOW you’ve a gem or three in your pack.

See you at base camp!

Ichi-go Ichi-e

Japanese Garden

I’m going to come clean with you today. Give you a peek into one of those drawers I usually keep bolted tight.

I do most things half-assed.

Yeah. That feels really good to admit.

Sure, I can rhapsodize about excellence and the well-designed life and having a Virgoan’s superior attention to detail. But I’d be kidding both of us. There’s so much more to my capabilities than I recognize and develop and a whole lot of potential that’s just growing hairy penicillin in the back of my medicine cabinet.. If I don’t reverse this, rigor mortis of my art and work may just set in.

When I was living in Roppongi, the ex-pat neighborhood of Tokyo, a few years back, I was part of the opening team of a new restaurant. I knew a lot about the business, and was expert in our company’s culture. What I didn’t realize was that the Japanese generally give a new venture ONE chance to prove itself. If we didn’t win our guests over during their first visit, they would never come again.

This brought a whole other level to our preparations, because once the novelty wore off, our best foot forward is what we’d be judged on. That’s pressure enough to change the game. In the more forgiving U.S., we’re all about innovation, tweaking, upgrading – it’s ongoing, but in Japan, more goes into the design process before the debut, to present the best possible product or service, than we probably do by the time we get down to our fifth version.

We live in a ‘good enough’ society. We settle. We get by. Sometimes that’s OK, and sometimes we suffer for it.

There’s an ancient proverb in Japan, derived from the grace and beauty of the tea ceremony:  Ichi-go Ichi-e. “One lifetime, one encounter.”  It means to bring full attention and complete sincerity to your actions, because each moment only exists once and must be fully realized and lived.

I was reminded of this last night, as I was dining with friends at Bizen in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. The owner, Michael Marcus, is not just the sushi chef, but he’s also a potter who apprenticed in Bizen, Okayama Prefecture and creates all the dishware used in his restaurant. His unglazed pieces are fired for 12 days, just once a year, in a large kiln he’s built on his property nearby. Talk about getting it right the first time!

We connected over a shared love of trekking and all things Nippon. He gave us a tour through his private tatami rooms dedicated to chado (tea ceremony) and kaiseki (a seasonal, multi-course meal), and his stunning, hand-crafted collection of vases.

The care, dedication, and passion he brought to both his pottery and our dinner was without question. He won us over by giving his full attention and heart to our experience. I used to do this, too, when I was serving others. But now that I’m in the service of myself, I think it’s time my inner CEO call a board meeting.

My best work is lying fallow. There’s a reason, yes, and that I’ll explore in my next post, but for now, suffice it to say that I’m committing – with you as my witness – that Ichi-go ichi-e is my new mantra.

Because once I devote to giving it EVERYTHING ~ to being my own best critic before I step in front of the mic ~ to crafting the most exquisite container for my bouquet ~ then I will truly be alive.

Hold me to this, I ask of you. My life depends on it.

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