Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Everything's Amazing, Everybody's Broke: The Yin/ Yang of Art/ Business PART 2:

This is a two-parter, so read Part 1 first if you want this to make sense.

BUT WHAT CAN I DO ABOUT IT?  Yes, what can you do?  Call me an idealist, but I’ll tell you a few things:
1-    Stop telling yourself that it has nothing to do with you.  It has everything to do with you.  YOU are a member of the audience, everyday, everywhere you go.  And the way you value creativity in your own life is reflected in the world around you.  Empower yourself.  YOU can take a small supportive action in the arts, be it to an individual, or an organization, and make a HUGE difference. 

2-    Ask yourself what YOU would like to see more of?  What would make you feel better about waking up in the morning? What would enhance your day?  Go find it.  And throw some money at it while you’re looking at it.  THEY NEED IT in order to keep making more for you. 

3-    How about making donations to someone’s kickstarter program this year instead of a political campaign?

4-    You know that annoying friend of yours who’s always asking you to see their band?  How about buying their album off their website… or better yet, buying two, and giving one to a friend?  

5-    How about sponsoring a talk for artists at your local library and bringing in an expert for them on new ways to get their work seen? 

6-    How about connecting that person you know in publishing with that talented writer you know, TODAY, instead of continuing to put it off?

7-    How about making your next holiday gift-giving season about buying beautiful pottery from a local tradesman instead of junk from The Sharper Image? 

8-    How about giving your painter friend a certificate for a hand massage, with a lovely note that says you believe in their talent? 

9-    How about, just asking yourself the question, what can I do to benefit the arts this year and help keep them alive? 

10- How about just bringing a friend with you to the next cultural even you attend?

11-And, if you are a decision maker in a creative field, how about taking a chance on the underdog?
Recently a creative colleague of mine said “Fuck making money, just make art.”  But this is the problem:  it costs me money to MAKE art.  And time. It's like being a mother: it's a full time job with no paycheck.
And the bigger problem is this: when all art MUST PAY in order to be seen, while the artists themselves are indeed starving, then the BUSINESS will have overtaken art.  The YANG will have strangled the YIN.  And what used to be “art” will become commercial, watered-down, dumbed-down, simmered-down, and put down.
The tiny brilliant ideas that, back in the times of the roaring 20s Paris, might have lived no matter if the artist was only eating baguettes or not, won’t stand a chance in this world.  The delicate rose that is itself pure art, will have no water and sunshine for it to grow.  And if pure, true, honest, vulnerable ART cannot earn a living, or at least survive in this world, they won’t stand a chance against BUSINESS.
And the audience, not the creators, will be the ones who have stood by and let the brutal murder happen.   
My challenge to you is not to change the world.  It is simply to NOT be complacent about art.  Be an ART EXPEDITOR, not an ART INHIBITOR.  Just try it, and see how it makes you feel. The rewards will not only benefit the artistes, but you will feel it deep within yourself as well…

Everything's Amazing, Everybody's Broke: The Yin/ Yang of Art/ Business PART 1:

Louis CK did a piece on Conan O’Brien that I recently revisited that became known as “Everything’s Amazing, Nobody’s Happy,” describing the ways in which technology has made us, basically, spoiled and impatient to the wonders of the world and the developments in human technology.  It’s hilarious, because it’s true. (I won’t recount it for you, look it up on you tube, duh).
In the creative field I have noticed a different type of phenomenon, as I watch several highly educated, brilliantly talented friends of mine go through difficulties in job-hunting, getting their creative careers to the next level, or just plain trying to function.  And that is, the creative market, with the developments in technology, has never been MORE amazing.  You can find a photographer online, in your area, in minutes, see their work, and send them a message, all without leaving your bed.  You can watch a new music video on Youtube of your favorite band, then watch 10 more, for FREE.   You can learn how to program an arduino board and order one online to fulfill your homemade LED sculpture visions.  You can find out what’s showing next at the Guggenheim, the local gallery, or the local community playhouse, in a matter of moments.  Actors can be seen, painters can show their work, musicians can record their songs and sell them; it’s a free-for-all.  This is amazing.  Or is it?
The creative professional market has also never been more flooded.  Education continues to pump out new graduates in fields like film and photography, sound design/ engineering, writing, music, graphic design, and all-encompassing “art,” while the actual jobs in these fields have never been at a lower low.   People USED do their work for free, in order to build a resume, in hopes that they can one day charge for their craft.  But there are so many more people now doing their work for free, that the person in NEED of creative services, can find someone willing to do it for less, if anything, or, just do it themselves.
So, why bother getting an education anymore? Hands-on training has replaced theoretical hearsay picked up behind a desk.  Interns who are from situations where they can afford to work WITHOUT getting paid (hmmm… wasn’t that called indentured servitude in the South?) are taking up jobs that would ordinarily go to recent grads, and meanwhile, experienced and seasoned professionals in their fields are suddenly “overqualified”- not in their fifties, but in their… thirties????
And yet, with the endless creative “networking” communities, Burning Man culture, and online resources, creativity is still all “AMAZING,” whether it has any actual substance or not.
As a musician, I am constantly hearing different opinions on whether or not “music should be free.”  I never hear anything about whether or not FURNITURE should be free, or whether or not CAR REPAIRS should be free, or even, whether or not HOUSESKEEPING should be free.  Most every field that exists out there, people expect to pay and be paid for it… except, for some reason, in the arts.
Because we are “doing what we love,” we should somehow be satisfied with doing it for free, or, “doing it for the exposure,” or, doing it because “we enjoy being creative.”  Have you ever heard of a carpenter making a bookcase “for exposure?”
The fact is, these days, the monetary payback (I won’t even use the word “success”- I’ll use “payback, “ as in, getting back what you put into it) of any creative undertaking, is like winning the lottery: the more money you shell out, the more chances you MIGHT have of it paying off.  But, there are no guarantees.  Most artists I know aren’t churning out work because they’re making a killing on it.  Those folks might be out there.  But I don’t know any. They’re doing it because they were born with certain gifts, and they want to fulfill a part of themselves by expressing those gifts, so they can feel their purpose in life.
I know people who continue to put their time, effort, and spare (or non-spare) cash into what they love, hoping that one day, they can quit their job working overtime at the bagel shop/ local bar/ post office/ clothing store/ in order to do something more befitting of their talents and gifts, instead of having their chi continue to be plucked away moments at a time, for $12/hr, and go home too tired to create.  But alot of them, continue those jobs, and find other time to create anyway, because, that is what they enjoy doing, whether or not it costs them money or takes time away from other aspects of life.
So why should the general public care about this?  What does it have to do with them?  Why bother turning off HBO to care about a bunch of whining broke artists?
I’ll tell you why.  Because in a flooded market like this one, the only ideas that are seen and survive are the ideas that advertise.  And advertising your idea/ painting/ song/ play/ film/ book, these days, beyond your friend circle, requires PR.  And good PR is very, very expensive, especially on an artist’s budget.  So, basically, the ideas that end up REACHING you on your flat screen/ computer/ magazine/ cable TV are in fact, filtered by a financially favored meter- and NOT, in fact, on a talent/ originality/ pure inspirational genius meter. 
Again, why should you care?  Well, ask yourself:  how often are you truly inspired lately?  Do you see paintings on the wall of your local restaurant that leave you breathless? Do you see movies that make you feel alive and complete as a human being… on your Delta flight? Do you hear songs that tell you brilliant stories and create a world you want to exist in …on your local radio stations ? 
If you answered yes to all these questions, I’m either moving where you live, or you’re sending me your prescription drugs.  Cause I think I’m not alone in thinking there’s a lot of movies and songs out there, reaching a lot of people, that just plain SUCK. 
But I’m just one person.  What can I do about it? I can't change the world. 
Read part two.

Monday, December 26, 2011

New Year's Mental Feng Shui... or, Things I'm not Doing...

It's been awhile since I've written... This fall was fantastic and action-packed, and, admittedly, in my down moments, I felt very lazy.  But in the spirit of all those things we should do at the start of a new year, I'm starting a regular blog entry again.  Cause I want to.

In the last week I've had some quiet days and have kept a conversation with myself... that goes... what would make me happier?  Really, truly, at the core, happier?  Because we all go through our lives satiating ourselves from the truth sometimes.  We tell other people that things are great, that because we're busy, we're really doing what we want to be doing.  But I've been sitting myself down for serious talk lately, and asking myself ... what would REALLY make you happier? 

In general, I feel happy, as normal people go. I have my creative projects, that, on a certain level, are fulfilling and I enjoy them, or I wouldn't be doing them.  I get cranky, sure.  I could use a little more scratch, sure, but I've kind of resigned to the fact that I will never have a private jet and a pool like Elvis did in the 60s.  Times have changed.  As long as I can go to the ocean once in awhile, those little - girl- dreams can still survive. (And who wants to deal with the maintenance?!)

I've turned down some invitations this week without really being sure why.  I feel an inner-shift going on.  Things that were working a year ago aren't working in the same way.  It's made me feel a little strange, but after a few days of staying in and going to bed early, I started to relax.  I spent less money.  I stopped worrying a little.

And that's when it hit me:  My life is reaching a weird marker where the things I do matter, but they matter in direct proportion to the things I DON'T do.  Maybe it's subconscious from this facebook post that was going around lately with this "stop doing this to yourself" list, or maybe it's an approaching birthday, but whatever it is, I have found myself involuntarily changing my MO.

And when you stop doing things that make a drain on your life, something magical happens: you create space.  And when you create space in your life, good things come in.  Have you ever know anyone who wanted so badly to have a relationship, but had a apartment crammed so full of things that there was no room for another person to even sit down?  The mind works the same way... cram it full of thoughts you don't want to have, and you'll have no room for creative genius.

So, here's a few things I WILL NOT be doing in the new year:

1) Self-inducing Friend Hangovers.
There's family, and there's "friends."  You can put up with alot of crap from your family, cause you're related.  And you can put up with alot of crap from your friends, cause you love them.  You can also put up with alot of crap from acquaintances, cause you just see them once in awhile and you appreciate their kooky qualities, then they go home and you don't see the chin-shavings in their sink or their nasty fridge.

But there is this thing I call a "friend hangover", and it's when you assume you have a friendship with a person, you enjoy this person, you think about this person and treat them as a friend, but over time realize that they're not always around when you ACTUALLY could use a friend to talk to.  And nobody can always be there when you need, them, but you realize that THIS particular friend is ALWAYS not around.  You may try to reach out, and when you do, you get an earful about their bad day, and when it's time to share your news they suddenly have a more important text message to answer.  You have something embarrassing happen, and they are the ones who don't realize this is their cue to cheer you up and help you laugh it off, and instead they get this tone in their voice that says "Um, what is your deal?" and make you feel like an even bigger dork.  And when you feel like you need to say something, there are no room for your feelings in the big picture of the relationship.  Your attempts to heal or improve the situation will be largely ignored, and leave you feeling... depressed.

So this year, when I'm tempted to reach out to those people who I know will leave me with a "friend hangover", I'm gonna put down that glass of delicious toxic juice and instead call someone who I know actually cares, like my best friend in the whole world; or an elderly friend, who would not only be glad for the chat, but probably have some good insight; or the girl from the party who had the same shoes on, who wanted to hang out sometime and is actually friendly.

2) Group Dinners.
I hate them.  I don't know why I hate them, but I just plain don't like them.  I love seeing friends, and especially if they're in town and it's a rarity.  But I can't think of any other kind of social experience I loathe more... than... Group Dinners.

I used to wait tables.  I have real pet-peeves with people who order waitresses around, make comments about the waitperson, have such finicky eating habits that it takes them 10 minutes to place an order, or don't tip well.  Or unorganized parties.  These experiences usually open happen when I'm at a restaurant... in a Group Dinner.  I feel stifled, I feel cranky, it takes the food too long, my blood sugar drops, and I can't hear anything cause everyone is yammering across the table going "What?!" over Rihanna or echoes of treated concrete floors. So, I'm just not doing it anymore.

There are exceptions:  like, people who I know I love being around, who never end up in the same room together, and I want to see them all, cause it hardly ever happens.  These situations make a group dinner awesome.  Or, hey, dad's taking everyone out to dinner.  This happens once  a year for me. Of course I'm going to go! Or my former employer, who loved taking his creative crew out to dinner before a new project, to a nice restaurant, with drinks and dessert.  Those were a blast, I enjoyed the company, and it felt like a real treat.

But if someone is having a birthday dinner, at a table for 10,  but maybe 12, or now 14, "around 8pm" with a bunch of people they hardly know themselves, over an over-priced bad margarita and some tough fajitas, that is going to take 3 hours, where I'm going to order a salad and then have to shell out $50 cause someone just ordered another bottle of wine, I'm now going to politely excuse myself from the early evening plans, and request someone text me when they get to the after-party gathering.  Cause, now that I'm an adult, I can confidently, with grace, and without apology, decline on the Group Dinner.

3) Free Shots.
I'm a musician, I'm around alot of musicians.  I spend probably 4 out of 7 nights at a music venue or a bar.  I enjoy a good drink now and then, a choice beer, a glass with something and lime.  But inevitably at some point in the evening, a shot may get thrust into my hand.  I'm not a purist, but I try to spend ample time taking care of my health.  And I know this one fact to be true: a free shot at the end of the night, "night cap," whatever you may call it, is ALWAYS a bad idea. There is absolutely nothing awaiting you in that glass except a WORSE feeling than you will already have in the  morning when you realize you forgot your friend's fiancee's name after meeting her twice.

Once in awhile, on a celebratory note, it has seemed like a great idea to "do a shot!" with the group.  Sorry, group, but like your dinners, this year I am going to politely decline, and pass mine over to someone with a hairy chest and a higher tolerance.

4) Saying YES too quickly and not asking enough questions. 
This applies to nearly everything except "Would you like a free sample?" at the grocery store.  Unless you're going to hand me a delicious tiny chocolate ice cream cone, or a crepe with a tiny fork, I'm going to drill you a little bit. Intense? Hard to Work with? Nope, just a little smarter than I used to be. 

5) Telling myself I'm okay with a situation when I'm not. 
I have a people pleasing button.  I'm sure it stems from a dysfunctional childhood.  I'm totally aware of how it plays out in my life.  And I still don't know how to turn it off completely.  But I have come a little bit farther in trying to stop it before it happens, and the way I have done this is through being honest with myself about how I feel about things.

And I have realized one thing to be true: you can lie to the public, you can lie to your parents, you can lie to your friends, and you can lie to a man, but when you have that horrible feeling in your stomach and can't sleep at night and want to burst into tears, you cain't lie to yourself.  And sometimes, being tough is not about stomaching or accepting a crappy situation.  Sometimes it's about cutting out the bullshit excuses, honoring yourself, and putting on your helmet, so you can walk through the shitstorm that awaits, and get out the door that lies open on the other side.

Oh, I almost forgot:
6) Listening to Everybody Else. 
I'm advice hoarder.  When I have to make a big decision, like buying a car, or signing a legal agreement, I want the advice of people I trust, or 5 people.  I have had mentors tell me things that were the catalyst for great change and inspiration within myself, things that truly helped me in my endeavors.  But there is one exception where I don't want your advice, and that is BAD unsolicited career advice.

I have been going down the creative path for years, and I have had successes, and I have had areas greatly in need of improvement.  I don't make a large amount of money from my art, but I am truly satisfied at what I create, because I take the time to carefully create it in the way that I want.  And I create it with the people I want. I'm constantly being given advice by people (usually not in my field) that begin with the sentence "YOU SHOULD JUST..."  (in fact I was going to type some examples, but they started annoying me, and the purpose of this blog wasn't to annoy myself, so I erased them.)

The other day I said "If I had a dollar for everytime someone gave me what they think is good advice for my career, I wouldn't be making music, I'd be vacationing!" My roommate laughed and said "So now is the time when you are supposed to not listen to anybody else."

Something clicked just then- oh, right! Cause if I didn't have to spend time and mental energy being frustrated at things other people say, what would I be doing?  Ohhhhh..... right...... I'd have more time to create. :)

Tuesday, August 9, 2011


"Wow! How long has it been since I've written?"  I ask myself.  And thus, the subject of this post is... maintenance.

Like 'Zen and the Art of...', maintenance is one of those little things that, to a creative person, often seems to interrupt the flow of creativity. For example, I hate updating my own website.  I feel dumb when I write descriptions of my own music shows trying to make it sound like something people should go to.  I forget small details to making posts and get annoyed when it doesn't come out right.  Thus, I am way behind most of the time on doing it.  I would rather be writing songs.

Also, I hate changing guitar strings.  It's tedious, and takes forever.  It hurts my fingers to twist it around the little things just right. However, they get old.  They don't sound good. There is a certain little ritual I have to changing my strings where I run my fingers along them to warm up the string, and stretch it out manually a little bit before putting it on the guitar, so that they do not go out of tune as much (a little trick I learned early on from my friend Brian Kehew). If I never changed the strings, they would eventually break, probably at a very inopportune time, like in the middle of a song, live.

I currently have a pile of laundry towering next to my bed.  I have way gone through my mismatched socks, onto those pieces of fabrics vaguely resembling a sock, or opting for sandals.  Favorite T-shirts are way at the bottom of the laundry bag, along with a pair of very dirty/ muddy jeans I wore at a rainy music festival all weekend.  I found my last pair of clean fancy uncomfortable underwear today, in the bottom of the drawer, and I don't like going commando, so the laundry is going to HAVE to be done tomorrow.  I keep waking up dissatisfied that I need to get into the formal clothes collection when it's humid and 90 degrees out.  Why don't I do the laundry?? (I am, tomorrow!)

I have a list of phone calls to make, dumb issues to attend to, and groceries to buy so that I'll quit ordering takeout.  I need my bangs trimmed, my teeth checked, and my glasses readjusted.

All of these things take away from my time doing what I want to be doing, I tell myself.  "But I have to be somewhere... I want to decompress... I want to have some fun!... I need some time to chill out!... I can't get it all done before I need to be somewhere else!"

But actually, if these things were done, I would be a more well-oiled machine.  I could make a sandwich while I'm writing instead of have to take a half hour to walk to the deli to have them make me one (even though theirs taste better, sure!).  I could wear matching socks with the outfit of my choice tomorrow, instead of wearing sandals to the laundromat in my dorky shorts cause the rest are dirty. I could, maybe even allow some time to tackle NEW goals/ ideas that have been brewing. Like working on my next video... which keeps falllllllling byyyyy the wayyyyyysiiiiiidddddde....

Point is, certain tasks are not fun.  It's why people hire personal assistants, to have other people do their dumb shit for them.  I've been that person.  It's no more fun really when you're getting a paycheck for doing them, but it's even less fun when you're not getting a paycheck for doing that shit.  But... I was discussing with a friend today, there is a certain satisfaction on a deeper level in taking care of these tiny annoying issues that linger. Changing the lightbulb.  Dusting the bookshelf.  There is a certain satisfaction in... simplicity.  Putting in a little time to have things run more smoothly. Being clearheaded, and peaceful that the chi in your life will continue to flow...

If you change your oil, you can go alot further.  What in your creative life needs an oil change?
Maybe your equipment/ gear needs an update?  Maybe you need to clean your paintbrushes?  Drop one night going out the local bar in order to take a guitar class?

It's those little things that can build up and get really frustrating, but equally, can make the creativity flow alot easier.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Life Is Not Linear.

I studied with a yoga teacher for 11 years. He often spoke in cryptic sentences, leaving his students to raise their eyebrow afterwards, wondering if he was actually saying something off the cuff, or extremely profound.  I learned alot from him, but I think the most profound wisdom I ever received from him was "sometimes, we need to move side-to-side."

Sometimes the Great Conveyor Belt of Life takes us suddenly forward to a spot we didn't realize we were in.  Maybe it's with family responsibilities, maybe it's with a job, a relationship, or maybe it's with just stopping and looking back and realizing you're no longer where you used to be.

I grew up with alot of space around me.  I played in the yard, I played in the vacant lot next to our house, I played in my neighbors' yard, I went for walks.  There were 2 parks, the big park and the "secret park"- which I think only a select few of us knew existed, cause nobody was ever there.  The world seemed very, very big in a very small radius in Oklahoma, I had no concept of future, or past.  I talked to the mysterious "wind people" in the trees. I found magical pennies in the sand. I felt mystery in the disappearing edge of the vacant lot where the old stove remains stood.

Then somewhere along the way, life got very linear. Everything was leading to something else.  I felt like I was not going to ever matter unless I was constantly propelling myself forward, forward, forward.  This was as draining as it sounds.  So I stopped, and I moved across the country with two suitcases.

Now I live in Brooklyn, New York.  Gone are the parks where nobody sits but myself.  Gone are the sunrise hikes in the California canyons.  Gone are the moments of silent reflection. Now those moments feature "guest stars" of a random person yelling from the sidewalk, a helicopter buzzing, or a leery old person looking me up and down like I'm a derelict for having a hole in my knee.

My phone calls to friends back home are made quickly on the 10 minute walk to the subway with my hands full. People text because it's more efficient to make plans that way.  Everything comes down to a "NY minute," cause nobody has the time or energy to waste.  Everything is fleeting and momentary.  You can make a friend in a day and share your life story with them only to never see them or hear from them again.  That would seem weird to some (maybe me), but to New Yorkers, it's perfectly acceptable, cause they don't remember what happened yesterday. Everything that matters is what's happening now.  Which is one of the things I love most about this city...

But it's very easy to suddenly get trapped in linear thinking this way.

When I feel overwhelmed, I go back to the quiet voice... "Sometimes, we need to move side-to-side."

This means hanging out in the secret park, collecting magic pennies, and listening to voices in the trees (or, here the ones coming from the people behind the garbage can would work too).  It means sometimes just ordering delivery, or eating the chocolate croissant anyways even though you're trying to eat healthy. Sometimes it means putting your foot down even though nobody else know what the hell you're talking about.  Sometimes it means doing nothing.  Sometimes it means not trying to prove yourself to anybody but yourself.  Sometimes it means putting your problems aside and blowing bubbles. 

Life is not linear.  It's a field, in all directions.  It's not even 3-D.  It's 6-D.  There is no magic finish line, cause it's endless.  How can you encapsulate the mind and spirit of Einstein on a piece of paper? How can you reduce the depth of Beethoven's heart when he wrote the Moonlight Sonata, to a wikipedia article? And how can you judge your own life and its purpose simply by where your placement is in society, or what others think of you? 

This is not an excuse to be an asshole and waste your life away, but rather a reminder that sometimes it's not about GETTING MORE, but rather, about BEING,  MORE OFTEN.  Being simply who you already are, without needing anything more.  Without needing to do, acquire, have, or gain anything else.  Who you are is beyond your job, your facebook page, and what others think of you.  

So consider this permission to just move side-to-side, for however long you need to, in whatever way that means.  Take some time to find out, really and truly, what exists beyond your own layers.  Mull something over.  Don't decide.  Let the phone call hang.  Go to a movie alone. You'll be needing to move forward again quickly enough.  You're not going to miss out on anything. 

Monday, April 11, 2011

"Consolidate. Concentrate. Be You."

There is an excellent meditation called "Patience Pays" by Yogi Bhajan that states "You need a million things? A million things will reach you- if you are stable. Established. Firm. Patient... Creation is ready to serve you, if you just BE YOU... So please, take away the ghost of your life, and stop chasing round. Consolidate. Concentrate. BE YOU..."

Artists are often regarded as eccentric, emotional creatures.  We flit. We flutter. We have moods. We have vices.  We get confused. We are sometimes late or irresponsible.  We are sometimes workaholics.  We don't always remember birthdays and don't always show up to special occasions.  We stand in an art stores and are seized with panic attacks because we don't even know where to begin.  We get ulcers because not writing a paragraph correctly can haunt us for weeks, months, some people, years! We come out of our shells and expend our energy trying to get to the top of the next hill and then come back exhausted, tired, and even more confused.  We stay up too late, often make little money, and feel disconnected from "those normal people" with "those normal lives" who couldn't possibly understand the agony and ecstasy that is our existence.

And, you are right.  you do not have a "normal life."  You are an artist.  You have a gift, and with that gift, comes a responsibility:  to make the most of that gift while you are here on earth.

Because when your life is over, it will be too late.

Look at the flame of a candle.  It is not messy.  It is not widespread.  The light it casts is widespread, but the flame ends in a very concentrated point.  It moves, it dances, it is flexible, but it never leaves the wick. It stays right there, an intense little beam of fire.

If you want to be an inspiration to others with your art, to cast your light onto your environment in some way, you must also have concentration.  This can be subjective to your own personal situation.  But in some way, if you want to capture that essence of creativity, you must eventually do some consolidating of your time and energy.  This does not have to be a CHORE.

It can mean many things.  Here are some ways to consolidate:
-quit going to things you don't want to go to just because you were invited.
-replace a junk food meal that makes you sleepy with protein and vegetables that give you more energy.
-turn off the phone while you have your creative time. There is no law that says you must answer it right then! That's what voicemail is for!
-limit the drains in your life- this could be people, activities, projects that no longer work for you, acquaintances.  Be honest with yourself about what situations you need to commit to working out (family?), and which ones you are able to free yourself of.
-ask your close friends to understand your absence. It's as simple as saying "I hope you can understand, I'll drop by the party but I can't stay the whole time..."
-Align yourself with knowing mentors... this can be an invaluable help in sorting out confusion on your artistic path.
-Give activities time limits. Do you really need to be on the internet for 5 hours every weekend?
-Exercise.  You will be refreshed, renewed, and oxygenated, keeping your brain more alert and awake to your next stroke of genius.
-Stop trying to control the universe.  It will go on without you.  (scary, huh?)

The other part of this meditation I really like is the BE YOU part.
You are the only person in this world who has had your exact life experiences.  You are the only person who will ever know them, really, truly, when you leave this life.

It takes courage to expose a part of yourself to the world.  As an artist, you are a vessel to creativity, and you are also part of it.  A peanut butter sandwich is the peanut butter and the bread.  The art can't be made without the artist.  The art is not ALL ABOUT the artist, but the two are intertwined and cannot be made separately.  A machine can replicate, it can do amazing things these days, but... it cannot create like a human because it has no soul. It takes the human to make the art.

Therefore, if you are trying to create while pretending to be somebody else, the art will come out confused.  It will not be your PURE art.  It will be forced, false, maybe boring, maybe trendy, but it will not capture that timeless essence that magnetizes people to want to experience it over and over again.

When you are honest to your work, the work will be honest.  Maybe you feel that YOU is not enough- maybe someone won't like it, or will criticize it, or will think this big shiny fabulous thing next to you is of more value.  And the truth is, that may very well happen! It happens all the time!

But it doesn't matter.  Because when you create something real for YOU, there will be someone else that it will also be real for.  And that communication is all that matters.

The goal for this week is to Consolidate, Concentrate, and BE YOU.  Drop the activities and obsessions that keep your energy pouring out into vast seas of waste.  Start fresh, right now, by taking a deep breath, and letting go.  Fall into your 5 year old self.  Be simple. And see what changes when you come into your concentrated self.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Who Are the People in Your Neighborhood?

I guess first I should say, that it's taken a long time for this post to appear, because I have been on the road with a rock and roll band since March.  Which inspires many topics for post, but this is the first one.

We went through many small towns and the way down to Texas and back up to New York.  Met many people, slept in many places, and had a variety of situations and experiences.  And I have decided while thinking about creativity and life that "getting to know the locals" is one of the most inspiring things one can do.

This picture is taken from an old-fashioned style printing shop called YeeHaw Industries in Knoxville, TN.  They use the giant presses to do mostly posters/ announcements, but also have a variety of other things for sale.  We happened upon it while killing time, and one of our band members had been there before.  We popped inside and the employees let us go in the back and observe as he ran some of the most gorgeous posters I've ever seen.

I was fascinated with the gears of the old machines, and walls and walls and walls of stamps and plates and letters and numbers.  They ranged in size from large to smaller than the tip of your pinky.  But what's more, I was fascinated with the company's size and magnitude!

Here's an art form that has long been threatened by modern technology, as who doesn't know someone with Photoshop? And yet, here they are, doing it "the old fashioned way", no doubt, at top level. To me it is a great example of people with vision making it work.

It's too easy to get lost in our own heads about how we can NOT accomplish something.  Ask yourself why you can't reach one of your goals  or desires and you can come up with 100 excuses why it can't happen.  Imagine if a friend came to you asking for a loan to open "an old-fashioned printing press?" I think most of us would try to talk that person out of it or dismiss it as an idea that makes no sense.  There seems to be a better, faster, more advanced way to do everything these days, and yet- when you really look at the inner-workings of an art form, it's not a fast process.

My roommate is an artist and has been working on a piece for weeks.  Tiny pieces of paper have been visiting our house.  They escape his room and take little journeys on our socks throughout the hallways.  I'll occasionally find them hopping into the shower, or taking a ride on the cuff of my jeans.  I don't get annoyed, because I love that I live in a house where something is going on.  Recently I asked him to explain the sculpture to me.  I was fascinated by his thought process and the work it would take to get to the finish. (I won't reveal any secrets here!)  Talking to him brought up all kinds of other ideas in me that apply to music.  My psyche was stirred.

It's worth the time, next time you have the opportunity, to take the time to see what someone's craft is, and ask questions.  Maybe you know someone who sews, knits, is a woodworker, or has some other sort of fascinating penchant for the unusual.  Ask if you can visit their studio.  Make a little field trip out of it. Remember Mr. Roger's neighborhood?  I loved the episodes where he'd visit factories and they'd explain how things worked.  Do that again!

It's inspiring to see people in their natural element, and it's good for the soul to see people at work. Find one person in your life or your neighborhood that you can visit.  Most of them will be happy to talk about what they do.  And it could inspire your next great masterpiece!