Yes, Creative Beasts, today is Valentine’s Day, and love is in the air. Are you feeling it? I hope so.
What is love? It’s a feeling so powerful, that it’s almost impossible to wrap your head around it. While we may not truly understand it, we instinctively know that it is good. It can change things, and it can move mountains.
The word inspiration, literally means, “taking in the spirit.” When love’s arrow strikes our hearts, we are gifted with a new energy, and perhaps an altruistic vision that frees us to be brave and expand our horizons–and maybe even improve the world, if only just a little bit. Make no mistake that as confusing and even confounding as it may seem, at times–it is always a gift.
As humans–and as Creative Beasts–we are vulnerable creatures, and yet as Creative Beasts–we are already familiar with the concept of baring our souls. That’s just what we do. It comes with the territory, it’s part of the job description, etc., etc. When it comes to matters of the heart, however, we tend to get better at armoring ourselves as time goes on. How does this affect us and what we do? I think that generally, it’s fair to say that our work becomes more refined and better crafted because of practice, wisdom and dedication, and yet think of how much gets lost when edges become worn, in terms of our ability to feel. Whatever shape or form your creativity takes, part of its magic comes from a raw power–and part of that raw power is love. If you have it in your life, it is a very good thing. Be grateful. Recognize it. Use it. Respect it. Its energy will move you forward.
To see a world in a grain of sand and heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palms of your hand and eternity in an hour.
A Russian friend of mine once told me, “There is saying in Russian: ‘It’s better to have a hundred friends than a hundred dollars.'” Words to live by, perhaps? While it never hurts to have a hundred dollars in one’s pocket, having a strong community of friends is something that is difficult to put a price tag on. It’s amazing how it often seems to go, that when you give a little, you get a lot.
Thursday, I had the serendipitous fortune of running into some dear friends at the local cafe. We shared great conversations that gave me fresh ideas on approach, and left me feeling inspired and energized. That’s what I would call a good day. It’s what I would also call “invaluable.”
First, was coffee with Stanley–an old friend who was once a photographer, now a painter–always an artist. We talked about the struggles and challenges that creative types face, and how communities come into play. Artists and creative thinkers of all kinds are typically afflicted in some way, with both a need to create, and the standard animal will to survive. The need to create, or to transcend our existence as we know it, can lead us to all sorts of places. Some are dark and deep, some are thoughtful and fresh, some maddening, and others, though more rare, are brilliantly spectacular and enlightening. In many instances, creative journeys are solo ones, and thereby lonely. You work at your craft, whether it’s painting, writing, making music or developing theories. Sometimes you hate it. Sometimes you don’t know why you do it. Other times it thrills you. And feedback can equally be a bitch. Something–anything, at times–is rewarding. Someone can say, “Man, you suck. Give it up!” And maybe you’ve been waiting so long for any kind of commentary, that even that can evoke a feeling of gratitude.
“Wow. That guy hates me,” you think. …Cool!”
Stan and I talked about the varying value of different communities. What is a community? “Sharing, participation and fellowship” is one definition. For some, that can exist at the local tavern, but then that begs the question, “What is it that ties folks together?” Hopefully, it isn’t alcohol, though in some instances, that is clearly the case. With creative minds, I believe it is the underlying knowledge that we all struggle with a similar form of craziness, and part of that is the need to create. From time to time, this may actually end up surfacing as a clinical diagnosis such as bipolar disorder, A.D.D. or obsessive compulsive disorder. Interestingly enough, these so-called disorders are generally regarded as problems that need to be corrected. And yet, isn’t it interesting that many of the world’s most gifted–and frequently celebrated people–are in some senses, and for all intents and purposes–a little bit crazy? So what’s their secret? Stanley and I agreed that mostly, it’s work. Blood sweat and tears. Hours and hours of working one’s craft (which, by the way, is one way in which O.C.D. can come in handy). Work is the difference between the ones who break through to reach a certain level of alchemy, and everybody else. Van Gogh, Picasso, Einstein and Edison all approached their work with a manic level of intensity. Stan said that the value in having the chance to do the work you want to–or maybe that you were meant to, in life–is golden, compared to having a bunch of stuff, such as four car garages, lawns to mow and more TVs than you know what to do with. So it’s mostly work, and maybe after all the time you’ve spent preparing for some moment to arrive–a little bit of luck–and then there’s friends… community.
Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration.
– Thomas Alva Edison
So what happens to the others that take a less obsessive approach? All kinds of things–and sometimes–nothing. Some join into the corporate dynamic and make that world work. Fantastic. Some flop around like fish without water, going this way and that. Some cling to the bar community because it helps them to feel more… normal. Some find a way to neatly blend different worlds, which is remarkable. Whatever the case, it’s safe to say that the balancing act is usually rather precarious, and hey, finding one’s groove can take time.
When Stan and I parted ways, I was on my way out the door, when someone called my name. I turned to the table I had nearly passed. It was my dear, long-time friend, Fred; a graphic designer, artist and wordsmith. He beckoned me to sit and chat, and it was then that I decided that this day was meant for creative friends and conversations, so I did. He started by asking me what was up, and where had I been… usual ice breakers. I said that I had been laying low, and then added–“Well… I’ve been sorta poor, lately.”
“What? You’ve been boring?” he asked, wide-eyed.
“Ha. No, I said, ‘poor.'”
“Oh, I thought you said, ‘boring!’ I’d rather have you be poor than boring,” he quipped with a grin.
That simple statement made my day. And it led me to decide that I will never again in my life, state that I am or have been poor. I may not have a hundred dollars in my pocket to flit, but my friends–my loved ones–my community–make me insanely wealthy. My humble and deepest gratitude to you all.
What else? Oh, yeah: SEIZE THE PREY.
p.s. Febuary 7, 2011: I subscribe to http://GapingVoid.com/ to receive Hugh MacLeod’s daily cartoons via email, and this one, entitled, “The Hunger,” came in today:
…I can’t help loving that it’s right in sync with my post, here, down to the very titles. Hugh has inspired me with his cartoons and words on countless occasions, and I am seriously excited to get my hands on his new book, Evil Plans, to be released February 17th, 2011. Congrats, Hugh!
Now I get it. Or at least maybe I’m getting closer.
Some things aren’t meant to be, or perhaps just not meant to happen at the exact moment that we would have them occur. Once this is understood, things can get easier. Deepak Chopra refers to this concept as The Law of Least Effort. He says that (and I’m paraphrasing) nature always follows the path of least resistance.
Grass doesn’t try to grow. It grows. Birds don’t try to fly. They fly.
The first time I heard that, it sent shivers down my spine (in a good way).
Here is a quote from Jesus (Matthew 6:28) which I believe is the same idea (this one’s for you, Liza):
So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; 29and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?
I think this notion has a lot to do with success–in fact, almost everything. Talent and smarts are great, but faith, timing–and understanding timing–make a world of difference. Think of a baseball pitcher. Now, let’s say that this pitcher throws an amazing curve ball, and maybe he really likes throwing curve balls. But maybe the curve ball isn’t always the solution he needs to achieve his goal, which is to strike out the batters. In order to apply the best approach to any given situation, one must apply understanding which comes from awareness. Very successful people don’t waste time tarrying about and carrying on. They are often quick to measure how well their energies are being received, and from there they determine what the appropriate next step should be. This is how some of the greatest systems have come to be.
Here’s Bob Seger with Understanding.
Have you ever been driving on the freeway at a moment at which all the drivers seem to be moving in sync? Traffic just flows and it seems like a well orchestrated symphony. Then other times, not so much. Life can be similar. On one day your movements and actions might match or compliment those around you, and might be very well received. You are happy and those with whom you interact are happy. Other days, nothing seems to work as you might have expected or hoped for. This is where creativity comes in. You are aware of your situation, and so you make notes, and then adjustments.
I’m a writer. Words matter to me and I know that words can change the world. Not everyone agrees. Some people don’t think words hold much value or maybe they simply don’t remember how words may have impacted them. They might have sung New Years Day at the top of their lungs at a U2 concert once upon a time. They might have worn a Nike T-shirt bearing the slogan, Just Do It. And they probably felt something at the time… something like connectedness. Somewhere else at that time, someone else was listening to something else, and someone else was wearing a different shirt. My point is that we aren’t all on the same page at the same time, and that is OK, and in fact; it is just as it should be. But when we are on the same page–even if it’s just two people–it can be great… magical, even. And great and magical things can happen.
A great deal of time and energy can be wasted in an attempt to gain things like acceptance, attention, praise and even love, but such things can never be forced if they are to remain genuine. The best situational outcomes occur when things happen genuinely… naturally… and when the timing is right.