being inspired

From Inspiration to Inspired Work: The Journey to Launching (Part 6)

Everyone “makes” a living somehow. Very few people do something meaningful and directly connected to their passion. Most get something remotely in their “field” but generally they are filling a position that could be replaced by another.

The point is that work is always to some degree work. No matter how closely related to our passion or interest we will inevitably begrudge some aspects of what is needed. We can either do the undesirable things toward our ends or another’s.

The call to launching a career in the arts is an entrepreneurial one by nature. It will be hard. There will be much competition. The in-roads will be rocky, not smoothly paved. It will be hard. But what are the alternatives that seem any better?

We will otherwise give the prime hours of our days to another’s vision. We will have to work hard. We will have to do things that are not meaningful. We may be able to “leave it work.” That is true. But is that the goal? Is our goal detachment from work?

From the very beginning of time surviving on earth has not been easy. We can only imagine the struggles of our pre-historic parents, trying merely to survive in the brutal landscape. It may seem odd to mention but reminds us of our context.

We really don’t have it that bad. And our choice between doing a job we like but don’t love where pay is steady or doing a job we love where pay is uncertain and unstable is really quite an amazing choice. Honestly, it is an American choice.

In many countries still today that choice is not real. The choice is decided for them either by their family, environment, or even times their government. There are few choices offered where we are given complete freedom to decide.

Having a choice at all is a reminder of our great privilege. We live in such a time as to have real freedom. Of course that freedom has great challenges but certainly it outweighs the alternatives. We get to realize our lives by simply willing it.

So we move forward with the sovereign freedom to make our lives exactly what we think they should be. We listen well to our gifts and to our true friends to discover what has already been put in there before we were even born or thought of.

We don’t hesitate or apologize for these gifts. They are ours not by some choice or some willing of our own. That is why they are natural gifts. The gifts are given for the common good beyond that which we can completely comprehend.

One thing we know: if we do not use these gifts they will atrophy upon themselves within us. They are given to be used. They are to be shared. When we do not use them it is as if the whole world is missing them within us.

The world will move on. Our stubborn refusal to use them will not keep the Great One from doing what He will. Another will rise to the challenge. So take care of your gifts. They are treasures to be fought for, wrestled with, and celebrated with the world.

From Inspiration to Inspired Work: The Journey to Launching (Part 5)

Inevitably comes the discussion every artist hates to hear: how are we going to make money? Eventually having amazing products with great craftsmanship and artistry simply does not cut it. What is happening through that to make a living?

This is an awkward discussion at the heart of it. Are we more like the court jesters of old on the payroll of king’s playing for their pleasure and at their command? Or are we the savvy entrepreneurs turning our art into a business enterprise?

Most artists see the “business” side of their work as a necessary evil. They “have” to do this and that. They have to be incorporated, they need an accountant and so on. Some, relative few, see the great potential of making it “big” in their world.

Most daydream about Daddy Warbucks passionately patroning their art without ever encroaching on their creative freedom. Whether its a record label or a publisher or a gallerist, there is some entity out there that can realistically meet that need.

But this is where the dance begins. Some artists will lean almost immediately into that need, taking the first person who comes their way claiming to give them everything they want. They will too quickly jump into the business-side in desperation.

The artist must be patient. He must hone his craft, continue to deliberately determine his course first. The artist has to create the initial buzz. He must push through the initial stages of starting to create a bit of momentum.

This initial period is very hard. It will seem simply overwhelming. It will appear at times hopeless. Push through. One thing at a time. Find one person who can assist in the administrative tasks. Leverage your community and friend resources.

But never forget your primary task: the creative enterprise. Never forget your end product, in music for example, is not a great video or a stunning website. It is the music. And it is learning to invite people into the music with you.

Know your audience. Do you want to make art for elitists (who use art without really consuming it for their advantage)? OR do you want to encourage everyday people getting stuck in the grind of life? Or is it somewhere in between?

We must not forget the myth-making power of art. It has the power to captivate the imagination and inspire great virtue deep in the human heart. We consume it because it gives us some sort of mirror into ourselves and into reality.

That process is worth the effort of going through all the legalities and monetary hassles to make it happen. Many great artists simply get stuck in the how and forget that the art inspires even the how. The instructions are all there in the art.

Think of it: even your business and administrative people find something in the art that captivates them. They are early adopters and even fans. To continue to create and perform inspires and reminds them why they do it and its power.

There is power. Bottom line. Are there ways to discover the outcomes of art and to measure its success in connecting? Probably. Goosebumps are enough for most people. And the sense that they are elevated through the art.

From Inspiration to Inspired Work: The Journey to Launching (Part 4)

At some point in this process we become necessarily detached from everything. We get to the place where we could scrap the whole thing and never miss any of it. At least we think. It is a bit of a fear escape mechanism.

The reality of the work it will take starts to overwhelm us. The daunting sacrifices ahead start to become clearer. Realizing we have one last chance to turn around becomes quite an invitation. It is a mirage. A trick. Don’t believe it.

The truth is that only in the path of your calling will you find what it is you are looking for. Despite the challenges, which abound in every road by the way, the satisfaction will be sufficient. What we can not see in such moments is the joy.

And the energy it brings. We get to cost thinking only. What is the cost? How much will this take? It can freeze us. We don’t have the capital. We don’t have the followers. We don’t have the .... True. Not yet. But we will!

Not even the gates of hell can stop something that God has willed. People who live in their calling have that sort of confidence, resilience, and hope. It is almost non-rational and can certainly attract those who are irrational.

That does not stop it from being true. There is a sense of destiny. We certainly can’t know it perfectly. It definitely teases us. We see only partially, ever, on this side. Still there is a sense of destiny and direction God puts into our hearts.

And it won’t go away. It’s an annoying feeling. It keeps us unsettled, off-balance, awaiting. But that is the point. Not anxiety, but expectancy. We are on the edge of our seats. We are looking for what will happen next. We are excited!

Also slightly terrified. This is no movie we are watching. And we are the main characters. The stakes are high. But we have that thrilling hope that we are on track with some amazing adventure. We are just this side of figuring it out.

Life just unfolds. When we are doing our thing, when we are really in the heart of our calling it simply is. We don’t have to think so much. That is the wonderful thing about gifts, and what is often miscalculated about them: they are free.

Sometimes, since we did not go out and earn them, we miss them. Because they came naturally, we may have overlooked them. Don’t. The things you do by accident are actually at the core of your calling. It will be easy to miss.

Or you will want to tweak the thing you naturally do well to form it into what you think is cooler. You push and pull at something that naturally is already where its best. People will respond the most when what you do is at its purist release.

This requires great vulnerability. It will seem insignificant. It will almost feel passé. Fight through it. Let that go. Stop thinking. No more worrying about what is cool. Cool is always the freedom to do what you do regardless of what others think!

From Inspiration to Inspired Work: The Journey to Launching (Part 3)

In the end we go public because we must. We go public because it is part of being human. We go public because we can not remain private any longer. We go public because we will wither if we do not. We must share!

The artist who insists on staying inside himself and his studio will eventually start to diminish. His inspiration will retract upon itself. If there is no benefit to the people around him, no communal experience of his art at all what is it?

Certainly there is a private benefit to following through on something and creating a piece. For the novice who does it as a fun hobby on the side that may be enough. Though even then there is probably a familial experience of the piece.

“What is that?” “I didn’t know you painted.” “That is really good.” Etc. A small group of family and friends will weigh in. But if enough people see it and sing consistently of its praises one can not help but think there is a calling in there somewhere.

The part that feels like compromise for the artist is subjugating ourselves to the “rules” of the economic system. The system is an amoral set of almost mathematical realities. There is no purity in beating the system or figuring out a way to make money.

It feels cheap. It feels below an artist, who should not be thinking of such things. And of course the great ones had the luxury of not having to think about it too much, at least it seemed. They seemed to be well-funded by patrons from this side of history.

The reality, of course, is that they struggled, at least at certain points of their career. They all got to those breaking points where they had to turn something up or else. And life sort of requires we get to those squeeze points to find out who we are.

Do we have a catalyst in our lives? Do we have someone who can push us? Do we have someone who can translate our art into a viable living? Do we have a business partner, or manager? Is there such a person whom we can actually trust?

For Adele (and many others) it was probably Mark Ronson, someone who stays off to the side. He helped get her going. She actually opened up for Amy Winehouse in 2008. But isn’t that always the case? Everyone starts as a opener.

That’s something the process requires. For Adele the journey probably seemed like a lifetime. To us the public it went rather quickly. From 2008 to her huge hit album in 2011-12 to her 4-year hiatus till now. Whoa. Perfection.

And of course no one could have seen that happening in 2008. Amy Winehouse was the star. She had everything going. She has the voice, the intrigue, the sultry thing, etc. What a turn around a few years can bring. Only God knows.

Our job is not to know. It is not even to predict. Our job is to envision success. Our job is to imagine the outcome with hope and life. What could it look like? Don’t get hung up on the process or the details, just get to the end product!

From Inspiration to Inspired Work: The Journey to Launching (Part 2)

I am not sure I can even right a second part to this series. It will either become a marketing seminar or get very self-helpy. Perhaps those more simple, practical skills are exactly what an artist needs to learn in order to advance.

After all, once we do actually get a product that we have creatively birthed, we have to start raising the child. As fun as it is to go directly back to conceiving again there is the new reality, the new life, the life of this living child.

The reality is that most artists neglect their children, their creative children. They love to conceive and give birth but are simply overwhelmed and even paralyzed by the idea of seeing this infant creation into adulthood. They don’t know that world.

And generally the requirements of that world are simple, straight-forward, and somewhat demanding. Like playing with a newborn, the only task is to be present, to attend to the simple needs, and to be focused on its wants.

There is also something invigorating about really celebrating the work that has already been created. So many times the artist under-value the work in order to stay in creative mode. For a time that may be necessary but certainly not forever.

At some point rehearsing that song, practicing that speech, learning that narrative, takes us directly into the value of what is created. In figuring out how to sell it we are convincing ourselves as well. We sell it to us before anyone else.

It is in this process that the artist emerges into a performer. Certainly not all writers are performers. Some writers will remain ghost-writers forever and stay happily in the background. They will write really well with no intention otherwise.

But even for that song or screen writer to get to the point where they are paid for their work and able to do it for a living, they have clearly promoted themselves to the point of near performance. They became an act to get that recognition.

Jesus’ teachings would not be on our tongues today if he had not gone through the same process. Think of Gandhi, etc, people who translated their life into the public realm because their thoughts were“too expensive to ever want to keep” (Bono).

At some point the journey from private to public becomes enormous. Really think of Jesus for a moment. He never wrote down anything himself, at least that we have record of. He spoke. He taught out loud the hard fought insights he had learned.

Imagine if the sermon on the mount would have remained his own personal reflection. No, he worked, he polished, he succinctly brought these beautiful sayings into one place. The recording part would come naturally with such wisdom.

He crafted his content. He focused on what was most important. He listened well and eventually taught the ways of the Kingdom. He lived them too, yes. But for his professional life as a Rabbi he also taught them really, really well.

From Inspiration to Inspired Work: The Journey to Launching (Part 1)

Eventually the creative work is done. The “work” begins. Some artists completely check out at this point. But if we hang in just a bit longer we will see the overwhelming amount of support workers in any one given creative industry.

Somewhere there is a very developed creative market dedicated to what you do. Chances are it is quite saturated. In the places with the most established networks the less the chance of having success. Simple economics. Too much supply.

But, what we eventually see is that those with the connections are definitely NOT those with the most talent. They are simply those with the most tenacious support team and with the most developed business tenacity. They will themselves into it.

In lesser developed markets there are clearly more opportunities to stand out (less supply), but obviously there is less demand as well. One ends up also essentially trying to create the market (the demand) locally. Or does the internet equalize all that?

(written at Punta Gorda airport on 12.5)

Is there a way around the traditional limitations of a localized market? Are there ways to make waves on a global scale without actually traveling to those places? Of course the answer in today’s world is yes, certainly. That’s what the internet does.

But how do we get the desire to or interest in connecting online without a physical relationship? That may sound like a marketing question and probably is. But in today’s world it is one that very much to the interests of the artist.

While the internet may seem like a global playground at first, sooner or later the reality of an absolutely over-saturated market will take effect. Distribution problems may be thwarted now but there is still the huge black whole of gathering attention.

Thinking about such things can make some artists very nervous. Some start to revert to shock tactics. What can I do to get attention? Like a toddler soon realizes, attention goes to those who cry the loudest. Is today’s marketing about crying the loudest?

Or is there still something transcendent about content and class, about taking the high road? Do the stars naturally (or eventually) align for those who have character and who care about the right things? Or does pop culture not even care?

It will seem like thugs and celebrity-addicted people dominate the popular landscape. It will seem like there is no room for someone with a modest outlook who is not willing to live a life out of balance. But there are always exceptions. Always.

For every five fly by night short-lived pop stars there are those that consistently do their thing, against the grain of what may seem like inevitable push. The market may seem pre-determined by the those who rule the empire with lock and key.

But there is only One who rules the empires. There is only One set of moon and stars. No matter how powerful, hostile, or negligent people may seem they do not determine anything for us. Our fate is not sealed by the hands of humans.

Being Inspired (Part 6)

So we go in with eyes wide open and hearts wide open, prepared for the worse. We know we are opening ourselves up for a world of criticism. Going public always ensures that. And as we know, no one is judged for doing bad, only good.

Most people simply run when the criticism comes, when the naysayers speak out, when the murmurs start. Expect them. They will come. They should come. And when they do come, you will be in great company! You are not alone.

But it may feel like it at times. Push through. Grit and determination alone lead to the prize of a self-realized life. Most people can not take the vulnerability and the challenge. Truthfully this level of challenge has the potential to crush your soul.

But what we forget is that even more so doing nothing can as well. If we don’t face the necessary challenges of our callings with faith and dignity we can be assured that we will slowly melt away into a sub-new life existence. Not worth it.

The opportunity cost of not doing what we need to do is huge. It is the difference between a life well-lived and a life not-lived. We have to start dreaming up that life. We literally have to start imaging what that life looks like.

How do we define success? That is the only question relevant to our pursuit. How and why everyone else may do it is interesting but not pertinent. How do we define success and start imagining that end being realized? What does it look like?

I have known the power of this personally for some time. I have heard about such things as “the secret” or the power of daily habits and all that. I know the importance of imagination and envisioning our life. Still I struggle with doing it.

As artists we are wonderful at self-sabotage. We almost think it’s a necessary part of our process. We begin to fuel our own worst enemy thinking it is making us better. It is not. It is actually keeping us from the very things we are longing for.

But in the end it is not about self-fulfillment for the artist. It is about self-discovery. It is realizing what has been put inside you by the divine since before the world was even made. The choice to be an artist is not one made lightly.

It is not a career choice made out of convenience. Surely some “fell” into the art world (in whatever field) by coincidence and chance discovery that they had a knack. But the longterm continual commitment to producing work is so much more.

It requires ultimately saying “no” to so many other things, things we may even like or appreciate greatly - good things we even want to help with. Some may overlap and make sense but some will not be something we can pour ourselves into.

BUT, as an artist, we can certainly illuminate the same problems we otherwise would directly help, in our given fields. We know that everything that is illuminated becomes a light. We can be the very thing that inspires someone else to take action!