music blog

Can I Do It? (Part 1)

Can I Do It? (Part 1)

This is the fundamental question of the ages.  It reverberates throughout the halls of time.  Especially into the future.  Do I have what it takes?  Am I a contender?  Will people recognize my talent?  Do I really have talent?  Do I have enough?

These are important questions to answer, especially for creative people.  Some might argue that even entertaining such questions with consistent intensity is part of the creative process.  The answers come back with great uncertainty. 

Some will try to scientifically minimize the emotional angst of such questions with simple, probing questions: what is it you are really after?  How do you define success?  How will you know when you find it?  These are meant to help…

To Love What You Do (Part 7)

To Love What You Do (Part 7)

“Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose.” Not quite. Freedom is the ability to choose. It’s having a choice. Being aware of that choice. Beholding that choice. Respecting that choice. That’s freedom, both duty and delight. Too often we have let addicts define freedom. Really. Normally those who talk about and flaunt their freedom have the least. The addict at first, of course, is escaping all the trappings of everyday life in favor of much more heightened existence.

To Love What You Do (Part 5)

To Love What You Do (Part 5)

We have discovered that what you believe infinitely changes your reality. If you believe something is possible, it is. Our accuser lives, as we have also said, to convince us not to believe - to shut us in on ourselves. To render us powerless.

To Be or Not to Be (Part 4)

To Be or Not to Be (Part 4)

So eventually we must take a leap. We must literally move our feet in a direction in which we do not know the outcome. We must be willing to live in that state of ambiguity without guarantees.

That is the necessary risk-jump and every business or humanitarian effort has had to take. It started with one person willing to risk their own comforts in their own futures for the sake of a dream birthed in faith.

Don't give up because it is hard. Don't give up when it seems like you made the wrong choice. Don't give up when you feel discouraged, unsupported, neglected by those who have committed to serve.

Right around the corner is a break. Not all breaks are good ones but they all lead to increased clarity. That ultimately is what we're after. But we will not get there without a serious amount of determination.

*So we keep climbing. And we realize that the struggle for life is life itself. There is no better way to live, no greater use of our short time on earth, than to struggle on behalf of others with our gifts. There is nothing else to do.

Being Inspired (Part 4)

So what do we really know? What can we really prove? Who can we really impress with our cultured dialogue about coffee and fine foods? That’s what it comes about after a while. Can we “win” over the people with resources to us and our cause?

It’s very easy to fall prey to this scarcity mentality. Only a relative few hold all the resources and there is no way for me to get a hold of them...unless I play their games. The irony here is that all the attention gets put on the resources. People in scarcity mode forget what the resources are for, and whether they really need them in the first place. The beautiful thing about newer media outlets is that they remind us chasing the dollars may have missed the point.

The point is to get creative content to the people. Eventually there are costs to doing that (obviously) but keeping at the center that goal is key. That puts the artist in charge. Thinking only about the money it will take puts “the man” in charge.

It does NOT mean we decrease the size of our goals, in fact the opposite. Keep goals big, bigger than makes sense. Get to that edge where we can’t necessarily see the end to our dreams, but we also don’t fall into despair for lack of a next step. Plans don’t need to be elaborate 5-year indicators, at least not for the visionary. They need only to give us our next few steps. What is more important that plans are goals, outcomes, vision statements that describe what we long to see.

Then we have to start wrestling with that deep-seated enemy that raises the objection: “who are you to be thinking like this?” The real question is did we put those desires in there OR did we discover them? Is there something inherently “us” in them? If we can establish those desires were there than we have the perfect excuse for excavating them. We did not put them there. They were wired in at my birth as a distinct part of me. I am not at liberty to take them out of me without trying for them.

And besides that life is too short. We are here so little. We really don’t have time for all this whining and going back and forth. Either we go for it or we don’t. How are we going to make this world a better place? What is our mark? Some have wasted their precious opportunities ironically contemplating that very question. That is the beauty of the child or one lost in their curiosity. They do not even consider such things. They are mindlessly free to do what they love.

Their extreme focus is evidence that such questions do not drive nor distract them. Now, unfortunately, life happens and at some point we run into ourselves. Our existence forces itself upon us and such questions rise to the top.

Still, lose not the example of the enthralled child.

Be curious. Find wonder. Do the thing that lights you up. Shine bright like a diamond :-). Mind not anyone else. It is just you and the mortal reminder that this could be your last time to create.

The creative must be vulnerably open to the wounds of this world. We must be intensely aware of the suffering in and around us. We must feel the full weight of the burden of being human, with all its frailty and responsibility.

There is no doubt a seriousness to the work. Unlike a scientist or researcher, we do not go out with a certain premise in mind. We do not gather information to support a claim. Rather we simply go out and see what is really there.

That kind of painful honesty is the root of creativity. Out of those deep roots comes a special sort of longing, one intensely close to inspiration. It is related to the overall fatigue we feel when looking at the pervasive brokenness of the world.

Times of tragedy especially bring out this sense of otherworldliness, a connectedness with our ancestors (all those who have gone before us). The current world has little awareness or appreciation of such, which is in part responsible for the creative void.

The creative and the poet must dig around in our emotional dirt, connecting us to artifacts of our past world and reality. Our job is to remind people again and again there is meaning to life. We are not simply clogs in a machine.

We matter. Our work matters. Our thoughts matter. Our input matters. Our dreams matter. Our faith matters. In a world consumed with outputs (the external machine) we desperately need reminding that there is something more.

We need convinced again and again that there really is a greater power than survival. There is something higher on the human experience food chain than power and animal instinct. We are more than our survival. There is something higher.

In a word: love. Love will always be the soaring space for our imaginations. It will be the open invitation to see the world beyond survival, free tickets to the only show that can guarantee a quickening. It literally makes us more alive!

The choice to love may at times seem in tension with the pursuit of the creative. The overwhelming needs of the world will draw us into themselves. They may require of us action, dedication, commitment, time. We may be lured into them.

That is certainly not a bad thing but must be held in tension with our creative pursuits. It is NOT one or the the other, it is both. The creative pursuit is made better with the love, the love is made better with the creative pursuit - never in isolation.

Did the Beethoven's of the world have time to attend to the social needs around them? Was their greatest concern in life the next note of the their symphony? Certainly the masters had such single-minded fury that it may today border insanity.

But was their pursuit of the next note really bounded into the community and context to which they lived? In other words, was their music to them a social responsibility, not an tangental escape? Yes, yes, yes! Most assuredly the answer is yes!

Being Inspired (Part 2)

Being Inspired (Part 2)

Every great writer knows the key to great writing is the profound answer: one who writes. Those expecting some trade secret are deeply disappointed to find the lack of any silver bullet. Artists are simply people who don’t give up.

They keep doing whatever it is they do. It is not that they are particularly profound at it. It is simply the discipline they make to keep doing it. Day in and day out they do it. Eventually the rest of the world sees their tenacity as vindication.

And to do it well some have had to root out things that took control of their life. They have had to fight simply for the normalcy and frame of mind to do what they do. That’s why they are fighters. They have learned to fight off things.

They know how many things come against vision. They know how many things will come against the daily habit of committing to something. The average person will simply not have the will power to stick with something so profoundly.

Do we have the courage to do the mundane things necessary to get something off the ground. 90% of the work is simple, daily, checklist stuff that simply needs to get done. Little steps one by one by one...rolling the ball up the hill.

Leaders know that you push long enough on those details and against that ball pretty soon you are at the top of that hill. The ride down will be much different. There is nothing like that feeling of knowing you are almost to that edge.

Most people quit just about there. Before they can experience the fruits of their labor they stop. Seeds left to their own accord without proper care will not flourish. There is too much against a fresh root making its way healthily into this world.

Do I have what it takes? That is really the question isn’t it? Or that is at least what we think is the question. The question secretly assumes there is some magic formula to successful people. They have some special qualities I don’t have. Wrong!

Success is actually a matter of rather boring insignificance. Do I do the things day in and day out that “prove the sincerity of my love?” Do I actually do the activities? Do I honestly evaluate and take the next steps, however small?

It sounds like will power, or working harder than anyone else. Not really. It is not exclusively a work ethic issue. It is more about what Bill Hybel’s called “Grit.” It is the determination to continue in the face of adversity with face like a flint.

It embraces the conflicts necessary, it doesn’t try to resolve them. No matter what things come up it is not looking for cheap vindication. Adversity is not a “sign” that this is not the right thing to be doing. It proves it is!

It is focus. It is clarity. It is mindfulness. It is listening. To your own life. It is all built right into it. It is there. Inside us. Everything we need. We will need help interpreting, unlocking the mystery inside. That is one of life’s great challenges.

Being Inspired (Part 1)

Being Inspired (Part 1)

In the end what makes someone great is not ability or natural talent. It’s receptibility. If we have any sort of true definition of inspiration (something being “inspired”) then the shift goes from the person making the stuff to the spirit inspiring it.

We have all sat through novice performances of someone who definitely believed they were inspired but clearly (painfully) were not. They may have loved it dearly, but natural talent and grace were clearly missing. What of such people and occasions?

Were they missing the real voice of inspiration? Was it a bad spirit? Were they simply misguided and confused? Did they stubbornly refuse to hear correctly the actual truth (they were forcing it rather than receiving it)? Good questions.

Such exceptions are important to study but probably prove the rule more than break it. Inspiration finds its way to the right people. And the right people may not have the most talent and may at first be hard to believe are inspired. She picks who she will.

Over the centuries we can also think of a handful of people who became the right people for their generation without proper training or background in their area. They were exceptions to the rule that showed what mattered most.

What some call the “zeitgeist” is simply the ability to animate (or be animated) by the spirit of the age. Certain people are picked as mouthpieces for their time. Against all odds they make it to a place of authority or renown where their voice is heard.

Why them? Why their voice? We don’t know, except to say it seems like the forces of nature came together to make it happen. There is a sense of destiny, inevitability, mystery. God worked in them to get something across or done.

It almost seems there is a common thread of reluctance, or at least passive reception. Think of Jospeh. He had dreams. Yes. Vision? Yes. Passively received. David. He had ambition. Yes. Courage? Yes. Was not seeking to be king.

Those with too much specific ambition to get a certain category or recognition seem to be missing the point. Even if they do end up “winning,” what have they won? Not the hearts of the people. The people are attracted to the zeitgeist.

It’s why Youtube can’t support already-made-it celebrities. They have already “won” their prize, Youtube is essentially for people who refuse to play the traditional systems and can still, through perceived natural processes, win a category.

How someone succeeds matters to people today (far more than it used to). Their story is an inevitable part of their branding. People’s work is not taken at face value (think the local FW poet who used an Asian alias to get the same work denied published).

We have purists at every step of the way, checking not the credentials of our last name or pedigree (artifacts of the past), but making sure we did not get an unfair advantage. Content is not enough today, we have to have a story!