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!

Being Inspired (Part 5)

“I only write when I’m inspired. Fortunately I’m inspired at 9 o’clock every morning” (ascribed to William Faulkner). This quote cuts through the magic of waiting around for inspiration to the daily habits required to make it visit.

The reality is that we have to have the vehicle from which inspiration can come. We can not expect it to wake us up out of bed or keep us up out of bed every time. Inspiration is not limited to times when we are jolted out of something else.

Often inspiration comes directly through our meager attempts to focus, to stay diligent, to work when we don’t feel like it. There is a difference between being an author and a writer. A writer is one who simply writes. They are not waiting around.

Songwriters write. But they also put to music. But they also make beats. They are uniquely musician + writer/poet. But even then the task is the same. Write. Play. Produce. There will be rhythms of writing, producing, performing.

Transitions between roles as a writer and performer can be tricky. The skills are totally different. One is completely internal, fiercely independent of outside human input. The other is by very nature external and dependent on human approval.

The writer who goes on a book tour must externalize in order to bring attention to his internalizations. He must book events which means garnering a some semblance of approval, or pre-approval from people in the business.

He must seek that approval, which means denigrating himself to the level of someone who cares what others think. In this process he humiliates himself. As the artist in isolation writing and creating there is no such pandering required.

But in all reality this part of the process is just as much a reality as any other. Unless the artist can to some degree embrace it he will remain in relative obscurity (which should be fine to one who really doesn’t care). But we do care!

And care we must. To enter the business side of our craft will require great attention, work, and creativity (some may argue as much as creating the art itself), but it is the proof of our care. It is where we actualize our intentions into plans.

Planning is hard work. Deep reflection can be agonizing. There are lots of ways to go with things. We must decide on one, at least to start. And starting is what is so critical. We can get stuck so quickly in being satisfied with creating alone.

In other words, once the project is done there is a dangerous point at which it goes toxic if we do nothing more. All the hard work and lead up to it are for nought. We end up sitting on it as if in creating alone our job is done.

It is not. We need to release our work to the world. That is humiliating. The chances for failure are high. We have no guarantees. That is the risk. But every committed entrepreneur knows there is always a way in and through every failure.

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 3)

Random things happen. No one in the world could predict how things happen and when. An old friend texts out of no where, an insight about what to do comes in a strange place, people talk about the same thing in totally different scenarios. All these things come together to make the backdrop called our context. They begin to paint a picture of our lives, full of hope and full of wonder. We are certainly not in control of making the stuff happen, but definitely are in interpreting it.

The creative takes full responsibility to connect the dots of all of life’s random. We are to reconcile things that others assume disconnected. We are to always be on the lookout for meaning, adjusting our pre-conceptions to reality. This constant adjustment to reality is really what being inspired is all about. We are fundamentally open to what the universe has to bring our way. We have no idea what is coming down the pike but we open ourselves to its necessity in our life. Not only in this world the real creative is also open to what is going on in other worlds. Some will certainly not assert or agree that there is a spiritual realm or element to life. Only what is visible, measurable, or in some way quantifiable is real.

This is typically in the current world the domain of science, though we have certainly drawn lines too thick to differentiate. Typically creatives are not gifted as much in this realm of study, measuring and studying what already is. We speak of the language of what can be, what is not yet seen, what could be. These future realities inevitably lead us into other worlds, to other realities. And to be sure, for most creatives there is a spiritual reality to these other worlds.

What is going on in these realities is hard to say. The creative process clearly draws us into something we are not always prepared to deal with. Unusual funks out of nowhere will seem ridiculous to others but we know it as the cauldron of creativity. The creative realizes they are not in charge of the process, nor are they in control of much at all. Their job is to access and interpret the randomness. They need to be fully open and fully aware of whatever is going on around their world. The creative of course mourns in tragedies and celebrates in successes but with a different eye than most. Each event is going into a resource bucket deep inside: metaphors, illustrations, emotions, priceless gifts of each.

This may seem cheap to some. Are we opportunists taking advantage of situations that allow us in? Are we exploiting emotions, using them (and possibly the people that bear them) to find a source of inspiration? No. That is the difference. The real creative does not go seeking through the carnage of human experience to find a quote. He goes in with eyes and heart wide open to feel and to help. Out of the natural experience of that come great insights and ideas into being human.

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!