I’m preparing to speak at the TEDxABQED conference in January, something that has me bouncing like Tigger on his tail from the heights of excitement to the depths of anxiety. The TEDx process is a colossal creative endeavor. I attend the meetings-slash-workshops-slash-rehearsals and walk away each time humbled and energized by the people who work long and hard to create this experience. I count myself fortunate to be a part of it.
But “it” is bigger than the conference in January. The premise of TED is simple—“Ideas worth spreading.” It is an opportunity to share our ideas and passions and just maybe change the world in the process. I believe TED is successful not only because it shares these ideas, but because it taps into our core and connects us through storytelling. If you’ve never watched a TED talk, do yourself a favor and spend some time doing so.
I peruse the TED site often, and find a new favorite every time. Today, I came across this short 6-minute talk and I want to share. But I don’t want you to just watch it. I want you to continue the story. After watching the talk, tell me—what is one thing you want to do before you die? Comment here, or on my Facebook, and let’s create a public space in a virtual space.
So, these next few posts will be a joint venture between The Shaeman and Denise Hinson. We’ve been collaborating on a Sekrit Projekt that we will be unveiling over the next few months; however, we would like to give you a little glimpse into what we’ve been cooking up during this period when we’ve been more silent than we normally appear. Believe me, Shae’s enough of an extroverted attention whore that this apparent silence and inactivity has been gnawing at his very soul. Well, what’s left of it.
Once upon a time, we took a challenge upon ourselves, a 30-Day Challenge of our own design for our own doing.
Or maybe undoing.
I suppose time will tell which it will be. If we’re lucky–and I would argue we are very, very lucky– it will turn out to be a bit of both with generous tablespoons of bravado, wonder, and sheer terror mixed throughout. The 30-Day Challenge was simple: Spend the next thirty days being creative, spending as much energy as possible understanding, celebrating, embracing, and fostering a lifestyle of pure creative bliss. Oh, and journaling each step of the way. We didn’t realize what we were in for, nor did we realize that the Universe had its own plans. Plans that have more than once knocked the wind right out of us. We’ve certainly learned at least this important lesson:
We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the life that is waiting for us. – Joseph Campbell.
The challenge came about because we were finding ourselves immobilized in the mire of everyday punching in and punching out. To be two relatively bright people who write and speak about creativity and the pursuit of a creative life, we had become two of the most stifled human beings we’d ever seen. We were watching as our own lives became one giant sludge-ball of hypocritical mediocrity and complacency. Trust me on this: Sludge-balls of mediocrity are not pretty to behold, no matter how many tattoos they bear.
We talked at length some days about this immobility that was choking the creative light out of us. We were paralyzed. We were unable to move from the place we were to the place we wanted to be. We could see it, articulate it, envision it, dream it, but we were wearing concrete boots and sinking fast. We were the Jimmy Hoffa of Creativity – dying while we were selling ourselves out for convenience and comfort. Finally, we realized the things we were doing just weren’t working. As Einstein is often credited with saying, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” I call it smashing your head into a concrete wall and expecting the wall to crumble.
The main purpose of the 30-Day Challenge was to break the cycle of insanity we were both wallowing in before we did irreparable damage to the creative souls within ourselves. Our plan– we didn’t have one. All we walked into the challenge with was a desire to restore the creativity that was slipping away from us, to shatter the paralysis by any means possible.
One of the first steps we had to take was to look the Demon Paralysis in the eye and name it. Now, there are many types of paralysis, each wearing a different costume, like little punk Chitauri wanna-bes without the good looks. But looking at our artistic pursuits, we decided there were two we needed to address– Fear and Apathy. We recognized them pretty quickly. They wear the most garish costumes of all the Paralysis demons, these hideous get-ups in rancid purples and oranges, stripes and plaids, no sense of style at all. But at least you can see them coming. And to be fair, we could see Apathy is really just Fear wearing a hideous tie with polka dots.
Imitator or not, however, Apathy was the demon in charge of both of us. We were in a place of numb existence, unable to find the energy to even develop a healthy sense of Fear. That’s Apathy’s calling card– the total lack of fire in the belly. Before we could take on Fear we had to deal with Apathy. This was going to take small steps focusing on a single need–to reclaim ourselves as artists.
The 30-Day Challenge is still unfolding for us, but over the next few weeks we will share some of what we’ve learned. I will say this: when moving from Apathy to Activity, you have to be purposeful. You don’t simply wake up one day to find you are no longer apathetic. Apathy is the master of subtlety, but don’t mistake subtlety for impotence. Apathy is one of the most powerful forces in the universe – but not THE most powerful force. There are currents stronger than Apathy, and one just happens to be Activity. Wallowing in the sludge, we simply decided to move. Walk. Slowly. Steadily and with purpose, we walked.
This journey has been powerful and, as we learn almost daily, nothing happens by accident. Each step leads to more direction and understanding. Each moment of action builds a little more momentum that will eventually bring Apathy and its ugly tie to its knees. We can be apathetic no longer. These are our very lives.Read More
A couple of days ago as I was headed north on 4th street on my way to work, a bird landed on the road. He was…well, nondescript. Black. Bigger than a sparrow. Smaller than a breadbox. I noticed him because he landed in the middle of the road, out of the way of traffic. He was perfectly safe, but when he saw my car coming towards him, he turned his back to me and began hurrying away, only to realize another car was coming in the other direction.
In the short span of time it took for our cars to pass, that poor little guy spun around two or three times, unsure which way to go and, I’m sure, feeling quite panicked. And then, as if it suddenly occurred to him he had such power, he took a short leap, and was airborne.
I thought about that confused little bird the rest of my drive. The bird thought he was caught between two bad situations—my car, or the car coming the other direction. He did what so many of us do when we are confronted with a choice. We spin this way and that, making ourselves dizzy and usually submitting to whichever choice takes us by the hand first. Or we sit still with our eyes closed, unsure which way to turn until opportunity has passed and we are left exactly where we began.
Think about a single aspect of your life you want to change. Maybe it’s your job or your career or your home. Maybe you want a new car. Or a whole new life. What keeps you from making that change? What choices are presented that keep you like the little bird, spinning in your tracks, unsure which road is the right one? Maybe you feel you have no choice—
“I can’t quit my job. I have a mortgage to make.”
“I can’t pursue songwriting—there’s no time in my day to give it serious attention.”
“I have no choice but to…(fill in the blank)”
Whatever the response, one thing is certain. We always have a choice. Always. It may not be a choice we like, but this does not change the truth. So I ask you again—what keeps you from making the change you crave in your life? What if you DID quit that job? What if you DID choose to pursue your art? What if you DID just one thing that could change your life forever? Maybe your life would crumble in a heap around you. But maybe your life would be filled with a bliss you never even imagined.
Some choices are terrifying. Your parents and your friends warn you not to choose dangerously because they love you so very much and want you to be safe. They, as Ken Robinson says,
“Will collude with you and create a story that is hard to get out of.” *
A story that often begins not with “Once upon a time,” but rather with “I have no choice.” But what say you– will you choose to stay in that safe world, or take a chance on a life you dream of?
I’m not advocating everyone call their boss in the morning and say, “Hey, you know what, I choose to not come in today. Or tomorrow. Or ever again.” Although, I’d love to hear from you if you do. But how about this—make the choice to live life on your own terms. Choose to create a path into the forest of your own existence rather than following the one that has been cut for you. Choose to take small steps to move you from your current path stuck between two racing cars until you come to a point where you realize – or more accurately, remember—you can fly.
Whether you rip your life open or take measured steps, commit to this. Never again allow yourself to say “I have no choice.”
There is always a choice.
* quoted in Finding JoeRead More
The last three cards are finished. Tomorrow they will go in the mail to be returned to the Hispanic Cultural Center, and in a few weeks I will receive ten other cards from other artists. What a great project! I’m sad to see it end.Read More
Ok, so I haven’t done a really good job posting every day for the 40 Days of Blogging. BUT, I have been creative. Every single most of those days. A lot of the creativity comes in the form of the Tete-a-Tete cards I’m working on:
But in addition, I am working on a fabulous Sekrit Project with the formidable force that is the Shaeman. That’s all I shall say on that subject. For now.
So begins Spring Break. Nine glorious days of creativity in front of me punctuated with occasional forays into public spaces to deal with the intricacies of buying a house. But that’s another topic for another time.Read More
Not doing such a good job doing a blog a day, but I am busy creating. I’m currently participating in Tete-a-Tete Trading Cards, part of Women and Creativity 2012. Here’s my first, which likely will not make it into the final pile:Read More