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Monday, August 26, 2013

Elmore Leonard

"The writer has to have patience, the perseverance to just sit there alone and grind it out. And if it’s not worth doing that, then he doesn’t want to write."

Elmore Leonard
American Novelist / Screenwriter
1925 - 2013

Creative leaders need to be patient.  No one is born with writing skills or artistic skills.  These have to be learned which does not and will not happen overnight.  For some of us it takes years and for others we may never perfect our craft.   Beginning writers often ask their teachers and mentors whether they have talent.  They are asking the wrong question.  They should be asking:  do I have the patience to learn this craft.  Do I have the persistence to keep going when everything and every person is telling me to quit?

Writing and painting are not easy.  Are you willing to sit in front of a blank page or a blank canvas waiting for your muse to show up and inspire you?  Are you willing to write and rewrite until your brain is numb?  Are you willing to spend long hours working while your friends are out partying and having fun?  Are you willing to spend difficult hours creating something that you may never be able to sell or able to make any money off your labor?

The creative arts are only for the strong of spirit — those who are able to sacrifice the rewards of the moment for the possibility of opportunity sometime in the future.  The creative arts are only for those who are driven by some demon deep inside — for those who are unable to stop creating even in the face of a hostile world.

Creative Practice
Answer this question truthfully:  If I knew now that I would never be rich, famous or successful in my lifetime, would I still create?

Born in New Orleans, Leonard was the son of Flora Amelia and Elmore John Leonard, a General Motors executive.  The family lived in several places because of Leonard Sr's job.  They finally settle in Detroit in 1934.  Elmore Leonard, Jr. graduated from both high school and college in Detroit with a degree in English and philosophy.  Elmore spent 3 years in navy at the end of World War II.

Leonard's first job after college was as a copywriter for an ad agency.  He wrote stories and novels on the side, publishing his first story in 1951 in the Argosy.  He wrote westerns, mysteries and crime novels.  His short stories and novels have been turned into movies, such as Hombre, Get Shorty, Killshot and Freaky Deaky .

Here is Elmore Leonard discussing the story writing process.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Mayumi Oda

"Creativity is not a driving force.  It happens.  It creates itself and you have to be open."

1941 - 
Japanese Artist

What is creativity?  Can you define it?  Where does it come from?  Why do some people think they are not creative?  Why are others swimming in a sea of creativity?  Can we control our creativity or does it move to the beat of a different drummer?  Why is one person creative and another not?

Are you open to the creativity within your spirit?  Do you hear it calling you?  Do you follow it down the path to your heart?  We are dancers on the shores of hope, giving gifts to those who understand.  Creativity does not drive through the rain, but sits under the umbrella and listens to the silence between the drops.  Do you let it happen gently on the corners of your soul or do you force it through the keyhole of resistance?
Art by Mayumi Oda

How does creativity manifest itself in your life?  What forms does it take?  What rituals are you forced to follow?  Can you call up creativity at will or must you kneel in prayer hoping for it to return?  Does creativity drain you of your energy or does it fill your spirit with enthusiasm?  Does creativity dance on the winds of love or is it a tornado of destruction?  Does creativity possess you or do you possess it?

Does your cup overflow with creativity?  Or does it come to you in drips and drops?  Do you go for days or weeks or months without a creative thought?  Or do your thoughts drown you in a tsunami of creativity?

Creative Practice
This week define what creativity means?  Can you put it into words?  What does it mean to your life?  Has creativity ever stirred up trouble for you?  How do you encourage creativity in others?  

Art by Mayumi Oda
Mayumi Oda was born into a Buddhist family in Japan in 1941.  She graduated from the Tokyo University of Fine Arts in 1966.  She also studied traditional Japanese fabric dyeing which has influenced her art.  She has exhibited her art in over 40 one-woman shows throughout the world.  Her art is part of the permanent collections of Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

Oda paints images of goddesses including traditional images as well as those that she invents.  She is often described as a Japanese Matisse because of the color and free-flowing lines in her work.

Mayumi Oda has also spent many years as a global activist participating in anti-muclear campaigns worldwide.  Oda founded Ginger Hill, a farm and a retreat center on the Big Island of Hawaii. Oda hosts workshops and retreats at Ginger Hill.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Alex Haley

"The reality is that writing is a lonely, private and poor-paying affair. For every writer kissed by fortune, there are thousands more whose longing is never requited. Even those who succeed often know long periods of neglect and poverty. I did."

Alex Haley
American Writer
1921 - 1992


The path to financial success is never easy for writers, artists or actors. In fact, for every Stephen King, John Grisham, James Patterson, Paul Newman, Tom Cruise or Angelina Jolie, there are hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of creative people who do not make a dime from their writing, acting or painting. And for some, financial success may be short-lived — one movie, one song, one novel. So if you are in the game for money, you would be better off investing in the stock market or real estate. 

Creative work is not for the faint-of-heart. If you need people in your life, skip writing and painting. Enter theater, film or music which require group participation. Writing and painting are lonely pursuits that involve a minimum amount of people contact. Writers and painters spend long periods by themselves. Writers spend long periods in their own heads visiting worlds that do not exist and talking with people who are imaginary. Sounds crazy, doesn't it?

Creative Practice
Be sure that you are in the arts because you can't live without it. Does it keep your spirit alive? Does it restore your soul? Does it make you happy?

Alex Haley, the oldest of five children, was born in Ithaca, NY.  His father was a professor of agriculture.  When Alex turned 18, he joined the Coast Guard where he had a 20 year career.  While in the Coast Guard, Haley taught himself how to write stories.  After the Coast Guard, he began a career in writing.

Alex Haley interviewed Miles Davis and the article appeared in the September 1962 issue of Playboy.  Haley also interviewed Martin Luther King, Jr, Muhammad Ali, Sammy Davis, Jr., Jim Brown, Johnny Carson, Malcolm X and Quincy Jones for Playboy.  He also interviewed George Lincoln Rockwell, leader of the American Nazi Party.  

Haley's first book, The Autobiography of Malcolm X, was published in 1965 and by 1977 had sold 6 million copies.  In 1998, Time named it one of ten most influential nonfiction books in the 20th century.

In 1976, Haley published Roots, a novel based on his family's history.  His work on the novel involved ten years of research and writing.  The book was adapted for a popular television miniseries by ABC.

Here is a video of Alex Haley discussing Roots on the Merv Griffin Show (1977).

Monday, August 5, 2013

Henry Reed

"Everything we need to know can be found within us."

— Henry Reed
American Author/Teacher

Our society teaches us to look for answers to our problems outside ourselves.  We take pills, read self-help books, talk to psychologists and attend church in search of answers to what ails us.  We have not been taught how to listen to our own intuition.

Have you ever had a feeling that you should or shouldn't do something and you ignored it only to find out later that the feeling was accurate?  We have a lot of wisdom and knowledge within our hearts, but we have not learned to trust ourselves.  We, instead, believe that others are wiser and smarter than us because they are rich or on TV or in roles of authority.

Intuition is found in the heart, not the brain.  Intuition often defies the logic of the rational mind, and instead, comes from the heart.  We have been taught that the analytical mind is smarter than the intuitive heart.  We have been told the feelings get in the way of making a professional sound  decision.  In fact, we are often encouraged to ignore our feelings and our gut instincts.  

Listening to our intuition takes practice.  Not every feeling is accurate.  Sometimes we let our desires and our conscious mind color our listening.  Usually it is that very first feeling that is the most accurate.    Once the analytical mind enters the equation, the intuition is altered and changed.   Listening to your intuition is listening directly to your subconscious. You know the answers to many of your challenges deep inside.  You need to learn how to listen for the answers.

Creative leaders are often more in touch with their intuition, but even they need to learn to listen to what is said and trust what they hear.  As painters and writers, we make choices that involve our intuition.  Why did you create that character or use that color?  Many times we have no rational reason for what we do and that is okay.  We need to trust that somewhere deep inside we know whats best.

Creative Practice
This week practice listening to your intuition.  See if you can determine the real intuition from the logical mind pretending to be intuition.  Take to time to listen to your instincts.

The Intuitive Heart
In his book, The Intuitive Heart, Henry Reed teaches a six step process for listening to your intuition.

  1. Learn from your breath.  Focus on your breath.
  2. Make the heart connection.
  3. Invite a memory.
  4. Tell your story.
  5. Search the heart for wisdom.
  6. Learn from the feedback.

Henry Reed received a B.A. in Mathematics from Pomona College and a Ph.D in Psychology from UCLA.  He was an assistant professor of psychology at Princeton University and an assistant professor at Old Dominion University and a Professor of Transpersonal Studies at Atlantic University.   He has authored 8 books.

Here are links to some of Reed's article online.

Finding Your Mission in Life

Discoveries of the Intuitive Heart

Do Dreams Have Meaning?