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Monday, November 30, 2015

Kahlil Gibran

Hope is an essential gift we have been given as human beings. Hope is the capacity for believing that tomorrow will be better. Without hope, we are wandering through a dark, desolate world. We are at the mercy of our fears and doubts. Hope allows us to see beyond the current trouble we are experiencing. In even our worst moments, we need to remember that life will get better. There is always light at the end of the tunnel, even when we can't see it.

As artists, writers and creative leaders, we need to believe that the next painting or the next poem will be our best. Hope keeps us writing, painting and acting in the face of self-doubt and failure. If we were to quit now, we would never know what was around the next corner or what opportunities lay ahead.

As creative leaders need hope because we live in a very negative, sometimes hostile world, that often does not understand or appreciate our creative work. I have been writing seriously for almost forty years and have yet to receive acceptance and recognition for the work I have produced. Another person might have quit many years ago, but I keep plugging away.

Do you have faith in your creative ideas? Your poems? Your stories? Your paintings? Your ability to become another person on stage? Do you have dark days when you want to quit and live a normal life? Hope keeps us going even when everything and everybody around us are telling us to give up — that we have no talent, no gift.

What keeps you going during those darkest of hours? Why do you believe in your ideas? Where does your hope come from? Don't give up. Keep dreaming. Keep hoping. Keep believing. In every winter you will find the flowers of spring.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Joye Moon

How do you begin your day? With a cup of coffee? A cold beer? With steak and eggs? Or a doughnut? Do you drag yourself out of bed wishing you could spend the day sleeping? Are you wide awake and full of energy?  Do you hit the snooze button again and again trying to steal a few more minutes of sleep? Do you sing in the shower and dance about the room?

While my wife and I are both early risers, we approach our mornings differently. She loves sound and light.  She turns on the TV so noise fills room.  She turns on the lights around the house chasing away the darkness.  I, on the other hand, prefer silence so I can give free rein to my thoughts.  Mornings are my creative time.  Ideas seem to spring out of nowhere.  I don't want to talk. I don't want any external noise disrupting my thoughts.  My thoughts are enough noise. We both are enthusiastic about the day, but approach it differently.

Some people get up in the morning and say: "Good morning, Lord. It is great to be alive!" They are full of energy and enthusiasm.  Other people get up and say: "O Lord, it's morning again." They start the morning in reverse and keep going backwards. Which person are you? Someone who appreciates each day she has been given? Or someone who finds no joy in living and finds fault with the world? 

How you begin your day can have a positive or negative impact on your creative work. Do you begin your day with meditation? Or prayer? Do you take a walk? Or lift weights? Do you eat a healthy breakfast or do you skip the most important meal of the day? 

Be thankful for every day you wake up. The alternative to waking up is being six feet under. Celebrate the day and give thanks for all you have been given. Every day is an enchanted gift — an opportunity to begin again.  Greet the morning with enthusiasm and hope.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Isaac Bashevis Singer

The world is in need of a lot of kindness today. Kindness must start one person at a time. I must first be kind to others before I can expect others to be kind to me. Am I kind to those around me? To family, friends and strangers on the street? How should I demonstrate my kindness? How do I show my caring? Can you be kind without loving the other person? What is the differences between love, caring and kindness? Or are they cut from the same cloth?

One of challenges we all face is accepting people who are different than ourselves. And I am not talking here about race, culture, religion or nationality. I'm talking about the little things that separate people. Is there someone in your life who talks too much or too little? Are there people who you perceive to be stuck-up or unfriendly? Do you dislike fat people or sloppy people? Is there someone in your life who is too organized or too thin? Do you think all poets are crazy and should get paying jobs like the rest of us? Do you not like the way someone combs his hair or the clothes he wears?

Are you gentle in your relationships with others or do you run over people like a Mack truck? Do you act like it is your way or the highway? When I read the life stories of artists and writers, I find some to be temperamental and self-centered as well as mean and cruel to those they love.  They abuse others. But my question is does it have to be this way. Can an artist or writer be kind and caring to the people in his life and still be a creative leader?  I think true strength comes in being gentle with others. 

As artists and writers, we often can be most abusive with ourselves. Our art never lives up to our expectations. The finished product is never as good as we saw it in our mind's eye. We should learn to accept the gifts that we have been given and not compare our work to that of other people. We are not them. We are each unique in the gifts that we have been given.  We need to be gentle with ourselves. 

Monday, November 9, 2015

Robert Persig

This is a lesson I learned many years ago when as a young man I set out to change the world.  I wanted to stop the war in Vietnam as well as end racism and poverty.  These were all lofty dreams, but ultimately unattainable.  I learned that to change anything, I must first change myself.  Change began at home and if I was lucky, I would be able to influence and impact a small part of the world around me.

Are you unhappy with your job? Begin by changing yourself — improve your skills, educate yourself. Are you unhappy with your marriage? Change yourself. No one is perfect. What are you doing that makes your spouse mad? Change it. Most married people set out to fix their spouse. You can't change your spouse. You must first change yourself. 

Are you dissatisfied with your creative work?  Do you need to improve your skills?  What can you do to become a better writer?  Artist?  Musician?  Do you need to increase the number of hours spend on producing creative work?  Do you need to overcome your fears and share your creative work with the world?

Another lesson I learned about change is that only you can change yourself. No one else can change you unless you are ready to change. Your parents cannot force you to change, though they will try.  Your boss cannot change you, though he may try.  Your spouse cannot change you, though she will try for years. Only you can change you. And you will only change when you are ready.  Other people can influence and inspire you, but only you can create the change that is needed within.

Once you master of the art of changing yourself, then maybe you can influence and inspire others to change.  Remember, though, that they will only change when they are ready. If you are unwilling to change yourself, forget about inspiring change in those around you.

What changes can you make in yourself today that will inspire and influence the people around you?  Are you ready to make the changes needed?  Are you willing to do the things it takes to make lasting change?  Only you can answer these questions.

A third lesson I've learned about change is that it requires commitment. People dream of changing their lives but usually they lack the deep commitment to do so. Change takes hard work and follow through. Nothing changes overnight.

Many in the American society expect instant change. Not happy with your body weight, take a pill or have surgery. Not happy with your wrinkles, have plastic surgery. Change takes commitment and patience. It is healthier to lose weight slowly rather than quickly.

Becoming a successful writer or artist doesn't happen overnight. It takes years of work and commitment.  Actors often are labeled an overnight success — a success which took ten or fifteen years. Harrison Ford, the actor, spent 15 years in Hollywood before he got the break in Star Wars that made him famous. Paulo Coehlo spent 15 years waiting for his best selling book, The Alchemist, to become a hit in the United States. Vincent Van Gogh sold only one painting in his lifetime and died broke. Creative expression is a lifetime commitment. Don't give up.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Wilma Rudolph

We all have dreams, things that we want to accomplish in our lives, but many of us give up too soon. We don't have the commitment to achieve what we dream of achieving. To be an artist in a world where you have to have a 9 - 5 job in order to pay the bills requires commitment. You have to get up earlier than everyone else or go to bed later than everyone else in your family. You have to steal minutes wherever you can to write, to draw, to paint, to dance. 

Sometimes we have to create in isolation, without contact with other creative souls. We have to force ourselves to write even when our body and mind is finding ways to procrastinate. Many of us don't have people in our lives encouraging us to create. In fact, we may have people telling us to get a real job. We have to be our own coach and cheerleader. We have to be willing to do what unsuccessful people are not willing to do? Have you the commitment to be a creative leader?

Discipline is one of the keys to being an artist or a writer. One needs to work every day. People often say: "I work when I am inspired." If you wait until you are inspired, you will be waiting a long time. If you work whether you are inspired or not, you will find that soon inspiration will become a constant companion. Work opens up the creative spirit and the inspiration flows. So my message is simple: work every day even if it is for only 15 minutes.

Success comes from work. Work when you are sad. Work when you are happy. Work when you don't feel like it. Work when you want to go to a movie. Our minds are very good at finding excuses for not working. "I have to do the dishes." "I have to wash the clothes." And the list goes on. Work takes discipline and will power. 

Since you have no boss but yourself, you have to hold yourself accountable. Schedule your hours when you are most creative and stick to your schedule. Maybe you write between 5 am and 6 am. Or if you have the luxury, schedule your work hours from 8 am to 5 pm with an hour off for lunch. Some writers write in the morning and do their research and marketing in the afternoon. You have to find the schedule that best fits your temperament.

Creative leaders sometimes struggle with discipline. They procrastinate. They know they should pick up the pen and write or pick up the paint brush and paint, but they find excuses. When you find yourself procrastinating, remember what you want. What is your dream? What is it you want to accomplish? Why are you here? Focus on your goals and you will have the discipline to do what you need to do.

We all have dreams and goals but many of us never achieve them because we have not mastered the art of self-discipline. I define self-discipline as sacrificing short-term pleasure for the achievement of long-term goals. If you want to be a novelist but you never seem to find the time to write, you will never write your novel. If you want to be a painter but spend your time partying with friends and not painting, you may never produce any great paintings. The arts require a lot of self-discipline. We need to be able to sacrifice the pleasure of the moment for the achievement of long-term success.

What are you willing to sacrifice for your creative work? What are you willing to give up? Life is never easy. There are many days when you will take one step forward and three backwards. Do you have the stubbornness to keep going even when you see very little light at the end of the tunnel?

The creative arts are not for the weak of will. The creative arts require commitment, persistence and self-discipline in the face of cold-hearted rejection. Do you have the self-discipline to stay focused when the world is screaming that you should quit and find a normal line of work? Do you have the strength to keep going when you have received 250 rejection letters? How long are you willing to wait for success? Two years? Five years? Ten? Twenty?