Welcome! There are more than 900 Inspirational Quotes For Writers, Artists and Other Creative Leaders on this site.
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Monday, December 19, 2016

Gloria Steinem — Dreaming

Most of us underestimate the power and importance of dreaming — whether we are talking about day dreaming or sleep dreaming. Sleep dreaming is one of my favorite times, especially in the twilight world between being awake or being asleep. Dreams can feel so real and meaningful. 

Years ago I kept a dream journal where I would record my dreams. I have documented proof that I dreamed of marrying my wife a month before I met her. So I do believe that dreams can predict the future. I have experienced the excitement of possibilities. Dreams are small windows into our souls.

Day dreaming is a way to explore your options and to find the right path. Day dreaming helps creative leaders make decisions and take action. As Steinem says, day dreaming is a form of planning, a way of preparing for what is to come. Our minds are very powerful and we can see things with our mind's eye before they happen.

Have you ever gone to sleep thinking of some problem and woke up with the answer? You need to learn to harness the power of your dreams to help you creatively solve problems. You need to increase your involvement with dreams. 

My wife at a very young age discovered that she had the ability to consciously change her dreams. If she did not like where her dreams were going she would change them while dreaming. Today we call it lucid dreaming.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Irving Stone — Hunger

Many people treat the creative spirit as a luxury, something that is not needed to live life. And they are quite wrong. Creativity is a crucial part of living. If I did not have an outlet for my creativity, I would either go crazy or die. Creativity is at the very core of who I am. 

If I go too long without writing, without putting words on paper, I begin to feel a hunger growing inside me. I have a strong need to create, to produce something either through writing or drawing. It is as important to my life as water, air, food, shelter and companionship. Without it my spirit would shrivel and die. 

We all need food for the body and food for the spirit. Creativity provides the food for the spirit. Is your spirit growling with the need for creativity?

Monday, December 5, 2016

Francis Bacon — Mystery

Life is mysterious and full of questions with few answers. The job of the creative leader is not to provide the answers but to help his audience to explore the questions at even deeper levels. 

Life at its core is spiritual in nature. The artist connects the spiritual with the mysterious and fills the heart with joy. Our challenge as writers, artists and creative leaders is to reach deep within our spirits and share the magical mystery of the heart.

What spiritual questions are you exploring in your art? Your writing? Your acting? Your dancing? What is the mysterious hidden within your creation? What is the song sung from your heart?

Monday, November 28, 2016

Theodore Roethke — Being, not doing

I must confess that being is very difficult for me. For years I have been caught up in the culture of doing — setting goals and working to achieve those goals. I find it very difficult to sit and just be. I must at the very least doodle. If I go on vacation, it often takes me a week to relax and forget my day job. But I still feel I must be doing something. Write. Draw. Read. Produce something of value. Rarely can I just be.  I simply cannot sit and doing nothing.  My thoughts continue to flow.

How about you? Are you caught up in the culture of doing or have you learned like Roethke to enjoy just being?

Here is my favorite Theodore Roethke poem. I love the first three lines. This is a poem to be read out loud. Listen to the interaction of sounds.

The Waking

I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I feel my fate in what I cannot fear.
I learn by going where I have to go.

We think by feeling. What is there to know?
I hear my being dance from ear to ear.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Of those so close beside me, which are you?
God bless the Ground! I shall walk softly there,
And learn by going where I have to go.

Light takes the Tree; but who can tell us how?
The lowly worm climbs up a winding stair;
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Great Nature has another thing to do
To you and me, so take the lively air,
And, lovely, learn by going where to go.

This shaking keeps me steady. I should know.
What falls away is always. And is near.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

I learn by going where I have to go.

Monday, November 14, 2016

William Thackeray — Reflection

This is a very profound statement by the English novelist, William Thackeray. The world that we see is a reflection of ourselves. 

I tell a story in my seminars about a little girl who lives in the mountains with her parents. One day the little girl has a fight with her mother and she runs out of the house. When she reaches the edge of the cliff, she stops and yells at the top of her voice: "I hate you. I hate you." 

To the girl's surprise she hears a voice shouting back at her: "I hate you. I hate you." This frightens the little girl and she runs back into the house and tells her mother that someone out there hates her. 

Her mother realizing what happened tells her young daughter to go back outside and shout, "I love you." The little girl tiptoes back outside and nervously tiptoes to the edge of the cliff. She calls out: "I love you. I love you." Echoing back out of the valley, she hears the words, "I love you. I love you." 

 The message is quite clear: what we send out is what we get back.  What we expect to find in the world is what we find. If we think the world is a negative, hostile place where our enemies are seeking to destroy us, we will find examples to prove our world view.

If we think the world is helpful and supportive, we will find examples to prove our vision of the world. The world we see is a reflection of the person we are. Have you looked in the mirror lately? What kind of person do you see?

Monday, November 7, 2016

Linus Pauling — Curiosity

Are you curious about the world around you? Are you searching for new information and ideas? Are you asking questions and looking for answers? Are you challenging the status quo? Do you doubt what people accept at truth? 

Do you question the world around you? Do you ask: why? how? when? where? Do you challenge the assumptions of others? Do you challenge your own assumptions? Do you challenge your beliefs? Do you question your habits? Or do you simply accept what was taught you? 

Do you accept without question the statements of experts? Do you question what you read in the newspaper or hear on television? Are you willing to think differently than those around you? Do you hang out with people who think like you do? Or do you surround yourself with people who think differently than you?

Creative leaders seek out new ideas and new ways of seeing the world. We need and want answers to our questions. Part of our thrill in life is learning something new — figuring out something we didn't know.

Creative leaders need a strong sense of curiosity about the world they inhabit. They should not satisfied with the pat answers of the past. The challenge is in finding new answers to some of the age old questions.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Anwar el Sadat - Fear

Many years ago I read these words in In Search of An Identity, the autobiography of Anwar el Sadat, President of Egypt from 1970 to 1981, and since then I have been sharing his words with my audiences in my motivational speeches on leadership.

Fear is a powerful tool for destroying the soul of a person and the spirit of a creative artist. Rulers have used it for centuries and so have parents. "You better behave or the bogeyman will get you."

Ask yourself what you are afraid of? What fears control your actions? What fears are holding you back? Are you afraid of snakes? Heights? Success? Math? A blank piece of paper? Silence? A blank canvas? The neighbor's dog?

In 1972 I was traveling through the western United States and decided to visit a mentor from my childhood who was living in British Columbia, Canada at the time. Ernie was a lumberjack turned minister and missionary.  He had been the camp director of a Bible camp that I had attended every summer from the age of ten until high school.  He was physically a very strong man.  He could grab a pole with both hands and raise his legs in the air until they were parallel with the floor much like a flag.

I spent a couple of weeks with him in the Canadian Rockies.  One time he took a group of us on a two-day canoe ride on a large lake.  I saw from a distance a grizzly bear fishing for salmon.  On our way home we encountered fog and lost our way.  After going in a circle a couple of times, Ernie stopped the canoes and asked us to bow our heads in prayer.  Despite his strength, Ernie knew that he could not let fear conquer him so he turned to God, the one source of strength that he knew.  

Creative leaders must learn to shake off the chains of fear. Fear can prevent us from taking risks, trying new ideas, exploring new ways of thinking. Each of us must find the courage to do what we desire to do despite our fears.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Robert Henri — Education

I believe that each of us is in charge of our own education. We choose what we want to learn and what we don't want to learn. Even in the best of schools, students fail because they don't apply themselves. And in the worst of schools, students still graduate and go on to accomplish great things. Yes, a teacher can inspire you and mentor you, but in the end you are responsible for your own education.

And I believe learning is a life-long process. When a person stops learning, he stops living. What are you doing to further your education in your chosen field? What are you exploring outside your field of expertise? When was the last time your read a new book? Or talked to a stranger? Or developed a new habit?

This past June I attended a 3 day workshop on the art of Zentangle in Providence, Rhode Island.  I had been studying Zentangle by reading books since 2012.  The workshop increased my understanding of the unique art form in ways I am only beginning to understand.  Books sometimes can take you only so far.  You need to experience and explore the subject in other ways.  
Zentangle #221

A few years ago,  I met a minister who had lived for fifteen years in Japan. I learned about his life as a minister and living in Japan. He shared how he had witnessed the cremation of a dead person. The Japanese custom is to wash the body and then have it cremated. The family gathers at the crematory to witness the burning of the body. Then the family is given a portion of the ashes and bones in a small box and the remainder are buried in the ground. I learned something new by listening and asking questions.

Creative leaders need to be constantly learning new things. What have you learned recently that you can incorporate into your writing or painting or acting?

Monday, October 17, 2016

Marquis de Vauvenargues — Great Thoughts

The heart is powerful, intelligent and intuitive. Most of us have been taught that our intelligence resides in our brain, but this is only partially true. Logical and analytical thinking occurs in the brain. Intuitive, sensitive and compassionate thinking occurs in the heart. 

 Often, though, we let our brain override our heart. We need to learn to listen to voice of our heart as it reveals a deeper truth. Reason may dominate our thinking, but compassion should govern our actions. While the brain is busy analyzing the options, the heart knows intuitively what road to take.

Years of experience have taught me that my heart knows the answer often before the brain has finished its analysis. I have learned that it is better to trust the small voice inside my heart then the loud voice inside my head. Do you trust your intuition? Are you listening to the voice within your heart?

Monday, October 10, 2016

Walter Inglis Anderson — Risk

Life is about taking chances. Risk is a key part of success. And, I think, most creative leaders understand this. The very nature of creativity is risk taking. In order to create something new, we have to break down old patterns and rebuild in a different way. But if we are being honest with ourselves, we must admit that we do not take risks in every area of our lives. 

I, for one, will not risk my financial stability and security. I am an intellectual risk taker. I will explore new ideas and new ways of thinking. I will question my beliefs and those of others, but I am not an entrepreneur. I will not gamble the financial security of my family and myself. I will take risks with my writing and my art, but I won't risk my relationships with my family and friends.

Where do you draw the line? What are you not willing to risk? I am not willing to risk my money. If I gamble at a casino, I am only willing to lose five dollars. I work too hard for my money to throw it way.

Anderson is right. The most difficult risk is being honest with ourselves, admitting our failures and our weaknesses. What are your blind spots? What are you not willing to admit to yourself or to others? What do you want to keep hidden from the world? It takes courage to be honest with yourself. To face your fears and failures and honestly assess your weaknesses.

Monday, October 3, 2016

George Washington Carver — How far will you go

One of challenges we all face is accepting people who are different than ourselves. And I am not talking here about race or culture or 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 whom you perceive to be stuck-up or arrogant? 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 and artists are crazy and should get a job that pays a salary? Do you not like the way someone combs his hair or the clothes he wears?

As George Washington Carver points out, we are all human. We have all been young and if we live long enough we will all grow old. What people who complain about growing old don't realize is that the alternative is dying young. Now the interesting idea in this quote is that we need to be tolerant of both the strong and the weak. And it is easy to see the importance of being tolerant of the weak, but why the strong? I think the reason we need to be tolerant of the strong is because they also make mistakes. We have a tendency to put people on a pedestal and then knock them off. We don't like it when our heroes are too perfect. We prefer them to have clay feet so we can knock them down.

As writers, artists and actors, we sometimes put other actors, writers and artists on a pedestal and become disappointed when they don't live up to our expectations. We need to become more accepting and tolerant of our peers, mentors and teachers. We are all human and we all make mistakes. The message is simple: judge not others.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Sara Teasdale — From the Heart

Do you listen to your heart?  Our most original creative work comes from the heart. The heart produces work that is more authentic than work produced by the analytical brain. Analytical stories and poems often fail to connect with the hearts of the readers and leave them wanting. Creative work that does not come from the heart can be cold and uncaring. You will do your best work if it comes from your heart.  So listen to your heart.  


by Sara Teasdale

What do I owe to you
Who loved me deep and long?
You never gave my spirit wings
Nor gave my heart a song.

But, oh, to him I loved,
Who loved me not at all,
I owe the little open gate
That led through heaven's wall.

(Originally published in Poetry, March 1914.)

Monday, September 12, 2016

Harley King — Tomorrow

During a conversation with a colleague this week, she asked me in jest: "What is the meaning of life." I responded with the first thing that came into my mind: "The sun will rise tomorrow."  And we both laughed.

On the surface, this appears to be a mundane, boring observation about the obvious. We all know the sun will rise tomorrow so we never give it any further thought.  We sometimes become so caught up in the stresses, challenges and problems that vex our daily lives that we act like the world is coming to an end. What we often forget is that tomorrow is a new day filled with new opportunities. 

In my 67 years on this planet, the sun has never failed to rise.  Now, I may not have been able to see it  on some days because of the clouds, but I knew it was there. This may seem like a simple observation, but it is filled with wisdom. If we choose, each new day is an opportunity to begin again. Every time the sun rises, we are given a chance to try something different — to find another path.

Have you ever sat before a blank piece of paper and had no idea what to write?  Have you ever stood before a blank canvas and had no idea what to paint?  Do you remember your frustration and maybe even anger?  Have you ever spent a few hours writing or painting and felt that your work was worthless? Have you ever wanted to give up and quit?  Remember that today will simply pass into history and tomorrow will be a brand new day that offers the opportunity to start again.

So tomorrow, give thanks for the sunrise and shout, "Good morning, world!" from the roof tops.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Henry Moore — Observation

How much is your art connected to nature? Do you spend time observing the shapes and patterns within nature? Do you study nature and learn from it?

When I spent seven years writing and studying haiku, I spent time connecting with the physical world around me — listening to nature. I would take walks and write haiku. Even those of us who live in cities are a part of nature. Here is a haiku that I wrote while walking around Chicago.

downtown Chicago
a squirrel buries apples —
warm autumn sun

As creative leaders, we must look for inspiration in nature whether we write novels, paint abstract paintings or compose music. Nature has much to teach us about ourselves and the world in which we live. Watch the rabbits playing in your backyard. Enjoy the beauty of a sunset. Take a walk and feel the snowflakes on your cheeks.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Carol Emshwiller — Change the World

Sometimes as creative leaders, we hope we can change the world — to make it a better place for everyone. Unfortunately, our vision of what we want the world to be and what it actually is rarely match. And even the most powerful people can not change the world to fit their vision. We can have an impact on the lives of some people and can alter the small corner of the universe where we eat and sleep. Maybe as Emshwiller suggests, we need to lower our sights. If I touch one heart, changed one life, I have made a powerful difference.

If I want to influence the world that I inhabit, I must first change myself. As creative leaders, we must work on becoming who we need to become before we can change those around us. It is very difficult to change someone else. Husbands and wives understand this. Those who learn to accept their spouses for who they are will be happily married. Those who spend all their time trying to change the behavior of those they love, often end up bitter and angry.

Change is something that we enjoy when we are the ones who initiate it. If someone else tries to change us, we put our foot down and refuse. As creative leaders, our art, writing and music can touch people's lives and inspire them when they are ready to hear and see. We all plant seeds and yet, we may never hear if the seeds grow and bear fruit. So we must hope that we have inspired a few.

What do you want or need to change in yourself?  What steps are you taking to change your behavior?  What are you doing to transform yourself into a better writer or artist? How will you be different tomorrow than you are today?  It is never to late to change your habits, your hopes and your dreams. Start today.

Monday, August 15, 2016

William Baziotes — The Process of Creation

Evolution is the way a poem happens for me. I don't know what the poem is about until I'm finished writing. The poem evolves as I write. I know there are writers who outline everything they do. They know what they are going to write every step of the way. For me, it does not work. I like not knowing. The excitement is in the writing. The same thing happens when I write a story or a novel. Only at the end do I know what I was writing about.  And even then I might not be sure.

When I travel I am the same way. I want to discover new places. My wife and I once were on a trip with another couple. They had everything planned down to the minute and became upset if we deviated from the plan because it put them behind schedule. I can't travel that way. The joy is in the discovery.

Art for me is also about discovery.  When I draw a mask, I never know what a mask will look like until I am finished.  The joy is in the process of creation. The joy is in not knowing where you are going. 

Zentangle 2016
I have been studying Zentangle, a meditative art form, for the last four years.  A basic principle of Zentangle art is that you don't plan your work.  The fun is in the exploration — of discovering where you should go.

One of the things I have learned over the years is that creative leaders have many different ways of working. What works for one person does not work for another. How do you work? Do you map out your story in advance of writing it? Do you know what your painting will look like before you start painting it? Are you confined by the expectations of yourself or others?

Monday, August 8, 2016

Harley King - Heroes and Stories

Are you the hero of your story? Or are you the victim? We all have faced challenges in our lives and we have struggled to overcome difficulties. We have people who seek to hurt us and cause us harm. Have you found the strength to share your story of triumph and victory over the pain? Or are you still dwelling in a past of unhappiness? Maybe it is time to retell your story with you as the hero. Maybe it is time to celebrate your healing.

Our stories are not new.  Others have tread the same path and faced the same challenges.  The difference is in the details. The difference is in our memories. Share your memories and the details that make your story unique. Share what is special about your story.

The fact that I have been fired five times in my career is a part of my story. Yet, I have risen from the ashes of failure to find new paths. I have used my failures as opportunities to grow and change. I have overcome the pain of loss. I have become the hero, not the victim.  I have been employed by the same company for the last 28 years.

The fact that I was diagnosed with prostate cancer is a part of my story.  Yet, today, ten years later, I am cancer-free.

The fact that editors have rejected my poems is a part of my story.  Yet, I did not let the rejection stop me from writing.  I chose to keep writing and have now written over 5,000 poems.  And I still write and rewrite my story.  I celebrate my story. 

What stories are you telling? Are you the hero?  Or the victim? Is it time to rewrite your story?

This entry marks the 950th post to this inspirational blog filled with positive quotes and comments. I have written every week for six years, beginning with my first entry on August 7, 2010.  The first two years I posted a daily entry. During the last four years I have posted weekly. I am writing and rewriting my story.
First blog post: August 7, 2010

Monday, August 1, 2016

Tom Robbins — Options

Many artists and writers dream of becoming successful.  They believe they will be happy when they have a best seller on their hands.  Be careful what you wish for.  When you are an unknown writer or artist, you are free to explore new genres or avenues of thinking without anyone criticizing you. When you are successful, you can become boxed in by the expectations of others and your options to explore new genres becomes limited. 

One of my favorite mystery writers, Walter Mosley, has tried on occasion to write novels outside of the genre of mysteries and these novels have never been as successful as his Easy Rawlins novels

 I once talked with Denver Pyle, a Hollywood character actor for most of his career. He said that his role as Uncle Jessie on the Dukes of Hazard negatively impacted his ability to be cast in any other roles. He was typecast as Uncle Jessie. 

Sometimes we as creative leaders become trapped by our own success and are unable to reinvent ourselves. Ricky Nelson speaks of this trap in his song, The Garden Party.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Carl Rogers — Paradox of Change

Have you ever had a desire to change who you are?  Have you ever dreamed of waking up and being somebody different?  That is one of the fun things about being a novelist or an actor.  Novelists and short story writers can become the characters inside the stories they tell. I once wrote a short story, Bath Day, in which I inserted my real self as a minor character seen through the eyes of the main character.   Actors take on the character of others.  They play heroes and villains.  They experience death, love, sorrow and laughter in the skin of imaginary characters.

Most of us have struggled with our self-identity. We may not like our physical looks or the bill-paying work that we do or the fact that we have grown old. We may think that we are poor husbands, wives or parents.  And yet, if we learn to accept who we are and what we have done, then we can begin to change into who we want to be.

Have you ever tried to change your habits? Stop smoking? Lose weight? Start exercising? Learn another language? Leave the toilet seat down? Some people say it takes 21 days to form a new habit. Personal change is never easy. We need to learn to be more forgiving of ourselves and those with whom we share our lives. None of us are perfect. And if change is difficult for us, don't you think it is just as difficult for those you love. Learn to be gentle with yourself and those you love.

Monday, July 18, 2016

William A. Ward — Humor

Are you able to laugh at yourself and the circumstances you find yourself in?  Life has a tendency to throw you off balance and unless you are able to laugh, you will surely cry.  Laughter gives us balance and a way to cope with the challenges we face.  

Many of us take ourselves too seriously. We need to learn to laugh at ourselves. We all make mistakes. We all screw-up. When we learn to laugh at our mistakes, we begin to heal the pain. None of us are perfect, even those of us who try to be. For years perfection has been one of my goals whether I was speaking or writing and I have had to learn a hard lesson that it is okay to make a mistake. I have had to learn to relax and to laugh at myself. In fact, mistakes make us better people, more human.

Have you laughed today? In these crazy times (and when have they not been crazy?), we need to be able to find humor in the absurdity of living or we will quickly lose perspective. We will fail to see the forest. Laughter and humor are essential for maintaining one's sanity in a difficult, confusing and chaotic world.

Some of the best humor is what I call spontaneous humor.  This is humor that is not planned.  This is humor that rises spontaneously out of the situation and it can't be conveyed to others.  This is humor that you have to have been there to grasp it. 

Are you able to find the humor in difficult situations?  I challenge you to keep a humor journal where you record funny things that happen to you.  And on those days when you feeling down, pick up your journal and relive those laughs.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Brianna King — Second Chance

How many times a day do you think of yourself as a failure?  How often do you throw your creative work in the trash? Maybe it is time to learn the art of imperfection.  Too many of us strive to be perfect. Perfection cannot be achieved.  Even the best works of art have mistakes.

In Japan, some craftsmen practice the art of 500-year-old art of Kintsugi which involves repairing broken ceramic pieces with a lacquer that is mixed with gold, silver or platinum.  We should not simply throw things away because they are broken or imperfect.  We need to find the beauty in the imperfection.  We need to celebrate imperfection.  Our imperfections are what make us unique and special.  Without our imperfections, we would not be who we are.

So, the next time that you want to wad up your writing and toss it in the waste basket, don't. Put it aside and come back to it on another day.  Learn to find the good within your creative work.  Learn to celebrate the imperfections. Honor your mistakes.

Here is a video that provides more background on the philosophy and history of Kintsugi.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Katharine Graham — Love What You Do

Do you love what you do? Do you love to paint? Do you love to write? Do you love to act? Do you love to draw? What is your passion? If you do not enjoy writing or singing or painting, then maybe it is time to get out of the creative business and find something you love to do. The creative world is difficult and if you don't have fun being creative, you will feel like you have been hit by truck.

What we as creative leaders do is very important. We touch people's lives and help them feel better about themselves. We solve problems and show the world a better way. We bring beauty and new ideas into the world. We help people escape their mundane worlds for a short time. We inspire people to be better than they are. We give hope where there is none. We help people visit new worlds and experience new places.

Celebrate the creative work that you do. Be proud of the creative work that you create. Appreciate your accomplishments and achievements even when others don't recognize your talent. Be happy with who you are.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Certified Zentangle Teacher

I am now a Certified Zentangle Teacher (CZT). I attended a 3 day workshop in Providence, RI, last week and am now certified to teach Zentangle art. People learn to draw abstract patterns using black ink on white tiles. Zentangle practice is a relaxing and meditative form of art.


Here are some examples of my recent creations.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Jim Rohn — Discipline

We all have dreams and most of us never act on our dreams.  We find excuses and reasons why we can't do something.  We focus on all the obstacles we see in front of us.  Dreams may inspire us to act for a day or two, but it takes discipline to keep writing and painting.  And this goes for successful writers and painters as well as beginners.  

I have read stories of successful writers and painters who stop working.  The first book or two made them a celebrity and they never finish the next book.  They get caught up in the celebrity of being a writer.  Being a creative leader requires discipline to sit down at the computer, to stand at that easel, or to sit at the piano.  

Do you have the discipline to accomplish your dreams?  Do you rise before everyone in your family so that you can spend an hour or two working on your art?  Or do you stay up after everyone else has gone to bed?  Do you do what many others only dream about?  

Creative leaders can become easily sidetracked by the next creative thought or the next creative idea. We are attracted to the energy within new creative ideas. It is a emotional high and can be addictive. If we are not careful we will jump from one idea to the next and never finish what we have started. Creative leaders must master the art of self-discipline if they are to be successful.

Are you struggling with your dreams or have you mastered the art of self-discipline? Do you procrastinate and never finish what you start or do you bring your projects in on time? Do you let the pleasure of the moment keep you from doing the work you were meant to do? Do you let the joy of new ideas get in the way of completing your work? Remember self-discipline is the key to your success.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Samuel Taylor Coleridge - Advice

As creative leaders, we all receive advice — some good, some bad, and some dangerous.  Be careful of who you listen to.  The wrong advice can be damaging to your emotional and mental health as well as your creative output.  Good advice can keep you on track and motivated to keep producing creative work.  Dangerous advice is that which keeps us from fulfilling our potential.  We give up because some expert says we will never amount to anything.  

As creative leaders, we are also tempted to give advice.  Be careful.  The wrong advice can destroy a potential artist or writer.  I learned a valuable technique from a trainer many years ago.  He said if you are coaching someone on skill development, you should ask them two questions:  What did you do right?  and What will you do differently next time.

Most people know when they made a mistake or messed up, even if they don't consciously admit it.  And when they write or paint something, they are very critical of themselves.  So get them to focus on what they did right?  Have them focus on the good things.  Then ask them what they will do differently the next time they write a story or paint a picture?  Get the person to focus on how he can improve.  

Monday, June 13, 2016

Jack London — Inspiration

What inspires you? What motivates you to create? What moves your spirit? I often find my inspiration in nature. Maybe a lone tree in a field. Or a full moon rising slowly above the horizon? Maybe it is a butterfly fluttering about the yard on a warm afternoon. Or a snow-covered cornfield with the stalks popping through.

If you wait for inspiration, you may never find it. You must seek it out. You must chase it through the fields. Maybe it is buried beneath a rock. Or hiding in a bird's nest. Or lost in a raindrop.

Sometimes inspiration sneaks upon you when you are working and catches you by surprise. Sometimes it invades your dreams and you wake up with the answer to your problems. When you pretend that inspiration is not important, it will dominate your soul.

Consider inspiration as a friend who comes and goes at all hours of the day and night bearing gifts that will delight you. When you open the gifts offered by inspiration, be not frightened by what you find. Cherish the madness that inspiration bestows upon you. Taste the sadness when it leaves you naked and exposed to the elements.

Kneel before the altar of inspiration and pray that you will survive the dangerous journey. Catch fireflies and offer them as a sacrifice to the gods of inspiration. Dance with the goddess of inspiration and steal her beauty. Offer a prayer of thanksgiving for an opportunity to taste of the nectar of the gods.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Muhammad Ali — Growth

Life is about change and growth as individuals and as writers and artists.  If we think the same thoughts at 50 that we did at 20, we have failed to grow and mature in our thinking. We have wasted our time here on this earth.  If we paint the same paintings or write the same stories at 50 that we did at 20, we have failed to grow and develop our skills. We have wasted the precious gifts we have been given.

I am much more accepting of life today than I was when I was 2o.  I now take the long view and realize the world will go on long after I have left this world behind.  When I was eighteen, I thought the world was about to end.

How have you changed?  What have you learned? What did you learn yesterday?  What do you still need to learn?  Have you stopped growing?  Are you simply existing — waiting for the end to come?

In the summer of 1966, I saw Muhammad Ali standing on a street corner in downtown Chicago.  He was 24 years old and I was seventeen.  He was already a world champion boxer and I was a teenager from a small farming community just beginning to engage with the world. He had already refused to be inducted into the armed forces and was stripped of his title.  My first protest march was two years away.

More than 30 years after I saw Muhammad Ali, I met one of his daughters at the restaurant she owned in a suburb of Chicago.  I was there to give a speech on the privilege of service. Life had come full circle.

Life is about the people who cross our paths, the relationships that we choose to develop and the memories we acquire.  Life is about growth, learning and change.  Thank you, Muhammad Ali, for what you gave the world of yourself and what you taught us. 

Monday, May 23, 2016

Beverly Pepper — Fallow Fields

Farmers understand that they have to leave the fields fallow some years. The soil needs a rest and an opportunity to rebuild itself. If they planted corn every year, they would deplete the soil of its nutrients eventually. 

Artists, writers and creative leaders are going to have good days and bad days. The bad days are a way of restoring the creative energies to our spirit — of making us whole again. Work every day but understand that some days you will be producing weeds and other days you will harvest the corn.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Edwin Hubbell Chapin - Forgiveness

As creative leaders we often face rejection. People ignore our paintings. Editors reject our writing. Critics criticize our work. How we respond to this rejection is a indicator of our character. 

When I was in sixth grade I was asked to be the reporter for our class news in the local newspaper. The criticism I received was that I needed to tone my writing down because it was too much like advertising. I was so deeply hurt that it was years before I picked up a pen and began to write again. But those articles foreshadowed a later career in marketing and advertising where I did actually write ads.

I have been reading the biographies and memoirs of Presidents for several years now.  Even these great leaders had a hard time overcoming criticism and forgiving their critics.  Both Harry S. Truman and Dwight D. Eisenhower felt slighted by the other.  Richard M. Nixon felt slighted by JFK and LBJ and even Eisenhower on occasion.  Nixon's failure to forgive his enemies and his critics led in part to his down fall and resignation.

How do you handle criticism? How do you respond to rejection? Many years ago I submitted two haiku to two different magazines accidentally. The reason I found out is that they both were returned on the same day. The first letter I opened was a rejection slip and it hurt. When I opened the second envelope, I found the haiku was accepted for publication. I learned a valuable lesson that day. There will always be rejection, but there will also be acceptance. Don't focus on the rejection; focus on the acceptance. Editors are fickle and rejection often has nothing to do with you. It has to do with the editor's editorial needs and his personal taste.

Maybe it is time to take a look at your life.  Who do you need to forgive?  What criticisms and rejections are holding you back from success?  What pain and injury must you forget?  What we spend our time thinking about is who we become.  Are you so busy reliving the slights and rejections of the past that you fail to enjoy the present?  Life is too short to dwell on what we can't change. Forgive and move on.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Andre Gide - Truth

Great novelists understand that truth is neither black nor white.  The best characters are filled with shades of gray.  Black and white characters are boring and leave little to the imagination or the heart.  As readers, we connect most with the characters who are conflicted and whose behavior is neither purely evil nor purely good.   The best stories communicate the nuances of the human soul.  

When it comes to the interactions of human beings nothing is black and white. You can always find some gray. Every person has some good in him as well as some bad.  For me, very little truth is black and white. Most truth, if not all, has various shades of gray. No human being has a monopoly on truth. We all make mistakes. 

Yet, many people choose to see the world as black and white.  They quickly choose sides and set up barriers which give rise to conflict.  Sometimes writers and artists fall into the trap of seeing the world as black and white: "Only our style of art is good. Everything else is bad." For much of the 20th century artists moved away from realism and adopted cubism, abstract expressionism, surrealism and magical realism. Realism became a negative word. In writing, we have literary novels and the genre novels. Mysteries, science fiction, fantasy and romance novels are considered by literary snobs not to be as good as the literary novels.

I grew up in a church where congregations would split up over such simple things as whether men should wear clothes with buttons or the fish and hook. The fights between the groups of people occur because each group believes they have cornered the market on truth. They probably agree on 95% of the issues, but they allow the five percent to divide them. They don't see the gray because they are blinded by the black and white.

Who in your life are you separated from because you each think you own the truth? A story does not just have one or two sides. It has thousands of sides. Nothing is black and white. Everything is gray. Break down those black and white walls today and gather those you love in your arms.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Franklin D. Roosevelt — The Thrill of Creativity

Creativity is not limited to writers, artists and musicians.  Anyone can be creative if they open themselves up and listen to the ideas inside.  Who has not had a better idea about something?  There are creative business people who have new ideas about how to do something better.  There are creative doctors who develop better ways to treat patients.  My dentist has developed 12 products that he has sold on the market. Unfortunately, some people bury their creativity deep inside.  They even announce loudly to those around them: "I don't have a creative bone in my body."  We all have the potential to be creative if we allow ourselves the opportunity.

Creativity is one of the most thrilling acts that we as humans can participate in.  If you have ever experienced the excitement of chasing a new idea or exploring a new way of seeing the world you will understand what Roosevelt is saying.  Some people might say that Roosevelt was not creative.  He did not produce any great works of art.  His creativity lay in his ability to change the way he and others saw the world.  The ideas that rose to the surface during his Presidency dramatically changed life in the United States and around the world.  People today are still trying to understand the impact of the changes Roosevelt created in our society and our politics.  Roosevelt was a creative leader.

What are you doing to cultivate creativity in your life?  Give yourself the freedom to look at the world in new ways.  See the world in ways that others don't.  Don't accept things as they are.  Question why?  Creativity is not about technique.  It is about seeing the world in new ways.  

Monday, April 25, 2016

Bernie Siegel — Hope

As a young writer, hope is one of the few things that kept me going.  I would read a story about someone who was 50 or 60 or 7o and he had just published his first novel.  After years of toiling in the salt mines of writing, he found success.  These stories inspired me to keep writing.  I had hope that one day I would be discovered and become successful.  Even today I have that sense of hope, that belief that one day I will be proved right.  Yes, I am a writer.

When we lose hope, we give up on life.  We quit.  Some days all we have is hope.  As the old saying goes: every dark cloud as a silver lining.  We just have to find it — to look at the world with new eyes.  To see the butterfly in the midst of chaos.  No matter how dark the night, there is always a sunrise.  Everyone faces challenges and difficulties.  The sad thing for me is people who see no way out of a problem but to take their own lives.  Never give up hope for a better tomorrow.

As creative thinkers, we need hope.  We need to believe in ourselves, our ideas, our art.  Have faith that you have been given a gift.  Have faith in your dreams.  Have faith that the sun will rise again.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Robert Henri — Visual Memory

Philosophers have long said that we experience the world through our senses, and scientists have confirmed this.  The ability to see is one of our dominant senses.  The question that Robert Henri is raising here is about our memory of what we see.  Both painters and writers need strong visual memory in order to put detail into their work.  Painters often work from observing models, but they also need to be able to work from the memory of that model.  The same is true of writers.  We must be able to describe our characters, the setting and the physical world.  Often the physical world provides the reader with insight into the nature of a character.

Bernadita (1926)
Robert Henri
Visual memory is something I struggle with both as a writer and a reader.  When I come to a long descriptive passage in a novel, I will skim through it quickly so as not to be bored.  When I write, I struggle to put in visual detail of the person and his surroundings.  As a speaker I can be in a room for eight hours with a group of people, but at the end of the day I could not describe their faces or the clothes they were wearing.  

The only place where I have discovered that I have a strong visual memory is when I am driving.  I can have driven through a city once and come back five years later and I will remember visual elements and be able to find my way around without getting lost. Somehow subconsciously, my brain picks up the physical clues and I remember them when I am back in the same place, but if you were to ask me to describe the place I could not.

For the past fifteen years I have been cultivating my visual memory through the study of art. If your visual memory is weak like mine, I would encourage you to find ways to improve your visual literacy.  Most creative leaders need a strong visual memory.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Dr. Benjamin Mays — Goals

Research shows that only about 2% of Americans write goals.  I was 35 years old when I first heard about the importance of goal-setting in achieving one's dreams. In college I had dreamed of being a writer but at 35 was far from my dream. I had only written about 200 poems in 15 years. I set a goal to write a poem a day for a year. That year I wrote over 400 poems.

If you want to achieve your dreams, you need to turn them into goals.  Goals are dreams with deadlines.  Some creative leaders don't want to set goals because they are afraid they will not reach them. But the truth is that people achieve more when they have goals then when they don't. You may not reach the goal you set but you will come closer than if you had no goal. And as many people learn, the joy is in working to achieve the goal, not in actually achieving it. And when goal-setters reach their goal, they quickly set a new goal. 

I once met a 101 year old man who was writing his first book using a laptop computer in a nursing home. I visited that nursing home a couple of years later and the man, then 103, was writing his second book. What goals have you set for yourself? Your work? Your life?

Dr. Benjamin Mays must have been a master goal-setter for all that he accomplished. Mays was the youngest of eight children born to tenant farmers and former slaves in South Carolina. He earned a B.A. from Bates College in Maine, a Masters and a Ph.d in religion from the University of Chicago. He received almost 30 honorary doctorates in his lifetime. He was an ordained Baptist minister and an educator. He became President of Morehouse College in 1940, a post he held for 27 years. Mays wrote nearly 2,000 articles and nine books includingThe Negro's Church, the first sociological study of African-American religion. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who graduated from Morehouse in 1948, called Mays his "spiritual mentor" and "intellectual father." 

Childhood home of Benjamin Mays

Monday, April 4, 2016

Louis Auchincloss — The Gift of Dreams

How often do we hold ourselves back from doing the things we want to do because we are afraid? Afraid of what others will say? Afraid of failure? Afraid of success? Afraid we don't have any talent?

Louis Auchincloss wrote this statement in his first memoir, A Writer's Capital, in 1974. In his 92 years on this planet, Auchincloss was a lawyer, a novelist, a short-story writer and a historian, publishing more than 60 books. He filled his life with things he wanted to do.
Dreams are creative gifts we have been given — paths that we should walk.  When we refuse to seek our dreams and refuse to do the work that needs to be done, we are rejecting the gift. We are denying our birthright. 

Is there something you have been dreaming of doing, but have not done it? Maybe today it is time to take that first step in achieving your dreams. If you don't, no one will care. Only you care about your dreams. Only you can achieve your dreams. Only you have the power it takes to achieve your dreams.

Today I celebrate my 67th birthday. I am thankful for the gifts I have been given — the dreams that I followed and the life I have lived.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Leonardo da Vinci — Miracle of Creativity

The ability to create is a miracle that has been given to the human race.  We have the ability to create something that did not exist previously.  From our early days in the caves to the high tech world of digital art, humans have had a need to share their stories and express their emotions.  Whether we sit around the campfire and mesmerize others with our stories or we sit in front of a computer and compose a novel, we are experiencing the miracle of creativity.

Some of us have tossed this miracle away by denying our ability to create.  Some of us have allowed others to destroy this miracle through their words and actions.  And some of us allowed our need for perfection to keep us from expressing ourselves.  The miracle of creativity is a gift that is sacred and we need to honor, respect and give thanks for what we have been given.

If you have lost the miracle of creation, you need to rediscover it.  You need to go deep within yourself and restore the miracle that is your birthright.  If the miracle of creativity has died a slow death within your soul, you need to resurrect it and celebrate the gift of life.

The miracle of creativity is the gift that gives the human race life.  Without creativity, there would be no progress — no growth.  Without creativity, we would not be human. Give thanks this week for the precious gift you have been given.  Celebrate the healing power of creativity.  Draw a picture.  Write a poem.  Tell a story.  Sing a song.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Natalie Goldberg — Listen Deeply

Most of us probably never associate the creative process with listening. We experience writing, painting and singing as active processes. We perceive listening to be a passive process. Actually, listening is very active and engaging. 

As writers and painters we need to be listening to the world around us and to the people within that world. By listening we learn to see the world for what it is. The better we understand our world the stronger artist we become. Those, who are so absorbed in themselves that that they do not listen, ultimately, will lose touch with the world and they will become weak.

Learn to listen with your heart, your body, your soul, your mind and your spirit. Taste the different flavors of the world around you. Explore the dark crevices and the deep roots. Climb the highest trees and tread on the sandiest beaches. Taste the heights of the human spirit and the deepest valleys of the human heart. Listen with every pore in your flesh. Listen with every cell in your body.

Here is Natalie Goldberg discussing the 30-year republication of her famous book, Writing Down the Bones