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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.