When I am bound by unforgiveness
Empowered by judgement
Held captive by apathy
When I am frozen with fear
Trapped by indifference
Locked up with hatred
When I am intolerant and impatient
Fail to see the good in others
Overcome with sadness
When I am acting unkind
Blinded by resentment
Driven by self-seeking
Love is the only way out
Love brings hope into all things
Weather I choose to give it freely or freely receive it
Love is the only way out—because Love never fails.
Creativity is just a fancy 10 letter word that means producing something—it's simply the deliberate act of doing. To create something one must be willing to DO something.
The art of creating works that will inspire or leave a lasting impression is to keep doing it over and over again. That's why they call it work. Do what inspires you—the stuff that stirs the passion in your soul. More than likely it will have the same effect on someone else.
Getting started may just mean that you'll have to pretend to create good work until eventually you do. That's the perfect place to start. Emulate the work you love and create without boundaries. You can do anything, be anyone and say anything because you're safely covered in the magical cloak of obscurity.
Austin Kleon best expresses the idea of creatively winging it in his book "Steal Like An Artist" which I highly suggest you read. In fact, buy two copies and give one away to inspire a friend.
"Ask anybody doing truly creative work, and they'll tell you the truth: They don't know where the good stuff comes from. They just show up to do their thing. Every day." - Austin Kleon
So what is "the good stuff"? It's the work that inspires by causing someone to laugh out loud, to rethink their path or method, or create that feeling of childlike wonder. The good stuff can be described in any number of ways and through any number of mediums which includes the art of cooking.
Have you ever had a meal that has blown the taste buds right out of your head? I have. Especially in the south of Spain. It takes doing over and over. No matter what the medium, the end result is still the same. If it's something worth remarking about—that's what makes it remarkable work.
When I started creating my Zombie Wagon cartoons using index cards and crayons, I had no idea what I was doing. I was just laid off from my job as a Creative Director that I held for 10 years, so I did what anyone in my position would do— I started cartooning like my life depended on it.
I was wrestling with some pent-up emotions that I felt could best be expressed through characters that were not me. It was safe, I had a voice through my charcters—especially through the Zombies I created. They could speak for me.
Before I knew it I had drawn over 150 cartoon panels and I was framing the work for my first show inside a coffee shop where most of the art was originally created. The local newspaper even did a story about my work and I sold over a dozen pieces from what began as just a hobby— a fluke at best.
The idea of faking it until you make it definitely has merit. I'm still in the process of pretending that I'm a cartoonist. Nobody has dared to fight me on this one, especially since I'm still enjoying the benefits of obscurity. So I am exactly what I say I am.
"An essential aspect of creativity is not being afraid to fail." - Edwin Land
I'm encouraging you to go for it at full speed ahead—whatever it is that you have in your heart to create. Creativity is both a deliberate and senseless act converging together at exactly the same time.
The next New York Times best seller is trapped inside your head and I won't even try to imagine what you might be holding in your hands. But I can imagine that you're well aware of the fact that it's time for you to finally get going.
What's holding you back? Stop defending, start bending and get to the pretending. I'm betting that you'll eventually flop over into producing some truly remarkable work. We're all counting on it.
photo by Lissy Elle Laricchia
Life, work, love, relationships—all of them are wonderful, but they can often be difficult and painful too when the gaps appear. It's those times when things seem to be standing completely still that can be hardest to overcome. Mind the gaps.
Pay attention to those empty spaces that open up like gaping holes in a career path, in meaningful relationships or simply in our states of being. A void that feels hauntingly real and seems to demand some kind of immediate action.
They can appear like blinding sunlight light bursting through a row of tall tress.
I'm learning that being deliberate in pushing through those gaps is an essential part of maturing and nurturing long term growth—by allowing my life to take root right where I am planted.
Minding the gaps means overcoming the urge to run.
I have become most discontent when feeling that overwhelming need to try and fill those gaps—to try and fill the great divide between the certain and uncertain. Something shiny and new used to replace the old, those hours of mundane and the same old sameness of daily living.
While new things quickly draw our attention away, some day they too will become old. It's those old things which have withstood the test of time that are valued most in our culture. Like old coins, cars, cameras, vinyl records and Matchbox toys. The better the condition they're kept in, the more value they possess.
To accomplish this it takes deliberate care and nurturing as they make the journey through the long years into maturity right past the gap from new into obsolete then onto vintage. I would insist we do the same with those we cherish. Before you trash it all, first be mindful of the gaps.
“When we are no longer able to change a situation - we are challenged to change ourselves.” - Viktor E. Frankl
I've found as an artist that it can be expensive to play it safe and remain quietly neutral—by contrast it's a huge risk to go first and take the creative lead into uncharted territory.
The other option of course—is to become the spoil and take on the role of the negative voice aimed at shooting down new ideas by helping to uncover all of the risks. I can't tell you how many times I've encountered that individual at companies I've worked at both large and small.
You know, the "let's play it safe" person who gets everyone to pause, doubt and fear change. While that role has some short term rewards, it can eventually turn back and bite you like a sidewinder slithering in the dark.
If I'm being truly honest, I would love to have everything I create as an artist be embraced because it's so easy to mistake that embrace as personal acceptance. That temporary comfort that's the opposite of feeling rejected.
The trap is that no matter how much of my work sells, how much of it is accepted or rejected, I'm still an artist—I'm not my art.
Marketing guru Seth Godin summed up this idea beautifully in a statement he made while promoting his new book "The Icarus Deception: How High Will You Fly?".
the project is embraced, it feels as though you're being embraced—and
so rejection must mean precisely the flip side, that they hate you,
because they hate your work. But that's artistic suicide."
"It's not useful to put yourself on the line, life or death do or die. You are an artist, NOT the art. The only way to be vulnerable and go to the edge, is to realize that if your art doesn't work — you'll be back tomorrow with more and better art." Seth Godin
The simple truth is that anything worth doing is going to make you feel fear. If you have passion for something, I encourage you to step out into it, boldly and even blindly if necessary. Try it.
It isn't about how safe can you go—but rather how far can you go in pushing your own creative limits. Doing the unthinkable.
If you suddenly get this uncontrollable feeling that you might be doing something crazy—you probably are. What's wrong with that? Nothing at all—because you are an artist, you are not your art.
As Mr. Godin would remind us about the creative process— it's better to be sorry than safe. I learned to apply the opposite of that. How about you? Unlearning it is the hard part.
When I took off to Spain this summer with my wife Terri to serve the Edge Project for an entire month — I left with unending hope hidden in my heart.
I hoped to learn from the students I came to serve and it was my deepest desire that something I brought to the table from my life experience would not fail to inspire.
Although I cannot quantify the latter, I did learn something incredibly valuable from the group of students there, many who came to the Edge Project from all over the United States. I learned that living in community together takes patience, it takes time to develop along with the ability to listen and invest with an open heart.
I realized that I must be willing to quiet the noise of my own judgements and opinions in order to hear the passion and heartbeat of another. It takes risk, something that's easier said than done.
Since coming back home to Seattle in August, with my fond memories of Spain now far off in the horizon, I am realizing that my desire to inspire was unwittingly left behind in baggage claim. I did not understand that until this very moment, as I woke this morning at 5:55 am with a new clarity of purpose.
While I'm not certain exactly how I lost sight of my true north – I now see that my passion to inspire, encourage and cheer on others to conquer giants along with their fears is the very blood that keeps my heart beating.
When did I forget how to love dangerously? How did I lose sight of my mission and begin to bow to the fear of failure — the pain of rejection?
When the voice of self doubt began to capture my thoughts and the noise of fear began to raise its volume in my head, I froze — I was stuck in a house of mirrors.
Author Seth Godin spoke about the best way to get unstuck in this way:
"This is precisely why you're stuck. Starting without seeing the end is difficult, so we often wait until we see the end, scanning relentlessly for the right way, the best way and the perfect way."
"The way to get unstuck is to start down the wrong path, right now. Step by step, page by page, interaction by interaction. As you start moving, you can't help but improve, can't help but incrementally find yourself getting back toward your north star." Godin says.
Getting unstuck now seems so simple, because I'm free to do it all wrong – free to awkwardly stumble on my way back to finding true north. I'm willing to not see the ideal end in sight.
More than anything, I want each day to matter again – to not take my life for granted as I sink down into my big leather chair feeling numb and perfectly useless.
Sometimes we are the last ones to know that we've lost our way – the last ones to know how desperately we've needed a lifeboat.
In the end – you win some and you learn some. I’ve found the love that's been lost.
In 1999 when I first moved to Seattle, I started experimenting with creating computer art. I called myself a modern digital painter back then. The job I came to Seattle for was bogging me down with administrative duties I never planned on.
After I arrived home at night, I would start creating computer art. I had absolutely no clue what I was doing. I was armed with an iMac, a printer and all the creative passion of Picasso. The first character I completed was an abstract named William, he reminded me of Shakespeare for some reason. Then came Andre, a pudgy Spanish looking gentleman wearing a fabulous hat.
My wife Terri was convinced my work needed to be shown in public, so she went out and got me placed in a coffee shop for about six weeks. I hung ten pieces there. In just a few months I was selling in a small gallery and retail shop in downtown Seattle, then another shop out in the burbs where I live.
My artwork sold more often than I could keep up with. After all, I was the only guy doing computer art that looked like it was hand drawn. Even though it was really created with random clicks from my mouse. That was my style. I sold dozens of framed pieces at that time.
I wanted to call my friend Scott this morning and tell him what an amazing time I had last night with his family at dinner. I met Scott, his wife Liz, and two daughters Emily and Hilary when they lived across the street as our neighbors for way too short a time. They've since moved a few blocks away which means our visits can't be random sidewalk talks anymore, they have to be scheduled.
If you placed Scott in a line-up with a bunch of other guys and asked me to pick out a new friend, it would be difficult for me to identify him as one of great ones. I've always been totally blind that way. But being neighbors for several years made my pick much easier. In fact, our friendship seemed inevitable, because we're both loud and love to talk. Did I mention that we also laugh really loud too?
I came across this photo on Post Secret today and it immediately captured my heart. It left a small dent in my soul when I realized how true it is. I shoot photos often, but rarely do I point the lens at my own life, at the things that are meaningful to me.
I shoot mostly striking sunsets, lake reflections or light bursting through a wall of trees. I'm really glad now that I took so many pictures of my family this summer while on vacation in California and with my wife Terri on our trip to Spain. Life does change way too fast and it's easy to forget what truly matters.
The idea in this photo is beautiful—it's simple and for me it affirms the power of our lives when we rub up against each other. Sometimes for only a passing moment, but the impact can linger for a lifetime.
Thank you for this gift anonymous person living on planet earth. You made my day. You matter.
I love to write. For me it's become a wild eyed passion these days. But as much as I appreciate having my work read and commented on, that's not the reason I write. Sometimes I pour over my keyboard just to air out the thoughts bouncing around in my head. Other times it's because I experience something or read something that inspires me. By writing it down I've now cleared the way for another few thousand thoughts to take over the empty spaces of my pea-size brain.
The best way to lose autonomy over your work is to gain an appetite for approval. Once you find your voice, the style and patterns that make up who you are as a creative, why would you compromise that by looking for approval? It's a creativity killer and the quickest path to extinction. Let's be honest, we all want a loyal following to some degree or another. Most often it grows when we're not giving it any power over our work. But then once we realize we have people's attention, the temptation is to start trying to please them by writing stuff that will have mass appeal.
Every artist, every creative being at one time or another has to stare down the enormous giant of self-doubt. If you expect to produce a body of work worth the journey, in any discipline of the creative arts, you must learn to survive that overwhelming desire to self-destruct.
Wrestling with that critical voice inside that convinces you that it's better off to just quit, is almost a right of passage for artists. It's much like a dark menacing forest that seems to stretch on for miles, if you can find your way through to the other side, everything will appear much brighter and clearer in the full light of day. The lure of self-destruction is a trap that must be overcome with care. Negotiation is futile.
In those moments of self-doubt when you feel like your work is entirely insignificant, it actually feels like an accomplishment to simply trash it all. That too is a deceptive trap. I just battled the exact feelings again myself recently, even though I thought I was somehow immune to the voice of that old familiar friend.
Instant mashed potatoes taste great if you don't know any better, but for those of us who do, there's nothing that could ever replace homemade mashed potatoes. In a similar way our modern methods of communication are incredible, but they're called instant for a reason. Mostly because they contain less of the good stuff, leaving us hungry for something more meaningful.
Instant communication was created to serve us in a culture that's moving at blazing speeds. No time, so communicate more and say less. Replace the sound of our voice with a text or email. After awhile it feels so empty.
I encourage you to take a moment of pause today, reach out and really connect with someone, in a deep and meaningful way. That doesn't mean you have to invest hours of time. Say something that really matters, if it moves you, others will be moved too. You'll find yourself full for days.
Don't allow instant communication to create an instant version of yourself. There's nothing that can replace the real you.
Like an unexpected car accident, there are some life altering events that don't allow for a do-over. Our personal relationships are bit different, though sometimes they may feel like a total car wreck, a do-over can be the best place to begin when attempting to unravel an offense. The kind of offense I like to call a flesh wound.
A do-over is a simple way of partnering with the one's we love to administer amazing grace into a thoughtless moment of mangled insensitivity. A do-over serves as a non-confrontational way to admit that we've seen our error and the horrible chain of events it brings.
"When you are so gracious and generous and aware that you think of other people before yourself, you matter." Seth Godin
It's been sometime since I've posted anything meaningful here on One Man's Highway. This life affirming story "Just Keep Going", written by my close friend David Goad, is one that should not go unnoticed. It's a moving tale that involves his daily ride to work on a commuter train, but on this one ordinary day, David crashes head on into the extraordinary.
"I suddenly snapped out of my bubble. Here was some homeless kid, riding the ACE commuter train with a bunch of 40-something executives like me, just trying to get from one place to the next. To be honest, I usually walk right by homeless people, occasionally throwing a buck or two into a can." David Goad
When life begins to imitate love, the kind of love that places someone else above ourselves, it's only then that we begin to realize the deepest human connections in this world. Equals in our own human condition.
Thank you David. You matter.
“The only wealth which you will keep forever is the wealth, you have given away.” Marcus Aurelius
Regardless of how much personal wealth we individually possess we have each been granted great power for change. While it makes sense right now to take a position of caution managing our personal finances, we must resist the temptation to stop giving.
The power I'm speaking of has more to do with your own ability to influence the life of someone who is in need of your wealth. One measure of tested insight can cause ripples of growth and change for someone who lacks your super powers. You possess a unique wealth of knowledge, experience and influence that to others is like gold. Your wisdom can be a game changer to the less fortunate.
When I look at my experience working as a creative director or with raising two teenagers, I see no end to the wealth of knowledge I have within reach. I have an abundance to give, even if it's as simple as encouraging someone by taking a call or answering an email that would otherwise be easier to ignore living in this age of instant communication.
I encourage you to open up your life today and give a portion of your wealth. Give something that's meaningful, a part of you that will multiply through the lives of others. Don't hold back. You have so much more to offer than what you're electronically pushing to the bank. When we measure our ability to give by our bank statements, our true wealth and value is ignored.
How much do you really have to give?
Photo by Ulrich Mueller