Rant of appreciation

Things have changed and I’m loving it. Not too many years ago this thing called The Crash happened. You may have heard of it. I think it affected a couple of people beyond us also. Suffice it to say, we’ve crawled through that dark swamp into daylight — and it’s time to rant on about all I appreciate this Appreciation Day!

It’s best to start close to my heart: 

Ohmyfuckinggod I love my wife and kid. I’m crazy silly loopy for them. AnkaSeti for her quietly funny ways. For her soft creative spark. For her loving tenderness. The Zonk for his pre-teen surprises. For his caring nonchalance. For his raucously aggressive sense of when it’s right to have a good time. (Always 🙂

Our two dogguses too. The beast of a German Shepherd, the dainty toenail-tapping Viszla. 

15 years ago pocket computers didn’t exist. Certainly not wafer-slim glass surfaces that connect you to, say, the goings on in Iceland or the Pope’s latest thought. That you can chat, videostream, bounce messages around the world via satellite, look at the weather radar, check the surf, find a recipe, buy a mutual fund and bounce around to any interest group known to humankind . . . whew, let’s celebrate the smart phone. And all portable digital media. From tablets to the laptop I’m tapping away on right now.

We love them! We love you, tech people of the world, who’ve put magic into the palm of our hand. Do you get enough thanks? Well, yes, judging by the PEs of your stock prices, but we want to thank you anyway. It’s a significantly enhanced realm we swim in now.

I’m appreciating you, highways with medians. And you, bridges over otherwise undrivable chasms. I’m digging you, gas stations and rest areas and clean-enough bathrooms across America. 

Oh the things to relish: 

food offerings everywhere 

lights on street corners 

flowers by the roadside 

playgrounds peopled by little proto-adults 

service with a smile 

diners 

big ole vans for work and play 

engaging strangers 

toothpicks 

Christmas trees in Florida 

Frogs, especially the ones that hop high and make splat sounds when they land 

standing desks 

hammocks 

birds that take wing suddenly

squirrels 

and the dogs that chase them 

cool grass on a warm day 

rain on our metal roof 

a nap after hours of yardwork 

pools! 

bungee cords 

seriously thin, soft sheets 

interesting minds abounding, everywhere I turn 

infectious goodness 

that dude walking across the parking lot who picks up litter 

our Mama 

thick and purring soft throw rugs, the kind you can curl up on 

reading books with your family, each lost in their own interior universe 

the multiverse! 

the peeps into surreality we get from time to time 

moments of awe 

moments of abandon 

moments of sweet connection 

So many things we use casually didn’t exist 50 years ago, and weren’t even fantasies 200 years ago. I love living in this era of dishwashers and dryers and hot water heaters and GPS navigational systems in your phone.

Billions of cosmic years aggregating star debris, hundreds of millions of years of evolutionary twists, thousands of years of innovation, decades of a life . . . . let’s enjoy these minutes of ours, so much went into their making. 

I love you life! I love you breath — I love you drumbeat of my heart — I love you people of the world — I love you flora and fauna and fabulists — I love you near and I love you far — I love your wicked ways — I love your entrancing thoughts — I love the divine in you — I love the beast in you — I love fingers and toes and navels and napes — I love the way this keyboard feels as I go tappata tappata tap tap tappata — I love the light we flick on in the dark — I love those who’ve helped me through my darkness — I love those who let me in on their dark days — I love green tea — I love when you were mean to me — I love when you left me for another — I love the ways I improvised — I love the startling and transcendent beauty in pain — I love you for reading — I love me for writing — I love the warp and the woof — I love the right and the left — I love the ones who build and the ones who loaf — I love the way opposites make it all work — I love 

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Why creativity is the new spirituality



For millennia the spiritual ideal has been tethered to the ones who give up the most. The ascetics. The renunciates.

They are the ones who give up family, possessions, worldly aspirations. They give up food, drink, common comforts.

They give all to a greater cause, for the benefit of humanity.

You know the great ones by name: Mother Theresa, Jesus, Buddha, Gandhi.

The disservice here is that the gulf is so great we are apt to think of higher levels of spiritual action as beyond us. We are not willing to give up our homes, our careers, our lives . . . .

Yet spiritual action belongs to all of us. Creative action is spiritual action. The creative moment is a spiritual moment. Creativity in any form is an act of great spiritual meaning.

Our creative capacity sets us apart from all other lifeforms on this planet.

Our creative best propelled homo sapiens far beyond its original ecological niche. To the point that we can live virtually anywhere on the planet. To the point where we are on the cusp of tweaking our own evolutionary arc via genetic engineering.

You are a spiritual being! I am a spiritual being. We may not live like the Great Ascetics, but we all live creatively, expressing the divine spark within.

This is emphatically not an artistic approach to spirituality, though that is one subset.

My brother is mostly unartistic . . . yet he is the highest-best kind of artist. He excels at the art of living. He gives of himself wantonly. He connects in a way few do. He generates group involvement in an almost supernatural way. He’s a freewheeling adventure starter.

Creative engagement — spiritual engagement — happens moment to moment.

It’s when we apply our highest-best selves to whatever lies before us. Whether it’s the job at hand, a relationship, the laundry, choosing what to eat or driving peacefully in a distracted world.

How we grapple with optimal solutions to the issues that confront us is the mark of creative engagement.

Each moment is a micro-burst of spiritual energy expressed.

We express more when allowing our soul self into the equation. We express less when we’re harried and hurried and unthinking.

It’s beautiful in its simplicity. Are you seeking creative solutions to the issues before you? Then you are a massively gifted creative spirit. You are unleashing the great spiritual power available to us all.

The true spiritual path belongs to all of us. Indeed, it’s embedded within us. We walk the path by opening up to creative possibilities . . . in each now moment.

Creativity is the new spirituality. Accessible to all. It’s also the old spirituality — the oldest, most ancient form there is.

Amen.

For you 

Evan Griffith
__________________________

Click here for (occasional) notes at the intersection of creativity and spirit. Once a month, maybe.

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If Jerry Seinfeld sucked this badly his first time, surely anyone can go for their dream

Jerry Seinfeld:

I did Catch a Rising Star one night. I guess this would actually qualify as my strangest experience. This is definitely it. 

My first time onstage, I write the whole act out, you know, and I put it there on my bed and rehearse it, over and over again. I’m standing there with a bar of soap, like it’s a microphone. And I got the scene memorized, cold . 

I get up on there, and it’s gone. I can’t remember a word. I was — I stood there for about thirty seconds with — saying absolutely nothing, just standing there, freaking out. I just couldn’t believe it, all these people were looking at me. And then, I was able to just remember the subjects I wanted to talk about. 

This is absolutely true, I’m not embellishing this at all, I stood there and I went, “The beach …ah, driving… your parents…,” and people started laughing because they thought this was my act. 

I couldn’t even really hear them laughing; I was like absolutely panicked. I think I lasted about three minutes and I just got off. 

That was my first show.

From Sick In The Head: Conversations on Comedy and Life by Judd Apatow

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Impress yourself: Artist and illustrator Trip Park

Blues Traveler by Trip Park

Artist and illustrator Trip Park has a philosophy from his advertising days that demands to be passed on. 

Listen in on a tiny slice of an interview Julian Casanetti of Studio E Gallery conducted with Trip:

Julian: Is there anything specific you learned while in advertising that you apply regularly in your process? 

Trip Park: To not get emotional or bogged down by what you’re doing; I take it one piece at a time and try to impress myself with each piece.

This advice is so timeless in its applicability it feels eternal.

What I admire most about this response is the zen two-step of it.

First  Don’t become burdened by what you’re trying to create. 

Second  Forget externals, impress yourself!

Said another way: Create without attachment; thrill yourself.

If you can create with a light heart . . . and if you can inspire yourself . . . then you’re on the path of creativity. Once you’ve stepped on that path, the adventure will unfold on its own accord.

For you 

Evan Griffith
__________________________
Click here for (occasional) notes at the intersection of creativity and spirit. Once a month, maybe.

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The backpack is the new briefcase (the new messenger bag too, hipsters)

I left for the summer and returned a backpack convert, for both business and personal use. 

In today’s world there’s scant difference between the two. What we use for work we also use for play. The same items populate both spheres. 

Before the sojourn around the U.S. a messenger bag toted my mobile office.

(laptop, planner & notepad, pens, whiteout, toothbrush -n- toothpaste, gum, toothpicks, smart phone, microphone attachment, bluetooth headset, wallet, loose change, sunglasses, extra pens, nail file, several file folders, biz cards, spirit rock cuz yeah, gotta have one of those)

Before the messenger bag, a briefcase carted these tools, a hangover from my Wall Street days. The kind with a strap. I was fond of slinging it diagonally over my shoulder and across my back . . . like a quiver for a hunter-gatherer’s arrows. Only this held pens. This carry method made it an easy move to the messenger bag in the first place.

Before the briefcase, before moving into management, it was a backpack. I was in my twenties, dude. That was part of our dress code.

So it’s full circle. I’m back to the backpack. In my fifties.

Since my youth backpacks have mutated. Woah, have they evolved. They’ve splintered into purpose-driven tools for dozens of targeted uses. The number of subspecies and varieties of backpack put Galapagos finches to shame. 

Be you long-distance cyclist, be you weary world traveler, be you Fortune 500 executive, be you urban-suburban hipster, there are versions for you. They scarcely seem related. Like the house cat and the puma, they serve different niches.

Why, though? Why make a big deal about using the backpack for an entrepreneurial life?

The benefits boil down to a few key reasons:

Holding capacity: Backpacks expand generously, leaving their single-strap cousins in the dust when suddenly called upon to lug extra stuff. 

And — oh! — the compartments they have. Zippered and open, large and small, pockets and sleeves and pouches within pouches . . . backpacks rule.

Light weight: Backpacks tend to be made of durable lightweight materials. Meaning greater capacity for the same or lighter weight, especially when compared to briefcases. 

Balance: We speak a lot about balance metaphorically in this era. A backpack is the only carrying case that literally balances you.

The last is most important. Since returning to a backpack, the shoulder and neck and back pains that came from lopsidedness have gone away entirely. When I walk, I’m walking naturally upright, shoulders pulled back by the straps. 

I feel more agile, more nimble. At the same time it feels as though I’m getting a moderate upper body workout, rather than overstressing one side of my body or another.
So yes. Backpacks are the new briefcase. The new messenger bag too.
And if you’re still fanny packing it, nothing I say here will help. Fanny on.

For you —

Evan Griffith
__________________________
Click here for occasional notes to your inbox on creativity, connection and whee! Once a month, maybe, if you’re lucky.

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For indie creatives: The distinction between audience and allies

It’s a dance . . . a two-step: Audience and allies

At last week’s creative retreat, one of the many rewarding conversations was on outreach.

If you’re an indie creator then it behooves you to understand the difference between your two primary modes for growing professionally.

Indie creators = freelancers, artists, writers, designers, small biz entrepreneurs, filmmakers, lifestylers, creatives of all stripes 

Audience and Allies

1) Your allies are the supporting cast to your dream career

I’m a writer. My allies support that mission: My editor, various designers (cover design, book design, web design), tech help and more. Some of you will have assistants, agents, publishers and — shades of Hollywood — even a manager. This is the team that supports modern-era logistics for a writer.

Your allies are also your personal support team. Those family, friends and peers who are keen to see you flourish
You can tell who they are. They’re the ones checking in to see how your work is going. They’re the ones who help you when you’re down. They lift you up when you’ve got no lift inside you. They are eager for you, and it shows.
Other allies are more orbital, distant even. They are reviewers, bloggers, networkers, reporters, thinkers and influencers who can act as an assist when a project is launched.
Allies are not your audience, though some of them may be in it. Allies enable you to reach your audience.

2) Your audience is the universe of people who adore your work

They may not care about you personally, yet they’re avid to get their hands on what you’re putting out to the public.

They may or may not be your followers on social media, but they sure as hell are the ones on your email list. They’ve signed up because your message is meaningful to them. 

Your audience pays for your work. Their money — exchanged for the results of your creative effort — allows you to create more. Their money supports you financially. If you gain enough of an audience, you get the prize — to live solely from your creative wits.

. . . . . .

Is there overlap? Sure. There’s overlap in everything, even apples and oranges. (Zinc, dietary fiber, number of syllables if you’re speaking in the singular . . . .) The important thing is your relationship to each. 

You cultivate allies personally. It’s a one-to-one relationship. You get in touch. You support your allies as much or more as they support you. 
This is why you are allies and not simply contacts . . . it’s reciprocal. You support your allies, in turn you seek their support when needed.
How do you support your allies? 
It’s up to you to figure out. 
It may be passing along information. It may be commenting on their blog or social media streams. It may be connecting them to something you believe they’ll value. It could be an introduction. It’s supporting their efforts in whatever ways you can.

You cultivate your audience in mass.
Your audience is sparked by your best work. It’s that simple. Put out your best work, consistently, and you’ll grow an audience. 
In the beginning you will have more allies than audience. Then comes that first email from someone you don’t know. 
I remember my first blush with an audience. A wildish story of mine was published in college . . . and people I didn’t know came up to me, some almost babbling in appreciation. That was a new kind of headiness. 
Years later the first fan mail showed up in my inbox, from someone a thousand miles away — someone who didn’t know me! In it the sender — at this juncture my greatest and only known fan — expressed heartfelt thanks for a piece that meant oh so much to her personally.
Once you have an audience of one you’re on your way. It’s all math from there. Add. Build. Grow. 
It’s easy if you’re relaxed about the time it takes. It’s only hard when you need it all now.
Here’s what makes it easy. It’s the creative two-step. You only need to do two things to further your creative career:
Support your allies.
Wow your audience.
For you —

Evan Griffith
__________________________
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Sex towels

We talk about creative living and connection around here. I’d be remiss if I didn’t pass along this tip, because it facilitates both.

For spontaneous intimacy — or otherwise — nothing beats sex towels. 

In my twenties I never gave a thought to the aftermath. If you’re over thirty or if you’re much more thoughtful than I was in my bestial youth, then clean sheets are part of the equation. 

You know that equation. The one ticking in your head . . . 

How much time + how much effort = Yes or No

If you take soiled bedclothes out of process, then you’re much more likely to dive in and enjoy.

When I hit on the idea of sex towels many years ago it was a eureka moment. The towels simplified my favorite pasttime . . . which guaranteed more of that pasttime. With the sheets protected, we could lie there pleasantly for as long as we wanted.

Nothing prolongs afterglow better than an unhurried mind.

Best qualities in sex towels:

 Plentiful

Make sure you have 6 to 8 towels. If some are in the laundry or in the wash, no matter. You’ve got more on the shelf, ready at a moment’s notice. 

 Two at a time minimum

Lay them down side by side, overlapping one over the other a little. You don’t want them to separate under duress 🙂 

Long 

Get extra long towels. It’s just better. Afterward it makes it easier to grab the far end for any wipedown needed, while still lying on them. 

Thin, not thick 

Plush towels and thick towels are oddly uncomfortable to lay on for any length of time. They trap heat. They pile up easily. 

Thin towels cling to the surface sheet better. They’re unobtrusive. That’s what you want. To not give them a second thought. 

Try it and see if you too don’t get hooked on the idea. When you crawl off the bed — or the couch or the back of your 57 Chevy — you simply toss the towels in the hamper and go on with your day.

Happier.

For you 

Evan Griffith
__________________________

Click here for occasional notes to your inbox on creativity, connection and whee! Once a month, maybe, if you’re lucky.

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The serendipity of setting out

Sometimes you just have to set out in the direction of a vague yearning. This wouldn’t make sense for going to the moon. Or separating conjoined twins. 

But for many other things — love, art, friendship, a dream — things that matter greatly — setting out with little more than a hazy notion is the greatest step you can take.

That first tentative gambit is the courageous one. Each move after that requires a little less audacity. A little less moxie.

(Then comes that inflection point . . . when you are pulled forward with such force it feels like destiny.)

For you 

Evan Griffith
__________________________
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The value of pacing

This is what a creative retreat looks like
on Anna Maria Island time.
(that’s Travis Thomas there . . . of LiveYesAnd.com infamy)

As we wrap up this creative retreat I’ve noticed something. Walking away from your creative work is highly productive, if

— you don’t pick up a digital device

— you keep moving and cogitating over what’s thwarting you

Getting in motion and pondering a thing is an undervalued resource in the modern era.

In our retreat I’ve established a few basic rules . . . rules shockingly similar to the ones in my regular worklife that I don’t adhere to very well.

<sheepish smile>

The most basic of these rules is not to break off into some diversion. (I’m looking at you click bait; I’m glaring at you social media.)

Because of the short, sharp, focused nature of a creative retreat, I seem to be compelled far beyond my usual habits . . . into actual deep work throughout alternating periods of the day.

In this retreat I’m a better me. Now the trick is to take Slightly Better Me back home with Standard Issue Me . . . and see if I can’t switch the two permanently when I’m not looking.

The value of pacing is essentially the value of walking away but not diverting your attention.

This is how you puzzle your way through an issue.

For you —

Evan Griffith

What creators do
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7 elements for a perfect creative retreat

That’s Travis Thomas of LiveYesAnd.com
on the left, beach walking, steeped in great thought,
pondering imponderables, taking a break from his
creative project . . . but not for too long.
Work beckons . . . .

Travis Thomas and I have stolen away from modern life for a few days. We’ve left behind the daily rigors. Gone are the errands and clean up and normal work routines. Adios Starbucks (for Travis), au revoir local diner (for me). It’s sayonara to our daily haunts and habits.

We’ve embarked on a mini-retreat — a creative retreat. Which is to say it’s a spiritual retreat.

When people speak of creativity, to me they are speaking of raw spiritual discovery. There’s nothing more deeply woven into the human experience than our capacity to create. 

Humans don’t just build nests, we launch cocoons into space. Humans don’t simply fish for sustenance; we braise our deboned specimen in herbs and spices; we dribble olive oil on it; we make it beautiful . . . and set it on discs fired in kilns thousands of miles away.

This creative retreat almost didn’t happen. Like all good things and zombies, it resurrected. But here we are now, on the advent of a several-day, intensely-focused, laced-with-breaks-and-banter-and-beach-walks retreat.

Want to build your own creative retreat? This is all you need

1) Like a library, like a food court, a creative retreat is amplified by being alone with others. Snag someone of similar mindset and go. 

For me Travis is the perfect retreat compadre . . . He wields a keenly attentive and curious mind, he’s focused while working yet he’s lighthearted and exploratory when not.

2) The natural world is rollicking good for your brain. Ensconce yourself in a location where you have easy access to light, air, water, foliage, birds, sky . . . 

3) Find somewhere quiet. Quiet enough. You’re looking for a sprawling contemplative quiet . . . that’s all you need. In fact, it’s all you want — that voluptuous kind of quietude that draws the best from you.

4) Oh! Comfortable furniture too. There’s nothing worse than feeling like you’ve been splayed on a medieval rack all day.

5) Punctuate your creative work with breaks. Food breaks, walking and talking breaks, nature breaks, nappy breaks, brain and body breaks of any kind. It’s best when they’re of short to medium duration.

6) Make it affordable and temporary. So you can do it again and again. Too expensive, too long in time frame and it might be your one and only retreat.

You know yourself best. How many days is a good time frame for you? What is the perfect amount of time to maintain intense focus? 

7) Above all, create. Have a project ready, one into which you can dive deeply. Immerse yourself. Then let creation zip from your fingertips — 

For you 

Evan Griffith
__________________________

Click here for occasional notes to your inbox on creativity, spirituality and whee! Once a month, maybe, if you’re lucky.

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