An experiment: 30 days of waking up 2 hours early to do The Work

It’s dark out, man, when you get up that much earlier . . .

Why oh why 2 hours early?!

Have you been frustrated with how your hours spin away from you in the day? Feeling like you’re not quite getting the best of your creative self? I’ve been in that zone, vacillating between days of electricity and days of chaos.

Here’s my situation — my life is lived in 3 modes: Read more

Share

How much should you charge for your creative work? (The old timer has the answer)

It’s the eternal question for every creative starting out.

Just how do you figure out how much you’re worth?

Read more

Share

Ideas over money: James Altucher

The old ladder metaphor has shifted. There’s no longer a ladder. It’s more like an amusement park. And we are all invited to play in it. There’s more opportunity for abundance than ever. This is the new paradigm of this century, a century where ideas take precedence over money in terms of creating abundance.

~ James Altucher, from Choose Yourself Guide To Wealth

 

Share

The way of the creative is earthy


The great challenge of all creatives is to marry heaven and earth. Making ideals work in the grit of the daily slog.

When I first had the idea to open an art gallery the vision for it came gushing in a wave of glory. I was driving across the state of Florida to help my Dad who’d recently had a stroke. You’d think the idea had been borne on the wings of angels I was so enthralled.

I leapt out of my van in a podunk town south of the Lake Okeechobee to call Ann from a pay phone. Yep, it was that long ago. It was late, possibly midnight, possibly later. I was breathless to get the idea out.

“I’m going to open an art gallery!”

Ann, despite only having been dating me for a month or two — this round, we’d dated in college, 15 years earlier — got swept up too.

“I’m in! I’m doing it with you.”

At that mid of night moment we had only the rush of heightened blood flow coursing through our brains. The idea seemed lofty, inevitable. As though the resplendent glow from its halo would part the world’s waters for us.

Six or seven months later, Studio E Gallery opened for business in a small coastal town. Or, as a local called it, the town of the newly wed and the nearly dead. The typical homes there were so small that only retirees and young couples sought them out.

No idea births on this planet without labor pains.

In that half year we got frenetic. We hustled our way into a space, we hustled our way into artists’ minds.

An artist we convinced to be among the six featured artists at our opening has sold well over a million dollars of artwork through our gallery in the ensuing twenty years. But no one could have predicted its success. Most galleries curl up and die a few months or a few years later.

What I mean by hustling our way into an artist’s mind is this: We were nothing — a non-entity — the gallery didn’t even exist when I spoke with artists. It didn’t even have a name.

We had to implant the likelihood of success into their heads! No easy feat when we came without experience, without credentials, without even art degrees. We had to galvanize each artist in the early days. We had to get them to believe it was worth their sweaty effort to produce their best work for us — and fast.

Because the clock was ticking, the opening was right around the corner.

Every idea gets earthbound fast. You either love the process or you don’t. If you’re not excited with the path there then that idea isn’t for you.

Or —

Or wait until you alight upon a path that intrigues you as much as the end point.

For example:

When we weren’t running around to art fairs to find artists we loved, we were in the thick of the hunt for space. And after we had the space we were dawn till way past dusk ripping up everything in that space that didn’t work for an art gallery and carting it to the dumpster. Which was most everything.

Art galleries are lean clean spaces. This space was not that. Not at the beginning. But at the end it was.

It took weeks of demolition and scouring and scrubbing and painting to convert that space. This of course was after months of research and paperwork and running around.

And yet — this was not work. It was exhilarating exhausting creation. When you are creating something from scratch you deplete yourself scrabbling the components together. It’s as though you mine the earth for the raw materials with your bare brain and your bare hands. And then you assemble them into the closest Frankenstein monster of a similarity to your idea you can.

You dreamed of a diaphanous water nymph; you end up with a clunky manbot cobbled together from rusted parts. Instead of gliding across the surface it stomps in the shallows shoreside. But it moves! It’s alive in its own manner!

And you brought this thing to life with sweat and cunning.

Creation at its core is the hardest nonwork you’ll ever do. Eventually, with refinement, you’ll see that water nymph emerge . . . It took us ten or eleven years before we stood in the gallery of our dreams. Each year, each iteration, each near-death event that we survived brought us closer . . .

The only way to your dream is mano a mano with whatever materials you can scrounge. All creation is like this. You work it like a pro. All in. Fingers in the dirt, working your environment with all you’ve got, till you unearth what you need. Piece by piece.

When at last you stand up and gaze at your creation, damn!

You did it.

You created like a god, taking a wispy idea from the thought-o-sphere and wrestling it all the way to Earth. It’s here on this planet now because of you. Your labors brought it forth. It’s not work. It’s a love child. It’s an offering to the divine. It’s something you fucking created from nothing.

Wow.

Take a bow.


Excerpted from a bookito in progress: The Way Of The Creative

Join the email list below to be notified when it launches.

Share

Do you remember to summon?

When you begin your important work, do you remember to summon?

Do you ask for the crackling electricity of your genius to manifest through you as you work?

Do you envision greatness springing from your fingertips?

When you sit to write that legal argument do you invoke the fullness of your powers?

When you settle in to practice that presentation/talk/song/skill, do you gather the forces at your command?

Invoke!

Ask!

As always, as ever, this post is to remind myself — in a way that will be useful for you too. Too often I rush into my work without taking that nano-moment to summon my best. Too often I come into my work scattered. Never in the history of humankind has this born good fruit. What I want to ripen grows naturally from single-pointed immersion.

I have a simple new mantra now, one that is handy for the multiplicity of endeavors we engage in a day:

Joy through me.

Genius through me.

You know this to be true. There is free-flowing jazz-sipping delight-bringing energy within that can be called forth. You can infuse it into your work, cast it outward into the product of your focus.

Whether you are going into a meeting or entering a Pilates class, you can summon your best. It’s there, waiting to be released.

Unleashing the creative spirit within is simplicity itself. It’s accomplished in a focusing moment. You activate it by request.

Simply.

Earnestly.

(Impishly delivers too. Your inner spirit is playful, devilish even.)

When I sit down fingertips at the ready on my laptop, I whisper to myself: Joy through me. Genius through me.

It doesn’t matter whether it’s aloud or in the quietude of my mind. It matters only that I am narrowing my attention to the matter at hand —

By doing this I am connecting to the essence of what I most want coursing through me as I engage in the activity before me.

You’ve seen the pitcher rotating the baseball in his hand before winding up. You’ve watched the tennis pro bounce the ball twice before tossing it aloft to serve. You’ve witnessed the chef sharpening knives–

It’s all in the service of what is to come.

The same is true for you and me. If we take a nano-moment to prepare ourselves, we can more easily access the best within us.

Summon . . .

Request . . .

Envision . . .

The clarity alone will be your bridge to the kind of work you wish to put out into the world.

 

 

 

 

Share

The get-started ritual

In your ruthless quest for efficiency don’t eject what is effective — like I almost did.

Do you do this?

You come to your work space. You set your bag down. You move items on your desk, just so. You prune your work surface the way bonobos harvest nits from body hair.

Pen, planner, sacred rock, work station, you want it perfect before you launch into your creative work.

I eleminated this fliff fluff by doing the setup the night before. This way I could come to my desk al dente, ready to bite into my project! Oh, had I ever outsmarted my distracting ways. No more would I fritter precious minutes while arranging and sorting. Nay. I would leap like a rock wallaby and ascend that much faster to my creative peak.

I’ve got a tight timeframe to write in the early morning. Forty-five minutes at best most mornings, before I dash off to the gallery. So it felt important to open that creative work window a bit wider.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

When I leapt straight into work something odd happened. Nothing. Nothing happened. Lots of nothing in fact.

It turns out the get-started ritual is a powerful trigger. It’s a step-by-step auto hypnosis. When I come to the desk and clear the space, I’m clearing my mind. When I put items in place — the laptop, my notes, my phone off to the side — I’m turning on the parts of my brain that sparks lightning.

It’s like revving an engine. You can’t do that till you’ve unlocked the car, strapped in, started her up, engaged the gear shift, hit the gas.

That’s the efficacy of repetition. I’ve repeated those simple preparatory steps so often that by the time I’ve booted up the laptop my brain is primed to produce. And it gets right to work.

It’s like a horse let loose from its stall after anticipating release — yet having to wait for the fumbling owner to slide open the barn doors, amble to the pen, unlatch the gate…. It will dash for it once allowed.

Without the hypnotic pre-work actions my focus just isn’t there.

A note for you: If you’re having difficulty launching into your creative work, maybe you need to find ways to ease into it.

If an artist, simply make marks — on paper, on canvas, on board — till your creative self engages.

If a writer, maybe it’s writing 3 paragraphs as fast as you can about whatever.

If you’re not engaging with your work soon after starting, consider crafting a satisfying ritual to ease your way into your work — something that slows your everyday persona down and allows your creative side to take the reins.

A get-started ritual could be the key to your best work. Your consistent best work.

Share

Steven Pressfield: Your whale

Which idea, of all those swimming inside your brain, are you compelled to pursue the way Ahab was driven to hunt Moby Dick? Here’s how you know—you’re scared to death of it.

…..

The whale is your unwritten book, your unsung song, your calling as an artist. You die grappling with this thing, lashed to it, battling it even as it takes you under. But your death is not a mortal death. You die instead the artist’s death, which leads to resurrection in a higher, nobler form and recruits you to the next hunt, the next chase, the pursuit of the next Thing You Love.

Is there a White Whale out there for you?

You’ll know that whale by these qualities:

Its accomplishment will seem beyond your resources.

Your pursuit of it will bear you into waters where no one before you has sailed.

To hunt this beast will require everything you’ve got.

You may have started, like me, as a junior Mad Man, scripting jingles for canine kibble. There’s nothing wrong with that. You may have prostituted your talent, sold out to the Man. I have, a thousand times. It doesn’t matter. I forgive you and I forgive myself.

Each incarnation is an apprenticeship, if you live it that way. Are you slaving now in some sell-out job? Are you living a Shadow Career instead of your real calling? It’s okay. It’s all part of the journey.

What you learn in Wrong Career #1 will serve you in Off-Key Career #2 and in Out-of-Kilter Career #3, and the wisdom you acquire in #1, #2, and #3 will form the foundation of Real Calling #4 (or #5 or #6 or however long it takes.)

Read more

Share

A reach artist

Here’s a concept for you: A reach artist

When I met with Amy Sullivan in October we talked art and artists. She mentioned a couple of artists in a gallery, noting almost under her breath about one of them, “she’s a reach artist.”

When asked, Amy said a reach artist for her sets a benchmark. It’s an artist she admires . . . and who she’d like to stand side by side with in accomplishment some day.

She studies her reach artists more in depth. Not just what their doing artistically, but how they experiment, how they push themselves, the paths they take in their career, the galleries they exhibit in, the way they market.

For Amy, a reach artist is an aspiration. One that is tangible and leaving clues on how she too can get there.

Do you have reach people? Those individuals who embody where you’d like to be in the near future?

 

Share

You’ve got to get messy

You’ve got to get in, you’ve got to get messy, if you’re going to create something good.

Full immersion and damn the chaos.

Share

How do you get that creative space you want?

Virginia Woolf famously wrote a book about it: A Room of One’s Own.

About the importance of a solitary space for creative work.

Be you writer or coder or artist or indie biz person, you want your space. That space that is yours and no one else’s. That space to do your work. Your fab work.

Before I had a creative space I had the tiniest version of it you can muster: A lap desk.

Then a real desk. If old and battered. A cheap used desk is better than no desk at all.

And eventually over the years that desk moved into its own space.

But first I had a lap desk I used while sitting on my futon in the small-as-a-tiny-house apartment I shared with my friend Gil in New York City.

He had a loft bed in the bedroom — what we nowadays call a walk-in closet — and I had my futon underneath.

But it was glorious, our little 380-square-foot apartment in the dark dungeon of a Hells Kitchen tenement. A lot of creating went on there.

Even more living. We were in our twenties. That time of life where you slosh from one apartment to another meeting up with other young soul sparks like yourself, where you spill through the streets raging for experience and getting it.

You’ve got to start somewhere. I’ll bet more beginnings began on beds than anywhere else.

Yeah, I know you want to take that sentence somewhere else — I say take it there, you guttersnipe — then come back here to this.

That girl sitting on a bed plunking a guitar who grows up to be Jewel.

That kid spreading notes of verse on his bed who grows up to be Walt Whitman. Or Walt Disney.

That future starter upper lounging on her bed right now coding away on her laptop.

Beds are big dreamboats, large enough to sprawl on, large enough for any fantasy. And just the right size for any position you want to contort into while scribbling drawing musing humming those first notes thoughts marks life questions that morph into life quests.

How do you earn your creative space?

By creating in whatever limited space you’ve got right now.

(You have more than you think.)

Using what you have sets you in motion for bigger n better. My home office attests to it.

Bob Dylan’s Nobel Prize for Literature sings to it. Off key.

 

Share