Mediocre Ukulele Rockstar Superhero
In addition to wanting to be a super-hero when I was a child, rock star was also on the trajectory. The two work well together, especially if you have back-up singers that can double as hero-side-kicks.
In my imagination there would be an audience of adoring fans, a bass player I fall in love with, and really cool sequined Bermuda shorts with matching cap (geek DNA).
But I failed after only one guitar lesson. I quit because playing like a rock star didn't happen quickly and easily. I thought I just wasn't good at guitar, but really, I wasn't good at perseverance, patience and tolerance of my crappy playing. Perseverance, patience and tolerance are the superhero-superstars of the wildly successful creative person. Crappy playing at the beginning is a requirement of being a rock star - or anyone creative.
Ever give up on something because you weren't immediately good at it?
Ever NOT EVEN attempt something because you didn't think you'd be good at it, or because you tried it and you weren't immediately a natural?
Human figure drawing? Singing? Archery? Writing fiction? Ever have a hard time getting back to something because you used to be good but now need some practice?
When I hear friends say, "I'm just not good at art .. or writing," I have to bite my lip. Nah, just kidding, I'm unable to be quiet. I start blubbering excitedly about the stuff I'm writing here, but unless people are ready or passionate, they can't hear it and I just piss them off.
Not trying something because you're afraid you won't be good or quitting on the first or second try are the ingredients of one of the biggest creative blocks in the universe.
***It's called DELUSIONAL THINKING.***
To think you CAN be immediately good at drawing, playing a musical instrument, painting, writing, really anything is UNREALISTIC. Yes, a handful of people have a KNACK for things, but the majority of people must practice to get better. AND THEY PRACTICE A LOT and endure through the parts where they suck.
And yes, I'm speaking LOUDLY in caps because I know you can be happier if you add more creative meaning to your life. After all, I'm a Creative Freedom Fighter (who plays the ukulele with acute mediocrity). So in a way, I'm a rockstar superhero (without dry cleaning bills for capes or sequined Bermuda shorts.)
To be good at anything in the creative realm you must be able to accept that you're not instantly perfect or even kinda good. If you don't have a tolerance muscle, your mission if you choose to answer your creative call, is to build it before you build the skill you are trying to cultivate.
You need tolerance as someone who may be competent at many things - your work, your role in your family, Words with Friends, a talent you may cultivated - but as you endeavor to try something new, you will come up against your inability to translate an idea to reality fear that you're wasting your time, comparing yourself to others, etc.
This is part of the creative process and enduring these feelings is the only way you will get better.
I purposely took up the ukulele with the intention to learn to strengthen my toleration muscle; specifically to tolerate myself being bad at playing the ukulele before I got a little better, because I know once this muscle is there, I will be able to use it for exploring avenues I would not let myself explore otherwise.
What I didn't count on was how once I practiced, the feeling of triumph over the urge to quit was just as exciting as starting to sound good as I played Irving Berlin's Blue Skies on the ukulele.
1. Be Realistic about Toleration
Don't expect to be 100% tolerant at the start. Try for 5% more tolerant, no need to be perfect at toleration either. Or ask yourself: What would it feel like to be one of those people who is patient and accepting of the awkward part at the beginning of a creative process? Just ask, your subconscious
software will work on the answer while you're daydreaming about chocolate.
2. Breathe and Belong
When you feel the urge to reject doing something creative or quit when you're disgusted with what you've done, feel yourself as a part of the huge creative community that feels the exact same way, but be in the 15% that stays because you know this is just a part of the process. And breathe.
3. Practice Relentlessly
I know you’ve heard it a thousand times before, but it’s true… hard work pays off. If you want to be good, you have to practice, practice, practice. ~Ray Bradbury
Acknowledge yourself for staying true to your creative call when you do.
Celebrate by dancing around the living room. Try not to knock over the
expensive candle holder.
You Can't Tell Me What to Do Part One
You Can't Tell Me What to Do
When I was a mini-muse, I was a wild child. My parents rarely disciplined me to be or do anything in a certain way. Perhaps they were afraid of me because my real mother was Ruler of the Amazons and my dad was Zeus. Oh wait, that’s not me, that’s some woman with spectacular bracelets .
However, I was an imaginative and willful imp who liked to do things my way, which is not rare in the land of creative kids. Maybe you were a wild child too and that’s why we get along so well. My parents kinda gave up, so wolves raised me. Dang, that wasn’t me either, that kid hung-out with a bear. I wish!
The good news is because of the no-supervision thing, I didn’t experience the limitations that came from parental discipline. I had to figure out by myself how life worked and although a little lonely, it made me ruggedly independent, resourceful, and prone to self-acceptance because experiencing the frequent errors involved in the trial and error of trying to figure out how to maneuver through life, either you learn self-acceptance or hide under a bed and eat Twinkies (too many dust bunnies already living under mine).
The bad news is, with no opportunity to develop internalized discipline, the shoulds, have-tos, or directives I used trying to get myself to my creative work were (and still are) met with rebelliousness, because as a wild child I had the words, YOU CAN’T TELL ME WHAT TO DO, tatooed on my forehead. I was my own worse enemy, because I was rebelling against myself telling me what to do. Getting to my creative passions was a battle.
I love what I figured out.
Despite lack of discipline, I
accomplished a bunch of things I’m really proud of including designed my own profession, performed and wrote a full-length play, created lots of art and wrote three books. I'm making a living doing what I love - thank you, creative universe.
How did I do get stuff done given my wild child nature?
It’s what I teach and it’s not about being perfect, because some days I rebel against having to do anything, and I know that’s okay because
acceptance is freedom.
(Happy Independence Day).
I’m presenting this wisdom in three parts in the next three newsletters in hopes that it may help you stop the battle with you and yourself - why can't we just get along with ourselves!
If you’re like me, you have a short attention span and want to go out and play before you’re finished reading a long article. We are still wild children.
Click here for your Rebel Card
"Let yourself be silently drawn by the stronger
pull of what you really love."
Rumi is right, as usual, (we have tea together). Letting myself be silently drawn to my creative call really IS a stronger, wiser, more influential pull than trying to discipline myself do things with force.
FOCUS ON WHAT YOU LOVE INSTEAD OF
ON THE PRESSURE TO GET THINGS DONE
“Only love can truly save the world.” ~Wonder Woman said that and here’s how I'll translate that for you because I am a super hero translator in my spare time and I am here for you:
Love will save your creativity.
Practice loving what it is that draws you to your creative call, before, during and after you are in the process.
Make the skill of focusing on love as important as the skill of writing, art, living life creatively or whatever it is that sparks your creative fancy.
What do you love about your creative call? No, really, stop and think about it.
I find focusing on what I love about my creative call makes showing up effortless without the need for discipline or directives. It's magnetic.
- I love the way my subconscious sometimes takes my writing places I hadn't intended.
- I love when I write something I like - I can read it over and over again.
- I love the rhythm of alliteration, luring me lusciously like a likeable litany.
- I love when the watercolor paint creates an unexpected effect.
- I love it when I doodle something and it surprises me what it becomes.
- I love the feeling of completing something I've created that I love.
- I love the self-respect and feeling of resilience that comes from persevering through the hard parts and the things I don't like.
But I have to mindfully keep the love of my craft in my awareness or fears and pressures sneak back in. The trick is to OBSESS about what I love so much that it becomes irresistible and then my subconscious is on-board, (what I focus on becomes my world).
Focus on your procrastination, resistance, and inability to show-up, on what others are doing and you’re NOT doing, or on not feeling good enough, those messages becomes your world too. Ick. That doesn't work very well and it feels like crap. And if that’s been your usual focus, it’s going to take a little gentle practice and lowered expectations to shift over to a more helpful way of thinking, so don't give up if it doesn't happen immediately.
Ask these questions:
- What do I love about my creative passion? Ask: How do I love thee, let me count the ways... and count them as they come to mind. Or just ask the question and let it percolate.
- How can I show up for myself with love? How can I make that easier?
- How does my creative call love me? (suspend logic all you literal thinkers).
- Where can I get some Wonder Woman bracelets?
- Click here to get your own Creative Rebel PDF
Just ask those questions without needing an immediate answer and watch what happens. When we show-up with love not only is the process sweeter, we are more likely stay longer and that benefits the end product.
Tuning into your Intuition
I was listening to the radio while driving last week and the weatherman launched into local temperatures, but when he got to the desert he said, “And the desert has hotter temperatures… as usual.” Just a slight afterthought interjected where one usually isn't. Insignificant to many, perhaps, but the “as usual” struck me a funny, seemed like a bit of an attitude, and as such, it stirred the simmering soup of creative play within me.
What if there was a story about a character that was enamored with a weatherman who had an tendency to add his opinion to the forecasts? Aha! I was inspired to at least play with a shitty first draft just for fun. That's how stories begin... and then, you know if you are a writer on-fire, your subconscious takes control and it's as if someone ELSE is writing - both in fiction and nonfiction. All three of my books were like that.
Optimal conditions for intuitive creating, (my favorite kind), include driving while awake enough to the moment to be gently startled by a singular stimulus – an image, a sound, a sentence, a thought that snaps you into a connection, that summons a possibility, flirts with the “what if …” and seduces your passion to create.
Optimal conditions also include showering, walking, daydreaming, sitting and beginning and trusting your intuition to ignite a parade of willing ideas, characters, images, songs, kindnesses, surprises, new thoughts about your existence on a regular basis. And showing-up so the creative fireworks can shoot off.
This not only applies to writing, but art of any kind including the art of living your life with amplified awareness, to how IT IS ALL ART, the good and the bad, the gifts and the losses. It’s the art of being human and all of it can be alchemized into creative expression - the antidote to reality.
Mindfulness in collusion with creativity = colossal contentment.
Ray Bradbury speaks of this:
“What is the Subconscious to every other man in its creative aspect becomes, for writers, The Muse. Here is the stuff of originality. For it is in the totality of experience reckoned with, filed and forgotten that each man is truly different from all the others in the world. All that is most original lies waiting for us to summon it forth.”
This is why the material for my trainings and workshops emphasize instinctual, intuitive creating over linear, forced, should-infested pressure. Right brained drawing, free writing launched off of clever devices and media that catch the critic off-guard, guided relaxations to connect to the intuition and imagination - all set the Muse free.
How do you get into the instinctual flow? Many of you are there already, you just need to acknowledge it. Others need to get out of your way. Still others, and this is the biggest number, need to show-up - which is not easy this days without a few tricks.
A few tricks:
Make a list of those things that distract you.
Make a list of what you love about your creative pursuits.
Compare your feelings about these two lists.
When you feel yourself gravitating toward the distractions remember what you love about your creative pursuits, somehow short circuit your distraction by a little small movement to dislodge you from the habit: closing a computer window, standing up and walking, saying STOP to yourself and just intending to spendi a small amount of time with something that is more than a hollow reward.
The object isn’t to be perfect ...
"The object isn't to make art,
it's to be in that wonderful state
that makes art inevitable."
The object isn’t to write, it’s to be in that wonderful state that makes writing inevitable.
The object isn’t to complete something; it’s to be in that wonderful state that makes completing something easier, but more importantly is that state. That state is life. Life is not the painting, the book, or the finish line – it’s a process and the way you choose to feel in the process of creating is either happiness or hell. If it’s hell, good luck with perseverance - a key to success.
The object isn’t to be perfect, it’s to be in that wonderful state of participating in life
with love, acceptance, and curiosity–
it’s to participate period -
because to be in those states the experience is
what's important versus dismissing it as a quest for
perfection where nothing is good enough because perfection isn’t possible.
Where in your life are you trying to be perfect? Where is it not even obvious anymore because perfection and not feeling good enough are habits? How can you see it differently?
I get to remind my perfectionist self regularly that what I’m doing is “close enough ” and in that reminder is a freedom that makes the process more enjoyment. Showing up is what makes life happen - and how it happens is something to be curious about, not judgemental. Even if it's showing up imperfectly.
Five Ways to Fool Yourself into Creating
Happy April Fools Day!
Sometimes the only way I can show -up for my creativity is by fooling my fears (the world of irrational thinking that leads to avoidance, resistance, and odd preoccupations with flying lint). Since today is a day of fooling, I'll share some of my sneaky secrets about how to fool your fears JUST in case you run up against creative-intention-interference too.
1. Reframe First Attempts
When I redefine the purpose of beginning or returning to a creative endeavor as generating a mound of material with no merit, I accumulate writing or art I can then work with over time with trust and relentlessness to make it better. If I don't get a good product I do get more relentlessness which comes in handy for most things in life. If I expect great stuff at the beginning, I become the fool because that's just my ego being delusional.
2. Use Reverse Psychology
Mock-up To-do list:
- Play on social media for 3 hours
- Shoot photos of my cats and manipulate them in an app for HOURS
- Fall down the rabbit hole of You-tubes
Creative people often rebel against their own intentions. Antidote: Put the activities that normally DISTRACT me from my creative passions on my To-do list and instigate rebellion by showing-up instead, for a poem, a paragraph of writing, a drawing, or daydreaming about my next step, even if it's just 5 minutes (which often turns into longer). It's employing the rebellious nature in the direction of creative reward versus immediate mind-numbing gratifi-nothing.
3. Occupy the Critical Brain
The relaxed and intuitive state of creativity often shows-up in the shower, while driving, doing the dishes, walking, or during other no-brainer activities. Actually you are using your left-critical brain in these endeavors, so the right-creative brain can sneak in some air-time. I start my creative time by doing something that gives me the ability to think about my creative endeavor.
While occupied, I ask questions like:
- What tiny next step can I take?
- How can I make it easy to show-up?
- How can I approach this in some new way?
- What if.....?
4. Turn it Upside Down
The ego was fooled when I created the painting to the right. I wanted to draw this image so I turned it upside-down, which took away all pressure to be perfect. Take that! Ha!
5. Be a Fool
Sometimes when I don't know what I'm supposed to do, I get further in the creative process because I act without having to know everything. It's refreshing to let go of abiding to preconceived notions, rigid rules, and the "shoulds" invented by others.
6. Eat Banana-Cream Pie
B.C.P. has properties that make brilliance automatic, genius a no-brainer, and instant access possible to answers to trivia questions you didn't think you knew.
Either that or this is the April FOOLS! section of this blog-post.
Extra Credit: Copy this teapot - then turn it over without spilling.
Or write a three line rough-draft poem or haiku about having tea.