WHY Write? An Artist’s Perspective on Creativity

I was recently challenged by a wonderful public speaker and motivator, Marshal Gillen. The challenge? Come up with a WHY. WHY am I doing what I’m doing? What is the purpose? In my case, Why am I doing what I’m doing, writing and music-wise.

It used to be an easy answer—“For my kids.” And it always entailed sacrifice, artistically speaking. “I will take the secure gigs. I will take requests and play what everyone wants to hear. I will people-please and make money and put a roof over my head. I will be formulaic and study what gets me the best gigs.”

I was proud of being a musician AND a responsible breadwinner. I bought a home with musician’s wages, I bought a car with musician’s wages. I didn’t do the artist thing, not properly—I couldn’t afford to take risks.

But now that my kids are grown and on their own paths, I am embracing the artist. The uncompromising one. And the WHY has changed.

Here comes my new WHY:

  1. I am the only one who can write the stories and songs in my head. They are important. I was given a gift and I need to honor that.

 

  1. I have the potential to break the glass ceiling with my writing. If I don’t try I have zero chance of doing that. If I succeed, then I can make a living doing what I love most—CREATING. I am a creator. And with that comes the responsibility to create.

Lets say there is a God who created all that we know. Regardless of your belief, just go with me on this one. What if God made the universe and the stars, but before he made the planets he got frustrated and said “What’s the use?” and stopped? No earth, no people.

But the earth does exist. We exist. And artists exist. Why? Specifically, why do artists exist? To create. It is that simple. Everyone has their gift, their purpose. Some people heal. Some are wonderful listeners. Some are educators, some are protectors. Some quietly hold the world up with good thoughts. Some lead, some follow. Some protect the world from moving forward too quickly, some catapult the world toward a better tomorrow. And still the artist—creates.

Why? What’s the use?

Remember that God out there who could have stopped with the stars, but didn’t? Maybe God didn’t even know what would happen, but felt compelled to create for some reason. And there was a reason. It was us! I think all in all, humans are pretty cool.

We artists may not know why the hell we spend hours and days writing, painting, playing our instruments and spouting poetry to no one, for no money. But there IS a reason. It is because we are creators. It is what we do. And in the end, we do make a difference.

Did our song, our story, our painting uplift a person or two along the way? Maybe prevent some tragedy by calming just one broken soul? Even if that broken soul may be our own?  I think the answer is, YES. I’ve been touched a thousand times by an inspiring word, the lyrics of a song. I stood for hours once at a Van Gogh museum, with tears in my eyes. I had no words. There was no explanation for a bunch of blobs of paint touching my soul, but there it was. Long dead, Van Gogh touched my soul and changed me for the better. His life was a tortured, tragic one, but he has inspired millions.

I have no fame, no fortune. But I have had a few people say they were deeply touched by something I wrote. I have even had people tell me my music or message changed their lives. I am not Van Gogh, I am nobody really, but there it is. I, little me, through my own creation, touched someone’s life for the better. So that is my WHY. I am a creator. It is my responsibility to create.

Marketing it? That’s a whoooooole other subject. It is the other side of the coin. An artist can toss coins all day long, but if you love to shout “Tails!” you will lose 50% of the time. You have to shout “Heads!” now and again and toot your own horn. Yuck. Not my forte. But I owe it to the creator in me, to try.

I would like to thank Heather Walters for inspiring me. Her blog was a game-changer. Also a thank you to Marshal Gillen for the WHY challenge.

Elephant Trophy Stance–the Last Straw.

elephant trophy ban reversed
Tusk, tusk, Mr. President.

Enough is enough. I mean—Trump is encouraging elephant hunting, and reversing the ban on bringing back their heads? Elephants are an endangered species!  I have never been so continuously humiliated and shocked by anyone in my life, and he is our President! The only thing left to complete the cliché of the Ugly American is… oh. I think reversing the elephant ban was it. Our image to the world is complete. We are officially a disaster.

I feel I truly have to apologize to all my friends, family and fellow human beings across the world. I don’t understand how any of this was possible to begin with. When Trump was running, he said, “I could walk down the street and shoot someone and they’d still vote for me.”

Desperately relieved, I thought, “Goodbye, Mr. Trump.” I mean, no one would vote for him after that personal slap in the face to his constituents. What a cruel and evil thing to say. I literally thought there wouldn’t, and couldn’t be a single person who could vote for him. He just called them idiots, on camera! He just called them blind followers. He just called them advocates of murder! I would love to have someone explain how they could hear such a condescending, disturbing comment, and still vote for him. Still waiting.

Everything he has done has taken us ten steps backwards. All the beautiful things that we teach our children that is good and right with the world, he is personally undoing. The air we breathe. Sharing. Being kind to strangers. Being nice to animals. Being respectful to each other, to the invalid, to the sick, to the poor. I choose my words carefully in order to be 100% truthful. He even claims to be Christian. All the above are Christian values too. So what’s next? Elephant hunting? Elephant body part trophies? Yep. Can we please stop the insanity? Can someone wake me up from this bad dream?

Who on God’s green (soon to be brown) earth would disrespect a Climate Change Summit? Who would unprotect protected land? Deregulate factory emissions? What is wrong with our President? Seriously, what is wrong with him? And now, we can go after elephants again? What’s next—condors and pandas?

Regarding women, Trump said, on camera, “When you’re famous you can do anything. Grab them by the pussy.” So we knew our President couldn’t say anything about other Republican scoundrels, because that would take integrity and self-implication. As predicted, our dear leader was quiet as a mouse when senators from his party were accused of sexual misconduct.  But when Al Franken, a Democrat, was accused, I thought, Here we go. Trump’s going to throw himself under the bus because he can’t help himself when it comes to his so-called enemies.

Aaaand, yep. He did. His Tweet finger juuuuust couldn’t hold back. Whoopsy, Mr. President, that is one hell of a can of worms you just dumped on yourself. Trump has a list a mile long of women who have complained about his sexual misconduct. Clinton was impeached for that. Mirror mirror, Mr. President.

I have been quiet. I have been holding back. Its funny how elephants, in the end, were the last straw. Mr. President, please kindly step down so we can start moving forward again. Enough is enough. Until that day, I’ll be the girl with the bag over my head, cringing with shame. Sorry world. We’ll do better next time. We truly can’t do any worse.

An Atom’s Tale

A hydrogen atom finds its happy place
We are all made of stars…

I am a hydrogen atom. You know, one proton and all that.

How did I come to be? Well, there was this big bang, and before you know it, poof! There I was!

I am immortal, but I have no voice. I am officially a teenager today, it is my thirteenth birthday. Thirteen billionth that is, so as a gift, the Universe granted me storytelling privileges, just this once.

The cool thing about the vacuum of space is, the speed I was shot out, that’s the speed I kept. There is a lot of blackness out there, but so much beauty. Hydrogen atoms are kind of obsessed with each other, and as soon as I came in contact with another hydrogen atom, we were glued at the hip, so to speak. We traveled together for millennia, twirling and dancing, sometimes streaking along the edge of gravitational planets, bouncing off at the last minute, and continuing on our way.

We came upon a planet with a blue haze, and were instantly grabbed up by wonderful, affectionate oxygen atoms. What a party! All the hydrogen and oxygen atoms grabbing each other and dancing together. That was my first time as a water molecule. We became vapor, and lived in the troposphere of planet Earth for a while, until so many of us joined the party that we became a giant water drop and fell towards earth. We quickly evaporated, and like a roller coaster we zipped back and forth, falling, flying, falling again, until one day we turned white, and became a most glorious crystal, flitting and floating down, down, until we landed on a soft brown hand, and a little girl with a chilled nose put us on her tongue.

What a rush! Down the esophagus, stomach… we all got split up. I was absorbed into her blood stream and redistributed to her lungs, wet and pink. Lots of my oxygen friends were there, and some of them grabbed me and we flew out of her lungs, out her mouth and into the frosty air as a soft mist. I rested for a while with my friends as a pile of white snow. When the weather warmed, a lot of my friends waved goodbye and evaporated, but I was close to the brown earth, and a tree root absorbed me. It carried me up, up, through its sap, until I was sky high, and I became a part of a pine needle. I met many carbon atoms, and there were strings of atoms called esters that smelled fresh and sweet like a forest.

I was very happy. Everything was supple and green and fragrant, but after a few months, the tree was cut down. The esters still put out a pine scent for a long time, but my carbon friends started breaking apart, and the little green pine needle turned brown, and the oxygen drifted away until I was alone.

A big boot stepped on me, carrying me to a town with concrete sidewalks. I got stuck in a blob called bubble gum, and there I sat until a man with a shovel tossed me into a waste receptacle.

Lots of my aromatic ester friends were there! But they didn’t smell like pine trees, they smelled more pungent. I was grabbed by some oxygen and hydrogen party friends, and we ended up in a sweet apple core full of carbon buddies.

Eventually, a rat grabbed the apple core and ran us across the street to a warm house. A big man startled the rat, and the apple core was dropped on the lawn. The carbon atoms started breaking apart until the apple core became fertilizer for the lawn and I was evaporated along with my oxygen friends. Along came the man, just in time to breathe us in, but I never made it to the lungs. I got absorbed into his bottom lip, and he walked in the house and gave his wife a kiss. I know I am just an atom but I felt that kiss, and I felt like I was a part of something important. At first, I didn’t understand, but as I was transferred to the woman’s lip, and absorbed into her bloodstream, I was transported to a heart. But—not her heart. It was a second heart, growing in her womb. That is where I am now, on this, my thirteen billionth birthday. I have traveled the universe, but I have never felt such peace and love. If the Universe will grant me one more wish today, then I wish to stay here, and be a protector, a shield, a guardian. I, a hydrogen atom, am immortal. An atom cannot die. But there is something in a child’s heart that is immortal too. Perhaps it is the soul. I do not have the answer, I am just an atom. Perhaps on my fourteen billionth birthday, the Universe will let me know.

 

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I’ll Do It When I’m Dead: A procrastinator’s guide to… pretty much nothing

I am a musician, a novelist, a blogger, a song-writer, and master procrastinator. I have lofty goals, huge dreams, and a question: How the heck do I never have time for any of my projects? I shall examine this. Here’s “A day in the life of Rose…”

I get up and ease into the day. Soft robe, steaming coffee,slippers feet up. Hubby’s on the workout bike for another hour. I’ll wait for my turn. I’m not quite awake yet.

Dressed for a workout. The phone rings. A dear friend. I sit back down on the couch and we have a lovely chat.

My hubby asks for some help with his business. A write-up, a few important documents to put together. This is important. It brings home the bacon. It’s just a couple hours. I’m also supposed to spend at least an hour a day writing a blog, journal, novel or other. I think, “I’ll do that tomorrow, first thing.” We get right to work on his paperwork.

I change out of my workout clothes. I never did work out. And now, I have to get ready for work.

Pressed, dressed and showered, make-up on, hair done. I still have an hour. I look at the recording studio. I am supposed to be writing music, a minimum of an hour a day. But it takes a while to turn on, boot up, I have to set up my keyboard which is already in the car for my gig. I guess I’ll do that tomorrow too.

So I do the dishes and a bit of tidying up and I’m off to work, performing at a night club.

I get home at 11 pm. The gig was okay, but I had a hard time connecting with the audience, no matter what I played. I think I felt a bit blah, and it probably showed. Now I’m feeling disappointed with myself and I’m not quite ready for bed. Hubby is sleeping peacefully. Ooh, I know! I’ll cheer myself up with a glass of wine, some chips and my favorite show on Netflicks! On goes the robe, and I watch TV for an hour. Or two.

Finally sleepy, I crawl into bed and stare at the ceiling. I look back on my day and think, “I shouldn’t have had that wine and chips right before bed. All those empty calories, and I never even got to work out. Aaand, another day went by and I didn’t touch my art. Too bad I didn’t have time. Tomorrow, then.”

 

Well, its tomorrow. Again. Let’s revisit this, shall we?

 

I get up. Reach for my snuggly soft robe. Tackle my own hand away from that cuddly time-bandit and put on my workout clothes instead. Oops. Hubby’s on the work-out bike already. No worries. I’ll write my blog now.

An hour later I’ve got a fun story. I’m laughing at my silly wit and feeling high from the endorphins writing gives me.

I hop on the bike and the phone rings. I don’t answer, I text back, “Can I call you on my way to work this afternoon?”

“Sure!” Is the answer. That was easy!

I have a great workout! Now my endorphins have endorphins!

I’m about to jump in the shower, excited to get into the recording studio. I can already tell I’ll write some good music, my creative juices are really flowing. But my hubby asks, “Can you help me for a bit?”

I feel a stab of disappointment. I’m glad to help, but doing book-keeping is a huge waste of endorphins—endorphins that I worked hard to build up, so I could have that creative energy. I feel a stab of guilt too, at thinking of saying no, when I know he needs my help. “Can we work in a couple of hours?”

“Sure,” he says, without a second thought.

So I write a song I’m excited about, and walk out of the studio brimming with satisfaction, fulfilled as an artist. Guilt-free, I cuddle up next to my hubby on the couch and we work together on my laptop. Even though its technically business, we make it “Us” time, laughing and being silly in-between the number crunching.

Time for me to go to work. I make that phone call to my friend on the way and we have a great conversation.

On stage, I’m really happy and it shows, and the audience is wonderful. I feel so lucky and blessed to be a musician.

I come home, and I feel like I want a reward for such a great day. I reach for a glass of wine and think, “You know what? I think my reward will be a good night’s sleep, so I can get an early start on the day tomorrow. I have so much inside of me, waiting to get out!”

Life is awesome. Really, truly awesome, like the rush of riding a galloping horse. I just have to keep my hands on the reins and keep riding forward over the next hill, or I’ll end up back in the stall before I’m ready. Sometimes moving forward means, well… saying neigh.

Memorial Day Contemplations

FlagI dreamed of being a hero. Putting on Mother’s old dresses and twirling around like a dandelion seed in the wind. I didn’t sip tea with dolls, I rode horses and fought imaginary villains and leapt over molten lava, swinging from a rope on a tree. Yes, my Barbie kissed her boyfriend but she also went over cliffs tied to a string, on her brave mission. I wanted to save the world.

I dreamed of being an artist. Too impatient to finish college I drove to Los Angeles to be a musician. From dive bars to famous recording studios, I wrote songs that made me ache, that meant something, that said something, that made people feel. I wanted to leave my mark in the world.

I dreamed of a peaceful world. I taught my children to be kind, to share, to turn the other cheek. To soar like birds in their own way, and to help others find their wings. War, in any flavor, was wrong. I wanted to shelter my children.

I dreamed of a perfect world, but life zigged and zagged me through paths I couldn’t steer against, through tragedy I could not erase, through mistakes I could not fix. I dreamed of a perfect world, but instead I grew in wisdom and strength. With that came an elusive inner peace, which is there when I remember to look.

I woke up on Memorial Day. I remember with gratitude the heroes who fought, the artists who stirred our souls to action, the peacemakers who gave us hope, and the blind perfectionists who screamed in the wind until their message dissipated to compromise and change.

I Found My Mayfly, What’s Yours?

As any writer knows, the creative process can be a peculiar thing, sometimes bordering on the ridiculous, to those watching from the outside. Speaking for myself, I have my frumpy pilled camel color sweater that’s kept me just the right amount of cozy, through many a book writing endeavor. I would have been lost without it.

As I get older my process has shifted. I find it’s no longer just about the cozy. It’s more about the crowbar prying me away from the television or the “to-do list” or kids in need or the husband that I swear, uses me for the carpool lane when he takes me on a business trip. Gone are the glory days of writing for an entire summer under a tree, on one of those old fashioned wooden swings, where my biggest problem was, “Time to charge my laptop. Guess I’ll just have to write inside my charming rented cabin in the woods.” Ah, sweet memories, when my books pretty much wrote themselves.

Now I’m more like a dog spinning around three times before sitting down. There’s so much to do, I’m whirling and twirling and running until I plunk down, exhausted. I cannot write after having “plunked.” Even a dog would agree. When a dog spins around three times, is it instinct? I think not. The dog has simply found its process for a really great nap. “If I spin around, I’ll get a little woozy and tired, plus I’ll shoo away any bugs and snakes that I’d rather not sleep on. I’ve cleared all the worry away and I’m feeling a little loopy now so I’m ready for sleep.” See? Even animals need a process. Writers need a creative process. It takes a bit of experimenting sometimes to find it. A dog’s goal may be to have a nice snooze. Mine is to find the time, place and most importantly, the mindset to write.

I get tired, and I mean really zonked. Life is busy and distractions bombard me like confetti at a parade. I think about the dog spinning around and around until its dog universe aligns perfectly. It’s canine Zen. Then, and only then, is the dog content to rest.

I have experimented a thousand ways, up, down and sideways, to find my perfect creative process—the steps that I can take to ensure a positive writing experience where the world is my oyster and imagination spills onto the pages. Oh, that delicious writing frenzy, where my hands are barely keeping up with my mind—what a rush! If I could bottle that feeling and sell it, I could pay off the national deficit and bring world peace in one fell swoop.
Alas, more often than not, I’m busy with errands and the dirty dishes are screaming at me. I’m wearing yesterday’s socks but if I skip the laundry I have an hour to write something…anything.

Pressure doesn’t mix with creativity. I’d love to be a Hemingway or a J.K. Rowling where I can actually write for a living, undisturbed, and hire a maid to boot. I could say to everyone, “I’m going to work now, see you in eight hours or so,” and walk outside onto that swing set under the tree, and no one would tell me to go back to school or consider a career in real estate or wonder if I had a screw loose.

The reality is, I’m not Steven King or Milton or Shakespeare, so I have to be a mayfly. A mayfly is an insect with the unfortunate distinction of having the shortest lifespan of the entire animal kingdom—anywhere from a half hour to twenty-four hours. Mayflies do not eat, they live only to create. Literally. They reproduce and that’s it. And they do so in a teensy weensy window of time. That’s how I feel. I am forced sometimes, under great pressure, to create in a nano-second. It’s either that, or give up writing.
Mayflies are born with one thing on their minds. They don’t come out of their egg and say, “First I’ll balance my checkbook, then grocery shop, mop the floor, go to work and…oh yeah, see if I can squeeze in a date with that hot little morsel fluttering her wings at me.” Nope. It’s the hot chick or nothing. I bet they don’t even care about dirty socks.

And so, I need to prioritize. Catch myself at my most undistracted, my freshest, my most alert, my most positive. And I’ve found it. I’ve found my mayfly. My maximum creativity. It takes work to get hatched out of an egg. That little mayfly comes out pumped up and raring to go! Exercise. That’s the key. So first thing in the morning, I wrestle my blankets until I’ve found the corner of the sheet, and emerge, fresh and alive—a brand new day with brand new opportunities.
I force myself to put on, not my cozy fluffy robe that has a homing beacon for the couch. Instead, I put on my exercise clothes that say, “Energize, Mr. Scott!”

I pour my coffee and a glass of water—coffee for my pleasure, water for my health—and get on my exercise bike. Then, and only then, do I get to pick my favorite show and watch it. I have to be disciplined and never watch my favs unless I’m on the bike. Now I associate the pleasure of a kick-ass chick flick with exercise. I’ve tricked myself into being… healthy! Sneaky me.
Just like the mayfly, emerging with energy to do only one thing, I get off that bike, pumped up and glistening, grab my laptop and step outside to my patio. If I listen to the rustling leaves and the birds singing, I can transport myself to that swing in the woods, and… I write.

The phone rings, invariably. But this is my time. Like the creative span of the mayfly, I can indeed live a lifetime on paper in this precious moment or two. I feel not shame, but pride, when I send a quick text message to my phone friends, “Can I call you in a couple hours? I just sat down to write.” I am validated. My creative lifespan for the day has been honored.

When I finish—when my little window of existence as a writer has been spent for the day—I am left with a few paragraphs in my journal, or the beginning of a novel, or a little story about dogs spinning and insects reproducing, which to the normal human may seem curious at best, but just may make sense to a few other mayflies like me.

Yesterday’s Water: a short and silly essay that’s all wet

I found a full cup of water I’d left out from yesterday. I picked it up, looked at it, took a sip and discovered, “Yep, it’s still water.”

Instead of plastic bottles, I drink from cups of tap water. I bring them in my car when I travel. I don’t understand why people buy water when they have water from their sink, already purified. If there are minerals in it, they’re good for us. If there’s chlorine, we can buy a filter. Filling tons of bottles (that fill tons of landfill) with water just seems pointless to me.

The names of the water bottling companies crack me up. A bottle may be labeled “Tahitian waterfall bubbling babbling spring water.” But the small disclaimer is likely to say “Purified water, bottled in Detroit.”

This is America. We are the most anally sterile country in the world. We’re so isolated from impurities that we get Montezuma’s revenge when we go to Mexico because our bodies scream, “My god, is that a germ?” and shut down in horror.
Yes of course I’m all for clean water. I’m just saying “It IS clean for peep’s squeak!” People want a new level of clean. Putting it in a sky blue bottle with a picture of the Bahamas doesn’t make it any cleaner. And then there’s the boutique glass bottle with the zen label and haiku. Yes, you too, can achieve enlightenment, for only $2.99. Buy two, get one free, Nirvana is yours my friend! Still just purified water.

I’m wondering what’s next. Perhaps a crystal water goblet with a 14 carat gold pop-top which comes in a burgundy velvet pouch.

That’s all I have to say on the subject. I’m going to sit down now and finish drinking yesterday’s water. I just have to pick that fly out of it first.