Steve Prefontaine: Don’t let fatigue make a coward of you.
Prefontaine was a long-distance runner, and his quote is meant to inspire you to work through the doubt and the growing pains that you’re surely experiencing — every rebirth necessitates a death and the labour of delivery.
Today is the first day of your third week in the process of learning to open up to your inner creativity and start living your dreams and enacting your abilities. It is a day to get down to work again, to batten the hatches against the storm of criticism and all the haters. Think of it this way: if they’re hating on you, (if your own inner critic is self-hating) it must be because you actually accomplishing goals, no matter how small.
The creative person makes progress through hard work, perseverance and dedication. The critic (including the one inside your doubtful conscience) has got nothing but free time to be envious and jealous. Everyone of us will hit a wall, most of us hit a wall every morning, hit another wall at our first coffee break and hit another wall after lunch when we crash into a food coma.
Work through your fatigue! Nothing gets done in a day.
Sit down before bed tonight and make a list of 5 30-minute tasks you have accomplished in the last two weeks and five task you WILL accomplish this week.
Jorge Luis Borges: I have always imagined that paradise will be a kind of library.
Smile. Rub your palms together and feel success. Cross your legs and say an Ommmmm. It’s the end of the second week and you’re already a more creative, bold and inspired producer.
I love this quote. It makes me smile and grin and imagine an interstellar library floating in outer space among the constellations. Jorge Luis Borges has been an inspiration and influence on my life and writing: I have haunted the labyrinth stacks of many libraries throughout my collegiate and adult life and I know that his spirit is always there with me.
Also, a more literal analysis of this quote, yields something incredible, zen-like and beautiful. Borges worked as a librarian throughout his life and, at 55 years old in the same year his blindness became complete, he became Director of The National Public Library of Argentina. In other words, even as he lost the ability to read himself, he realized his dream. So, his idea of paradise was a kind of reality.
Check-in with THE DREAM. Close your eyes and picture yourself living the dream. That it soak up your thoughts until you can see yourself living this dream, enacting your own paradise. Now, write a description of your kind of paradise, in a hundred words or a thousand.
Lydia Netzer: A book is a conversation between an author and a reader. Books are social media, and the most intense connection I can get with another person is having that person read my novels. So everything else – Twitter, Facebook, and the rest – is fun. A little facile, a little commercial, and artificial, perhaps. The book is where the real communication is, and I think all writers and readers know that.
TRUTH! Today is a day of hard truths. Be honest with yourself: did you sign a contract with yourself promising to not brainfizzle your days away on SM and completely renege in days?
Be honest, but don’t blame yourself. You are just one person and the apps, which suck us into the rabbit hole every single day, are multi-million dollars codes and algorithms devised and personalized by the best and brightest in Silicon Valley and around the world. They are meant to lure us in, distract us and sell us our own idea of THE GOOD LIFE, whatever that is for you: Telemark skiing, French culinary school, macchiatos in Portland, sun in Santa Monica.
Remember: You control how you prioritize your time, through the daily actions you choose.
Write out a list of ten brainfizzle moments from the last week, or day, or hour. Did you start to search-up the meaning of ‘bivouac’ and end up in a rabbit hole of designer handbags? Did you open your inbox to check for an email from your boss and click your way into daily vlogs? Write down your actions, so you can acknowledge and assess how you are choosing to employ your time.
From Allen Ginsberg’s, Fourteen Steps for Revising Poetry:
3. Review it through several people’s eyes.
As creative beings, we have a tendency to make or produce for a single person, that ideal audience out there in the ether: be it a best friend, a departed parent, or an imaginary mentor, one of those towering figures we revere from afar. Although it can certainly be helpful to have a particular audience in mind— especially if you’re publishing a daily blog or magazine with a niche readership, or building a new marketing campaign for a finicky client— never forget, that art should ultimately be transcendent.
Bla, bla, bla. I know, big intimidating multisyllabic words and sky-high ambitions.
But seriously, there is a reason why Japanese teenagers in the throng of ennui clamour to read Beat Generation novels from the 1950s, and Princeton and Yale professors complete their doctorate research on Ginsberg’s Howl and Amerika. The work lasts because it speaks in an inclusive voice, to all audiences, everywhere, and transcended its own era to become an ethos.
Pick one of your unfinished projects or an excerpt from a longer work-in-progress. Write a list of 3 people who you think would be the perfect audience for this work. Next, add a list of 3 people, who you think would hate this work. Now, share your unfinished work. Ask each person on your list to name one thing they love, one thing they hate and one way they would change your work, if it were their own.
Claudia La Rocco: The harder question to answer is not “Do I like this?” but “Why?” And so digging into that question becomes paramount for a responsible critic, so as to avoid ad hominem attacks and uninformed gushing and the like. Unexamined opinions are tedious, and they’re dangerous.
This one might hurt a bit. Not a band aid rip either, but an actual lasting pain, like a second degree burn. It’s easy to flip back through the pages of old work and to dismiss yourself, to say, “Oh that, who knows what I was thinking? It’s shit! And anyway, that was ages ago.”
Then you rip out the page. Delete the file. Toss the worn sketchbook. And, most importantly, forget about that moldy, festering garbage stink that lingers around the work you’re most ashamed of and happy to forget. The hard part is to look back at a low point and ask yourself, why didn’t this work? Was it rushed? Poorly planned? Too much brash ego, not enough effort and finesse?
Find an old piece, something absolutely cringe worthy. A monologue you wrote in Drama 101, or a juvenile painting that your parents have stored beside their CD player in the basement. Think of it as a dress rehearsal, as if you know it’s a dry run and there’s no audience watching you muck it up.
Now, try and rehash the work and reshape it into something of value. Ruthlessly edit out the extraneous and superfluous. Cut the show-offy and flashy bits. If necessary, start from scratch on the forgotten concept. Force yourself to see why it was failure and how you can improve upon your effort.
Stephen King: In many cases when a reader puts a story aside because it ‘got boring,’ the boredom arose because the writer grew enchanted with his powers of description and lost sight of his priority, which is to keep the ball rolling.
Today, I want to keep it short. This is about you, not me. Treat yourself and make 60 minutes of free, undivided attention to work on your art.
Setup somewhere you can avoid and ignore ALL interruptions, turn off your ringer, put in your headphones, and work on your project for an hour, whatever THE DREAM may be.
Aleksandar Hemon: I happen to think that an ounce of empathy is worth a boatload of judgement. A writer can disease himself or herself with his or her own position, thinking about it too much.
Oh my goodness, you know you’ve done it. I know I have done it, when you let the fierce little critic out of the cage 😈. You say you’re going to the café to give yourself space and time to think, to be creative and inspired.
We end up sitting in the window ‘people watching’ i.e. judging everybody’s jacket and boots. Who wore it best? Not inspirational and not a game.
Placing yourself in an other’s mind and body, imagining what it must feel like to have your family torn apart or separated by racism and hate. To have left a war torn country, like Aleksandar Hemon, and started a new life across an ocean. That, my friend, is empathy.
Write down a list of 5 people, who you see all the time, and know nothing about. Make a point of asking them about them self the next time you run in to them.
It could be a security guard or custodian at your school. The barista that never smiles. Or the guy behind the counter of the Bodega or store by your apartment. It could even be a coworker or peer, who has never shared their story. Today, listen for a change.
Margaret Atwood: The day I became a poet was a sunny day of no particular ominousness. I was walking across the football field, not because I was sports-minded or had plans to smoke a cigarette behind the field house — the only other reason for going there — but because this was my normal way home from school. I was scuttling along in my usual furtive way, suspecting no ill, when a large invisible thumb descended from the sky and pressed down on the top of my head. A poem formed. It was quite a gloomy poem: the poems of the young usually are. It was a gift, this poem — a gift from an anonymous donor, and, as such, both exciting and sinister at the same time.
I suspect this is truth for more of us, creatives, than are willing to admit. That moment when electricity fired through your synapses and the muse started whispering in YOUR ear.
I remember a morning when I woke from a dream, startled by a ghostly visit from my grandmother, and popped out of bed with a ready-made story trying to stream out of my fingertips. Only a seemingly endless wait for the stovetop percolator to boil and my two-finger Linus typing could staunch the flow of words, for what would become one of my first pieces of published writing.
Record the story of your first thumb pressing down on top of your head. Try and write out your creation story, the moment you first knew that there was a kind of magic inside your mind, just waiting to be set free. Were you eating a bowl of cereal? Watching the contours of a black-and-white print take shape under the hot red lamp of a dark room? Maybe it was way back in grade school, when you were drawing your first map of Middle Earth?
Muhammad Ali: At home I am a nice guy: but I don’t want the world to know. Humble people, I’ve found, don’t get very far.
The self-described GREATEST OF ALL TIME wasn’t lauded for his original successes in the boxing ring and he certainly wasn’t romanticized by the public and his contemporaries for his character. He had a long hard fight throughout his life, from throwing his Olympic gold medal away to standing up for his Islamic religious beliefs and refusing to serve in the Vietnam War. The one constant in his life was his absolute belief, conviction and faith in his own actions. He was his own best promoter, the author of his own destiny, and the creator of his own majesty.
Do yourself a favor and be your own promoter, sales team and word-of-mouth marketer.
Look back over the first 6 days of tasks in your planner, read what you wrote and reflect on how you have already eliminated waste and accomplished progress toward your creative dream.
Now, write out this affirmation:
I, ________________, will only use social media to benefit my creativity, promote my work, and achieve my dream.
David Foster Wallace: We’re able to to describe the attempt to track our wandering in circles in a way that perhaps somebody else can’t identify with. I don’t think writers are any smarter than other people. I think they may be more compelling in their stupidity, or in their confusion.
It’s time to start putting your goals in order. This is known as prioritizing. It’s a very important step along your path to creative freedom and productivity. The confusion ends here.
Have you always dreamed of being a novelist, but there’s a part of you that remembers dancing as a child and thinks, I could be a writer and a dancer? And then that other part of you that thinks: what if I made a web series about writing about dancing? And then you think, man, podcasts are so hot right now. What if I need a podcast to build my personal brand? So, you sit down and START WRITING a script (which you now plan on recording audio visual for podcast/Youtube), but wait, you are exactly back where you started. This is circumlocutory thinking, which is pernicious and dangerous to creativity because it equates to indecision. Just another big word for procrastination. And you’re done killing time.
THE DREAM starts now. It’s time to make your website. It’s time to add a subscription for a newsletter to your fan page. It’s time to contact freelance editors for the manuscript in your drawer. It’s time to start sending your head shots to agents in London and LA.
Go back to your dream. THE CREATIVE DREAM. Now list the 3 most important simple tasks that you will accomplish to get closer to achieving that creative dream. Begin and complete the first task right now.