blog: the priorities of successful creative people

I’ve lived for decades with a sense of shame and guilt, fearing that I’m at best self-centered, with possible anti-social tendencies and (God forbid) a full-blown misanthrope: I'm constantly saying 'no' to people.

Thanks to my dear friend and coach Mudd Lavoie and to the golden resource Mudd discovered in Stephanie Palmer, I’m looking at the fact that work is my priority with new eyes. I'm also seeing my relationship to people and to the national obsession with ‘hanging out’ from a totally different angle.

This article (which Stephanie Palmer tweeted last week) threw a knock-out bucket of ice water at the nasty judgy voice which has dogged me for decades. I am redeemed!

For more great stuff, check out Stephanie Palmer and Mudd Lavoie.

Rewriting. GUILT-FREE.

Rewriting. GUILT-FREE.

Plowing Ahead In Spite of Fear - inspiration from "Big Magic" by Elizabeth Gilbert

One of the little-discussed aspects of pIowing ahead on a creative path is the fear. Even when things seem to be going swimmingly, there can be that hesitation, sometimes great, sometimes reduced, but always lurking there, that bad habit of doubting the next step.

I'd heard about Elizabeth Gilbert's new book "Big Magic" and had been meaning to get it for months, just like I'd been meaning to read all the books on my bed table written by brilliant people I actually know. There's sometimes a benefit to insomnia.

"Big Magic" is a laugh-out-loud page-turner that's chock full of wisdom and love. If you're interested in "creative living beyond fear" this could be your handbook. Elizabeth Gilbert's own bracing story of artistic hard knocks is threaded through the wisdom of the ages. I found it inspiring and hilarious.

Here's an excerpt about Gilbert's "mother's thinking on wrapping Christmas presents which was much in line with General George Patton's":

"A good plan violently executed now, is better than a perfect plan executed next week."

Still from a video starring Maria Bruni and me which will be appearing in its entirety soon.

Still from a video starring Maria Bruni and me which will be appearing in its entirety soon.

Just below is a late Valentine's Day present from me to you if you click the Like button ...  And if you want to Share this, please just hit the 'Share' button right next door. Thank you!  \o/

Go Big or Go Bust: On believing that you're good enough (part 2)

As you may know, I’ve been feeling over-the-top anxious about my next step in this adventure of ‘going big or going bust’: pitching the pilot is on my list just above ‘having fingernails pulled off’. But because it's under the surface. I'm not usually conscious of feeling anxious. I'm taking actions! And you (wonderful people) are giving me all kinds of support and encouragement ... so I have some new tools!

Naturally it came as a surprise to wake like a shot at 3 AM the other night,  and then to toss and turn for a full hour and a half.

But, lucky me, I had what might turn out to be a life-changing revelation.

I’d tried all my tricks to get back to sleep, the breathing, the hypnotherapy, the hot milk and honey. Lowering my expectations to simply ‘stay warm’, I huddled in the fetal position in the 40º room (window open, the way I like it) covers pulled over my head. Sixty minutes passed, seventy, ninety, BOOM.

It came out of nowhere: the image of a jacket made out of plaster. MY jacket. The jacket I’ve unconsciously chosen to wear for my entire life. But one that is no longer serving me.

Imagine this four inches thick, made of plaster and with crumbly bits of plaster and gauze hanging off the edges.

Imagine this four inches thick, made of plaster and with crumbly bits of plaster and gauze hanging off the edges.

What was once maybe protecting me, feels like it’s become the problem. I think I’ve been wearing fear 24/7 in the form of a rigor-mortis-stiff, pretty much impenetrable jacket. Sure, it blocks the possibility of getting a knife in the back, but it also makes receiving and even 'feeling' next to impossible.  

Huddled there under the covers, I threw my shoulders back to break up the ‘plaster’ and wriggle out of the ‘jacket’. Yeah it’d leave my back completely unguarded and vulnerable to attack but I immediately felt more, and more free and more comfortable in my body. And that feeling continued the next day and into the following day and shows no sign of abating. (to be continued)

A hoop skirt from 'the good old days' when women WERE actually trapped by their clothes.

A hoop skirt from 'the good old days' when women WERE actually trapped by their clothes.

(Hey if you have any inclination to click the ‘Like’ button, PLEASE DO!)


Go Big or Go Bust: On Pitching and the Burning Question: Do You Have to be Cool to Pitch Successfully?

As I see it, there are three types of people: people who are cool, people who are not cool andpeople who, through an alchemy of body type, style and self-restraint (silence is a great tool), manage to give the impression that they're cool.

I fall into the third category. Or I did. And let me tell you, it’s a sad life. And it’s exhausting. With all that energy going into creating an impression, into pretending excitement, empathy, interest and everything else. I always felt like the inside of a pumpkin, hollow and a little slimy.

To get somewhere as a filmmaker, you pretty much have to pitch. And the essence of pitching plays into all of the darkest fears of someone who doesn’t feel cool, who has a fear of rejection,  of being publicly humiliated, who has, let’s just call it what it is, a fear of *annihilation*. And so, up until now, with one miserable exception in front of a Brooklyn arts organization and one horrifying weekend at IFFCON (a pitch festival by invitation only, GOD HELP ME) I have avoided pitching. That is about to change because I want to make this fake reality show for television and am going to have to pitch the idea. I feel compelled to explain the depth of my anxiety.  

In middle school, new to the area, I asked the girl who sat next to me in study hall if we could be friends. I agree it seems more like a question from a pre-schooler than from a seventh grader. Hey, I was young for the grade. Anyway, she had an interesting long nose and was serious and thoughtful. She answered me the next day: her mother wanted her to be friends with girls who lived in town. Dagger to my heart. We lived way out in the country, far from school and she lived in town. Obviously, the cool people lived in town.

I spent the rest of the next six years trying to become the most popular girl in the school.

I’m not sure if my classmates would agree that I succeeded but I did get elected to a lot of positions. And I felt popular. Hey so what if I barely graduated? I felt cool.

(To be continued)

Go Big or Go Bust: Day 216 (on panic, pain, and Stephen Colbert's life raft of acceptance)

I'm fortunate to have never had to battle depression.  In fact, I've hardly ever been depressed.  But today it's been in a downhill slide since before hauling myself out of bed.  I'd like to think this mood was caused by the second half of that hummus sandwich on the way home from the rodeo --or the barely five hours of sleep.  So I fought it off but it came back.  Again.  And again and again. 

I was starting to fear that the underlying panic (that I'm blowing it, that I'm blowing everything) has solidified into the new me.  

Here I thought it was good to have hopes and dreams (especially supported by astrological forecasts) that the whole 'vision board' thing was a healthy discipline.  Too bad, with my willfulness, it all turns into torture. 

So, not liking pain, I've been scouring for help.  "Plans but no expectations" says John M. Carroll, the (biblical era-type) healer who works with visualization and has helped me and thousands of others with conditions and/or diseases which sometimes (apparently) spring from inner turmoil.  "Forgiveness, no judgment or feeling slighted".  I'm sure he's right, but today I'm not hearing it.

Luckily, Jessica Arinella sent me a cover story on Stephen Colbert which is saving my life.  In the last third of the article, Colbert talks about suffering, about loving your failures and about the importance of accepting them.  "Acceptance is not defeat.  Acceptance is just awareness."  Whattt. 

Many years ago, I had a mentor in a successful artist.  He used to talk about the precious state of feeling completely defeated, that in that moment, your skin is "stretching".  I would think but not dare to say, "Easy for you to say, you with your museum retrospectives and your big career." 

Today his words came back to me with force after reading Colbert's words.  Combined with my late mentor's image of the stretching skin, an action-step came clear: I relaxed into the horrible feeling of my skin 'stretching' and, in an instant, the panic and the pain lifted.  Poof.  GONE.  It was just like the shift of hunching my shoulders and tensing every muscle to not feel a blast of arctic wind vs. relaxing and experiencing the cold as just another feeling.  Once the resistance is removed, it's a state without a positive or a negative charge, like a color. 


Go Big or Go Bust: Day 144 (on what strikes fear in the core of my being)

On twitter this afternoon, I clicked over to see if I wanted to follow back someone who'd followed me.  I was hoping she wasn't going to be scantily clad ... and she wasn't! This lead me to her website, to reading a post she'd written and eventually to feeling like I'd stumbled on the answer to my (unworded) prayer.  She's real, she's vulnerable and she's funny.  She talks about her inadequacies, her failures and her dreams.  But then I came to a line which struck fear in the core of my being:: 

"... those women have created long careers by letting the audience get to know them intimately ... "

That phrase both sends me to and drags me (kicking and screaming) from my bunker of isolation.  It's what Mudd Lavoie keeps encouraging me to do with this Go Big or Go Bust 'live journal': "Go all the way, naked in front of the world!"  (naked being a metaphor here...)  And even I can see that it's because this new twitter friend shows herself with all of her perceived inadequacies that I'm attracted to her.

Onward!  Seriously, I want to do this. 

But let's face it.  In the immortal words of my (then) middle school-aged child:  "It's not easy being me."