Today I would like to take you behind the scenes to show you a bit of how my process works. I'm going to show you how I make the new "Lady Luck Earrings" that I created just yesterday, because as we all know, St. Patrick's Day is on its way:)
First I cut the wire into small pieces, which I then wind back and forth. I use the handle of one of my polymer clay tools in order to get those smooth curves. I also have some round needle nose pliers that I use to make those curly cues at the tops and bottoms. (I use those curly cues in a lot of my designs. It's kind of one of my signature elements of stye.) I then use that hammer in the top right to hammer flat the edges of the design. This gives it a more sleek look and finishes off the metal portion.
Here I am using sulphur to "patina" the copper wire. Sulphur smells awful. I'm used to the smell, but for Nick's sake, I do the patina process outside. The sulphur looks like tiny chunks of rock. I stick one of those chunks in a bowl of water to dissolve it. (Usually, I wear gloves for this part of the process, but for the photo, I took them off even though I am obviously due for a serious manicure!)
Now to make the four leaf clovers. This is where the detail of the piece come in. I have a pasta machine I use to roll the clay into flat sheets. I then use the above tool to cut out tiny triangles, which I then cut into hearts. I use my nails and the edges of my fingers to give the leaves that round, smooth curve.
Then you have a tiny four leaf clover like this! (Ignore the peeling nail polish please!)
Here is a row of lucky four leaf clovers. I usually make my jewelry assembly line style after I receive the days orders. I lay out the parts of the style I'm working on in rows, so I can count and keep them organized. Don't want to spend extra time making too many. These little things take quite a bit of time and effort.
The most challenging part of the whole process is getting the clovers to stay on the earring securely. I fashioned a way to do this from the back. I took a tiny dab of clay and attached it in the back, making a criss-cross with my x-acto knife tool. This way it kind of looks like a screw which ties into my "steampunk" theme that I incorporate into the rest of my online shop.
The last step is to add a metallic talcum powder. I used a brass color for these earrings because it has a bit of a green hue. I stick these in the oven at 275 degrees for thirty minutes or so, let them cool. Then I package them up, and they are ready to go!
I'm always dreaming up new creative projects to try. (I'm sure you guys are too, based on the emails and feedback I get.) While experimenting with the latest new idea of mine, I find myself reading through dozens of blogs and books trying to discover "the secret" to success or the "best tips and tools for productivity". How did these professional writers, musicians, artists make it all the way to the top?
As I've been digging and digging I came across similar recommendations such as:
- Send out good vibes to the universe.
- Use such and such software. (There is even a productivity writing software called "Write Or Die". Look it up. It's terrifying!)
- Use such and such app.
- Figure out how your body and energy correlates with the moon cycles/seasons/menstrual cycles
- Eat certain foods
- Wake up early
- Have accountability partners
- Read these books
- Listen to these audio cds
- Go on daily, spiritual nature walks
- Escape for a weekend to recharge.
- Use egg timers
I stopped one day, after reading through a rather dense blog filled to the brim with productivity tips, to remember the things I did to facilitate moderate success as a musician. What was my secret sauce? I've climbed the creative Mount Everest before. I started from day one with nothing. What tips and tricks did I use?
Did I use an egg timer to time my creative spurts?
Did I use spreadsheets, apps, and detailed calendars?
I sat down every day to work out songs because I wanted to. I wrote down my melodies and lyrics not caring or worrying about critics or pleasing audiences or being concerned if anyone would listen to them. I wrote song after song, played guitar non-stop. When I had enough material I found other musicians who would play with me, an audience that wanted to listen. I showed them what I had. I did these things over and over again, day after day, for years. I just knew in my innocent, little heart of hearts, that someday, some people, somewhere, would absolutely go batty for what I created. I simply had to find them.
I focused on the art itself, and didn't get caught up in the details of how to create it.
Please understand that I'm not saying all of the productivity advice floating around the internet flat out sucks. What I am saying is this:
I now realize that every time I was looking for "productivity" and "creativity" tips, I was actually biding time and pretending to work on the planning of creating my art, so I wouldn't have to actually create it. I thought it was more important to look up the best methods to be productive instead of grabbing my guitar and coming up with good lyrics. I focused on building a detailed to-do list, even planning when I would stop to meditate before writing a chapter to invite my muse, instead of going forth and writing something down. Hell, my muse is either going to be there or she isn't!
I was evading the actual sitting down to make my art because I was (and still am):
You'd think that after a decade of being a musician and performing in arenas that fears like this wouldn't deter me, but they still do. I'm right there with you. Doubts are dumb. Life shouldn't be so serious. People are counting on you and me to be entertained, to feel an emotion, to make the mundane, boring, painful parts of their lives easier to bear, like you and I are counting on all the artists that we look up to. We've got an assignment to do.
- Afraid that it won't be good enough
- Afraid that my new art won't measure up to what I've created in the past
- Afraid that I'll never finish
- Afraid that I'll never start
- Afraid that I will be misunderstood.
- Afraid that people will think I'm an idiot
Gonna go do it now,
P.S. In the first part of this blog, the question to my search was, "How did these professional writers, musicians, artists make it all the way to the top?" That's the wrong question to ask. The right question is, "how can I find a way to face my fears so I can focus on what's important and finish the art that I start?" Well, how can you? ...
I feel tired, even after ten hours of sleep. Three weeks is about the time the exhaustion starts to set in. We've sat in dozens of airport terminals, at least fifty taxi cabs and vans, slept in boat-loads of hotel beds. I'm starting to feel the "tour haze". No matter how many naps I steal in between flights and shows, I'm not going to be able to escape it. I'm not looking forward to the 16-hour plane flight home and accompanying jet lag.
Yes, I know traveling all over Southeast Asia, all expenses paid, is a dream. That doesn't mean I don't feel homesick at times and miss someone (special!) back in California.
In the Philippines we appeared on a few t.v. shows and radio stations. Carlo was starstruck most of the time, pointing and saying, "Look there is so-and-so! She's dating so-and-so, and that guy over there just announced he is gay and is helping the homosexual community!" Stunning women stood next to me on stage and back stage. I felt under-dressed and under-make-uped where cameras flashed and host's grins sparkled like the tops of snowy glaciers.
I told Nick over Skype I'm kind of glad he didn't come, because he might have been swept away by a pair of mysterious hazel eyes.
Everyone sang in Manilla. Our cab driver sang. The greeter at the hotel sang. It's strange to see people without any inhibitions openly express themselves in public.
After we landed in Malaysia, I tried to associate it to a place I had been to before. Hawaii was the closest I could think of. Our host said, "The similarities stop with the coconuts." After spending three days there, I agreed.
The people are a mix of Malay, Chinese, and Indian. You can walk down the street and buy fresh vegetarian samosas made right in front of you from a little food cart while shopping for a sari, then walk a couple blocks more to what they call a "Hawker Center" and order up some authentic Chinese cuisine. I never stopped feeling exhilarated each time we walked out of a shopping mall or restaurant and were greeted by the ocean's gently rolling waves.
Dia's fans have been really respectful. A little too respectful. For example, at our signing at Puma, everyone shyly stood back a few feet from the store entrance and had to be ushered in by a Puma associate in order to get the ball rolling. In the states, at a festival I attended, people literally knocked over a chain link fence to be the first in line at a Modest Mouse signing. (Not that we are Modest Mouse status, but still…)
We spoke at a University in Malaysia about the music industry. The young students were equally as shy and respectful as the people coming to our shows. A member of the audience asked how a shy person might perform if she has stage fright. Dia replied that she is taking acting lessons to learn to not be shy. While I agree that a person doesn't have to give in to this personality trait, and one can learn how to be more outgoing, I still haven't discovered the secret to being fearless on stage.
I told the audience there has been one or two performances in my whole life when I haven't been afraid. All the rest of the shows, even still to this day, after seven years of performing, I'm still afraid.
So I told the shy student, "So what if you are afraid? It's o.k. to be afraid. You aren't going to die."
Do it anyway.
It's o.k. to be afraid, to expect fear, to treat it like a pet that is going to show up anyway, so you might as well be prepared and allow it to sleep by your feet, just as long as it stays still and doesn't become too jumpy.
(I originally wrote this post about a year ago. I deleted it because it was overrun by spam, and at the time I didn't know how to clean up the spam. Silly me! I feel that it's an important post, though, for those who were interested in my old band. Unfortunately, the original comments were not recovered along with the original spam (hurray!) But this was the best I could do:)
I've been reading about a lot of concern on twitter and Facebook since we decided to close down the Meg and Dia merch store a few days ago. So, I'm going to address your concerns here in this blog post.
Firstly, we decided to close the merch store down because we all live in different cities and, since all of the merch is at Nick's house, he's been handling all of the tasks, such as shipping and packaging the items, all on his own. It just didn't seem fair to have him keep all of that responsibility on his shoulders when none of the rest of us could help out.
Then because the store is closing, "Meg and Dia"questions started popping up.
I know that a lot of you are thinking, "Well, sheesh, I wish all the members of Meg and Dia can keep rocking in their wheel chairs when they are in their seventies and beyond!" And, you know, in some ways that is a very sweet idea. And maybe we will all be rocking in our wheel chairs in our seventies. I'd be pretty stoked about that! Ha ha. We just won't be doing it in the same format that was once called, "Meg and Dia".
I think "Meg and Dia" was our battleground where we learned so many valuable lessons about life and music that we are now ready to use in other musical endeavors. And I'm really, REALLY sorry, that this makes so many of you sad. In a way, that makes me kind of happy (I hope you guys take this the right way) because that means that you all cared so much. It means that we made some kind of difference in your lives. For us, that's what making music is all about.
So, life happens, and we all get these incredible opportunities sometimes that we have to take advantage of, so we can learn and become better people and better musicians. Dia had a chance to perform with her role model in an arena tour and she's now traveling to other countries to sing her heart out and inspire people who don't even speak the same language as her! How cool is that?
I'm playing with some of the most talented musicians I've ever met here in this calm city. I never had the chance to really focus on my craft. When you're constantly touring the focus is more on performing. I really believe now is my time to really get to know my instrument. I feel like instead of dating the guitar and taking it slow we just kind of dove into the whole "playing music" thing and now that things are more calm, I'd like to take her out on a few dates, you know?
I hear Jonathan's becoming quiet the chef in Los Angeles, and Carlo is Dia's Sancho Paza on her musical quest. Nick's still playing music with me, although now I think I should say I'm playing music with him, because he's been teaching me so much.
So you see, nothing is stopping. Things are just changing. Meg and Dia was an incredible, exciting, part of our pasts that will always be remembered and we will all take the lessons from those years and apply them to the present.
Living life in the moment is so important, don't you think? So, let's do that, you and I, and keep the past were it was, without forgetting, and look forward to the future, without remembering.
Although the different cities we've been to so far have a lot of similarities, each city has its own distinct flavor, its own vibe. (Duh! I know. It's really interesting to experience them all side by side.) I prefer the clean streets and famous Dan Dan Noodles of Chengdu over the chilly weather and too-spicy hot soups of Beijing.
The hospitality in our hotel in Chengdu is the best I've experienced anywhere in the world. We eat lunch at one of the hotel's restaurants. We have a choice between American and Chinese. We choose Chinese of course! Can't get enough of the dumplings and the noodles. This restaurant has an all-you-can-eat dumpling menu. We have a difficult time ticking off the little boxes next to the different choices of dim sum, since all of the flavors sound equally delicious.
I've never seen Carlo eat so much or be so excited about a meal. The food in China is definitely right up Carlo's alley. Even when we toured years ago in the U.S., our band would stop at an Olive Garden or a Chipotle, and Carlo would run off and return with some crazy Asian dish he picked up at a strip mall down the street.
We order truffle oil and mushroom dim sums. They melt in our mouths. As we taste them, we can't talk or listen to each other. All we can do is focus on these heavenly dumplings, and let them take us, for a few moments, to a magical land far, far away. I'll have dreams about them for years to come. (I'm not even joking.)
After lunch, we head to the venue. The intersections are at least five times larger than any intersection I've seen in the U.S. Lanes go every which way, diagonal, left, right, and curly-cue. Whenever the light turns green, I close my eyes and hope for the best. Carlo physically holds his hands out in a "please don't smash into us" position. Like that's going to do anything silly Carlo. There are just as many bicycles, scooters, and motorcycles as there are cars filling the streets. The honking is worse than New York. One of our cab drivers uses his brights to annoy other drivers as liberally as I use salt to annoy other diners. This causes me almost to break out in hives. Too bad the cabs don't come equipped with "oh-shit" bars in China.
I really can't explain why some performances are spot and others feel like gut-wrenching piano recitals straight out of my childhood, in which my parents force me to participate or no sleepovers for me.
The Chengdu show is magic. We all tap into the same mysterious energy that only shows up on its own accord. The show happens without the slightest hitch and with plenty of sparkle. Dia dances about the stage, smiling the entire time. Carlo bobs his head and taps his feet. I know they are loving every minute of being on stage, and I'm loving that they're loving it. I'm enjoying myself, and finally I don't feel afraid. My voice isn't shaky or airy. I'm able to relax and sing out deep, rounded notes. Dia and my voices dance with each other like two sequined, skate partners gliding across ice.
There isn't a greater feeling in the world than playing in front of a crowd when you find that rare pocket of comfort. I wish I knew how to discover it during every show we play. Of course, I know this feeling can't last forever. In fact I don't think I would want it to, because it is much more magical when it's rare. Also, we won't have a show like this every show we play, but I'm still going to revel in this feeling and this moment as long as I can.
When we have the rare gift of experiencing a show like this, I feel… limitless.
Carlo chooses to be responsible. He stays behind to re-string his acoustic guitar and prepare for our first show. Dia and I, on the other hand, have no problem delaying our show preparations to find some local cuisine. We take a short cab ride out to the Drum Tower, a popular Chinese hostel, in a quaint little neighborhood of Beijing. We admire the ancient streets with their ornate roofs and old brick buildings falling to pieces (in an artsy way!) I've noticed that a lot of the businesses here use very clear and succinct English names such as "Half Coffee, Half Milk" or "Hair, Nails, Golf". I'm sure tourists, such as myself, appreciate this very much. (And yes, there really was a store called "Hair, Nails, Golf", you know, just in case you want to get your nails done and play golf at the same time.)
We weave back and forth between tiny alleys, and what looks to me like peoples' backyards. There are numbers on the businesses and houses sometimes, but Dia and I don't quite understand how the places are organized. We almost give in and ruin our appetites during our search as our mouths water over glazed-strawberry and cran-apple kabobs. ( I'm sorry, I don't know how to properly pronounce the Chinese name of these tasty, sweet treats that are sold on the backs of bicycles all over Beijing.)
Somehow, we find the restaurant. While our waitress directs us to our table, my purse brushes against the wall. I knock off a light fixture which shatters onto the floor into a hundred tiny pieces. I'm embarrassed. I can see that I've embarrassed Dia as well. We are trying so hard to be respectful in this foreign culture, and I'm not doing a very good job. Clumsy Americans!
After the color returns to my cheeks and my heart stops fluttering, Becca, a friend of Dia's and now a new friend of mine, orders us a spicy meal of peppers and fried goat cheese, tofu skins and mint, and these delicious turnip vegetables marinated in vinegar and Chinese spices. Thank goodness we have Becca to order for us. Have you ever heard of tofu skins? Apparently, one can find them in the U.S., but I never heard of them until I ate in Beijing. I strongly recommend you give them a try if you ever have the option.
After our meal, we return to the hotel. Lobby call is in the late afternoon. I feel jittery and excited as I pack for our first show. I bring a black sequin dress, black flats (I decided against my heels which I normally perform in), in-ear monitors, makeup, guitar picks, a capo, cables, and 9 volt batteries for my guitar tuner. I don't feel ready at all, but in these situations I try not to show my nerves so I don't make Dia nervous. We wait in the lobby for Cindy, the promotor and tour manager for the whole James Blunt production. She's been so helpful, communicating with sound guys and cab drivers and making sure we arrive at the venue on time.
A group of well-dressed, dapper English men walk in through the elevator doors. They must be James Blunt's crew. He follows closely behind, confirming our suspicions. Dia, Carlo, and I fall in line behind them, feeling slightly more important than moments before. We follow them outside to the vehicles waiting to take us to the venue.
Once we arrive, I feel nostalgic walking into the guts underneath the arena. It is so much like the blake Shelton tour back stage: very industrial, very cold in both temperature and vibe. The biggest difference is these back stage areas are filled with stern-looking chinese guards. Dia and I got one of them to snap a photo of us. I swear I caught a smile on his face as we made silly expressions on ours. I could have just been seeing things though…
We run through the songs once before we step on stage. I can't contain my nerves during our performance. So many variables aren't lining up. My in ear monitors sound like we are playing under water. The audience is too polite and too quiet for me to lose myself in. I'm not completely confident that I've memorized the piano songs, even though I've been practicing them at least an hour a day for a month. Long breaths and poor attempts to still my mind don't save me, or us. I feel like a ventriloquist's dummy whose hinges haven't been oiled in years from the moment I played my first chord until the moment I clumsily grabbed my guitar cables and ran off stage. I hope tomorrow's show will improve.
I expected to battle blizzards and icy sidewalks. Instead, Beijing greets us with sunshine. (I'm really glad I didn't bring the body sock!) Our new friends Becca and Elijah tell us the weather is very unusual for this time of year.
Of course, the first order of business is finding the most delicious meals a new city has to offer. After throwing our bags into our hotel rooms, we begin our search. For some reason, each cab driver drops us off relatively close to our destination, but never right in front of it. That would be much too easy. We search for a restaurant Dia discovered on her last trip to Beijing. Her friend who introduced her to the place, emailed her the Chinese word of what Dia assumes is the name of the restaurant. We walk up to a dozen or so people in the streets, point to the Chinese characters on Dia's iPhone, and hope for a nod in the right direction. Every single person shakes their head and waves around at what seems to be nothing and everything at the same time.
Luckily, we decide to interrupt some teenagers playing a game of hacky-sack. Dia shows them her iPhone. One of the girls speaks a bit of English. She tells us the characters on Dia's phone mean: dumplings. There must be at least thirty or forty dumpling houses on the street where we stand. No wonder the people we interrupted had such a difficult time understanding us.
Somehow, just before we give up, Dia spots the white sign with the red writing. (That description was the only other qualifier to help us find the dumpling house.) The feast of dumplings we eat are delicious and well worth the effort. I would volunteer to be lost all over again just to eat those tomato and egg dumplings, sweet potato noodles, and chrysanthemum tea with sugar crystals. We order eight or nine different dishes by pointing at pictures on the menu. Our waiter asks us questions in Chinese about our choices. We nod to each question and hope that we don't accidentally order snake's head soup or chicken feet stew. Tomato is a common flavor in China. They add it to many dishes where you wouldn't think it would go well, but it does. Also, I find it interesting that there is usually steamed broccoli with every meal, although they cook their broccoli with curious spices that Dia and I can't quite place. We enjoy a feast fit for kings which costs us a grand total of $8.00 each. Boo-yah!
After lunch we visit The Forbidden City. Once again, our cab driver drops us off about half a mile from the entrance. It takes us forty minutes of wandering around to find the entrance gates of The Forbidden City. My favorite part of The Forbidden City is called: The Hall Of Overwhelming Glory, mainly because it is called The Hall Of Overwhelming Glory. All of us admire the architecture and say we wish we had done a bit of history research beforehand. We have so many questions. Why is the city forbidden? Who was the mysterious king that sat upon all these thrones of golden stone and marble staircases? So many mysteries, so little google time.
A few groups of Chinese people stop us on the sidewalk to take pictures with us. I don't think they know who Dia is. I think they want pictures because we look different. I've noticed that all of the restaurants we have eaten proudly adorn their walls with photos of random travelers with white skin and blonde hair like they are all celebrities. If Nick was with us, they would have a heyday taken pictures with him!
After we leave The Forbidden City, we drive to The Silk Market. We find some gifts to bring back to our loved ones back home: a tiny, stuffed tiger made with a doily-print fabric for Matt's girlfriend, a delicate fan with Leslie's name hand-painted right in front of us for Carlo's lady. Dia purchases a painting of a small boy playing cat's cradle, painted by a local artist. I can't find anything suitable for Nick. I am waiting for the perfect gift. Plenty of time to search before this trip is over.
Exhausted from our action-packed day, we catch another cab and return to our hotel. Several of Dia's fans greet us at the entrance, clutching their cameras and asking with wide grins and bright eyes if they might have a photo with her. One guy, standing a back in the crowd looks back at me, nods toward her and says in an adorable accent, "look, it's Dia!" I nod and think, "yup. I'm aware of who she is." I'm in her band. I'm her sister. We sing in perfect harmony together. (Well, we try to at least;)
I'm looking forward to doing a bit of that tomorrow!
I board the plane wearing my puffy, ankle-length winter coat and flip flops. (My feet usually swell to Shrek-sized feet on international flights. Any type of shoes that cover the tops of my feet don't fit after the flight.) The flight attendant asks me, "Do you know that it is winter in Beijing?! Look at your shoes!" I think, "Lady, look at my huge, freakin' coat! There is not a passenger on this plane with a coat as puffy and large as the one draped around my body. You're concerned about my inadequate shoes?" I don't have the energy to explain about my Shrek-feet problem or the fact that I had comfy tennis shoes safely tucked away in my suitcase.
I don't know why I thought renting only three movies would be enough to entertain me for a flight from L.A. to China. My iPad is now dead, anyway. There are no outlets on this flight. Also, there aren't t.v. screens on the backs of the headrests. Dia notices this fact about fifteen minutes after we board. The only other time I have seen her face in such a state of disarray was when she realized that Santa Clause isn't a real person.
I don't think I've slept more than half an hour. Dia and I take strolls about the cabin, stretching our arms overhead until they scrape the plastic ceiling above us. We bend over, reach down and touch our toes, while staying out of the way of people hanging onto their groggy kids. I grasp my ankles while I'm upside down to see if the swelling has occurred yet. Dia says my feet look big already, but in my defense, I'm wearing larger socks than usual to allow room for the swell.
A fellow traveler, who Dia sits next to on the flight, promises to take us to the best duck place during our trip. (Apparently, the duck here is the bee's knees! I'll let you know.) When Dia explains what we are flying to Beijing for and who we are performing with, he says, "Wow, you guys must be really good!" "Well," Dia begins, and dusts off both her shoulders with a sarcastic grin as though our talents were simply natural gifts bestowed on us from birth. Then her expression turns serious, and she answers with the truth, "We've just been doing this for a really long time."
She's been traveling solo a lot lately, performing on "The Voice" in a whole slew of other countries besides the U.S. Before we boarded the plane, as we walked through the airport terminal, lugging our suitcases and guitars, she looked over at Carlo and Matt, our new sound guy, walking a few paces ahead of us. She said, "Wow, this kind of feels like tour again. I have people with me this time." I just smiled.
It is tour again. A strange phenomenon that we've experienced so many times it feels more normal than staying home, even though I haven't been on the road for a year or longer.
Just like riding a bicycle. It all comes back once you set your feet on the petals and start pushing and hope you don't fall over.
That hot dumpling soup and a nice warm bed where I can lay my tired body out flat are sounding nice right now.
cavities, long lines at the post office, parking tickets, being put on hold for forty five minutes with a computer, taking out the trash, road rage, dents in your car from stupid instances of not paying attention, phone calls that end poorly with relatives, medical bills, electric bills, any kind of bills, period cramps, screaming alarm clocks, recipes ruined by a single false move, traffic, friends who never listen to your good advice, job losses, nights you can't sleep because you're too worried about nothing, all that work on your manuscript lost in a computer crash, creative blocks, airlines ripping you off with secret $100 fees for carry on luggage, that time you could have been a little nicer to your sister, brother, mother, cheating lovers, broken bones, failure, death, and war.
Life is also filled with…
your favorite sweater, sleeping in, sun on your skin, a good hair day, a new dress, maple and bacon donuts, first kisses, last kisses, good sushi, handwritten notes, inside jokes, the first time he said, "I love you", letters from your parents telling you, "You did good.", unexpected laughter, that time you finished what you started, that time you made something and it changed someone's life, music festivals in the summer, paychecks, pay raises, me putting my icy feet on you for warmth, hot cappuccinos, a genuine connection with another human being, sunsets so haunting they chill your bones, your dog's paw on your thigh, meals that taste too good, screen plays that make you cry, truth and authenticity, random acts of kindness from strangers, and a world too beautiful it hurts to live sometimes.
Which set of thoughts to you choose to focus on?
Before I get to the explanation for the title of this post, I'd like to share an email I received recently, asking me a question that I get a lot from creative types.
I love your jewelry and your music! You have been such a huge inspiration and part of the reason I wanted to start a blog of my own. Recently, I have become a little over-worked, and I keep feeling like I'm never getting anywhere. How do you stay motivated and inspired to achieve when you feel down?
Thanks for your amazing songs and inspiration over the years,
Quick disclaimer, I did not choose to showcase Robin's email because of the flattery, (although it certainly helped. I'm kidding!) I've touched on this topic a few times before, but I'd like to revisit it again. It seems like some folks would like a little nudge in the right direction. If I can help, great!
Nora Roberts, a famous romance novelist, said in one of her interviews in response to a reporter asking her if writing was easy for her, "No, of course not. It is very challenging. If it were easy everyone would be doing it." This woman has written over 209 romance novels! Talk about prolific.
I believe the challenge lies in changing your mindset from the "consumer" to the "producer". It is so easy to sit back and watch movies and t.v. shows that other people have labored over and created, books that other people have written, and eat delicious meals that other people have cooked. Instead of thinking, "Mmmm, this is delicious chicken pot pie" (Hmm, that's weird, why am I thinking about chicken pot pie right now. Thanksgiving! Sorry. Random tangent. Continuing on.) or thinking, "Wow, I cannot believe that Vince Gilligan ended 'Breaking Bad' that way" to "What am I good at?" "What can I offer/create/give to the world today or in the next year that will inspire others as much as that episode inspired me?"
The catch is, whatever you decide is your true calling is not going to be easy. (Unless you're a creative genius, in which case, good for you!) But, in most cases, it's going to be a struggle every time, every day. I certainly feel the struggle every day. Some days are better than others. Some days are just horrible. But things do get a little easier the more you try and the more you improve.
So, because I know how hard the journey can be, and I know that people like looking for tips, I'm going to give you three. These do not in any way, shape, or form let you off the hook from simply putting the petal to the metal and grinding out your creative work.
#1. Try a completely new activity that has absolutely nothing to do with what you are struggling with at the moment. Sometimes, I can't write a song for the love of everything holy. There is just nothing musical happening in my head. I've exhausted all the possibilities of chord progressions, changed tunings multiple times, and even tried artificially breaking my heart over not being able to eat chocolate for a week. (It's a poor substitute for a real heartbreak, but hey, you've gotta use what you've got.)
I was surprised to discover that anecdote to my songwriting blues: I started writing a fiction novel completely on a whim. I've never done anything even remotely close to writing a whole novel (aside from these blogposts, which are what… 1,000 words at most?) The novelty and the challenge of learning something knew and utilizing different parts of my brain and really opened up my creative gates. To learn about fiction writing, I read a novel, vamped off of that story, and walah! I had my new song topic as well as the first few chapters to my first novella. I cranked out three songs in a row after that.
So...Bass fishing or water polo? Anyone? Anyone?
#2. Do it anyway. Think of your creative activity like it is a job that you have to show up to and complete, regardless of how you are feeling that day. You don't wake up in the morning and say, "Hmm… I really don't feel like turning into work for my sales position today, so I'm not going to go." (Well, some of you might. Ha ha!) But most of you show up to that job, that class, whatever it is, anyway. So many of us use the "not feeling like it" excuse to let us off the hook from being creative and producing something.
This step is where my friends, Yoda and John Mayer come in. I know ya'll already know where I'm going with Yoda.
"There is no try, just do" -Yoda
So simple, yet SO hard sometimes. John Mayer, during an interview that I watched, replied to a student who asked him a very similar question to Robin's,
"And how many songs have you completed? Not how many songs did you start and then stop, begin and never finish. How many songs are FULLY written songs that you've completed form beginning to end?" And you know what that guy said?
So finish the things, do the deal. Get it done. Doesn't matter if you think it's good or bad, horrible or worthy of a nobel prize. With my novel that I'm working on, every single day I'm completely terrified to stare at a blinking cursor and a blank screen, but I get my butt in that chair, tell my inner critic to shut up, and just start pounding keys. Also, it really helps that I have a quote written just above my workspace that reads, "You are a stone-cold word killer!" (But that's a topic for a whole other blog post all together. Hehe. Chuckling in the written word is so strange, no?)
#3. My last tip kind of contradicts tip #2, but I've found it helpful on a few occasions. If you are REALLY truly feeling awful, uninspired, and like the creative side of your brain is braindead, don't do it. Fine. Spend a day marathoning through all the episodes of Friends or Frazier, binge on diet coke, and chocolate covered pretzels. Whatever. But the next day.
YOU BETTER GET YOUR ASS IN GEAR!
There, I've officially become your militant cheerleader. Thanks Robin! (Haha, no really. Thanks Robin, this post was a lot of fun to write:) So excuse me, while I get back to killing it. And I hope you do too. Really. Stop reading this. Go do it!