At the inauguration, Amanda Gorman reminded me how an artist can gather together the threads of suffering and despair and a deep desire for change, weave together the feelings of the zeitgeist, and create an incantation of hope.
In days of old, priests and priestesses inspired and led with their visions. Today, artists hold that role.
John Lennon’s “Imagine” envisioned a world where people lived as one.
The Dinner Party by Judy Chicago laid out a ceremonial banquet and created a symbolic history of women throughout civilization.
Black Panther created an alternate world where Black Africans have a power far beyond any majority-white nation.
This is a time when our world–facing the crises of the coronavirus, climate change, inequality, political extremism, and so much more–needs us to imagine and create a better future.
If you are an artist, a creator, it’s time to bring your voice FULLY into the world. To let go of the petty resistances and fears that keep your horizon safe and small. Time to let your spark light a torch that inspires the world.
P.S. If you aren’t doing enough of your art and want to start doing it EASILY (and NOW, not in a year or two or ten!), ask me about the Artist in Action program.
Artist in Action helps talented, ambitious writers and artists do their work easily and consistently–even when they have full family lives, “commercial” work or day jobs, or a long history of creative block.
After what happened at the Capitol yesterday, it was hard to write this morning. I woke up at 3:15 am, peeked at my phone, and couldn’t resist checking the news–NOT something I recommend for sleep OR writing!
This morning I had to pull myself back from the news and social media so many times… but ultimately I got my writing done. What saved me were the things (mindsets, practices, creative foundation…) I’ve developed over the years.
These things have kept me writing (and sane!!) through the political upheaval, the rising pandemic numbers, the repeated school shutdowns and days filled with remote schooling.
But, my ability to write during these times didn’t come easy. It took me years to develop these practices. Reflecting on that makes it possible to write during intense and difficult times, I think of three things:
1. Your state of being–Your physical, mental, emotional, energetic and spiritual state of being
If this is messed up, you could have problems with energy, focus, inspiration, motivation, the courage to keep going, and so much more.
2. The strong foundation of a writing (artistic/creative) habit
You brush your teeth in the morning and evening, right? Even during the pandemic, even during big political events?
If doing your art is “just what you do,” it’s so much easier to do your work, even when the world is going crazy.
3. Structures to help you keep going until you finish
Community, accountability, support, and the feeling that what you create matters: many emerging or aspiring artists don’t have these–but they’re crucial when you hit the tough periods in your career, or when big, dramatic outside events rock the world.
Because of all that’s been happening this past year, I’ve been very careful about my commitments and haven’t run a lot of new programs.
But, I’m thinking of opening my Artist in Action program, where we put these three pieces in place, so you can do your art regularly and easily.
Let me know if you’re interested–and I’ll be in touch when I open it up! (Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and put “Artist in Action” in the subject line.)
Today is Halloween. We are entering the darkest time of the year, when the days are cold and the nights are long.
Four days before the US election, as coronavirus cases rise and rise, we feel the gathering darkness, the rising uncertainty, the suspense over what waits in the wings. Will darkness wash over the land? Will winter bring death and despair?
What do we do as artists and creative people during this time?
In this moment, I’m guided to share some guidance–of both the practical and visionary kind.
Be religious about taking care of your physical, mental, and emotional state.
Your body, mind, and emotions
With a tumbling economy and falling temperatures, the rising tension of the news headlines, and the rising drumbeat of coronavirus cases, it’s ESSENTIAL to take care of your body, mind, and emotions.
For your body, focus on sleep, food, water, movement.
For me, this means cutting off evening activities to go to bed early. Doing yoga in the morning and taking a walk outside every day. Drinking at least a gallon of water and 48 oz of organic vegetable juice each day. Eating food that’s delicious and incredibly healthy.
You know what your body really needs to feel vibrant and alive. Choose one or two very specific things and DO THEM.
Or, if you’re the type of person who does best by going BIG, choose four big things to do for your body. Eight hours of sleep. Four servings of vegetables, and no sugar. A gallon of water. An hour of exercise.
Choose what’s right for you–and what will WORK for you. Then commit to it and treat it like your new religion. (If structure is helpful for you, a program like #75hard can be useful.)
Treat those things as if they’re as essential as breathing–because they are. (Not literally, of course… but on the energetic level these things are as crucial as oxygen.) To stay in flow during these times–instead of being a hot mess of stress–you must care for your body as the everyday foundation of your life.
Taking care of your body will get you 75% of the way there with your mind and your emotions. For the last 25%, focus on action and vision.
(Yes, there are much deeper processes we can and must take to handle trauma, deep-rooted resistance, and big systemic problems–but this piece is about what you can do to make an immediate difference, right now, especially for the next few days or weeks.)
Beyond taking care of your physical state, the best way to shift your emotions and mind into a positive state is through action.
Action is the antidote to hopelessness, cynicism, and fear.
Commit to a specific amount of creative work, and do it.
Volunteer to get out the vote for the election.
Get involved with a cause or organization you believe in.
Yes, we’re all under extra pressure and stress because of the pandemic and election. And, we are bigger and more powerful than we realize. We can be compassionate and real about what’s happening in our lives and call ourselves to take action for our bigger vision and goals.
For me, taking action means getting up at 5 or 5:30 am to write and do kundalini yoga before it’s time to get the kids ready for school. (This is obviously connected to why I’m going to bed early!) It means serving clients or working on my business during the one day my kids are both in school–or during my kids’ Zoom calls or windows where my husband or our babysitter can cover things.
It means sharing articles that inform people and squeezing in a session of text banking when I can–or donating money to campaigns when I have more money than time.
What will taking action be for you? You know the big creative vision you’re working towards, and you know your life situation and goals.
Look at what will move you forward most effectively–and what you can do–and choose the actions you’ll take.
Choose small actions or big ones.
Many tiny actions lead to a big result. A few sentences (or minutes) a day become a novel over time. Small actions from many people can change the course of a nation.
Big actions can lead to a sudden breakthrough.
Whether your actions are small or big, they both lead to this important result: momentum.
Once you have momentum, everything becomes easier. The power of your own energy and enthusiasm carry you forward.
Last but not least, hold the vision.
Even in these dark and uncertain times, we have come together to make a better world. Doctors, nurses, medical researchers, public health officials, and essential workers have stepped up, saved lives, and kept us fed and alive in the middle of this pandemic.
Thousands of artists and craftspeople have created masks for people to wear. Jazz musicians are holding concerts in the streets, people are shooting short films and videos on their phones, and writers are holding readings over Zoom.
Incredible progressive movements have sprung up–from everyday citizens who made calls and went to protests, to high schoolers who turned trauma and pain into a nationwide movement, to women who spoke up about #metoo moments, to legions of people who massed in the streets despite a pandemic to demand justice, to a new generation of climate activists, to new politicians stepping forward and speaking up. People have come out to vote in historic numbers.
Yes, it is a cold time of year, a dark time of year, a dark time in history.
And, we have the power of heart and hope. In every moment of fear, pain, or uncertainty, people have held the vision of a better world.
We can continue to hold that vision.
Let us move forward–with love and action and heart.
Let us create work that makes a difference–and create the world we desire.
P.S. If you want support so you can do your art regularly and easily–even during these tough and uncertain times–email me and ask about the Artist in Action program.
The other day, I was revising one of my tea stories. It’s set on a tea plantation in British colonial India while an epidemic is taking place.
As I reread it, I realized certain things felt off. I had written this story well before COVID-19 appeared. Now, after months of living in the middle of a pandemic, I saw nuances I hadn’t captured in the story.
You see, I’d never had the experience of living when disease was spreading and people were living in fear of infection and death. I’d never been hyper aware of my own symptoms or worried I might infect someone I loved. I’d never been sick with something that might kill me. Rereading my story with my new awareness, I could tell that the parts about the epidemic weren’t emotionally right.
So now, with my new experience, I’m rewriting parts of the story.
This brings me to another thought: Although this pandemic might be hard–and can derail our creative work–it can also be a gift to our art.
Of course, I don’t mean to minimize the suffering people have been through. It’s truly terrible. Still, suffering has always been part of the human experience.
So while we can grieve the ways the pandemic has hurt people, we can also recognize: This pandemic has given us a deeper awareness of all it means to be human. And a deeper, fuller understanding of the human experience creates more profound art.
Whatever reactions you have to the pandemic are valid. Whether it’s fear or rage or despair, whether it’s peace because of a slower schedule, whether it’s loneliness or grief, whether it’s gratitude for the health and food and income you have… all these are part of your pandemic experience. All these are part of the human experience. They are part of who you are as an artist.
And you, as the magical creator you are, can bring them into your art–as a gift for your future readers, listeners, and viewers.
Of course, if you’re in the middle of serious grief or trauma, now is probably not the time. Take care of yourself, heal, and just be.
But if you’re well enough, take the fullness of this experience. Plumb the depths, and create something you never could before.
I’ve been silent for a while because a lot is going on. Beyond dealing with ALL THE THINGS that are part of life these days, we sold our house, moved, and are in the process of buying another one.
So I’ve been focusing on the basics: serving clients, taking care of the family, and remote schooling our two children. And of course, doing what creative work I can.
This brings me to a reflection: When circumstances are extreme and it feels hard or impossible to do your creative work, the first step is to ACCEPT.
You might be saying, “No! I create my life. I make things happen. I WON’T accept it. I WILL do my art.” So, let me be clear: I don’t mean you should give up on your creative work.
However, see your current situation with open eyes and full compassion.
These are not normal times. Maybe you’re remote schooling your kids while running a household, squeezing in a job, or doing freelance work. Or maybe you’re reworking your artistic career for this socially distanced world. Maybe you’re supporting a family member who’s an essential worker, helping people out financially, or dealing with the lingering symptoms of COVID-19. Not to mention everything that’s happening as we approach the most consequential election of our lifetime.
You’re dealing with a lot. Allow yourself to take that in and accept it, with understanding and compassion for yourself.
Once you can really BE with the current circumstances, you can stop beating yourself up for not writing, composing, or designing as much as you once did. Or stop seething with resentment over all that’s in your way.
You can look at the situation AS IT IS and find a way to do your art in these times.
Maybe you work at a different time of day. Or in a genre that fits better with your schedule or social distancing. Maybe you work in tiny chunks, or on different subject matter, or with new partners.
Whatever it is, the first step is to accept. One of my teachers once referred to “the radical acceptance of everything.” This isn’t a passive, limp slumping down and giving up. It’s a wide open, arms open ability to be with the world, in this moment, with deep presence and compassion and love.
This is a place of peace and strength. A place of quiet. A place that allows us to create.
Allow yourself to find this place. Your creative self will find its way through.
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