Today I’m writing about other people and how they impact our creative lives. Of course, “other people” is a broad swatch. It can include friends, fans, people who buy our products/services, family, “the competition,” mentors, audience members and possibly, the crazy next-door neighbor. Unless you’re living and creating in some isolated spot far up in the Himalayas, other people are going to eventually wander into your creative landscape in one way or another.
So how do they affect what you do? Do they inspire you? Motivate and energize? Intimidate? Do they make your process easier in some way? Do you modify what you do in anticipation of what they may like or dislike? Just who are these people and what role do they play?
I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately and have come to the conclusion that it really does “take a village” to nurture a creative life and to bring expression to its highest potential. Doing great work involves aligning with people who share a common value system and world vision. It doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone has to think exactly the same. To the contrary, different ways of thinking tend to challenge the process and solidify ideas. But people can think differently and still share similar beliefs. As such, any endeavor is elevated. Without a common core, the going gets murky and weird. Energy that could be spent on great work is wasted as we unconsciously feel around for some kind of mutual foundation. It’s like a flailing away of the psyche. I recently let go of a long-term association because of this very thing. Our process was becoming increasingly laborious and convoluted. There was no sense of ease and flow and I felt like I was chronically at-odds with my own sensibilities. I came to realize that the problem was that this organization and I were not coming from a shared value system and because of that, it was extremely difficult– if not impossible– to do great work. As difficult as that experience was at the time, it was ultimately a blessing because it helped me to get really clear about what’s important to me and what kind of people that I want to collaborate with.
At different points along my career, I’ve been blessed to been part of some wonderful collaborative efforts. My CD is a great example. My musical dream of Randy Halberstadt, Doug Miller, Steve Korn and Chris Spencer was vital in helping me to work out the songs and get prepared for the recording. I was especially grateful for Randy’s amazing arrangements and his patience and support while I learned them. David Lange’s steady hand in the studio was also invaluable. I don’t know that I’ve ever felt so supported. I learned a ton and it was one of the most magical experiences of my life.
I’ve recently marked my 50th year on this planet and have been experiencing a gnawing urgency to give something back. Moving forward, I would like some (if not all) of my creative efforts to go towards being helpful to other people and also to contributing to my community in a meaningful way. I have some big ideas. But I also recognize in myself a bit of an Emily Dickinson syndrome; I tend to isolate. This isn’t exactly conducive to blazing collaboration. Some of the people that inspire me the most are the ones who make stuff happen; they launch festivals, create opportunities for other people and elevate their clan. But these very people do not go it alone. As my friend Claudio says, we can’t just “toil away in our own separate corners.” We need each other. I envision a multi-disciplinary collective, which serves to help the individuals within launch their projects and realize their creative goals. I also have a strong desire to make the world a safer and kinder place for LGBT youth. All of these dreams involve other people, who share a similar soul space. I am looking for my tribe. I am also learning that in order to find it, I may have to ask for help.
A quick word about competition– Some say that competition is useful on some level; that it keeps us sharp and on our game. However, in my own creative experience, the notion of competition has always been paralyzing. I might draw an example from my yoga practice. When I am engaged in a balance pose, it’s imperative that my concentration is sharply centered on my focal point. If I allow my attention to drift even slightly to what’s happening in the periphery of my vision, I will most definitely fall out of the pose. The same is true in my creative life. If I started to feel competitive or to think too much about what other vocalists or writers have going on that I don’t, it’s just not helpful. It detracts from whatever I’m working on. If I find myself in that funky, unproductive space–and we all do from time to time–my best bet is to keep my third eye on the diamond, breathe and return to creating.
As I said at the onset of this post, I’ve been thinking a lot this summer about other people and the creative experience. I’ve also been observing artists that I admire and asking lots of questions. It seems to me that when we align with the right people, our creative capacity expands and our potential to do meaningful work is unlimited. When we recognize and connect with the highest in others, we inevitably find it in ourselves. The implications are staggering.
How do other people impact your creative life?
Without a deep root of meaning to anchor you, you will never survive the raging storm of what it takes to make great work happen.
– Pam Slim
Who’s on your bus–who are you co-creating with? And how do they see the world?