Creative Theory Part 1:Overcoming Fear and Excuses and Beginning the Creative Process.

“The hardest part of creativity is just getting started.  We tell ourselves why we shouldn’t write the words, or stroke the brush, or play the note.  We tell ourselves that we don’t have this or enough of that in order to become the author, the artist, or the musician we might seeourselves becoming. We tell ourselves that we don’t have any business being part of the creative world because we are not worthy, or not good enough, or skilled enough.  We tell ourselves that we shouldn’t even try because we will only get hurt and humiliated, and that we should stick with what we know. Our creative craft never gets better, because it never begins, because of these fears and excuses. “

I recently had a conversation with someone close to me and we were talking about the challenge of overcoming the fear and resistance that meets one before the creative process even takes place.  I had told them that I was attempting to write my first novel (more on that later), and how daunting the idea of this was, having been new to the novel writing process.  The fear and daunting nature of this creative endeveor were comprised of a few things.

One, this being a new venture and medium for me, I quickly began to think about those experienced writers out there, educated, fully immersed, and well versed in this specific creative medium.  I thought about the very best and the legends of, and at the height of this trade, and those with the peak refinement of their craft.  I began to compare my novice self to their expert level of skill and their credentials and I quickly began to be discouraged.  I started to tell myself that I have a lot of audacity to even want to try my hand at this, given the well established names that exist in this world and the historical relevance of this particular medium, i.e. writing books.  This fear of not being worthy or skilled enough compared to those who were, discouraged me from even trying my hand at it.

A second form of resistance surfaced, when considering the idea of writing my first book.  This was a scarcity of resources that I began telling myself , existed, and were reasons why it was futile to even try.  This scarcity of resources, were things like, I don’t have a person in the literary world to help my writing, proofreading, and to bounce ideas off of.  I don’t have an educational background in this thing.  I don’t have the means or adequate research tools to validate my writing.  Things like, who is going to listen to little old me, that is not a professional expert in what he is writing about.  Again, it was more excuses on why not to try, and in this case it was because I don’t have enough of this or that.

The third barrier that confronted me before I even started to write my first word, was comfort and complacentcy.  There were things that I was comfortable with, had invested a lot of time in, and decent enough at, specifically in the creative world, that had me telling myself that I should stick with what I know or am good at and not try anything new, like writing. If I were to try something new and uncertain, I risk failure or risk finding out that I might not be good at it.  By leaving the comfort zone of what I know I can do and am familiar with, I were to risk facing criticism and rejection from others.  And again, it was more excuses on why I shouldn’t try, because this wasn’t in my wheelhouse and wasn’t something that I was use to, or knew I could be good at it.

Good news is that despite all of this resistance and excuses, I decided to plow forward and try my hand at writing a book.  After unpacking all these excuses I was telling myself, I realized they were nothing more than excuses born from my fear of failure and uncertainty.  I thought a lot about my other creative endeveaors and skills and I realized that with those, I was once in this exact starting position of fear and apprehension. It wasn’t until I discarded these kind of excuses and just started the creative process before I gained any kind of confidence, momentum, or refinement.  I also thought about other creative endeveours that were failed, and how with many  of them I didn’t learn that I truly disliked them or decided to cease  doing them until after I began the process, or tried my hand at them. I thought about the growth process and refinement of creative craft and how it can only take place after that first stroke of the brush or first note is played.  Sure, misstrokes take place and bad notes are played along the way, but they are part and partial of the learning and growth of the creative process.

By silencing our internal chatter and diving in and then fully immersing ourselves in the creative process and not worrying about the background or baggage, beforehand, and not focusing on the results or outcome that take place after, we allow ourselves to begin the creative process and truly see the creative process all the way thru its life cycle.  The authenticity that comes from being fully immersed and indulgent in the creative process itself and not focused on the external before and after, of the process, makes us worthy of any of our creative comtemporaries, regardless of status , accolades, or accomplishments.  This is because the process itself is everything and we must put everything into beginning and completing the process itself.

 

 

Goodbye My Friend…

boodha 1

 

It’s with a very heavy heart that I share the news that a best friend, family member, and bringer of joy in my life has passed. My beloved English Bulldog, Boodha has left this world at twelve and a half years of age.

I don’t know where to begin as far as describing his role in my life and the lives of my family. In his twelve plus years of existence, not a day passed in which I didn’t pour love, affection, and attention into him and he always reciprocated it in spades by bringing joy, humor, and drama in my life.

He fit every stereotype of his bulldog breed; tough, stubborn, powerful, and dignified. Tough, all the way up to his  last dying moments when his heart appeared to be quitting on him but he kept snapping back into consciousness and fighting the surrender until it was no more.  Stubborn, when he would fight tooth in nail, in defiance to go on long daily walks only to eventually enjoy them, once I could get him started. Powerful, like when he was playing tug a war with two fully grown pitbulls at the dog park and pulling both of them, mouth bloody, and refusing to let go, until I intervened.  And lastly, dignified as he stood proudly at my wedding looking on this momentous occasion with a regal tuxedo tie on, and chin up in the air, as if he knew his rightful place in this moment.

He also fit the alpha, K-9, archetype written about in the pages of books and projected on the silver screen. He was fiercely loyal, protective, and tender and gentle with our family, aka his pack. So loyal, always by my side, when in the midst of large crowds at the many events and festivals we frequented with him, or at the beach, or at dog parks, never straying too far, with a watchful eye. Never did I have to worry about him escaping his leash and fleeing like some sort of fugitive of justice. The rare times he wasn’t with me, he showed his loyalty when our time apart ended in a sort of rejoiced, reunion, that he would show in his own unique and subtle style, but not in the “jump up on you and lick your face” variety.  Protective, when he would bark at the sights and sounds of a tv screen, at percieved threats such as dogs, bears, etc., especially in the prescence of my wife. With Boodhas powerful prescence I always had the feeling of safety and  security and the understanding that he would do whatever it takes to protect me and the family from any physical threats. Was he a guard dog? Far from it, but aside from the toungue and cheek, “beware of dog” sign we posted, if you were a stranger and you entered the house, one look at him at the top of the stairs and believe you me, you might want to go the other way.  Like the time he got loose outside and lunged at a cable installer working on our neighbors house, or the time he lunged at my friends face, when they decided to get down on his level while playing fetch with him.  Finally, Boodha was always tender and gentle to his pack aka our family. Whether with our often annoying cat who liked to pick on him, or with my pregnent wife, or with our two daughters, he always showed a soft and gentle side to them, never doing more than sniffing them, and never displaying jealous, excitable  or hostile behavior towards them. We won’t count the time he nipped my daughters hand during a 4th of July celebration , since it was a clear attempt to protect the pack by extinguishing the fireworks. Never once do I recall having to worry or correct him for inflicting harm on the physically  vunerable members of the family. As a matter of fact, I had to correct the family members instead of him because I had the sense that he would never harm them even if he was at the receiving end of their provocation.

My beloved Boodha also defied plenty of conventions. Despite his breed and the shorter life span and known health issues, he lived five years beyond the average age of his contemporaries and never had the myriad of health issues so synonymous with these dogs. As a matter of fact, despite the powerful build, he would always surprise me with his speed, agility, and stamina, whether that was the long hikes we would take with him, playing with other dogs, or playing tug a war with his favorite rubber  rings, or fetch with his favorite green ball. Even when he was old and half blind he approached fetch with the same intensity as in his youth and even partaked in this favorite game of his, with me, on his very last day alive.  As for his health, besides chronic skin issues from time to time, frequent and potent flatulence, and a few, close overheating scares, he was a model of health and vitality that defied the odds. He always kept a healthy appetite and was mobile all the way up to the night  of his passing.  Despite his “meat head”, lumbering, appearance, he was no dimwit either. His ability to follow commands and know what you were asking of him were second to none. Whether that was training him to go up and down stairs in a specific manner and position or training him to sit on command before receiving a treat, his ability to pick it up quickly was uncanny. Now once he learned something, whether he chose to listen or comply was a whole another story!

Lastly, even though he wasn’t a human companion, he defied my expectations of what a true bond and friendship could be. He was unconditional about everything he did for me and his only concern seemed to be showing his love and bringing joy in my life. Sure, he made me mad sometimes, and he made me cry like right now, and he also made me laugh all the time, but most importantly, my quality of life was better with him.

So in his passing I have to go back to his last moments on this earth because it epitomizes how his life and our relationship was:

After a routine day with Boodha that culminated in his favorite game of fetch with his cherished green ball, with me in our man cave, while watching sports, he uncharacteristically clamored to go outside and proceeded to behave very strangely. At that point, I had the suspicious feeling it might be time. So late at night, as he lied on the ground with me and my wife, and I watched him close his eyes for the last time and drift away forever, I thought to myself how I would so dearly miss my friend. However, I also rejoiced and sought solace that he lived a fulfilling life and gave me a fulfilling life in return. He got to leave this world in my arms, a way so  fitting for him, with so much grace, dignity, and beauty, without pain and suffering.

And so I say, “Boodha, I will forever remember you, and you will be missed my best friend and family member. I am eternally grateful for the gift of joy that you brought me and my family and the lessons of unconditional love that you taught me.”

 

Creative Therapy

During challenging times, partaking in creative endeavors can prove to be therapeutic and can help spark positive momentum when a person is lowly and in a dark place.

This idea is not the consumption of other people’s creations, but rather one’s own creations. During challenging times, in an attempt to avoid suffering, it is tempting to indulge in the consumption of other’s creations rather than manifest our own.  A few examples are overeating, watching hours of TV, or playing hours of video games.  When we engage in the creative process and attempt to create something rather than consuming something, we become proactive instead of reactive.

One fascet of the creative process involves imagining something and attempting to create that something from beginning to end.  The idea of this takes the person from someone who is at the mercy of the creator to becoming the creator themselves.  The therapeutic aspect of this is that the person once in a weaker position, is now empowered by becoming the creator, and they are now responsible for what happens rather than the victim of what happened.

The actual creative endevour or medium is almost irrelevant, as is the perfection of the actual creation. This proactive process, even if in need of refinement, and even if in a state of growth, is the catalyst for positive momentum since it is founded on someone taking action and attempting to see something thru from beginning to end. These two principles can then be applied to anything outside the creative process, so when that happens, the person begins taking constant action and creates foward momentum.

 

Being Productive During Unemployment and Gaining an Advantage from the Situation

Losing a job is a reality of modern life.  Being between work can be unsettling and stressful due to the financial uncertainty alone.  The psychological aspects of losing a job can lead to feelings of depression, despair, and inadequacy.  These components and others, combined can easily lead to counter productivity and a mindset of scarcity instead of abundance.  How can the narrative change and someone become productive and gain an advantage from this situation?

We are inundated with negative feelings the moment we lose a job.  Knowing that these negative feelings are inevitable and knowing that they surface when we first lose a job, we can then label the feelings as temporary and fleeting, rather than wallow in permanence with them.  The uncertainty associated with losing a job can be turned into a certainty.  By no longer having that job, we can now be certain that we have the time that would have been spent on the job to do things that are not part of the job.  If we make choices that do not support the negative feelings of losing the job and complete them during the time that we would have been on the job, we are being productive.  A good example is to make a list of the things you said you would do if you weren’t working at the job or if you had the time to do during work hours on the job.  This list can even be comprised of unfinished things that you would have completed had it not been for the aforementioned excuses.  What this list represents are things that are not associated with the job that was lost, so in turn, they are not bi-products of the initial negative feelings of losing the job and can be deemed as positive things.  By undertaking this list during the time you are no longer on the job, you are now taking that time and creating value, thus being productive.

 

Loss…

loss

 

Over the last two weeks I faced some losses. I lost an old friend, and I lost my job of nearly the past 4 years. I thought about what the losses were to me, the timing of them, and what they meant in the grand scheme of things.

When I lost my friend in an auto accident and heard the news from another friend, both of whom I had been out of touch with for some time, I was reminded that things that may have caused us to drift apart over recent years were truly trivial when considered in the context of death and impermanence. It wouldn’t do my friend justice just to wax nostalgic about them since the times we had together were not all that remarkable, and they happened in what seems like another time and place in my life. When thinking of what this loss was to me, I remember my friend who was a musician, and who I had the honor to work with on numerous occassions, was the type of person that never stopped believing their own ability, and never stopped pursuing their dream of becoming a successful musician, even at the expense of others labeling them delusional and even after other people’s criticisms of them for their lifelong pursuit. The loss of my friend was a reminder that there is nothing wrong and as a matter of fact it, it is what is all that is right about living, as far as pursuing your passion and always believing in yourself. You see my friend always maintained this atttitude and pursuit without harming others and from a positive place. They always celebrated their own victories as well as others and they never tried to better their own position by exploiting another. The only thing that haulted their pursuit was when they physically lost their life. This taught me that we must remind ourselves of what we want and be unapologetic about the pursuit without hurting others. It can be taken away anytime, so while we are here and able to pursuit it, it is our obligation.

The timing of losing my friend was a bit of synchronysity, if you will, since I lost my job of nearly 4 years, almost one week later. When I think about my job and the fact that my departure had to do with a soured family and business relationship, I took a step back when processing all the events. I first thought about the insignificance of the melodrama surrounding and even the financial ramifications of losing my job when compared to the death of a friend. Secondly, I thought about how outside of the financial and family reasons for taking the job, how the job itself was overall, not fulfilling on a physical, mental, or spiritual level for me.  With the death of a friend who epitomized the pursuit of their passion and dreams, and me losing the job, not to be too much of a cliche, but I took this as a sign.  Better yet, it was a gift from my friend, in passing, who instructed the universe to push me in the right direction.

So I am here sitting and writing this, and in a state of mourning, and unemployed. This seems dire but I couldn’t feel better. I see that it was my friend that made the ultimate sacrifice, and helped set me free to do what I should be doing.  Losing a friend and a job were losses on the surface, but were true gains in the grand scheme of things.

It’s Been Awhile, a Couple Months to be Exact, or Better Yet, an Entire Summer…

summertime

 

It has been a couple months since I last posted, so I am now committed to blogging more regularly.  I find that the exercise of blogging is therapeutic for my soul and psyche, and going long periods without, for me, has the same effect as lapses in physical exercise and lapses in creative expression; both of which I try to avoid going without for any prolong period.  So, what have I been up to the last couple months?  Actually we can say, what did I do this entire summer. Let’s see.

I have most importantly, spent quality time with the family in the form of a couple beach trips.

I have experienced my oldest daughter’s first summer in between the school year which has consisted of a variety of summer camps.  (Kudos to my wife for her stellar organization and scheduling skills and making this period seamless and smooth for us all!)

Next, I attended a college friend’s wedding and got to spend time with some other college buddies, and it was at my old NC mountain stomping grounds. It felt really good to revisit this terrain, and was both a beautiful wedding ceremony and scenery.

I got to take my daughters to their first concert, and their first live baseball game which they thoroughly enjoyed.  I also got to attend another concert with my wife that was on my music bucket list.

Speaking of music, I got to listen to a lot of good new music, and make some new music for myself and my best friend’s new project.  (congrats to my pal and the birth of his baby girl during this time!)

And of course, I’ve read a lot of good books, watched a lot good movies, and played some good video games these past couple months.

Finally, I tried to keep my physical fitness up, the whole time, in the form of regular, weekly gym sessions and pickup basketball.  The weather has been extremely hot and rainy so the outdoor activity has been very limited, but I have tried to compensate in the form of hard workouts, good nutrition, and supplementation.  As a matter of fact, these last two months I have been doing a form of fasting called time restricted feeding which I will blog about soon.  I feel really good, but we will see what the results are since I am in the process of my annual physical and blood work as we speak.

That about wraps it up, and it has been a very fruitful and enjoyable past couple months. I look forward to writing in detail about some of these things, very soon.

Time’s Up, (Age and the Athlete)

hourglass

 

At UFC on Fox 29, a battered and bruised, long time MMA favorite Carlos Condit was choked unconscious.  The former champ found himself the loser of his last four fights and questioned himself post-fight on whether he “still had it or not”.

On the same fight card, a young, dangerous prospect and title contender, Justin Gaethje headlined the card against a long time, surging veteran and fellow title contender, Dustin Poirier and they put on an instant classic.  It ended violently for Gaethje and in his post fight loss, he explained how he is not in it for titles but in it to put on a violent show for the fans and that based on this mentality, he has about 5 more fights left in what is a relatively young career.

On the hardwood of the NBA playoff basketball court, a resurgent Dwayne Wade, once again reunited with the team synonymous with his soon to be hall of fame career was able to go back in time to his athletic prime and single-handedly  carry his team past a surging young Sixers squad that had a ton of momentum and had not lost in over a month.

I was always fascinated with the affect of age on high level performance, especially when it comes to athletics.  Diminished physical, athletic ability with age is an inevitable reality for the athlete.  At the highest professional level of sports, the difference between winning and record setting, is incremental and even fractional.  It’s somewhat redundant, but diminished physical abilities with age affect an athletes ability to perform at the same level as in their prime as well as maintain their position as an elite performer, record holder, or even a victor in competition.  How much of this is the physical degradation of the athlete versus the mental aspect of the athlete when it comes to age?

Is the youth and vigor that leads an athlete to be aggressive and attacking vs cautious and calculated what causes the athlete to lose their position on top of their sport?  There are countless examples of the old athlete channeling the youthful mentality and energy on a given night and performing as if in their athletic prime, i.e. the aforementioned Dwayne Wade.  Perhaps the bigger questions is how frequently can this be channeled and how sustainable is it for the aging athlete?

Since flow states of peak athletic performance seem to be achieved instinctively and subconsciously, is it possible for the aging athlete, despite their compromised physical attributes, be able to deliberately get into this peak state at a moments notice and sustain it for long periods of time, or as long as their physical body will allow barring catastrophic injury?  When we see an athlete like Carlos Condit on what appears to be an athletic down slide and facing brutal consequences, is it because his physical gifts are so compromised that the results are inevitable against younger competition, or is this a mental state that has the aging athlete consciously acknowledging the diminished gifts and as a result conceding defeat before each contest takes place?

Does a guy like Gaethje solve the aging athlete dilemma?  He has decided to fight with an unbridled intensity and violence like sort of a young hungry animal, regardless of the stage, the opponent, or the circumstances.  His priority is not a victorious outcome or sporting prize or accolades, but rather recreating this intensity with each contest. This mentality is to the point where he realizes he is on borrowed time or has a limited window to sustain this approach, or “five more fights” as he said.  If he makes good on his goal it is an approach and mentality that is counter to that of the conventional aging athlete.  The conventional aging athlete’s mind set and approach seems to be to get into  a peak state and channel their youth for select moments depending on the stakes at large and their current compromised, physical state.  This puts the the aging athlete in a precarious spot as far as when they can channel this youthful performance and at what cost. Gaethje’s philosophy removes the arbitrary and unpredictable nature of the conventional aging athlete’s approach by believing that there is a limited window in which the athlete can consistently sustain peak performance so that the performance will only take place within that window and not after that window closes.  This is an interesting philosophy that is a pure, honest assessment of what the athlete is and what the athlete will be capable of, nothing more or nothing less.  It avoids the delusion and denial that is prevalent with many aging athletes about where they are athletically in their career and what they are capable of at an advance age and which many times leads to tragic results.

Seeing a guy like Dwayne Wade defy age and critics and channel his prime self is something to behold and addresses one of the fundamental appeal of sports,which is seeing someone physically defy the odds.  At the same time, seeing a guy like Gaethje who knows the limits of his ability and chooses to approach it with wreck less abandon is equally fascinating.  Regardless of which philosophy the athlete believes and which approach they choose to take, the affect of age on the athlete can’t be denied and inevitably age becomes the athletes biggest opponent.