Nobody Puts Baby in a Cubicle

To all my creative friends who hope to make a living out of your art…

If you are like me…you get all pumped up when you hear talk of “pursuing your dreams” or light up when you hear people say things like “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.” You imagine running through a field of flowers writing short stories while Sigur Rós plays mysteriously in the background…or standing on the top of a snow capped mountain selling your paintings while “O Fortuna” reverberates loudly in the air. (No…just me? And who is shopping for art on top of a mountain?)

Maybe you think about the older generations who worked the same job for 40 years and you say to yourself, “Where’s the romance in that?” or “I will not be held captive to the systematic oppression of a left brained world trying to steal my creative essence and bottle it up only to be locked in an ice chamber for centuries upon centuries.” – Obviously I am exaggerating but you get my point.

The reality is you are probably sitting in a cubicle right now, or on a lift truck at a warehouse writing songs in your head or dreaming up your next fantastical novel while wondering if life is always going to be this way. I know I was there and while there is nothing wrong or abnormal about this feeling I want to share some thoughts with you now almost 4 years removed from 9-5 land.

1) Don’t forget to be grateful you have a job. Times are hard. Families are pinching pennies to make ends meet. I remember searching for change in the crevices of my automobile years ago just so I could pay for the dollar menu items I desired from a glorious 1 star restaurant. I was unemployed at the time and was desperate for some type of income. Someone would gladly trade seats with you at your current employer…so even though it’s not what you dream of…try and keep perspective.

2) Don’t let your creativity depend on a job title. Job titles can be taken away and given a pink slip. (trust me I know) – Creativity just is…it exists within you and probably has been there since you were a child. I often found myself thinking, “If I could only sing for a living I would be complete.” In the meantime I wasn’t singing that often for fun, writing songs or doing the things that I loved to do…I was waiting to get paid so I could “truly” go after my passions. Creative employment rarely works this way. It wasn’t until years into my day job that I finally begin playing at restaurants and bars on the weekends for very little pay. I would get off work at 5 and start playing gigs at 8. (Which lead to the current band I am in now that I’m privileged to travel the country with) – Once A-Town came in to existence…it started to force me out of my job because I needed to be available for shows. (Also side note…keep being you in the midst of working your current job as much as you can. Theres nothing more life sucking than putting on a persona on Monday and then taking it off at 5pm.)

3) There are lessons you’re can learn from the corporate world now that will greatly influence you as a full time creative later. While the grey walls of your cubicle may not inspire you artistically…they can teach you some valuable lessons. Hard work, showing up on time, going above and beyond, adding more value to your position than is required etc. I am sure some of my musician friends can attest to this…there are tons of talented musicians in my home city of Atlanta. However…many “less talented” musicians get more consistent work because they show up on time, have a good attitude, add value beyond what is required and exude gratefulness. Lazy, entitled, hard to work with musicians might thrive here and there but from what I’ve seen…they stop getting called after a while. Creatives also often lack the business sense it takes to succeed in whatever it is they are going after…listen and learn from your type A business friends.

So…these are my ramblings for the day. And let me just say that I have failed at all of these at one point or another. I didn’t work as hard as I should have in my past jobs, I was ungrateful occasionally, I did sulk and wonder when I could escape at times. These thoughts are partly from good experiences and partly from screwing up. Also…I am continually trying to apply these principles as I am still dreaming about more creative endeavors to come. I have not “made it” or reached my destination. Creativity is always evolving for me…so still I learn. Hopefully some of these simple thoughts helped or were food for thought.

Peace and love

The Divine Gift of Creative Fire

Yesterday’s news of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death struck me pretty deeply. It is always sad for me to hear of celebrity deaths but I often feel a bit feel detached…this was not the case with Mr Hoffman. I took some time yesterday to reflect on why I teared up and grieved his passing a little differently.  Yes…addiction was part of it. What a life stealer addiction can be…brutal and unrelenting. My heart breaks that Philip was all alone and using in a room in Manhattan…a borough with millions of people just outside his four walls. Yes…his children and wife losing a father was also a part of it. I can’t imagine the emotional aftermath they will experience. My heart goes out to all of his friends and family.  And yes…he was one of the greatest actors of our generation. I will miss his brilliant work. I am thankful that his completed art will live on even though the artist is gone.

I think that I was moved because I come from a long line of artists much like Philip. Brilliant Poets, book writers, painters, instrumentalists, singers, woodworkers etc…I have many lovely artist friends as well. Some are trying to interpret the world around them through their craft…to put pain into pottery, family hurts into oil on canvas, righteous indignation into melody, political injustice into chariactures. Some of my comrades are trying to create other worlds with fantastical characters, magical landscapes and wondrous plot twists. And then some create to make others feel loved, heard, understood, happy, joyful and hopeful.

I like to imagine that creative types with strong artist temperaments have multicolored blood running through their veins…processing the data of their day to day lives in their minds like a mosaic or an abstract watercolor rather than a calculated equation or a bullet point list. I like to envision that their hearts beat to the rhythm of a samba and when their eyes open from sleeping they cue the sun to rise. You see…so many artists I know live in another world while simultaneously living on this planet we call earth. So many creatives I know are brilliant escape artists…with the astonishing ability to ascend from the doldrums and troubles of this world and seek shelter in a sonnet they’ve written…refuge in a rock riff they’ve shredded…haven in a hip hop lyric they’ve penned.

Many of these same escape artists have the supernatural power to come back down from their escapade and set up a vacation slide show for the world around them to take in. The listener of these artist’s translated tunes from another world is often driven to tears. The observer of an extraterrestrial acting performance is often silenced and can’t process their feelings with words. These artists are a gift to the earth indeed.

But then comes the rub – The moments when the artist is not creating…the days when the reality of this harsh existence catches up…the moments when we are unable to escape. What to do when you struggle with the ability to find art in the normal day to day grind…poetry in the pursuit of healthy relationships with our loved ones? Do we find ways to make our days a 24 hour retreat? To borrow a quote from psychotherapist Carl Jung…

“The artist’s life cannot be otherwise than full of conflicts, for two forces are at war within him—on the one hand, the common longing for happiness, satisfaction and security in life, and on the other a ruthless passion for creation which may go so far as to override every personal desire. There are hardly any exceptions to the rule that a person must pay dearly for the divine gift of creative fire.”

Philip Seymour Hoffman had the divine gift of creative fire. I miss him already although I did not know him personally. I feel for his struggle…and for all of you who may share in this plight.

My hope is that all of my creative brothers and sisters could find the art in life…find a reason to wake up every morning…know that you are not alone…find peace for your souls…find kindred spirits to love and be loved in return by. By all means…keep enjoying your vacation homes nestled in creative otherworldly destinations of the soul…keep giving this world your art…the earth needs it…you are adding beauty.

I just hope that we all can find just as beautiful of a place to call our permanent home when we are not traveling.

Rest in Peace Philip Seymour Hoffman. Peace and love to all my creative friends.