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What are you working on?
I hate this question
When you’re an artist and you’re freelance, you get asked this question a lot: what are you working on? I hate this question. I’m never prepared to answer.
What am I working on?…Hmm, let me think…Yeah, I don’t know, haha…anyway what do you think of the weather we’re having?…
I’ve always been a proud member of the Mind Goes Blank If Asked Too Open-Ended A Question Club. Maybe you’re in this club, too? Call it introvert brain (our synapses have longer pathways, bro). Call it disdain of talking about myself. I’m getting over the need to define it and leaning more into embracing this brain of mine.
The truth is, I am always working on things. Like, a million things. All of the time. So the simple fact that there are too many ways I could answer this question is likely what causes my brain to short circuit. I think. Maybe.
And there’s also this part of me that’s actively trying to NOT work on things, you know? Like the question really bristles the anti-capitalist in me, the one who knows that we are not what we produce, the one who knows that being an artist is not a profession — it’s a way of life. A way of being.
I have a 13 year old. She’s a singer/songwriter. In her first band. Playing their first show in June. This weekend she was working on a song - pretty much all weekend. She had band practice last night. She wanted to be prepared. But the bridge wouldn’t come. And the girl was frustrated.
I tried to help. I tried to comfort. I tried to bestow all my hard-won-creativity-wisdom. Stand up, go for a walk, move your body, take a shower, leave it alone for a while, do something else. She balked at it all and I remembered: she’s on her own journey. She has her own lessons to learn. She has to find her own way.
So I just sat with her. I ooo’d everything she did that sounded good and then I defended my ooo whenever she asked why I ooo’d it. Because, like a lot of us, her critic voice is a loud and annoying AF. Total bully.
And that’s making shit. Creativity 101: Tell the saboteur to SIT DOWN. Allow whatever is happening to happen. Write that shitty first bridge. (Think of it as jumping off place.) Have fun. And, oh yeah - trust the process. Having faith is the hardest!
This is SO TOTALLY OPPOSITE of most of what we’re taught. We’re taught to work hard, work harder and if it’s not working, DANGIT KEEP WORKING! But when it comes to creating, sometimes the best thing we can do is just…sit back and let it come. And when it does, “ooo” the shit out of it.
And maybe if it doesn’t come, it’s not supposed to.
What are you working on? I’m working on chilling. I’m working on not stressing. Not judging. Allowing. Following my gut. Letting it come. Embracing what comes. Keeping the conduit open and just enjoying the ride. Ooo!
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Billy Rae Cyrus:
We all play by ear and we play by what we feel. I play music that way and I play life that way, to a fault.
I’ll wait till the last minute sometimes to make a decision, to wait and see what feels right. My dad had the best advice. He always said:
“Son, when you don’t know which way to go, stand still.”
And I’ve always found that to be valuable. To get into that moment of crossroads of not knowing which way, sometimes if you’ll stand and just listen it’ll reveal itself.
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Dennis Palumbo from Writing from the Inside Out:
Inspiration, by its very nature, cannot be grasped or looked for, and certainly not commanded to show up. It emerges, I believe, in the deepening layers of craft…
The peaks of achievement, whether in the arts, sports, or any area of endeavor, come from a love of the day-to-day practice of the thing.
Because the truth is, in any consistent endeavor, you spend most of the time not on the peaks but on the level ground, where you rarely see any noticeable improvement. If you just live for, or get pleasure from, the peaks, you never grow.
Love the craft, the practice of your art, and the peaks will come.
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Jump + Pray,
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