I continue to think about and reflect upon balance.
It’s a tricky dance, keeping forward progress, while also respecting the creative process — all in the midst of managing daily life. We’re all called upon to do it, though, aren’t we?
Grow and thrive. Be better. Pursue happiness.
But it’s not that simple, most of the time, is it?
If I have learned anything, it has been to do less. To listen more. Still, I know it’s a hard thing to do. I have a lot of respect for everyone trying to understand or pursue something outside the everyday tasks of what we “must” do, everyone intent on personal growth and exploration. It takes courage. It takes extra work and focus.
And I admire those able to simplify. Especially in a city like New York, where stimulus is a fact of life for most hours of the day — if not immediately and temptingly accessible at any hour via subway — it’s a tall order.
Along the way of seeking balance, it has occurred to me (again) that I have been very hard on myself at points. That I have pushed myself too hard, too desperately, for too long. This observation, as regular readers might note, is nothing new.
The self-compassion I have been feeling lately, however, is new.
Caught up in the rush and the madness of life, not to mention the snares of the past, it can become easy to forget that we all deserve the opportunity to grow, thrive and be happy. It is not our fault when the circumstance of life or our social structures fail to live up to or follow up on the promises of these things.
But it does become our responsibility, to ourselves, to shift perspective as best we can, and do what little we can, day by day, to give ourselves and others the chance to…be better. To feel better.
Not for accolades. Not for attention. But for the chance to approach balance and feel serene, the opportunity to throw off regret and to be satisfied with the gift of living. So I grieve for a self less able to see that he deserved gentler modes of conduct, and I try today to provide and seek out new support.
We’re worth the effort — all of us. It’s a big thing to do, to show up and say: “I deserve better”. It’s a less obvious response to realize that we already are enough, and that it’s our perspective, and what we do from that point, that might need to change. That’s the real hard work.
Have a great weekend. If I may — do one small nice thing for yourself this weekend. There will be a quiz.
This is part twenty-three of a thirty day trial, during which I am writing and publishing a post every day. No refunds. Comments welcome and encouraged!
I have come to enjoy and depend upon routine. This is not a bad thing — but I have learned to be careful with it. All dependencies can benefit from periodic inquiry, if not disruption, I think.
Right now, at this moment, I’m starting in on this post later in the morning that I otherwise usually have over the last three weeks. I overslept a bit. This annoyed me. I carried that annoyance through to this moment.
But I have to let it go.
Because I just “wasted” a few more minutes in paralysis — because conditions weren’t perfect. Or safely comfortable. I couldn’t get moving. There were false starts. Some dumb nervous blinking occurred.
It helps to turn the problem against itself. Here I am, admitting that routine can be dangerous — not only to productivity but to creativity.
The unhelpful reaction was when I started thinking. Now is not the time for thinking. I just made that point yesterday.
It’s a dance, isn’t it?
On the one hand, the routine of waking up early every day, and writing here, has made me happier, has benefitted readers (people have written in to me, I’m not making that up!) and has increased traffic to this site.
These are all clear benefits. But they aren’t the purpose of it all, are they?
The purpose is expression.
While the fact of publishing here and then sharing with you is nearly as crucial, there’s no way for it to be causally as important so long as each post depends on the creative impulse for its existence in the first place.
That is why I keep up on writing here. Why I produce the podcast. This is about championing creative expression — and conversation. Sometimes, I worry about getting too meta-textual. That seems a fair thing to worry about and protect against.
But I’m still creating, directly, during the day. It’s my hope that these posts, and each episode of Coffee With Creatives, helps you to more often do the same. An additional hope is that, together, we can share in the joys and the pains that come along the way.
And I’m not just talking to artists. Everyone is creative. Life is creative. I believe we could use a bit more creativity, a bit more spiritual verve, in our daily lives.
So, here we are. Routinely imperfect but showing up anyway.
This is part twenty-two of a thirty day trial, during which I am writing and publishing a post every day. No refunds. Comments welcome and encouraged!
I’ve written about this before, but lately I’ve been thinking again about balance.
Beyond this, I’ve been thinking about the complexities of negotiating balance, such that we might hopefully arrive at and sustain a general level of contentedness and passion — by which we might thrive in life.
This becomes a tricky subject, when you’re artistically inclined, or similarly believe in or are attracted to some calling. That’s so loud to you that can’t ignore it, despite all evidence that, to many others, it’s either a non-sound, a far-off whisper, or manifests instead as a quiet alarm.
How exactly do we thrive, do we find and maintain balance, when there’s so much else to modern life that runs counter to such a comparatively liberated lifestyle?
By now, I’ve figure out some of the answers, even though I often forget to trust in them (more on this later).
Many have been oft-discussed by artists and people more experienced than me. Still, here are some ideas, in case they help.
If you’re goal is to write — prove it. Write. Early and often. Everything else can be slotted in below. If it’s something else that you want to do. The answer is the same. Put in the time. It doesn’t have to be all day, but it does have to be the most important and focused part of the day, as often as possible.
2. Live Life
There is no ideation, no creation, without the raw materials of experience and observation. And our relationship with both or either can range from small to large.
A spec of dust drifting on the air at dawn. Heartbreak — which only happens when we risk our heart. Both are of the stuff of life. We must tend to such things.
And then, beyond living, there is the stickier point of making a living.
3. Accept The Necessity of Sacrifice
Barring inherited wealth or quick luck, any major artistic or business pursuit that begins with one or a handful of people is going to require sacrifice.
This can be a tricky concept. Sacrifice is a loaded word in our culture.
It’s neither noble, nor appropriate, or even ultimately helpful to us, to sacrifice relationships, or balance (see examples above) in the nominal pursuit of the time or space we “need” to create and thrive.
To mistake such avoidance as sacrifice is to hollow out any eventual victory. It frames the very basic and understandable needs we all have as humans in the world — to be understood, to feel important — in baser terms. To be understood by an eventual, adoring audience or customer base, who will not (cannot) sustain us during the hardest and loneliest part of the process (the making of a thing), to be called essential by them after it’s done and we’re depleted — these things do not replace the basic human need to be loved by the self and one’s family and friends.
So, this is not what I mean when I say that, to negotiate the time and space to pursue passion in the midst of a busy life, we must be willing to make sacrifices.
It is my experience, instead, that there are plenty of opportunities, every day, to let go of as much as possible that is not made of life-stuff, or sustained by passion.
That means genuine fun stays. Distractions go. Procrastination — goes. What this basically means is that you can stop viewing 85% of what’s on TV and/or your other screens.
This is all very difficult, in execution. It can’t be figured out in a day.
In a week, momentum can be built. In a month, progress can be made. And much more can be done in six months than we might think. And across the years? Sometimes it shocks me how different I am, how much I have accomplished, over a year or two.
In the midst of it, we might feel exhausted, afraid, angry and hopeless. But if we stay true, and maintain balance and health, time elides.
Sometimes, now, I forget what day of the week it is, or what point I’m at during the year, in terms of holidays and seasonal social patterns and such. I don’t worry or feel guilt about this. I let my calendar remind me of what’s essential. Otherwise I keep working towards the goal, even if and as it shifts.
5. See to Your Health(s)
This is the most crucial aspect of negotiating balance. Everyone will have their different needs and thresholds here. My struggles in these terms have been well-documented on this site.
You will get tired, if or when you decide to fit something big into the general madness of everyday life. It is crucial to rest.
Similarly, I find it crucial to respect the quiet nastiness of the everyday fight.
We are bombarded daily by the smiles of pushers.
Buy this. Eat this. Drink this. Give us your money. Your time.
What’s left of us if we constantly listen to this steady stream of broadcast manipulation? None of us are immune. I’m not. We must pick our battles, and set our boundaries. Ultimately, the pushers are as beholden to us as we are ensnared by them.
What’s worked for me, foremost — denying the typical American diet. On most days, I stay away from sugar, carbs that break down into sugar, dairy, and alcohol. I’m not formally exercising right now, mostly because I’m still recovering from the damage I’ve done to my body while producing The Videoblogs (and the related spiritual exhaustion), but I go out of my way to walk as much as possible.
I make plans, more often, with friends, so as to blow off steam. One day a week, I open the gates to sugar and dairy and alcohol (pizza and beer and ice cream).
And I pay attention to my mental and spiritual health. I journal. I meditate. I try to take long breaks from my phone and computers.
6. Forgive “Failure”
Also, I fail. I forget. I succumb to fear, or anger, and other emotions Yoda warned us about.
And that’s okay.
It is a very difficult thing, to negotiate balance, in life and art. It’s especially difficult when we’re not wealthy or yet being paid steadily to make the things we love.
But if we love them, and if we love ourselves — even if we have to fake our way in these respects for awhile — we overall find more days of solace and pride, than of hopelessness and depression.
The dark days do come. They’re part of life, and perhaps even essential for the contrast they provide. We are imperfect. We will falter. Part of balance, of negotiation, is make adjustments back towards the center.
This is part seventeen of a thirty day trial, during which I am writing and publishing a post every day. No refunds. Comments welcome and encouraged!
This is part six of a thirty day trial, during which I am going to write and publish a post every day. No refunds. Comments welcome and encouraged!
I’m trying to employ an appreciation for difficulty.
It’s been coming up often, lately, as I go about discovering and pursuing “next steps”, following completion of The Videoblogs.
I’m still gathering energy, still resting, after the insanity of the last few years spent producing the film. I think I mentioned that on Day 1 of this project.
I need to do this. But I can’t burn out. I don’t want to burn out. It will prevent me from doing this.
Such have been my thoughts, in summary.
But I also don’t want to remain static. So, I’ve been working, slowly, on The Next Thing.
The idea behind The Next Thing is big. Unwieldy. Complex. Every time I think I have the core of it figured out — I think again, and realize that I’m just not there yet. The puzzle pieces continue to fall into place.
While they do, life goes on. I remain, overall, still feeling a bit low on creative energy. I find myself having to spend wisely.
The sheer amount of energy it takes to both buttress The Next Thing against feelings of fear of failure and despair — such that it might grow and thrive, away from such poison — and yet also allow the ideas behind it the mobility and mutability they need to develop organically…is great.
Under ideal circumstances, this project would be my only focus right now, other than matters of general living. But not only aren’t circumstances ever ideal (and to be fair, in actuality they could be far more difficult) — I’m not even sure that space is what the idea needs.
And so, we return to the role of difficulty in all this.
I use the term loosely, to be clear. When I say “difficulty” I mostly mean anything that it might be easy to decry as being “in the way” of whatever The Next Thing might be.
Daily responsibilities. Commitments of livelihood. Fears and insecurities, or the historical traumas or inherited circumstances that feel always out of our power (because they are) but also firmly in the way of pursuing or addressing what we know or believe we need to pursue or address.
As I have gotten a little older, however, I’ve grown more able to appreciate these challenges for what they are — steps on the journey. Small victories or failures for re-feeding life what it needs in order to access and process the mysterious part of me, or of us, that engenders creativity or otherworldly exploration.
More than space, for me at least, ideas need time, and life-stuff to chew on.
Yesterday, I focused on presence. On not only practicalities (What Needed to Get Done) but relaxation, and needs of the body and spirit. At one point, an important piece, of the puzzle that is The Next Thing, seemed to fall into place.
Later, I questioned whether that piece was the right fit.
This is common. What excites us as a real breakthrough in a project, creative or otherwise, can sometimes fail us later on in its lifecycle (as soon as a couple of hours or minutes). This can be disappointing, but with practice I have learned that it’s all simply part of the process of ideation and iteration.
Whereas in the past, I would have brooded on such a “failure”, now I am able, usually, to mourn the excitement of the idea and to leave the rest to tomorrow, when perhaps I’ll have the proper perspective to identify the new strand of the idea as neither the one piece of the puzzle that brings it all into focus, or a completely false match.
It’s rarely one or the other, despite what we might want, or how we might have been led to believe it at works, in mine of any other profession.
I have a different measure, now, of progress. When that moment arrived yesterday, I went deep into the idea. I explored it fully. The process lasted minutes, but afterwards I felt changed. I felt tired. As if I had traveled a great distance.
When I later began to question the actual usefulness of the new idea, to the story of The Next Thing — I paused. The judgment felt premature. I forced myself to, once again, let go.
This was difficult. My compulsion was to seize the idea, to poke and prod it, to turn it constantly over in search of an answer, once and for all, as to whether the entire endeavor — of which it was only a part — was worthy and excellent.
It hurt, to know that I couldn’t get such an answer from one mere piece of the whole, and to realize that it was going to take many more such days to arrive at an acceptable answer to this crucial question, that had nothing to do with this small piece of the thing but which nonetheless plagues me daily, co-opting and yet spurring on all progress — is this truly The Next Thing?
But, as I said, I let it go. As best I could.
Later, the small piece of the idea came back to me, of its own accord. When this happened, because I had been patient, had ridden out the difficult feelings…it engendered some clarity.
This particular piece of the puzzle might, in fact, become a permanent, fundamental fixture of this story. But it is too soon to tell.
Still, handling the natural process of creativity in this way did allow the practical side of my brain had the freedom to take over when its turns came up in the rotation.
Let’s try it. See what happens. If it works, great. We’ll be on our way. If it doesn’t, great. We’ll know that this way isn’t the right one, and perhaps we’ll gain more clues as to where to go next.
I don’t know that we can win such clarity, harness such momentum, if we don’t ride out the difficulty. It takes courage and patience, perhaps, but at least as each small journey is ended along the way, we’re left certain that we’ve done what we could — for the right reasons.
Full disclosure — I am President of The Rebecca De Ornelas Fan Club. I would probably hold this title even if I weren’t married to her.
But, honestly, this is a full-on, serious, peer-to-peer interview, like all the rest on Coffee with Creatives. If you’ve seen the work Rebecca and I produce together, you know we don’t mess around or play favorites. If anything, we might hold each other to higher standards than others who we don’t know as intimately.
That’s one way in which we grow as creatives, to speak for myself, at least. We choose partners, professional or otherwise, who inspire and challenge us.
In this most recent episode of the podcast, I talk to Rebecca about acting (and producing, and writing) in both artistic and career terms. There’s a reason Rebecca is the first person I go to with any questions about my own work, process, and, often, just about life in general. She knows her shit. Now you can get a peek at the approach and expertise she brings to each of our collaborations, and to her additional work in theater, and as a writer.
Topics we hit upon in our conversation include:
The importance of listening, to the process of creating a compelling character
Stumbling into acting after years as a dancer
Deciding to stop something, even if you’re good at it
Undoing prior training that’s no longer serving you
Why young actors don’t have to say ‘yes’ to everything
How meditation has saved her life, and changed her work
Why she likes getting older
Combatting feelings of inadequacy, and the advice a friend gave her that has helped in this respect
Have at it, kids. If you enjoy what Rebecca has to say, why not check her out as Margaret in The Videoblogs. You can also follow her on Twitter.
As reminders, you can also subscribe to Coffee with Creativeson iTunes and/or support the podcast on Patreon.
I met Mike O’Malley in a bar. I was having a Sunday afternoon pint, he was working his sweet musical magic. I liked that magic so much, that after putting some bread in his jar (always put bread in the jar when you like the music!) I decided right then and there to try to write him into The Videoblogs.
He agreed to the proposal, I became a fan, and recently I asked him to come on the show to talk music, songwriting, and:
The virtue of impatience, in the learning process
How awful men can be (combatting “bad masculinity”)
Getting attention on your terms
The taste of that first free burger, given in trade before a gig
Touring with six dudes in a sweaty van, or six sweaty dudes in a van
How anger can become a way of avoiding conflict (and growth)
Attending the craft (do the boring stuff)
Check out Mike’s music here. Look out for his upcoming Indiegogo campaign.
As reminders, you can also subscribe to Coffee with Creativeson iTunes and/or support the podcast on Patreon.
I first learned of Megan Feldman Bettencourt and her book, Triumph of the Heart: Forgiveness in an Unforgiving World, on The One You Feed (an excellent podcast). Shortly after, we connected on Twitter, I read Megan’s book, and then we “met” on Skype for an interview.
I love all of my podcast episodes equally, however I will say that I think my talk with Megan might be of the greatest general interest to creatives and aspiring creatives — as a sort of all-encompassing group — than any I have released so far.
The reason for this is because this episode is about Megan’s experience, research, and reporting on not only forgiveness but personal and professional redemption. My own journey in these terms over the past few years, which has been well-documented on this site, has not only led me to a productive place, but also a happier and more fulfilled place. This pattern itself has engendered better, more connected work.
Just some of what we covered:
How an early childhood experience in writing about trauma led Megan to the realization that she could connect with and help other people through writing
How Megan’s early work reporting on things like war, poverty, addiction and other issues laid the groundwork for Triumph of the Heart
How the story of Azim Khamisa, who had forgiven the murderer of his only son, inspired Megan to both write her book and embark on her own journeys in forgiveness
Approaching forgiveness from a place disassociated from religious dogma or contemporary judgements about weakness
The commonalities between forgiveness and mindfulness (simple but not easy)
How listening to others share about the impact that our actions have had on them can allow us to stop causing pain for others due to our own personal issues
I’d love for you to listen, and please feel free to let Megan and/or me know what you think about the talk. You can find Megan’s book here. As I say more than once in the episode, I highly recommend you check it out.
As reminders, you can also subscribe to Coffee with Creativeson iTunes and/or support the podcast on Patreon.
I am thrilled to announce that The Confession is now available for your viewing pleasure.
Many thanks to Director/Producer Jaclyn Gramigna for overseeing the production of the film, and to the rest of our team for their great work. Above all, we’re grateful to our supporters on Seed&Spark, who helped make this 95% crowdfunded film a reality.
(The other 5% was paid for by yours truly, to cover a few overages. If you enjoy The Confession, feel free to send over a few dollars to help offset that added cost).
Please also feel free to share a link, as soon as you’re done watching, on Twitter or Facebook. Happy viewing!
Summary: Jacob and Ellen wander through Brooklyn, the morning after spending the night together for the first time. Jacob’s acting strange. Ellen wonders why. A confession is coming. And it’s not what you expect.
Did you enjoy The Confession? If so, follow us on Twitter!
Team #VideoblogsFilm is on the lookout for an Assistant Producer of Marketing and Distribution (PMD) to join marketing and distribution efforts for our independent film about mental health in today’s busy, tech-enabled environment.
Feel strongly about advocating for a greater dialogue on mental health in America?
Have experience and a great interest in independent film, or a comparable art form?
Have room in your schedule to commit to performing specific administrative and research tasks, on a weekly basis, beginning ASAP and continuing through May 2016 (possibly beyond)?
Want to gain experience in the marketing and distribution of a truly independent film?
Want to establish a working relationship with hard-working producers who release a film at least once per year?
Live in the NYC area?
If so, please review the job responsibilities below. Apply via the instructions at the bottom of this post if interested in the position.
Maintain and update project calendar, keep core team on track with deadlines
Set meetings, take notes, work with core team to update business plan(s) as appropriate
Under direction of Producer of Marketing and Distribution (PMD), research and catalog list of potential partner organizations, on national and local (US city) level
Assist PMD with digital release strategy implementation
Other administrative tasks
Compensation and Timeline
$250/wk, from start to May 2016
Flexible hours, mostly remote work
Potential for continued employment with this project
With good performance, strong consideration for larger role in next project produced by same core team
This position is project-based. The weekly amount of hours it will take to perform will depend largely on how long it takes to effectively and efficiently meet deadlines. The Assistant PMD will not be expected to work full-time, but will need to be able to perform tasks on a weekly basis and respond to emails and calls in a timely manner.
Please send a brief cover letter to mdibiasio [at] outlook [dot] com, summarizing relevant experience, your interest in the position, and what your goals would be in performing the role of Assistant PMD.
Attach a resume (in PDF form only).
Also, at the end of your cover letter, please identify the last great book you read, and include a one-sentence reason why you loved it. Alternatively, you may also tell us about the last great meal you ate (and why you loved it).
Applications that do not follow these instructions will be sugar-shamed and then deleted. We look forward to reviewing your applications!