You can Tie Your Shoes, Can’t You? (explicit)

It happens to the best of us. A blank piece of paper and nothing is coming to mind. The paper stares back at you, laughing, reminding you that you are not creative at all. Your mind is in the ultimate state of zen…. empty filled with nothingness. If this were a meditation class you would be a pro. The problem is when you try to meditate all you can think is “Why the hell can’t I come up a damn thing to create.”

First the bad news. I’ve been to workshops, worked with some amazing artists, took classes with some of the best song writers in the world. I’ve worked with designers that earned themselves a Murphys Award, blah, blah. They all experience it and they all struggle with it just like you and I.

The good news! They all had their own ways of working around it. Sometimes it was a simple as a deadline. Sometimes it was games like, pick an inanimate object and write about it or draw it. Pick a fictitious business and design a logo. Pick a real business and design a new log. One thing that works for me is to take out the money. Design something for someone for free. They didn’t ask for it, they don’t need it. You have total creative freedom to do whatever it is you desire. You’d be amazed at how well that works. And the reason I think that all of these techniques can work is because what we are actually doing is erasing the critic in our mind. That asshole who tells you “they’re not going to like it.” The same predator that is chirping in the back of your head that you aren’t good enough. That you are going to fail, that they are going to hate it. All of these exercises, yes exercises help you work out that part of your brain to get rid of the critic.

First of all, you are good enough. I know it sounds dumb. Like Stuart Smalley standing in the mirror talking to himself. But you are good enough. Why are you pursuing this in the first place. It’s not for the money. There’s no money in it any more. Everyone can do it… right? Wrong. That’s the predator talking to you. Fuck that voice. It’s a worthless one. You are pursuing this because you find joy in doing it. It doesn’t always feel that way, but in general, more than not, you find joy in creating. Secondly, I can almost guarantee, at some point someone told you that you are good at it. And maybe they suggested doing it as a pro. Now your a pro.

Here’s the thing. Sometimes it doesn’t feel like you are at the top of your game because it comes easy to you, or someone said your art is less valuable. But really, you’ve been doing this for a while now. And you practice it all the time. So, fuck ya, you’re good at it. And you are just going to get better. I don’t care what it is. When you first started tying your shoes, you sucked at it. You consciously made bunny ears. Crossed them over, then tied them up. Using all your finger dexterity and concentration to make the bows just right. Now? You tie your shoes without thinking. You’ve been doing it forever. And more likely than not, you don’t even know how long you’ve been doing it. Same thing as every other skill in the world. Chi Chi Rodriguez once said “The only difference between me and your average golfer is that I hit a thousand balls a day.” Keep hitting a thousand balls a day every day. No matter what it is and the critic will die and so will the writers block.

you don’t need to hear this but, Good luck

It's All About Me (Explicit)

We all have this wonderful gift called creativity. Mine was given to me by my parents. Maybe you got it from yours, or a teacher, or an aunt or uncle, a mentor. Or maybe you don’t think you are creative at all. Now, I don’t think that creativity is inherited. I believe it is more like a house plant, nurtured, watered and allowed to grow. We are born with creativity, to be artistic, to problem solve in some way. But for lots of us creativity (in the traditional sense) is considered to be useless. At some point we learn that sharing our creativity, whatever that may be, opens us up to being vulnerable, to be ridiculed. And in defense, we eventually shut that part of us off. The creative child in us withers, dries up and fades away. Fast forward 20 years and we find ourselves in a job that doesn’t stimulate us and we don’t like, projecting our lives through sit-com characters or sports heroes that aren’t real and thinking to ourselves, “This isn’t the life I was supposed to be Living.” Or as Colin Hay wrote, “I’m waiting for my real life to begin.”

What I have noticed as I get older, is that at some point I stopped giving a shit about what other’s think about my passions. I share it with the world and I don’t entirely care who says what. Good or bad. Yes, good OR bad. It’s as if I have reverted back to when I was 6 years old begging my older brother to watch me put on my lip-syncing performance of “Beat It” by Michael Jackson, choreography and all. Except this time, I don’t care that he calls me a moron half way through my set and walks out laughing. The pain was real. (Thanks Dr. Monroe for your years of therapy)

I recently had an experience after playing music at a small venue. A guy came up to me after the show and said to me how great he thought my band’s music was. My band is a three piece “dad band” that plays 90% original music. We do it because we love to write and perform music. I said thank you to the man and continued to pack up our gear. Moments later another guy came up and gave me the most unsolicited nonconstructive criticism of the night. “I noticed you flubbed through that solo on the first song of the second set. Did you just make that up right now? Or was that on purpose?” Ha ha ha! Fuck you, buddy. Would be my normal reaction to such a comment. Or maybe, “You want to show me what you would do?” Hoping to god the guy is just a critic and can’t actually play guitar at all. But, The part that struck me, or maybe the part that didn’t strike me until the car ride home was, the weight BOTH comments held. None. Yes, none. In the past the praise would have been nice to hear (it still is) and I would have shared the compliment with the guys, a few friends, definitely my fiance and probably a family member or two, in hopes of fishing secondary praise. The criticism… I would have talked it out with the band, got a feel of it, (Is this true? Is he right? Did we suck?) and then let it play like a broken record in my head for the next week or two as it ate away at my soul and crushed my spirit until I decided that I needed to ditch whatever part of the night the patron felt was so absolutely terrible that he was compelled to tell me about it, as he walked out of the room laughing calling me a moron. But now… amazingly…a simple “Thanks for listening. I hope you come again, it’s different every time” falls out of my mouth and I went about my business.

It has taken me decades to figure out that I don’t do these wonderful things that bring such amazing joy for anyone but myself. I’m no longer that windup monkey that will slap the cymbals together to entertain you. The pleasure is all mine. Literally! I draw or paint because I love to draw or paint. I carve wood because I get a deep satisfaction from doing it. I play and write music because I love to do it. And creativity doesn’t end with visual arts. I love to problem solve, I love to brainstorm, I love puzzles, I love writing! I love being creative! Not because of what you think of me when the day is done, but because of the process, the energy it brings to me, the feeling of actually being the most human I can be. “I think, therefore, I AM!” We all think, we are all creative, we all “are”. And at the end of the day, when the lights are out, and the quiet stillness allows me to hear my own thoughts, they will be my thoughts. Because this is all about me.

Why Do I Care? (Explicit)

I was recently asked “Why do you care so much if your client succeeds or fails?”

So, being in the design world, being a graphic designer, I used to do whatever was asked of me. I didn’t care what you did. I didn’t care what the client was trying to sell. Didn’t matter what service was offered. It didn’t matter. So you want to sell the shiniest dog-shit ($9.95 on Ebay), It’s dog-shit, but you know that your dog-shit is the shiniest. It’s way better than any other dog-shit out there. But it’s dog-shit! No problem. I’m going to help you package that shiny turd, put a pretty bow on it and get it to the masses. In my mind, that was my job. That means, sometimes, I was asked to do work for companies that I despised. I took on jobs that went against my morals. I helped people sell stuff that I felt was useless, or dangerous, or simply a waist. I had a terrible job.

I own my own business. The reason I own my own business is because I didn’t like working for other people. I didn’t want a boss. I definitely didn’t want to help you sell products that were future landfill. Funny thing is when you own your own business you don’t have a boss (future post), you have hundreds. Every one of my clients is essentially my boss. But, I figured out that I get to choose my boss(es). I don’t have to work for the jerk, or the grump, or the mean guy or the thoughtless criminal. I don’t have to help sell garbage. I can say “no” to the people that support that. I get to say goodbye to the people that do not exist anywhere else in my life.

So when I take on a new client. It’s not the money. Most businesses I work with are start-ups and don’t have any money. They have a great idea, or a great product, or a great service. I take on a new client because I believe in their product, idea or their service. I want that client to succeed. I am filled with passion to help them be the very best they can be. I research the product. I want to know everything there is to know about the product. Essentially, I am also a representative of the product. Their success is my success! I want to be a part of all that is good in this world. I want to help you spread your “good”. We’re all in this together. I feel a bit of ownership in it all. You’re business, IS my business.

When someone asks me “Why do you care so much?”

I say “Because that’s my job.”

Business Cards (explicit)

“Fuck it” I thought. “Too many people are trying to figure out how to get a hold of me. I asked for this.”

A little over two years ago I was in a “process coaching” group. All of us were trying to solve some kind of problem in our lives. The class was called “Set Your Intention”. Some were dealing with becoming more creative, some had childhood issues, some were starting new businesses, some were just trying to be whole. I was there because I just signed a lease on a building for 2 years and I didn’t want to fail. I felt like in the past, I was really great at starting stuff… the follow through, not so much. So there I was, the only man in the room, sitting in a circle, eyes closed, as the coach lead us through our chakras with a guided meditation. I remeber thinking, “this is crazy, but whatever, what do I have to lose?”

A little back story.
I used to play in a mid-level band on the west coast. We traveled all over the world playing music, but it never really caught on. We took a seven year stab at it before the whole thing imploded due to “irreconcilable differences”… and a lot of drinking and drugs. I was holding onto that like a life line to success. At one point it was so close I could taste it. “We’re going to make it” I thought to myself. But we didn’t and after that folded, I went into a serious depression and found myself, hungover, grey, dirty and alone. I needed a serious change, and my ex-girlfriend at the time gifted me these 5 sessions with a local Process Coach.


At the end of the meditation the coach went around to each person and asked everyone to state why they were there. “What is your intention for being here?” She asked. My response? Well, I just signed a lease. I have been creating art work for people for 20 years. I’m ready for all of that to pay off. I sheepishly said…“I guess I want to be successful.”

Within 2 weeks (2 sessions), of sitting in that circle my entire mind and body had shifted. I quickly realized that my definition of success had been all wrong. It was no longer money, a house, a car, what people thought of me or my status in the community (all of which, I was already failing in my mind). My personal success is how I feel at the end of the day, when I am all alone, with my own thoughts… “I just want to be whole” I thought. I want to be a whole person. And these things that I have been chasing my entire life… or at least as long as I could remember, were not going to fill the voids that I was physically feeling.

I spent almost 2 years in those circles, I still sit in those circles. That first 5-session-group, ended up being 100+ sessions. All this negativity that I used to attract seemed to fall away effortlessly. The woman who left me, forgave me. We’re engaged. Old friends, who seemed to be vampires in my life, faded. And in the midst of it all, I added healing my work to healing myself. Or better yet, “I want my work, to not feel like work”. I chose this. I want to do this.

As social as I seem, I’m not. I love talking to people 1-on-1. I love problem solving. I love hearing about your life, and sharing my experiences too. But when the phone rings, I sort of cringe. And when a text comes in from a client, Ahhhh! I like being a fly on the wall. I have a sign in my office that reads “No Like Work”. And in all honestly, that’s true. But when did my art become work? (future post)

Long story, less long. With that shift. With my intention about making my art my passion again, in a relatively short time my business started picking up. The art work I was creating was being sold before it was even finished. Design calls were coming in, and to this day I have to schedule them further out than I would like because there just aren’t enough hours in the day.

Now, instead of just my friends asking me to help them on projects, I have clients from all over the world contacting me, asking to help brand their business. I’m commissioned to do posters, murals, wood-work. They want to see my portfolio. They want to see some of the work I have done in the past. They want to know how they can refer me to their clients, or friends, or colleagues.

“Do you have a card?”

Fuck it… “Yes. Yes, I do.”