Barefoot Zen?

Barefoot Zen?
Namaste, Y'all...

Monday, August 30, 2010

What's Your Creative M.O.?

I am cutting and pasting an excerpt from Jonathan Fields' blog, as this is just a great entry.  His blog ("Awake at the Wheel") is a great read, and this entry, in particular, captured my imagination.  Working from home, I have tried to set up a feng shui'ed kind of workspace, and have even taken to attempting certain rituals to put myself in the 'stay focused, get it done' mindset.  Some days are diamonds, some days are stones, and some of my approaches had the stickiness of a 1986 Post-It note.  
When I read that Tom Wolfe always wore a white suit when he wrote (my Lord, does the man ever wear anything else?  He is the yin to Johnny Cash's yang), I tried 'getting dressed' for work in my office.  A great idea - ditching the shorts and t-shirt for a more business-like, crisp look.  I was miserable within minutes.  Isn't being comfortable one of the very attributes of having a work-from-home business?  Why was I opting to wear the poly-blend shackles of the Dunder-Mifflin world if I wasn't going to meet a client?  Well, my answers to Jonathan's survey are at the bottom of this entry.  In the meantime, here are Jonathan's two cents on how to set the stage for your creativity to flow:  
Legendary copywriter, John Carlton, tells the story of how he used to have a very specific outfit that he’d to wear to write copy. And, he had to wear the same thing every time, right down to his hat in order to get into that place where, as he says, he literally stalked and attacked his writing.
Could it really be that what you wear changes how you feel enough to impact what you create?
And, what about other factors like where you work, what your view is, how light or dark or loud or quiet it is. Do these things change your creative output, too? In my experience, everything from what I wear to where I am and what I eat have a pretty profound impact on my creative output.
These things form my Optimal Creative Modus Operandi (MO).
So, I thought it would be fun to do an experiment here and share our collective creative MOs.I’ll start and I’d love for you to share yours in the comments.
Below is a short list of personal and environmental conditions that have an impact on my creative output, along with my preference for maximizing the flow of creative juices.
Here is Jonathan's Optimal Creative MO:
  • Clothes – Bare feet, old jeans and a well-worn t-shirt.
  • Sound – Moderate background noise, classic rock, love writing to Led Zeppelin
  • Light – Bright, sunny setting, preferably with sunlight on my face and body
  • Time of Day – Early morning (5:30am), then again late in the evening.
  • Location – Crunchy, low-key cafe, home-office or Soho House in NYC.
  • Directionality - Facing out into a room with a wall or substantial piece of furniture at my back
  • Routine/spontaneous – Routine, BUT provided I have an idea capture device
  • Long periods or short bursts – 2 to 4 hour intensive creative sessions where time often fugues
  • Carry something to capture ideas on the fly? – Always have a voice recorder or app on me
  • Squeaky Clean or squalor (setting) – Squeaky clean
  • Clean or dirty – Unshowered in the morning, showered at night and in the final weeks of writing a book, you probably don’t wanna get too close to me, lol.
  • Solo or surrounded – Solo, except when creating music, then collaborative
  • Digital or analogue – Analogue to ideate, digital to flesh out and build out
  • What fuels you? – Raw almonds, organic berries and ice-cold water
  • Leaded or unleaded? – Leaded latte in the morning, nothing in the evening.
  • Breaks – Getting outside between creative bouts, preferably by water or woods.
  • Mindset practices that fuel creation – Meditation, playing guitar.
  • Movement practices that fuel creation – Yoga, hiking, running, spinning
Those were Jonathan's.  Here are mine (Tommy's) :

Clothes – always barefoot, shorts and a t-shirt for summer; jeans and button down oxford for winter, barefoot until winter weather demands otherwise.  

Sound – music, always: jazz, Americana, classic rock are faves.  Depends on what I'm writing as to who sets the mood, but Miles Davis is always a sure bet to stimulate something creative.  

Light -  I need good light, and the addition of candlelight, just for ambience, is always a plus. 

Location -  My Mac is in my office, so I live there.  I sometimes take my Dell laptop onto our front porch for some Spring/Autumn work, when the weather is mild enough.

Directionality – Back to the window or I'd never get a lick done.

Time of Day -  Love the AM, once I'm up and coffee has worked its magic.

Routine/spontaneous -  Loose routine.  Try to be flexible to change and improvise when needed.

Long periods or short bursts - Long periods punctuated by short breaks.

Carry something to capture ideas on the fly? -  Moleskin notebook Wendy gave me and my Tony Robbins RPM Planner book.

Squeaky Clean or Squalor -  The cleaner the better.
Clean or dirty -   Me?  Oh, I'm weird about this.  Gotta shower to feel truly ready to work.  

Solo or surrounded - Solo.  Not a recluse or a curmudgeon, just love to talk, and I will given the opportunity.
Digital or analogue -   Digital.
What fuels you? -   Coffee and Coltrane are my drugs of choice.

Leaded or unleaded? -  Leaded.  One cup when I wake up (6am), another mid/late AM, and a final one toward mid-afternoon.

Breaks –   Whenever my kids need me, when I can grab a few minutes with Wendy.  My office is always open, so if I lose an hour in the afternoon, there's always night time. 

Mindset practices that fuel creation -  Meditation.  Creative writing before business writing.  And, yes, sometimes Facebooking.  Sadly. 

Movement practices that fuel creation -  Yoga and running.

So, now it’s your turn.
What’s YOUR Creative Modus Operandi?
Copy and paste the below list into your comment then share YOUR creative M.O…
Clothes –
Sound –
Light -
Location -
Directionality –
Time of Day -
Routine/spontaneous -
Long periods or short bursts -
Carry something to capture ideas on the fly? -
Squeaky Clean or Squalor -
Clean or dirty -
Solo or surrounded -
Digital or analogue -
What fuels you? -
Leaded or unleaded? -
Breaks –
Mindset practices that fuel creation -
Movement practices that fuel creation -

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Your Moment of Bliss...

I'm posting this link not because Arcade Fire has a terrific new CD - "The Suburbs" - out this week or because I worship at the altar of all things Springsteen, but because the guy who is running the camera on this bootleg video expresses such pure surprise and joy when he sees and hears all this come together that it's just contagious.

Every time I watch it, it makes me smile because we've all felt that moment at a concert, ball game, play, etc where we're just jubilant with awe and surprise.  May we all have more moments like this one.

Keep the car runnin', gang.


Monday, August 2, 2010

Eat. Pray. Retort.

I do a pretty decent job of dodging remarks that compel me to vent out loud.  I don't tune in to Glenn Beck or Pat Robertson, and I know where the 'hide' button is on Facebook.  It's all part of being in my early 40's and keeping my usually excellent blood pressure in check.

That said, I do - at times - stumble across a quote or two that requires at least a cursory response, and my blog seems like the place to take such umbrage.  Sadly, the bone I wish to pick is with a talented woman - she's a decent writer and obviously folks find her engaging.  I, however, am just not so moved.

Here's the quote - courtesy of this week's Entertainment Weekly- from Elizabeth Gilbert, author of "Eat Pray Love",  in response to repeated criticism of her hit book and soon to be blockbuster film:  "If women like it, it must be stupid."  In other words, my work is being marginalized because it struck a chord with women.

Now, I take pride in my balance of gender-based yin and yang.  For every Scorsese movie I worship, there's a Meryl Streep film that devastates me.  For each Springsteen anthem that moves my soul, there's an Emmylou Harris ballad that makes me believe in worlds unseen.   I would likely be described as a 'sensitive male'  before someone uttered the phrase 'man's man', and I'm cool with that.

Therefore, I read "Eat, Love, Pray" last year at the behest of a couple of female friends who felt I would connect with Gilbert's journey.  I do, after all, love to cook, meditate, and I believe, as Sheryl Crow said, "Love is a Good Thing".

In a nutshell, I found Gilbert's journey to be vapid, self-absorbed, and self-serving.  To be fair, that's her right.  Hey, if a publisher paid me $200,000 to go on a year's journey to indulge in great pasta, find some inner-peace, and then have a passionate romance, I'd be looking for the dotted line.  That is, if I weren't happily married.  Gilbert apparently was as well, but suddenly decided she was unhappy - for no definable reason, according to her book. So, she walked out, leaving everything to her ex-husband (out of guilt, she purports), had a brief fling, and then went on a quest to find God....or happiness...or a really good angel hair marinara.

Honestly,  I'm a tad mystified that this book is so popular among women.  In the end, Gilbert's apparent search for happiness ended with her, ultimately, falling in love with another man.  (Oops...retroactive spoiler alert.  She travels the world over seeking enlightenment and then completes her journey by falling for a handsome Brazilian dude who makes her all tingly inside.)  In the long run, she could've saved some frequent flier miles, wandered into a singles bar in Jersey and gotten the same outcome.

To make criticism of her work a matter of sexism is a tad insulting to women and men alike.

The reason I didn't like Gilbert's book is the same reason I LOVE the writings of Carrie Fisher, Anne Lamott, Geri Larkin, Mary Karr, and Joan Didion; the lyrics of Lucinda Williams, Indigo Girls, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Patti Smith, and Bonnie Raitt.    These are insightful, empathic women who explore both self and other, who ask the big questions but don't feel like the world is revolving around them as they do so.  They are self-deprecating, alive with humor and mischief, and capable of busting your heart wide open with the right phrase, because you know they meant it, they lived it, and they want to share how it felt.

Now, to put Carrie Bradshaw's $500 shoe on the other foot, I have to be fair and ask the fateful question:
Can men be narcissistic, self-absorbed, and self-serving?  Hell yes.  We wrote the book on it (likely titled "Overeat. Prey. Self-Love.").   We majored in this topic and graduated Summa It's-All-About-Me Laude.  We swim daily in Lake Me and dangle from the tip top of the MeMonkey Tree.  That's why truly en-route-to-enlightenment guys see women as teachers, mentors, and our best bet at understanding whatever divinity intersects with our humanity.

Hell, we're looking to you to save us, ladies.  We're the barely walking upright Y chromosomes who start wars, fill up 90% of our penitentiaries, and seem to leave a pretty brutal karmic footprint everywhere we step.  We'd do well to listen to the wisdom you ladies lay down on the page, in song, in artistry, hell, at the checkout line.

But I just didn't find much of that life altering wisdom in "Eat Pray Love", and I don't think that makes me a chauvinist, a shallow guy, or even a harsh critic.  It just makes me all the more aware that the women who truly Eat, Pray, and Love with the kind of joie de vivre that moves me not only reside on my bookshelf and my I-Pod, but also happen to share my home, my zip code, my kids' school hallways, yoga classes, dinner parties, and Girl Fight Club gatherings.

I'm sorry Ms. Gilbert, but I disagree with your assessment of why some find your book to be as shallow as an Atlanta summer rain puddle.

To paraphrase Mr. Dylan - "You don't need a weather girl to know which way the wind blows..."