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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

"So...what are you working on?"

If you are creative or artistic in any sense of the word, you have probably experienced the frustration of the knowledge that you DO have something MAGNIFICENT to share with the world combined with the incapacitation of perfectionism/procrastination (and yes, they are sometimes one and the same!).

I have many creative aspirations and often find myself overwhelmed by them. I am overwhelmed because there are so many different directions I can feel drawn to, but also because I have this sense of perfectionism. I don't want to do something unless it is going to be absolutely perfect (to my often impossible standards) and the most UNIQUE thing that has ever been created. If I do not have the time, energy, or inspiration to produce this product I refuse to even begin. While I embrace and am grateful for that perfectionism in regards to creating things I am proud of, I have learned recently that this is sometimes just another way of procrastinating what I am capable of. I am learning that there is something much more admirable in those who create for the sake of creating rather than the sake of being considered "brilliant". I have created some of the most amazing things from moments when I let go of that need to be the most "perfect/unique/brilliant" and just DID SOMETHING. This is a current goal of mine and I promise it has NOTHING to do with Nike but...

JUST DO IT!

But...sometimes we are entirely too hard on ourselves.

I had the pleasure of reading this blog post at Affirming Spirit many months ago and was so excited by the relief/inspiration it provided me. She could not recall the name of the artist/psychology major who had self-published a book about it.

Here are the breakdown of the four stages as Nancy recalled them:

1 | Gestation

This is the stage where things are quiet creatively, but you are feeling hopeful because you are noticing interesting experiences, gathering ideas, deciding what you want to work on next. This stage comes after the creator emerges from the Renewal/Rest stage.

2 | Inspiration

This is the stage where you find a new idea, or series of ideas, that really feels *exciting*. It might be a single idea, or one idea that quickly spawns many additional ideas. It may be something you observe outside of yourself or something that pops into your mind. The topic feels juicy and pregnant with potential. You begin whittling down the ideas collected to decide what you really want to focus upon.

3 | Creation/Birth

This is the stage where you begin taking action toward materializing the inspired idea, from start to finish. The creator’s energy is high, and they often feel full of life and vibrant. The work may take on a *life of it’s own*, possibly even going in a new direction not considered in the Gestation or Inspiration stage.

4 | Renewal/Rest

This is the stage creators enter upon completion of the Creation/Birth stage. Often, the creator has been focusing so intensely on the previous two stages, that this stage may feel like a comparative shock. New or inexperienced creators may find this stage comes relatively unexpectedly.

This can be a very critical stage for creators because most find themselves feeling low, possibly even feeling depressed, in comparison to the high-energy stages of Inspiration and Creation/Birth. Unprepared, doubt, worry and fear can easily creep in during this time, and in this low-energy stage, the creator begins questioning if they will ever do anything worthwhile again. They simply don’t have the energy to contemplate something new, and often feel defeated because of the low energy levels.

In extreme cases, a creator susceptible to addictions may retreat to drugs or alcohol to deal with the low energy, and/or soothe doubt, worry, and fear. However, if the creator is aware of these stages and knows *this one, too, shall pass*, they can embrace it and move through this stage relatively quickly~sometimes hours or days, versus months or years.

The creator knows they have left this stage when they find themselves entering the Gestation stage as they gently begin gathering more data and being intrigued by new ideas of theirs or other creators.


As a human being, I am a firm believer that we are constantly ebbing and flowing in SO SO SO many aspects of our emotions/world. Any woman knows how cycles affect our moods/over-all well-being. We are just lucky we have been given an explanation for it. Men just keep their insanity to themselves! With so many people on anti-depressants/anxiety medication I wonder if we all couldn't do with a little sit-down about our natural cycles. Everyone feels down sometimes. It is natural and part of the normal cycle of life. I realize there are extremes to this but for me, just KNOWING that these cycles exist and are so NORMAL helps me to feel better.

As an artist, I am even more relieved to read how NORMAL it is to feel so inspired at one stage, to productive in another, and then to just chill out and regroup afterwards. What a relief! I used to feel like such a schmuck when I wasn't "working on anything". As performers we are all so very familiar with this feeling. When making conversation, friends and new acquaintances like to inquire "So...what are you working on?". Sometimes they truly mean well, while others may be judging. I have always HATED this conversation. If I have nothing to say I feel like a loser and if I have something to talk about I feel pretentious mentioning it. What a RELIEF it is to know that we shouldn't ALWAYS be inspired to be DOING DOING DOING! There is a time and a place for it, of course, and if you find yourself stuck in the "Gestation" or "Inspiration" phases for too long (which is different for everyone) perhaps you can give yourself a kick in the arse but just to know that each of these phases are legitimate and necessary to the final product...ESPECIALLY the "Renewal/Rest" stage makes me feel so much better!

As performer who often relies on other people to cast me in order to "allow" me to create amidst "their" show, I imagine these cycles can be a bit more difficult to manage. All us theatre-folk know the depression that follows closing a show. On top of the loss of such magical quality-time with an incredible new group of friends paired with creating something as a performer we must then return to the "what next?" feeling. As performers in NYC we are encouraged to just keep getting out there and auditioning. Sometimes you need to regroup. You need to be able to regroup without feeling like you are lazy. Resting/Renewal is a crucial part to our art as well! I feel like artists in other formats may have a little more control over which part of the cycle they are on whereas performers spend SO much time in the "Gestation" and "Inspiration" cycles while often having to keep putting themselves out there over and over again until someone "allows" them to be in the "Creation/Birth" cycle. No doubt our cycles are naturally continuing regardless - thus causing an overall feeling of unease when some of them don't come to tangible fruition! Oh right...and then we have to work "day-jobs" on top of this! Oye.

Do you feel better knowing that these cycles exist and are perfectly normal? Can you let yourself off the hook and just enjoy your "Resting/Renewal" phase? I would love to know your thoughts!

Monday, November 8, 2010

"The Rally to Restore Sanity Which Nearly Made me Lose Mine" (Part 2 of 2)

Well hello and welcome to my "Part 2". I set out to write solely about my experiences for the Rally but suddenly out came all that other stuff about the evolution of my eagerness turned disillusionment leading up to this Rally. So, if it interests you, fix those pretty retinas here.

So Stewart and Colbert are throwing this Rally and Arianna Huffington is providing free buses. Awesome! I normally don't try and gravitate towards crowds like this, but it was worth it! These guys were coming together for something positive and, more importantly, funny! I was in. I knew it would be a lot of people because of the press it was getting. When Oprah mentioned it I knew it would be even crazier. What I didn't know is that, due to incredibly poor planning for the 10,000 people Arianna Huffington so graciously bussed in for free, the story I will be telling my grandchildren is a lot more embarrassing and uneventful than it ought to be.

Here's the scoop. You invite 10,000 people to meet you at Citi-Field in Queens at 4:30 a.m. for a 5:00 a.m. departure time, you should probably organize. We got to the stadium at the ass-crack o' dawn and the Huffington Post folk were all very sweet but none of them really had anything useful to say or do. We had to form our own "line" and police ourselves, which grew more and more impossible as each 7 train that arrived dumped more and more people off. Eventually our long squiggly poor-excuse of a "line" became just a mass of people. Oh yeah, and we clearly did not leave anywhere close to 5am. We stood out in the cold for hours. Our buses were all lined up waiting for us, so why were we waiting there? Well, around 6:40 or so, Ms. Arianna Huffington herself came by with her cameras and shook people's hands and evidently hand-picked people to come with her on her bus. I am pretty sure we had to wait for her to get this photo-opportunity before we could leave because soon after she was done...things started to happen. Now, once again....NO organization from the HP peeps. Just a mass exodus toward the buses. You can guess it, my friends and I...and several other hundred people who had been standing patiently since 4:30 a.m. were now the last to board buses, while folks who just arrived at 6:30 and should have MISSED it entirely got on first. Yet we remained patient and calm, all-be-it irritated and cold. Finally we board our bus, which looked like it was stolen off a movie set. Our janky bus from 1969 still had an old school scrolling destination sign on it and there was a sign in the window that said "Jimmy". Our bus driver looked like one of Tony Soprano's peons and definitely looked like a Jimmy. We were informed just before we left that his name wasn't "Jimmy", it was "Jude". We still aren't entirely sure of this "Jimmy"'s whereabouts but we have our suspicions. Now our bus stank and the heat wasn't working. I was confident it would at some point but, no, it never did. The ride was long. The bathroom nasty. Jude kept pulling off the road to go to the bathroom. We hit traffic and after a while we couldn't see any more buses on the road with us. It was after 12pm and we were still on this bus! Jude informed us that his G.P.S. just went out and he was going to have to ask for directions. We wondered if he was even supposed to be part of this whole trip to begin with, he seemed like he just stole a bus and went along for the ride. Suddenly we start seeing national monuments off in the distance, realizing we are now IN the city. We weren't supposed to be dropped off there, we were supposed to go to a stadium about 10 minutes by subway away and we were on our own to get in to the National Mall. One of the passengers uses his G.P.S. on his phone to navigate us where we need to be and Jude drops us off a few blocks from the Mall at 1:30 p.m. With an hour and half left before the mass exodus to the subway and then buses, we get as close as we can to the field. We didn't have a chance. It occurs to me that even had we arrived on time, we wouldn't have a had a chance. You would have had to be in early that morning to get a spot anywhere near the action. Sure, I have lived in NYC long enough to know you can't just show up at the start time of the movie at Bryant Park and get a spot on the lawn but I thought this was different. There had been SO MUCH MEDIA about this I sort of imagined Arianna Huffington would be interested in us actually SEEING something once she bussed us there but obviously she couldn't care less about that, let alone getting us there before the Rally began. We stand near urinals listening to the muffled sounds of, probably Jon Stewart. We can't make out anything on the screens or stage. We walk around a wee bit. We are hungry, so we go wait in line for a hot dog. Then we wait in line for the Smithsonian restrooms. We walk around for another 5 minutes before I suggest we start to head to the subway. In about 5 minutes, the millions of people at that Rally will be doing the same thing. We patiently wait for the subway for about 40 minutes only to find a new line has formed since the Rally let out and we are all filtering into the same stairwell. Once again we patiently do what's "right" while a bunch of other fools essentially cut us. But what can ya' do? Once in the subway terminal things went way faster than I had imagined and soon enough we were on a newer, less janky/smelly, sans mobster-driver bus. It was on our journey home that we found out that all the other buses were given free snacks. Yeah. Free yogurt from Stonybrook, free pistachio nuts, and free Coca-Cola. Our bus got NUTTIN'. Maybe Jude ate it all.

That's what happened when I went to the Rally kids. Grandma rode on a janky bus for 6 hours just to eat a hot dog and pee before turning around and coming back and watching clips of what she missed while she was there on the internet.

Am I a little irked with Arianna for treating us as props to make her look fantastic in the media while feigning interest in our participation once her free buses dropped us off late? Of course. Do I wish I could still get my hands on those pistachio nuts? It'd be cool. But do I regret going to the Rally? I don't think so. At the end of the day, this Rally was HUGE. HUUUUUUGE! A police officer in D.C. said he hasn't seen anything this big in years (other than Obama's Inauguration). It would have never been that HUGE if it weren't for all the media attention Ms. Huffington created with this free bus bullshit. Thousands of people got together FOR something. Something positive and funny. I still can't understand why some media were forbidden by their employers to cover the Rally, but regardless of that fact, people still know what happened that day and how many people came to support it. And I did too....it's not my fault the day was a huge-ass bust for me and my friends. I went. That's something I can be proud to tell my grandkids. Now I better get busy over here and start on the kid part first 'cause I'm gonna be one crazy-awesome Grandma!

"What will we tell our grandchildren?" (Part 1 of 2)

I spend a lot of time imagining what great tales I will have to tell my grandchildren one day. This is a bizarre fact being that I have no children nor any immediate prospects and I just ain't gettin' any younger. Okay I know 33 isn't old but seriously, I've got lots of story-times planned with my non-existent grandchildren and only an occasional date through OkCupid so you do the math.

Still, I will be proud to tell my grandchildren that when I was a young lady living in NYC the Bush administration finally made me pay the fuck attention to politics and was just so out of control that I finally compelled to DO SOMETHING. I finally felt driven to get out in the streets or find ways I could change an unhealthy situation. There was the Pro-Choice Rally followed by an Anti-Bush Rally all on the same weekend I moved into my 2nd apartment here. My mother's fears of my heading out to an anti-Bush rally were based in her experiences living through the tumultuous 60's. These were dangerous times! I know....I saw "Forrest Gump". What I experienced that year (just before his reelection) was incredible and peaceful. Nothing violent occurred in the slightest-which is fantastic, but I can't help but wonder if that really was for the best. Taking to the streets with like-minded individuals on the streets of my now home of NYC was liberating. This bubble of like-minded folks blinded me to the reality that the majority of our country still wasn't convinced we were up shit-creek and Bush was continuously tossing our paddles out of the boat as we just kept handing them to him! I canvased in the swing-state of Pennsylvania on election day and went to the bar to watch the results with my fellow canvasers. Unfortunately we saw how that one panned out. To say that this changed me is to understate something I still haven't found the words to describe. Up to that point, I had never experienced anything quite so life-altering as I did that election day.

Throughout the next four years I attempted to continue supporting issues that were important to me. Excited by the notion that, if enough people were pissed off about Bush and what he was doing, at SOME POINT they would ALL feel compelled to get out there and DO SOMETHING...even if that something was walking down the street screaming something out....letting it be known that they did NOT approve and support him. I traveled to one rally in Washington D.C. the week that the now majority-Democratic Senate was back in session after the holidays. We were there to show our support and remind them what we wanted them to accomplish in there. The organization we went with also had some other things on our agenda that they hadn't been all that informative about prior. We were, evidently, also there to don orange prison outfits complete with black hoods over our heads - Guantanamo-Bay-style and kneel on the lawn with our hands tied behind our backs. This was in protest of the poor treatment/torture of suspected "terrorist" prisoners. We did as we were told but most of us hadn't signed up for that! Nor did we sign up to walk the streets of D.C. with these hoods over our heads while holding up GIGANTIC heavy signs they wanted us to carry. The worst part about all of this was the fact that we were told thousands of people were meeting us in D.C.. When we arrived, our numbers totaled about 300 or so. We were this tiny smattering of New Yorkers bused in for some huge rally that just never came to be. My heart sunk. Didn't people CARE?!?! Weren't people even more ready now to DO SOMETHING? Evidently not. I don't think anyone even knew we were there that day. Needless to say, I was not inspired or proud. I felt like an idiot running around in my black hood. It was around this time I started realizing the power of being "for" or "against" something and how most protests are "against". This one definitely was. I started to understand that, were I to take part in something else such as this, it was going to need to be FOR something positive.

So yeah...I did go out and canvas in Pennsylvania again for Obama. I lost my voice screaming in Times Square when he was elected. I've been to rallies in support of gay's rights to marry and things of that nature, but haven't felt too inspired to "go anywhere" until John Stewart and Stephen Colbert's "Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear". The timing of it and the free Huffington Post buses were all too hard to pass up. Little did I know that this is what I will get to tell my grandchildren about that day....