In our everyday creative lives, we come into contact with video after video, song after song, graphic after graphic... you get the idea. Media is more available to us now that any previous point in history. This also means that there is a whole lot more of the stuff being thrown into our daily periphery, as well.
This can be a huge distraction from our creative lives, sure. But something almost more insidious begins to creep in. Unintentional imitation. Let's face it. We all do it to some extent. It could just be our influences working together to give a certain flavor to our work, or it might be an all out rip off (you know who you are). The point is, when creation becomes more like imitation, we aren't really talking about being creative anymore. We're talking karaoke masquerading as the original.
So, assuming that we want to act as truly creative individuals, we need to find a way to free ourselves from our standards for ourself.
Think about your standards for a completed work. Chances are, you developed those standards through one of two ways. One, you had a teacher who dictated to you what a completed work was and what it wasn't. Or two, the people that you admired when getting into your art somehow left an impression on you as to what a complete and quality piece of work really is. Either one is perfectly functional and useful in our work.
But I want you to ask yourself, have you ever tried to create something without giving a thought to what other artists (teachers, inspirations, heroes) would have done? Have you ever let the work be true to it's self, let it speak in it's own voice and sing until the last note is finished? Have you let it have it's own inherent quirkiness and flaws?
It takes skill to let a true work go from inspiration to creation. That's what the fundamentals are for. Then, forget everything. Let the idea sing. Go right when it says to go right. Hold the chord when everyone else might change it, because that's what the song says to do.
Open your heart, your mind and your eyes to what is being presented to you in the form of inspiration. Then create that. You'll never need to "play karaoke" again.
There has been A LOT of things going on since i have posted here. Some wonderful and fulfilling, some challenging. However, it is time that I get back on the horse and make this blog what it was intended to be.
This means articles, videos or posts weekly at the minimum. It means delivering you insightful and high quality interviews and thoughts to help you on your journey of being the epitome of the fearless creatives: The Tiger DaVinci.
I will also be publishing the 'Tiger DaVinci's Manifesto" in October 2013, which will be given away for free to all who wish to read it.
Here is to getting on with it. Sorry for the "time at sea". The wait will be worth it. I promise.
"Where silence is, man is observed by silence. Silence looks at man more than man looks at silence. Man does not put silence to the test." - Max PicardIn her book "Ordinary People As Monks And Mystics: Lifestyles For Self Discovery", Marsha Sinetar dedicates a chapter to the use of silence as a tool for deep internal introspection. The subjects of her book have removed themselves from society in order to whatever lifestyle they feel best lends it's self to their spiritual development. They came from all kinds of backgrounds, but they all sought one thing in common: Silence.Why? Why is silence so important and why does it matter to you, the creative?As the famous conductor Leopold Stokowski once said " A painter paints his pictures on canvas. But musicians paint their pictures on silence."While has, at the time, speaking of the respective roles of the musician and audience at the time, there is a far deeper thought within the idea of "painting pictures on silence". It's not hard for musicians to get this concept, but what for the rest of us who aren't musical in our expression. I submit to you the idea that we all paint our lives on silence.
Think about it. In fact, do that right now. Stop what you are doing and just be quiet. Just listen to the noises around you. What is your environment like without your input?
Now, realize this. Everything...and I mean everything that comes next, whether it be sounds, phrases, words spoken in positivity or negativity - are all generated by you. What you speak, how you speak, actually effects the world around you in a far deeper way than you could imagine.
Sit in silence and think, "What, in the most profound way, do I want to write on the wall of no sound with my life?" Then, ever mindful, move to make that a reality.
Will it be a message of boredom, displeasure and dissatisfaction? Will it be hollow pandering for the approval of others? Or will it be something more real, more profound, more honest?
Just a guess, but I'd bet that we all would agree that the world needs more creators, not more critics. Remember the silence.
It happens in almost every creative field.
You have the upper echelon of the craft, the trendsetters, the ones who make others want to be like them. You also have the professionals who are somewhat less distinct, but can deliver every time. Then, a bit lower down the totem pole, there are the wannabes. They are generally trying to be one or several of the top performers in the field.
Once, in film school, a large group of us sat around, discussing what our class project would be for the semester. As I listened to the ideas of my classmates, I got more and more pissed. Every single idea was borrowed from somebody else (not stolen, mind you - that would require too much risk and imagination).
It went like this: "What about doing a medieval piece? Well, in that case, we should have a sword fight to the death on a bridge above the castle during a rain storm.." To which my, admittedly unhelpful response was "Yeah, I saw Willow too. Do you have an ACTUAL ideas?"
The point here is that when you get involved with an art form, it might be that you have heroes and people you wish to emulate. That is pure and excellent. It is also the way we learn.
But the fact is that you are unlike your mentors - and that is the greatest gift you possess. How do YOU tell the story, perform the song or film the scene? The world already has a Steven Spielberg, now give the world your perspective.
In other words, "Be Different, Not Better" (Practically Chase Jarvis' motto on his show).
Learn the techniques, by all means. Get out there an do it. Make mistakes, learn what others have done. Then discard the rules and go out to make it happen for yourself.
The world needs more artists, not imitators. That, there are always plenty of. But you, there is a severe shortage. No one can ever do it like you. So then, why would you want to rob the world of your vision?
A famous dancer was once approached by a fan after a performance. The fan told her "You were excellent! Tell me, what was that you were doing?"
The dancer replied "I'm sorry. If you had to ask, that means that I did not succeed in my task. You see, everything you needed to know was in the performance."
Think of it this way: It's not that complicated.
You don't need to hear experts telling you their methods or how you should write, create, or whatever. Sure, listen to them tell you a few things. Take the info, think it over, implement what works and discard the rest.
Then spend as much time as you can watching their works. Watch films, listen to music, look at paintings, read books (better yet, copy them, word for word). You will learn everything you need to know by studying the works of others.
Today, I found myself complaining. Nothing serious. Very "First World Problem" type of complaining. The person on the other end, in this case my girlfriend, listened patiently. Sometimes, I don't know why she does it. The other times, I know very well. It's because I fu*king rock.
But rock as I might, today, I sucked. Why? Because complainers, as a rule, suck.
This statement might piss some people off and I am happy to provide that stimuli for them. I am writing this for myself as well, to clear my own head and allow my higher self to give my lower self a talking to. This is schizophrenia as entertainment, so you might as well enjoy it while you can..
You Really Having NOTHING To Complain About
I know that you can think of all kinds of exceptions, but I'm including them too. When I was a cancer patient at the ripe old age of eleven, there was a young child who had gone blind due to a brain tumor. The list of the health complications that he had to endure was endless. The pain he was in on a daily basis was immense. Yet, as I lay next to him in our shared room at The Children's Hospital in Denver, I witnessed first hand that courage, compassion and positivity had absolutely nothing to do with your circumstances, but everything to do with your heart and your spirit.
His laugh was infectious, his smile was something that everybody commented on. It was beautiful. And the real kicker is, as young as he was, this kid understood his situation medically was basically hopeless. It didn't phase him one bit.
Here I was today, complaining about what? Friends acting silly? Come on.
Everyone gets cranky now and again. That's fine and human. Accept it and don't take it for more than what it is.
But it's when complaining becomes a way of life that it becomes slippery. Thinking that you are either a victim or too good for anything around you is a direct signal to the world and to your unconsciousness that you are not fit for the situation.
My mentor mentioned a great method to use when you feel the need to complain. Here it is:
1) Frame the problem as if it was EXACTLY what was supposed to be happening to you at this exact moment to help you develop.
2) Ask what is perfect in the situation. (This might be really, really hard. You might have to think for awhile. But I bet that you will find SOMETHING good about the situation.)
3) Become thankful for the good and become eager for the future. This is such a powerful place to be. Not just on a metaphysical level, but in a very practical and psychological way.
4) Approach the situation for gratitude and optimism. Then ask, "How can we have fun and kick ass right now?"
5) Then do it.
This is the complainer's cure. The antidote. Try to use it for a month and see what happens.
Mark my word, the change will be miraculous.
No matter what you do, no matter where you do it, you can count on one thing. There will always be haters. It doesn't mention it in the Bible, but God created them on Day 8.
I take that back, there is an exception: You won't have many haters if you do nothing at all. But, if you are reading this, you are obviously are someone who does something worthwhile (right?), so that exception won't apply to you.
In martial arts, there is a principle that states that whenever you break your guard to throw strike, you open up a weakness where your opponent can hit you. So it is in life. When you extend yourself in any direction, you immediately open yourself up.
So the question becomes how to handle them.
The easy (and popular) answer is to tell you to ignore them and there are many good reasons to follow it..if you are going for only the superficial level. That level basically has you pretend that whatever you are doing is good enough, even in the face of massive proof that it isn't. Over 98% of our society lives in this world. It becomes a cycle of half assed work and everyone pretending that it's okay.
For the other 2%, things are a bit different. They don't beat themselves up all the time. Instead, they have learned to drop the ego that is involved in maintaining their pride. Pride, if it exists (and it almost ALWAYS does), is based on the standards of learning and development that they hold themselves to.
When someone is striving to be the best, like an Olympic athlete, the fake ego dies because they have suck more often than anyone. They know what it is to suck. The satisfaction comes from knowing that they are there, everyday, working to hit the level of excellence that they have achieved. In fact, they rarely see it as excellence, because they know how much farther they have to go.
At that level, handling haters has more to do with ignoring the venom. But you have a reason to ignore it. It's distracting you from your goal. From being who you want to become. Really, you have no choice but to ignore it.
How To Handle Haters? Focus on your path with such intensity that they become like a distant static to the strength of your signal.
3 A.M. found me standing in front of the Bellagio Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. The strip was bustling and moving, a flip book of colorful cartoon characters. But, for all the bright lights and revelry, the feeling in the air was hard, mechanical and gritty. Some of the most beautiful architecture in the world can seem pretty soulless in the midst of blind hedonism and consumerism.
But then, to my right, just below the sounds of the strip, a solitary guitar started playing. A street performer, sitting against the Bellagio fountain retaining wall, slowly began performing a cover of “Somewhere Over The Rainbow/What A Wonderful World” by Israel “Iz” Kamakawiwo’ole. It was the small voice in the madness. David vs. the Goliath of casinos with a construction budget higher than the GDP of many countries.
I turned to listen. In the space of a moment, the atmosphere began to transform. A crowd began to gather around this musician, standing in utter silence as Las Vegas raged around us. It was if the small spark of humanity had been forgotten and we were just then being reminded of it.
With us musicians, it gets easy to think about music as one would talk about sports teams. “They’re good”, “Meh..” or “They suck...hard.” We get caught in the triviality of who can play what, how fast and who we’re playing with. We get caught up in what celebrities we can call “good buddies” around town and get inwardly focused on getting as many people attracted to us as possible. We even might spend our time trying to emulate other musicians.. (All of which you deserve a smack for...)
As musicians, we can’t forget why we play, even though it’s easy to. It’s not about the guitar or the drums. It’s not about who will hear you or how hot they are.
What any musician knows, once we silence everything and really feel it, is that music isn’t really even the goal. The goal is in the unblocked opening of the spirit and in bringing it’s contents into the physical world through the creation and manipulation of sound waves. We are artists of the spirit and heart, music is just the medium. When that musician performed on the Las Vegas strip, he was connecting everyone on a higher level, using music. But it wasn’t the music that he was communicating. It was the emotion and the idea.
As a true artist, a real musician, this is what we do. This is our calling. Fu*k off with your ridiculous guitar solo. Stop talking about "rocking out" or "melting faces". Music isn't a joke, even if it is meant as one. What are you saying with it? What is it communicating? Where is the honesty in it?
Look at any artist. You can tell the ones who are truly authentic to who they are and what they are communicating, can’t you? It is not only your duty, but your purpose as a musician to open and cultivate the spirit and the heart to strengthen and connect the clarity of your honest and unique message to the world.
If you do this, I promise you, people will listen. It may be David vs. Goliath. It might be hard to be heard. But once your music reaches the ears and then the heart of someone else, they will start listening. Then there is connection. Then there is communication. Music is only truly played in the energy between the performer and an audience. Now, you have your reminder. Get out there and change the atmosphere.
Let's get this handled right out of the gate: I do not condone drug dealing. I don't promote a life of crime, the drug trade, organized crime or brutal street violence. Cool? Cool. (No letters, please.)
In the winter of 2009, a strange set of coincidences led me to find an intense self development concept that I found to be very effective. The odd thing about this concept was that it came from Mr. American Gangster himself, Frank Lucas.
At the time I was introduced to backtracking, I was in a slow ascent from a dark place. Just refresh from an intense and mutually destructive relationship, I had yet to find my bearings. The philosophy I had been exposed to by my martial arts teacher helped a great deal in gaining a perspective on the situation, but somehow, the path to take from where I stood eluded me.
It was in the moment I was the most lost that an answer came.
Late one night, while watching the special features section of "American Gangster" DVD in my apartment, I heard Denzel Washington refer to Frank Lucas going on a "Backtracking" trip, where he would shut himself in a room with only a desk and a chair for weeks at a time. There, in silence, he would write down everything he could remember in his life, from the large events to the small. From that room, he was able to see long term patterns and tendencies that he had that had previously been hidden from him. It also allowed him to become a grand strategist for his life, planning movements and turns long before the opportunities would present themselves.
It was interesting idea, so I jotted it down, thinking I would explore it later. The next day, while reading Robert Greene and 50 Cent's "The 50th Law", I came across a chapter about Lucas and backtracking. Taking it the clear hint, I tried to research it a bit more before realizing there is very little information about it. The lack of information is probably because:
A) Taking advice about life from a drug dealer is generally frowned upon (although I can't imagine why)
B) Backtracking seems like a lot of work.
Backtracking allows you to confront the unfolding story of your life head on. You will see behavioral patterns that might surprise you. You will mostly likely be interested to learn about strengths and/or weaknesses that you didn't even know you had. But in the end, after having to face down the angels and demons of your past, you will be left with something you can work with to create the life you really want. Backtracking is a great way to face the monster of our past, whatever it may be and conquer it.
It is a bit of work, but it's worth the time you put into it. There is a method however. Here is exactly the concept I used before changing my career and starting my company, Iedima.
(You will need a good amount of loose leaf paper, pens and a notebook.)
Setting The Stage
1, Clear your calendar
Just as you sit down at your desk to begin this project, you will inevitably have something or someone come in and disturb your time. It is almost cosmic in it's frequency. The only way around it is by totally and actively clearing the time you are going to commit to getting it done. You will need at least 3 to 4 hours. (Don't worry, there are bathroom breaks involved..)
2. Use paper and pen
Put away the computer, the phone and the TV. I mean it. Put them AWAY. You will be very tempted to "just check something" and end up losing your focus. Don't allow them to be an option for you until your 4 hours are up. The best way to stay on task is to use paper and a pen, with no other reading material or distractions around. Why do you think Lucas only had two pieces of furniture in the room where he would backtrack? The answer is simple. He needed to FOCUS.
3. Draw the curtains
Low light seems to work best for deep memory work. Candles and incense, as long as they aren't too powerful, provide an environment conducive to the project at hand. They also have been shown to increase decision making ability when combined with lower light in several tests.
<Bathroom/Beverage Break> (See, I told you, didn't I?)The Process
4. Create A Yearly Timeline
Write each year from the year you were born to the current one. Make sure to leave a decent amount of room between each one so can fill things in.
5. Fill in all the large events in your life by year, starting from beginning to present
Just a quick description will do. Don't get detailed yet. This will, unless you are Jason Bourne, be easier than you think. Skip the mid-sized to small stuff for now.
6. Look For Patterns
Now that you have something to work with, look for the way your life flows. Look at the way things earlier on led from one major event to another. Are there patterns? Has a particular thing happened more than once? Write all of these observations down in your notebook.
7. Go in closer and repeat
Now, go back through the years and write down every mid-sized event of piece of information you can remember. Repeat the above steps, find patterns and then go smaller until you can barely remember anything.
8. Find Your Vision
Vision is an overused word. But in this case, it means "what do you want the various parts of your life to look like?"
Close your eyes and breathe deeply for awhile. In your minds eye, imagine life as you would truly like it. Notice the details.
After awhile and when you feel comfortable doing so, come out of that and write down what you have seen and what you wish to create. This is what you are going to work from going forward.
9. Review Your Findings
Now that you have made a good amount of notes looking at the events of your life and the patterns that may have shown themselves, write them out simply. Put down the core essence of what it is.
10. Take responsibility
Negative patterns and events in your life might not be your fault. But blaming anyone or anything for what has happened in your life, while possibly justified, is adverse to the way you can get use out of a practice this way. At least for the moment, try to suspend your resentment and think of ways you have or can stop them from occurring in your life. How you respond is your responsibility.
11. Design your "Grand Strategy" based on your vision for the future while taking the information from the backtrack into account.
As you commit to a plan to achieve what you what you have decided to go after, make sure that you take the way you have naturally behaved up to this point into account. For instance, if you have never worked out a day in your life, than don't plan to hit the gym everyday for four hours. Taking the time to slowly introduce habits really pays off. Besides, now that you can plan on a much larger scale than most other's do, you can add minor habits bit by bit until the entire lifestyle change happens without the usual dramatic (and high failure rate) mind based mega change.
This technique, while almost obvious, is very powerful. Most people can't remember what they had for lunch yesterday, yet here you are, knowing the ebb and flow of your life. But not only that, but you have a plan to create
the future that you wish to experience. Now go make it happen.
(P.S. In order to change some of the behavior, it might become necessary to change old, built in behaviors. In that case, I recommend NLP or, if you are the disciplined sort, Zen meditation.
How To Live From Your Creative Source No Matter Where Life Takes You
By Michael Amidei
Artists are the echoes of God.
We are the resounding of creation, now manifesting in perpetuation.
We take what is and infuse it with what might be.
We can take simple ink, or paint and canvas or paper and shape the world with it.
We can cause riots (Salmon Rushdie). We can influence nations (Uncle Tom's Cabin).
We can shift the very consciousness of our existence.
Have you ever heard a musician play?
Or a singer sing, quietly and slowly, majestically breaking the hanging silence?
Is there any doubt that that is not only the sound of the spirit,
but the common shock wave of humanity, resonating throughout our collective unconscious?
Is there any doubt that what a blues man plays in New Orleans does not,
in some way, reverberate in the spirit of a young boy, waking in the early
morning inside an orphanage in Nepal?
As men and women, as people, we know that the arts are who we are.
They are our highest aspirations. They are what we wish that we could become.
To create art? What could be more noble than that? What could be more
worthwhile than that?
In the future, most of our names will be forgotten.
But our music, our words, our films and our art can remain.
And remain they will, in service to others, connecting their time with our time.
And they will know that they aren't alone, just like we know that we aren't alone,
because of the art of those who came before us.
So, in honor or the noble pursuit of the arts. I humbly ask you to continue creating. Don't stop. Do whatever it takes.
The world needs you. It needs us.
Art is important. It really is. In fact, it's so important that if you can do it, you'd better do it and get it out to as many people as possible. Why? Because it makes the world a better place.
It took years for me to come to terms with myself as a truly creative person. I literally thought composing symphonies, doing graphic art, writing books and making films was were things that everyone did. As I grew up, I indulged more than others, in "creative" type pursuits and made a decent living from time to time, but in the end, I was pretending to be what someone else wanted. I wasn't living from my creative source.
Doing what I thought you were supposed to do, I stepped into the world of corporations and allowed myself to work in areas that I simply didn't care about and that didn't require me to do what I do best. Create.
It wasn't until I took an intense silent sabbatical - where I literally looked through every bit of my past and dreamed up what I wanted in my future, that I realized what I had been missing. Creation is a part of me. It is the thing that gets me up in the morning and then thing that keeps me awake at night. I love it. I breathe it. It is part of me, through and through.
We need to face it though. For the majority of us, the dreams of rockstardom, being a megarich painter or being a bestselling author won't be realized. But why do they need to? Ask yourself - was it really being a rockstar that was important to you? Or is doing your music in your way what really mattered? It's really easy to get caught up in chasing some version that others have told us is what we should pursue with our art. Screw that. Strive to create the best you can. - All that stardom stuff, if you really research it, sucked to live through, anyway.
Knowing this still wasn't enough for me. How could I reconcile my desire to create with the real world responsibilities around me? Call me slow, but I didn't have the answer. So, I set out to find it how artists could create, live well and make a real impact on the world around them. My learning came from many sources, from a professional painter/amateur boxer to a poet who works the late nights at an emergency room. The answers, as you would imagine, were as varied as the people who gave them.
(NOTE: This presupposes that your art is already at a professional level, so if you need work, go get it and come back to this. )
Principle #1 - Define Yourself (Niche)
I know that, as artists, we are constantly working to define ourselves. I get it. But what I'm talking about here is that a "niche" can massively help you when it comes to finding a large audience to gift your art to. Are you a painter of macabre images based on fables? Cool. You can build on that. But it becomes really hard to build on that PLUS your penchant of cheery pastel landscapes. Pick something and stick. Just for now...
Or just put the cheery pastels in your closet for when you decide to "go electric" aka Bob Dylan.
Principle #2 - Be Authentically You & Focus On Creating The Best Art Possible
Way too many people get lost in the business side of things. They didn't start out that way, it just became more and more a part of their lives as they tried to "make it" in their particular scene. Lose all that. Make friends and make contacts. Make contacts your friends. But 100% of your energy should really be on making the absolute best art that you can.
Be you. Acting like someone else is, in someway trying to buy their success by emulation. Don't worry about that. Be you. You are enough.
To quote a very successful rock act who finally had a hit after years and years of struggle, "It's funny, but when I finally just focused on making the best music I possibly could, all the business snaps into place on it's own." It's a bit of a simplification, but it's not far off. Take care of the art and build the business as it is needed.
Principle #3 - Treat Your Work As A Business
This is probably the most tired piece of advice I have heard given to artists. It's a cliche. And, like a lot of cliches, it is based on truth. Just as there are a ton of creatives who treat their art as only business, there are a ton that simply create, don't work on the business side at all and then complain when they don't have people beating down their doors.
You have to learn about how to share your work with others. Get educated on marketing, business, etc.
You also need to learn strategies of how to share more of your art with your fans. Would they like a calendar of your work? A vinyl version of your new CD? How can you make both your art and the presentation of your art the best it can possibly be for those who want to experience it?
Believe it or not, that is 98% of all business.
Principle #4 - Stay True To Your Work
As funny as this might sound, some people need to hear it.
"I hereby give you permission to work a day job and also create your art. In no way does that make you a failed artist if you can pay your bills. Just do the best you can making it and getting it out there. You don't have to become famous. You don't have to even make a full living as an artist. Make every effort, but for love of God, don't ever change your art to fit the demands of the industry. That makes you a sellout. Seriously...don't do it. "
Stay true to what you feel called to do. That's the reason you are "qualified" to do that particular work.
By learning and applying what you learn, you can eventually move to making a living at creation. It's very true. There is great information about various forms of how people do this all over the web.
But the pressure is off. It's okay. The fact you create and get it out there is enough.
Principle #5 - Keep Learning
No matter how successful you might become. No matter how good you think you are, you have to keep growing. Do it, not for a competitive edge against your colleagues, but because you are participating in the unfolding an development of the art form in expression through you. It is one of the most noble parts of being a creative artist.
There you have it. They seem simple, but once I got them, it changed my perspective. I didn't have to worry that being a musician was either a full time gig or a failure. Instead, I could technically put out the music I wanted to the people who wanted it and realize that I am doing exactly what my creative source, my spirit dictates. That, in the end, is what creation is all about.