No matter what your goals in life, I urge you to be the best.
That means being better, being different. You’re going to have to create.
Hey there Legacy Lovers,
Look at me right – two weeks in a row. Amazing, right? Progress!
Okay, enough of that. I hope everyone is rested and doing well. Today’s topic is a bit left of our norm, but it comes on the tail of several questions about money, finance, passion, purpose and obligation.
As many of you know, I am an artist-activist-yupster (more on that last one later). The artist in me is most prevalent. To be accurate, I ascribe to the ideals of Nina Simone, who believed that every artist is an activist “because if artists don’t address the issues of the day, who will?”
Artists don’t always have to be professional artisans, but rather people who value and appreciate creation and creativity; folks who thrive on bringing things into fruition and manifesting something from nothing. It’s why we can see artistry in folks like bankers, speakers and even politicians. It isn’t merely their charisma, but when they are genuinely and authentically invested in the creation of something for all it resonates with us… most of us.
So whether you’re an artist in the traditional sense or an artist in the way you do things, here’s the question: Should people do what they have to do to make ends meet or strive to do what they want to do even if it means forgoing money until later?
Honestly, this is a tough one for me. I struggled with this for years actually. It was probably only within the last few months that truly came to understand my artist-activist-yupster hybrid for what it is. For starters, realizing that I am not quite yuppie or hipster, but some blend of the two which in itself makes my hyphenated hybrid a hybrid of sorts.
I know, right?
But this is what it’s like when you get to know yourself, which is exactly what I’m going to recommend you do if you ever want to answer this question. Until you know exactly who are you and Whose you are, you won’t be able to distinguish between paying dues and paying bills.
Let me put it another way. No matter what your goals in life, I urge you to be the best. If you’re going to be the best at something you have to do things differently, better. You’re going to have to create.
The process of creating something from nothing is called creatio ex nihilo. This is the process that God used to create the world. Something had to happen first., light. Before you can make the distinction between obligation versus desire, you must first understand the parameters you’re working.
Let me give you a glimpse into my own creativity-discovery-artistry process.
- Let there be light
It’s hard to believe but something comes before even clarity. At this point, a light bulb has gone off. It’s not 100% clear yet, but it’s there. You have an idea what you want to do and how you want things to be, but you don’t have a game plan. The thing is, you can’t see anything without that light bulb.
In my case, I knew I wanted to help fortify modern families against divorce, poverty and other generational perils. The issue was I didn’t know how. Should I launch a non-profit, a for-profit benefit company, a host of virtual services? Should I compile my research into non-fiction, inspirational texts or translate them into relatable narrative films? Knowing what I wanted to do wasn’t enough to help me decide how to do it. Tack onto the whole decision-making process that all of this took money I didn’t have and it made me feel more stuck than creative.
- Day from night
So you have a big picture (kinda), but you’re lost in the details. The next part is to clarify what you know: day from night. When God created light, it was all light. It wasn’t until he separated the light and the dark that we had two distinct things, each with their own unique purpose. This is the clarification process; the whittling and winding. This is where you take all the parts and refine them; give them their distinction.
Once, I determined that fortifying families was my goal I assessed what I knew about myself and my goals. I’d volunteered my services in the past, offering workshops, speaking on panels and facilitating round tables. While I loved the work, I knew that structure didn’t work for me; especially since there was a great deal of prep time that often took away from my personal life. I knew I would need to change something because I wanted more personal time. The next step was determining what to change – my goal, my process or my industry?
- Waters above and below
Now that you have a better sense of which direction you want to go in. You’ve narrowed down what you want to do and have some semblance of how, it’s time to delve even deeper an understanding. Now when God separated the waters above and below, he made sky and a vast ocean. The thing is, there’s no mention of that when the light came on. At some point, God’s actions began to spark a chain response in the atmosphere. I believe the same will happen once you clarify what you want to do, examine yourself and get a sense of how doing best suits you.
After some deep introspection (and some trial and error), I came to realize that narrative films works is where I am most effective in my work to help families. There’s something about reading my scripts or seeing my works on-screen that catches people off-guard. They start asking questions – the right questions – without being defensive. They see themselves, or their loved ones, in the work. It feels better to have some similarities with a fake person than to see yourself head on. Being met with less resistance when broaching tough topics makes my life easier, and my work more productive.
- Seas and land
This is the fun part, peeling back layers and making a real plan. You’re not just working with what you have, you’re giving it shape and body. You’re chunking out tasks and making them align with your vision for your life. You now have all the right ingredients, your placing them appropriately in just the right places, spaces and amounts to create what you want. When God pushed back water to show the land, again, there is no mention of the land before, but it bears to reason that it was already there lying beneath. As you pull back layers, you’re bound to find that there are some hidden gems that will work to your advantage, too.
Knowing that narrative films, especially feature-length ones, were an ideal vehicle for addressing my target population I knew there was only one thing to do: learn how to write scripts. Okay two things, write them and then sell them. I borrowed books from the library, followed blogs. I even went back to school for an MFA in Screenwriting in order to hone my craft and build my network. Beneath every layers there lay another, ready to teach me about myself, my arts, my peers and my industry of choice. I began to meet celebrities and add them to my list of frequent contacts. At this point, I still wasn’t sure if I would make any money, but I knew this was what I was supposed to be doing… and how.
- Let there be life
At this stage in the creation process, God created plants and animals. He’d already constructed the environment where these things would thrive, now he merely needed to place them into it. This is the point where you will also start to see that the base-level work is paying off and things are making sense. I don’t know if this work is arts-based or if the artistry is in the way you pull it off, but I do know that at that this stage of the game you aren’t just building on what’s there, you are using it to your advantage to propel the rest of your efforts.
So now that I’d done some formal and informal study, I learned something highly important. That I didn’t just want to write films, I wanted to make them too. My scripts, my time on set watching people work, learning behind the scenes from producers and crew members as I helped out – all of it would help me to make the ultimate transition. Screenplays (like musical scores) are one of the only forms of arts that are incomplete when they are made. There is an additional step in the screenwriting process, which is actually filming the script, that renders it fully done. That’s when I realized, I want to be part of that process too. And so I have been. I’ve produced several of my short films and am working with producers on my features. I’d created the environment for my works to thrive and now I’m placing them into it and watching them flourish (and the work multiply… but more on that later).
- Not good for man to be alone
This is the only point in all of creation where God said, “Nope, no bueno. I don’t like this.” When Adam was created, he was tasked with responsibilities and given parameters for his existence in the garden. But there was not another being like him anywhere. Though he could name all the animals, he couldn’t sit and talk with them (not intelligently anyway), he couldn’t build and create with them. Adam needed someone who was more like him. So God made a woman: Eve. The thing is, God made someone who was more like Adam not exactly like him. I don’t need to go into the differences between male and female here (at least, I hope not) but we know that those differences exist. Contrary to popular belief, these differences are intended to complement (not contradict) one another. This is how it will be when you decide what direction you want to take. You cannot and should not be alone. Find your tribe.
More than anything else, I think the day I found my tribe was the best day of my professional life. There were already some from previous professions and life experiences whom I had claimed, but in this new bunch they understood things about my thought-life that I didn’t need to preface or expound on. I loved that the jokes for which I used to get major side-eye were now welcomed comical chatter amidst of a room of other funny folks. Add to it all that we were all from different walks of life – politically, socially, financially, academically and culturally. We practiced different faiths, and even those of us who call professed to be Christians went about expressing it very differently. It was amazing because despite it all we felt right. We clicked, connected and built. Many of these people are my go-tos when working on my films these days, writing my scripts or even wondering what school options might be best for my son. The point is, once you’ve done it all – you’re going to need someone else in there with you, even if it’s only so you have someone to point a finger at when things hit the fan. (I’m kidding… sorta).
- Rest and reflection
This last one is a bit misleading because reflection was a daily part of the process, as was rest. We all know about the seventh day when God rested from all his work. He took a Sabbath from all his hard work and enjoyed what He’d created. No matter what you’re goal – whether you’re looking to create a masterpiece, end world hunger, cure AIDS, or educate people about how to invest for retirement – we all need to rest and reflect. At the end of each day, set aside a moment to look back over your day. What worked? What didn’t? What could be better tomorrow? What would you like to keep? Do this again at the end of each week. But don’t forget to rest. Take a day to sit and be. Do something that brings you sheer joy. If your work brings you joy every day pick another thing you love and do that. (I know someone who loved movies until he got a job as a film critic, then he couldn’t figure out why he couldn’t enjoy it. His brain was analyzing. He started reading novels and found out he loved a good historical action-romance. Who knew?)
Aside from getting starting, stopping has been the hardest thing for me to do. Because I love what I do, there are moments when I can’t pull myself away. Sometimes, I’ll trick myself by swearing I’m only going to jot an idea in my notebook or outline it on paper (because if I sit at the computer I have to admit it’s a lie). Several hours later, though, I am still scribbling notes, delving further into detail and even giving my characters dialogue! What always gets me is when my son comes and asks if we can have some time together. I’ve become more mindful of him watching me. I don’t even bother lying to myself anymore. I record my thoughts in my phone and go back to it when I’m supposed to be working. I set timers and give him permission to stop me if I take too long, because in the end he’s the reason why I’m working. No matter what kind of ob you’re looking for, no matter how you think you might go about pursuing it, if you remember why you’re doing it you’re bound to be successful.
For me as an artist, the idea of whether to choose between my art or paying bills was a hard one; especially since I really began to own my artistic nature after becoming a mom. When you have little mouths to feed and little backs to clothe, it makes it harder to take risks and chase dreams. But, I’m a firm believer that you can’t give up.
The little ones are watching you. If you tell them they can be whatever they want to be, but your actions say that trying isn’t an option, they will do what you do not what you say. Children are amazing in that regard.
I’m not saying chuck responsibility to the wind. Go back over the creatio ex nihilio outline and apply it to creating the structure you need to pay your bills and pursue your dreams. Maybe it’s about working part-time for more money or booking weekend auditions. Perhaps, your day job covers the bills, but you pull a third (or fourth of fifth) shift after the family is asleep; taking classes, writing, or performing stand-up.
Some of the greatest achievements in the arts were made by people who had families to feed and didn’t know how they were going to do it. If this is you – take it from me – it can be done. It’s by no means easy, and it will take time (lots and lots of time and even a long time), but it is far from impossible.
The Family Factor: The little ones are watching you. The next generation is looking to you to affirm their dreams. You can’t just tell kids they can be anything, you have to show them. If your actions say that trying isn’t an option then they won’t try, because children do what you do not what you say.
I hope this was helpful to someone. As always, leave your comments below. And if you’re a true Legacy Lover, join us over at the new Facebook Group, Legacy Builders Network (USA).