Tag Archives: maria popova

Creativity. Excess.

I have a healthy love for the dramatic…for larger-than-life moments, for the smells-and-bells of religious rituals, for intimate secrets. They can play out on stages large and small, in novels and chapbooks and blogs and photos. (I have less patience for real-life drama, as it’s never as tidily contained as in the pages of a book, or of the opera’s three-acts-two-intermission structure.)

My mother was my gateway to this world – a creative English teacher who would read aloud in thirteen differently-pitched-and-accented-voices, and who fostered a love of reading in her kids with the brilliant idea to censor television programs but not books. (I read every Stephen King book he had written up to the late 80’s. To this day I cannot make it the whole way through a suspenseful movie, and duck and cover as soon as those pesky violins begin.) I love a good story, but I love equally a mediocre story told with flair and verve.

(If you tell my mother that the reason I like to hang with artists is because of her, she’ll be equal parts offended and flattered, depending on the day. Make sure you have your exit paths mapped before you talk, is all I’m saying…)

So, the fact that I’ve found myself in a world rife with drama on all levels? (The High-Horse of Artistry! The Heart-Rending Budget Cuts! The Temperamental Diva/Divo! The Entry-Level Wage Slaves!) Not at all surprising, really. And I’m sure that I’m not the only one who has found my way here due to a love of tall tales and a willingness to suspend disbelief.

It’s been a long time since I’ve read Anaïs Nin’s writings, but Maria Popova reminds me that she was a proponent of excess.

Excess. Indeed.

To quote Mae West, another iconic proponent of excess, “Too much of a good thing is wonderful.” Hoping that your Monday is excessively fantastic, dear readers.

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Profiles, from another angle.

I am a big fan of Lifehacker. I get it delivered to my inbox, and make a habit to scan the whole thing before filing (yes, filing…sending them to the trash would be akin to throwing away gold on most days.) it away for future perusal.

They have a great feature that’s called How I Work. In it, they feature profiles of interesting, creative people like Maria Popova and Christopher Jobson, and track the ways that they use technology to make life easier, their secret abilities, and the best pieces of advice that they’ve received. (I am a big fan of Maria Popova’s Best Advice. Sometimes simple is indeed the best.)

I invite you to hop over to Lifehacker for some words of wisdom (I’ll be spending some time with this), and then join me back here tomorrow for a new Profile Phriday. (This week? My pal and colleague Peter Zimmerman, a reformed-performer-turned-talent-buyer.)

originally viewed on Colossal (www.thisiscolossal.com)

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Show up.

I’m going to save the Leadership Intensive recap for another day as, quite frankly, I’m still processing a lot of the information.

Maria Popova, who curates Brain Pickings, came across a letter that Tchaikovsky wrote to his benefactress, Nadezhda von Meck (aside: that might be the coolest name ever, for the record.) about the correlation between work ethic and creativity. She parallels it with a video from Jack White of pop music fame. It’s certainly not a new thought, the slogging through when the Muse blows off your invitation and you’re left with a blank piece of paper, an empty mind, possible even a white text box on a blogging program…

I digress.

I would, however draw some additional parallels between creativity and work ethic and leadership. There’s a great article in Forbes by August Turak, that makes the argument that great leaders also need to be great followers.

In both cases, whether you’re wrestling an idea onto the page or climbing up the corporate ladder, you need to:

  1. Show up. You have to do the work, or at least be ready and willing to do the work, even if nothing comes. (There’s the Woody Allen quote about 80% of success is just showing up. There are days when that first step is indeed the most difficult – I totally get that. Show up anyway.)
  2. Be aware. Surroundings. Language. Subtext. In both situations that additional information can only help to clarify/troubleshoot/inspire.
  3. Stay flexible. The path down which you need to walk may not be something you had planned to tackle… but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the wrong path.

I find that #2 can be the trickiest…we can get bogged down enough in our own to-do lists, with our own inner judges that it can be difficult to really watch, listen, perceive. When we take that time, though, don’t all manner of things get easier?

I have thirteen days left in the summer festival season. My plans are to take my own advice (well, to try to anyway) for the next two weeks and apply it to my job. After that I’ll be making an early run at this, as a way to discipline my inner writer. (I got about halfway through – about 25,000 words – last year, before the fall audition travel schedule made the daily quotas impossible. Without that distraction maybe I’ll make it to 30,000!)

Today, if you do nothing else? Just show up.

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