Sometimes, my demons tell me, “You’ll never write again. You’ll never paint again. Remember when you wanted to be an actor, you’ll never do THAT again. And forget about learning to dance. Or playing the guitar. Or singing. Or whatever…” They’ll tell me I’m too old, too fat, too weak, too tired, too busy, too poor, too lonely, just plain too much of a loser. It is a big ol’ ugly lie. Of course I can’t do everything. Not even Mozart or Picasso could do everything. They too, ended their work unfinished.
A tried and true technique for dealing with this kind of self doubt is to look back on what has been accomplished. Just a short list to get started. Whatever comes to mind. Here’s a list off the top of my head for the last few months: wrote this column, reviewed plays, published some book reviews, completed two paintings, re-read Moby Dick, practiced the piano, helped to produce a reading series. There! Already I can tell myself, “If you can do all that once, you can do at least some of it again.” Right? And every time I do any of these things I get better at them. Happens automatically. That’s where the joy is.
What is on YOUR list? Nothing? Nonsense! You learned to walk and talk and sing songs. You learned to find your way around San Francisco. You learned to read, for heaven’s sake. We all start out tabula rasa. Dig if you have to. The creative road you have traveled has had some challenges and you’ve met them. Of course you have. Unless you’re dead, man. What’s that? You ARE dead or you might as well be? Yes, I know that feeling. Of course, if you are really in a deep hole, get some professional help, please. It works. But in the meantime, you can start digging your way out.
Can’t write? Read. You have no music in your heart? Hit a club. Go to the theatre. Go to a reading. Go to a class. Ride the goddamn BART and make a list of what people are wearing. Count the trees in the park. Write down what you dreamed last night. Find out how many pushups you can do. Go to a strange church and describe the service as a scene in a novel. (No novel? Maybe this’ll start one off. Doesn’t have to be November.) Do it again. Pick something that works and repeat it. Two years ago, I set out to attend 90 arts events in as many days, in hopes of jump starting my sorry creative ass. It worked for me; it’ll work for you.
If you can afford it, here’s a great place to begin this very weekend: The Art Of Not Knowing.
That link will give you information on a workshop developed by artist Todd Brown, who recently completed a residence at the DeYoung Museum. He has been one of the major creative forces behind The Red Poppy Art House, The Itch and The Mapp. He is a gifted teacher—you WILL get inspired.
If that doesn’t work out, try something else. Knock hard enough, punk, and the muse will answer. Muses are like that. Yes, they are.
– Charles Kruger
The Storming Bohemian