Creators’ Lives: The Need to Turn and Change

I have been sitting here wondering for the last couple of hours:

How is it possible for creative people–those playthings of their rich imagination–to recognize how extraordinary and talented they really may be when so many seem blind to the heights they may reach if they are patient?

I’ve been wondering too:

How to inspire and rouse creative people to overcome the detours and false starts of the past that so often bog them down and now leap forward and move steadily, with new confidence, toward a more fulfilling creative life?

 

I was a guest on an hour-long lunch time TV talk show talking about my book Fighting to Win. It had just been named Microphonethe best motivational book ever written. It identifies the main reasons people are blocked from reaching fulfillment. It prescribes specific remedies for leading a more liberated existence. As the show ended I said, addressing the viewers, “What I’m sayings is, ‘There’s so much to you, DO something with it.’“

Then I shook hands with and thanked the host and the engineer and left. The next day I was in my work room talking with my son who wanted to play hooky from school that day and wanted to talk it over when the show’s producer called. Her voice was excited. She told me that the response to the show “was incredible.” The phone had kept ringing late into the night: who was I, where could they get the book, would I be coming back?  She asked me to come back for a “return engagement.” I said I would be happy to.

I am convinced that that little sentence that ended the show was the reason for the fuss. “DO something with it” was saying, “You are something, you have talents that you just must make use of because you will not have another life: this is it.”

All it took was for me to empower viewers out there–homemakers, unemployed people, people taking time off from work, and self-employed people–by reminding them that they are special and not to deny any more their own potential that they might have forgotten or never noticed.

Many people–possibly most, I believe–don’t think highly enough of themselves. Do you think highly enough of yourself? They underestimate themselves and their potential. They think other people can achieve noteworthy things, but not them. Because they are “ordinary.”  They settle for lesser lives.

I’ve met many quietly magnificently gifted people who frustrate me and whom I’ve felt like shaking by the shoulders Butterflyand saying, “Wake up will you: your life is happening and you don’t seem to be aware of it. Your life needs you. Half the days allotted to you have passed and how far have you gotten?”

But I was aware of the audiences’ greatness and had all the respect in the world for them and wanted to tell them: “Don’t waste a day of a precious life; get with it.”

I had talked with such conviction and compassion for them in my voice that they knew I had recognized something exceptional in people and they wanted to know more to help them get started in a new direction. Here’s the background of my thinking. You’ll see why I am so optimistic:

 

There is a Hasidic term that means “turning.” It’s the complete change of a person’s whole being. Quakers too use “turning” to mean the same major existential event. To realize that you can turn is to realize that you are at liberty to rotate a life that is facing one direction–your life at present possibly–and face it in another, to change the direction of your whole being at any time.  What an insight that is.

It’s a misuse of a creative life to be able to turn, to feel the necessity to do it, to feel the powerful urge, and not to turn. Turning arrowMary Oliver wrote about missing the opportunity to pursue a creative life when that was exactly what you should have done: “The most regretful people on earth are those who felt the call of creative work, who felt their own creative powers restive and uprising, and gave it neither power nor time.”

Is it time for you to turn?

 

An inner impulse pushes you and me and all other living things to become what  we and they are equipped to become, regardless of how harsh or unaccommodating the environment we find ourselves in. People in the creative arts have often gone through periods of dire deprivation which they overcame. We can learn from them and from trees–oaks and birches, elms, and cedars.

Denied water, a tree is not helpless. It will send out its roots long distances in search of it. Hidden in shadows, it will Twisted tree with skytwist and wind its branches until they reach blessed sunlight. The tree is driven by its nature not merely to survive, but to flourish. It is driven to be all the tree it can possibly be, as beautiful as it can be, as functional as it can be. A tree all twisted–whose life hasn’t been easy–isn’t it lovelier than a tree without twists?

You and I were brought into this world for the purpose of making the most of our creative lives and are driven by an innate urge to do just that, whatever obstacles, phantoms, ogres, and fears we must overcome to find happiness. You could have lived a thousand different lives, but are inclined toward the life of a creative. It is like no other life it was possible for you to have.

It is as though whatever power created us had a particular concept in mind of the creative person we each should become (I was to be a writer, starting at the age of eight; you were to be what?) And after conceiving of us, lovingly, with a gentle nudge, sent us sprawling into this unfamiliar world fully equipped with the complement of unique creative strengths it seems everyone envies and wishes they too had–unique talents, aptitudes, qualities, gifts, sensibilities, skills, intelligence, determination, energy, and inclinations–necessary to thrive and become the successful writer, artist, actor, composer, or dancer we really could be when we set our minds to that goal.

There was an expectation then that once on our own, we would decide what art we would follow and commit ourselves and work hard to achieve mastery of it.

 

In the course of a creative life that’s changing there is a particular period of upheaval when the momentum shifts and the creative who is moving in the wrong direction stops and starts in a more promising direction.  That may entail a deliberate process wherein you set out intentionally, with forethought, to create a more fulfilling creative life, holding an idea of what your life could be steadily in mind, consistently showing the sense of purpose, motivation, and deliberate effort needed to turn that idea into concrete reality. Or a tremendous change in direction of a life may occur in the blinking of an eye.

American Sherwood Anderson turned. He was a successful businessman in Ohio, the President and owner of a profitable company who enjoyed writing his firm’s advertising copy. One day he noticed a stranger sitting in the waiting room outside his office. He asked who the man was and was told he was the printer who set the type for the newspaper advertising that Anderson wrote, and Anderson called him in. All he wanted to say, he told Anderson, was that while setting the type he always noticed how unusually excellent the writing was, that Anderson had a talent.

That was all there was, a printer taking time out to praise the quality of a client’s advertising copy. But it was an event Wood typesetthat completely changed Anderson’s life. Anderson went home, cleared space in his attic for a desk and books, and began to write seriously. Eventually he gave up his business and turned to writing full time. With his book of short stories Winesburg, Ohio he became one of America’s major authors. He is considered one of the masters of the short story.

 

I’ve traveled a great deal and talked to privately, I’m sure, thousands of people about their lives. I’ve found so many times that all it takes to ignite a person’s desire to change their creative career for the better may be just a word or two of encouragement and confidence from another person they respect and trust, even a stranger–a guest on a TV show, for example, or a printer.

As a young man George Bernard Shaw wanted to be a novelist. Every year for five years he wrote a novel–one a year–and sent it to publishers. The manuscripts always came back rejected. But one day Shaw received, in addition to the standard rejection form, a note from an editor that unfortunately his novels did not fit their list. But then in the note appeared the words: “Your dialogue is wonderful. Did you ever think of writing plays?”

He never had, but then he started to, discovering that indeed he did have a talent for dialogue, eventually, of course, winning the Nobel Prize in Literature for his drama. Would Shaw have become a playwright had he not received that note of encouragement, or would he have continued to write bad novels, one a year and meet only failure, sensing he had talent but getting nowhere, or would he have given up writing?

 

Weary of being one kind of person, creatives about to bloom and produce finest creative works transform themselves Poster about fulfilling potential with rose in backgroundinto something else: “I don’t have to be the way I’ve been just because I’ve always been that way.” The worst excuse for not changing is to say, “That’s just the way I am. I guess I’ll never be any different.” You’re different if you say,   “I don’t have to put up with this obstacle that’s holding me back for one more day “I can buckle down and get to work to develop my talents,” “What I always wanted to be–I can really can be that.”

 

Every day and every moment in each day you have the power to fashion a new creative life to your own specifications, training yourself, educating yourself, turning, encouraging yourself, forming friendships with other creatives, seizing opportunities, taking risks, working hard, applying yourself seriously to your craft till you are committed to it in a way you never have been before and your head spins gloriously. That will lead to a reshaped destiny all your own. It will be unique to you.

 

What can I say but, “There’s so much to you. DO something with it.”

 

© 2018 David J. Rogers

For my interview from the international teleconference with Ben Dean about Fighting to Win, click on the following link:

http://www.mentorcoach.com/positive-psychology-coaching/interviews/interview-david-j-rogers/

 

Order Fighting to Win: Samurai Techniques for Your Work and Life eBook by David J. Rogers

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11 Comments

Filed under Achievement, Becoming an Artist, Creativity Self-Improvement, Developing Talent, Human Potential and Achievement, George Bernard Shaw, Quaker Concept of Turning, Sherwood Anderson

11 responses to “Creators’ Lives: The Need to Turn and Change

  1. I am so happy that all those people rang in wanting more.I do feel many people deny themselves any chance of creativity.If I say, why not come to the Art Class with me, they say,I am no good at art
    My best report in school was “fairly good at times”…I am glad I am not in school.Writing has been very good for me, for example last night the two poets who read their work would have seemed light years away from me before I started writing.But I felt able to approach at the end and discuss the event with them.
    I have got your book and it is very good.. amazing to be the best.
    I hope you have a good writing day followed by a pleasant weekend.
    My very best wishes
    Katherine

    Like

    • davidjrogersftw

      Dear Katherine, I can understand those people who avoid art class because I am self-conscious about painting. I’m so glad that your confidence about writing is increasing and growing strong. Once I told Janet Weight Reed what a wonderful poet I think you are and she agreed that you are very excellent.

      I hope you enjoy and benefit from Fighting to Win. I think you will. Thank you for your comment,

      Best wishes, Davidz

      Liked by 1 person

      • I feel very afraid before I do any kind of art and felt what I did was no good.But I like it and it doesn’t matter how good it is,I learn from doing it.I am sure I will benefit.Thanks so much,David

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        • davidjrogersftw

          When I write I am extremely confident of my abilities–there is no fear– but painting is a different story. I’m just not good at it though my six year old grandson who is a fine, talented artist says my watercolors aren’t too bad. Have a good weekend. Today I’m reading T.S. Eliot who I go back to time to time.

          Like

        • Have a good weekend,David.I too feel more confident writing

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  2. Marilou

    “Your life needs you.” A whole philosophy or life plan could revolve around this truth.

    Like

    • davidjrogersftw

      Hello dear Mlou. I’m so flattered that you read my blog. I think you’re right–this would be a great theme for a how-to or poetry book. I hadn’t thought of that. Thank you for the comment.

      Like

  3. Once again you’ve “hit the nail on the head” for me. When you read my Dec. 17, 2018 blog post, you’ll see where I’m coming from. I’m wondering if I even have the energy to write my novel. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is a mighty enemy, and lately I’ve come to question if I can write the book. I take encouragement from this post of yours, reading it several hours after writing today’s blog post. I’m full of self doubt. I know I have the ability to write it, but my energy has been so low the last several months that I just don’t know if I can do it. I will try to “turn” and give my book another try.

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    • davidjrogersftw

      Dear Janet,

      I am so sorry that your illness is so potent and harmful that it causes you to think that you may not have the sheer energy–the basic building block of effort and achievement–to finish the book that means so much to you and has been your companion so long. Pain and loss of energy are awful to have to face, and I feel terrible for you.

      I sit here trying to think of how I should respond in a way that will be realistic and practical. Many things go through my mind, but it keeps coming back to painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir. He was so debilitated by severe arthritis that later in his career he could no longer hold a brush in his fingers. (I suffer from severe arthritis too and its pain can be incomprehensible to people not affected by it.) Did Renoir stop painting? No, because of the urge to create–that you feel too–he took up painting lying on his back and holding the brush between his toes. And most impressive, some of his paintings created that way are among his best.

      It is hard enough simply to function in an everyday way when a person has no energy and is in pain. Creativity seems out of the question. But even working a few minutes a day will take you further than not working at all.

      Possibly you might think of using your material to write pieces that will be shorter and more manageable to produce than a novel and that over time you will find the energy for–little by little. I don’t know. Maybe you were meant to be a short story or essay writer, as Shaw was meant to be a playwright and not a novelist. But you know best about that.

      Creative works are the products of the whole person: her intelligence, her talents, her commitments, and also her suffering and the endurance and courage to meet unafraid and overcome the suffering.

      Like

  4. Hi David. I’m happy to see this post.
    I try to hide it, to keep people off my back, but I probably have the worst self image of anyone you’re likely to know. I just now bought your book for my Kindle. Because I’m probably going to need it! I’m finally taking the big risky leap to get out of the environment where my business career was intentionally ruined.
    Yes, I’m finally draining myself out of the DC swamp. I’ll take an early retirement (perhaps in January). Even with full retirement I couldn’t keep living here. So… I’ve bought a cottage back in the southwest, where I can live cheaply. (I should have never left.) I close on it later this week. I’ll still need to work, but a low wage or part time job should be enough to get me by.
    Hugs on the wing.

    Like

    • davidjrogersftw

      Dear Teagan,

      Whatever you want to do, I’m behind you and wish you all the best. I don’t know what you mean when you say your business career was intentionally ruined, but you seem happily committed to going back to the Southwest where maybe your confidence and a stronger self-esteem and more positive view of yourself will come into play. I’ve been reading Walden lately and your settling into a simpler, frugal life reminds me of what Thoreau did.

      I hope you will continue your wonderful blog which is immensely popular with your many readers, and rightfully so.

      I hope you enjoy and benefit from Fighting To Win in your new life.

      Hugs to you,
      David

      Like

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