Six Years in the Life

I was thinking about Marco Rubio.

Joni for Senator!

Joni Mitchell

I’m writing this a few days before the election, so I don’t know if he won his Senate race or not, but let’s assume for the sake of argument that he did.

I’ll bet Marco and his family are breathing a major sigh of relief. A Senate term runs six years. The Rubios are now set up till 2023.

No worries about fading from the public scene. No shiling for work in the private sector. Marco now, and for the next six years, possesses a position of high status and influence, a guaranteed income, an externally imposed structure of order and significance. He’s got a place to go to every morning. The position even comes with a hopeful future. It confers a six-year tenure on its holder and provides him with a platform from which to work toward his next incarnation—another Presidential run, whatever.

Marco Rubio is locked in, safe and solid, for the next six years.

What about you and me?

What about us as artists and entrepreneurs?

What do our next six years look like, lacking any and all of the perks and advantages that Marco’s got.

You and I possess no guaranteed income. We own no position of power and influence, no staff, no office, no free government car or expense account. We have no workplace to go to in the morning, no schedule of meetings and hearings and fact-finding excursions, no built-in structure to shape our days.

We’re on our own. We can drop dead in the middle of Main Street and passers-by will be stepping over our bodies.

Whatever meaning and significance our lives may bring forth, we have to create all by ourselves.

On the other hand, consider these six years:

 

Clouds

Ladies of the Canyon

Blue

For the Roses

Court and Spark

The Hissing of Summer Lawns

 

(Specifically: Chelsea Morning, Both Sides Now, Big Yellow Taxi, Woodstock, Circle Game, My Old Man, Blue, A Case of You, Barangrill, You Turn Me On I’m a Radio, Blonde in the Bleachers, Help Me, Free Man in Paris, People’s Parties, Car on a Hill, Down to You, Just Like This Train, Trouble Child, Twisted, Sweet Bird, Shadows and Light.

Or how about this artist/entrepreneur:

 

Yoyodyne

Permission marketing

eMarketing

Purple Cow

All Marketers Are Liars

The Dip

Tribes

Squidoo

 

I’m fudging a little on dates here, but you get the idea. Seth Godin had a pretty decent Senate term, didn’t he?

Or how about this dude, in just one year?

 

Photovoltaic Effect

Brownian Motion

Theory of Special Relativity

E=mc2

Mass-energy Equivalence

 

The Muse is an amazing gal, isn’t she? She can reach down to you and me (or reach up from our Unconscious, our Self, our neshama) and supply all the structure, power, creativity, significance, meaning, and fun that any of our fellows might get from a job, a post, an externally imposed structure of daily life.

Can anybody look at the bodies of work of [fill in the blank: any artist, entrepreneur, writer, filmmaker, photographer, software designer, you name it] and say there is no meaning in the universe, no order, no evolution, no progress?

Our job, yours and mine, is 1) to make ourselves open to whatever portion of that invisible force has been set aside for us alone (and believe me, that portion is there, with our name on it). And 2) to make ourselves ready in terms of skills, knowledge of craft, professionalism, and capacity to manage our internal impulses—positive as well as negative—so that we can convert the Muse’s gifts into works that are accessible to our brothers and sisters.

We asked at the start of this Why I Write series, “What if an artist produced over her lifetime an original and authentic body of work, but that work had never been recognized widely among her contemporaries? Would we say that her work had been in vain?”

Again I say no.

That body of work has been her artist’s journey, her destiny as a soul. The realization of that inspiration of the Muse (in other words, its transformation from the invisible state of pure potential to its realized state as material works of art) is as valid a life’s work as raising a family, selflessly serving one’s people or nation or planet, or achieving any kind of conventional recognition or fame.

By producing that work, by following her star, our hypothetical artist has lived as realized a life as an oak that has grown to its full height and breadth, a sperm whale that has circled the globe as a matriarch of her ocean-depths clan, or a comet that has lapped the solar system and is banking around to do it again.

And she knows it, our artist. She may not have had a Capitol Hill office to go to every morning, or been greeted as “Madame Senator” as she went about her day. But she has been true to her deepest internal calling, like Joni and Seth and Albert Einstein.

And I’ll tell you something else. Someday, and maybe much sooner than she or we imagine, that body of work will be recognized beyond her small inner circle.

Soul has power.

Its light cannot remain unseen forever.

Next week we’ll talk about the idea of “having a practice.” (Another answer to that same question above.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE WAR OF ART

Read this one first.
It identifies the enemy—what I call Resistance with a capital “R,” i.e. fear, self-doubt, procrastination, perfectionism, all the forms of self-sabotage—that stop us from doing our work and realizing our dreams.
Start here.
Everything else proceeds from this.

The-War-of-Art

DO THE WORK

Steve shows you the predictable Resistance points that every writer hits in a work-in-progress and then shows you how to deal with each one of these sticking points. This book shows you how to keep going with your work.

do the work book banner 1

THE AUTHENTIC SWING

A short book about the writing of a first novel: for Steve, The Legend of Bagger Vance. Having failed with three earlier attempts at novels, here's how Steve finally succeeded.

The-Authentic-Swing

NOBODY WANTS TO READ YOUR SH*T

Steve shares his "lessons learned" from the trenches of the five different writing careers—advertising, screenwriting, fiction, nonfiction, and self-help. This is tradecraft. An MFA in Writing in 197 pages.

noboybookcover

TURNING PRO

Amateurs have amateur habits. Pros have pro habits. When we turn pro, we give up the comfortable life but we find our power. Steve answers the question, "How do we overcome Resistance?"

Turning-Pro

19 Comments

  1. Mary Doyle on November 9, 2016 at 4:40 am

    Thanks for this Steve – it grounded me in more ways than one after a long night and it reminded me to focus on what I can control in my own sphere.

  2. Christian Bergeron on November 9, 2016 at 6:18 am

    Thank you.

  3. susanna plotnick on November 9, 2016 at 7:09 am

    Thanks for this, Steve. I am wrapping up six years of work on a graphic novel trilogy that has engaged me deeply. This project carried me through a period of economic uncertainty and a cross-country move, it was one of the threads that kept everything together. I have felt that I was living two lives, my own and the life of my heroine. Thanks for your faith in our process, in our evolution.

  4. Jackie Robertson on November 9, 2016 at 8:36 am

    Thank-you I needed this. The sun has just set here in London England and my eyes and spirits droop after staying up all night and the awful truth of the Trump result is finally seeping into my heart and soul. Now that both Brexit and Trump have changed the landscape of our futures I feel an new resolve; I will focus on finishing my book , I will hold to my socialist principles and I will not become sour and bitter!

  5. Michael Beverly on November 9, 2016 at 8:40 am

    I like what N. Taleb said about knowing what your day looks like; the relationship between that knowledge and death is in parallel, while uncertainty is the reverse.

    I can’t imagine a worse tragedy than being elected to a powerful political office, well, perhaps a 9 to 5 cubicle job, but talk about being already dead.

    Only the emotionally vacant want to rule others with political power, those of us that understand empathy want to influence others using art.

    My only real disagreement with you Steve is the idea that art unknown to the world is still a success, but it’s a nit picky argument because it’s nearly impossible (esp. in this connected world) to produce anything in a vacuum.

    Influence one other human being (hopefully towards compassion, love, empathy, etc.) and you’ve done something.

    Influence a million people and you’ve done something and have the money for a yacht.

    I think bliss is landing in the middle, but I’m going to experiment, even though Shawn once told me that uber success would probably ruin me….

    Well, we shall see. I hope.

    • Adam Abramowitz on November 9, 2016 at 1:27 pm

      “its nearly impossible to (esp. in this connected world) to produce anything in a vacuum”.

      Great stuff dude…

      Here is what I wrote, and published, on Facebook this afternoon:

      “The Post I Didn’t Want to Make”

      Our culture has evolved.

      The infinite flow of information, and the ability for a person to choose what they want to see, has equalized our voices in a sea of people who operate on fear.

      Cause of the internet, we are all the center of our own world. Like, all the time.

      Even more so than in real life, because in real life, when people are with us, we are sharing space.

      That’s not the case on the airwaves. Everything is at “me”.

      It’s like a strongly worded, well thought out essay…

      It doesn’t really mean shit.

      Cause people will believe what they want to believe in, and now, everyone has a platform to participate.

      The idea of “country” is just an idea.

      And it’s going to be shifting, changing, and evolving.

      It seems we’re about to go through some growing pains that will make the foundation of what America represents even stronger.

      The Germany of 1944 enlisted kids who fought and died for their “country”. They were influenced by fear.

      Their idea of “Germany” was totally different than, say, anyone who was born in Germany after 1985…

      We only know what we’re shown, and we only do what we think is best.

      In terms of America, you have to know the problem before you can work on a solution.

      Right now, the only problem we’ve created is in our mind…

      Nothing’s happened yet.

      The “world” as we perceive it is run on ideas, not actions.

      The ideas that Trump spread used a rhetoric that allowed people to consider, and then believe, that “America” wasn’t great…

      That the “Economy” was in shambles. That “Black Lives Matter” and “ISIS” were tearing us apart.

      Ideas.

      Everything in “quotes” is an idea. It’s not based in reality.

      He knew how to work them, and he used some of his own…

      “The corrupt government” and the “biased media”…

      Ideas.

      It’s gonna be damn difficult for him to use idea rhetoric in a political system that requires action.

      And it’s not all Trumps fault either…

      I mean I know you’ve seen it.

      Every week it’s something new.

      Last week was the standing rock thing,

      The week before was Trumps locker room banter tape whatever,

      Then the whole police blue lives black lives all lives matter bullshit.

      We’re all influenced by a massive system that’s adjusting itself to the power of individual choice.

      And for the first time in history, our thoughts are leading our actions, and we’re trying to figure out how to balance.

      Reality is right now.

      It’s what you choose to ingest. (The content in front of your face).

      It’s how we choose to perceive. (Giving “ideas” power over our emotional state).

      And, it’s natural to feel afraid, to be anxious, or worried…

      Hell, I am all the time.

      I’m nervous about sharing this right now.

      I don’t want to be just another voice in a sea of faces sharing my own bullshit ideology, perspective, or opinion.

      Cause I know I’m just doing the best I can, and I have no real affect on anything outside my own field of vision.

      But that gives me hope, because that means I can “do” something, right now, to notice its happening and then change it.

      I have the ability to make the lives of those I encounter better.

      I can try and ease the fear sensors of those who are affected, and I can show up at work.

      I can make it a point to be the change I want to see, and it will affect those I encounter today.

      And for that reason, I’m hopeful and excited about the future.

      Because we all have the power to choose.

      • Michael Beverly on November 11, 2016 at 8:07 am

        People do believe what they want to believe.

        When they change it’s often books that got them there or at least helped.

        I’m glad you posted even though you had doubts, there is a great freedom and liberty achieved when sharing your mind with others.

        As far as America goes: I’ve long had plans to expat, while it has a lot to do with politics, it has nothing to do with political parties.

  6. Shruthi on November 9, 2016 at 8:59 am

    Thank you for the clarity, Steve. Is the amount of work the Muse allots to you, the projects with your name on them, fixed? Or can it increase when the artist improves his professionalism and becomes a better channel over time?

  7. BING on November 9, 2016 at 9:12 am

    Thank you Steve, my tribe is having this very conversation.
    I am definitely having it with myself.
    Like kind, like mind.

    Shalom – Bing

  8. Kathleen on November 9, 2016 at 10:03 am

    Thank you Steve. Have been feeling like the ground has been ripped out from under me. Your words have broken through the shock and connected deeply with the conversation I’ve been having with myself this morning..

  9. Dave Newton on November 9, 2016 at 10:38 am

    Just the encouragement I need. Now, if I can just learn to give it to myself.

  10. Scott Attenborough on November 9, 2016 at 11:00 am

    Sometimes it’s just nice to know that all the misfires and striving is not in vain.

  11. Bev Ross on November 9, 2016 at 11:07 am

    Thank you. So important to realize that it is a huge gift to be creative and manifest it as much as humanly possible against a tide of disapproval, lack of money, and only a psychic compass to go by.
    My sister told me that Picasso spoke about art coming from a place that is against the grain of society and that the very struggle of going against the grain is what makes an artist’s art cut through the dominant story of society. Something like that. It is not about money, even though artists have to survive.
    Thank you again.

    Bev

  12. Maxima Kahn on November 9, 2016 at 12:15 pm

    Steven, you are awesome. Thank you. I couldn’t agree more. This is beautifully and potently expressed, and we need this message again and again. Thank you for carrying the torch. You are beacon in my world.

  13. Adam Abramowitz on November 9, 2016 at 1:23 pm

    Great stuff

  14. Johanne Kieffer on November 9, 2016 at 2:43 pm

    Just another reminder why we do it…not for money, not recognition but because we are compelled to…even in the face of resistance, it’s not a choice.
    Johanne =)

  15. Alejandro De La Garza on November 11, 2016 at 10:43 pm

    No, we artist types don’t have a guaranteed income or a secured future – at least in our present world. But we often secure our future and our legacy with our works and the impact that has on people. Besides, who would you rather recall years from now? A writer or a musician who made you feel a certain way? Or a U.S. senator who pissed you off?

  16. Jerry Ellis on November 13, 2016 at 6:57 am

    Steve, this is the first post I have read by you in over a year after reading you often for a couple of years. Today I am reminded just how insightful you are. Happy to be back on your radar.

  17. Danielle LaPorte on November 14, 2016 at 10:22 am

    the Soul. xo

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