#4 Forging the Artist’s Essentials
Before I get started with this post, today is the last day to order the special “Resistance Digital Bundle” (audios and ebooks) of Steve’s The Artist’s Journey and Tim Grahl’s Running Down A Dream, both of which were released last week by Black Irish Books.
The Odyssey opens with Homer’s call to the Muse, to sing to him of “the man of twists and turns driven time and again off course . . . “ and of the man who fought “to save his life and bring his comrades home,” but who ultimately failed to “save them from disaster, hard as he strove—the recklessness of their own ways destroyed them all . . . and wiped from sight the day of their return.”
The recklessness of their ways . . .
That’s a hallmark of the hero’s journey.
In The Artist’s Journey, Steve wrote:
In the mythology of the hero’s journey, the hero at the conclusion of her ordeal returns home safely from her wanderings. But she does not arrive empty-handed. She returns with an “elixir,” a “gift for the people.”
This gift is the product of the hero’s solitary suffering. It may be wisdom or queenly command. It may come with fire or the sword, driving out the evil forces that have infested the kingdom. Or it may come gently, as poetry or music that heals and restores harmony to the land.
How does the hero do that?
She has systems in place.
To obtain her goal, she knows the actions she has to take and she knows the exact order in which those actions must be taken.
Dorothy wears the ruby slippers during her entire hero’s journey, but it isn’t until she reaches the end of her yellow brick road that she realizes that the shoes she’s been wearing all along are her system for getting home.
The hero has to go through the process of identifying the system and then once in place, the artist steps in.
What does that look like for the rest of us?
In Tim’s Running Down A Dream, Tim’s #4 tool is “Create Systems for the Essential.” He wrote:
First, and foremost, systems save time. By putting your keys in the same place every day or cooking the same thing for breakfast every morning, you save time in planning, preparation, and doing. You never lose your keys. You always know what you need at the grocery store, etc.
Second, systems save mental energy. You no longer have to decide what to do. Your system takes care of it for you. Also, you stop forgetting to do things because your system always tells you what to do next.
For someone like Thor, a system is the use of his hammer. In a fight? Go right to the hammer. No time spent on considering options. The hammer works. Use it. Hammer gets destroyed? Hell breaks loose and time is wasted sorting out another system.
For this mortal, I have a contract that I paid a publishing industry attorney to develop for me. The language is standard. I don’t have to recreate the contract with every job. I just have to change language unique to specific customers.
I have a mileage form to track business-related travel. I don’t have to recreate the form every month. I just have to check with the IRS every year for the allowable mileage rate. I make that change and the form stays the same.
I have an expense form that I use to track expenses each month and a folder sitting on top of my desk that’s specifically for receipts. If I make a purchase, the receipt goes in the folder and the purchase is recorded on the expense form.
This is kin to doing proactive maintenance on your car or your HVAC unit or having an annual physical done. The more proactive check-ups and systems you have in place, the less likely you’ll find yourself blindsided.
How did I come to doing these things?
In the first few years I started my business, I only wanted to do the creative work. I didn’t want to do the un-fun, non-creative bits. This meant that I was awful about tracking mileage and expenses on a daily basis, which led to a time suck when I sat down to hammer through it. I still want to do the creative work over the clerical crud, but . . . Both are important to running a business, so both have to get done. I enjoy one and have a system in place to help me avoid hating the other.
With a system in place—and as long as I follow the system—there’s no problem. However, when the system isn’t being followed . . .
About four years ago my family and I moved to a new home. Within the first year or so, the master bath leaked into the dining room below, the AC in the attic broke and flooded the bedrooms below it, the water line to the fridge broke and flooded the basement, a hail storm hit and did damage to the roof, and some kids playing in the woods behind my home thought it was a good idea to fill the uncovered manhole with rocks and branches, which resulted in a sewage backup and crap overflowing into the woods and creek.
At the time I was’t following systems because the move had thrown me off—and then I spiraled out as one thing after another occurred. Work suffered. Family suffered. I stopped going to the gym. I ate on the go. I barely slept.
I’m not saying that all those things happened because I wasn’t following my systems, but . . . The universe has a way of nailing you when you aren’t doing what you’re supposed to be doing. I know that Drama visits more often when I’m not following my systems.
That’s the difference between the hero’s journey and the artist’s journey.
With the hero, even the slightest disruption blows him of course. With the artist, she has systems in place to get home—even if those around her are the ones at fault for opening Aeolus’ bag of winds.