Put Your Ass Where Your Heart Wants to Be, #1
Let’s start with the most obvious interpretation of this axiom. (We’ll go deeper in succeeding weeks.)
What do we mean by “ass?”
In this first-level expression, the word means body. Our physical being.
When we say “put your ass where your heart wants to be,” we mean station your physical body in the spot where your dream-work will happen.
Do you want to write? Sit down at the keyboard.
Wanna paint? Step up before the easel.
Dance? Get your butt into the rehearsal studio.
Sometimes people will write to me. “I want to work in the movies. Do I have to move to Los Angeles?” Or, “My dream job is in fashion design. Do I need to be in Manhattan?”
The answer is yes and yes.
Hemingway moved to Paris. Joni Mitchell made a home in Laurel Canyon. Andy Warhol grabbed his bags and took off for New York.
Something wonderful happens when we pack up and execute a pilgrimage to the place where our heart’s true action lies. The universe notices. The Muse approves.
But even more important, we move our physical body into proximity with other like-minded souls—our peers, our mentors, our fellow aspirants–who are making or have already made the same bold move. Hemingway gets to hang with Gertrude Stein and Lady Duff Twysden, who became Brett Ashley in The Sun Also Rises. Henry Miller finds himself talking all night in cabarets with Anais Nin and Blaise Cendrars. And Glenn Frey gets to chill with J.D. Souther and Jackson Browne, not to mention Linda Ronstadt and Don Henley.
None of this creative ferment would’ve happened if these artists-in-embryo had not set sail on a steamer or hopped aboard a Greyhound.
It’s not enough for your heart to be in the right place. Your physical body needs to be there too.
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This is good. But I’m sure Steve must have some caveats in mind, and I look forward to him maybe sharing those too. When I write, I take my body/ass out of my house, and go to my local cafe. Or any cafe. And that provides an anonymous space, where I can forget about everything else in my life that is draining my energy. It’s not moving to Paris, but it’s committing to some physical effort that signals an intention.
If I were to move to Paris right now, I doubt I’d write more than I do now, because if I’m letting Resistance ride over me roughshod here (I am!!), then the same will likely happen in Paris. I need to get my attitude straight and turn pro.
But taking action also generates sorely-needed motivation. I think Andrew Huberman discussed this with Rich Roll in a great interview last year.
James Clear in a recent newsletter suggested to commit to some action that you can take ‘on your worst day’. I like this idea. As my friend Juliette said to me yesterday while discussing such matter, I know I can always at least open the laptop and write one sentence, and it’s likely that more will then flow out of my fingers.
After months (semesters) procrastinating on an anthropology thesis, I sequestered myself in a tiny cabin in the Adirondacks. Minimal distractions, just the woods, a pen, a moleskine, and some notes.
I still stared at a blank page for over an hour before I looked out the window and witnessed a fox dig a haunch of venison out of the snow.
I took my notebook to the bar and sought out the muse hiding at the bottom of a couple bottles while thinking about that little moment, at once both fascinating and mundane.
By the time I stumbled home, I had 30 pages built around the concept of the hedgehog and the fox.
“But I’m sure Steve must have some caveats in mind”
No, I don’t think he does.
“I’m letting Resistance ride over me roughshod here (I am!!), then the same will likely happen in Paris. I need to get my attitude straight and turn pro. I need to get my attitude straight and turn pro.”
No, I’m pretty sure he is saying you should go to Paris.
I really like Steve’s hardass approach. Either commit or don’t. Put up or shut up!! This is tough love, and tbh, don’t we need it? My goodness I really do…
I know I do!! I look forward to these each Wednesday. For some reason though, I didn’t receive the email today.
“Put your ass where your heart wants to be.” Such simple truth. But I’ll have to remind myself of that later today, and tomorrow.
Seth Godin said, “If you have enough bad writing, some good writing is going to slip through.”
If I put my “butt in seat,” maybe some bad writing will slip through . . .
Great thoughts—but I also believe there is the ‘other side of the coin’—running away from something or someone— but we are always there when we arrive.
Not sure a move is appropriate until one has at least a toehold on the disciplines required to produce our art.
I ran from my life to the Army—it was a lucky choice for me, even though I thought I was sacrificing my life/youth. I did—but that part of me needed to die anyway.
If I had moved to NYC, or LA instead of Ft Knox, I’m pretty sure I’d be dead or in a tent right now.
In a book called ‘Imagine’ Johan Lehrer discusses creativity (book was pulled because turns out he embellished something about Bob Dylan). I don’t think his premise was off however. He talks about the cacophony of big cities as requisite for the mashing together of disparate ‘noise’ to create something new.
He also said something about how one needs to exhaust the linear mind before this miraculous ‘gamma wave burst of consolidation and connection’ can happen. Also seems to ring true to me.
I look forward to this series, Steve always breaks work down to its inglorious repeatable actions. In the Army we’d call this ‘control the controlables’.
Thank you for sharing that Brian. I can relate. I am a runner. In my experience, I run from myself only to find my reflection staring right back in the mirror. So guess where my ass has to be right now? RIGHT HERE to finally deal. I become a bit of a work-a-holic if I don’t watch it, too. It wouldn’t matter if I were in the Algarve or with my childhood BFF in Perth. I’m still there. The only way out is through. No one is going to swoop in and save me; I must learn to accept myself — flaws & all. I feel a flood of painful emotions, mostly rejection and ruminations from a painful childhood, and I project that belief system on to others. I feel shame at times that I still feel that way at my age?! But, I’m on the road to recovery. This is no longer a self-fulfilling prophecy — it has taken decades of deprogramming and a really good therapist for me to have my breakthrough moments. I turn to music. I turn to yoga. I turn to a higher power. I turn to great books and blogs such as this one!! I’ve learned there is ALWAYS hope.
The first time I visited NYC it felt like home. People talked fast, they walked fast, and they had a delicious urgency about them. I wanted to be the person who needed to be there for business — a lot.
It took a quarter of a century, and a daughter who calls NYC home, to inspire my husband to move to New York. We’re in the woods, a few hours from Manhattan. But seeing “New York City, (however many) miles” on highway signs as we run errands makes me feel like I can breathe again.
Someone once told me a place can define you. I hate worrying about snakes and bears and even ticks. But proximity to where things happen, where I hope to one day belong? Worth it!
The energy is NYC is contagious; I love that city!
Love the blunt reminder! I know my internal compass agrees with you. As always, thank you.
A day behind here. On top of a mountain in Maine yesterday. Agreed: being in a space to create, to experience creativity… set and setting, for sure.
But, but, where does a writer need to be? Unless you are working in films or writing about a particular area is it an issue?
The one place i always need to be is in the chair. In a quiet place. I suspect the commitment is everything. I think about Steve spending a year in the cinder block house without a tv or dvd player and think that is the answer right there. not the place but the commitment to stop fleeing. Please tell me you at least had a radio.
Almost no one would be wiling to do that. Way too frightening. Alone with the desire to flee. Anywhere.
I agree with everything said here except “Do you want to write? Sit down at the keyboard.” Switching to a standing desk not only ended my three-day-a-week relationship with my chiropractor, it made my head clearer for writing. I even hand write my first drafts, standing—paper taped to the wall and a pencil in hand (photo: https://muchadoaboutcorona.ca/essential-business/). “Doing the work” while sitting feels contradictory to me. I work best on my feet. But, of course, the essence of your axiom is well-put and often overlooked.
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Thanks for this inspirational post! I want to become a writer and though now I am starting from law research paper writing at https://studyclerk.com/law-research-paper (and I like to help others with writing), one day I dream to write screenplays. Thanks for always great posts!
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Great advice. Thanks.
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You are 100% right, do what your heart says you to do.
You are certaily right, always listen to your heart, but sometimes you should listen to your head as well.
You are absolutely correct in that you should always listen to your emotions, but you should also listen to your intellect from time to time.
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Yes, writers do mistakes in writing itself like any other profession, because humans naturally make mistakes.