Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Starving Artist's Guide to Making Use of Everything You Are

“I am large. I contain multitudes.”

Walt Whitman wrote that in the 1860 edition of Leaves of Grass.

Now, the way I see it, his words challenge the reader to do two things:

First, recognize how much potential you actually have.
Second, spend the rest of your life making use of everything you are.

Here’s how:
1. Beware of editors. When I was a kid, my older brother used to make fun of me for thinking. Not for thinking a certain way. Or for thinking about certain things. Just for thinking. Like, it wasn’t cool to just sit in your room and dream.

But I didn’t care. I was going to think no matter what. That’s just who I am. The cool part is, now people actually pay good money to rent my brain. Sounds like all that thinking paid off – literally. What’s more, sounds like choosing (not) to listen to every negative comment that came my way paid off.

Who’s trying to edit you? Who, in your life, is actively attempting to discourage you from being your truest self? Your challenge is to assess if their comments are constructive criticism or destructive projections.

That’s all self-esteem is anyway: Deciding whom to listen to. It’s how you estimate yourself. The overall appraisal of your personal value.

And if you want to make use of everything you are, you have to begin with fundamentally positive self-regard. Who are you allowing to edit you?

2. Don’t dismiss or deny your native background. During a presentation last year, one of my audience members insisted on correcting the grammar on one of my slides. “I can’t help it,” she admitted to the group. “I’m an editor. It’s in my blood.”

Then, from other side of the room, someone asked, “Have you considered a transfusion?”

The group got a good laugh out of it. But I can’t help but wonder if the woman was a bit hurt by that man’s comment. I know I would be. And I think that’s something we need watch out for. Because it’s a disservice to yourself to dismiss or deny your native background.

On the other hand, making use of everything you are flows from a complete openness to yourself – even the parts you view as liabilities. And if you don’t remain true to that basic nature, you’ll render yourself a traitor.

Try waking up with that taste in your mouth every morning. Blech. What dormant parts of you await permission to be expressed?

3. Yield to the impulse of expression. A song that ignites my creative spirit every time I heart it is “No Choice,” by Edwin McCain. It goes like this:

“It was a love so big that it filled his heart, until it swelled and finally burst apart. And where the love spilled out they called it art. But he never really had no choice."

"There was a beautiful fire inside of him as he balanced his way out on that limb. Could have burned right through that branch so thin, but he never really had no choice. Oh, he had no choice. When he gave his river a voice. He never really had no choice.”


Perfect reminder: If you want to express all that you have to contribute, you have to believe that something valuable will emerge. You have to believe you have the ability to build something substantial.

Only then can you get touch with your natural rhythms, surrender to the river – the unbounded vital force – and be creative without limitation.

And if somebody tries to interrupt you, just say, “Can’t talk. In pursuit of something meaningful.” Where will the current of your truth carry you?

4. Remove what robs you. I attended college at Miami University. But not the fake Miami in Florida. The real Miami: In Ohio. Anyway, I went to school around the same time as Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger. We actually had class together.

Although, not surprisingly, Ben never came to class. And I’ll never forget what my professor told me when I asked about Ben’s academic status:

“I pray I never see him in class. I hope he’s at the gym. I hope he’s studying plays. I hope he’s watching game film. Let’s be honest: Do you think Roethlisberger wants to make forty thousand dollars a year working in marketing; or make ten million a year playing in the NFL?”

Sure enough, Ben was drafted two years later. And he led his team to the Superbowl. Bet he didn’t lose much sleep over missing class.

Lesson learned: Remove what robs you; embrace what optimizes you. Especially the moment when you realize that you’re hardwired to become something bigger.

Otherwise, if you choose not to cater to your deepest desires and strongest urges, the existential agony will eat away at you like a one-celled bacteria. What robs you of your true talent?

5. Be not obliged to the mirage of limitation. Don’t brainwash yourself into believing that you’re a one-trick pony. Employ a little artistic diversity. Integrate everything in your life into your expressions. And taste the full scope of your creative power.

I started practicing this heavily a few years ago. I was curious about myself, so I decided to explore new ways to make use everything I was. From shooting educational videos to writing poetry to creating innovating new media through which to deliver value to my clients, expressive limits became a thing of the past.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself:

*Which of your skills do you rarely get the opportunity to use at work?
*What personal skills have you not tapped into yet to add value to your customers?
*What personal skills have you not tapped into yet to build your business?

You might be pleasantly surprised at the firepower of your creative arsenal. Where do you limit yourself?

ULTIMATELY: Making use of everything you are is a spiritual imperative.

As Leonard Cohen sang:

“I never had a choice. I was given the gift of a golden voice. And I’m just sitting here every day, paying my rent in the tower of song.”

This is the life that now calls you.
This is the life you were created to have.

You contain enough instruments of expression to staff a symphony.

The question is whether or not you will write music for each one.

LET ME ASK YA THIS…
Aren't you tired of starving?

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* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag
Author, Speaker, Entrepreneur, Mentor
scott@hellomynameisscott.com

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