Imposter Typewriter

“When you wake, levitate

Ideas pouring out.

Then you set out to make 

something great,

But nothing comes out.

Are you quick on your feet?

It’s time to dig deep.”

This is it. The part I hate. The part where the words won’t come.

The part where the thoughts keep poking me, hot daggers of biting accusations.

You’re a fake. You don’t belong here.

Your words. Recycled regurgitated garbage. Repurposed and rearranged to fool everyone. To fool yourself.

I tilt my shoulders, arching away from their pointy barbs.

The words. They’re there. I can feel them twirling around in my mind, taunting me. Sing-songy tunes luring me to reach out for them. And when I do they dart away in cruel laughter. Imposter they squeal in sinister delight.

There is darkness inside of me. There is ugliness. It’s curled up right next to laughter and joy. Arms and legs wrapped around each other in a corrupt entanglement.

There is angst and fear and fire and passion and turmoil and sweat and blood. Coiled in an incestous tryst. There are screams of rage and tears that have plunged the depths.

And it all wants release.

But self doubt reaches out. It’s long, bony fingers crawl through my conscious. Slowly making it’s way, blithely flicking away any thoughts of creativity. Finding every seed of inspiration and pressing it’s dark fingertip down until there’s nothing left but pulp.

“Guardians at the gate let you in, 

into their mansion,

I’m the acidhead homeless man

Who demands 

an explanation.

Can you be wise if you never leave the room?”

The same question haunts me over and over.

Who the hell am I? To think my words matter? To think they are worth putting to paper?

This is not romanticization of the tortured artist.

This is not a decadent serving of indulgent wallowing.

This is not splashing around in artistic misery.

Self doubt is not unique to writers and artists.

We are not alone in this suffering.

We just talk and write about it more than others.

Soliloquies have been penned about the war of art. Hemingway and Anais Nin spoke of bleeding on the paper. We write about our limitations and doubts and fears. We all sing the slow-hand blues of writer’s block. We put our thoughts and words and vulnerabilities out there for the world to gawk at. It’s what we do.

It’s not just writers. Everyone suffers from the same thing. Everyone has moments of feeling like a fake. Of doubting their expertise or ability. Most just do it quietly. Alone in their bed at night. Or in the cozy confines of their therapist’s office. Or they whisper it to their lover when they need reassurance.

Does everyone feel it?

Do surgeons wrestle with self doubt over their craft? Do they spend sleepless nights worried that their skilled hands might falter?

Do lawyers question every word and twist themselves into knots? Do they worry that they could have argued more convincingly?

Do electricians walk away from wiring a house and question whether the house will go up in acrid flames?

Isn’t it just part of the human condition? To doubt ourselves and our talents or skills?

Could it be that self doubt serves a purpose? That it pushes us to try harder? That without that push, without the nagging questions, we may never hone our skills or get better at whatever it is that we do?

Maybe the whole point of the cruel exercise to fight the demons in your head.

Could it be that self doubt is the drill instructor screaming in our ear, trying to break us down. Waiting until that determined voice in our head responds: Fuck you. You say I can’t do this? Just watch me.

Could it be that the lack of self doubt is the thing we should be concerned with? The surgeon who thinks he’s god? The leader who never questions his decisions? The electrician who shrugs apathetically when the breaker trips? Wouldn’t we rather have more  introspection and thoughtfulness than ego and hubris?

The absence of doubt does not give birth to greatness. It creates dictators and megalomaniacs and careless, uncaring practitioners. It is not a sign of confidence or aptitude. Doubt is the thing that makes you better. The thing that makes you change, grow, evolve. There is an unseemly rigidness in those who don’t ever question themselves.

What if we embrace it? What if we give it a nod the next times it’s bony fingers curl up and beckon to us? We see you. Thanks for showing up.

What if we recognized that when those feelings creep in, that it’s not a bad thing. That it’s our minds way of giving us a little kick in the ass?

Maybe today’s the day we need a little push. The day we need to wake up from our reverie and pay a little more attention to what it is we do.

As long as we don’t give in to it.

As long as that doubt doesn’t cripple us. Stymie our forward motion. Let doubt serve a purpose. Let doubt be the catalyst for making us practice, toil and sweat more.

Let doubt make you better at whatever it is that you do. Welcome it and use it. If you harness it, the doubt will be fleeting. It will serve it’s purpose and then crawl back in it’s hole.

It won’t always be easy. It can be insidious. It can infect your progress and make you want to quit. It can break you down.

That’s when you remind yourself why you’re here, doing what it is you do.

Remind yourself that for every day of stymied creativity, there are days of ideas flowing and words tumbling out effortlessly.

That for each day that your curse your need and desire to do whatever it is you feel compelled to do, that there are days that you revel in it. That it brings you satisfaction or joy or gratification.

I know that I’ll still have moments, days, where I feel the building frustration. Where my words won’t come and I’ll question why I even try. I’ll feel like quitting and erasing every word I’ve ever written.

You’re a fake. You don’t belong here.

I’ll push through it. I’ll try to remember why I’m here. Not for any grandiose notions of greatness. I’m not here thinking that my words will set the world on fire. Those kinds of thoughts belong to the tyrants and the narcissists.

I just know that I love words. I just know that it’s something I feel compelled to do.

I just know I’m incomplete if I don’t write.

This is simply my thoughts, spilling out of my head. Maybe they don’t really matter.

Maybe that’s ok.

Maybe I’m not an imposter.

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I think I must have always been a writer. I think it’s something you’re born with. Part of you that is lying in wait. Patiently, quietly, waiting. Eventually, it awakens, stretching it’s arms and looking around, bleary eyed… blinking in confusion before the realization settles in… I am home.

I was in the third grade. Her name was Ms. Abraham. She was the anti-teacher. She was a rebel in a school of proper, southern, cardigan-wearing teachers. She was statuesque in front of the green chalkboard. Gum popping between her red painted lips. She was loud. Brash. She would roll her eyes and tease us while still commanding our respect. I felt more at home in her classroom than in any other. Her unique brand of sarcasm and affection and high expectations were both exhilarating and comforting to my eight year old brain.

She introduced me to writing. Creative writing was a staple in her lesson plans. The rules were simple. Use correct spelling and grammar. Other than that? Write about whatever you want. We would cut pictures out of magazines and use them for inspiration for a story. The lack of rules was confusing at first. The freedom to do whatever we wanted was unsettling. It was perfect.

My writing soul was born in that classroom.

I didn’t keep extensive journals or write a novel on the rainy summer days of my youth. I spent my free time reading, listening to music and running around the neighborhood with my friends. But I was writing, constantly writing in my mind.

I would lay on the floor of my room and daydream for hours while I listened to my favorite albums. I would concoct stories inspired by the songs. I could spend an entire day like that. Lost in my own mind.

I would rest a dog eared book on my stomach after devouring it and replay words and phrases over in my mind. Marveling at the sequences that rolled off the page and became a part of my thoughts, seeds of future inspiration.

I would lay in bed at night, never able to fall asleep at a decent hour. I would stare at the streetlight that filtered through my metal blinds and replay events of the day, editing and re-phrasing conversations, scripting and narrating.

I had scribbled notes and half stories and partially filled notebooks. But most of my writing took place in my head. Permanence was not a concern. It was the exercise that I was seeking, not documentation.

In college I slid between majors looking for my place. I dabbled in Biology and Journalism before finally settling on an English Major. My desire to indulge in classes that involved reading and writing drowning ideas of practicality. I told myself I’d get a job writing after college. I pictured myself working in a busy magazine office, surrounded by people who loved words as much as I did.

What I found was that getting paid to write usually involves paltry freelance fees that wouldn’t support a broke post graduate.

My desire to write became a notion. A luxury that would have to be set aside while I paid the rent and student loan bills and tried to avoid eviction from my apartment.

But it was still there. I was still narrating in my mind. I was still daydreaming and imagining how I would “write” whatever was happening in my life. I would relish road trips. Hours to drive with nothing but music and the wind and my thoughts.

Then life started moving fast. There was no time to actually write. There was work and marriage and then children. I thought less and less about my dreams of writing and focused fully on raising my children. Instead of listening to music for hours, I consumed parenting books and studied learning techniques and tried to create a warm home for my family. I could have made time to write. But for the first time since third grade I had little desire.

That all changed a few years ago.

I was driving by myself, I had the windows down and the music turned up. My music was on shuffle when the song shifted. An abrupt shift in tempo had me reaching to skip the song, but I paused.

Slow streams of music filled the car, begging me to listen. I slipped into a warm bath of words and sounds. I was transported.

I was back in third grade, running through neighbors’ back yards. I was back in my bedroom laying on the floor with my headphones on listening to music. I was back in the woods lounging in a makeshift fort telling stories with my friends, making plans for mischief.

The lyrics broke through the veneer of mom and wife and carpool driver. I listened to poetry playing out in haunting melody, the words swirling through the air like blue smoke, the tendrils finding their way to me. I breathed in the words and felt my eyes burn. Tears started spilling over, trickling down my cheeks. I laughed as I wiped away the tears. I hit repeat and took the long way home, not ready to let the feeling go yet. The song… the words… they stirred me. They opened up a part of me that I had filed away for future use.

My writing soul had been gently nudged awake.

I needed to have words in my life again. I needed to write. I needed to take the voice that had been accompanying me all these years and put it on paper.

I started writing. I wrote chapters that I had been composing in my head for years. I started writing for an audience and terrified myself with the thoughts of eyes reading my words. I started fretting over cliches and phrases and obsessing over what to write about. I felt nauseous the first time I hit Publish.

I still do. I feel nerves and fear and extreme vulnerability every time I publish.

But I’ll keep writing. I’ll keep listening to music that inspires me. Music that is written with pain and passion and longing. Artists that turn phrases that have my head spinning in admiration and envy.

The more I write, the more I find myself returning to what always sustained me. I will lay on the floor after my evening workout with my headphones on, lost in a song. I’ll brush off the thoughts of dishes piled in the sink waiting for me. I’ll take the long way home to feel the wind on my face and absorb the music. I’ll brush off my to do list for a few more moments of nourishment. I sit at my laptop and shuffle through my music until a song plays that has me feeling… something.

Music has always been my compass. It’s guided me through pain, through heartbreak, through grief. It’s been the salve for open wounds and the outlet for seething anger. It’s been the inspiration I was seeking.

It woke me from a long sleep. It reminded me of who I am. Of where I belong.

I am home.

 

 

 

 

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Have you ever been excited about something, only to be let down? You feel energy firing up your senses and you give yourself over to the moment. But then the moment feels… dull. Boring. Lackluster. You’re left wanting. It can be a detached lover or a singer on the stage just going through the motions. When complacency resides where passion should burn, the disappointment floods you.

But… when there’s passion? When a singer looses his mind on stage? When art is inspiring? When someone’s words touch your soul? Those are the things we live for. That is what drives us to do great things, to connect with others. Beyond merely surviving in this world, passion is what gives us life.

Today, I’m on Elephant Journal writing about Sex, Art and Rock and Roll. I would love it if you would join me there:

http://www.elephantjournal.com/2016/03/sex-art-rock-and-roll-how-passion-fuels-our-inner-fire/

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No one tells you that blogging will become about more than just writing. It may start off as a way to find your voice, share your thoughts and exercise the writing muscle. But it becomes so much more.

You start meeting other writers. People who care about the same issues you care about. People who breathe through writing the same as you. People who blow you away with their talent and inspire you and make you want to be better at this thing you love.

A little over two years ago, I stumbled onto Samara’s blog through a mutual blog friend. I was a little curious to check out this person who left witty and intelligent comments on another blog. I was immediately sucked into her words. I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the screen. Scrolling from one blog post to the next. Laughing. Then crying. Enthralled. Yes, her life has all the makings of a Scorsese movie. But that wasn’t what got to me. It was her writing. I fell in hard love with her writing.

I would scramble to her blog every time I got notification that she had posted something. Reading, but not commenting. I was intimidated and scared to comment. The comments section read better than some blog posts by other writers. One day I had to say something. She’d written a gut wrenching post. I was moved to tears and had to comment. Somehow my serious comment on her serious post turned into a conversation about music and eventually realized we both were huge Lenny Kravitz fans.

And from there we started to get to “know” each other in bloggy terms. We read each other’s writing and we commented and supported. And in the midst of that we became to know each other in more “real” terms. One day she reached out to me with an email to say something about a post I’d written. It was a hard day for me, a hard post to write. One that I was reeling from for hours after hitting “publish.” The things she said in that email healed a little part of me that was in so much pain that day. It gave me the push to keep writing, just as I was considering giving it up.

See, that’s what she does. She sees something in others and pushes them to be better. She listens to your dreams and tells you to go for it. Underneath the tough exterior that burns with fire is the soft soul of a person who deeply cares about others. She helped to create this amazing place that is a safe haven for writers to unleash their pain and write with blind fury. She is fiercely protective of the people who come there to lay their hearts on the line. She is the embodiment of Together, We Are Stronger.

I’m so grateful that in this huge infinite world of blogging that I connected with her. And though in some ways we couldn’t be more different, there are so many ways I relate to her. We are both fierce protective mothers who share similar parenting philosophies. We are sisters who will never let the memories of our brothers die. We are passionate about music. Music means as much to us as writing, it is intertwined with our words. It inspires us and saves us. We are writers. We live and breathe for our families but writing is what tears us apart and puts us back together. All of these things have connected me to this woman who I got to know through her words. And now I can say we are friends and SisterWives. 

Today is her birthday. I’m a big fan of birthdays. I think they are a glorious reason to celebrate a person. To show them that you are glad they are in this world. To let them know that they are awesome and amazing and special. Samara, Happy Birthday.

Happy Birthday to the passion, to the fire, to every word you bleed onto the paper. Happy Birthday to your soul that you open up and share with us every time you write. Happy Birthday to the fearlessness to Write Free. Happy Birthday to a beautiful person full of love and imperfections and intricacies.

For your birthday, I’d like to take you to a Lenny Kravitz concert. And I think we both agree we want to see Lenny circa 1990. So put on your platform shoes and your hip hugger pants. Mess up your hair and let’s jump and dance and scream. Cheers, my friend. Let’s rock.

*Write Free and Breathe Through Writing are two terms I learned from Samara. See? She’s so good with the words…*

To join the party and listen to Samara’s Birthday Mix Tape, go here.

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I used to be a good friend. I was the friend you could call if you needed to vent. I was the friend who would drive for hours in the car smoking cigarettes and listening to music while you mended your broken heart. I was the friend who would stay up all night laughing and talking about nothing and everything.

I was the friend who knew the ins and outs of your life and knew when you needed to talk even before you knew you needed it. I was in tune and in touch. Available.

That friend is gone. And I am so, so sorry. She didn’t leave because she values your friendship any less. She didn’t disappear because she couldn’t be bothered.

She’s gone because I refuse to be busy.

I needed to step back from the chaos that took over my life. She was busy. No busier than you. But busy. Frantically, perpetually busy.

I’m no longer busy.

I was exhausted and burned out and I decided that something had to give.

I found myself on the hamster wheel and it was all my doing. I was giving it all away and watching life happen all around me. I was running a house, raising three kids, being a wife and a daughter and a sister and an aunt and a friend. I was volunteering for a charity I am passionate about. I was working out and planning holidays and hosting dinners. I was squeezing in everything in a mad dash to get it all done and to make a beautiful and meaningful life. And it was glorious. I am not complaining about any of it.

And I started to write again. And I found myself wanting to write more. And more. The flood gates opened and my only problem was trying to squeeze writing into my already crazy life.

But there’s only so long you can juggle while running at full speed when all the things that you are juggling are too precious to drop. I knew I couldn’t sustain. I was multitasking my life away. I started thinking about what this would look like in hindsight. Would I remember the moments? Or would I remember the phone in my ear while I cooked dinner and helped my kid with her homework while texting about the swim carpool, all while cleaning up the dog pee? I was a traffic cop at rush hour in the middle of a four way stop. The frenzy and the crazy became the norm and I saw myself not absorbing and not focusing and not fully engaging any where.

So I made the decision to refuse to be busy.

I stepped back from some commitments. I set up a loose schedule for my writing. I vowed to spend certain hours of a few days a week focusing on my writing. I have things I want to do that will never happen if I don’t protect the time it takes to do them.

It’s not that I don’t care about connecting with my friends. I really care. I miss my friends. I miss long conversations on the phone. I miss the serious talks and the laughs and the support and the whole connection in a way that let me be a very current part of their lives.

I miss it but I’m not willing to be busy for it.

We are all busy. Our culture glorifies busy. We are all running in frantic directions every day just trying to keep up. It doesn’t matter whether I work or stay home. It doesn’t matter that I have more kids than the next person or less kids than the next. There’s always someone with more to juggle and someone with less on their plate. It’s all relative and I refuse to beat myself up because I should be able to make it work when the Bento Box Pinterest Mom has more kids and a full time job and a spotless house and 3 dogs and 2 cats and a high maintenance guinea pig.

It doesn’t matter. I refuse to be busy. I am trying desperately to simplify my days. To stop multi tasking my life away. I’m trying to dial down the frenzy. I don’t want my life to be a blur of stuff and obligations and squeezing ins. I want it to be savoring and relishing and languishing and satisfying.

But this all means something’s gotta give, so my friendships are taking the heat. And that breaks my heart but I don’t know how to do it any other way.

I love my friends. I love them fiercely and I will drop whatever I’m doing the second any one of them needs me. I will drive to see them, fly to see them, go out for dinner or drinks. I will hug them when I see them and I will tell them I love them. I will laugh at their stories and cry with them when the hurt they are feeling seeps into me. I will fight for them, go to battle against their enemies or be their biggest cheerleader when they accomplish amazing things. The women I consider friends are some of my real life heroes.

I will do anything for them.

But I won’t answer my phone if I’m cuddling on the couch with my daughter. I won’t answer the phone if my son just got home from school and is telling me about his day. I won’t pick up if I’m helping one of the kids with homework or eating dinner or driving with the kids in the car or enjoying some quality time with my husband. And I won’t answer my phone if I’m writing.

Unless you need me. In which case, you’ll need to send and SOS or a 911 or a simple “I need to talk.” Then I will tell my kids they will have to wait or I will get up from the dinner table or shut my laptop. I will stop whatever it is that I’m doing if you need me.

I haven’t perfected my life of not busy. I’m still figuring out how to balance it all and how to still try to be a better friend. And I’m still available for casual conversations and catching ups. Just not as frequently as before. Some of my friends and I have started meeting once a month for lunch. Some of us have planned weekend trips together. Some of us keep up in group text chats. Some of us connect in private FaceBook groups.

What I’ve discovered is that most of my friends feel the same way I do. Most of us have transitioned into the third phase of parenting. Older kids, different kind of busy. Our lives have become the lives of uber drivers for the tween set and new careers and busier activity/sport schedules that come with older kids. Most of them are feeling the same hamster wheel juggling act that is impossible to do unless you’re a Cirque de Solei acrobat. And most of them don’t have time for me either.

I’m sorry that that friend is gone, the one who used to make you mixed tapes to help pump you up after a broken heart or a lost job. She loved curling up on the couch on Sunday morning to hear about every minute detail of your date the night before. She loved talking on the phone with you for hours as our babies slept and hearing every moment and milestone you and your baby reached together. She loved the hours standing in the driveway talking while our kids ran around and wore themselves out before dinner time. She misses that.

I miss all that.

But now is good too.

reading

You simply must meet her. Paige is mystifying. Infuriating. Bewildering. She’s also the protagonist in Mandi Castle’s debut novel, Dear Stephanie. You’ll want to resist her allure. You’ll want to hate her. But be warned, your resistance is futile. Prepare to be seduced.

How often have you looked at someone in envy. Someone who seems to “have it all.” Their life seems to be a seamless string of perfection. Maybe it’s the celebrity who’s gorgeous and talented. Maybe it’s the person you see in your day to day life, the one who’s always smiling their mega-watt smile and effortlessly gliding through their day.

Maybe you even know one of these people, on a personal level. They keep you at an arms length, beguiling you with their wit. But there’s never that moment. You know, the moment where you relate. Where you see the human behind the face.

So you go on thinking they have it all together. And that’s what they want. Because pain and suffering and depression and mental illness like to lurk in the dark. That’s where those beasts grow and flourish. Hidden and cloaked in shame, they only show you what you want to see. What’s acceptable. Comfortable. Because light exposes weakness and exposing weakness means admitting and dealing with and confronting. And if you are weighted down by depression that’s the last thing you’re looking to do.

And so it begins with Paige. She has it all and she doesn’t mind telling you so. She flaunts her perfection. She revels in the distant adulation. She goes to great pains to make you think that there is no crack in the foundation. That her world is flawless. She will distract you with steamy and heated scenarios. She will have you breathing heavy and sweating. She will lure you with her innuendo. She will be blunt. She will ensnare you. In spite of yourself. Because she represents shallow and vain, and those aren’t attractive qualities. But she will prevail. You are now enthralled.

And this is when it gets real.

Layer by layer she is revealed to you. So subtly you barely realize it’s happening. You come-to from your reader’s trance and realize that you have connected with this character that you started out loathing. When did that happen? How was I duped?

Don’t bother questioning it. You’ve been seduced.

You find yourself deeper into the psyche of this mysterious character. Only to realize there’s so much more. You begin to relate. You start to see the hows and the whys and the who’s. And it all makes sense. It’s all so tragic.

And it’s all so brilliant.

Because this book takes you on the journey, the arc that so many who come across a Paige in their real life, know all too well. The facade. The seduction. The bravado. But then, once a tiny fracture appears, the real. The pain. The sorrow. The suffering. The hidden truths that lie within a broken person.

And once you get past the lure of the glamour and the hedonism, you start to see the things that make up this person. And that’s when you really become invested.

That is when Dear Stephanie takes hold and grips you. That’s when you find yourself sucking in air and trying to control you emotions and waving off anyone who dares interrupt your immersion into Paige’s world. That’s when you find your emotions churning and rising and falling with each turn of the page. That’s when you begin reading furiously, devouring the last few chapters, eager for answers.

And as abruptly as it started, the seduction is over. But isn’t that the way with an enticing frolic? The allure pulls you in and before you know it you’re left looking around trying to figure out what just happened.

And so it ends with Dear Stephanie.

Dear Stephanie is available on Amazon now! Click here to buy/download.

 

 

DearStephaniePaige Preston wants to end her life. After an unsuccessful attempt, she lands herself in mandatory therapy with a sexy psychiatrist. When he and an even more alluring friend begin to help her break down the walls she’s spent a lifetime building, Paige begins to see something bigger than herself. Is it enough to pull her out of her dark world and help her finally feel like a human? Or will letting someone in be the final step toward her demise? 

Dear Stephanie is a sinfully addictive walk through a world of beauty, affluence, and incidental love that effortlessly moves the reader between laughter, tears, heartache, and hope with the turn of every “Paige.”

 

Author PicMandi Castle is a daydreaming stay at home mom of two who spends most her time reading and writing. She loves watching football, is obsessed with music, and has a serious addiction to smart funny people. She can often be caught having dance parties in her kitchen in Dallas, Texas. To connect more visit her at mandicastle.com

 

 

 

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“I can’t get no satisfaction

Cause I try, and I try, and I try…”

-The Rolling Stones, I Can’t Get No Satisfaction

Raise your hands if you’ve ever felt like quitting.

Ever felt like you were a fraud.

Like maybe you were good… once. But whatever it was is gone.

A fluke.

If you’ve ever felt like abandoning the need that burns within you to create…

I get it.

I think we all get it.

Anyone who sets out to make art, anyone who’s existence feeds on creativity and the need to put themselves “out there” in the form of pictures, words, music, gets it.

Because sometimes being an artist/musician/writer/creator just sucks. It is walking around naked, baring your soul and serving it up for public consumption. It is wanting to have people respond and connect to it, yet wanting to crawl under a blanket of anonymity when they do.

And sometimes it is nothing. A parched and desolate landscape of empty thoughts and hollow ideas.

This is when it hurts the most. You twist and turn in frustration. You snarl at those who have the misfortune of being in your presence. You question your worth or your talent. You feel the stinging burn of tears as you allow those bastards known as Fear and Doubt, creep in to your mind. You worry that it’s all dried up, the well of creativity is empty.

Yet we keep doing it. We keep trying to do the thing we love.

But maybe… maybe we don’t have to continue this torturous cycle of elation, doubt, fear, despair. Maybe…  maybe we can all be like Keith Richards.

Yes. Keith Richards. He is one of the hardest working musicians and songwriters in rock history. He was known to practice for hours upon hours each day. He poured himself into writing melodies when the record company was demanding new hit singles every 12 weeks. Hard work. Putting in the hours. We’ve all heard that the key to any creative endeavor is exercising the muscle, showing up, doing the unglamorous work.

But there’s more to it than that. You see, Keith knew that inspiration could come at any moment, so he never travelled without his guitar and he slept with a tape recorder next to his bed. Maybe you’ve heard the story of Keith getting up in the middle of the night, picking up his guitar and playing a riff and mumbling something about “satisfaction.” He had no recollection of doing this, but the next morning he listened to hours of static until he got to the part with the seed for what would become the Rolling Stone’s biggest hit.

He wrote one of the world’s most famous guitar riffs in his sleep.

Effortless. Guided by the guitar gods. The mark of a true musical genius.

But what if it wasn’t genius or divine intervention?

What if it was simply that his mind was at rest and it was that stillness that allowed the creativity within him to come to the surface?

What if we could all do that?

What if we could all be Keith Richards?

What if we could all have the thing within us flow effortlessly and without the tug and pull that we engage in every day? What if we could tap into the reservoir of ideas that’s hidden beneath all of the noise? Beneath the hustle and the chaos and the alerts and pings and beckonings of life.

Because it’s there. We all have something that’s lying in wait. Waiting for a moment of quiet to peek it’s shy tender head through and be recognized. While you’re pounding away in frustration it is sitting patiently, waiting for you to take a breath and listen.

And this is the hardest thing to do. The desire to create something takes over logic and we drown it with our relentlessness.

Eventually we’re caught up in this frustrating place of toiling and sweating and trying and what we’re trying to get is just out of reach. Eventually we burn out.

But we don’t have to. Art doesn’t have to be suffering. Not if we respect it. Not if we nurture ourselves and nurture our art. But this, too, takes effort. We have to take time. We have to give ourselves a chance to listen to what’s beneath. Pause. Breathe. Watch a sunset. Watch a sunrise. Sit in silence. Take a walk. Go for a run. Sleep. Dream. Do whatever allows your mind to roam.

It’s no coincidence that inspiration often comes during the quiet moments. That while you’re standing naked in the shower, while you’re driving in your car with the windows rolled down, while you’re sweating in the yard under a warm sun, that these are the moments when you feel the ideas coming forward.

Find whatever gives your mind space to breath, and do it more. Whatever task or activity brings forth ideas that send you scurrying for a pen and paper? Do more of that. And if that’s not practical or possible on a regular basis? Then meditate. Just breathe and sit in stillness. The bottom line is the things that you’re trying to do, that you do not do for fame or fortune but simply for the fact that they sustain you and make you feel whole, you need to give them the courtesy of time and you need to open the door to allow them to come out.

You need to nurture them.

Respect the creativity within you. Instead of battling and fighting and trying to summon by sheer force of will… Instead of battling for the thoughts to come, instead of trying to tease out the next sentence, breathe.

I want to sink into it and get lost in the flow. I’ve felt it. I’ve felt the elation as it happens effortlessly. That is what we keep chasing, isn’t it? The sweet spot of creativity and productivity.

Like being in a dream, yet awake. Like playing a song in your sleep. Magic.

It’s there. We can all tap into it if we pause. If we stop beating it up and treating it like an obedient dog that will come when beckoned.

If we take the time to take care of it. Take care of ourselves. We can see what is in there waiting to emerge.

So don’t give up. You’re not a fluke or a fraud. You have beauty and art within you. Kick fear and doubt’s ass to the curb.

Take care of yourself. Be gentle with your creative spirit. Allow it the oxygen it needs to grow and make itself known.

Let’s all be Keith Richards.

 

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