Chasing Squirrels

“Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.”

Buddha

A dog can teach you a lotta about living well. Okay, okay. Maybe not chasing squirrels or barking at everything that moves. But on second thought, maybe there’s a lesson or two there as well.

Dogs wear their emotions I’m on their sleeves. A dog may bark at a mailman (mail…person?) They may immediately stop what they are doing when you hold up a bright yellow tennis ball. And they may become hyper-focused if they hear the meow of a cat or rustle of something nearby. They feel, but they don’t bottle it inside. They react and release. We could yell at them for barking (at nothing), and they might be sad or down because we were stern to them, but only for a moment before they are ready to play. The only person that’s still flustered and angry is us. They forgive instantly. We hold offenses or even resentfulness in for years.

There’s something powerful about the instantaneous release of emotion. Not that being angry or barking out is good for us (it’s not). But letting it go is. Not letting the fear and anxiety and emotion own us. It’s part of who we are, but it doesn’t control us.

A dog can also go its entire life eating, sleeping pooping, playing and walking and be perfectly happy. I can go barely a day before I do something, read, learning something, create something. I guess creativity is my squirrel. I can easily pull myself in a million directions on any given day. I viscerally know how limited my time is today, but I still feel driven to try to learn, do and experience everything.

I think creativity is a fundamental component of what being human is. (And the people — maybe you — who don’t think they are creative just haven’t found a way or safe space to explore their creative side yet.) We are driven to explore, connect and create.

But as humans, we have a good and bad habit of never being satisfied with what we have. Good because it makes us better at what we do. Bad if it takes over and leaves us dissatisfied with what opportunity and joy we do have in front of us (if only we’d stop to see and appreciate it).

Yet a dog is rarely NOT satisfied. Even if they are not getting what they want out of the day, they don’t stay sad for long. They open themselves up to the opportunity of the day. Where everything can be seen from a new smell and perspective. Happiness is there, waiting for us to accept it.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #835

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Creativity & Ambition

Whenever I go to a concert or festival, I can’t help but feel that I’m on the wrong side of the stage. If you see me there, I’m the weird guy (no, not that weird guy, he’s on another level) who occasionally becomes very still and stops bobbing and dancing. It’s likely because I’m watching what the guitarist or keyboardist hands are doing. I’m picking apart the drums and synths. I’m admiring the singer’s vocal palette and the band’s synchronicity. I’m still enjoying the show, but I’m enjoying it in a different way through an artist’s perspective. If you play an instrument, you’ll likely be able to relate.

I feel the same way when seeing superb broadway or watch a film, or admire good art or outfit, or underline a great word or turn of phrase in a book. I enjoy creativity at a deep level and want to go deeper still. I can see a fuzzy outline of tendrils where different creative and mental outlets weave and interconnect. It’s like discovering a language you aren’t familiar with but have moments of clarity when words of striking similarity to your native tongue pop out and identify themselves to you.

If there’s a Grand Unified Theory of the Universe, surely there’s also a Grand Unified Theory of Creativity.

(Yeah Josh, It’s called Math 🤓 you dumb dumb.)

But what makes someone creative?

Is it a feeling? Is it in our DNA? Is it the act of creating?

What separates those that do versus those that don’t? What’s the difference between a musician who makes it to the stage and a musician who creates at home?

Not that being on a stage is everything. Nor is there anything inherently wrong with only enjoying your art alone. But there is a certain special something — certain gumption — I admire for the creatives and dreamers who put themselves out there. No, I don’t mean starting an Instagram account and slapping a logo together in Canva.

I’m talking about the folks you put in the work. The ones that get down to brass tax and put in the time and effort to pursue their creativity. The ones who go out and build a business around a product or service that means something to them and provides meaning to others. The dancers, writers, poets, bodybuilders, athletes or designers who wake up early and begin their practice.

The word Ambition comes to mind. As does belief. You have to believe in yourself, at least enough to have the courage to try and the courage to breathe out the fear and walk out on the ‘stage’.

And the antithetical ego comes to mind as well. All artists who put themselves out there in some way shape or form think they are unique and have something to offer the world. Including myself! What kind of ego do you need to have a daily blogging practice as well as another dozen practices? (A BIG kahuna.)

But at the same time, at its core, creativity has to come from a place of love. Or at least a desire to be better, to do better. I would continue to play music even if I didn’t make a dime on it. I’d continue to write and practice the craft of writing because I love it for what it is and what it gives me. An outlet. A brush to paint with. A song to sing. A beat to dance. A comic to doodle.

Not because I can create, but because I can’t not do it.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #825

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Related:

“Great ambition is the passion of a great character. Those endowed with it may perform very good or very bad acts. All depends on the principles which direct them.”

Napoleon Bonaparte

“Our ambition should be to rule ourselves, the true kingdom for each one of us; and true progress is to know more, and be more, and to do more.”

Oscar Wilde

“A man’s worth is no greater than his ambitions.”

Marcus Aurelius

Creative DNA

“The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.”

Pablo Picasso

Do you think we are born creative or grow into it?

In Ignore Everybody: and 39 Other Keys to Creativity, Hugh Macleod voices “Everyone is born creative; everyone is given a box of crayons in kindergarten. Then when you hit puberty they take the crayons away and replace them with dry, uninspiring books on algebra, history, etc. Being suddenly hit years later with the ‘creative bug’ is just a wee voice telling you, ‘I’d like my crayons back, please.” Picasso would have agreed with Hugh, “All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.

I think it’s a little of both. Something in us feels called to express ourselves and make something. The tools and mediums change over the centuries, but the desire is still there. And we see the world (or dream worlds in our mind) and want to share it.

We look at a rolling landscape or unnoticed object in our home and feel a desire to paint or draw it.

We experience a breathtaking sunset or a particular stranger catches our eye and we can’t help but capture the moment.

Our cars have the curves of animals and insects.

Put a blank page in front of someone and they’ll want to fill it. Give someone an instrument and they’ll start to strum and noodle. The “real” world often beats creativity out of us and convinces us we can’t create and work. Society and culture tell us we’ll get made fun of if you try to draw or dance or sing but suck at it. It’s okay to suck at art and still enjoy it. Being mediocre is a right of passage. Maybe you weren’t bred to be an illustrator or makeup artist, but that doesn’t mean you can’t nurture your interest now that you can think for yourself.

It doesn’t surprise me that we are creative. Problems are a way of life and problems naturally create the opportunity for creative solutions. Problems creative opportunities create problems creatives opportunities. If you need fresh water to the home, someone is going to find a creative way to do it. And someone else is going to creatively iterate on that idea ad infinite. If you’re cold, someone will figure out a way to find warmth. If you’re hungry, someone will discover a clever way to cook/find food.

Problems naturally create an opportunity for creative solutions.

The desire to make stuff and share it with others is in our DNA, but the ability to make good art (as Neil Gaiman would say) and become masters of what we love takes hard work and patience.

If you want to be more creative — go be more creative.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #822

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Related:

Born Standing Up: A Comics Life by Steve Martin

Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull

Making it Look Easy (Creative Tennis Part 1)

“If people knew how hard I worked to get my mastery, it wouldn’t seem so wonderful at all.”

Michelangelo

Creativity reminds me of tennis. I played tennis in high school. Double’s was always my favorite. My friend Cameron and I were unstoppable (at least that’s what my memory tells me) with our powers combined. Our secret was we cared enough to have fun but didn’t take ourselves too seriously. I don’t think either one of us was the best when it came to singles. I can play, but I wasn’t putting in the hours of training and practice as some players do. There’s skill involved with tennis and any sport for that matter. From the bleachers, it looks like you’re just smacking a fuzzy yellow ball with an oversized ping pong paddle, but if you know the game there’s a lot going on for the players. Accuracy, speed, agility, coordination, balance, power, cunning, action and reaction, and — of course — the mental gameplay.

The same is true for your creative pursuits. There’s a lot of skill and thought to go on behind the stroke of a pen, the strum of a guitar or the footwork of a dancer. Professionals make their art look much easier than it is. Anytime you hear of an idea so simple you wish you would have thought of it, you are seeing a professional* at work (*most of the time anyway :). Experience is lost to the untrained eye. If you see something that looks easy, it likely isn’t. The same is true when the tables are turned. When your art feels easy, you reached a level of skill and insight that most don’t actually have.

It’s easy to forget how far we’ve come and how much we know about a certain skill or subject. Usually, because we are so engrossed in it on a day-to-day basis, and are surrounded by others who have similar skills. One conversation with someone who doesn’t do what you do will immediately highlight how much you know about what you do. And one conversation (or class) with an expert on what you do and you’ll see how little you actually know about what you do. Art and skill are a continuous spectrum of discovering new things and unlocking wisdom through time and practice. Even the creatives at the top of their game continue to learn and experiment with better ways of creating. We can learn to make it look easy too with a commitment to our craft and longevity in our practice.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #809

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Focus is a Sharp Blade

“Concentrate all your thoughts upon the work at hand. The sun’s rays do not burn until brought to a focus.”

Alexander Graham Bell

The more things you focus on, the more dull you’re focus gets. Imagine how impactful and effective your actions would be if you were to focus all your creativity on one thing.

This is something I often struggle with because I interested in so many things.

focusing all of my time and energy on just one thing feels (for me personally) only cutting bell peppers with my blade and nothing else. I’d get really good at cutting and eating peppers, but I sure would be bored out of my mind.

A healthy balance of creative pursuits is the best answer I have at the moment. Taking on a handful of key interests and ideas, but also not doing too many at the same time. Trying to do all things is a fine way of doing nothing.

It’s okay to put things on hiatus or even sunset projects if they aren’t providing enough value or joy in your life. In fact, every time you do, you’re sharpening the blade.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #805

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How to Have Better Ideas

“A solid routine saves you from giving up.”

John Updike

Before I started writing every day, I would inevitably do it sporadically. I intended to write when inspiration struck — which I assumed would be frequently — but in reality, I rarely put pen to paper. Perhaps I squeezed out a handful (tops) of mediocre blog posts in a year. The interesting thing about inspiration is doesn’t find us, we have to go out and seek it. It wasn’t until I committed to writing daily that I started having better ideas.

You would think habit would stifle creativity, but it does the opposite. Creating a daily routine gives us structure and our imagination breathing room to run wild. It’s the foundation we need to create consistently.

Not that quantity of work is what I’m after, however, the quantity of work typically leads to quality.

“You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.”

Maya Angelou

Quantity leads to quality.

The more we do something, the better we get at it (as long as we aren’t phoning it in of course) and the more ideas we have. It’s a number’s game. One great idea out of ten so-so ideas might seem like a poor average, but if you keep creating them then those great ideas start adding up. Digging up nine stumps isn’t so bad if the ten trees grow into a massive orange tree of impact and wealth (and not just financially).

Of course, we’re not trying to grow stumps. We’re trying to grow trees. So the more we practice the better we will be.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #800 ✨

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Channeling Pain

Moments of crisis are good for creativity if you can find a way to channel it. One look at an emotionally striking painting or one listen to a sad and heavy song will show you the power of channeling pain through creativity.

The problems and painful experiences we go through can create something positive and impactful.

We’re already there, deep in the rawness of what we are feeling, now all we need to do is express it in as a creative outlet.

And it doesn’t always have to be a painting or a song.

It could be designing a product or service that solves a personal pain-point that could help others.

It could be writing an insightful book you needed to read, but couldn’t find it.

It could be running and training for a marathon.

It could be sculpting an abstract world out of Popsicle sticks.

Art is not just canvas and paint. It’s imagination and expression.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #798

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Maybe We Should All Dress Up Like Steve Jobs

“My favorite things in life don’t cost any money. It’s really clear that the most precious resource we all have is time.”

Steve Jobs

One thing Christmas presents has taught me over the years is that stuff doesn’t bring you happiness. Sure, new gadgets and gear can enable our creativity. Sure, those new jeans do make our butts look good. Sure, that new record player will be fun to have.

But when all is said and done, we’re still going to want more. As soon as I carefully unwrap my presents (yeah I’m that guy who spends twenty minutes opening a gift), I’m almost immediately itching to get on my laptop and search for deals on the other things on my wishlist.

Wishes don’t end. There’s always another cool thing to buy. If not now, then tomorrow.

I think that’s why people like Steve Jobs only wear one outfit (in his case it was black turtle-neck and 80’s Levi jeans). He put away the distractions and nice things to focus on his creativity.

Am I going to stop giving people gifts? No! I love finding the perfect present for the people I care about. Does that mean I’m going to stop wanting gifts or stop asking for them? Heck NO.

But I will remind myself to focus on what matters and truly makes me happy, versus the things that only give small fleeting moments of comfort.

Related:

The Gift of Nothing — Patrick McDonnell

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #788 🎅

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Let it breathe

“In the quiet moments, the discoveries are made.”

Vera Farmiga

If you don’t give your creativity time and space, you’re not gonna do it.

Creativity needs breathing room to grow. Not an unlimited time amount of time, of course. Too much time might be just as detrimental as not enough time. In both cases, we usually end up not creating anything meaningful.

Shoving your craft into the last 20 minutes of your day is fine if that’s all you have to give right now. But it highlights an important idea: is our creative pursuit — the thing that you love to do — so unimportant to us that we can only fit it in our busy schedules at the very last moment of our day?

Believe me, I get it. Not everyone is doing their creative work as their full time gig. (Maybe that’s your goal, but you are not there yet. Or maybe you just love doing it in addition to your job.) But that doesn’t mean we should bench it to the sidelines. We need a little space to thrive.

Do your creative work first. Get up earlier if you have to. Find a way to prioritize enough time that allows you to do the work you feel called to do.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #688


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Making Creative Space

“Make an empty space in any corner of your mind, and creativity will instantly fill it.”

Dee Hock

Yesterday, I spent the better part of morning organizing my apartment’s work environment. I don’t have a lot of space, a cubby corner sandwiched in-between two windows, so a tidy and intentional area is key. Making art is something I’ve been pursuing more and more, and I wanted to make sure everything was accessible and open. Otherwise, creating feels like a chore.

I’ve discovered over the last couple years that I’m at my most creative when I have everything ready to go and in arms reach. The fewer obstructions I have to get from A to B (from an idea / desire to make, and from the tools, instruments, materials and space needed) the greater chance I’ll follow through. If I lean a guitar next to my desk I’ll inevitably pick it up and start playing. Put a blank piece of paper in front of me and give me some space and I’ll eventually write ideas on it.

We often point to and blame all these big reasons why we can’t work on our dreams yet — ’I don’t have enough money’, ‘I’m not old enough / I’m too old’, ‘I’m not smart enough yet’ — but in reality its the little things, like our environment, that are the true cause of our inability to act.

There’s this inherent unwanted laziness that comes with creating. I don’t have a lazy bone in my body, but when I have to dig around for some sketch paper, or if my guitar is in its case, or if my desk has no room for me to write, I’m less likely to do it.

You can see this pattern in many areas of life:

Health: We hang clothes on our treadmill or weight rack. We don’t know where our workout shoes are when it’s time to run. We keep ice cream and candy in the house instead of healthy foods.

Community: Our days are crammed with work or traveling to and from work. We have work meetings on top of meetings. When we are not working, we are scrolling. And with every second of our day stuffed like a turkey with immediacy, we neglect the important connections of friends and family.

Perhaps we aren’t a couch potato — we’ve just have physically prioritized watching TV over working on our side-business.

Space should reflect priority. We need to give ourselves the space we need to thrive in art, work and life. Physical space, mental space, time, solitude…

By giving yourself the space to create, you’ve created a safe haven for ideas. Prioritize space and you’ll start bursting with ideas and can’t help but lose yourself in creating.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner

Daily Blog #673

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