Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Quotation of The Week

"My talent is such that no undertaking in size, or how varied in subject, has ever exceeded my confidence and courage."
--Peter Paul Rubens

We could all use a little of this grandiosity, no? I found this quotation on an explanatory label placed next to a Rubens painting at the Kimbell Museum in Fort Worth.

Do you have a favorite quote to spur your confidence? Let me know and I'll get it posted on the blog or feel free to do so on your own as a comment.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Dallas/Ft. Worth Speaking Gigs

Just back from Texas, where I was fortunate to have two speaking gigs and a radio interview. The speaking engagements were at Texas Christian University and "The MAC" (the McKinney Avenue Contemporary art center); and the radio interview was for a program called "Art Matters" on radio WRR, a classical music station that also covers other arts activities in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. I'll post broadcast details when I have them, along with information about an online podcast version. Meantime, please go to today's entry in The Buddha Diaries for a detailed account of our Texas adventure.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Meet Emily...

I'm off to Forth Worth and Dallas this morning, for two speaking opportunities. You'll find the details by clicking on "Speaking Engagements" a little lower down in the right sidebar. Before I go, I hope you'll join me in welcoming Emily St. Amand-Poliakoff as a new contributing editor on "Persist: The Blog." A recent graduate from USC's School of Music and a practicing musician, Emily brings the perspective of a bright and actively creative mind to the blog, along with some great organizational skills. She will be contributing her own thoughts along with interviews, and will serve as point-person when I'm gone. Please watch for her byline. Coming soon!

Absorb, contemplate, extrapolate-An Interview.

Hello dear readers! I am absolutely honored to be supplying my first interview to you in what I hope to be a long standing series of discussions with young and developing artists in Los Angeles and the various obstacles, brought to light and addressed in Persist, that they might face in their daily lives. Please enjoy, contemplate, and most importantly...discuss!!

Interview with David Elsenbroich-June 16th, 2010

We all know that fear is quite a process. As an artist what can we do with the sometimes numbing and debilitating sensation of fear? Can we sing with it? Paint with it? Dance with it? Act like it’s something else? How does a fear of failure or even success dictate the path of the creative process for so many people and how might an artist's relationship to their medium change with a degree in their field?

In this short interview i wanted to supply us with insight from one of my peers from the Thornton School of Music at the University of Southern California and his immediate experience waltzing with the fear of gaining monetary stature in a creative field.

David Elsenbroich,

a twenty-four-year old Northern Californian native, obtained his Masters in Studio Jazz Guitar Performance this past May.

Emily: What is it you are afraid of right now, fresh out of school, in regards to your future?

David: I think obviously making enough money to sustain myself now and in the future in terms of having a family, but also being able to sustain my creative endeavors. In other words, not getting caught up in pursuing the things that only forward my monetary success. As in, I don’t want to sacrifice the idea of fulfilling my creative and artistic goals in order to entertain my fears regarding my financial future.

Emily: Do you find it difficult to separate your personal and monetary goals right now?

David: Yes. Like, it’s hard to say because at this point in my life I’m not quite sure what my goals are for either of those things. All I have right now is short term goals. And although having short term goals worries me it’s the only way i can cope with the situation right now. All I know how to form right now is short term goals.

Emily: So does the idea of forming goals in an artistic profession frighten you? How much of that fear do you feel was dictated by your experience in school? In other words, would you be afraid of the same things had you not received an extensive education in music?

David: Mmmmmmmmm (imagine a low guttural growl).......did you just write that? Are you writing this now? Umm...Its a strange mix. On the one hand I feel apprehension and fear because I feel like I’ve spent so much time in school that I’m behind my peers in terms of reaching my goals of artistic success. Also, I feel stunted in my creative thought because so much of my creative thought has been determined by what has been required of me in school. On the other hand, (long pause), on the other hand I think I feel more confidence about my future, because of school. I think that school, particularly graduate school, has taught me that I can specifically achieve just about anything no matter how lofty that goal might be. So it’s a strange mix between a fear that Im behind in achieving my goals and a sense of confidence in the fact that i can achieve those goals if i put my mind to it.

Emily: Imagine you were somehow miraculously sustained monetarily. You didn’t have to worry about money. How would this change the creative process for you? Just the process? Or would it re-shape you as an artist?

David: The process wouldn’t be as desperate. But to a certain extent it would be the same because my end goal would be the same in both processes.

Emily: In three words, define your process of course ending with the goal. Tell us the David Eric Elsenbroich Process.

David: My process? Absorb, contemplate, extrapolate.

There was a bit of a pause as David thought about those three words but once he had decided, he said them with more confidence than anything else spoken during the entire interview.

Now I have a few questions for you readers. Maybe for some people the process is clear, but the goals are not. Do they have to be? Is it generally more intimidating to allow your goals and dreams to stay clear and specific in your mind as a fear of failure could infiltrate your productivity? Does a fear of failure (or success) inhibit you or inspire you?

Monday, June 21, 2010

Creativity Portal

I have been blogging for a number of years now. I started, long-time readers may recall, with The Bush Diaries, back in November 2004, after the presidential election of that year. I found that I needed to "do something", and fell into the blogosphere pretty much by accident. That first blog morphed, thank heaven, a couple of years later into The Buddha Diaries, which continues to this day. It's my own way of "persisting" as a writer, and it has led me to many associations that I treasure. Now, in launching Persist: The Blog, I have begun to meet another whole community of writers who devote a good deal of thought to human creativity and to supporting those who find it an essential part of their lives. I have slowly been introducing myself in this community, and thought it would be a great idea to get to know them a little better. So this will be the first posting of a series of interviews in which I find out more about these fascinating, dedicated people.

Here, then, is a Q & A with Chris Dunmire, a creativity coach and blogger at Creativity Portal:

Persist: How did you get involved in creativity coaching? How long have you been at it? Are you an artist yourself (I use the word generically: writer, musician, actor, dancer...); and was it your experience as such that led you into this endeavor?

Chris: I am an artist — a graphic designer by trade and a writer by heart. I’m also a humorist and make good use of my artistic skills in the invention of many imaginative (and sometimes silly) things you can see on display at ChrisDunmire.com. I’ve authored and self-published several teacher-geared instructional e-books available on CreativeSlush.com — most popular among them is my Origami Dollar Bill Money Plant project which will be featured in Harry Choron’s upcoming book “The MoneyPhile.”

For the past 10 years I’ve been absorbed in writing motivational articles and designing projects to inspire creative thinking and expression in others. My personal passion for creativity (it’s vital to my well-being), is paired with a sense of compassion for others struggling with their own creative nature. As a result, I founded Creativity-Portal.com in 2000 with the intention of encouraging others towards courageously exploring and expressing their creativity, long before I knew what creativity coaching was.

I got involved in creativity coaching through my work with C-P, first as a promoter of life coaches with a niche in coaching creatives, and then as an aspiring creativity coach myself. I became immersed in the works of leading creativity authors and experts — Roger VonOech, Michael Gelb, Julia Cameron, SARK, Eric Maisel, and others, and through Maisel’s “Fearless Creating” and “Coaching the Artist Within” I learned about creativity coaching as a stand-alone profession he claimed to be 'cutting out of whole cloth' as a coach himself and a trainer of creativity coaches worldwide, being regarded as ‘America’s foremost creativity coach.’

Maisel’s work resonated with me so much that between 2005 and 2006 I completed three of his creativity coach certification courses which are now core trainings for the Creativity Coaching Association (CCA). Interestingly, I also had a hand in developing and promoting the original CCA program in partnership with its original founder, Rick Benzel on C-P, but that’s another story.

Persist: Do you have/need any special qualifications or certification?

Chris: I have three certificates through Maisel’s training programs: Basic Creativity Coaching, Coaching Artists, and Coaching Writers. In 2009 I also became certified in the Badonsky/Maurer model of Kaizen-Muse Creativity Coaching™ (KMCC) and am a current member of the KMC3.

When you ask, “Do you need any special qualifications,” realize that coaching is an unregulated field, which means that life coaching, creativity coaching, and any other type of coaching can be practiced by anyone with or without credentials. And because of this, different coaches may work in different ways depending on where they acquired their training (or not), what philosophy they’re working with, and how they express their interpersonal style. These are important considerations for a potential client to research beforehand, to ask about, and to test out in a demo session to be sure the relationship will be a good fit for both the client and coach.

Organizations like the International Coaching Federation (ICF) try to establish a standard for coaching by a code of ethics and fee-based permission to carry their stamp of approval, but even they disclaim anyone under their umbrella with the statement on their Web site: “Representatives of the programs listed in this search service have agreed to abide by the ICF Code of Ethics. However, ICF approval does not guarantee the ethical practices or effectiveness of the training program or organization.” So again, a client needs to be vigilant while selecting a coach and open to finding one in a number of ways.

Personally, I recommend hiring a creativity coach who is both certified in some coaching model/philosophy and also demonstrably creative in their own life. If I lacked either, I would not practice creativity coaching — it would be out of tune with my integrity.

Persist: To what extent does your work with artists involve "therapy"--for want of a better word--or personal counseling, as opposed to professional counseling?

Chris: The maxim that “coaching is not therapy” applies in the creativity coaching I do, especially in a legal sense. And if a client seeks coaching but really needs therapy or counseling, I’ll refer them.

By design one-to-one coaching offers at least some therapeutic value to the client in that they engage in the process feeling supported, validated, and heard by an objective party who is interested, helpful, and non-judgmental.

In the KMCC model, for example, an emphasis on compassion and the non-linear nature of creativity is integral to the coaching process, along with helping a client to tap into their own intuitive wisdom and personal power to achieve their goals, even in the smallest of steps. This nurturing relationship can easily open up creative blocks and lead to wonderful strides and breakthroughs.

Persist: What rewards do you look for from your work? Which of these mean the most to you?

Chris: I appreciate that I can act as a creative catalyst in someone else’s life. When people tell me that I’ve helped or inspired them in some way, it feels good. When I see a client’s confidence grow, or they are more joyful, or they achieve particular goal, I witness the process working, transforming lives. I know its worthy work. It’s both rewarding and meaningful to me.

Persist: What can an artist expect to gain from working with you? Are you concerned to help them with greater exposure?

One of the first questions I’ll ask a client is, “What are you looking for in creativity coaching?” This starts the process of where our work begins. If an artist is afraid to pick up a paintbrush and make her first stroke, we begin there. Or, if a writer wants to explore ways to widen his audience and expand his readership, we begin there. It’s about expanding possibilities and finding/discovering ways to make things happen.

Persist: Do you have any thoughts about the burgeoning competition in this line of work?

Chris: Among KMCC coaches, I love our variety and celebrate our differences in the supportive community we’re building. After reading the book “Attracting Perfect Customers: the Power of Strategic Synchronicity” by Stacey Hall and Jan Brogniez I realize that people who truly value my services and are attracted to my particular style will make the best clients — and we’ll mutually benefit. Some coaches may be better suited for particular clients because of their own areas of expertise and personality types, and I’m happy to refer them. Coaching is not a one-size-fits-all thing, so I’m glad there’s room for all of us.


My best thanks to Chris for her enthusiastic participation and her generous response to my curiosity. There will be more to come...

Creative freedom in the marketplace

Here are some thoughtful comments from JANICE TIEKEN (thank you, Janice!) that touch on a variety of the matters we have been raising here on Persist: The Blog.

Re: Creative freedom in the marketplace

Your video on branding was a treat for sore eyes, or mind, if you will. Many art biz gurus warn heavily against ever submitting or showing more than one style or media or art arena. Some well known folks in that genre have said: 1. Never show a photo with a poem. 2. Don't show any work you did when in art school no matter what. 3. Don't show different styles or media. So, for example in photography don't show your political commentary with your large digitally altered images or with your black and white and never with your paintings and drawings. Ever! One well-known, but not super-famous, artist uses the exact same colors he did 30 years ago. Is it just to be safe or a lack of ability?

Not mentioned, because you are still unknown (AKA starving) or not one of The Chosen: Once you are famous, or branded, you can do anything you want! That is the subtext we have learned from experience. In other words, there is a prohibition against pursuing Renaissance ideas - no matter how compelled - on the assumption if you are not yet famous then you simply couldn't handle all that diversity. I recently wrote some poems about the closing of a library, and the politics involved, that were published. I was called a poet which was pretty amusing since I hadn't really done it before. Was this a risk? I wondered.

Photography, as fine art, has always been very rigid in its rules and restrictions as well. In the early 70s when I first became enamored with it as a medium for expressing ideas - and beauty too - it was color for which I had passion. Verboten! Color is for postcards. At Otis the dean said, We don't teach it because it is not art. Not only was photography a bastard art but it was also deemed only good if black and white at that time. No discussion! Then it was color if dye transfer a la Eggleston. Then it was perfectly detailed see-every-hair only. (Realism vs. Impressionism?) One celebrated center until recently demanded only black frames and white mats.

Like the uneducated person who says when confronted in the museum with abstract art, I could do that - many think all forms of photography are easy, a snap, in the same way and therefore not in the big leagues. A friend recently called one of my images: 'nice shot'. It was a digitally 'painted' image that took hours to complete, not exactly a 'shot'. I suppose most other arts have their similar rigidities and biases.

Please also check out the exquisite pictures on Janice's website. You'll be glad you did!

Maybe it was the same in the Renaissance period and you had to earn the right to do more than one thing.

Janice Tieken, BFA, MA

Thursday, June 17, 2010

"Work of Art"

Last night's episode of "Work of Art: The Next Great Artist" was a whole lot better, I thought, than the unpromising introduction a week ago. Given the very conventional task of making a portrait, within a very restricted time limit, the contestants predictably came up with some pretty cliché'd responses in their first turn out. This week, invited to select materials from glorious piles of assorted electronic junk, and given $100 to spend in a hardware store, they seemed to get more in touch with their creative juices and came up with some pretty interesting assemblage works. The task allowed them greater freedom to let their imagination run riot--and to have more fun.

Continuing problems with the show, for me:

1) The by-now familiar "survivor" format of the reality television show is geared to create purely artificial tensions and brings out the worst aspects of competition under pressure;

2) the hideous background music, scored to heighten tension and stimulate the purely artificial drama;

3) the time constraints. Whoever heard of artists working under such absurd and, again, artificial constraints, which have more to do with the requirements of the "show" than with the creative process;

4) a set-up that in effect reverses what I think of as the artist's way of working, where the impetus and the driving force come from within. I suppose you could argue that the Italian Renaissance artists were given "assignments" by their patrons, clerical or laic. But we are not living in the Renaissance; and their deadlines were not quite so immediate!

5) A judging system which cannot but be influenced by considerations other than the quality of work. I can't believe that race and gender don't play a role in the decisions, not considerations of personalities and the drama they engender.

That said, the judges this week did manage to come up with some slightly more intelligent and penetrating insights. I'll keep watching. In the meantime, I'm wondering if others are keeping an eye on this series, and what they think about it. I'm sure that many artists, like myself, are fully aware that there's a lot of judgment about "art as reality TV" to be suspended before we can start having fun. The show has really little to do with the art world that I know and love. It has more to do with television, which I love a good deal less.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Cloud Nine

Have you seen this movie? It's not an easy, but a good one, about love and sex in later life. If interested, I've just posted a review on The Buddha Diaries. Thanks for checking in. More "persistence" to come...!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Stepping Back, Stepping Out, Stepping Up

There are moments in life when it becomes necessary to leave certain parts of one’s previously-established self behind, in order to make space for something new. So it is with me, at this moment; and this week I have been engaged in that sometimes painful necessity.

Let me explore, first, the positive aspect of this moment of transition. Since the publication, at the beginning of this year, of “Persist: In Praise of the Creative Spirit in a World Gone Mad with Commerce,” I have watched a new path opening up for me. In a couple of months as of this writing, I will be celebrating my 74th birthday—embarking, then, on my 75th year, my third quarter century on this planet—and I consider myself fortunate indeed at this moment to be at the start of a new adventure.

What the book has done for me is to create a whole new sense of myself as a writer. As I have reiterated on many previous occasions, I have known since the age of twelve that this was what I wanted to be—that this, indeed, was what I was supposed to be doing with the life I had been given; but like so many of my fellows—like the vast majority of creative people, I fear—I chose other paths to earn a living, pay the bills, raise a family… those things that constitute a rich and a full life. After a privileged education, I went into education. I climbed the academic ladder until my fiftieth year. Then I quit. (I seem to do these things by quarter centuries!) I chose to be the writer I had nurtured only as secondary to my academic profession.

This is another privilege granted me: I have been that writer ever since. Along the way, I have been other things—I have been an active member of a fine organization of men, growing in the work of understanding first myself, then, more and more, others and learning how to be of service to them. I have been a student of the dharma, the teachings of the Buddha. I have become a grandfather, three times over. Above all, though, I have been a writer, both happy and in many ways successful in that role.

What has led, then, to the change of which I speak? I have published enough books to know that, when a book comes out, the person most fully responsible to make it known is none other than its author. No one else will do it for you, or will do it as well. And this time that responsibility took the form of offering myself as a public speaker, in forums in which I could pass on the book’s message—and, of course, hopefully get a few copies sold.

I dreaded the prospect. I love the engagement with words, but I have always sat at a safe distance from my audience, behind the typewriter for many years and, more recently, behind the computer screen. I could change and edit, get the words right. By contrast, even during many years as a teacher, I never learned to be comfortable standing up in front of an audience and speaking. When invited, I would read, not speak. I offer that explanation to my audience at the start, that I am a writer, not a speaker: for this reason, I choose to read what I have to say.

Well and good. But the very first sponsor of my post-publication events made it clear to me: you’re invited to speak. We have a sophisticated audience, and they do not like their guests to read from notes…

The familiar panic set in. I prepared pages and pages of notes. I tried to get so familiar with them in advance that I could virtually “read” them without looking down. And then… the miracle happened. I began to discover—and more so, once I had a few speaking gigs behind me—that my pages of notes shrank to fewer and fewer. I began to discover that I could actually do this well, that it was actually a thoroughly enjoyable experience. (My “educated” English accent helped! Friends assured me that it really didn’t matter what kind of nonsense I was talking, people would believe it to be admirably intelligent just because it sounded that way, to American ears!) I discovered, in a word—no pun intended!—a whole new medium to work with.

I have a mission. I discovered, back when I started with the men’s work in which I have been involved these many years, that it was important to formulate that mission in an actual statement, a nutshell summary of the work we are assigned to do when we are given the lives we lead. My mission statement has been modified over the years, but I feel comfortable with its current formulation: I mediate harmony in the world by getting to the heart of the matter. My medium for realizing this mission is the skill I have learned with words. For my whole life until this most recent publication I have exercised that skill a writer. Now I have discovered that I have a whole new medium at my disposal. I can speak.

This, then, is the new adventure I am embarked upon. And let me be clear: it’s not just the speaking, it’s the dedication to the message that, I hope, has been made clear in the preceding paragraphs. Because the new talent I have discovered so recently results not only from a carefully honed skill with words but also, more importantly, in my belief in the truth of what I have to say. If the words come easily, it’s because they come not just from the rational, thinking brain, but from the heart.

To return, then, to my starting point. This new adventure, this new self requires time, space, and energy to blossom into its full potential. It’s not just the minutes in the day or the hours in the week—though that’s a part of it. I’m talking about a kind of mind-space, an identity space into which a new, and hopefully more fully evolved person can be born. For that to happen, I determined that I needed to abandon certain parts of me that were occupying the space that was now needed. I needed to divest myself of certain cherished identities, certain assumptions about who I was, in order to become the new person that I am now striving to be. I realize that this might sound confusing, but I can’t explain it any more clearly, even to myself.

So that what I set out to do this past week. It was not easy. I wrote to a small number of people to whom I had made commitments, or near-commitments, for commissioned texts for art catalogues, and withdrew from my commitment. One of the lessons that was drilled into me as a child was that you unfailingly keep your word, you do not “let people down.” I had to struggle with the knowledge that I was, indeed, letting people down by reneging on an agreement. It was not easy. Why not, you may ask—I asked myself—why not simply fulfill these last commitments before moving on? The answer I found when I consulted with the inner oracle was at once irrefutable and difficult to accept: I had already moved on.

An identity that was harder still to step out of was the one I have carried, with great reward, for many years. It was exactly eighteen years ago, to the month, in June, 1992, that I experienced the training weekend that literally changed my life and led me to the place in which I stand today. I arrived at that weekend, as one participant later described it, “shrink-wrapped.” I left like a cracked egg, already in the process of being hatched. In the intervening years I have sat in numerous circles of men, safe spaces in which I have learned immeasurably about my fears and joys, about the potential of a life examined rather than a life that skims the surface. I have led such groups, I have discovered powers and skills I never knew that I possessed. I have served on staff at numerous training weekends like the one I went through, with an increasing measure of responsibility and respect. I have given of my heart and soul, and received in even greater measure from the men that I have worked with.

Early in the week I called the leader with whom I had made an agreement to serve in an important capacity at the coming August weekend and withdrew from the agreement. This is an old, very good, very dear friend, a man who had served on the staff at my initial weekend. He could not—did not try to—hide his disappointment. Mid-week, I sat with the small circle of men, a fairly recently formed group of which I have been a member this past year, and announced my intention to withdraw not only from the group but also from the larger organization. I asked for a “hot seat,” to be challenged for the integrity of my decision, and was granted that opportunity. With my feet held to the fire, I was constrained to recognize, uncomfortably, the dark side of my intention—the part that operates in shadows of consciousness, not wishing to be seen.

Just yesterday, I received a call from a leader in the Los Angeles community of the ManKind Project, a deeply personal call in which he expressed regret that we had somehow never served together on a weekend, along with the wish that it might happen, yet, in August. I found myself challenged yet again, in the best possible way: could I not at least fulfill the commitment I had made, and retire from the work with the dignity of having, so to speak, completed my current obligations? The shadow rose again—that old fear of not meeting the expectations of others and the risk of losing their respect and love. My friend did not allow me to get away with it. I was obliged to take responsibility for my decision without excuses and without regret.

So yes, there is a shadow side to this, and I need to keep it in front of me, where I can see it. I have learned that if I allow it to fall behind me, out of sight, it can control my actions without my knowing it. Here’s my story: my name is Peter. I was called Peter by my Anglican priest father because I was born on the Feast of St. Peter’s Chains, and the name is more to me than just a name. The Biblical Peter, if you recall, was both “the rock”—on which the church was later built—and the betrayer. His shadow emerged with a vengeance on that night in Gethsemane. He realized it too late, only when the cock had crowed three times.

This is my truth, then: I have both Peters in me, both the rock and the betrayer. My struggle is not to deny the latter, but to keep him constantly in mind. With decisions of the kind that I have made this week, at moments of transition, it’s vital to step from rock to rock in this stream of life. It’s vital, stepping away from those identities that have served me well, to commit myself firmly to the new one. What does the rock have to teach us if not, surely, to “persist”?

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Who saw...

... the first episode in the series "The Next Great Artist"? What did you think? Problem, so far as I'm concerned, is that most of the artists--and the judges--were far from "next." They seemed, on the contrary, very conventional in their understanding of what art is all about, and in the way they go about making it. This LA Times review by Christopher Knight, unfortunately, nails it.

(I have to say that my question of the week--are you too tough, too easy on yourself?--has not thus far generated very much response. Any takers out there?)

A Creativity Blog

I had a great conversation, yesterday, with Rick DiBiasio over at Middle Aged Crazy ("the place to release your creative beast"!) Rick's site opens a whole host of possibilities and embraces a variety of media and creative thinking. I liked, particularly, this illustrated talk by Daniel Pink, and Rick's own essay on Leonardo and what he calls "Grace." I could use some of the energy condensed in this resourceful blog. Check it out! Subscribe! (I did.)

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

I Missed the Money Part...

I talk a lot both here on Persist: The Blog and in the book, "Persist," about the way in which traditional creative values are skewed by celebrity and money. In the story I relayed to you below, as the first entry of the day, I spotted the irony about celebrity, but completely missed the money part. The total of $32 left in the musician's hat are a poignant and, yes, deeply ironical reminder of how the monetary values we associate with art get skewed. How much are we willing to pay to support our artists? How much, as creative people, do we expect--or deserve--to get paid for our work? Should the quality of the work we do or the reach of our reputation be proportionate to our financial return? Is it possible to make this happen? Read on, below, and get lost in these speculations! Confusion awaits!

Slow Down, Listen...

Here's a story I received from my friend Michael last night. I had in fact heard about this remarkable event before, but it bears repeating. Why does it belong here on Persist: The Blog? Not because it addresses the current question about whether we're too tough or too easy on ourselves, but rather because it's a healthy reminder of how much we miss of artistic value in the way we rush through life. It was Grace Slick who sang, famously, Feed your head. I say we to often forget to feed our souls.


In Washington, DC , at a Metro Station, on a cold January morning in 2007, this man with a violin played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time, approximately 2,000 people went through the station, most of them on their way to work. After about 3 minutes, a middle-aged man noticed that there was a musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds, and then he hurried on to meet his schedule.

About 4 minutes later:
The violinist received his first dollar. A woman threw money in the hat and, without stopping, continued to walk.

At 6 minutes:
A young man leaned against the wall to listen to him, then looked at his watch and started to walk again.

At 10 minutes:
A 3-year old boy stopped, but his mother tugged him along hurriedly. The kid stopped to look at the violinist again, but the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk, turning his head the whole time. This action was repeated by several other children, but every parent - without exception - forced their children to move on quickly.

At 45 minutes:
The musician played continuously. Only 6 people stopped and listened for a short while. About 20 gave money but continued to walk at their normal pace. The man collected a total of $32.

After 1 hour:
He finished playing and silence took over. No one noticed and no one applauded. There was no recognition at all.

No one knew this, but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the greatest musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written, with a violin worth $3.5 million dollars. Two days before, Joshua Bell sold-out a theater in Boston where the seats averaged $200 each to sit and listen to him play the same music.

This is a true story. Joshua Bell, playing incognito in the D.C. Metro Station, was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste and people's priorities.

This experiment raised several questions:
*In a common-place environment, at an inappropriate hour, do we perceive beauty?
*If so, do we stop to appreciate it?
*Do we recognize talent in an unexpected context?

One possible conclusion reached from this experiment could be this:
If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best
musicians in the world, playing some of the finest music ever written,
with one of the most beautiful instruments ever made . . .

How many other things are we missing as we rush through life?

There's another point to reflect on here. Celebrity has become one of the hallmarks of success but here's an instance where celebrity proved meaningless, simply because it was not recognized as such.

Have a great day!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Hello, Friends...

... and welcome to a new question for debate on Persist: The Blog. It's this: As a creative person, are you too tough on yourself? Too easy? Or have you found the right balance? For me, it's always a fine line. I'll be talking more about it later in the week. Meantime, I value your thoughts and your experience. Just use Twitter (the question will be posted in a little while) or my Facebook wall, or send a more extended piece to the email link in the right sidebar. I'll be sure to post anything that's not deliberately obscene or gratuitously insulting!

Friday, June 4, 2010


... just a note, this morning, to say that I'm back from my vacation. I plan to get back to work on Persist: The Blog, and hope that you'll rejoin me in the effort, whether on Twitter, Facebook, or via direct email. I'll value your thoughts on these not-quite-random questions about the creative life. This is your last chance on the fine art/commercial art distinction. In a couple of days, we'll be moving on to a new topic. I trust that you'll stay tuned.