A few days ago I wrote a blog post about ways to jumpstart your dreams. One of my main points was that few people really know what they’re doing. I am one of those people. Not the few, but the type that doesn’t know what she’s doing. However, after publishing that article, I got an email from someone telling me that it might be true that a lot of people don’t know how to do what they desire, but that clearly I am not one of those people. This email asserted that I clearly know what I’m doing and life seems so easy for me.
Wait one minute. Let me stop you in your tracks as I was stopped in mine. If, I thought, I have given anyone the impression that I know what I’m doing, then I am not doing my job. I want to break down these myths that living the artist life is easy and that I have things handed to me. None of that is true and may never be true for me. So let’s get real.
I wake up every single day and have to make decisions about what I will spend my time working on. I don’t know if those things will ever pay off, if anyone will like them, or if they will in fact hurt me. I wake up with no one telling me what to do and no one guiding me down this path. I have few people to look toward as example. This is not a complaint. These are the things that make me excited to be alive. But at the same time, they are also what put doubt in my mind.
In a single day I will feel immense pride at going my own way and not having a clue about how to do that. What feels like inevitability, I also have the opposite thoughts; that I will never figure it out and that I might as well give up before I begin. I find myself struggling to motivate myself to create without a clear end goal. I feel inadequate at the simplest tasks.
I remind myself everyday that we can’t all be great at everything. I watch people online who seem to be amazing at all that they do, but I tell myself those are the highlight reels. My life is filled with them and utterly devoid of them, depending on the day.
I sit and stare at to-do lists that grow a mile long and I both cower at that and am empowered by that. Other days I stare at a blank page with nothing to do on it and I can’t, for the life of me, figure out what to write. Where to start. What to begin. It is hard as a dream chaser to know what to do all the time or how to do it or what it will end up being. All we can do is try. All we can do on some days is stare at that blank page and surrender yourself to the process. Or stare at your to do list and choose what makes your heart sing that particular day to complete.
In no particular order, these are the things I don’t know how to do: taxes, make coffee, bake, organize my office, not watch Harry Potter when I’m having a bad day, successfully submit to all the galleries I like, win awards, update the most basic settings on my blog, a headstand, whistle, etc…
Quite literally as I was writing that list my husband walked in and said, entirely coincidentally, “It’s time you learned how to whistle.” We tried for 15 minutes to no avail. He even drew diagrams to tell me how to shape my lips. He told me that within an hour I would learn, but I told him I was writing an article about the things I can’t do and to try again later. Back to the point…
Do you know what the most encouraging thing in the world is? Knowing that we all started knowing nothing. Everyone who can make coffee started out not knowing how to make coffee, and now they can. (I can make a mean tea though. I’m a pro at boiling water.) Both of these statements are true: I know more than you and I know less than you. You know more than me and less than me. We know different things and we are constantly learning different skills. Instead of being discouraged thinking about how much other people know, think about how they got there. They learned. They grew in their craft. And it might be frustrating and intimidating to not know what you’re doing, but that’s life. We start out not knowing anything and then we know something. Try. Try so hard at what you want. Make it up as you go along. Take steps that might send you flying backward, but at least you can set out again with a little more know-how.
I leave you with this quote from Henry David Thoreau. It speaks to our desire to both know the world around us yet also to keep it a mystery. We need to be challenged. We need to not know. We need to search. So let us do so in pursuit of our dreams. Is that not the greatest possible life?
“We need the tonic of wildness…At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be indefinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us…”
Image: “Blind Beginnings”, modeled by Jen Brook.
Photographed in Iceland June 2015.
For you who have chosen to dive deep with the creatures we cannot name
or you who never chose to fall so far but caught a wisp of cloud on the way down,
For you who takes a lifetime to say Yes after No has stolen your voice
and you who must die a fiery death to be reborn the whole piece you were searching for.
We are the seekers who find ourselves in the cloak of darkness where we know Creativity is born
and the builders who dig deeper than dirt to find the pillars of our strength,
We are the many and the few who are alone and all at once encompassed by solidarity.
We search for moments that rip us apart so that we feel alive.
We search for the switch that turns time slower so that we can replay the hideous and beautiful.
For you who cannot speak out loud the names that you wish you had been assigned
or you who looks behind your shoulder every morning to make sure your shadow obeys,
and you who falls to bruised knees to beg for a chance that long passed you by.
To us who need to turn the page and see nothing written but the space to write –
To us who close a book and wish we had never opened it for ending inspiration –
To us who have fallen deep into the plagiarisms of other author’s stories –
And to us who have begun and have been told too many times to end –
I tend to be a very decisive person. I make decisions quickly and easily and I commit to them 100%. My closest friends, save for my husband, are just the opposite. It works out quite well, because they let me make decisions that we are all comfortable with. Trust me, there’s give and take. But by having those friends it has made me wonder what separates someone who has full confidence from someone who doesn’t.
I asked 5 friends to tell me if they trust themselves, and 4 of those people said that they trust other people more than themselves. I am that 1 in 5. I trust myself completely. I trust others very little. This might have something to do with confidence.
But in the end, it comes down to this simple notion. I believe that what I want will happen.
Some people see roadblocks as walls that can never be torn down. But I must ask, what in this world is permanent? What walls have we ever come across that we couldn’t get through, over, around, or take down completely? Nothing is permanent, not our successes, not our failures, not our confidence or insecurities. So why do we fiercely hold on to the idea that failure is imminent and success is not achievable?
Simple. It feels better than getting your hopes up and having them dashed.
Sometimes I wonder if I’m delusional. I say this because, no matter how far-fetched of an idea I have, I believe it will come true with such ferocity that I believe it has already happened. It’s just that time is a funny thing and I have yet to see it through.
The journey must come first,
but that doesn’t make the destination any less real.
How can we begin to talk ourselves out of giving up before we begin?
Remember that nothing is permanent. We are all in a state of flux and will continue to be until we die. People, places, experiences will come into our lives and leave them. Each of those things will teach us a lesson. Let them. Let them come. And know that if you want something, you must let it come when it will come.
Remember that timelines are arbitrary. Just because you feel, based on your comparison to those around you, that you should achieve something by a certain time doesn’t mean that you will. And if you don’t, that doesn’t mean that you’ve failed. Work harder and work longer. Let yourself fail a thousand times if you must before your desired outcome shows itself. The risk is worth it.
Believe that what you want has already happened. Decide on something you want to go for. Now visualize yourself in the midst of your success.
Believe in magic, but not as a replacement for hard work. Once you know your dream, work backwards from there. Figure out the layers that go into making the dream come true. Think of it like a cake. You see this amazing cake in a store window and you want to make one of your own. You can visualize what it looks like. You can even smell the raspberry filling. But simply envisioning it doesn’t make it real. You have to think about the ingredients that go into that cake – where will you get them, how fresh will they be, what colors will you use, what tools will best serve you? And only then, once your plan is in place, can you begin to build your dream.
Few people actually know what they are doing. If I have learned anything as a photographer, writer and speaker, it is that the people who are doing the most amazing things don’t have a roadmap. They have a lot of confidence, a great idea, and the willpower to see it through. Most don’t have a million followers, “industry connections” or a ton of money. Never make the mistake of thinking that you are alone in being lost. We are all lost. It’s just that some people thrive off of it.
Next time you find yourself down and out because you are convinced that you won’t be the next Oprah, settle. Remember to stop anticipating your final discovery. Remember to trust yourself. Believe. Dream. And build the foundation on which you can rise to meet your expectations.
There are mountains of words that I can see in the distance spilling over one another like an avalanche. They move in slow motion as I stand far away but I know that up close they tumble like a frantic waterfall pushing dead leaves over the edge. I am moving toward it, scared of being trapped under it, wondering if I’ll suffocate or break free. This is how I feel in the aftermath.
Promoting Passion 2016 has just ended. I road tripped home for two days when it came to a close and this is my first day settling into my new self. Have you ever attended an event that changed you so utterly? My inside are breathing heavy. They want to break free from my body. I want to let them.
To be moved and to move. To hold close and look strangers in the tears. To know that you are the same and different. To embrace those similarities and differences. This is what the Promoting Passion Convention has been to me. For three days myself and 140 other creatives gathered in a castle in between red rocks and Aspens to commune. We attended workshops where we were filled with courage to let our creativity break free. We listened to lectures where we were empowered by other people’s stories. We partook in panel discussions where silly anecdotes turned into magical handouts of permission to be ourselves. We took pictures, we made pictures, we wrote stories and we told stories. We were like one moving body and 140 moving minds, working together to inform each individual of the life that could be waiting.
Planning the event was hard work made easier from knowing that my dream is to inspire. Attending the event was more confronting than I imagined. I found myself asking the difficult questions, like: How do I move on from the superficial creating process to the soul-burning way of making art that makes me genuinely uncomfortable? What do I want to say? What do I need to say? How do I need to say it?
I am home now with so many new paths lined up. I don’t know which I’ll take or if I will take a different one. What I know is this: they are clear to me now when before there were walls. I will move forward in my bravery unlike any other time in my life. I will strike my chord on the greatest journey.
Sometimes our journeys take us to unexpected places. When I started photography I would have laughed at the idea of flying to London to photograph an opera singer. Me? No way, that’s for fancy people! But then it happened just a few short months after being contacted by Warner Classic Music, and the images are here to share!
There is only one word that adequately describes working with Joyce DiDonato: infectious. In the best way possible. Her enthusiasm, positive attitude, and desire to push the boundaries is the most infectious bubble of joy, and I was very honored to be inside that bubble. The more we worked together, the more we understood each other and the message we needed to communicate. When it came time to do the photo shoot I was supposed to produce eight images. Thirty or more pictures later, and I had caught the bug. I always get carried away.
Smoke bombs, high powered fans, exploding flowers, and studio lights (say what?!) made up the creative shoot that day. In a beautiful little nook in London we created art from morning until the sun literally went down on us. I was nervous, as I always am, that I would not live up to the artist everyone was expecting. But with such an amazing team, including Bethany Alderson on hair/makeup, I knew that I was supported as well. The key with commercial shoots is to always reassure yourself that you were chosen for a reason, so best to do what you love and do it with passion or not at all.
For the photo shoot we went from peace to war throughout the day, changing Joyce’s wardrobe and makeup to gradually become more sinister and dark. The makeup was applied lightly at first and then more and more until she was the embodiment of the darker parts of the world. Flowing, elegant poses turned into smoldering, fierce eyes and resolute fists in the air. It was gorgeous to watch that transition and see how Joyce truly became the character she is creating in her music.
The team was on board with my weird, wacky ideas. As we continued shooting I got more and more ideas, each time asking shyly: “I have this idea, but it’s a little weird…”. Most of my strange requests start off this way. And each time Joyce met them with confidence and excitement.
I hope that you enjoy this collaboration and that you’ll listen to her music. She is truly doing magnificent things with her passion. Her album, In War & Peace, comes out November 4th and is available for pre-order.
Take a look at her website to see behind the scenes videos as well as more images from the shoot.