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posts related to personal stories of overcoming fear

Born Every Minute – Creativity at the Circus

Big Apple Circus - Lift

Creative Commons License photo credit: Bob Jagendorf

Once upon a time, I ran away to join the circus. Not a big-top-style circus with elephants and lion-tamers, but a circus nonetheless. And no, I’m not speaking figuratively. About 11 years ago, when we still lived in Canada, I got a call from an old friend who asked me if I would be interested in moving to Europe and playing piano in a show that he had been working in for a while, for pretty good money. The catch was that I had to be there the following week.

If that’s not a test-your-fearlessness moment, I don’t know what is.

As it happened, my then-girlfriend (now my wife) and I had ‘put the idea out there’ not long before that we would like to do some more traveling. But not in the backpack-and-railpass kind of way – we’d done a fair bit of that already; we were interested in living and working somewhere else for a while. And here was an opportunity to do exactly that.

So we took the plunge and, although much water has flowed under many bridges since then, we are still living in Germany a decade later. And while I left that particular show 6 years ago, I find myself working for a very similar outfit again now, and it’s given me a few things to think about – yet another lens through which to look at the endless subject of creativity through… More

Personal (Creative) Development

Pili Palas Nature World - butterflies chrysalis

Creative Commons License photo credit: smlp.co.uk

Well hello there fearless friends. I know it’s been a while since our last fireside chat, and I do apologize for that. It’s been kind of a wacky time here, part of  a rather strange and transformative year (and it ain’t over yet!). So, what’s been going on since our last installment?

Well, first of all I turned 40, which involved a lot more thinking and soul-searching than I really anticipated. I also went through an intense spurt of writing on the still-unfinished-but-really-actually-proceeding Cliffjump Manifesto. More on this shortly.

Then rehearsals for my big winter show started. It’s a circus/cabaret kind of thing, not my highest calling in the world but I’ve done it before and I know the terrain. Plus: the band is absolutely top-drawer, I needed to reconnect with playing, and frankly I also needed to make a bit of money for a while to stabilize things around here. There are certainly worse jobs! But the rehearsals are pretty intense and all-consuming.

Finally, I had a bike accident riding home from said rehearsals one day, and managed to dislocate my left thumb. No serious damage, nothing fractured or torn, so it’s not an outright disaster – I was able to return to playing, if a bit gingerly in the left hand parts, fairly quickly. But it was certainly a bit of a reminder that I am a vulnerable human being and need to keep that in focus even as I try to push the envelope a little, which of course is part of the goal with this site and this work.

Authority or Authenticity?

Which brings me to my point for today. During all the aforementioned soul-searching, I began to realize that I perhaps have a tendency to try to present myself here (and in life in general, for that matter) as Having It All Figured Out. You know, being a totally together, highly evolved person. I’m concerned about this.

In an attempt to make these posts helpful, informative and worthwhile I have put a lot into them, but I have also adopted a somewhat professorial tone (hey, I come by it honestly: my father’s a retired professor, and we do tend to try to emulate our role models), maintaining a detached and distant tone in the interests of authority – but at the expense, perhaps, of authenticity.

So here’s the deal. I’m not fearless at all. Not remotely. I touch on this in the About page, but I’m not sure if anyone really reads those, and I figure it’s good to get it out in the open here. I try not to let fear dominate my life, but if I’ve given the impression that I’ve conquered it entirely, or that I believe I have, I apologize… the truth, as usual, is a bit more complicated than that. More

Enduring Creativity: what marathons have taught me about creative energy

Paris Marathon
Creative Commons License photo credit: Josiah Mackenzie

I recently trained for and ran my 5th marathon, and as often happens since I started this blog, I began to think about what the experience might offer in terms of creative insight. I’ve written recently about the joy of creativity – about how good it can feel when it’s going well. This post will continue this theme, but also form a bit of a segue into what to do when it isn’t going so well…

(The title appeals to me because it contains a nice double entendre: the positive spin is that we are searching for and moving towards a lasting kind of creativity, a lifelong habit that brings joy and fulfillment to our lives and the lives of others; the flipside is that creativity can sometimes feel like an ordeal, something that must be endured, cannot be avoided. We just have to muscle through it somehow. The reality, at least in my experience, is somewhere in between, or more precisely a bit of both…)

I’ve noticed that sports and athletic metaphors are used quite often in talking about creativity. Perhaps setting the complexities of the creative mind against the different and somewhat simpler backdrop of physical activity makes it easier to observe and notice patterns.

Running, which happens to be my sport of choice, seems particularly fruitful as a metaphor, especially when tackling the thorny subject of creative burnout… More

Homecoming…

berlin104_b
Creative Commons License photo credit: gildas_f

This is more of an update post than anything, just a quick note to let people know I’m back in Berlin after a couple of months away. It was a dense summer, there was a lot going on in both our families… but we have made it back intact and are settling into our routines, such as they are.

Actually, speaking of routines, I have just published a guest post for Mike Cliffe-Jones TransGlobe Blog project, which is a neat idea where bloggers from all over the world give a kind of ‘slice of life’ of wherever they are and how they spend their days.

My own entry is typically rambling but I think it gives a good impression of what goes on around here on an average day, as if there were ever such a thing. You can find it here:

TransGlobe Blog Project

Alternately, if you’ve just arrived from there, even better! Welcome, make yourself at home and have a look around the archives or ‘best of’ collection (links at right) to see what this place is all about…

I should have things up and running a bit more smoothly and bring the post frequency back up a little in the coming days; I’ve got a couple of interesting things on deck, so I hope you’ll bear with me…

Have a fascinating day!

Creativity and Collaboration

Rainbow Double with Beach Sunset

Creative Commons License photo credit: johnnyalive

So, as mentioned in the last post I spent some time with a number of old friends last week, and several of those I also count among the more creative people I’ve had the privilege of knowing over the years.

Today I’d like to be a bit more specific about this… and take the opportunity to talk about something I haven’t really touched on yet in these pages: collaborative creativity.

In many ways I am a fairly solitary creator much of the time, but as a performing musician I also find myself in collaborative situations quite frequently. Moreover, I have maintained a number of highly fruitful long-term associations with particularly gifted and creative musicians. One of these is my friend Ed Roman.

I visited Ed last week and we spent two days in the studio laying down some tracks for his new album. Although my involvement in the project ended a bit prematurely (due to a dental emergency), it was productive and inspirational and drew my attention to a few aspects of collaboration that seem worth exploring here…
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On Creativity and Travel…

Früher als Züge noch echte Fenster hatten

Creative Commons License photo credit: Helmuth Wasserfest

I am writing this on a train, around the midway point on a journey from Montreal to Toronto. Trees and farms whiz by my window, accompanied by the familiar sounds (clickety clack! clickety clack! And an occasional whistle blast…) and the gentle back-and-forth movement.

I love traveling by train and do a lot of it in my adopted home of Germany; less so here in Canada, as there are fewer places to go by train and life seems to be organized much more around cars. We don’t even have a car in Berlin, in fact we’ve never even considered having one there.

Actually I love traveling just about any way – trains, planes (I’ve waxed nostalgic elsewhere about the magic of looking down on clouds), boats (especially sailboats), on foot, by bicycle, or even by car – I like a good road trip as much as the next guy/gal. I’ve even ridden elephants and camels when the opportunity presented itself; more on that shortly.

I suppose I have traveled more than a lot of people, though that has never been a goal per se; certainly I am a featherweight by the standards of someone like Chris Guillebeau. But compared to most people that grew up in the small Ontario town I did, or others like it all over the world, I’ve seen a few places (I’m up to 25 countries or so now, some extensively). And of course I have made my home for over ten years in a country and culture far from my own.

Has this impacted my creative life and work? Undoubtedly. Has it made me more creative? Or has my natural inclination towards the creative worldview also predisposed me towards making the most of travel opportunities? Hard to say. In any case it is part of my creative life… More