My dictionary defines Depression as:

severe despondency and dejection, typically felt over a period of time and accompanied by feelings of hopelessness and inadequacy.

I wish I could say I have no idea what this feels like, but unfortunately I’m all too familiar. In fact, I’ve dealt with depression intimately ever since my early 20’s. Hell, maybe even before. I was pretty emotional even as a kid. Then again, what kid wasn’t emotional?

There’s a medical definition as well, but it’s basically the same as the one I’ve just given, with some more specifics. I’m not going to argue with Merriam-Webster, but I’d like to propose an alternative definition to depression.

Depression, as I see it, is exactly what it is: a depressing, a closing in, a shutting off. It is so debilitating because it causes its host to do the opposite of what it was designed to do: to open up, to expand, to bloom. All energy is by its very nature expansive, and wanting to go out. Depression is the perverse opposite of this: a withdrawing in – but not in a way that serves the Being, but in a way that blocks it.

I wish I could say I knew the quick and easy cure. I could go on about emotions being like storm clouds, about how it’s all in one’s perception, but what good would that do? I’m not here to solve problems.

I like to think I’m not alone, however. In this big, scary, wonderful world, I like to think there’s others out there who knows what this contracting feeling is like – just as they know what the expanding feeling is like. I’d like to connect with those people – to get to know them by name, and to see what they’re all about. Not so we can commiserate with each other, NO! But so that we can begin to help each other. So that we can get out of the unnatural closing feeling, and get into the natural opening feeling.

Maybe we could go all the way to the other end of the spectrum. To a place where we’re open and blooming. That’s the way we’re supposed to be, it seems to me.

Manic Expressive.

Information vs. Innovation

Real innovation comes from having the courage to sound like yourself. There’s a catch, though. Part of sounding like yourself is knowing what “you” sounds like. And you can’t know that until you listen to a few Others who already know what they sound like.

I’ve always been kind of envious of those who seem to be really good at assimilating bits and pieces of these Others. I guess that’s mostly because I always run into cats who seem to have more of a knack for assimilating than I do.

I’ve done a bit of assimilating, and I’m sure I’ll do more. But right now what intrigues me is the idea of working with what I’ve got. In other words, sounding more like myself.

It can be all too easy to have a hard time finding out what you sound like because you’re so concerned with properly sounding like someone else. As far as I can see, the only antidote for that is stopping acquiring more information – getting back to a Space inside of us that is uniquely ours.

I imagine it would go in a Cycle: Learn, Forget, Learn, Forget, Learn, Forget. The more complex the task, the more there is to learn – and therefore, of course, the more there is to forget.

Anything But An Artist

I’ve never felt inclined to do anything I’m “supposed” to do. “Supposed to” meaning  it’s not coming from me, but from somewhere or someone else.

I believe a lot of Artists fall into this trap. I’m a painter, I’m “supposed” to paint. I’m an actor, I’m “supposed” to try to get casted. I’m a musician, I’m “supposed” to eat, sleep, and breathe music.

The problem is one of over-identification. We stop knowing when our painting, acting, and music-ing is coming from a deep, true place inside of us, and when it is coming from what we believe is expected of us.

If you’re reading this and you’re someone who’s never felt that your Art was not naturally emerging from a place deep within yourself, unaffected by all external forces, then feel free to ignore this entry. I can’t pretend to know anything about you or your creative process.

I’ve always, and still do, rebelled against any notion that all Artists are these unstoppable forces who hold some kind of impenetrable compass that never fails to guide them in the direction of their creative star. If you’re stuck, you must be lazy. If you’re not producing, you’re not productive. If you don’t know exactly where you’re going, you’re misguided and you need a reality check.

If I’m going to write, or play, or create anything at all, I’ll do it because it damn well pleases me. I’ll do it because there’s nothing I’d rather do. I’ll do it because I’m compelled. Call me lazy, call me nonproductive, call me a poser. Go ahead, call me anything but an Artist.

Do it, why? Because I’m supposed to? No, thank you.

Reaching A Higher Level: Understand That Life Has “Layers” And “Seasons”

In order to reach a higher level at any Art, skill, Craft, Vision, stage of life, or Way of Being than one is currently at, one must have the discipline to “chunk away” at it, every day, until that higher level is reached.

I have a theory that this discipline doesn’t originate in a vacuum. I believe that it comes from a burning or insatiable desire to continue this process even through times of seeing few to no results. There must be a Light At The End Of The Tunnel, a strong feeling of what it would be like to get there, accompanied by a sense that one must Get There at all costs.

This feeling must be strong enough to last through disappointments, plateaus, and any forms of Resistance. It must represent a pull towards the Higher Level, one that overrides what Stephen Pressfield calls “lower natures”.

Whoever is on this path understands that, to go from the current level to the Higher Level could take an uncomfortably long amount of time. Furthermore, they would have to have the mentality of “chunking away” every single day. This part is especially important – the best way to build momentum when working towards a Higher Level is to take no days off.

None of this is overwhelming to the person truly on the path. He or she knows what she wants, and he or she is okay with never stopping.

Now here comes the “Big But”: but what if this feeling isn’t present? But what if the direction is unclear? But what if the desire is not so fiery?

Well, then, maybe the context needs to be re-examined. If that fire in the belly just isn’t there, if no path is visible, then maybe it makes sense to not be so concerned about that Higher Level.

Yes, human beings are built to evolve, to reach fuller and fuller versions of our potential. But what if this process was not always an active one? What if it unfolded in seasons, and there were seasons when specific action should be taken, and seasons when less action is better?

For anyone thinking about Visions and Higher Levels and evolution, it might seem counterintuitive to consider that to not have a plan could be a feasible way of doing things. But Life, like an onion, is a many-layered thing. Just because action is not being taken within one’s idea of the Art, skill, Craft, or Vision, does not mean action can’t be taken in other areas. There is a time to take action in non-Craft related areas, just as there is a time to focus on the Craft and let everything else fall by the wayside.

Maybe the best time to get down to the nitty gritty stuff that all Artists hate but that we must all face and do at some point is when we are not really feeling the grind. What if the Craft were just one layer in the onion, rather than the onion itself?

Yes, discipline is essential. Yes, it’s important to not skip a day. But what may be even more important is understanding that Life is Life. Sometimes it does make sense to stop, and trust that something will rush in to fill the void – for a season.


The sort of individuals who have had the biggest effect on me have been the kind of people who were the least concerned with having an effect. Their presence was big, through no effort on their part. If they were musicians, people listened, if they were artists, people looked. If they were teachers, people learned.

In Nashville, Tennessee, I ran into a couple of musicians who I perceived to have a big effect on not just me, but other folks as well, and who did so through a medium that was bigger than their music. Maybe “medium” is the wrong word. I like to think of it as “Gravity.”

This “Gravity” seemed to be magnetic, in a way. If I was to say where it came from, I could only use metaphysical terms like “well-grounded” or “character,”  but that wouldn’t paint the whole picture. But whatever it was, I could tell these men stood for something.

The thing that struck me the most was that they attracted people. If you were lucky enough to introduce yourself or be introduced, you felt as though they were somehow calling you to be more. When they played their songs, you were listening to them, not so much the song.

“Gravity” is earned through being a certain kind of person, not necessarily from obsession with technique or virtuosity – or any kind of isolation. You can’t separate the Music, or the Art, from the Man. But the Man is still there when the song ends.

The “Craft”

In the last entry, I discussed the two ways that Impresarios relate to their audience and to each other: 1) sharing and collaborating in Art, and 2) relating.

I focused more on the second way, “relating,” and now I’d like to talk a bit about the first way. It’s true that Impresarios must have what I called “Intimacy” – a deep identification with their fellow Impresarios, and with the audience member or members, or anyone on the receiving end of their process. But before all of that can happen, the Impresario must have a “process” in the first place.

The “process” can go by many names: the Art, the Craft, the Practice, the Discipline. I prefer Stephen Pressfield’s term “Craft”, because, to paraphrase him, the Artist cannot over-identify with the Art. Seeing the Art as a Craft helps her de-mystify it and get down to business.

So, the Impresario must have a Craft. This is the wellspring from which all else flows – all opportunities, events, karma, and relationships. If the Impresario doesn’t attend to his Craft, then there will be no Art to share.

Even the collaborative presentation of Art can’t happen without each of its collaborators having their own, individual practice, and bringing that to the table. (An exception might be an audience made of people who are not themselves practicers of the Art being presented, but who might still be participating on some level. Even here, however, these folks must be guided by the Artists or Impresarios conducting the participatory experience. So no Art form can be said to work without a Craftsman, or Craftsmen, as the driving force.)

So, bottom line, an Impresario needs a Craft. Now, his Craft might be multi-faceted, but it still needs to be there, and he needs to be attending to it on a daily basis, for it to work. This may not be news, but I thought it would be worth revisiting if only for a moment, if for nobody else but myself.

Thoughts? Send them to

“Dirty Laundry” Or Scented Sheets?: A Personal Life in the Artist’s World

In a conversation with a Duke University PhD student a few days ago, I brought up the question of the importance of a Personal Life in the Artist’s world. I was espousing that nowadays, the Artist is in need of not only a Personal Life, but a venue in which to connect with other Artists, and thus expand his or her Personal Life. I argued that such connection would have to be intimate; that is, close, vulnerable, and raw – in contrast to the more commonly accepted, traditional method of presenting the art for an audience of strangers.

The bright lady sitting across from me (a biomedical engineer) used a word which I really liked: “pockets.” She at first argued against my position, saying that an Artist doesn’t really need such a thing. She cited herself as an example, saying that she attended dance classes and taught yoga, so she already had her “social needs” filled through these “pockets.” She was also able, when engaging in them, to get her head out of the lab for a little while, a necessary way to refresh and reset. In addition, she didn’t view herself as an “Artist” in the traditional sense, because her mission is to solve a problem, to find a cure for a disease, and to do so in the most effective way possible. So she excluded herself from someone who creates something that can be interpreted subjectively, and for the purpose of relating purely on the basis of emotionality.

A bit heady I know, especially for afternoon coffee. Of course, I had a rebuttal. First off, I began, Artists have Personal Lives, which factor into the Art, to some degree. Also, it’s important to note that if your personal life is working out fine, you can disregard all of this. But for those of us who feel something lacking in that particular “pocket,” we must now choose to view the creating and presentation of Art in a different way. To me, it makes sense to now seek to, above all, make a true connection with someone who is involved in your Art process. This could be another Artist, or it could be a person viewing the Art – a fan or audience member. Really, it could be anyone. But it’s simply not enough anymore to simply present the Art, here it is, hope you enjoyed it, thanks for coming out.

To address the point about biomedical engineers, people who don’t see themselves as relying on subjectivity and emotion in their process but more on accuracy and pragmatism: I really didn’t see the two as being so different. True, Artists can afford to think more about their relationships, because so much of that “stuff” goes into their particular form of emoting (painting, writing, songwriting, and the rest). But engineers, doctors, activists, people who are out to solve a specific problem in the world, are involved in their own sort of creative process too. It may be better performed without personal “baggage” or “dirty laundry,” but it’s not like these activities function best by ignoring the experience of being human. In fact, one could argue, that being a biomedical engineer is no less fueled by a sense of the human spirit than being a musician is. Even when the biomedical engineer goes into the lab and asks her partner about his kids, and how his week is going, she is engaging on some level in an awareness of the value of social rapport. This is another way of saying, she is connecting, on a personal level, with someone who is involved in her process.

This is key when talking about the differences between the Artist and the Impresario. Both the Artist and the Impresario have “pockets” – but the Impresario truly recognizes the importance of those “pockets” not just for reasons of balancing his focus with other interests, but for the interpersonal value which they bring, which the Impresario simply cannot do without.

Thoughts? Reactions? Send them to me at Thanks for reading!