Escaping The Joplin/Hendrix Birthday Curse

May 21, 2010

Headlong into twenty-eight...

Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Kurt Cobain… the list goes on. At twenty seven, the creative brain must make a choice: to embrace its talents, or, through self-destruction and/or social conformity, escape them. The buoyancy of youthful idealism cannot be sustained. Once its intoxication, the powerful high of potential, begins to wane, it’s easy to see how a person could be drawn to the false grandeur of drugs. The latter would become even more of a temptation if the creative individual’s talents had been overindulged at a young age (ie: prodigies). Excess praise, however justified from an outside perspective, would have the dangerous effect of validating a child’s underdeveloped, self-centric understanding of reality. A child who has engaged with the world primarily through intelligent adaptation of her/his talents couldn’t help but develop an exaggerated sense of control over life. Combine this unreality with a lack of learned social empathy, and you’ve got a disaster waiting to happen.

There’s more to the curse, of course, such as exhaustion, overextension, disillusionment, and THE SHOCK. When creative production has been your currency, it comes as a terrible shock to discover how widely its value can vary on the global exchange. Turns out there are plenty of people who don’t need to “produce” to feel engaged and satisfied with life – lucky bastards! Some folks… wait for it… actually thrive primarily off human interactions. Weird, I know. But then again, I’d be lost without my circle (and my G!). Can you see the conflict?

At twenty-seven, the world comes crashing in. It is no longer possible to ignore alternative worldviews, and even the acknowledgement of differing motivations can be paralyzing to someone whose self-image, if not their entire self-worth (Joplin), has been dependent on narrow self expression. For authentic creative growth at this stage in life, the individual must be willing to integrate these new universalities into her/his work. Successful integration requires a compassionate understanding of these new value systems. But how do you prioritize/balance the demands of these new systems against one’s intrinsic creative independence?

Creativity is by nature self-indulgent, being, in essence, a personality’s violent rebuttal against the known (we’ll leave death for another essay). It doesn’t take long to discover how eager the world is to intrude on our self-direction. So how does one balance these new priorities and demands being made on our energies by the differing worldviews we’ve now gone and validated through successful integration into our creative work? Once you know how much your “No” will hurt someone, how do protect your creative time without feeling like a Jerk?

As someone who can relate (possibly more than I’d like to admit) to the struggles above, all I can say is this: you know who you need to love, so love them with everything they deserve. And, if you wake up to a dismal, snow laced, May Birthday, just grab a piece of office cardstock, some multicoloured highlighters, and go prove to the world that not only did you escape the curse, but… screw it… that not all of us were put on this earth to collect Royal Dalton figurines!

(Note: not that there’s anything wrong with that…um…vocation)

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Every writer’s dream…

March 25, 2010

Card's inside caption reads: ...And Live The Dream!

It’s every writer’s dream… a free-wheeling roadtrip across Canada with nothing but your wits and words to get you from A to B to N (Alberta to B.C. to Newfoundland). As I type this, Patricia O’Neill – one of Calgary’s best storytellers – is busy whittling down her life to fit in the back of a car. She’ll be blogging her way across the country (web address coming soon!) as she winds her way through the stories, people, and places along the road. It is rare in this life to be offered a chance at true freedom, and there are too few people brave enough to grab hold of the opportunity. We’re proud of you Patricia! Go forth woman… and live the dream!

Update: You can follow Patricia’s incredible journey on her blog – Moving in the Write Direction


Two roads diverged in a yellow wood…

November 17, 2009
click through for a closer look

The tome in all its glory ~click through for a closer look~

Which would you choose? This tome was waiting for me in the middle of my desk one recent Monday morning. I’d already been offered the promotion, but the spiral bound beast of a book made it suddenly real. Robert Frost’s poem – along with my life – flashed before my eyes. Was I really going to become a geophysical technician?

Almost everyone I surveyed pushed for “Yes!” Huge pay increase, new skill-set, broader career options… how could I say no? Not to mention give up the unprecedented honour of being the first Printing Supervisor (aka Paper Roller) to ever be given the opportunity to start training up the geophysical food chain. Flattered? Yes. Tempted? Sure.

But…

There’s a reason why people say they “fell” into their jobs. Do I want a passive, accidental future? Do you? We live in an incredible era of choice. While it’s true that such freedom can be crippling – the studies have been done –  we may as well take advantage of our post-modern culture while we can. For the first time in human history, there is enough flexibility, in terms of our basic survival, for us to pursue our passions. There is a cost, of course. Once one takes an active roll in one’s future, there is that heavy, inescapable pressure of having to back up words with work – hard work. What to choose?

I said no.

What now? All I can do is keep listing to that little voice, the one that wants so badly. What’s yours whispering in your ear? Mine wants to write, to challenge, to design, to explore. I don’t know what happens from here, but I have faith in the future. And as long as I keep writing towards it, I’ll know I’m on the right road.

Note: Yes, that is Will Wheaton – aka Wesley Crusher from Star Trek TNG – straddling my office moisturizer. How does that intro go again? To boldly go where no one has gone before…  how apropos.


Liven up your fall letters with this quick and easy stationary project

November 3, 2009
Never underestimate the power of a pencil crayon

Graphic design secret: Remember to use odd numbers of each leaf

There’s still time to send off a couple of handwritten letters before the Christmas rush.  Not that you don’t have enough on your plate already, especially with that green and red Godzilla of holidays looming dark on the horizon (*), but the effect of a few heartfelt words and some pencil crayons can be just as magical for the sender as for the recipient. Of course, it’s also handy that leaves are a whole lot easier to draw (not to mention show up a lot better) than snowflakes.

Click here for time saving tips for writing and sending your own handwritten letters.

(*)Note: Do I sound a little jaded? You try staying festive (or even fully conscious!) after stocking hundreds of toxic, rubbery plastic ornaments at a Michaels Arts & Craft Store – one fateful October! And don’t even get me started on the Cinnamon scented pinecones that will haunt me till, till… oh the humanity!


How to toy with your position in the hierarchy of the universe

August 6, 2009

It was a standoff in the park. The man stood firm, arms crossed, waiting.  His dog sat ten feet away with an orange, freshly fetched Frisbee clamped tight in his jaws. Neither would budge, each waiting for the other to  submit and take that first step forward.

I put my stroll on hold to watch what would happen next. After an incredibly long and awkward ten seconds, the dog made the first move. He crossed the grass and dropped the Frisbee at his master’s feet, then sat back on his haunches and thumped his tail on the ground with what I took to be obvious relief. With his position in the universe reaffirmed, the dog was free to once again relax into his role of loved and dutiful pet.

Here’s a game I play to toy with my own position in the hierarchy of the universe…

As a woman, not to mention a blonde (which has its advantages, don’t get me wrong), I’ve noticed that certain middle aged men, especially those wearing expensive suits, expect me to give them right of way when we’re walking towards each other on the same track lane of sidewalk or hallway. A few years ago I realized I was, unconsciously, nearly always shifting, albeit subtley, to give them room.

Well, not any more. I walk straight and strong without giving an inch. What happens? Most of the time they realize it’s not worth playing chicken with a girl whose gait suddenly has more in common with John Cena than Audry Hepburn. When they do take the risk, and it’s always the ones who (you just know) trim their nose hair at least twice a week, what happens next is inevitable (and oh so gratifying). I lower my shoulder, in classic football style, and drive right through. I never look back; that would imply I was concerned, or even (the horror!),  somewhat apologetic.

I’m fully aware that it’s only a matter of time before this ‘inocent’ game blows up in my face. Is it worth it? Yes! I do it out of solemn responsibility to my sex, to let the world know that times have changed and the old hierarchy is dead. Of course, it’s a whole lot of fun too~wink. Now if only there was a way to break my husband’s monopoly over the remote control. All I can say is never underestimate the power of a healthy bodycheck.