20 Things I’ve Learned On The Path to Creativity

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For all of my young life, I was a musician – pianist, singer, performer.  When I left for college I left my musical self behind, in search of some “other” identity that had seemed to elude me. Fifteen years later, I went back into my heart and began playing again, a journey that was filled with doubt and joy as I rediscovered my gift, and learned to love my creative self without fear or judgement.

When my son Peter left for Berklee College of Music, I wrote him a list of the “99 Things I Had Learned” on this path. It was my gift to him – and a heartfelt set of beliefs that finding your passion and living a life you love is the most important thing you will ever do.

Today, in a bit of synchronicity, I stumbled upon Prosecco & Plaid, a lovely lifestyle, fashion and beauty blog founded by Jess Ann Kirby (who happens to live right here in Newport, RI), who is celebrating her 30th birthday today. In honor of, she wrote her own list of the “30 Things I Learned by Age 30.”  Her reflections inspired me to  share mine again, as I believe them to be as true today as they were when Peter went off in pursuit of his passion…and found it.

The “20 Things” below are excerpted from my original 99, and were also published by the talented storyteller Patti Digh in a book of wisdom called “What I Wish I Knew,” which Patti curated as a gift for her daughter Emma as she left for college.

20 Things I’ve Learned On The Path to Creativity

1. Never forget the joy you first felt when you discovered art

2. Find a few people who believe wholly in you and protect these relationships with all your might.

3. Don’t ask everyone you know for feedback. Creativity is subjective, and your art will find its tribe.

4. Your dream has its own heartbeat. Listen for it.

5. It’s a DIY world, but you can’t do it alone. Build your team as wisely as you would choose typefaces or words for lyrics.

6. Embrace your place on Earth as a creative. Give thanks you were given this gift to share.

7. Turn a deaf ear to those who say the path of art is hard. Doing something you don’t love is a much harder path.

8. Study the patterns of your mind and honor your needs for time alone to create.

9. Accept that not everyone will “get” what you are doing, even those close to you.

10. If you ever doubt the value of your gift, imagine a day without sound, music, art or design.

11. Remember that rejections are the building blocks of success.

12. Don’t measure your success. Your steps will often be infinitesimal.

13. Admire those who have walked the path you are on, and know it is a shared path.

14. Concentrate on the square you are standing in right now. Tomorrow it will be a new one.

15. Don’t compare yourself to those you admire. Babies learning to crawl aren’t compared to long-distance runners.Each is on his

own path to movement.

16. Make your evolution your priority. You grow through change.

17. Moments of fear are often signals of change on the horizon. Listen carefully to them.

18. Learn to let go. You can’t control how people react to you. You can only control how and what you think about yourself.

19. Edit out those people who instill fear, doubt or negative thinking into your world.

20. Remember to look back at how far you have traveled. If you only see the mountains ahead, you will forget those you have already climbed.



How To Be The Hero of Your Own Story: Part 1


There is only one you.  You were the only one born into this life, and so you are the lead character in this story called your life. If you’re the lead, then you are, de facto, the hero, but what does that mean, really? How could we all possibly be the hero of our own story?  “I’m no hero, you say. My life is too ordinary. I’m not brave enough.  I’m not out to capture the ring, or the grail, or whatever….I’m just trying to make ends meet and get shit done.”

Yeah, but you ARE the hero of your story. Maybe you’re just walking around on the farm, or lolling about the shire not really thinking much about a larger quest. When something throws you over the threshold and into an adventure. Divorce, death, boredom, thrill seeking – are all calls to adventure, and if we refuse to answer the call, aren’t we tragic? I say, grab your saber and set off.

Following is a few thoughts on living this hero metaphor – in no particular order, but I offer them up in the hopes they might inspire a new way of thinking about yourself, the plot you are following, the nature of your traveling companions, and the nature of a quest itself.

1. Every one of us hears a different casting call for that role. I may be Dorothy, but you’re 007. Maybe you’re Luke Skywalker, and I’m Thelma or Louise.  Doesn’t matter what kind of hero you are. It’s just important to see yourself as the central figure – not just someone who responds to all the secondary character’s needs and wants. The hero drives the plot forward.

2. A hero has a wish and the will to achieve something larger than herself.  If you’re not clear on what that quest is, then you need to be asking yourself a new set of questions (get it?).  And what is a question, really?  A question is a seeking, an inquiry, an examination. The questions are what build a plot that engages your heart and mind with purpose. Maybe it’s as simple a wish as “getting out of my ordinary world,” as our friend Dorothy Gale so yearned. Maybe you are already down the road, and have come face to face with your greatest fears – your dragons or wicked witches.  Ask a new question and clarify the quest.

3. A hero isn’t fearless. In fiction and reality, no hero is fearless. Did Frodo have fear?  Did George Bailey?  Fear is the constant companion of every protagonist – and conflict in his or her story is what causes the fear.  But conflict is the engine that moves the hero into stronger, smarter decisions. Every time he overcomes weakness, he finds new meaning. It is cathartic.

4. A hero doesn’t have it all figured out.  He has, by nature and by circumstance, to be a learner – pushing forward, and recalibrating and adjusting as needed toward the grail. He knows it is all an experiment that will give him the clues he needs to get to the next mountain (or cave, or kingdom, or whatever).

5. A hero figures out a way to have a good laugh at him or herself. She knows the value of comic relief.

6. A hero isn’t always strong, and isn’t always wearing a suit of armor. Sometimes they have hairy toes and lots of times, they carry no shield or sword.

7. The hero dances between vigilance and surrender – finding a balance between wishing and pursuing and allowing the journey to unfold.

8. A hero meets tricksters and villains along the way. They are in the plot to teach us something about ourselves. When we figure out what that learning is, the story gets more interesting, and more people cheer us along.

9. No hero goes it alone, though at times it can feel incredibly lonely.  A hero finds and loves his traveling companions. He knows when to call upon the mentor, or lean on the friend. He will do everything to protect his allies.

More musings on living into your hero’s journey to come…love to hear what you think in the comments.

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There’s A Man Buying Signs From Homeless People And It’s Pretty Great

The Living Room:

A profoundly moving story that needs to be shared. And the story behind The Giving Keys is equally as inspiring, as we move into the giving season.

Originally posted on The Giving Keys Blog:

For over 30 years now a man named Willie Baronet has been buying signs from homeless people on the street asking for money. An interesting method to helping someone in need, right?


Photos courtesy of We Are All Homeless

Willie does not proclaim to be an expert about the issue of homelessness, he is just a guy who would get nervous when he pulled up to street corners and someone would hold a sign asking for money. As he tells it, this began out of feeling uncomfortable and unsure how to respond when faced with someone asking him for money. What began as an awkward transaction has become a piece of art. He even admits that in his head he created stories for the people he says and why they were in this situation.

It is so common for us to assume how and why someone ended up where they…

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