The Creative Path: Why Following the Fisherman is the Way


A few years ago I had a perspective-pivoting dream that gave me a 180-degree shift in how I perceive the creative journey. Here’s the story.

I dream I’m a passenger in a van which gets trapped between two chain link fences. I am utterly frustrated and I get out of the van and walk down to the cove to calm down. There, I watch an elderly fisherman park his car and slowly walk down the hill to his awaiting boat. It’s just him, a pair of old boots and his bait.

The scene intrigues me, and on some level I’m envious that his path is so clear; his life so directed. His work so intentional, even in its uncertainty. And in a flash I have a revelation: I’m not meant to be driving in a van on some road. The creative path is the sea, not a road. And we creative ones are the fishermen searching for treasure just beneath the surface.

So there I was, standing metaphorically on the edge of my own creative shore. Afraid of going out deeper. Worried that I wouldn’t catch what I so desired. But as I watched the fisherman head further out, his boat disappearing on the horizon, I knew I had to ditch the car keys, cast aside fears and join my people out on the water.

All of us reflect on where we are trying to get to, but sometimes and in the case of that dream, it pays to reflect not just on the where, but also on how you are navigating the way. If you come from a family of map-followers, it can be really hard to grasp another way of being and traveling.

But anyone traveling a journey of creativity isn’t going to get there by a road constructed by someone else. Your mode of travel is free floating. You’re part of a tribe that has to be good with knowing that their catch isn’t always going to be easy to find and capture. You’ll have to trust your instincts and go where the wind takes you.

Like the fisherman, you don’t need a map – as long as you have your compass in hand and pointed to your personal true north. It’s taken me a long time to excavate that compass and see where it wants me to go. But it has pointed me here. Back to a creative life as a writer and musician, and here to The Living Room.

My journey began in fully realized form when I woke up from that dream and ditched an outdated mode of travel. It liberated me to trust the process. To imagine my own creative dreams, and begin this Living Room pop up conversation. Along the way, I’ve learned how many other people are also searching for new ways of traveling. And how finding a tribe to travel with can give you the courage to leave the safety of the old shore behind to chase new pursuits.

So next Sunday, a small tribe of us will get together and talk about living life as the hero of our story. I’m pretty sure that means living life as a fisherman of sorts. I’ll share my fisherman dream story and encourage people to stop waiting at the water’s edge hoping something big will come in for you.

I wish the same for you. Throw away the car keys. Get out there and cast your line with fierce expectation and creative patience. Even if you don’t catch a big shiny one today, you will have spent a day being true to yourself, and in good company.

Go long and go deep. And enjoy your adventure out on the seas of possibility.


journey-is-story-TLRLast April, TLR hosted an evening of conversation with 5 storytellers reflecting on “Wisdom To My Younger Self.” These powerful stories ranged from the whimsical, to the practical, to the life-changing.  Take a listen to what our storytellers had to share – and leave a story in the comments below!

Have you ever write a letter to your younger self?

Kristen Girouard – The Importance of Vision Interior designer Kristen Girouard, principal of ReStyle Design, Rhode Island on using vision to manifest your dreams and goals.

Dennis Bucco – Make the Decision to Make Your Own Mistakes An Episcopal priest on following others’ dreams –  until everything changed.

Carolyn Dalgliesh – Embracing Chaos Carolyn Dalgliesh, author of “The Sensory Child Gets Organized,” takes us on her personal journey to discovering the wisdom of embracing chaos.

Deb Walsh – Don’t Believe all The Stories You Tell Yourself  TLR founder Deb Walsh recounts abandoning her musical self out of fear of failure; then rediscovering it as she faced raising three creative kids.

Betsy Fenik – The Power of Glinda Photographer Betsy Fenik on overcoming leukemia, only to face her biggest challenge yet – finding her own power.


A guest post, gratefully reprinted with permission 
atom-factory 2

Atom Factory

September 30, 2013​

Today I sat down and looked at my surroundings. Marble floors, clear glass offices, and sleek, modern couches made the room. Echoing off the giant, thin tank of exotic fish, and record plaques hanging from the walls, was not the typical work-day hum. Instead, loud music. Pop, rap, rock, claps, hits, yells – that is the work day hum. And above it all, the distinct voice of a man to whom it all belongs, doing his version of the perfect song to potential clients. To my right sits Troy Carter– manager of Lady Gaga, and John Legend, just to name a few. Considered one of the most powerful and influential figures in music, on Earth, today.

I had, in this moment, a powerful reflection on myself. I fully grasped the power that making a choice can have.

​When I was 16, I told everyone who would listen that I was to be in music. I would never do something I didn’t love, I would never settle. I would be surrounded by powerful people, famous people, tastemakers, leaders, and I would become one of them. Not because of a bank, or a law degree, or a college degree, but because of art. Most people thought I was crazy, and I didn’t care.

​I’m 20, I left two universities against the advice of most, and never settled. This is intentionality. This is the power of a decision.

I didn’t go from a junior in high school with absolute certainty to a college dropout working under one of the most powerful men in music by chance. Or luck. It was all because of my choice to do so. My decision. My absolute certainty. And most of all, massive action.

Massive action being this: instead of disliking college because I couldn’t study what I wanted, I applied to 5 more, was accepted to all of them, moved states and schools. Massive action is having the self-awareness to realize that it’s not the school that’s going to get me where I want – it’s me. To know I could drop out of school, and through hundreds of calls, emails, texts, and asking, find internships.

Massive action is being 20, a self-proclaimed homebody, who once told his mom he’d never move away from his childhood house, and moving 3,000 miles to Los Angeles. Massive action is what separates people who want things, and people who get them. People who dream, and people who do.

​I am in a unique position, but I am not totally unique in most aspects. I have the same exact fears my peers have. I am told it’s courageous to leave school and “roll the dice” to move across the country in pursuit of a dream, but I am no more courageous than others. I know the fallacy in thinking that successful people – or the 1% who live out their fantasies – are there because they are smarter, more talented, or lucky. It is completely false. A giant lie you are told, and one that most people believe when they get older.

​I am fearful of many things, yet what separates me is this: I am FAR more fearful of what my life WOULD be if I lived it passively. I am so scared of what the supposed “right path” has to offer. I am so scared of doing something I don’t like, working because I need the money, and just ‘existing’ rather than living. When I lay in bed, so far away from home, sometimes very lonely and scared – I think of what I would be evolving into if I was still in a dorm room, paying $50,000 for a degree, with no feeling of power over my own destiny. That’s enough fear right there to extinguish every want to return to “normal.”

I choose to completely erase comfort. Being uncomfortable, yet knowing the power I have over my own destiny is my new comfort. That is truly striving, and not living passively. Having absolute faith in myself, in hard work. That is trusting myself; not my teachers, coaches, counselors, schools, but myself.

When you realize the biggest secret of all, you are free. And this is it: You really can do what you want with your life. It’s not luck, it’s intention. It’s not random, it’s choice. It’s not genius, it’s self-awareness, honesty, and never settling. It’s realizing that there are people out there that could open any door you’ve ever imagined, and all you have to do is call.

The craziest thing of all, is that most of these supposedly unreachable people are in the phonebook. Their emails are on a website. Everyone wants to be something, and everyone feels they are different, yet VERY few people have the courage to pick up the phone and make it happen.

Very few people understand the power they have in every moment of their life. The power to choose where you’ll be tomorrow.

Tomorrow I’ll be going again to sit and learn from one of my idols. All because I chose to do so.


Postscript – March 17, 2015:  In October, 2013 (one month after writing this post), Evan and fellow New England-to-LA-transplant John That, released their first single as the band, Academy. Their debut EP titled ‘Moving Methods” was released on June 24th, 2014 and was immediately touted one of the best projects of Summer 2014. In December of 2014 Academy was nominated and voted as one of the top 5 ‘Top Artist To Watch in 2015’ and won the fan voting for ‘Most Underrated Album of 2014’ by Good Music All Day.

A Letter from My Future Self: Be Brave. Dance. Be You.

coffee-mugs-birthday 2Last March on the occasion of a friend’s 49th birthday, 49 women were invited to gather in a beautifully restored Victorian cottage and spa by the sea for a day of reflection, celebration, talks, and overall inspiration.  It was a super-chick collider, indeed, and a fortuitous event, as it happened, that I met 3 women who would become close friends, and many more who would somehow in the future collaborate, connect and create with me.

By the time the day wound down, and we took a break for an amazing spread of homemade goodies we had all brought to share, I was nearly overwhelmed with the intuitive power and energy only women can bring to a room.

At the close of the gathering, a writing coach took the lead, handing each of us two sheets of loose leaf paper. As we took pencils in hand, she read a list of 100 words aloud. We were to write down the ones that spoke most deeply to us, without thinking about why.  Mine were:


She then asked us to quickly circle the 10 words that held the most power for us. I chose:


A calm settled over the room as we collectively sank into ourselves; taking in the words and feeling the simple power of what they implied.

Finally, she said, “Now, I want you to write a love letter to yourself – from your future self. Tell you whatever you think she needs to hear.”

We wrote in silence for about 10 minutes.  For me, this kind of writing is pretty natural. I journal every day, and writing in the moment comes pretty easily; but I could tell this simple act was having a deep effect on some women in the room.  A few tears were shed. We all felt the moment of connecting with our future selves, and back to here and now.

After a bit, we handed our letters and word lists in to our host, who said, “you’ll be getting these back someday, just trust the process.”

And that was it.  We said our farewells, and I drove home in a cocoon of energy, sisterly connection, and ideas.  Months passed and I forgot completely about my letter to myself.  Until yesterday – nearly a year later, when a large brown envelope addressed to me, in my own handwriting, appeared at the door.

Inside – my letter, with a lovely note from our birthday friend: “My plan was to wait a year to send these back,” she said. “I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I did.”  I opened the page, dated March 15, 2014

Dear Deb,

It has been one of the loveliest days you’ve spent in months. In the company of amazing women celebrating how and who and why we all want to succeed. We are all striving to be ourselves. To be a rock. To rock. to find bravery. To be brave. To see and be and feel growth. To feel full. To dance. Enjoy. Be full – be fun- be joyful. It’s all about strength. 

Be strong in all you desire. In all you dream of. Do not let anyone else’s weakness fill you with doubts or fear or to make you smaller than you are. You are here. Now. 

Be lovely




Be brave


Get full


Be Strong



What if you were to write a love letter to yourself today from your future self?  What do you need to hear?  What words of gentle loving kindness can you impart?  What words will fill you with hope, with joy, with power, and with encouragement?

Last April, The Living Room presented “Wisdom To My Younger Self,” a series featuring 5 people giving their younger selves some tried and tested wisdom from the future.  Check out the talks here:

Kristen Girourd – “Sucess by Design – The Importance of Vision”

Carolyn Dalgliesh – “Embracing Chaos”

Dennis Bucco – “Make the Decision to Make Your Own Mistakes”

Deb Walsh – “Don’t Believe Every Story you Tell Yourself”

Betsy Fenik – “The Power of Glinda”

As always, love to hear your thoughts in the comments.  Until then, sending much love, and dream big. Every horizon invites you to find a new beginning.horizon-hiker-chick 2