Sunday, February 14, 2010
In my first year of journalism school, we had weekly assignments for our reporting class. I needed some advice on one particular assignment, so I took my 19-year-old self over to the teacher’s office. She greeted me with a smile, and answered my questions. Then, suddenly her eyes changed. Instead of smiling at me, they crinkled with concern.
She took a breath and began to speak. “Tina,” she began, “Do you like this course?”
“Oh yes!” I said enthusiastically.
“Because you seem very shy.”
On the surface, it may seem like an innocent observation. I was a shy, awkward teenager—she was right about that. However, I felt like someone had punched me in the stomach. You see, in journalism, “shy” was the kiss of death. Since I was 10 years old, I had wanted to be a journalist, and here was my reporting teacher basically telling me that she thought I wouldn't make it in the tough-as-nails world of journalism. Devastated by her words, I politely thanked her for her help, and slinked away in shame. I wondered whether I had any business being in the journalism program, and silently labelled her a dream killer.
Little did my teacher know the impact those words had on my life. You seem very shy. You seem very shy. I couldn’t silence her voice. Her words dizzily swirled around in my head over and over again. I was suddenly in the throes of a major existential crisis. For a long time, her comment stayed with me. I questioned myself, and wondered if I had chosen the right career. I asked friends and family, “Do you think I have what it takes?” I spent a lot of time alone, reflecting on my future. It would be a long three years until I earned my degree. Frankly, I didn't know if I was up to the task.
Amidst many tears, I realized that I had two choices: I could either believe my teacher, or prove that I had what it took. I chose the latter. I decided to turn the “dream killer” into a “dream maker.” I put all my energies into my schoolwork, determined to keep my dream. I realized that while I would never love news reporting, I was a good features and human interest writer. I loved publishing. I could find my niche. I learned that people’s opinions are subjective, that while someone may not like your work, someone else will love it. The key was to believe in myself, keep working at my craft, and I would succeed. School is like those childhood activities that our parents put us into. We are exposed to different concepts, and through trying different activities, we discover what we like, and what our strengths are.
As creative people, we must insulate ourselves against negativity, and not allow other people’s opinions to define us. There will always be dream killers, and it is up to us to turn the tables on the less than supportive comments, and become dream makers. I think about the wonderful career that I have built, and I can't help but smile. I wonder where I would be if I had listened to my teacher's comments. Thankfully, I was able to dig deep and redefine myself.
Wednesday, February 3, 2010
It's been a rough month for my dear friend the flute and me. You see, every Monday I travel to Burlington to play in a flute ensemble and concert band. It is usually one of my weekly highlights. I get to feed my creative soul, have fun, and give the creative side of my brain a workout. Music engages me like no other activity. When I play music, I am completely focused, able to shut out the world, and all its stresses. Music brings joy, inspiration, and balance to my life. It burns stress and makes me happy.
So why the troubled relationship between me and my flute? Maybe I was feeling the lingering effects from a chaotic December. Maybe I was burnt out from returning from vacation to a lot of work, and still settling in from "the move." Maybe I would rather be lying on the beach with my sweetie, and reading Stephanie Plum novels than dragging my tired self to band.
Whatever the reason, I'd lost my inspiration. Each week this past month, I'd have to force myself out the door, and was blah and uninspired while there. The music was hard, and I wasn't playing very well, either.
What do you do when you lose your inspiration? Like any long-term relationship, creativity isn't always going to feel like the goosebumps on your arms, butterflies in your stomach, courtship phase at the beginning of a relationship. It's like a marriage that takes work, time, and effort.
Whether it is in my writing, music, or workout routine, when I lose inspiration, sometimes I just ride it out. I go through the motions, and show up in body, even if I'm not there in spirit. I know that if I just keep showing up at the page, practice, or gym, eventually, the inspiration will return. My flute and I have treaded through troubled waters in the past, and like any loss of inspiration, it is always temporary.
So, I rode it out for a month, and this past Monday, prayed that my inspiration would return. I showed up for practice, and ... had a blast! My playing was good, and I had fun with my bandmates. I felt inspired again, my flute and I reconciled after a month of tension and negative feelings. My mojo, my groove was back! And it felt great.
So, if you temporarily lose inspiration, just ride it out. Keep showing up, and eventually, it will return. And you will have the goosebumps, and the butterflies in your stomach all over again.