Life is Tough. And You’ll Struggle. Or, You Can Choose Not To.

The creative journey is a continual endeavor into unknown circumstances and paralyzing fear — all for the sake of a listless desire, a relentless dream, a soulful calling to capture and share a slice of pure beauty.

That’s what the journey feels like for an artist.

You struggle for love. You struggle for joy. You struggle for happiness, contentment, and peace. But you say you’re not an artist.

I still call you one.

Maybe you’re not a writer or a painter. Maybe you don’t blog or want to run a business from anywhere in the world. Maybe you don’t feel creative or imaginative, artsy or talented.

But don’t you dream?

Don’t you dare yourself to face down the fear of the unknown before you?

Don’t you strive and believe? Don’t you idealize for your life to become what it deserves to be — for all the love that you deserve to feel? Don’t your playful thoughts wander and wish for lightness and ease? For the warm embrace of another? For sunshine and songbirds, a home full of laughter?

Aren’t you waking up every day like me, facing the same set of unknown circumstances that life throws at you — whether a book draft or quarterly review, your kid’s grades or your cholesterol count?

Aren’t you, like me, asking endless questions and searching for answers during those days and weeks (or years) when it feels like God is using you as her pincushion and life is tossing you about like a shattered shell in the breaking waves?

Aren’t you waking up every day with the same total capacity, ability and will — if by choice alone — to say to that paralyzing fear that grips each and every one of us, “Fuck it all, this is my journey and I’m going to choose how I live it.”

And don’t you do that for the sake of creating something beautiful? 

Whether a book or a marriage? A business or children? A nonprofit or a loving family? Something that speaks to your soul, that mends broken hearts, that lifts the unfairly treated?

By God, you are creative.

You are a creator.

If for nothing else and no other reason, you are a creator of your reality and a shaper of our world. You are but a “stranger” to nearly 7 billion faces and names whom you’ve never met, and each day you wake unto them bearing the same power as I do to create a smile in the face of someone you’ll never see again; inspire a laugh with a joke at your own expense; or tell a longing soul, “You deserve more,” because it’s true.

Tell me that’s not art.

Tell me that the love and joy we share is not art — that the smile isn’t the most beautiful sight and that glimmering eyes that light up against you own are not a gateway to a shared soul that’s deeper and more true than anything we can hardly bear to believe.

This is where your art dawns. Do not get lost in petty definitions.

Your art dawns in your dreams, and in how you strive and in how you pursue. This is your journey. And whether or not you ever took one, big, definitive step upon that path that was applauded or commended, condemned or poo-pooed… whether or not you realize it, you’re there.

Your journey is happening — now. 

In this moment. This one life. Right now and from where you are.

“No,” you hear your head say, “That’s not who I am.” And yet every day your mind wanders into visions of what could be. Your midnight visions tease you every night. You stop one day and in a glorious, unforgiving flash, you see a brighter tomorrow is so possible with just a few brush strokes, today.

Those brush strokes are not just made in paint upon a canvas, but hand-holding with someone you love. Your brush strokes are found in the most raw and real conversation you’ve ever had in your life — with someone you just met, tonight.

Your brush strokes are how you live. What you teach. How you dare yourself to grow — how you deepen friendships and lift others up.

That is art.

And the artistry of living is so much more meaningful than simple strokes upon the canvas — but sitting down to create and shape, build and share… that is what teaches you to see that depth and nuance of beauty in your world!

That’s why I write, and why I invite you do to so alongside me. We sit and write to choose the stories we tell. We sit and paint because every scene of beauty and wonder that has been burned with memory into our eyes might be gone tomorrow — and we create to honor that, today.

If you’ve never thought of yourself as an artist, I’m here tell you that you are one — because you paint in smiles on the street and in laughter with friends. You paint in your midnight dreams of your brighter tomorrow — a tomorrow that’s full, and whole, where you can simply be your “youest” you.

When I talk of art and artistry, I’m not talking about the MET or the Guggenheim.

I’m talking about the most profound, authentic and personal experience that you and I can share together in our lives: artfully grooming a journey of endless, love-fueled privilege that we honor every step of the way because the journey in practice reaffirms everything you want, wish and desire.

The “creative journey” is just a vehicle that teaches you to encounter the unknown: carrying on through that paralyzing fear and through all the muck and shit that life throws at you. You can be a writer, an artist, an entrepreneur or a blogger, or anyone with a dream and a goal and a fire in their belly to create. And from choosing that journey, you discover an incredible teacher through. Yourself.

You become the teacher of what you most want, need and desire. You feel the fear, the unknown and the hardship and find your way through it all because the struggle is worth it.

Stop getting distracted by the shiny objects that promise you the wealth and fame, as if those things are keys to seeing the love in the face of another.

Could you not sit upon your own with pen and paper and discover the love and joy, the purpose and meaning that you desire — within yourself? From tapping into a higher source than us and recalling that feeling of home — of connection to every soul? Simple, silly, strange art! That opens you up!

Living that journey and making your journey it’s own reward — that will teach you how to truly live. Artfully living by crafting the lives we dream of living — that genuine human experience so ripe and lush, this is what life is really about!

I never used to think this way. It still perplexes and baffles me. 

But I know it’s real by now. I feel the fire of that passion in my forearms as my fingers dance across this keyboard now.

When I was young, I didn’t believe it. I thought that art was a vehicle of elitist opinions and judging eyes who knew not what beauty was but only assigned its name to different objects for some self-flattering reasons.

In school I scoffed at art (even though I loved to create). If the me of long ago heard the things I tell you now, the old me might think that acid or ecstasy had snuck its way into my morning coffee.

But that was another “me” ago. And that me died, because I killed him.

I killed that old, skeptical and cynical me who so desperately wanted to believe but, everywhere he looked, only found walls and rules that said he wasn’t enough. He looked at art and said, “I’m not that good, I’ll probably never be that good. So, I’m not an artist.”

It’s no wonder that years later I would be working in politics and public service because I still wanted to believe that I could make a difference and help people — only to hear,

“You’re not a leader. You don’t have any followers or fame, acclaim or power. You have no status, position, job title. You are a nobody. What could you lead? Who could you lead? How can you lead if you don’t have more than everyone else — who’ll listen to you because they want it, too?”

That old me in art class wanted to believe, but all he found was walls.

And that old me who, four years ago this May, was outright depressed and felt like complete shit for living a life completely misaligned to everything he wanted, needed, valued and believed?

He didn’t just want to believe, he needed to. And where there were walls, I chose to walk through them. So I left that world behind — to prove it.

That’s why I quit my job — I needed to believe. It was no longer a choice. I looked my two bosses in the eyes that May afternoon in large, lavish government office with desks and chairs and degrees on the wall in one large marble labryth that stands upon a hill and said, “I’m too young to feel like this.”

And whatever was on the other side of the uncertainty, the paralyzing fear and the worry — I knew that I just had to go there.

…to survive.

And in truth, my age had nothing to do with it. We’re all too young to feel depressed, down, helpless and hapless. We possess far too much love. And from tapping that source, we can feel it, reap it, give it, share it — endlessly! We have so much kindness and laughter to provoke in those faces on the street — so much depth of our hearts to open, so much crippling weight to stand under and bear, because we care.

I sit here in this coffee shop across the world with near tears in my eyes to say this to you because I feel so strongly called to give you the gentle nudge of encouragement that I know you’re looking for.

I’ve been nudged ten dozen times or more by friends and family, strangers and kind souls. They kept nudging and I’m still here, four years later. Now I’m paying it forward, again and again, nudging you because you deserve to feel this feeling about life — your life, your place within this world and how magnificent it is that we’re here at all.

That’s what I mean when I say you get to choose your journey.

When we were kids, we heard, “You can be anyone. Do anything. Become the President or an astronaut.”

Right now I tell you, You can be anyone: Yourself.

You can do anything — because you have more to offer than you could ever possibly imagine.

You can be your love or your leadership. You can be connection and compassion, exemplified. Empathy and service, personified. You can be a beacon of light that shines in the dark, you can be a smiling face across from a stranger on a Friday night.

Because you’re a creator.

You’re the writer of your story. A shaper of your reality. The God of your Universe, and the hand of the destiny that you live, every day.

You’re an artist.

You don’t need to know where you’re going and where it all ends up. You need to understand that fear is a part of the human condition, and that it never goes away. It just changes. Life will never be anything but uncertain, and unknown, and you’ll never stop feeling paralyzing fear. We all do.

Art — in paint, ink, stone or simple smiles — can help teach you why it’s worth living what you believe. Choose to create a life for yourself full of love and happiness, and the purpose and the passion that you desire to feel, every step of the way.

Please, create with me.

For you are, in fact, an artist.

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P.S. – Launch day: check out this absolutely amazing project I’m proud to be a part of: eBooks Suck (But They Don’t Have To), a comprehensive guide and collaborative effort from nearly 50 writers and authors to help you understand every choice, option and bit of advice on publishing, self-publishing and creating great art. It’s only $4.99 and will definitely help you understand all of your options, choices and considerations to publish!

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