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Reflections on Doing The Artist’s Way

March 24th, 2012 No comments

One of the promises Tracy and I made to each other as part of getting married is to maintain (and act upon) a persistent commitment to growing and developing ourselves.

(We figure this is a very good thing because if you’re going to spend seven decades with another human being, you’re way less apt to get sick of them if they are constantly changing in the direction of becoming more rad.)

So when our friend Nick told us he was doing The Artist’s Way, a book by Julia Cameron whose sub-title is “The spiritual path to creativity” and which takes you through a 12 week process of exploring and unfolding it, we were quickly game to take it on ourselves.  (Kudos and thanks to Lee, who first introduced me to the book when I visited her in San Francisco back in November ’05: I was intrigued then which made me quick to jump in now).

The Artist’s Way has two core activities that you do regularly over the 12 weeks: Morning Pages and Artist Dates.  Morning Pages mean the practice of writing out, long hand, 3 pages of whatever is floating around in your brain first thing in the morning, every morning.  Stream of conscious, just keep writing until you’ve filled those three pages.  Artist Dates mean once a week do something, anything, that nourishes your spirit, and do it by yourself.   Without interruptions and anyone else to please, take time for you and no one else.

The act of keeping up Morning Pages alone is well worth the price of admission1.  For me they started feeling a little cumbersome but quickly turned into a delightful and downright practical ritual.  Things swirling around in my head got quickly sorted as simply what’s going on (with suddenly zero added anxiety or concern for how it will turn out).  A vague sense of what I should be focusing on (which for me is apt to creep in between contract jobs) turned into a clear path of to-dos and compelling motivation.  Dreams and visions and purpose for my life got created and refined over the weeks.

Purpose and vision got created regularly on a smaller scale as well: at about halfway through the second page I would often start to create exactly what I wanted to accomplish in my day, and with brain well primed with all the great things I wanted to do by mid-page three I could hardly wait to get on with it and start kicking ass in my day, armed with purpose, clarity and excitement.  (If you’ve never experienced this phenomenon on a regular basis, say, daily for a week, you really might want to try it.)

Artist Dates were a treat, too.  The author challenges you to actually make time and space for such indulges, and invites you to experience how much push back to doing so you will likely put up.  Among other things I took myself out to Peruvian restaurant for dinner and a big glass of Malbec, saw an improv comedy show, took a walk through downtown on a snow day and made snow angels in the park, holed up in a coffee shop reading Heinlein with a decadent hot chocolate, and took a field trip to the science museum.

The author is right: these were things I just wouldn’t have organized for myself without the external prompting.

Regarding going through the twelve weeks with someone else: a very good idea.  Tracy and I regularly compared notes on how it was going, the insights we were gaining, and things we were creating.  It was a shared experience that added depth to our relationship.

And the end result?  I’ve got big dreams worth playing for which constitute purpose and direction for the next few years (put simply I want to be a famous nerd, following in the footsteps of the thought leaders and contributors in my craft who make the world a better place).  The coding work I do is now thoroughly recognized and related to by me as artistic creation, and bringing my art to my work both shows in quality and elevated enjoyment in doing it.  I’m reconnected to my roots as being the art guy as a kid (it’s strange how thoroughly I’d forgotten) which just feels good and grounding in a way that is hard to described without getting all woo-woo.  My month between my tenure as CTO of DealNation and the next big project was flush with purpose and accomplishment, and tangibly sowed seeds of awesome for what was next.

Finally, through the experience and growin’ I am indeed a more interesting and rad person to my love, thus fulfilling more on the promise.

At about 10 hours per week, this was twelve weeks and $18 very well spent.

Notes:

  1. About $18 off the bookstore shelf, in case you were wondering.
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Cafe Larson: An Experiment

March 5th, 2012 No comments

Tracy and I love to host.  Tracy and I are leaving the country.

Tracy and I want to get in as much time with great friends while we still can pre-World Tour, so back in December we created a structure by which we might do just that.

Here was the email we sent originally introducing the concept to all of our friends, subject line “We love to host.  Introducing Cafe Larson”

Hey All!

By now you all know that we are leaving Denver to start our World Tour on May 1, 2012.  While we’re stoked to get our travel on, we’re really going to miss all of our awesome friends here in Colorado.

To make the most of our next 4.5 months here we’ve decided to amp up our hosting game.  Since the most complicated part of hosting is trying to find a date and time that works for everyone, we’re experimenting with a way to simplify the process and ensure that we have a constant stream of fabulous friends hanging out at our place.

We call it: Cafe Larson.

Here’s the gist.  Every 2-3 weeks we’ll send out an email with an invite to the next social gathering we’re planning.  They’ll be things like laid back dinner parties, evening cocktails, game night, etc.  If you can make it, awesome – RSVP 24 hours prior.  If you can’t, no big deal, we’ll see you at the next one.

If you want to be on the list to get these invites you have to opt in by sending us a quick note back.  We don’t want to clog your inbox if you’re not interested!

Our first Cafe Larson will be:

Cookies and Cocoa by the Fire
This Wednesday December 14th 7pm

Join us for a roaring fire, tasty holiday cookies, and tea/cocoa/decaf coffee.
If you’d like to bring some of your holiday cookies to share, we’d love to sample them!

(RSVP by Wednesday December 14th at noon)

Let us know if you want in–the notice is deliberately short so we can get this thing started, but no worries if you are already swamped with holiday merriment.  We’ll be sending out more invites soon enough!

Don’t forget – send us a note if you want in on the email invites!  Looking forward to seeing you!

Cheers,
John and Tracy

By design we figured we’d get to do more hosting, hang with more people, and get to be more flexible for people’s schedules.  (As an added bonus we figure only good can come of our friends making friends among themselves.)

How did it work?  Mixed bag, it turns out!

While we had some great gatherings (my favorite was the Dance Dance Revolution party in which we turned our living room into a dance hall by way of projecting the screen on the wall), turn outs were way smaller than our more conventional style of doing invites had us think.  The consistency of RSVPs followed by no-shows was high, and confirmed what already intuitively makes sense: when you invite via mass email, it creates a much smaller sense of commitment and follow through than if you invite people specifically.

So for our last 7 weeks in town we’re going to go back to the tried-and-true model of specifically inviting over a few folks on a regular basis, and have as much quality face time with them as possible.  Cafe Larson was a cool idea, but we see it is indeed much more compelling to be invited intentionally than by mass email.

[UPDATE 4/15: Yep, turns out it works way better to invite people the old fashioned way!  We’re enjoying being super-sociable with our awesome friends as we round out our last few weeks in town.]

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