When I was nine I memorized this poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow “The Psalm of Life”. It inspired me to create; to make stuff; make art. No matter what.
Old penguin classics with yellowing pages where the very first books I read. It took longer than most children to coax me into learning to read. Poor literature like the Dick and Jane books with their “Go, Spot, Go!”. I figured if that’s what books look like I would have more fun with mud.
Luckily I discovered Mr. Robert Louis Stevenson and his A Child’s Garden of Verse. Simple words weaved into prose that took my imagination to foreign lands. “..To where the roads on either hand Lead onward into fairy land, Where all the children dine at five, And all the playthings come alive.” That little book inspired me and I kept on reading.
Discovering the tales told by clever Scheherazade to out smart the Sultan in “One Thousand and One Nights”. The dangerous adventures of Detective Sherlock Holmes and Doctor John Watson in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle‘s series of detective novels and stories.
I remember each and every good story I’ve read and feel as if I experienced it myself. Why? What’s the formula, what’s the key to this kind of work? Imagine your mind as a universe. Galaxies, planets and stars all created by you. Created with a simple thought.
You are like a tiny God within this mysterious endless world that waits to be discovered. A world that waits to be brought into our own through your art. Now grab your laptop or a pencil and your notebook and start writing, drawing, recording. That’s how I rid myself of creative blocks and find the drive to finish my work.
Imagination is like the universe, limitless. We unknowingly limited it with our fears and doubts. “Will it work?” “Will it sell?” “Is it a terrible piece of art or literature?” This line of thinking stomps out your creativity and leaves you desperate and depressed. Forget all the rules, the do’s and don’ts and most importantly the have-to’s and create from your heart. Stories that last are stories told directly from the heart.
Those fears of “Being a starving artists” “No one cares about your work” or “No one appreciates my work.” useless thoughts that drain you out. I have no idea what this crap is doing running around my brain sometimes but I think those depressing thoughts just might be there as a warning sign. It usually happens when we need a break; like a long walk or cozy nap; or need to stop procrastinating and create something; anything; no matter what.
After many years of successful ideas and very bad ideas I’ve learned to treasure all of them. This thing that we do with making art or words or moving pictures is something special; something sacred. It might not make you famous or a millionare but it will inspire someone somewhere and that’s what keeps me going. I’d love to leave just a little footprint in the sands of time that might just shine a little hope into someone’s life.
A Psalm of Life
By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream!
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.
Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.
Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each to-morrow
Find us farther than to-day.
Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.
In the world’s broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife!
Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act,— act in the living Present!
Heart within, and God o’erhead!
Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time;
Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.
Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.