Tuesday, July 26, 2016

How To Receive

It's better to give than receive.  Haven't you heard that since you were a toddler?

Me too.  However, sometimes, we give too much and we don't receive.  I've been working on this, trying to find a better balance between the two.

Fortunately, I met Kristyn Pope.  And I learned two lessons from her.

I'm second from the left, with my nose in the air; Kristyn is fourth from the left, with the glasses.

The first lesson I learned from Kristyn was Patience.  Kristyn was the dance captain for that production of Sister Act that I was in recently.  She's a fantastic dance captain.  She has this uncanny knack of knowing what you're going to do before you even know it. Or do it.  She also happens to be one of the most generous and patient people I have ever met.

The second lesson I learned from Kristyn, which was much more important, was how to Receive.  She didn't mean to teach me how to be patient or how to receive.  She did mean to teach me how to dance, because that was her job.  So those two lessons...well, that was serendipity.

Let's start with Lesson Number 1 - Patience.

Here's the thing - I'm not a dancer.  I'm what's known in the business as a mover.  This means given time and space, I can make it look like I know what I'm doing.

Kristyn was able to give me that time and space.  During rehearsals, I wouldn't get every step right away, but I got enough of them that she could see I was working.  She would say to me "That's enough for today.  Don't worry, you're going to get it.  Let your brain process it tonight".  So, while I wanted to go back to my hotel and work on dance steps until I fell on the floor exhausted,  I decided to trust Kristyn and give my Self a break.   Sure enough, when I would return to rehearsal the next day, it would be better.  Sometimes it was completely learned.

How many dance captains (or people in charge) can be that patient, that trusting?  And you know what happened.  Because Kristyn believed in me, I believed in myself.  And you also know what happened next.  I learned all of the choreography fairly quickly and I looked just as good as the rest of the nuns.

Let's move to Lesson Number 2 - Receiving.

I have a difficult time receiving.  While I've gotten better, it's still a challenge.  So when Kristyn offered to teach tap dancing to anyone in the cast who was interested, I was able to easily receive the lessons.  Hey, I would have been a fool to not study with a former Rockette!  Besides, I figured we'd have 2 or 3 lessons and call it quits.  But nope, Kristyn kept offering and I kept receiving.  By the end of our time together, we even made this video:

Unintentionally, Kristyn gave a big gift to the world that day.  We recorded this video on July 10, 2016, days after the shootings of Alton SterlingPhilando Castile and the five Dallas police officers.  We were all stunned, wondering what in the world was going on.  And then the seven of us - black/white, female/male, young/old, gay/straight gathered in a rehearsal hall and tapped.  On that day, dancing provided the reaffirmation that, in spite of the serious problems in the world, people could come together, get along and just be joyful.  I think we all left feeling better and hopeful.  If we could do it, couldn't everyone else?

I tried to think of ways to pay Kristyn for her generosity.  What gift card could I sneak into her dressing room, what bouquet of flowers could I have delivered to her, what material thing could I give to Kristyn that would genuinely show my gratitude and appreciation?

Ultimately, I realized the best gift was no thing.  It was an action; it was telling Kristyn how she had helped me to be better at receiving.

So I did.  I told her one night as a bunch of us sat in a dressing room together.  I told Kristyn she had helped me practice Receiving.  She seemed honestly touched.  And I knew the simple act of telling her was the best gift I could give.

At the end of the run, when Kristyn insisted on taking the Sacred Tappers (yup, we even came up with a name) out to dinner, my Receiving practice had kicked in.  Without hesitation, I said yes.  I enjoyed that dinner, sitting with people who I hadn't know 3 months earlier, who were now so dear to me.

And there at the middle of the table, sat Kristyn Pope, the woman who taught me how to receive.

Thursday, July 14, 2016


One of the challenges of a creative lifestyle is the rejection.  If you're putting your work out in the world, you're bound to be rejected.

However, you are not alone.

Click here and you'll see what I mean.

Feel better?

Great!  Go create!

This post has been updated since it was originally published in March of 2014.  

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Better Than Nothing

A favorite mantra of mine, particularly when I'm feeling overwhelmed.

20 minutes at the gym?  Better than nothing.

10 minutes working on that project that follows you wherever you go?  Better than nothing.

Sometimes that's all you can do.  As long as it doesn't become your regular approach, you're okay.

Like this short post.

Better than nothing.

Who Gets To Create?

Interesting question, isn't it? Do you need a license or a diploma to create? Of course not. But I bet you've had that terrible feeling at some point in your life that your artistic work wasn't worthy of being called creative. Or perhaps you have forgotten about the creative aspect of your work. You're so busy bouncing from gig to gig, excited that you are doing what you love to do, but scared that the end is around the corner, that you've forgotten that you are a creating soul.

It is easy to ignore the importance of creativity when that is a basic tenet of your job. We literally forget to be creative. Those of us who work in fields that aren't traditionally recognized as creative (think accounting, manufacturing or engineering) rarely consider the possibility that we could be creative on that job. Then there's the expert factor. Our society is so overrun with experts – expert witnesses, expert talking heads in the media – that it is easy to think you're not allowed to partake in an experience if you're not an expert.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you an expert who is not an expert.


Jack is my neighbor and he isn't. Jack is always around and then not around. I wouldn't call him homeless, but I would call him living on the fringes. When he isn't doing odd jobs around the hood, Jack paints. Paintings. Or he draws. Drawings. He scrounges all of his materials. Here's one of his works.

I'm not here to discuss the merits of Jack's work. I'm here to tell you what Jack's work does for me. Jack's work reminds me to be an artist. Jack's work reminds me to be creative.

All of us get to create. Some of us are blessed with more talent, opportunity or discipline, but all of us have permission to create. That's what I learn from Jack.

By this point in this post, there are many of you who are saying to yourself, “Get real, Heidi. Easy for people who do this because they love it, but I need that next gig so I can pay my bills.” Or “I need to get cast in that role so I can get to that next step in my career.”

That would be your mistake. Yes, you are correct that you do need to get cast, find gigs, network, produce songs, etc. This is especially true if you are supporting yourself with your art.

But you also need to be an artist. You need to find that piece of what you do that is unique. It's there, under the layers of musts.  The feeling that drew you to this work in the first place. Because while all of that business does matters, in the end, the ability to express your uniqueness is what is missing.  I'd be willing to bet it is a big part of why you are not getting cast, getting more gigs or fielding more interest in your writing. Not all the time, it is true, and we will discuss that later.

Look, you're not getting where you want to be anyway, so why not give it a shot? Why not return to what made you fall in love with being an artist in the first place? Or maybe you won't return. Maybe you'll find a new way to love the art you create, whether it is a new approach (I'm going to learn this song without using YouTube) or a new form (I'm going to try acting instead of dancing).

Why? Because then we are expressing our deepest selves. And that, my dear friends is what this is all about. Watching Jack with his dumpster-dived markers and particle board canvas reminds me of this. There he is, intent on one thing. His art. Couldn't care less what I think. He's creating and he's fulfilled. Proud to show me his signature when he finishes his work.

Do you do that when you create? Or do you check your emails, dig in your bag for a bottle of water, put your music on the stand and let your brain and body act bored with the routine?  What if you started from a place of freshness and newness? What if you cleared your brain and thought of nothing but the art you were about to create? What if you started at the end of the monologue and worked backwards? What if you took your sketching supplies or your computer to a different space on the planet, whether it was a different room or a different coffee shop? What would happen?

Just wondering.....