Tuesday, December 13, 2011

That Age Old Question...Again

I never feel age ... If you have creative work, you don't have age or time.”- Lousie Nevelson

Frank McCourt relished his role as Fitzgerald slayer. The famed high school teacher turned author loved to put the kibosh on F. Scott Fitzgerald's famous line,"There are no Second Acts in American life." McCourt, who published his first book, the blockbuster bestseller Angela's Ashes at 66( followed by 'Tis and Teacher Man) often called the last decade of his life his best.

So I'm sure he'd delight in being my opening salvo in a motivational nudge I recently gave a client deeply entrenched in a procrastinational funk. "I'm too old to start writing a book now," she said, lamenting her approaching birthday. I'm not sure where she got such a silly notion, but she's not alone. I've had many clients and students who think they're too old to pursue their dreams. Unless your dream is to, say, play shortstop for the Mets or dance in the NYC Ballet, I'm pretty sure they are within reach. Think of it this way: you're still--God willing--going to turn 40,50,60, whatever age you deem too old. Wouldn't your rather reach that dubious milestone doing something you love?

The truth is creativity knows no age. Actually, the art of creating helps you stay young, keeping you in touch with the child within, letting you engage in the states of exploration and play. And whatever your age, you've presumably accrued experience along the way. This can only help enrich the art you create.

Besides McCourt examples of late-blooming artists abound. Grandma Moses didn't even start painting until her 70's; her late-in-life career kept her thriving, creating the American folk art that has immortalized her well into her 90's. Maya Angelou didn't publish anything until her 40's. Neither did Ellen Gilchrist;the National Book Award winning short story writer and novelist once said of writing, "it makes me forget I'm not young anymore."

There are examples from the youth-obsessed entertainment industry, too. Noted character actor John Mahoney--famous for his TV role as Frasier's dad (and numerous movie parts)ditched his job as a text book editor in his 40's to pursue acting. Julia Child was over fifty when she published her first ground-breaking cook book; and she was well into her fifties when she stormed the small screen, becoming the first celebrity TV chef. Country singers K.T. Oslin and Buddy Jewel didn't hit the charts until their 40's. And Britain's Got Talent finalist and YouTube sensation Susan Boyle recorded her first album at the tender age of 48. And The Pope signed a record deal in his 80's. Such news is Heaven sent for most folks of a certain age.

There's nothing like immersing yourself in a creative project to infuse your life with youthful energy. So dive into the creative well. It's the ultimate fountain of youth. Hey, what are you waiting for? You're not getting any younger.

Cheers and onward.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Changing Comfort Zones

It’s good to do uncomfortable things. It’s weight training for life. ~ Anne Lamott

It's easy to stay in the same place. You know exactly what to expect. From yourself and others. But when you get too comfy, you tend to get complacent, even lazy. When you go beyond your comfort zone you wake-up to your talents, desires, potential, often in ways you never could have imagined.

In a recent writing workshop, an adult student who hadn't written anything beyond a business report in over thirty years, surprised herself by creating a moving piece in just twenty minutes. But it took a lot to get there. First,she had to overcome years of trepidation just to join the workshop. Then she had to conquer her fears to write spontaneously, and she did so in front of others! And while sharing is always optional in my workshops, she braved the boundaries she had unconsciously imposed on herself years ago, and read her work to the group.

By straddling her comfort zone and plunging into a new creative area she opened herself up to a whole new world of possibilities. Enlivened by the experience, she's now working on refining that first piece and delving deeper into new stories. And she has become one of the most enthusiastic and supportive members of the workshop.

So go ahead: take a risk, embrace a new activity, reawaken a dormant dream. But be warned: You may find yourself more alive than you've ever been.

Cheers and onward.