I suppose creative droughts are not exclusive to writers and content creators. But, when I’m in one, it’s lonely. It feels like “Nobody knows the troubles I’ve seen” playing in the far south of my soul circa 1859. On a “medium” parched-for-creative inspiration day, I’d score my mood with Yonatan Razel’s “Ve’hishamdah.” But, let the record state, in my head he’s singing it live, in the Negev, with mandolins and a stand up base in place of the violins.
Today, I am touched by a certain shade of the blues that my usual round up of musical therapists aren’t even touching. Today is a productivity-grey day where I can almost see a vise grip clamping down on my creative artery. I feel a hot and pulsing back load of untapped potential and opportunity which I know threatens to throw a Fear of Failure clot; extended bouts of non-innovation makes me feel like I’m having a mini stroke in the “maker” part of my mind.
Blessedly, I want to fix it. But I’m gonna need some stronger stuff to get me through.
My passion for music is on par with my passion for Chassidic thought and lifestyle. It is an avenue of inspiration and self-betterment that I try to set as an automated response.
“When you are gripped by ‘foreign thoughts’… push them away with two hands.” Says the Alter Rebbe in his magnum opus, the Tanya.
That imagery has served me well over the years.
Today is a definitely a two-hand today.
Two-hands plus a little funk.
So, here’s what happened this morning… prior to the production of this post.
I put noise isolating head phones over my ears.
I take down a portrait that a dear friend and abnormally gifted artist, Ruth Gila Zavidowsky, painted for me years ago of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. (It’s the Rebbe shortly after he assumed leadership of the Chabad movement, and indecently – the way he looked on the rare occasion that I dreamed of him).
I prop the painting at eye level.
I find the song “Lose yourself in the music” by Eminem.
I turn up the volume and stare at the life-like portrait while the music courses through every cell in my being.
There are amateur boxing moves involved.
By the end of it, I feel way more relaxed. Way more focused. Way more “Alright, let’s take a crack at this blank screen – show me what you got sista.”
I share this window into my creative process for several reasons…
For starters, I think it’s important to say out loud that even people who appear confident, together and successful in their lives, creative or otherwise, entertain the thought that they totally suck from time to time.
Also, I’m not convinced that my spiritual and emotional life are two separate things. I do not believe in the demonization of music or art that falls outside the category of classically “Jewish.” (Saul Sudin’s rocked that point here).
Finally, I am an educator. I teach about living a G-d centered life, rooted in traditional, biblical values. One of the strengths I bring to my trade is a willingness to meet and enjoy people as they are. That makes me relatable… incidentally, so does my appreciation of popular music. I think the more emphasis educators place on the things that connect and inspire their students – the richer and more valuable the learning.
Everything about this song drives me to connect to the things that help me lose myself in the things that I’m meant to create. It’s a song that helps me face my fear of failing, move forward and create; a message worth promoting.
The Rebbe’s picture helps me stay focused on who I am and who I want to be as I move through all those steps.
I’m not saying this is something you should do… just sharing something that works for me. At the end of the day, we’re each meant to discover the things in and outside of ourselves that make us right with G-d, right with the world, and right with ourselves when our head hits the pillow at the end of a full day.
Sometimes a little blend of a trailer-trash-gangsta-super-star mixed with the steady beat of Chassidic, Rabbinical giants is exactly what you need to move your own needle.