Hey Creator: On the Art of Re-Creation

For the past nine and a half years, I’ve been working as an author and teacher, inspiring the creative class to make their work more interesting when all the while, I myself was leading a life that, well, wasn’t all that interesting. At least to me, it wasn’t.

Sure, it looked good on the outside—big house, lots of money, the occasional stranger stopping me on the street to say hi—but something was missing. I was doing my best, but my life felt boring. Tame. Suburban.

It wasn’t a bad life by any stretch of the imagination. Many would have approved of it—I was a good dad, paid my bills on time, took my wife on dates—but deep down, I felt listless. Drifting through life without any clear direction or destination.

What, if anything, could make me happy if not the so-called “good” life? As I pondered my own lack of motivation, a question arose in me, one I had heard before and it came screaming back into my consciousness: “Is the life I’m living the one that wants to live in me?” Or in other words:

Am I living in a way that is worthy of my own respect, or am I just doing what I think others would approve of?

My life changed, not in the way that it does at a weekend seminar with a guru shouting at you, but slowly and intentionally.

I started going for long walks every morning and taking up amateur mountain biking. I took my kids on little adventures and fell in love with life all over again, rediscovering nature and cooking and… myself.

What I am learning through all of this is that change is always happening. We do not reinvent ourselves in a single swoop. Evolution is a constant and inevitable human institution.

People, if you really watch them, are always shifting from one shade of something into another. And this is true for yourself, as well. When the story of your life no longer matches the role you want to play, it’s time to re-write the script.

I call this “re-creation.” The act of creating something again, over and over, which we do our entire lives. The human body itself is a biological organism that is actually a complex set of systems and cells always dying and being replaced.

We all are walking resurrections, experiencing rebirth constantly.

We are not just creations, however. We are also creators. As artists, we create books and ideas and businesses. But we are also the makers of our own lives, imagining what could be and bringing it into existence.

Yes, there is undeserved hardship and trauma that we have to deal with; there is privilege to consider and social inequities to grapple with. But we all, in some way, get to choose what we will tolerate and what we are willing to change.

So what do we do?

First, we acknowledge what’s not working. What bothers you right now? What vision for your life or work has yet to unfold the way you thought it would? What hidden curiosity have you yet to explore? What are you afraid to try?

For the past year, I’ve been on a journey of rediscovering and re-creating myself. It’s been wonderful. Now, it’s time to share with you what it all means.

In other words, I’m back. We’re back, all of us, trying to make sense of what we do with now and who we become after such a strange year of unexpected change.

This newsletter, which my team and I have dubbed “Hey Creator” will be a compilation of helpful resources and notes from around the web, along with inspiring stories from the New Renaissance, all with the intent to help you live a more creative life.

This means not only new essays and a brand new podcast, but also all kinds of links to resources and content of what other creators like you are up to. My goal is to provide the platform I’d want to hang out on even if I weren’t responsible for publishing it.

So, hello. This is not a “welcome back” as much as it is simply a “welcome.” Let’s have a dialogue. I’d love to hear from you, what you’re about, and what you’re looking for.

If you’ve experienced your own creative renaissance lately, if you’ve ever reinvented yourself or renegotiated your life in any way, I want to hear about it. I don’t know exactly what’s next for you or me or this weird world that is maybe, slowly going back to normal (or not).

But I do know that we’re doing this, and the best is yet to come. And that’s enough for now. Next week, we’ll be sharing what it means to disappear and come back, how we can reinvent ourselves, and other good news from around the planet.

See ya then,

Jeff

“Candid, loose, sometimes hard to watch, sometimes so funny it made the audience convulse in laughter, [John Mulaney’s return to stand-up] was a writing session. He was doing all-new material, not attempting to work in any of the jokes he was building in outdoor shows before rehab.

It was raw, both in its frankness and in the complete lack of polish that we typically associate with Mulaney’s work. It was fascinating to see him try to figure out how to apply his stylistic signatures to more intensely personal subject matter.” Who should John Mulaney be now?

Does art endure because it’s good, or because it’s well promoted?(The Atlantic)

From a “group” of proofreaders to a “chapter” of novelists, what’s your favorite literary collective noun?

For post-pandemic office employees, authors may provide the greatest inspiration: work from near home. (The New Yorker)

“Beyond the greatest hits, literary feats, political activism and unrivaled recipes of words and music is a life tangled up in the art of reinvention”—Bob Dylan at 80.

Right now, in the waning days of the pandemic, is your once-in-a-lifetime chance to start over. (The Atlantic)

From Anthony de Mello:

A writer arrived at the monastery to write a book about the Master.

“People say you are a genius. Are you?” he asked.

“You might say so,” said the Master, none too modestly.

“And what makes one a genius?”

“The ability to recognize.”

Recognize what?”

“The butterfly in a caterpillar: the eagle in an egg; the saint in a selfish human being.”

Jeff, the OG, who re-created literally everything about himself since the last time he sent out a newsletter. Like, even his guacamole recipe.

Chantel, the editor, who spends so much time reading articles on the internet that we had to collect them in a regular section of this newsletter.

Sandy, the community facilitator, who always knows exactly what y’all want to know. (Send her your questions for the next issue!)

Will, the marketing guru, who made sure you knew about this newsletter in time, and who also told us to be funnier.

Matt, the startup guy, who is smack-dab in the middle of living his dream as a full-time creator while discovering he’s still the same person, for better or worse.

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