How to buy art supplies.

It’s tempting to think that if we want to make art, we should, of course, begin by shopping. Full of zest, vim and vigor, we resolve to really get in the creative mode and, tail wagging, we prance off to the art supply store.

We browse through walls of pens, shelves of sketchbooks, and bins of brushes. We consider locked racks of spray paint, spools of armature wire, lino knives and airbrush frisket. We stare blankly at tubes of yellow watercolor that arbitrarily cost a buck or a Benjamin. And finally we stagger home, our credit cards limp with exhaustion, clutching bags of random gear, unsure of what to do with most of it.

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How to find your biggest fan.

My boy Jack came home from LA for a visit recently. It was the first time he’s been home in almost a year — I say ‘home’ but New York isn’t his home anymore. He’s an Angeleno now with a home and dog and a lovely girlfriend.

In between carousing with his former high school pals, he spent time going through all the stuff he’d left behind in his old room: paintings, books, clothes, a few battered toys. It was the final pieces of a collection curated over almost a quarter of a century, now getting its final edit. Much of it went in the trash and the remaining few boxes I’ll ship to him via UPS.

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How to suck.

As a surprise, I signed up for ballroom dancing lessons with Jenny. I had rosy visions of twirling her around the floor while brilliantined men in dinner jackets played peppy tunes on from the bandstand.

Alas, after two or three sessions, it was obvious that I suck. While my wife is graceful and athletic as a prima ballerina, I clearly and congenitally have no innate sense of rhythm, no ability to remember steps, no actual understanding of music at all. Despite her brave smile, I finally acknowledged I’d have to buy Jenny steel-capped pumps or hang up my dancing shoes. 

What if you try doing something and find you’re not very good at it. What are the consequences?

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How to find your passion.


Let me ask you a personal question: do you have a passion problem?  I’m not asking about your hormonal levels but about your life’s passion.  Money, responsibilities, others’ opinions aside, what do you really want to do with your remaining days?

This can be a really hard question for a lot of people to answer. It was for me too. There I was, for decades, working in a respectable career that I was pretty good at and which paid the bills —  but I always a had a little itchy sense that I should be doing something else.  

I just didn’t know what.  

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How to win by losing.

This is going to be mortifyingly embarrassing but I may as well tell you about it. When I was a teenager, I loved the Newhart show. Not The Bob Newhart Show where he was shrink in Chicago married to Suzanne Pleshette but the later one in which Bob had a different wife and lived in Vermont. You may remember that show, a not-terribly funny precursor to Fawlty Towers, in which Bob ran an inn and there were the three local brothers named Larry, Daryl and Daryl.

I loved this show because of Bob’s second career, his real career. He was a successful author of “how-to” books. This struck me as the perfect ambition. To sit in a cozy study and churn out books that were effortless to write. Not to strive for Pulitzers or National Book Awards but just to crank out shelves full of books on animal husbandry, basket weaving, and transmission repair. Real books nonetheless, arrayed on shelves filled with one’s name over and over on the spines.

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How to make anything.

I spent a lot of time in school learning to conjugate latin verbs.  I ground my way through trigonometry. The dates of medieval wars. I memorized the key exports of African countries, the table of elements, and the names of all the US vice presidents.

But I never, ever studied the very thing I’ve made a living from my entire adult life. 

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How to get rid of rust.

A couple of years ago, I looked in the mirror as I struggled to button my trousers and said, “You fat bastard, get to the gym.” I dutifully signed up for a gym membership, got a trainer and vowed earnestly to show up. My initial physical assessment was depressing. I was fat indeed. But, energized by novelty, I showed up at my first appointment with visions of a lithe me doing handsprings in my head.

God, it was grueling. I was red faced and puffing a few minutes into the session. I clearly had an awfully long way to go. How would I stick to it rather than retiring to a pint of ice cream on the couch? The financial commitment was somewhat helpful; I’d optimistically bought an expensive package of training sessions so I couldn’t very well blow it off outright. Instead I just started to space the sessions further and further apart, from three weekly sessions to one that I managed to fill with chitchat rather than cardio.

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Podcast 14: Doing Your Thing

In this episode, I explore dozens of examples of creative people either being limited or exploding the labels that define them.

I hope it inspires you to make some changes  and take some risks of your own.


COMPLETE TRANSCRIPT OF EPISODE

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Podcast 13: Breaking Creative Blocks

This week on the podcast  author/coach Jill Badonsky gives me sage and funny advice on breaking down creative barriers and getting to work.

Listen and subscribe to podcast

Or here


COMPLETE TRANSCRIPT OF EPISODE (transcribed by robots, vaguely checked by humans) Continue reading “Podcast 13: Breaking Creative Blocks”

Podcast 12: the seven deadly creative sins

A few years ago I was thinking about my tendency toward jealousy and my occasional bursts of wrath. These are among my less appealing qualities but I insist on hanging onto them nonetheless.

As I thought about these shortcomings, I realized that they constituted two of the deadly sins described in Dante, and that in fact, if I was completely honest with myself, I was guilty of all seven: Envy, wrath, pride, greed, lust, gluttony and sloth. Not in my life in general, but specifically when it comes to creative matters.

I decided to write a series of blog posts in the subject which I enjoyed and met with muted response upon publication here. Nonetheless, that series remained very interesting to me and so I decided to revisit them in my new life as an internationally acclaimed podcast host.

This week’s podcast is a fresh version of the seven deadly sins as they apply to creative endeavors, retooled and updated for a new generation, and scored lightly with well-mixed Gregorian chants.

I’m not sure if the listening audience will be any more interested in them than the reading one was, but I enjoy hurling things at the wall and waiting to see what sticks.

If you don’t think the deadly sins apply to you, spend a half hour with me and your headphones and let me know if I convince you otherwise.

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Or here


Episode transcript (but please listen to the podcast!) Continue reading “Podcast 12: the seven deadly creative sins”