Creativity as Faith in Running Shoes

Tami Simon: You’re listening to Insights at the Edge. Today my guest is Jan Phillips. Jan is an award-winning photographer, writer, multimedia artist, and national workshop leader. She’s cofounder of Syracuse Cultural Workers, publishers of artwork that inspires justice, diversity, and global consciousness. Jan lectures throughout the country giving presentations that inspire creativity, community-building, and commitment in personal, social, and corporate environments. She’s the author of the book God Is at Eye Level: Photography as a Healing Art and also author of the book Marry Your Muse: Making a Lasting Commitment to Your Creativity. With Sounds True, Jan has created a 12-session audio learning program, The Marry Your Views Workshop, in which she teaches that you can fall in love with the artist within and make each day of your life a masterpiece to remember.

In this episode of Insights at the Edge, Jan and I spoke about the Artist’s Creed, which is really the centerpiece of her work with marrying your muse. It’s a manifesto that she wrote to support aspiring writers when they feel confronted by blocks and fears. We also spoke about the connection between her work with creativity and her work in training leaders and how for Jan, creativity is the ultimate act of faith. Here’s my conversation with Jan Phillips.

Jan, I know you’ve done so much work helping people with their creative process, and especially [identifying] ways that people might become stuck at different points with the creative process. I’m curious, to begin, what do you find are the main blocks people find when it comes to their creative expression?

Jan Phillips: Well, three things come to mind at first: the first one that’s besieging people constantly is the question that somebody else once asked them, [which] sounds like, “Who do you think you are?” with that kind of testiness and challenge. And that resides in so many people still on a cellular level that when they think they might want to write a poem, or do a painting, or have some movement in their body, they hear this sort of reminiscent “who do you think you are” voice. So it’s an internalized, disparaging voice that really takes some work to acknowledge and deal with and finally get rid of.

Another problem that causes people to not be freely able to express is that the culture doesn’t really have any formal way of inviting us to the table. The culture really has their focus on the big famous people and, you know, Hollywood and New York, and there’s not much room for the creators or the culture to really have a place at the table where we can take our power, show our work. It’s really an effort for artists of any ilk to be able to manifest a place to share [their] work, to exhibit [their] work, to get an audience for [their] work. That ultimately makes it difficult to make a living at the thing you would really love to make a living at. So the cultural kind of closure or lack of opening to a variety of voices is a thing that makes it difficult. And I think that choices people make with the time in their lives is really the thing that defeats them most. It’s their unwillingness to dedicate a period of time each day to be receivers of the intelligence that’s making its way to us.

I’m not saying that one has to be a believer in any kind of formal god. You know, I’m not even [a believer], but I do have a time each day where I’m in communion with that which feels to me like the source of creativity, and I perceive myself as a satellite dish for that. In my reception time, a lot comes my way in the line of inspiration and a lot of ideas for follow-through in the line of publishing and marketing. So it’s not just, “Oh, great. The muse came, and now I have a beautiful poem.” But when you sit in silence for some time each day, the help that we get is the whole program gets revealed to us, all the steps that we need to be successful in the world. But, in my opinion, that’s a requirement, and I think a lot of creative people will say things like, “I don’t have time.”

I call it a spiritual practice. Some people call it meditation or contemplation. It doesn’t matter, but if anybody says to me, “I don’t have time,” then I cannot take them seriously as co-creators on this planet.

TS: OK, now you said many interesting things, and I want to start with the very first thing you said which is this internalized idea, “Who do you think you are? Who do you think you are to make this piece of art or write that poem?” Where does that come from?

JP: Well, I think it comes from our families predominantly, because our families’ commitment is for us to be safe in the world. Every family wants their child to be safe and rich and marry well and do the right thing, so when a kid starts showing creativity, you don’t usually find a lot of encouragement.

You’ll hear sentences like, “Oh, that’s nice honey, but figure out what you want to be when you grow up because you can’t make a living being an artist.” And that’s a prevailing mentality in this culture of—well, you know about our culture. It’s just not at all focusing on the value of each person’s creativity. It’s focusing on the value of us as consumers, the value of us as makers of things for other people to consume, but there’s no value placed on the creative act.

So that’s how it comes down to us: first from the family, next form the culture, then from the churches. You know, I grew up Catholic, and from my religious training particularly— because I was in the convent so it got worse—but the messages [were discouraging], not only, “Who do you think you are,” but “You’re unworthy, don’t put any attention on yourself, have your focus be on giving and being for other people,” So that in itself really denies a possibility of creativity being something that’s valuable to the culture and to other people.

TS: Yes, the idea that if I’m in my room being silent, writing or painting, that I’m somehow not valued.

JP: You’re selfish.

TS: Yes. I think that is a really huge block for people. How did you get over that yourself with a Catholic background?

JP: Well, they kicked me out, so that helped. When I left the convent, here’s how it worked for me: I was told I wasn’t supposed to communicate with any of the sisters, and I was dismissed late at night, at dark, and it was this really tragic and terrible ending, and I felt terrible that I couldn’t communicate with any of these women that I had been living with for years.

So I decided to make a book of photographs [and] have each image say to my best friend, who was still in the community, but it would be—I wouldn’t be communicating. I would just be sending pictures. But I figured if my photograph was good enough as a metaphor, then she would be able to know how I was doing, what I was haunted by, where my breakdowns were, where my breakthroughs were.

I used my camera for the first time as a test to see [if I could] convey anything about my inner world with an exterior photograph, and I sent that book to her. And of course, all of the mail is read and intercepted by the Superior. So the Superior got it, but ultimately—and she knew it was for me—she let my friend, Sister Lois, have that book because she couldn’t decode the secrets in the way that my dear friend could.

So I learned then there is a power—well, (a) a power to photographs, in the image, but (b) a power to the metaphor. So, therefore, the metaphor is really what the teacher is. And so you can do that in poetry, you can do it in fiction, you can do it in nonfiction. And the storyteller—we do it all the time. Everyone knows the best preachers are the preachers that have the best metaphors, right? That was where I got my start in knowing the power of art, but then I [also] had to come out as a political activist because I came out as a lesbian. When I did that all hell broke loose, and I discovered, for the first time, that I was a marginalized person from a marginalized group, and I was hated simply for that one element. It had nothing to do with the whole me, but a part of me made people hate me. So I became a social activist. And that’s when I decided to use the arts in the service of my activism.

That’s kind of how it unfolded. And since then, I’ve just been a prolific creator because it’s how I do my mission in the world. My creativity is just my faith in running shoes. You know, it’s just what I believe in, put into a beautiful form.

TS: I love that, “My faith in running shoes.” I love that. Now, you said you wouldn’t take somebody seriously in terms of really being a creative force if they said to you, “I don’t have the time,” meaning, “I’m too busy with my job, I’m too busy with my kids, I’m too busy helping out my parents, whatever. I don’t have the time, Jan. That’s the reason I’m not creating, you know, even though I’m flooded with great ideas. I don’t have the time.”

JP: Well, you know, I just think we make our time. It’s like Deepak Chopra says, “Time is a manmade construct. If you need more, make it.” I think that each one of us wakes up, we have an empty canvas of 24 hours everyday, and we make a masterpiece. Instead of using paintbrushes and colors, we use our choices, we use our thoughts, we use images and stories, and we compose a masterpiece. Then it’s over, and we roll into bed and wake up to an empty slate the next day. So what I’m doing is I make the choices about, “How am I using my 24 hours, and what kind of a masterpiece am I making?” I never say, “Oh, somebody else is in charge of my 24 hours.” I say, “No, I am fully in charge of my 24 hours.”

If I have a child, then I will be teaching my child about the value of quiet time. Even if we just take 10 or 15 minutes a day. I’m not going to let [the fact that I have kids make] me ultimately say, “Well, now because I have three children, I don’t have time to meditate.” My God, no. That’s my opportunity to start training my children early [about] the value of solitude and the joy of contemplation and of being alone. You know, people day timeout for kids is punishment, but I would think it would be a reward.

TS: OK, well, “The other major obstacle of why I don’t have time—even though I’m going to say I own these 24 hours, they’re mine—[is because] I have a lot of financial obligations,” says this person. “I have student loans I have to pay off or other kinds of debt. I mean, this all sounds nice, but Jan obviously doesn’t have the same kind of economic oppressions.”

JP: I have a lot of financial obligations as well. I have two homes. I have a home on the East Coast, a home in San Diego. I have people that I’m caring for. So let’s just say I have a full-time job—I’m a writer and a public speaker—so my full-time job takes me 50-60 hours a week. But I wake up early in order to have an hour of time with my creator everyday, so I can get my download of information, and inspiration, and supreme intelligence, and peace, and everything else I want in order to be participating fully in my life.

So that means some days I have to set an alarm. Most days I don’t. But if I have to catch a flight at six o’clock, you bet I’m going to set my alarm so I can have my time before I have to go to the airport. So it’s just a matter of prioritizing.

TS: OK. Now, the project that we recorded together quite a few years ago was called, The Marry Your Muse Workshop: Making a Lasting Commitment to Your Creativity. And I want to talk a little bit about what you think the Muse is. Is this a part of ourselves that we just call on, is it something outside of ourselves? How do you think of the Muse?

JP: Well, everybody knows that from the old Middle Ages paintings that the Muse is like this thin, blonde, angelic creature that hovers around the shoulder of the man at work on his canvas. So that’s the image that we’ve been given of the Muse. And we’ve got the Greeks and their three muses. [They’re] always women in flowing robes. But in my opinion—just as the Holy Spirit is, just as the Divine Force is—even though it’s been externalized to us all of our lives as something that’s outside and beyond us and above us for the most part, I think of the Muse as the Holy Spirit, the spark of the Creator that is inside me.

So when I need to be in communion with or get fired up by the Muse, I don’t have to make a phone call to have that conversation. I can just go within and be in touch with that force that is the inspiration for my work. That, to me, is the conversation I have in the morning during my downtime. Because the Muse is just—I mean, anything you think of as divine or infinite or immortal, the Muse is in that category. It’s the archetype of the infinite.

TS: Now, as part of this process of “marrying your muse,” you developed something called the Artist’s Creed, and I’d be curious to know, first of all, how you came up with this Artist’s Creed.

JP: It’s so interesting, because I just whimsically named a class “Marry Your Muse” because I was invited to teach at the International Women’s Writing Guild summer conference, so I was going to have a week with about 800 women that come from all over the world and I was going to teach for a week.

So I called my class, “Marry Your Muse,” but by the second day of class, what was becoming apparent was everybody saying why they weren’t creating, why they were not writing in the world. They were saying things like, “I don’t have time, I don’t have a place to write in, I don’t have support from my husband, I have four kids and they are always in my hair.” And then [there were] the deeper, more troublesome ones: “I don’t believe I have a story that matters, I don’t think anybody wants my work.” So all of these women were confessing all week long why they weren’t writing.

We did, in fact, take a trip deep into ourselves and identified the Muse. Everybody gave their Muses names, and on the last day of class, we had a marriage ceremony, a commitment ceremony. What became true was [that] for every woman, her vow was like a refrain of that problem. So if I were in the class and said, “I’m not writing because I don’t have any time because I’m working two jobs, and I’m taking seven college classes,” then my vow would probably be, “Dear Muse, I commit to spending an hour with you at least three days a week.” And the woman who would say, “I can’t write because I don’t have any space in my house,” her vow would be, “Dear Muse, I vow to turn this spare bedroom into a space where I can be with you whenever I want.”

When I was driving home, and I was reflecting on all those vows that everybody said, I sat down and wrote the Artist’s Creed with those vows in mind. We didn’t record it. We didn’t have any audio. All I had was my memory. But I remembered those were the areas that women were broken down about in the beginning and broken through about at the end. So that’s why the Artist’s Creed got composed. I only wrote it for those 15 women that were in my class—I call them “Musettes.” I only wrote it for them, and I sent it out to each of them and said, “Hang this up right by your computer or by your typewriter because you have to remember this. This was the magic.”

So I thought that was the end of it. But, of course, I hear from, you know, [the] mind at large that each one of these tenants of the Creed should be a chapter of a book. So that’s how the book, Marry Your Muse came about—only after the Artist’s Creed.

TS: You know, I want to ask you about the different components of the Artist’s Creed because I think it will really bring out many of the highlights in your work with Marry Your Muse. So, the first one here is, “I believe I’m worth the time it takes to create whatever I feel called to create.” And, you know, we’ve already talked about this, this idea that I’m worth it, and how this sense that I’m not [worth it] is one of the biggest obstacles.

And you said in your own life that you came to see how it was actually an act of generosity and an act of giving for you to be creative. But what if somebody just thinks, you know, “What I have to create isn’t that good, so it’s not really going to help that many people. I’d be better off doing something else that really helps, versus my creativity, which is just kind of average.”

JP: Well, I don’t have any trouble with that as long as they’ve really discerned, and that’s not just some knee-jerk reaction that’s not them. But if that’s after an examination of consciousness and that’s a conclusion that they’ve come to, then that’s fine. Who am I to say anything about what anyone else is doing with their time or their life? I’m just saying if somebody comes to me and says, “I can’t create,” or “I don’t feel creative because of this or that,” then I think it’s really important to break down those boundaries that have been built up around people’s confidence and their ability to be creative.

Because, I think by default, we’re all extraordinarily creative and that there’s some medium that we love to work in and to play in. And for us to at least experiment with feeling how our creative voice—with hearing our authentic voice come out through a variety of different media, I think that is important. Then, if somebody does that [and] says, “No, I’m still going to go be a nurse for the Red Cross because I can be of more value that way,” I’d never say, “Oh no. Really you should watercolor.” No. No. Everybody has to discern for themselves about their own creativity. I don’t have people coming to me that are fully self-expressed. You know, I have people coming to me who want to be fully self-expressed.

TS: It’s interesting, Jan, because you work in so many different mediums—photography, writing, public speaking, music, probably several others that I don’t even know about.

JP: Yes. I have a CD of music.

TS: Yes. What’s interesting to me about that is you’ve allowed yourself to be quite a creative explorer. You haven’t said, “I’m only going to do this one thing that I’m obviously the best at.” You really have allowed yourself to explore freely.

JP: Yes. I have, and I think that’s really great because there are times when there’s one medium that’s better for the thing. You know, a few years ago I wrote a book on thought leadership called The Art of Original Thinking: The Making of a Thought Leader, and now I’m being asked to come and talk on leadership. So today I said, “I think I need to make a video on evolutionary leadership.”

So I get all dressed up, I put my makeup on, I fix my hair, I set up my studio for the video, I put my camcorder out there. I’m in the middle of making a video now because I think that, artistically, when you deliver your information in a package that can contain images, music, poetry, and some narration, it has a much bigger chance of drifting down into the heart zone and not just staying up there in the brain. I’m always looking for the best way to communicate. What I have, [what] I want to share, is intelligence. But there are different ways to convey it. Sometimes music is the better way, sometimes prayers, you know? I just came out as a poet, in my last book. I’m not Mary Oliver, and I’m not going to be Kay Ryan or anybody, but I’m a darn good poet. You just look for, “How does this idea want to be expressed?”

You know, I was online today. I wrote about this idea called “post-autistic economics”—that was like six years ago. So I went online to review what is happening to it, because I think our system of economics is full of faults, and that’s why, globally, we’re going through such terrible shifts in the matter of our monetary realities. What I discovered was there’s this Harvard professor of economics who had all of these links to how different classes and different ideas and principles had been translated into rap songs! It’s like a mnemonic device. I went to listen to the ten principles of economics done in a rap song, and it’s like wow! This came into my body cellularly. I don’t have to take notes. I can just memorize the rap song and pass my SATs, you know what I mean? So if people get some information with an artistic package, they have to be containing it more fully in their cells.

TS: You know, what you’re saying is exciting to me. I think what I’m pointing out though, and what I want to hear you comment on, is that I can imagine someone who says, “Look, I’m really, really good at photography. I’m one of the best. But as a poet, I give myself a B-, a C+. So I’m not going to write poetry. I’m just going to stick with photography.” And yet, you’re here as a person saying, “I give myself the freedom to be fully self-expressed in all of these different mediums.” So what do you say to that person who says, you know, “I only want to work in the area that I know I’m really, really good”?

JP: Well, I think that’s a fine thing to do. I think we really have to stay where our joy is and hover around where the bliss experience is. I get paralyzed [too]. I have a friend who is a painter, and she keeps making me go to her studio, and puts a paintbrush in my hand, and gives me a blank canvas. I’m practically in tears begging for my camera. She goes, “Jan, I want you to get through this block.” So I spend four hours, and I try and get through the block, but it’s never, ever fun.

I can say to you right now, “I’m never going to be a watercolorist. I’m never going to be painting. You’ll probably never see a painting of mine on my book cover because it’s not fun enough.” I think joy is the whole compass, the whole indicator. If people know how to follow their joy, they’ll end doing the right thing that they’re here to do. That’s why Rumi says, “The eye is here for seeing; the soul is here for its own joy.” So when you’re in your joy space, then you know you’re being true to your soul’s work and calm.


JP: So I’d never try to push somebody into being a photographer if they wanted to rap. You know what I mean?

TS: I like it. “The joy space,” I like that. Now I want to ask you a few more questions about the Artist’s Creed, but before we go there, you’ve mentioned something very intriguing: that your work with the creativity brought you into the filed of leadership. And, I’d love to know how those two fields connect for you.

JP: The two fields connect for me, because leadership is an area that calls for, that absolutely requires, the epitome of creativity. One has to be authentic in order to be a leader. You cannot fake leadership. Everyone knows—look at Mitt Romney. You can’t fake leadership.

The only rule for being a great leader is to know how to open up all your channels—how to open up all your resources and sensibilities and sensitivities so that the authentic you can radiate into the world. Because that’s what people respond to—the energy. Everybody knows only 10 percent of the communication that you put out gets received from the words that you say. Ninety percent of what people get from you comes from your energy, and the rest is your words.

A true and authentic leader has to be comfortable with the risks of being creative. That means being comfortable in the turbulence, it means traveling undauntedly towards the unknown, it means risking having to acknowledge that you, yourself, have fear. It’s all those vulnerabilities that make an exquisite leader, in my opinion. So to be a visionary leader today is a spiritual event. You could study all of the charts and graphs and read Peter Drucker and read all of Peter Senge and still be a lousy leader, because leadership is a matter of letting go of old notions. That’s why Meister Eckhart, the German mystic, said the process of enlightenment is not a process of addition—it’s a process of subtraction. It’s letting go of inherited beliefs.

So, truly, leadership is a matter of original thinking, which means you know how to distinguish between what thoughts in your head are inherited and which are original. And I know how to do that. But it takes some time to be able to make that distinction.

TS: Yes. Tell me how you do that.

JP: A good, hot tip is your own original thoughts never need defending. But our inherited beliefs often make us feel defensive. You know, I try to have a conversation with my brother about politics, and he doesn’t have many of his own original thoughts, so he gets very defensive, and he almost always starts to cry and he gets mad, and then he satrts talking about Mexicans. It’s always a downhill matter. He just tumbles into despair when he tries to talk about his politics because all of his beliefs are inherited. And many of them are inherited from ridiculous radio hosts. I don’t even know why he has loyalty to them. But he hasn’t been invested in thinking his original thoughts because that takes some time.

You know, people have to ask you questions in order for you to really solidify what you believe, and very few people are asking questions. I was going to do a video on visionary leadership and just have it be a series of questions I’m asking the audience.

TS: What are the questions that you’re asking?

JP: Well, what gifts do you have to help elicit from the people on your team a higher level of thinking? In what way do you ask, “What would nature do?” when you’re looking for solutions to the problem. How do you release yourself into the world [so] that you’re radiating positive energy and light? What are the moral standards that you bring to the table that are similar to the Native Americans: when they’re deliberating whether a choice is good or bad, the question is always, is good for the next seven generations?

What are your standards as a visionary thought leader? I always say triple bottom-line thinking. Is it good for the people? Is it good for the planet? Is it good for profits, if you’re a business? People, planet, profit. And those are pretty good standards. A lot of people don’t know when it’s time for them to make a big, ethical decision, [and] they don’t know what you measure it against. How do I know what I think? They don’t know.

I once asked a man, who was the dad of a friend of mine—he was an industrialist. He owned a big steel mill back East, and I asked him, “How do you know when it’s time, if a big vote is coming up or it’s time for you to make a big political decision, how do you know what to choose?” And he said, “I ask myself three questions: Is it good for the Jews? Is it good for the blacks? And is it good for the poor? If it is, I know it’s a good decision.” And that was his standard, and it was real clear to him. We all have different ways of knowing how to be ethical and how to respond to the crises of our times, but most of us can’t articulate what our standards are. So that’s part of leadership.

TS: One of the comments you make in Marry Your Muse is that you see creativity as an act of faith. And I’m curious, what is this “faith”? What is your faith?

JP: Well, I think faith is the thing to which we’re ultimately committed. So [you’re talking about] your faith as opposed to your religion, right? Religion is a set of dogmas and beliefs that people hand to you. But faith is a life that you create that’s based on your ultimate commitments and concerns. So my creativity—when I said my creativity is my faith and running shoes, it means it’s the actual visual demonstration of what I believe it and what I’m committed to.

Like, I would never have a photographic exhibition of close-up photographs of flowers. Beautiful as that might be, and beauty has its own place in the world, I would only ever have a photographic exhibition that had some stimulus for cultural awakening, for political enlightenment, some kind of edge that would cause a person to be more, know more, and feel more after they were exposed to my work. So my faith is that I believe I’m here to be a force for good in the world and that I’m radiating a particular kind of light and energy and that I can increase the wattage. And so I do. I increase my wattage every day during my spiritual practice. But my creativity is the demonstration of that faith. It’s the expression of, “What does it look like when it’s fleshed out?”

TS: OK. So I want to circle back to the Artist’s Creed and just bring forth a couple of the other points you make in this set of vows to making a commitment to our own creativity. One of the things that you say is that, “I believe that my work is joyful, useful, and constantly changing, flowing through me like a river, with no beginning and no end.” Here in our conversation, you’ve talked about joy a couple of times. And, you know, I know many people who are writers, and I, myself, have done some writing and the experience is that it’s not always joyful. Sometimes it’s joyful, but sometimes the process is pretty grueling. So how do you make sense of that, in terms of the Artist’s Creed, “I believe that my work is joyful, useful, and constantly changing”?

JP: I’m not saying there’s not an element of hardship and effort and struggle, because to be honest, for the last two weeks, I feel like I have been a hen brooding in the hen house. Sitting and waiting for my eggs, and I’m just brooding and brooding. I’m not saying that brooding is blissful to me. I’m saying that the prevailing atmosphere of my life is bliss because I am committed to being creative.

Just today, when I finally said, “I’m not spending one more day in bed, I am going to begin this project, even though I don’t know what it’s going to look like. I am going to pick a piece of music for the soundtrack, I’m going to put on my good clothes, and videotape myself talking about visionary leadership.” I was not in the mood, but I had to get out of that funk, that brooding funk.

And I’m way more joyful now because I have actually started the work. I think that inspiration comes after we have started the work. If we wait for inspiration before we start, we’ll never start. Because inspiration doesn’t show up. It’s like if you’re standing on the edge of the cliff, waiting to jump. You keep looking back, waiting for your wings to sprout. But the truth is, your wings don’t sprout until you’re in mid-air. So I had to get off of my brooding ledge,and actually start something even though I wasn’t in the mood for it today. I do notice, now that I have some video to look at, now I have a direction, now I can continue to take me my next week to complete the task. But I do think my work is joyful, useful, and constantly changing, because I know this video will be useful. I’ve got like ten videos on YouTube and some of them have been seen over 80,000 times by 80,000 people around the world.

So I know there’s value. I know people are passing it around to their Facebook friends. And so I can’t help but be joyful. If you know what you’re putting into the world is value for somebody else, that to me is a measure of joy. That’s what I live for, to have value for somebody else besides myself.

TS: OK. Here’s another aspect of the Artist’s Creed that I have a question about. Part of the Creed states, “I believe that I am not alone in my attempt to create, and that once I begin the work, settle into the strangeness, the words will take shape, the form finds life, and the spirit takes flight.” The part I want to talk about is this idea of not being alone. It seems that often creating is a very alone place to be. So what do you mean by this part of the Creed?

JP: Well, the part that says, “I believe I’m not alone,” comes from the entity that I feel connected to when I’m in my morning prayers. I don’t have any sense of some god with arms and legs up high in some sky. I don’t have that at all. But when I look at my burning candle, and I pay attention to my breath, and I say, “If there’s anything divine in the world, it’s breathing me right now.” And that this fire that I’m looking at is a greater force than me, and I contain that force inside myself. So that’s why I don’t feel alone.

I’m a post-theist. I can hardly bear to be in a church. I practice being an atheist so I get better at the language. I often have atheists in my workshops, so I need to have that language. But a beautiful thing I discovered in the course of practicing atheism is this: if there is a God, I am in awe. If there is not a God, I am in greater awe. So, either way, I can’t lose.

The reason why today kind of jolted me out of my uneasiness and that brooding sensibility that always happens before your project comes out of you, before you get the idea, or the first sentence, or the title, or the chord for the song, that brooding sensation got transcended today because when I sat down to do the video, it was as if there was another person in the chair on the other side of the room asking me questions. And in response to those questions, I heard my wisdom usher forth. That’s why I think the creative process is relational.

TS: The final question I’m going to ask you to comment on is the last part of the Artist’s Creed, which goes, “I believe that as the Muse gives to me, so does she deserve from me faith, mindfulness, and enduring commitment.” And I wonder if you can just comment on this. “As the Muse gives to me, so does she deserve from me faith, mindfulness, and enduring commitment.”

JP: Well, let’s remember that, to me, the Muse is the equivalent of the Divine, the great invisible one, my counterpart. The yin to my yang. So I’m saying that I am receiving every day, in a conscious way, whatever I can receive from mind at large. In the same way that the trees, all day long, engage in the process of photosynthesis—and they convert some light and rain and all of that into nutrients for the whole system—I receive, from supreme intelligence, information. And I convert it with the chlorophyll of my imagination. So I’m engaged in this relationship with intelligence at large, and I consciously—or not consciously, I’m not always aware—I commit to being in the room for an hour, the candles burning, I am there. No matter what, I’m there.

That is my time of committed mindfulness, where I’m kind of toning my muscles. I’m like an athlete who, when I’m not on the court, I’m working out. That’s my workout time. In that time, I do feel a download, I experience a lot of ideas, a lot of inspiration, and a lot of information. So I feel that, as that spirit gives to me, so does that spirit deserve, from me, the same generosity. And that generosity is what comes out when I offer my creations to the world. You don’t thank God or thank the Divine by just saying a bunch of prayers. It’s my life that’s the sign of gratitude, it’s my dedication to being a greater light in the world, it’s my dedication to end injustice in whatever way I can, my dedication to enliven people and make people laugh and have a good time and recall their own beauty.

So that’s part of that relational thing we were talking about. It’s the give and take, just like you do with a lover. This is my lover. And you would never say—you know, when you are falling in love with somebody, I have driven through blizzards to spend a half an hour with a new lover. That’s the cost, that’s the price you pay to have time with your dearest beloved. And that’s what I give. It’s my time. And I receive from the beloved. What I give to the world in exchange for that beauty is the beauty that gets churned out of me and my creations. And that keeps me full of joy and full of meaning. So, I know from my life, if somebody feels, “I don’t have much happiness, and I don’t have much meaning,” then I say, “Well, I think I might know a good path for that. Let’s try and open up your creativity and see if it works.”

TS: I’ve been speaking with Jan Phillips. She’s created a six-session learning course for Sounds True called The Marry Your Muse Workshop: Making a Commitment to Your Creativity. And I know from this conversation, I feel inspired to devote more of my time to letting the creative force come through me and watching those acts of sabotage. So, thank you so very much for being who you are. Thank you.

JP: Thank you, Tami.

TS: Many voices, one journey. Thanks for listening.

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