Keep the Lights On

Keep the Lights On

I think back to my early 20s and boy was I rigid! I was going to be an author. PeriodTheEnd. No thought about whether or not that singular path was feasible for someone like me--a Jamaican immigrant from a working class family living in New York City--or if that was even the best way to use all of my talents, forever and ever, amen. 

The passion was, and is, genuine, but time is the ultimate teacher. If you learn nothing else by the time you hit mid life, you understand that this journey is a winding road by its very nature.

That's why you've got to keep the lights on--literally and figuratively.

I've watched friends whose youthful passion turned into rigidity, which caused them to miss out on opportunities because of a reluctance to compromise, shift course, or consider the bigger picture. Other artists I've known have been resentful about having to hold down a job at all while trying to birth their creations, and that bitterness eventually interfered with their ability to make art or form beneficial contacts.

Resistance and ambivalence are rotten places to exist because nothing can move from there. Stagnation eventually suffocates. So when I say keep the lights on, I mean to keep the energy moving, no matter where you are right now. Anything that's going to last takes time to build. There will be bursts of energy and periods of waiting. That's how it works. Most of us don't have the means to quit our jobs and go off on an adventure just because we're inspired to do so.

Did you know that 80% of the total human population lives on less than $10 a day? If you're reading this blog post, you are among a small number of people on earth with access to this digital tool. So while I understand, as Bob Marley said, "Who feels it knows it" (only you know how tough your situation is), perspective is also important; you have more than you realize to create what you want. 

To compromise is not the same as to be conquered.

You need that job, until you don't. And you need the light of inspiration to keep burning bright so that you can envision where you want to go next. Those lulls in my writing and publishing journey are when I started creating visual art. So not only did I become the author I'd always intended, I unlocked other talents I wasn't aware I had by being willing to pace myself, be patient, and explore what else interested me while I waited for the seeds I planted in my writing life to sprout.

If you want some inspiration about endurance and keeping the fire of creativity burning when life gets tough, read the poetry of award-winning writer Lucille Clifton. A mother of six who held down a government job, she went on to write dozens of books and win the National Book Award. While her work deals broadly with the African American experience in terms of history and politics, it is also very much about her every day life as a mother and wife. Not one life experience was wasted in the creation of her art.

Make all your moments magic and never let the fire die out.

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