Do you ever feel stale and stuck? And, wonder how to shake things up? Do you sometimes wish you could just hit a re-set button to get going again?
Late last fall I was feeling stagnant about my creativity and set a goal to do something “out of the box.”
I had no idea exactly what that would be.
I received an email about a creativity workshop for singer-songwriters in Nashville, led by one of my all-time favorite musicians Beth Nielsen Chapman.
A workshop and a chance to work with Beth?
Where do I sign up?!
Only one problem – I cannot carry a tune or play a single note on any instrument. Not even sort of.
In fact, of all the intelligences a human being can have, musical talent is at the bottom of my abilities list! I’m a writer, not a singer or songwriter.
No problem, said Lydia Hutchinson, Beth’s joyful, encouraging workshop organizer when I inquired about my attending.
“You’d be perfect for Beth’s workshop,” she said. “Beth’s focus is on “the creative flow” — trying to be open enough for creativity to come through us, in whatever form it takes.”
So I packed my bags and headed to Nashville to get my creative juices flowing.
Well, not so fast. As the date to the workshop got closer, I kept thinking of excuses to cancel:
- I’m too busy.
- The weather’s too cold and icy.
- I’m going to embarrass my talent-less self because everyone else attending appears to be an accomplished singer-songwriter.
- Will the workshop participants resent me because I have no musical talent and am taking up a space better used for a musician or a real singer-songwriter?
- I can’t dedicate that many days of my schedule to something “un-work-related.”
- What if they make me sing?
Geez, my fears had a million excuses to keep me at home, safe and stuck.
I’m glad my higher self took over. She’s the one who knows that once I commit to something, cancellation is rarely an option!
She also is the one who holds out hope that maybe this was just the “out of the box” experience I needed.
When I finally arrived in Nashville for the workshop, it was cold and icy.
But from the moment I slid through the door into Lydia’s warm and cozy Nashville home I knew I was in the right place.
Lydia and Beth welcomed my 19 singer-songwriter colleagues and me with a delicious home-cooked meal complete with Beth’s made-from-scratch trifle!
In the glow of a fire roaring in Lydia’s living room, I felt immediately enveloped by my brand-new friends and supported for whatever was to come.
Then, for four nights and three days, I sat in the midst of the most generous flow of love, inspiration, talent and creativity – and yes, I even learned to sing!
I will never be Carly Simon.
With my talented and wonderful teacher and friend Beth Nielsen Chapman
But with Beth’s coaching, encouragement and accompaniment – “if you have a good speaking voice, you can sing!” – I took a leap of faith and sang a few lines from “You’re So Vain.” In front of everyone. I didn’t faint — and they didn’t boo!
RCA Studio B on Music Row in Nashville — Elvis’s piano
In between songs, we worked with talented guest speakers and even took a surprise field trip to Elvis’s (and many other stars’) hit-making recording home — RCA Studio B.
So many famous songs you love were recorded there including Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You.” The electricity of what had come before me in that studio flowed right through me.
Throughout the workshop, Beth taught, coached, played, sang, led by example, and shared her deeply touching life experiences and creative wisdom, which landed on me like fairy dust:
- “The only muscle you need to develop is the one to show up.”
- “Your creativity is always flowing to you. The door to your creativity is always locked from the inside.”
- “If you can express your experience as honestly and authentically as possible… people will be riveted to your story.
- “Love and respect the resistance that comes from “showing up” but don’t let it drive the car …it shouldn’t even have a driver’s license!”
- “Comparing yourself to another person is a huge way to hit a wall!”
- “Have faith, work hard and do not let yourself collapse.”
With hit songwriter Mike Reid — teacher extraordinaire
Beth’s dear friend and guest facilitator Mike Reid, famous for penning the song so beautifully sung by Bonnie Raitt: “I Can’t Make You Love Me If You Don’t” shared his creativity advice, too:
- “Always write what you mean. What are you trying to say? When you know that you are almost critic-proof.”
- “Ask yourself: What is wanting to be beautifully said from your heart?
- “Be good to yourself. A good way to take care of yourself is in your work.”
- “Read aloud all your work.”
- “Write (sing, paint, dance) that part of you that you just want to love.”
In the end, doing the unexpected – or even the thing I feared – opened a door into a ballroom of creativity. I had stood in the flow of something new and valuable — and found my own new ways of looking at life.
Colors seem more vivid; sentences have rhymes; and words sing like songs.
Just as graciously as our workshop began, our final evening ended with a pizza party and a private concert by Beth and her troop of well-known, talented and successful singer-songwriters Mike Reid, Jonatha Brooke and Keb Mo’.
Beth and Keb Mo’
In less than a week, I had gone from the mountain top of my discomfort to feeling as though … I’ve got this! My creative juices are flowing again.
Through the kindness, inspiration, strategies, safety and support of this amazing teacher, her friends and my fellow students, I returned home refreshed, renewed, reinvigorated, and with a learning that after all these years — I just might even be able to sing.
What has become stale or routine in your life? Maybe it’s your daily schedule or a skill or hobby you mastered a while ago and could use some updating.
What single action, large or small, could you take to step out of your box and exercise a new muscle that you didn’t even know you had?
What is it that you would like to be “on fire” about that is perhaps only a tiny spark right now?
Whatever it is, I’m living proof — you can do it!
P.S. If you’re not yet an official member of Women on Fire, you are invited to join our monthly membership program where you’ll receive the interview with maternity-wear pioneer and entrepreneur Liz Lange in your March membership package.
P.P.S. As of today, ONLY 12 SEATS remain for the 2015 Annual Women on Fire Retreat: Step Into Your Dreams~ And Fly! I invite you to join us in downtown Chicago this Spring, April 23-25, 2015 for an amazing weekend dedicated to inspiring, supporting and recharging YOU! This event will sell out soon so I encourage you to register today!