You’re standing in a tar pit. You look down at your feet, and you see the jet black sludge dragging you into this pit of doom.
You struggle. But the more you move, the more quickly you sink into this tar. You’re fucking terrified, you know you’re going to die.
You slowly sink deeper and deeper into this tar pit, and as the sludge engulfs your midsection, then your chest, then your neck, you are gasping for air. The tar starts to enter your mouth, glides into your throat and now you’re choking.
You can can barely breathe. You think to yourself:
I’m gonna die now. Did I live a meaningful life? Did I tell all my loved ones that I loved them and appreciated them? During my short life on earth, did I do meaningful work that empowered others? What will happen to me after I die?
Then the tar enters your lungs. You stop breathing. You die.
I think this is an apt analogy for how many of us feel in life (thanks to Cindy and my sister Anna for the idea).
Many of us feel stuck in life. And if fucking sucks. It feels like we’re being choked, and we’re dying. We want to become unstuck, but we don’t know how to.
I used to feel like this when I worked my office job. I felt trapped. I felt like a caged bird; stuck in a golden cage. I wanted to spread my wings and fly to the heavens. Yet, my cage of security is what held me back. I was too comfortable with my $40,000 a year job, with prospects of getting a raise, becoming director, and one day driving a BMW M3 or Range Rover.
To be frank, it wasn’t society that was holding me in this golden cage. Rather, I had the key to escape. But I was too afraid to leave my cage.
So we are all stuck in the tar, but we are blind to the rope right in front of us. The rope that will help save our lives. The rope that we can just grab, and pull on with all our might, until our sinews snap, and we might even lose an arm from pulling so hard — but at least we will sacrifice that one arm (or both arms) for living. Just imagine DEADPOOL cutting off his own arm to survive, or that one guy in that documentary who had to cut off his own hand to unstuck himself from that rock in order to live. Or consider the Major in Ghost in the Shell, who tries to pull the lid off the tank, and ends up ripping both her arms off her sockets.
I cannot tell you what to do. Because what worked for me won’t work for you.
But I hope to give you some ideas on how I got unstuck, maybe to motivate you.
I. Realize you have the key
We are all stuck in golden prisons. We resent the prison guards and the prison system.
Yet, we are stuck in our cages, but we have the key already. We just don’t know it.
It is kinda like how you discover that surprise $20 bill in your back pocket after you wash your jeans.
You already have the key.
So step one, realize you have the key.
II. Leave the cage
Step two, have the confidence to leave the cage.
Remember in the movie Shawshank Redemption when the librarian finally gets emancipated from prison, and he realizes that “real life” is horrible, and ends up hanging himself? Yeah, reality can be fucking tough.
To be frank, I think a lot of us prefer the comfort and safety of our cages. Like the Matrix, we would prefer to take the blue pill, and live in ignorance (just like Cypher, who knew that the steak in the matrix was fake, but he still preferred it to reality of protein oatmeal goop).
So friend, you just gotta ask yourself,
Do I prefer being stuck in my cage, or do I wanna fly free?
Personal choice. I prefer to fly free.
III. Make art
I honestly feel that if we all learned how to harness our inner artists there would be a lot less pain, suffering, depression, anxiety and spiritual poverty in the world.
If Hitler only was a successful artist, he might have not caused the genocide of millions of Jewish people and minorities.
We are all born artists as children. Every child is born creative, with insight and a love of play. We get that beaten out of us as we get older.
My goal is to be like Benjamin button — age in reverse. The older I get now, I wanna become more child like. To play more. To take life less seriously, and make more art.
When I lived in New York as a kid, in bayside queens (forth grade, age 12) I displayed an aptitude for drawing. My teacher recommended sending me to a special magnet art school for middle school. However alas, our family went bankrupt, and had to pack up the 1995 Nissan Maxima (peeling black paint) car, and drive back to Alameda, California.
I get the biggest inspiration from my niece Amelia. She is 2 years old, and creative as hell.
She has no boundaries, and she is learning like a sponge. I wanna channel my inner-Amelia.
You can make art right now. Make a drawing on a piece of paper. Sketch on a piece of printer paper. Download a sketching or drawing app to your phone. Make photos with your phone or camera.
There is no “good” or bad art.
If you looked at Picasso, he drew like a big ass kid.
Jackson Pollock painted like a kid, throwing globs of paint on a blank canvas.
Andy Warhol made art by photo copying or screen printing mass media. Any child could have done that.
I like to make art by writing poetry.
I like to write poetry, because it helps me digest my ideas thoroughly. The secret is knowing that you are worthy to dictate rhymes in your head or on paper, and to elevate your inner creator. To take a shortcut on the stairway to heaven, by cranking the bass and amp to volume 11. To break leaven bread with your sisters and mothers, to love your brothers and others, to trust your inner heart and creative artist, and don’t miss a single day to make art, and be a part of humanity; and feel free.
I just made that up.
You can make art with your phone. Just use your iPhone or android phone, and process your photos to VSCO. I recommend using the VSCO social app instead of Instagram. VSCO is just trying to sell you presets. Facebook and Instagram are trying to sell you with advertisements, which they take from your personal data. VSCO all day, everyday.
Use any tool or device that has a camera. Use your iPad. There will be a day where all things will have a camera integrated into it.
Don’t feel like shooting with an iPhone is not a real camera. It is. What is important is whether you make meaningful photos or not, nothing else.
Everyone can draw. If anything, the best artists are the ones who draw most like a child– who don’t become slaves to reality. Salvador Dali painted his dreams, and did it all while sober– yeah for real, he didn’t take drugs when he made his art.
Your homework assignment: make really child-like photos, drawings, or paintings. Your creative constraint is that you are only allowed to use your phone, tablet, laptop, or a piece of paper.
IV. You’re free.
Friend, your free.
So today, be the person you want to be. Make art freely, without prejudice or boundaries. Know that the sound of your voice can be art. Or the movements of your hips. Or the way you capture reality through your phone. Make music in garage band, or freestyle some raps acapella (without a beat).
Find inspiration in children, rappers, breakdancers, beat boxers, photographers, painters, Renaissance and Cubist. Study Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Picasso, Kanye West, Jay-Z, Jackson Pollock, and philosophers like Seneca, Nietzsche, Marcus Aurelius, and read poetry from Horace, Virgil, and Eric Kim.
You got this.
Re-discover you inner-child and feel like PABLO PICASSO:
- How to Become a FEARLESS Artist
- KANDINSKY: THE ARTIST IS THE PROPHET
- How to Have More Creative Confidence in Your Photography
- How to Make More Art
- YOU CAN DO ANYTHING
- How Not to Give a Fuck What Others Think of Your Photography
- Is Photography Art?
- Leonardo da Vinci: Art, Photography, and Life Lessons
- How to Make Better Photos
- The Art of Street Photography
- The Art of Photography
- How to Conquer Your Fears in Art
- How to Be a More Productive Artist
- How to Have More Confidence as an Artist
- Make Photos for the Sake of Making Photos
- Make, Don’t Take Photos
- Perfect Pearl
- Make Photos to Delight Your Soul
- Revel in Your Defective Artistry
- Photography is Poetry Without Words
- Labor to Make Your Photos Concise