Episode 019 – Brain Weeds & The Joy
“When creating art, the process of fighting through the blocks and distractions is sometimes the only reward. It simply means you didn’t quit.”
This episode is all about creating in the midst of chaos, how distractions and excuses sabotage your joy, and whether or not inspiration and motivation have anything to do with getting something done.
No, Brain Weeds & The Joy is not a band. It’s not the latest Ka’ Chava blend either.
Brain Weeds, or Cranial Kudzu as it’s known by its scientific name (there’s really no verifiable science. I made it up), have become a real threat to The Joy.
What do you mean you don’t know about Brain Weeds? The Joy? Holy-moly.
There is too much going on here to make sense of. You’re just going to have to listen to the full episode to make sense of this mumbo-jumbo.
- Solve for Happy: Engineer Your Path to Joy by Mo Gawdat
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Until next time, be nice and do good stuff.
There’s a moment when you begin to regret it all. And that moment arrives on every project. It’s the moment you realize (each time as if it’s something entirely new) that inspiration and motivation have very little to do with creating anything.
I mean it’s a lovely image, the brooding writer or painter, locked away in their remote studio, drinking themselves into oblivion in preparation for that critical moment when inspiration’s thunderbolt strikes from the heavens and out pops that poignant piece as if from the hand of God.
You know what produces the best work? Discipline.Commitment. Routine. Ask any successful writer the secret to finishing a novel and they’ll tell you, it’s putting your ass in the chair.
Establish a routine and stick to it. And that works until your routine gets blasted into bits.
That road trip, shattered my routine like a porcelain tea cup. And, thanks to Mo Gowdat, I’m perfectly clear as to the reason why. Expectations.
I spoke about them in episode 17. My expectation was that I was perfectly capable of producing the show while traveling. I brought my gear, I had my calendar and four weeks with which to book guests, writes scripts, compose music, and create the buzz for season 2. No problem.
That was the expectation.
But think of expectations as a bookend at one end of the shelf. At the other end, keeping everything in between in order is deadlines. Between expectations and deadlines we have the work.
And the work has to happen regardless of outside interference in order to avoid the resentment, regret, and disappointment that comes when you miss a deadline.
Showing up is what keeps the chaos at bay. From the outside looking in, the process looks easy but that’s because it’s camouflaged by a big lie.
The lie is; I can do it. I’ve done it before.
And it’s not until you feel that uncomfortable cushion of air on the back of your neck which is the on-coming train, that the “oh, shit” moment arrives. And that realization comes on every project. But you… as an artist seem to forget this.
The distractions of trying to write in a hotel room after driving for 10 hours become apparent quickly. Distractions turn into Resistance almost immediately. And the resistance looks like this:
- I need a cup of coffee.
- But I should take a shower first.
- Honey, where are we stopping tomorrow?
- Ugh, let me check the mileage
- Oh, I gotta send this email
- Email leads to a text
- Text leads to Instagram
- What was I doing again?
- Oh yeah, podcast episode.
After a couple of days of this, kicking the can down the road, we arrive. Family function number 1. No work happens. Three days. Back on the road. No work. Resistance. The Resistance turns to resentment: I knew this would happen.
Resentment sucks any remaining joy out of the process. The process which is the reason for the episode in the first place. The entire podcast is predicated on enjoying the process but the process has been hijacked. By me.
Joy gets trapped between the expectation and the deadline and as the deadline draws closer, the pressure rises.
Gotta save the joy.
And how do we keep the Joy from being crushed by the pressure? Well… excuses of course.
Excuses will save the Joy.
But Excuses suck. Excuses are weak. Desperate.
Excuses are fertilizer for brain weeds. And brain weeds – cranial kudzu – smother everything. The Process. The Distractions. The Resentment, the yet to be mentioned Gratitude and yes… The Joy.
Brain weeds smother The Joy.
We do not make excuses why the job didn’t get done. And we don’t give reasons why we didn’t get the job done. Because reasons is just another word for excuses.
And let me tell you a little story about excuses.
A very long time ago, in another lifetime, I was a touring singer/songwriter and my band and I were on the road. Our mode of travel was the Ford Conversion van lovingly referred to as the Teal Seal, named for the faded black exterior and the teal green codora seats.
Behind the Seal we pulled a U-Haul trailer. Quite possibly the worst company I’ve ever had to deal with. But I digress.
On this tour, my booking agent had us booked at the House of Blues in Chicago on a Saturday night.
The next gig was a very special show at club in Park City, Utah, the following Monday.
Not a problem. Until we discovered on our load out that our U-Hual had a busted leaf-spring. The leafspring is part of the suspension and it would be dangerous to pull a loaded trailer a thousand miles on snowy interstates with a busted leafrspring.
Cursing at crippled trailer for a few hours didn’t fix it. Neither did half a case of Heineken or a pack of Marlboro reds. We had to stay over night and switch it out the next day.
The next day… was Sunday. And every U-Haul in Chicago was closed.
Their customer service was about as good as their trailer. We burned half the day calling and searching and calling until finally, I made an executive decision.
I found a U-Haul lot with a similar trailer. Thankfully, U-Haul employee’s were as competent as their customer service – The trailer was not only unlocked. It wasn’t chained to the parking lot.
So, we transferred our gear from the broken trailer into the functioning trailer, left a note explaining the situation and drove away.
The 20 hour drive from Chicago to Park City was stressful. No cell service in Southern Wyoming meant I couldn’t reach the club to explain the situation. I couldn’t call my agent and cancelling a gig was out of the question. We never cancelled a gig.
We arrived to the club at around 6pm day of the show. Late for load in. Late for soundcheck. Doors opened at 7. Show time was 7:30. We had one hour to load in, setup, soundcheck, and eat.
The lights dimmed. We were frazzled but ready to go. Standing at the side of the stage with a very unhappy stage manager, I tried to make small talk with the story of what happened.
And just before he walked away in disgust he left me with a nugget of wisdom I’ve never forgotten. He said, “That’s great buddy. But nobody paid fifteen bucks to hear your excuses.”
So how to you keep from making the excuses that fertilze the brain weeds that smother The Joy?
You show up.
Because you never cancel a gig. And you never miss the deadline. Because once you miss a deadline, it makes it okay to miss the next one, and the next one… and that is a death sentence to The Joy.
Even with the knowledge that what you create has a very good chance of disappointing you, create it anyway.
Embrace it as a learning experience. Don’t cheat. Do the work. Don’t complain and don’t ever make excuses because…
…nobody paid $15 bucks to hear your excuses.
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