21 September 2014

Creativity And Trust: A Coming Out

By: Jon Katz
Creativity And Trust

Creativity And Trust

When I teach writing, the first thing I ask my students is this: do not ever speak poorly of your work in my class, it will hear you.

Creativity is an act of trust, a covenant with oneself. It is not about what others think of your work, it is about what you think of your work. Creativity is a leap of faith, a jump off the bridge, a plunge into icy water, and most of all a coming out, an affirmation of identity and self.

If you cannot trust your own work, how can you ask others to like it and trust it? When I take a photo, write something, I never know if other people with like it, get it, approve of it. It is not my concern, really. What matters is that I like it. I send my work out into the world, some of it good, some not so good, some fine, some not very fine. Some of it vanishes without a trace, some is cheered and praised along the way, some returns battered and lonely, never to be heard or seen again.

Some years ago I resolved to trust my work, to trust myself, it is the foundation of creativity. It is not good or bad work, it is my work, I am proud of it, I respect and trust it, I will never speak poorly of it, even as I know some people may and will. That is our contract with the world, those of us who chose a creative path, we do our work, close our eyes, take a breath, take the leap. We trust ourselves and our work.

This is a coming out, it is an act beyond the work itself. It says I am important, I deserve to be heard, my story, my photo, my idea is important to me and I want to share it with the world. It is an affirmation of the self, the building of ego and soul. I am never so arrogant that I think all of my work is good, only that it is my work, it is a part of me, and I will not speak ill of it. It may be listening.

Posted in General

Simon At Peace

By: Jon Katz
Simon At Peace

Simon At Peace

Simon has recovered from most of his wounds and ailments, but his front legs remain twisted, almost certainly painful and sore, despite the great care from our farrier, Ken Norman. He lies down often, much more than Lulu and Fanny, I think to rest his legs. His suffering has never affected his disposition, he is a sweet creature.

My book about Simon, "Saving Simon," will be out in a few weeks – October 7. I will open the book tour at Battenkill Books, my local bookstore. We are giving away a signed "Saving Simon" postcard to everyone who pre-orders or orders a book from Battenkill – we are shooting for 2,000 books sold there. You can call the store at 518 677-2515, or e-mail Connie Brooks at connie@battenkillbooks.com. They take Paypal and ship anywhere in the world.

In buying a book through Battenkill, you are not only supporting me and Simon, but the idea of the independent bookstore as well, the idea of shopping local and preserving individuality and scale. People who pre-order the Simon book will also have a chance at winning a potholder from Maria, some free Fromm Family Food, the food my dogs eat, and signed photographs and notecards.

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Poem To Scott And Those Who Hurt: You Do Not Have To Be Good

By: Jon Katz
You Do Not Have To Be Good

You Do Not Have To Be Good

This poem is dedicated to my friend Scott Carrino and to all of those who hurt. It was inspired by Mary Oliver's wonderful poem, "Wild Geese," and Omar Khayam's "The Moving Finger."  Thanks to them.



"You do not have to be perfect,

or even good.

You do not have to walk on your knees,

or bow to the universe.

You only have to let your soft spirit and brave body

love what it loves,

and do what it does.

You only have to sing your song,

to the waiting world.

Tell me your struggle stories,

and I will tell you mine,

but the moving finger writes,

and I would rather we clap our hands,

and applaud the sun as it sails across the landscape.

Meanwhile, the sheep graze in the meadow,

the cows in the field, the songbirds are already gone,

without fanfare or farewell.

October light is turning the forests red and orange,

the wild geese, out in the fields, are getting ready to go home again.

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, how frightened, how troubled

or sick, the world offers itself to you and your imagination,

it calls to you to seek out your place in the world, to live a life of meaning,

to tell your story,

to join with  the family of things to dance in the great dance of life."

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20 September 2014

The Creative Spark. Freeing The Passion Of The Soul

By: Jon Katz
Creative Spark

Creative Spark

In the Kabbalah, written by Hebrew mystics, centuries ago, I have found remarkable passages that speak to me of the birth of creativity and it's meaning in our lives. The God of the Kabbalah is not the dogmatic God of the old or new testaments, he is a gentle, thoughtful God, he is a feminist, he loves the earth, he invests donkeys and horses with great wisdom and meaning, they are wiser than priests and rabbis and prophets.

In the Kabbalah, God warns his people that they must take care of  Mother Earth, or she will abandon them, and so will he. He speaks of Shekinah – the feminine spirit of God – and instructs her to find the polluters and despoilers of the earth and send a horde of angels to sting their cheeks.

In the third volume of the Kabbalah – there are many – God gathers the prophets and tells them of the creative spark, his gift to the souls and spirits of human beings. There is only one thing the people of the earth have to fear from him, he cautions, and that is their failure to heed the creative spark and follow the passion in their souls and beings. He has, he tells the prophets, given the creative spark to every person, it is the very idea of the divine.

These passages in the Kabbalah are astonishing, they have greatly affected my life. They are uplifting, beautifully written and inspiriting, they have given me the closest thing to faith that I perhaps will ever have. This is a God who is both generous and inclusive, he asks nothing more of people than they they free their inner spirits, let their passion live, use it to capture the light and color and meaning of the world and it's many forms, shapes and objects. It is the creative spark that refreshes and uplifts the people of the earth, and gives them hope and comfort.

It is, God says, a sin, to let one's passion languish and die, to let the spark go out. Ignoring the creative spark, he says,  is one of the few things he cannot ever forgive.

I believe that passion is the one great force that unleashes creativity. The cellist Yo-Yo-Ma has said that if one is passionate about something, they are more willing to take risks with their head, with their heart, with their ideas. With their life. Steve Jobs said creativity was the ability to connect things, to gather the experiences one has had and synthesize them into new things, new ways of seeing things.

In our culture, the creative spark is seen as frivolous, dangerous, unimportant, the mark of the marginal people, the ones who will never be on television explaining how the world works or be granted political power or riches. The creative spark – the search for passion in life – is anathema to the corporate system, to the idea that money is not the point of life, to the idea that we will never die, but live forever. It is the antithesis of anger, hatred, argument and war. The creative spark does not put money in the bank, build IRA's, save enough for eternal and increasingly meaningless life.

But yet it is a glorious life, a sacred life, a life of passion and purpose. I do not proselytize, I speak only for me. People have to find their own way.

If you find your passion, if you know it, if you free it and follow it, then you are creative. There is no good or bad way to be creative, it is not up to others to judge, but to us to judge. Creativity is different in every human being, the creative spark is the fingerprint of the soul, no two are alike or ought to ever be alike. Creativity is a brave thing, it is frightening to open the gates of the spirit and let the passion go free, to bring it into the world and follow it's flight. And it is dangerous. Once this passion is unleashed, then it is almost impossible to return. The Kabbalah, along with life, has taught me that creativity is a leap of faith.

"I give you this precious gift of the creative spark," says God in the Kabbalah, "and I give it only to you. No tree or flower or plant or animal or bird or fish or rock has been given it…"

Creative souls take the leap, T. S. Eliot's hollow men can never bring themselves to jump.




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Petunia In The Barn Cat’s Water Bowl

By: Jon Katz
Petunia In The Water Bowl

Petunia In The Water Bowl

We have an old dog food bowl we use as an outdoor water bowl for the chickens and the barn cats. Today, a windy day, a petunia blew out of the garden and into the bowl. It was both incongruous and natural, and perfect still life for Bedlam Farm. I told the barn cats we provided the flower to brighten up their bowl.

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