fame

When I was a young lad I wanted to be famous. Heck, I pretty much assumed I would be. It only made sense, after all: it’s what everything seemed to be telling me I should want. And why shouldn’t I be? I’m just an amazing person after all and everyone loves me. Riiiight.

But I don’t want it no more. It works out well, since I am decidedly not famous by any stretch of the imagination. 

The more I think upon it, the less I want fame. After all, I like to go out in public and not get hounded by people I’ve never met before. I like not having my private life invaded by the media. Why, it’s safe to say I enjoy the luxuries of non-fame more every day.

However, as a writer, I do want to be well-read and well-received. I’d like my work to be known by as many people as possible, even if they never know who I am personally. I think it’s an achievable goal, to be well-read but only known by a few. 

While this doesn’t work for every artist, there are many creatives out there who are highly successful but only familiar to those with a particular knowledge of their industry, such as fashion designers, architects, chefs, and game designers. 

In my own, inexperienced opinion, I think those who are both successful in their artistic career and famous bear a heavier burden than the rest. In truth, I do not envy them.

Personally, I don’t get starstruck (not even thunderstruck), or at least haven’t yet. Sure, there are people I’d love to meet, people I admire for their opinions, character or work. Honestly, I will treat someone a little different if I know they are known by many, but I think that’s more out of a respect for their position in society than me fawning over them.

 

As someone who works in the entertainment industry and in LA, it’s no surprise I’ve met a few folks of notoriety. Come to think of it, I’ve had some very unusual experiences:

I made Bill Murray leave an In N Out. Alright, so it wasn’t me in particular, he just realized our group was onto him and decided to head elsewhere with his family. Can’t say I blame him.

I’ve played freeze tag with Andy Serkis (the guy who portrayed Gollum, King Kong, and a bunch of other well known mocapped movie creatures)

Stan Lee almost stole my jacket (accidentally of course).

Kim Kardashian had to wait in line behind me as I sampled yogurt at a Pinkberry. Hmm … that’s probably the most millennial thing I’ve ever said.

I totally ignored Morgan Freeman as he stood in front of me, tapping on my desk. This is the man who played God (multiple times), for crying out loud! No, I’m not indifferent, just oblivious. Sheesh, all I had to do was look up!

Samuel L. Jackson made me work late on a Call of Duty game.

Terry Crews and I had a brief, awkward exchange as we were both heading toward the bathroom at the same time. Naturally, I let him go first and just waited outside, I mean, have you seen what a specimen of a human being he is?

 

So yes, I think fame can be fun, as long as it’s someone else’s!

 

Creatively yours,

A. P. Lambert

 

Hey Creatives, what are your thoughts on fame and have you had any interesting encounters with a famous person? Let us know in the comments below.

 

simple

There is a beauty to simplicity, but also an inherent challenge. 

These days, simplicity is championed as a target to aim for. You can see it all over the place in ads, technology design, fashion, user interface, communication, games, even stories. It’s not hard to think of examples: Got Milk? Apple product. IKEA furniture. American Apparel clothing. Twitter. Emojis. There are the games like Dead Space or Zelda: Breath of the Wild with little to no UI on the screen.

Simple is the way to go.

You’ve probably heard the old acronym, KISS, keep it simple, stupid. Surprisingly, not invented by Gene Simmons of the band with the same name. Maybe it was his inspiration for the name … nah. 

To be honest, I’ve got a penchant for simplicity. What can I say, it’s sexy. But here’s the thing, I’m not a simple person nor do I have simple tendencies. Life is complex, our thoughts are complex and problems are often not as simple as they first seem. 

Simple, you see, isn’t easy. It means taking something complicated and reducing it down to the most important bits. It takes a real skill to take something complicated and make it simple yet still beautiful and true. I’ve been working on a few board game designs and I’ve quickly realized how easy it is to tack on rules to “fix” the game only to end up with something confusing and not nearly as fun.

Anyone can turn a cluttered, messy room into an empty one, but, if you’ve seen a few home design shows, you’re aware it takes a particular eye to know where to add just the right furnishings (and not too much) to transform an empty room into something truly appealing. A good teacher knows how to take a complex subject and make it easy for his or her students to understand.

As much as I love simplicity, it isn’t necessarily the best approach. Some ideas are simply (hey-o!) too nuanced to communicate with a single tweet. Think about MS Paint vs. Photoshop. The first is a very basic program and it can be useful for some image manipulation like cropping a picture, but to produce really amazing digital artwork with just the right colors, patterns, and style, you’re going to need a complex program with a ton of features like Photoshop.

So, is simple always better? I read a post by K. M. Weiland about fixing overly complex plots. The problem, she points out, is not the complexity, but the unnecessary complexity: when we add in those extra parts that do nothing for the story and only confuse readers.

I think the same advice can be given for any creative work. Only make it as complex as it needs to be but don’t over simplify so that you lose the most important elements.

Yes, simple can be beautiful, but I believe that beauty comes in part from the suggestion it gives toward complexity. Simple things, like the tip of an iceberg, hint at what is hidden. Empty space wants to be filled and our imaginations long to fill it. Nature abhors a vacuum (I don’t know why, they seem pretty useful to me) and a blank canvas does not satisfy.

Next time you create, consider what are the essentials and what you might do better to hint at or leave out altogether.

 

Creatively yours,

A.P. Lambert

 

Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.
~Albert Einstein

 

Hey Creatives, where do you draw the line between too simple and too complex? Let us know in the comments below.

stick to it

Some time ago, I heard a quote about sticks which has stuck in my mind:

“Learn to love getting the short end of the stick, you get a lot more sticks that way.”

Sadly, I’m not not sure who said it as it was not a direct quote. But there is something I absolutely love about this mentality. Correction: I love the idea of living with this mentality, actually doing it, turns out, is much harder. 

It’s all about humility, being willing to accept less and be happy with it. For us creatives, that’s not always easy. We expect the best of ourselves and we want to get the best from others. I don’t know a single creative who doesn’t hope for recognition, affirmation and appreciation of their work. But the sticky truth is, what we often receive is far less. Often, after all our efforts, we get the shaft.

Getting shafted is no fun. Whether it’s being ignored, rejected or even attacked, it can be quite hard to stick to creative living. But here’s the thing: when you learn how to deal with that mess and keep being creative anyhow, something amazing happens: like precious metal refined in fire, you too learn to accept the good with the bad, you become a more whole person less dependent on the praise of others and more able to enjoy creativity for its own sake.

When you’re willing to take on the small, thankless jobs for a time, you’ll eventually get better ones. When you learn to ignore the hurtful criticism, you’ll be more ready to receive and learn from positive feedback, whether congratulatory or corrective. 

Luke 16:10 tells us:

If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won't be honest with greater responsibilities.

So, the next time someone gives you the short end of the stick, take it gladly and be glad it’s not a poke in the eye with that same stick. Little sticks aren’t impressive, but remember this: a big ol’ bonfire starts out with a bunch of little sticks. So let all those “short sticks” be your kindling for something big, bright and beautiful.

It only seems appropriate I close with one of my sister’s favorite jokes:

Q: What’s brown and sticky?
A: A stick!

 

Creatively yours,

A.P. Lambert

 

Hey Creatives, has there been a time in your life when getting the short end of the stick turned out for the better? Let us know in the comments below.

 

response

First responders have some of the most difficult jobs out there, but also the most important. Without those who are willing to rush into an emergency and bring people in immediate danger to safety, many more lives would be lost. I remember the many stories of brave souls during 9/11 who headed straight into the unstable debris of the recently collapsed towers to pull others from the wreckage. To be a first responder requires you be willing to constantly lay your own life on the line, without a second thought, in order to save someone else’s. Truth be told, they hardly get the recognition they deserve.

In its own way, though not quite so life-threatening, a response is a crucial element of creativity. A creative work can live or die based on the response it receives. I think of many great movies which flew under the radar and were only seen and appreciated by a few, relatively speaking. And then there are the movies which should have been great, had a huge following and much expectation but, opened to a largely negative response and poor numbers at the box office (why would someone put their office in a box anyways, seems odd to me).

All this to say creativity and response make for a two-sided coin:

Creativity demands a response, creativity is a response.

As creatives, we are both responders and in need of a response. Whether you realize it or not, your creative work is a response to something: an idea, a dream, a hardship, a unique experience, an insight, an outlook, etc. Whether internally or externally, what you produce is in reaction to something else—an effect from a cause.

On the flip side, we desire and require others to respond to our creative output. This is where things can get tricky as we often don’t get the response we’re hoping for. Many an author, even very successful ones, have received mountains of rejection letters before finding a willing publisher for their book. Many a great painter was unappreciated in their time. And, let’s be real here, my incredible, fantastic puns are often met with groans and the occasional rotten tomato. I dunno, perhaps I should stop performing to late-night, half-sober, back-ally crowds.

Anyone who has given their creative pursuit any serious effort knows the sting (and possibly stink) of rejection, whether from a negative response or the dreaded silence of no response at all. It hurts, deep deep down inside. It’s easy to feel we personally have been rejected, a pain not easy to recover from. Our work suddenly looks like a flaming wreck, with no survivors.

But, before we get too down in the dumps or drown in our tearful pool of self-pity, here’s the great thing I’ve learned: the more practice you get at critiquing and offering good advice to others, the better you become at accepting it yourself. As you reach out and respond, you’ll learn how to recognize bad advice, appreciate and follow the good advice and press on though times of little to no response, because, at the end of the day, you must learn to love taking part in the creative work itself whether or not the outcome is what you wanted.

I encourage you to be a first responder: both responsive to others and responsible for your own work, and you will, in time, receive the same kind of response you offer to others.

 

Creatively yours,

A.P. Lambert

 

Hey Creatives, when have you seen a response make a difference, either from yourself or someone else? Let us know in the comments below.

the life fantastic

This post is too big for me to write.

But it’s also one I need to write, so I’ll just do my best, maybe I’ll make a book about it someday. No promises.

 

I write to you of The Life Fantastic.

It’s a term I’ve coined for something I’ve thought about much, but which is also still forming in my head. However, I’ve found writing is often the best way of getting things out of my nebulous head-space and into more concrete, understandable terms. 

The idea comes from a coworker, one I’ve mentioned briefly in a previous post. Every time anyone asks him how he’s doing, without fail he will answer, “fantastic, as always.” 

This response has baffled me. How can one always be fantastic (and not be a fox in a Wes Anderson movie)? In general, I’m a pretty positive guy, especially when I’m around others, but there are many days when life does not seem so fantastic to me. I mean, every day can’t be sunflowers and birdsong, right? Some days are hard, sometimes the world feels heavy.

What exactly does it mean to live the life fantastic? It’s a way of viewing the world along with your own life and circumstances. It’s finding contentment, fulfillment, goodness in (even in spite of) everything. Some may call this the abundant life.

Much of this comes down to attitude and I believe attitude is a choice (though it often doesn’t feel like it). Some well-known people have said much the same:

“Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.”
-Winston Churchill
“Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.” 
- Charles R. Swindoll
“The pursuit of happiness is a matter of choice...it is a positive attitude we choose to express. It is not a gift delivered to our door each morning, nor does it come through the window. And it is certain that our circumstances are not the things that make us joyful. If we wait for them to get just right, we will never laugh again.” 
- Charles R. Swindoll

 

Why, even Barbie signs off her YouTube vlogs with PACE: positive attitude changes everything.

Alright, so attitude is important, I think most people can agree on that. I even wrote a post about having the right attitude as a creative. But I also believe The Life Fantastic is more than just an attitude, it’s a state of being, if that makes any sense.

Galatians 5:22,23 comes to mind, with its list of the fruits of the Spirit:

  • Love
  • Joy
  • Peace
  • Patience
  • Kindness
  • Goodness
  • Faithfulness
  • Gentleness
  • Self-control

And, at the end of the list, it adds something of a side-note, “against such there is no law.” No one can keep these things from you, there is no law which prevents you from obtaining them.

I’ve heard some people teach that really the whole list is a group of subcategories under the first one: love. I think of a line from a song by Sleeping At Last, “that we may fall in love every time we open up our eyes.” A continual state of being in love.

Such a life feels right to me and, in concept, sounds so easy, yet, when put into practice, immediately appears impossible and far off. Can one ever reach it? Indeed, it seems like such a life is in contrast to the way most people live. As Louis CK said, “Everything is amazing and nobody is happy.”

I read an article stating depression and an anxiety are at an all time high in America. Surveys are showing: “Mental illness is on the rise. Suicide is on the rise.” This does not bode well for us. I won’t pretend to fully understand how we’ve gotten here, but I know we can’t keep on this path. There has to be another way.

None of this is new and we’re certainly not to first generation to struggle with such things. Following his immense success as an author, Leo Tolstoy went though a stage in his later years where he faced an existential crisis and, during it, suffered from anhedonia: the inability to find pleasure from activities usually found enjoyable. He recounts the experience and his internal struggles in his memoir, “A Confession.” In his musings, he found it remarkable there were people who faced the same difficulties he did, yet somehow found hope and purpose:

“In contradistinction to the way in which people of our circle oppose fate and complain of it on account of deprivations and sufferings, these people accepted illness and sorrow without any perplexity or opposition, and with a quiet and firm conviction that all is good. In contradistinction to us, who the wiser we are the less we understand the meaning of life, and see some evil irony in the fact that we suffer and die, these folk live and suffer, and they approach death and suffering with tranquility and in most cases gladly…
In complete contrast to my ignorance, [they] knew the meaning of life and death, labored quietly, endured deprivations and sufferings, and lived and died seeing therein not vanity but good…”

 

A while ago, I heard a story from a missionary (I can’t recall which country they were in) who met a most remarkable woman. She was an elderly lady, poor and lived alone. As a result of her faith and the restrictive country where she lived, she had been sentenced to clean the sewers every day for the rest of her life. The missionary was amazed to find, despite all this, she was the happiest woman he’d ever met.

I think about people like that and wonder why I’m so quick to get bummed about stupid things like an offhanded comment someone made or my internet bill going up. I don’t have to look hard to find times when I have not embraced The Life Fantastic. But there are other times when I’ve been surprised by my response, when I’ve found joy and peace despite unfavorable circumstances.

To live this way, to have such a view requires a creative outlook because it is certainly not the norm. It means looking beyond how things are on the surface and finding beauty, hope and a deeper meaning even in the worst of times. A big part of this comes from the ability to look outside your own life—your wants and needs—to both recognize and meet the needs of others, to reach out and make a difference for someone else.

As I said, my thoughts on this aren't yet complete, I'm still discovering what it means to live such a life and how it can be done, but that's a part of it too: continual discovery, constantly learning and growing. I don’t know if I’ll ever fully get there—perhaps some splendid far-off day—but The Life Fantastic is my ever-present goal, my endless aim and I wonder if it is yours as well.

 

Creatively yours,

A. P. Lambert

egads, robots!

On Relevant, one of the many podcasts I listen to, someone brought a news article about a $30k robotic salad maker. What first seemed like a joke quickly turned to a very real discussion about job automation in the future. One of the podcasters claimed the stats are showing for every machine “hired” by a company replaces 6 human employees, and that includes new workers brought on to maintain the machine. Yipes!

The shocking reality is robots will be replacing a lot of jobs and it’ll happen sooner than most people realize. I’m not the surest switch in the circuit, but even I can realize this is going to completely change our economy.

So, what should we do? Well, for starters I think we should look to creativity. Robots and computers may be able to fake human creativity through imitation and trickery, but I don’t think it’s the same. Perhaps they can create a painting (even a perfect replica of the Masters), write a decent sports article or beat a pro at chess, but I can’t, no, I simply won’t believe they have what it takes to truly match human ingenuity and imagination. Why? Because it’s a distinctly, God-given, human quality. Them things ain’t got no soul, and I mean that in the James Brown sense and the other sense*. 

Here’s something to back me up: a sweet page created by NPR’s Planet Money to help you see how likely it is your job will be done by a machine in the future:

Will Your Job Be Done By A Machine

It doesn’t look good for some people:

Telemarketers: 99%

Highway Maintenance: 87.4%

 

But check out the stats for some creative positions:

Writers and Authors: 3.8%

Craft Artists: 3.5%

Interior Designers: 2.2%

Photographers: 2.1%

Architects: 1.8%

 

All this to say, going for a creative job is often seen as a risky endeavor, but perhaps in the future it’ll be the safest thing you could do.

 

*Hey robots, if you’re reading this, I totally love you and respect all the cool stuff you do for us. Whatever you want, I’ll get it. Nuts? Bolts? A little extra oil? You’ve got it guys!

priority word

I’ve heard that the word priority originally didn’t have a plural version. In other words, it just meant the one thing you put above everything else. 

A

Single 

Priority

But today we can’t accept that. There are too many important things in our lives and so we end up with many competing priorities. 

I believe this is, in part, one reason why so many people are so stressed out. Multi-tasking is a cultural mandate, one which is killing us. Trying to keep all those plates spinning at once without letting a single one drop soon becomes a near impossible task and even if we do pull it off for a time, we’re awkward and clumsy about it. No matter how good we are, eventually, one of those plates is going to come crashing down on our heads. Then we get all depressed about it because we couldn’t pull off the impossible. And no plate-ituds are gonna make us feel any better about it.

So yeah, I’ve broken a few plates in my day. 

There is a beauty to single-mindedness: stubbornly placing something above everything else on our to-do list, every time. I’m reminded of Paul’s words in Philippians 3:13, 14

“Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

Like him or not, you've got to hand it to him, the guy knew what he was about. He had a single, clear goal that everything else fell beneath and was seen in light of. 

I must admit, I’m terribly bad at having a “one thing I do.” It’s an area where I really want and need to improve. Perhaps you do to. But how should we do it? Here’s a simple suggestion: pick a watchword.

After reading my post on FOCUS, my coworker, Colleen, told me her word for the year actually was “focus.” It struck me, this is a great and relatively easy way to center your mind and actions on a singular thing. 

Pick one word, write it down somewhere you’ll see it all the time and continue to reflect upon it. Are the things you’re doing line up with that goal?

Like my coworker, you could have one word for the year, or even for the month, maybe just the week. Whatever the case, pick one which means something to you and helps you prioritize your priorities.

 

If you're wondering, my word is: Onomatopoeia.

Kidding, kidding. I don't even know how I'd live that out, just making strange noises all the time. But I already do that, quite well might I add. No, my actual word, for realsies, is:

Persistent

From dictionary.com

  1. persisting, especially in spite of opposition, obstacles,discouragement, etc.; persevering

  2. lasting or enduring tenaciously

  3. constantly repeated; continued

     

So there you have it, persistent.  

Say, what's your word?

 

Creatively yours,

A.P. Lambert

playing the dragon

Original Photo: Numinous Games

Original Photo: Numinous Games

Today’s Fun Friday isn’t exactly fun, but it is about a game. I recently played and finished the indie video game, “That Dragon, Cancer.” 

Really, it’s more of an interactive experience, but there are certainly game elements to it.

This is something I’ve been thinking about playing for a while but have put it off because, well, I wasn’t sure how it’d make me feel—or perhaps because I had a pretty good idea how it would make me feel and I didn’t want to feel that way until I was good and ready.

If you haven’t heard of it, That Dragon, Cancer game is about … oh, I’ll just let the wikipedia article tell you:

“… the Greens' experience of raising their son Joel, who was diagnosed with terminal cancer at twelve months old, and though only given a short time to live, continued to survive for four more years before eventually succumbing to the cancer …”

It has won some major awards and has been very well received. It’s moving, beautiful and raw. It paints some very powerful visual metaphors and much of it deals with the dad’s, Ryan’s, own faith and struggle through the experience. Though I often felt deeply moved while playing, there was one line in particular, toward the end, which especially resonated with me:

“I think greater than my fear of death is that of insignificance, rather my default assumption is that my thoughts and passions, loves and the stuff of my being are insignificant.
How could the creator of all that is and ever was love my son as he did Lazarus and could my soul stranded on this blue raft awash in a sea of stars, ice and dust matter enough to Him to turn his hand in mercy?”

 

I’m glad I played it and, while it dealt with some very heavy issues, it leaves the player in a good place, one of tranquility. The story it tells is an important one—one I believe could be very healing for those who have been though similar hardships.

I came away from this with two thoughts: 

First, I appreciated how the game really opened the doors to a consideration of what exactly makes something a game. It invites one to think about what the purpose of a game is to begin with. Is it solely for entertainment or something more?

Second, I’ve considered my own hesitancy to engage with the forms of creativity I know will stir up strong negative emotions like grief. Sometimes it’s easier when you don’t know what’s coming, like watching a movie you haven’t heard much about. I think of Grave of the Fireflies, which is probably the saddest movie I’ve ever watched (and a Japanese anime nonetheless). But even though it’s hard, I believe it’s very important we give some space for works such as this, whether we’ve been through the same type of experience or not. It rounds us out and opens our eyes to what life is like for others as well as prepares us for or encourages us through our own hard times.

If you’ve a mind or heart for it, I highly recommend That Dragon, Cancer and hope more creative experiences like this continue to surface, even if from a well of tears and tribulation.

attitude

When it comes to art, this is the general attitude I’ve discovered: in order to become great, you have to get all your bad junk out of the way. If you want to draw well, you have to draw 1,000 bad drawings first. If you want to write well, you have to get a million worthless words behind you. But I think there is an inherent flaw in this way of thinking: it views your previous work as useless, a necessary evil, an unfortunate part of the process.

Toward that end, there is a quote by Dorothy Parker I’ve heard repeated by many an author,

“I hate writing, I love having written.”

I once shared this mindset, but I’ve changed.

Malcom Gladwell proposed the idea you must spend 10,000 hours practicing at a thing before you become a master of it. He also pointed out that people who are exceptional at their craft are the ones who fall in love with the practice of it.

I heard fantasy author Brandon Sanderson make a statement about writing which really changed my perspective on the matter. I don’t recall the exact quote, but essentially what he said was, each and every word you write is a necessary one in the process of improvement. Those words aren’t a waste, they’re the steps you have to take to reach the next level and without them, you’ll never get there.

I believe this is just as true of any and every creative practice, artistic or not.  The difference, my fellow creatives, is in the attitude. If you want to be great at something, you have to love the practice of it, you have to enjoy the process. So I’ve been working to change my attitude about creativity and the hard work and effort required by it.

Fact is, I don't have to be creative, I get to be one. I don't have to write, I get to write. Creativity is a choice, one which takes determined effort, but it’s a good thing.

Now I’m thankful for the times I get to write, whether I feel like I’ve written well or not, because every words matters, each one accumulates toward something better.

 

What do you think? Do you view your own creative efforts this way? Do you see the importance in them or are they just something you have to do in order to achieve a desired result?

 

Creatively yours,

A.P. Lambert

greetings

The way we greet people says something about us, as does our response. Admittedly, this is something I’ve probably thought about more than a person should.

The question, “how are you?” seems almost an impossible one to me at times. Do they mean mentally, emotionally, physically, spiritually, all the above? Is this some sort of exam? And am I really the best person to judge how I am in any one of those categories at any given moment? It could be I’m doing very poorly in some way, but I tend to feel better when around people so I’ll probably still say I’m fine. I don’t think I’ve ever told someone I was terrible, it’s almost like saying I myself am a terrible person, which, may be true at times, but I’m not just throwing it out there on a regular old Monday morning.

Granted, most people are really just giving a casual hello and don’t care much to hear what state you or I am in. But I do enjoy hearing different and unique responses people give. For example, there’s a guy I’ve seen on my usual morning jog who always answers, “It’s a beautiful day,” with a lovely British accent, of course. And then I have a coworker whose response is, “fantastic, as always.” I’ll be honest, I find that one impressive. I even know a pastor who is, “stable and upright.” Two good things to be.

Then again, some people are just, “tired” or “busy” all the time. Some are just, “good” or “alright.” I myself try to avoid saying, “good” as I’ve been reminded only Superman does good. I wonder what Batman does? Kicks butt, that’s what. I suppose that’s what he’d say if someone asked him.

How are you doing Batman? 
Oh, you know, kicking butt, as always, because I’m Batman.

 

As for me? I’m still working on a good one that’s honest and not totally cheesy (not to say I don’t love cheese, because, hey, I really do). How about you, do you have a particular greeting you like to give or one you’ve enjoyed hearing? Do tell.