For Joe, a beer bellied city sanitation worker, springing up from flat feet on pointe in relevé wasn’t hard. It was what happened next that made him wonder if the discipline of dance was something he was ready to dive into.

“Think about lifting from your toes,“ barked the bunhead from the screen. “If you feel yourself keeling over, just pull in your core, and tighten your butt.

Finally, as he wobbled into fifth position, he turned off the video and took a swig of beer.

“That was tougher than it looks,” he said.

Why dance, why ballet? Why bother?

These days, we are all looking for things to learn or to do, perhaps as a way to take some part of our lives into our own hands in an uncertain world. I see it as our natural creative curiosity nudging us to pursue unexpected interests.

What will my life be like now that I have learned more Cantonese, mastered enough basic barbering skills to cut my husband’s hair and discovered a thousand delicious ill advised ways to make homemade gelato? I am really trying hard to resist the temptation to take ukulele lessons.

It seems as if we are looking for ways to insert joyful activities into our daily lives. I don’t know how to fit everything I love doing in a day without fretting about everything I have to get through in order to do so.

Not adding joy to life, but making life joyful, or moonwalking through your day, is the secret of a full life.  Joy is not something to be found, but to be formed.



The after dinner piano recital is equal parts digestion and dread.

This is the time when the dishes have been whisked away and the younger set have been rounded up to entertain the elders.

“Oh, not again,” I remember looking out at my family, perched on couches with full bellies while butterflies churned in mine, and I really liked them all but then they always got such fiendish pleasure trotting us out to perform like trained seals starting with my annoying little cousin, always ready to squeak out something on her clarinet while I choked on a dumpling.

She was lucky, I thought resentfully. All she had to do was remember the melody of a song. Me, I was terrified of losing my way through a million notes.

“Think of catching grasshoppers,” said my piano teacher, one day. Suddenly, learning the notes became more of a game. With bugs. It was fun.

A Debussy toccata became a handful of fireflies, Bach fugues were wrestling spiders, Scott Joplin rags leapfrogged across the keyboard. Playing the piano was a joy.

And with every joyful act, fear fades.

Make no mistake, the butterflies of the after dinner piano recital are no match for a fistful of grasshoppers.

The Creative Thief

You know what it feels like with a great book. It takes you on a journey through a new world with characters so real that you shed tears when they do. And it takes your breath away.

That’s what I want my words to do, you say. I want to write like that author. Or paint like that artist, sound like that pianist. You task yourself with dutifully copying your idol’s turn of phrase, style, and voice with casual confidence that this is the path to greatness. Many artists of our time have stated, “Good artists borrow, great artists steal.”

So, you steal.

This is one of those occasions where the wise thing said could have been said better. For example, if asked, “Have you heard my latest meisterstuck?” one might answer, “Fabulous! I absolutely loved it,” even if it sounded more like the mewling of a drunken cat.

Then, if the listener compliments the dress worn by the cat loving composer, she may say, “Oh, this old thing,” while feeling secretly gorgeous.

Making art that makes a difference is not a place for poorly worded advice. Words should be honored at their face value or their worth is quickly dissipated leaving more people sneaking out at intermission. The best wisdom is a kind of distilled truth, dispensed briefly and delivered boldly.

Stealing is what thieves do. Borrowing, for the purpose of creating something new, is what artists do.

So, creative readers, I say to you, “Good artists steal, great artists borrow.”

Can You Draw a Straight Line?


“Oh, for crying out loud,” she stared at the yawning abyss before her, an insolently blank sheet of paper, smugly hinting at the arrogance of her even thinking she could draw anything worth looking at, wondering herself if she wasn’t really the artist she thought she was or if all of this daily sturm und drang was worth the scrawl she managed to coax from her charcoals.

Even though we know that there was once a time when we cheerfully drew with crayons and wrote stories dotted with stickers, our adult instinct hisses, “You, an artist? You can’t even draw a straight line.”

This is not an instinct I share. I happen to agree with it – I know I can’t draw a straight line.  And what good is a world full of straight lines, anyway?

For it’s not the skill of drawing perfect lines that challenges me. It is the intent.

The think behind the ink.

Here is where my instinct for a steady hand, sure strokes and precision kicks in. I would rather commit a single line, the smudge of a shadow or crosshatching that needs to draw the eye in, the foreground suggested by a mark or two, powered by a strong reason, to create something that becomes so much more than the sum of its unruled parts.

The trick is, the starting point for creating anything can, of course, be straight lines if you choose, but it could be the result of seeing a lack of actors of color in a movie, feeling overlooked or slightly invisible in certain rooms, or perhaps wondering if the only reason you exist depends on what other people think.

Once every four years, everyone can pick up a pen to express themselves and create something.

Everyone can draw a straight line.  Today, do so with intent.

Start by checking a box.


Reinvented Wisdom

Fake it ’til you make it.

What is the purpose of a short blast of wisdom like this?

It is a general experience shrink wrapped into a few words. Hopefully, other people can benefit by following the advice. And many people do. Without further thought or question. This could explain the unsettling number of savants and celebrities with doubtful qualifications clamoring for our attention.

A word is a nest of possibilities. An invitation to define a meaning, or a worldview. With skill, a word can dare expectations, even defy your understanding of yourself, why you deserve to exist.

Learning English, or any language, is more than remembering what words mean. Learning to be a person in the world is a daily navigation through nuances of shared understanding and expectations. So, mastery of a language, more than having command of an impressive vocabulary, is realizing its deeper intent and potential.

Let’s look at a few words in this saying.

Fake: If you were sold a fake, you would be demand your money back. A fake of something is worthless. To fake something is given less backlash. It is almost a badge of honor to say you can confidently bluff your way through a situation. You get credit for guts.

Make: “I’ve got a few miles to go before I make it home.” In this case, this is how you talk about reaching or getting to a goal.

’til: Now this is an underappreciated word. Short for “until”, this little word implies it will take some time for you to achieve success.

So, this wisdom tells you that posing as someone you aren’t or to have some knowledge or ability that one does not really have – until – you are accepted as such, is a good thing.

What if we decided to put forth another vision of success? What if we unleashed the power of our creativity, our ability to make something from nothing, to recreate this simple formula for success to ask:

Why fake it you can make it?

We don’t need advice telling us what to do as much as we need to ask ourselves if we can do it better.