In the Flow

I’m sitting on the bed, my heart pounding, and the crew guy looks at me to ask,

Are you ready?

I nod, exhale, and then am wheeled out onto a bright stage and a packed audience of over 2,000 people. The orchestra begins, and there’s no going back.

I pick up my suitcase, awash in the spotlight, and sing my solo. It’s really happening…..and all I can feel is the glory of the moment, Andrew Lloyd Weber’s score soaring as I sing, Another Suitcase in Another Hall.

The notes pour out of me, my nerves disappear, and I feel that magic of the stage, the magic of the moment, and the acknowledgement that I have made it.

I’m in the flow.

So, THIS is what it feels like…..

 

In 2005/2006 I was on the 25th Anniversary National Tour of Evita.  It was a dream come true, and my first National Tour.  The tour was overseen by Broadway icon Hal Prince and directed by the original Broadway choreographer, Larry Fuller. I understudied the mistress, and went through the tour with a smile plastered on my face.

This was a whole new level for me, and my favorite show. 

When I had the opportunity to go on for the mistress for the first time, I was very nervous.

And yet, when the bed was wheeled out at the beginning of the scene, something happened.

It’s almost as if time stood still, and I just delivered.  I sang from my heart, and stared into the lights and that huge audience.  Everything else just fell away.

I walked off the stage almost in a daze….not even fully understanding.

I was in the Flow.

 

Have you experienced this in your Creativity?

Hours go by with a new melody
Endless pages written on your latest story
A canvas coming to life
The photo shoot that you just keep seeing a new angle
The dance class where you are doing triple pirouettes with ease

It’s as if the muse just keeps whispering in your ear, and you are  saying,
YES!

All the other nonsense just falls away and you feel invincible, unstoppable, and free. What’s more, you are productive beyond your wildest dreams and getting things done!

Would you call this Creative Flow?
And what the heck would you call that moment when it all feels SO hard?

 

This week I had a really amazing conversation with a videographer who described Flow in these terms,

It’s the moment of challenge meeting repetition.

I felt like a light-bulb went off in my head when I thought of the combination of challenge and repetition.  In the case of understudying the mistress, it wasn’t just that I was performing a song I had sung TONS of times, and practiced for hours…it was the growth I was experiencing by playing a supporting role in a National Tour.  At that point in my career. this was a first.

And to do it in front of Hal Prince and Larry Fuller was an opportunity I had been waiting for.

The experience of singing was BOTH energizing and calming.  I went into Flow because I was growing and also singing a song I had been singing every day for weeks.

Now, what’s interesting, is my conversation with the videographer about Flow actually began with a whole other topic,

Focus.

And this is where the light bulb really went off.

The truth is, so many of us as Creatives are using a repetitive practice and really have no idea. The repetition comes in our practice of our art form.

The dance
The writing
The song
The brushstroke

But, here’s WHY it works….

It provides us with FULL INVOLVEMENT in what we are doing.  This doesn’t mean we are hyper-focused, but instead something far more powerful,

Single focused.

And what happens when we are single focused?  We are able to sing to a packed audience of 2,000 people and not miss a beat and actually ENJOY it.  We feel fulfilled.  We feel comfort, we feel joy and confidence.

The single focus ALLOWS us to go into Flow, and once we are there,that’s when the magic occurs.

Once in flow,  you can
1) Take risks
2) Release judgement on yourself and not worry what the audience thinks
3) Trust yourself in the moment

And when you are in flow, everyone else can FEEL it to.  You become in demand for your genius.

I can think of so many instances in my performing career where my voice was caught in my throat, or I tripped over my shoes. And now I can go back and ask,

Where was my focus?
How was I distracting myself?

I can look up at that list above and know quite clearly I wasn’t trusting myself and I was most likely in judgement of my ability. I was completely in my head worrying instead of being in my body and being FULLY INVOLVED in my performance.

It seem we can so easily distract ourselves in the process of putting our work out and trying to connect with our audience.  We so often can get off track and pulled in a million other directions, instead of staying in the repetitive practice that is actually going to get us where we want to BE.

If you are not seeing the results you want right now, ask yourself where your focus is.

Trust you don’t need the distractions, and come back to your task at hand.

Find those opportunities that allow you to bring your repetitive practice AND growth. Those opportunities that allow for your flow.

Then step into the spotlight, and sing.

Your audience is waiting to applaud.

The Successful Artist’s Permission Slip

What’s the DEAL?

You have a calling and passion in the Arts. You want to have an impact with your work, but something isn’t clicking because no one’s buying and you have a minimum to non-existent audience.  You’re looking out at empty houses and an empty calendar and starting to feel discouraged.

You know you have talent, and creative ideas coming out every pore, so why are you still struggling on how to convert it to a thriving Artistic Career?

Honestly, how the HECK do the celebrities do it??

What if I told you the answer was right in front of you, and is something you can change today?

Well, then hop on board, because we are going to take you from struggle to success with one thing,

Integration.

 

Get out a piece of paper, and list all your creative abilities.  Let me guess, it’s more than one!

And I’m curious, what were you told growing up?

Pick ONE thing
Can you make money with that?
Is that practical?
You’re doing too much!

I get it!  I found myself in high school madly in love with four things…

Singing
Dancing
Acting
Choreography

Choosing ONE of these just felt wrong and I wanted to find a career and a place where I could express ALL of these things.  That was when I found my oasis,

American Musical Theatre.

On their own, I wasn’t at my strongest.  It was when everything was combined, I was in my element, and also creating a career.  A career that lasted for 20 years, and took me across the nation on professional stages. It even landed me kicking eye high as a New York City Rockette.

Are YOU using all of your talents?

 

One of the most damaging things I’ve heard said to any artist, is to stop expressing a part of yourself, and hone your craft to ONE thing.

Well…..if you sing, you probably don’t want to put your attention on your writing.

I mean….if you’re a photographer, you probably should put down the guitar.

Imagine if someone had said this to Tina Fey,
Tina, your writing is really amazing….but you probably shouldn’t try any acting.  And don’t even TRY producing.  That’s just TOO much.

Tina Fey has brought more joy and laughter than I can even begin to imagine from her character Liz Lemon on the successful and Emmy Award Winning sitcom, 30 Rock.  Not to mention blowing open the workplace for other female writers to step into producing comedies on TV and film.

Want to know how celebrities do it?

They bring ALL of who they are as an artist to the table.

Tina Fey’s fans love her and buy her books and pay for her movies because of the fact she does ALL of these things.  She’s not hiding.  She’s proclaiming she:

Acts
Writes
Produces

I have a very successful friend named Colman who literally turns down work, and has worked with Spike Lee, Steven Spielberg, Susan Stroman, and has won an Olivier Award for his acting.  What does he do?

Playwrighting
Photography
Acting
Singing
Dancing

Do you see a pattern?  All these successful Creatives are multi-disciplinarians, by nature.

 

Take a moment and look at your sheet of paper, and let me ask you this,

What if you integrated ALL of these things, and then put yourself and your work out from THAT place, instead of feeling like you had to cut off pieces of yourself to fit in?

Your uniqueness as an Artist comes from the unique combination of your gifts and HOW you express them.

If you are not being true to your own artistry, then your audience will feel that, and not show up.  

Tina Fey is unique because of her wit, and sharp writing.  Her sense of comedy comes from being on the other side of the table.

Colman is in such high demand, because you can put him in just about any show and he has the toolkit to perform at the highest level.

And both of them come to their art with joy because they are not in conflict with themselves.

Have you been cutting off or hiding parts of your expression that you truly love and are completely natural?

If you want things to click in your Art, and truly connect with your audience, take a look at WHAT you are putting out to the world.

The house will fill up with a raving audience when you allow yourself to be seen.

ALL of you.

So, here’s my permission slip.  Look at that piece of paper, and connect the dots.  How can you bring ALL of you to your Art?

This is when you will stand out from the crowd and make an impact.