Creative impulses and bloody knuckles


This is an email I wrote to my brother Bryan. But the ideas were broad enough to share.

Godin on the lizard brain
Elizabeth Gilbert on Creativity

So Bryan…if we are exchanging inspirational media from the internet, here’s some  more.

Let me give the context here too.

You told me you were interested in writing, and you wished you would write more. I said you don’t have the bug to write, you don’t HAVE to write on your blog like I do. But you said you did, that you thought about it all the time and had ideas but didn’t get them down.

But Bryan, you DO program. You cannot STOP programming. I cannot program, though I often wish I could. You make money programming, and I envy that you have a creative outlet that you can monetize. I have never made money on my writing. I’ve gotten a couple free meals and a tank top once. But that’s it.

You however, pay your mortgage with your creativity. I admire that a lot. Don’t roll your eyes! Don’t denigrate what you do. it is, I firmly believe, a necessary thing for the world to become a better place. You do your small part.

Godin mentions that at the end of his lecture. What you do with your programming is art. And you should congratulate yourself, give yourself credit for it. The world NEEDS you.

The world may need what I write, but very very very few people appreciate it yet. I need to find a way to package it so that it can be digested and used by the human race.

But like Godin says, it’s not the creativity that is the problem, it’s the shipping. Getting the creative idea from birth to delivery is the rare thing.

The part about this creative endeavor that’s so confusing is that the arrival of the idea is so different than the implementation–the shipping–of it. The idea arrives like an angel on the tips of our fingers. The implementation is bloody knuckles.

How on earth does one person capture the ethereal and then turn around to sweat and bleed over the physical reality of it? And yet we are a hybrid race, spirit and flesh.

I talked to my friend Jay about this. He’s Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, tenured Stanford professor of Health Economics. Isn’t that exactly exactly what our country and THE WORLD needs right now? Someone who understands this mess of health and money on the level of the whole population? Every time I see him I tell him that he’s got what we need. I say the world needs his throbby brain.

Not because it’s a brain that is so superior to everyone else’s. It might be, but that’s not the point. He took the time, read all the books. He got his medical degree and then went on to learn economics. There are very very very few people on the planet who took that time. Stanford let him in and entrusted him with this training and education, and made this supergenius to come out and save the world.

or at least save our healthcare system.

Thing is, Jay mastered the art of packing his brain full of the knowledge. He got his doctorate after all. But the art of unpacking his brain is different. Going in front of the press and Congress (they could use his throbby brain) to let them know what’s really going on is way different than staying up late in the library.

The first part is very different from the second. Just like with all vital creative production.  I don’t mean to trash Jay, he’s doing a good job and striving to do better. He just did a thing for Huffpost on the Health care Meeting. He’s also working on a book about what health care can do for obesity, very timely. He’s not phoning it in after he got tenure, no way.

But my point is that it’s HARD. It takes more than one hand to get from start to delivery. The thing is being open to change and dedicated to completion. It takes willingness to face failure and move beyond it.

And to get back to the bloody knuckle part. It takes sitting down and doing it. Even if you are tired and think you deserve to relax after all the other work you just did.

To bring it around to your desire to write. I encourage you to start. Leave some deposits on your blog. They will probably stink and not be what you want them to be at first, but if you want to get better you have to start. Your coding used to stink, but now it is sweet-smelling. Feed the part of you that wants to do this creative thing, and the effort will bear fruit. Not only in the product but in your character too.

Write on!

isn’t the internet wonderful?

I heard there was a really good lecture by Seth Godin about the lizard brain. So I went looking for it on Vimeo, where he hosts it. This is what I found:

lizard brains on Amazon

A computer tried to read my mind and sell me what I wanted: LIZARD BRAINS! ON AMAZON! Free shipping if I buy 25 bucks worth.

If someone else had done it first, they would be Bob Dylan

Listening to some excellent podcasts about creativity, I heard Seth Godin talk about just doing it.

He said if someone else had taken the risky chances that Bob Dylan did, THEY would be Bob Dylan.

Maybe. I guess the point was to be out there and put your product into the place. Don’t limit your art with expectations.

Remember the electric guitar at Newport? Don’t let anybody tell you who you can be.

Let’s gather up our highest humanity and reach for the stars!

The Fourth Man

It’s weird week again, same song second verse.

Profoundly uncomfortable as I wait for what’s going to happen. I know what I’ve done, and I am sure that I have done the right thing.

That’s the most important part, you know? Doing what’s right. I just have to


just have to not talk about it.


So, I’m left thinking. and pondering. And trying not to let my stomach  hurt too much.

It helps my stomach to think about Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. Their stories happened in a dark time. Hostile environment, sure. They were important guys in the Babylonian empire.


They were working hard and had gained some prestige. They were not Babylonian. They were Jewish, God’s chosen people. They were so good at their jobs that their Babylonian peers wanted to take them down. The Babylonian jack-offs went up to Nebuchanezzar and suggested this scheme.

“Build an enormous idol and have all your lead guys bow down to it!” it was supposed to be an affirmation of the authority and communication protocols. Not to mention a team-building activity.

Certainly, no Babylonian thought twice about it. Bow, yeah, whatever. This is the royal fad this week? *yawn*

But Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego had their principles. Those very principles which had led them to succeed and be so valuable to the King. They had their God, and idols were forbidden.

If Nebuchanezzar had thought about it, he would have realized the ridiculous scheme was exactly tailored to hurt his 3 Jewish guys. But he was busy, and all these new requirements for the kingdom were pressing and all these VPs and directors or whatever they called them then needed to remember that HE was in charge, and this was a great idea.

So the idol was built. And the punishment for disobedience was being thrown into a fiery furnace.

Day came, the band hired to pump up the heads of the kingdom for this team-building exercise was playing. And at the downbeat..BAM…they all bow.

‘cept our three guys.

How much you wanna bet that Nebuchanezzar right that second remembered that they had special diversity requirements for the Jewish men? He knew that they were good at their job, but it’s not always fun to have them remind you about this one little detail to take care of. Maybe he was sick of having to put up with their efficiency and their WEIRDNESS.


small thing to ask. Nobody believed in this idol anyway.

But they wouldn’t bow.

HEAT UP THE FURNACE SEVEN TIMES HOTTER! will you bow, you annoying men of character?…

The three men stood.

Well, now Nebuchanezzar had done it. He’d put his ego on the line and he had to throw them in. Didn’t they realize how hard it is to be a King? why where they making him HAVE to throw them to their deaths?

This was such a downer, he was going to feel bad about this for weeks and it would really affect productivity. But he would lose face if he didn’t do it.


Now back to me. My stomach has had a long time to clench during the last several days. A lot of days. While they say “Try to relax! Enjoy your time at home!”

I don’t think our three men were very relaxed at their team-building exercise.

Then I thought about it again. They were focussed on doing the right thing. They could live in the moment, concentrate on the moment because they could just think about doing the right thing.

I am doing the right thing, and I am going to keep doing the right thing wherever that takes me.

Meanwhile, back in Babylon…

they were thrown into the fiery furnace. The Fire roared, and the soldiermen who threw them in died. That’s hard core

Nebuchanezzar regretted it the instant he’d done it. As soon as he could get close enough, he looked to see what was happening to Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego.

Here’s the KJV quote (Dan 3:25):

He said, “Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.”

I have a lot of fear I could concentrate on in this hard time. But I don’t want to be afraid. I don’t know what’s going to happen. I want to be strong.

Thing is, our three men were not thinking about the flames and how much it was going to hurt. I don’t think they were anyway.


They didn’t bow. I will not bow to the pressure either. It was clear to them, and it’s clear to me, what the right thing is.

I will not bow. Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego were not afraid of losing their jobs. They didn’t even falter at losing their LIFE.

So I won’t bow. I will not give in to the pressure. And I will do my best not to think about the flames. If it gets really hot, I can talk to the fourth man.

My stomach thanks me for it.

My, how my readership has jumped!

A few days ago I was complaining that only 3 people read this blog, but things have changed. Perhaps absence makes the heart grow fonder? It’s hard to say. The wonderblog is almost entirely a one-way communication. Very few readers leave comments.

But if my musings and little family updates are helpful, I’m glad. It helps me not to feel so alone.

weird week

Well, readers…

All three of you

…it’s been a weird week. I was put on paid administrative leave last friday, so all week I’ve been waiting to find out what the HR department discovered in their investigation of the “complaint.”

It turns out I will not be terminated. I am slightly disappointed. At least it would be a clean end to the hell.

You know, I try to be an optimist. What would an optimist say in hell..?

“Hang in there, camper. Maybe this is just purgatory…couple of thousand years, it will all turn out…”

…which is pretty much how my thoughts went as I’ve been commuting to my golden stockades for the last several years…

I guess I am trying to be optimistic about my return to optimism. But I’m not back to optimistic YET…

2002/04/25 – 2010/2/2

That’s kind of a lot of TWOs–two thousand ten two two.  Maybe we are saying twenty ten now.

February Second, twenty ten. That is almost eight years after I started this blog. I just realized that means I’ve only been working on my book, The Russian American School of Tomorrow for seven years. I was beginning to feel like it was more than a hundred already.

But let me begin again:

Friends! Readers! Spammenters! Lend me your eyes!

Welcome to February. What will this month portend? I’m looking forward to it. Last weekend, before february started, Chris cleaned the garage by putting up shelving around the edges. He threw out a lot of things, and things are accessible now.

In every relationship, it is always the other person’s things that take up all the space. He immediately pointed out to me all the stuff I had that should be discarded. Fine. There were several boxes of clothes.

CLOTHES! an archeological TELL of clothing.  A dress I sewed for myself as a teenager. I LOVED that blue dress. Needs a little hemming, but I can wear it again.

My high school graduation dress! that confection I designed at age 17 to fulfill all the stifled formals I had missed by not attending a regular school.

It still fits, but only because … I was a slender yet voluptious teenager. I was drop-dead gorgeous, yet convinced I was very ugly. Seventeen magazine told me that models (the standard of beauty for everyone, don’t you know?) were 5’9 and weighed 115 pounds. I didn’t eat for a week and got down to 150, a weight I shall never see again. Ah…Isn’t it a shame that youth is wasted on the young? Anyway, when my mother was sewing the bodice of this dress, she refused to fit it. She said it was immodest, and my shape was hidden under a baggy bodice.

I’ve gained 20+ pounds in the intervening 20 years, and some inches on my waist. But the bodice still zips up.

I will have to post a picture for you all.