The Joy Menu #1: Love Button
Launching this thing with a story about marital fear and what it taught me about the stunted creative urge, and some activities to un-stunt that urge. Enjoy!
Welcome to The Joy Menu. This is issue #1.
What is this? It’s a newsletter—yet neither news nor letter. Call it a pamphlet. A note. A quick thought delivered straight to your inbox.
Also, it’s an invitation to take a step outside the deluge of Social Media, Facebarf, and Marketing Slogans and to, instead, read something without distraction for 4 or 5 minutes (or 8 if you need breaks for coffee).
Every week I’ll offer:
a short grounding introduction (this bit),
a story, essay, or reflection on the creative life, &
an activity or tool you can use to engage in your own creativity.
Remember: creativity doesn’t have to mean art. Creativity is making—be it origami, or a sandwich, or a feeling. Something in the world that wasn’t there before.
It’s good for you. It’s fun. Try it.
The Love Button
I recently watched an episode of “Shark Tank” in which a couple pitched a device for married people: buttons they place on their bedside tables which they can press when they feel “that itch.” If both of them hit it, they get an alert, and they can lean in with confidence; if only one does, nothing happens, and they can go to sleep without their mismatched expectations being exposed.
After processing sadness (and a little horror) at the fact that married people might need a device to navigate the embarrassment of wanting to bone their own spouse, I got to thinking about other situations in life when fear of rejection keeps us from doing what we want.
Because I’m me, this lead me to thinking about creativity. I thought about the years I spent filled with the desire to make shit, but unable to muster the drive necessary to do so.
I wondered if what was missing for those sad, solitary married folks (lying side-by-side, sheets up to their chins, silently hoping the other wanted what they wanted yet too afraid to ask...) was the same that could be missing from a creative life: Confidence. Communication. An audience you trust. Not caring if the one you love (and/or share your work with) says, “Your breath smells, my back hurts; try again tomorrow.”
For years, I didn’t submit my work to publications, because for years I was met with rejection.
For years, I didn’t send work to friends, because for years some were hyper-critical or responded in ways which demoralized me (or they didn’t respond at all).
For years, I didn’t write, because when I did, what I created paled in comparison to the imagined ideal that I carried in my mind.
Eventually, I learned to submit anyway, to welcome rejection as confirmation that I’d yet to give up.
Eventually, I disconnected my ego from the comments (or lack thereof) offered by supportive (or absent) friends.
Eventually, I found a way to write regardless; regardless of how distant the writer I seemed to be was from the writer I’d always imagined myself to be.
There is no bedside love button for creativity; no reasonable expectation that the universe will tell you it’s been eagerly awaiting your work before you’ve even made the first move to make some.
We may all be in bed desperately pushing our buttons — thinking “notice me! validate me! want me! ask for me!” — until the plastic wears down and the wires fray.
But no (creative) person can say: “Push your button, world; if you’re dying to hear what I have to say, I’ll get to work. If not, I won’t burden you with it.” If that’s what it takes, you’ll never hear the buzz, and the work will never get made.
In the marriage of creator to life, you have to lean in first. You can see if anyone gives a shit about what you’ve made after it’s out of your head and on the page (or canvas or wall or email). You have to be comfortable sitting with silence, or facing a cold shoulder.
Which is to say: this is my attempt at doing that. I appreciate you reading along. I hope your shoulder isn’t cold; and that I don’t disappoint.
But if it is or I do, that’s OK, too.
Engage Your Creativity:
#1. Draw a stick figure on a post-it note. Name it. Stick it somewhere it shouldn’t be.
#2. Write a sentence describing your favorite treat. Add your name + “is” before the sentence. Text it to a friend without explanation.
#3. Put on music. Take off your shoes. Dance with a dog (or cat); imaginary is fine. Gaze into their eyes lovingly.
#4. Write an embarrassing message. Put it in a bottle. Hide the bottle in your house. (Find it 8 months from now).
Thanks for reading!
I hope this was as good for you as it was for me!
I’d love to know what moved you, or didn’t — just hit reply.
& don’t forget to share this with a friend (or 12).
Until next week,
Questions? Comments? Commissions? Puppies? Respond directly to this email.