My new podcast is called Written, Spoken and it’s available now. Subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and other platforms here. This transcript for Season 1, Episode 2, is provided to help all of my readers and listeners — especially those with hearing disabilities or for whom English is not a primary language — access and enjoy the content of each and every episode.
S1E2: Surviving the Other Half of the Creative Equation, Destruction
[00:00:03] Welcome back to Written, Spoken. My name is Dave Ursillo. I’m your host. And in this debut season of my podcast, I’m reading aloud 10 recent written stories that I’ve published privately for my community of readers who have subscribed to my newsletter at some point in my 10-year writing journey over at my online home, the aptly named DaveUrsillo.com. Me, I’ve been a self-employed creative, professional writer, and an author for the last decade. So to honor those 10 years, I’m bringing these 10 recent written pieces to life through the spoken word. And the result is this podcast.
[00:00:43] In the last episode, I shared the story of how some major life changes caught me by surprise, even though I thought I saw them coming.
[00:00:50] What do you do when change catches you off guard? Where do you put your energy? How do you figure out what to do next? How do you… simply survive? What do you do to heal? How do you keep going?
[00:01:07] Here, in Episode 2, is one way that I tried to cope with big life changes by channeling a wellspring of energy made up of equal parts grief and determination into a curious creative venture. Without further ado, here’s the episode.
[00:01:26] Dear friend, shortly after the “wave of change” of which I spoke drenched me in equal parts uncertainty and chance, I heard myself say, “I think I’m going to take up baking this winter.” You heard that right. Baking.
[00:01:44] Mind you, I don’t bake. I’ve never really baked anything in my life. Come to think of it, baking has never really interested me. I even like having chocolate or cookies in my house let alone whole cakes and pies because I know I’ll decimate them in a matter of days if not hours.
[00:02:02] So what prompted this sudden desire to start baking? It was one part boredom — winters have that effect on me — and one part creative impulse inspired by, well, binge-watching a Great British Bake-Off on Netflix.
[00:02:17] (Quick sidebar: Technically the Great British Bake Off is called The Great British Baking Show on Netflix here in the U.S. because the Pillsbury Company of Pillsbury Doughboy fame owns a trademark on the phrase Bake Off so nobody else can use it except for them. How about that?).
[00:02:37] Anyway. If you’re not familiar with the show it’s a British baking competition series that has “jumped the pond” as we say and come to develop something of a cult like following here in the States. I was introduced to the show by my sister Bianca who is a television writer herself over two of our particularly introverted evenings when I visited her last in Los Angeles. Shunning our fancy dinner plans for delivery instead we turned on the TV and found ourselves whisked away (baking pun!) into this quaint buttery fairy tale of a baking show.
[00:03:12] Pleasant positive altogether cheery and full of the fluttering accented chitter chatter that I love, sure I might have been indulging in some emotional escapism what with daydreaming of becoming new best friends with Rahul, Manon, John Ruby, Brionny, Kim Joy… But the real fun of a show like this the real fun of watching a reality show about baking is seeing these delightful seeming personalities do their best to bring their creative expressions to life.
[00:03:45] As a writer, a teacher of writing, a coach to writers, a lot of my work and indeed my world revolve around helping people towards more fully-realized self-expression practices. That’s what I love to do. It’s amazing to watch someone’s art, creativity, their worldview, their personality, their dreams, their zest for life, find its right outlet of expression.
[00:04:12] Of course I also love to create myself. So it wasn’t long until I started to daydream about making my own towering sponge cakes layered with buttercream frosting and wondering what it would take to make my own say, ginger turmeric cardamom biscuits… or something.
[00:04:32] Upon returning home to Rhode Island and streaming another whole season of the show in a day or two I decided it was time to do something with my newfound creative impulse. Mind abuzz with ideas and inspired enthusiasm I marched into my local Whole Foods in directly to the baking aisle intent to make something altogether delicious and lovely.
[00:04:55] Behold the Great Dave-ish Bake-Off had begun! Cue record scratch. Errrrr!
[00:05:04] Standing before an outrageous number of options — baking tins and pans and sheets and more spices and ingredients than I could count, ready make options, gluten free everything, and apparently about 34 different kinds of sugar? Who knew? — my creative desire began to short circuit. I found myself like most anyone else with a pure and innocent intention to make something suddenly confronted by the other half of the creative equation: destruction.
[00:05:38] When we use the word “creative” in everyday conversation we tend to be talking about the happy side of creativity; the making side. Why is because the making side is so much fun. It contains all the promise; the endless potential. Total freedom. Making is the awe inspired, beauty spinning, and light bringing of what it means to be creative. That’s why we fall in love with a show like The Great British Bake-Off. What attracts us to being more creative or feeling more creative or experiencing more creativity in our lives is this specific promise and appeal:
[00:06:16] The essence by which any and every person may behold the unmistakable power of birthing something as if by magic out of nothing.
[00:06:28] And yet, as I wrote you in last we spoke, anything creative is one part destructive for one part generative. That doesn’t mean every creative effort or desire or ambition or thing must be a morbid, morose, heart wrenching venture. What it means that anything creative often requires shedding. Surrender. Releasing of the old or some form of letting go. At the very least the desire to make tends to involve a less than lovely confrontation with a steep learning curve or emotionally acclimating to a harsher experience than fanciful dreams may have promised.
[00:07:11] This is what stops us short from indulging in all of our desires to make. I call it “the other half” of the creative equation. It’s the uncomfortable side, the disruptive side, the side that triggers you, stirs doubt in you, or altogether hijacks your perfectly fine intentions in place of feeling inspired ambitious and unfettered. You’re suddenly struck with fear, uncertainty, guilt, excuse making, shame, or some other altogether awful feeling. That’s what hit me as I stood in the bakery aisle that day.
[00:07:49] Overcome by a tidal wave of options, choices, angles, directions, and ingredients, I felt sudden doubts and debilitating indecision rushed through my mind. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, I told myself, I didn’t know what I wanted to bake, let alone what I was capable of baking. I didn’t even know how to get started recognizing my choices of where to begin. Then I remembered practical matters like the fact that I didn’t even own a whisk or a mixing bowl. I didn’t know if a mixing bowl was any different from a regular bowl. That I need a standing mixer. How much would that cost? And how often what I really use it? And what even is the difference between whole wheat flour and white whole wheat flour?
[00:08:31] In a bundle of overwhelm and indecision my daydreams of making elegant cakes and mind blowing pies and delectable holiday cookies like my new / completely imaginary best friends on the Great British Bake-Off were instantly dashed. Instead, I snuck out of the store without ingredients or supplies or even the intention to bake anything at all.
[00:08:54] Instead, I bought three cupcakes, already made, from the bakery section of the grocery store. I eat all three on my drive home.
[00:09:06] Honestly I should have known better. What was I thinking, jumping into a new creative venture without a plan? Without first managing my expectations and taking a second to consider what I was capable of starting out with on Day 1? After all I’ve been a professional writer for 10 years now — I’ve said it many times already on this podcast — and I’ve encountered just about every hang up, hesitation or existential crisis that exists around my preferred outlet of self-expression, which is writing.
[00:09:36] Besides I’ve spent the last six plus years working in support of fellow writers, creatives, poets, visual artists, freelancers, journalers in secret, and aspiring authors. Most of the time in the role of a coach or mentor or guide. And what I do is help my clients navigate the subtle shadows and the discomfort that seems to naturally arise along each of our creative journeys. And I know that the law of creation dictates one part destructive for one part generative, which simply means that some shadow will always rise with the light; that whether writing a blog post or baking cookies, a natural and innocent and beautiful desire to make will always prompt an opposite reaction. Simple hesitation or an honest roadblock the emotional impulse to give up for now or to blow up the plan for all of forever or even to second guess your self-esteem into oblivion. When hesitation, second guessing, doubt, guilt, shame, fear… When these uncomfortable feelings rear their ugly heads, which they will, my clients and I come together with blazing torches in hand if you will to face them down. We shine that light to expose the truth beneath these shadows; the undercurrents of the burdens we feel like we’re carrying; the emotional baggage that is being expressed through our creative impulses that deserves finally letting go of.
[00:11:12] We poke, we prod, we explore, we inquire, we witness. We unpack. Then we use words and stories to reinterpret the shadowy discomfort as a new resource for personal learning, artistic growth, and soul expansion.
[00:11:30] In other words we turn into our avoidance and make the resistance into our refuge.
[00:11:38] Sure it’s no big deal to miss out on baking a cake or a pie on a weekday night but it’s something altogether different — and so far as your soul code is concerned something perhaps dangerous — when our creative inclinations, when our desires to express ourselves, fall silent for good. It always begins with simple hesitation. Honest doubt; a quick but certain feeling of overwhelm that prompts a question like, “What am I doing, anyway?” That doubt opens the door to another like, “So why am I bothering at all?” It doesn’t take long before your creative impulse — the natural human desire to make — gets buried.
[00:12:28] Because I have been writing for so long and helping clients and students along with this outlet of creativity writing which feels so good and fun and rewarding to me, I guess I had started to take for granted how suddenly one can slide from that buoyant exuberant state of like “Yay, creativity!” to one of “I’m a total failure and the world is a dark and cruel place,” because that’s how quickly it can seem to happen.
[00:12:54] But my failed adventure in baking certainly did remind me of it. It reminded me of what it feels like when the other half of your creative impulse rears its ugly head. It reminded me of experiences such as my starts and stops with watercolor painting, which I take up with this like secret but fierce commitment for about three days every other year before I abandon it entirely. It reminded me of all the passing moments that I declare that I want to learn how to play piano but have yet to take a single lesson. My failed adventure and being reminded me of the two guitars and the ukulele that I’ve bought in my life, but I’ve never learned to play a single note on. It also reminded me of the voice lessons that I say I want to take at least when I’m alone in singing by myself in my car but don’t have the actual courage to act on.
[00:13:44] My failed British Bake-Off of one reminded me that the destructive side of the creative equation is still very much affects me as much as it affects anyone else. But if I’ve learned anything over my creative journey it’s been this: the destructive side of the creative equation doesn’t intend to derail you or to push you into existential crisis or to overwhelm you to the brink of abandoning it altogether.
[00:14:11] The destructive side of creativity exists to show you the way forward. It’s the promise of creativity, the inspired sparks, the desires to make, the passion to explore, that set us off on our creative paths. But it’s the roadblocks that we stumble upon; the walls we face; the bridge trolls who challenge our journeys that are our greatest teachers. The shadows show us the way forward and up toward our greatest expansion as souls. Because if the roadblock is there at all in our writing or our baking or our music making or in our art, whatever form, I guarantee that that roadblock is also there throughout the rest of our lives: in our work, in our relationships, and in our missions to inspire.
[00:15:02] So if you’ve ever had your enthusiasm dashed by not knowing where to begin, I get it. If you’ve ever had a creative dream upon which you’ve given up before you even really tried, I feel it. If you’ve felt burdened by guilt for even wanting to explore in the first place, I see you. If you’ve ever stood at the edge of something new before walking away, I am no different than you. If you’ve felt ashamed for trying and failing; like a failure for not measuring up to your own lofty expectations; like you’ve doubted your worth for not advancing your skills fast enough? I am so right there with you. I have the crumpled cupcake wrappers in the backseat of my car to prove it.
[00:15:51] And yet in my heart I know I’ve got what it takes to overcome these hurdles because on the path of “making” the hurdles are always the same. I’ve been here before. I’ve done this in the past. So for a while or until Paul and Prue of Great British Bake-Off fame come knocking on my door I’ll just have to coach myself through the resistance, through the discomfort, the indecision, the overwhelm of what it means to make. But this time as a baker.
[00:16:21] If you friend have a particular dream, goal, desire, or creative urge that is specific to writing, however, I might be able to help. It’s why I’m here. It’s what I do. And I would love to talk to you about bringing your desires to create to life.
[00:16:37] Whether you’re thinking about writing your first book, journaling more consistently for the first time in decades, or starting a blog on a subject just because you’ve got so much to say about it, I know what it’s like to have your creative urge smash against a wall of unknowns, intimidation, and uncertainty. You don’t need to face that proverbial overwhelming baking aisle on your own. I’ll go there with you. No matter your goal, your vision, or your intention, I’ve always found that creativity is best served with a right blend of support — the self-aware kind, the empowered kind, the gentle and compassionate but firm love when it’s needed kind. That’s me.
[00:17:23] That’s what my Writer’s Group of Two clients love about working with me. And better yet what I bring with us along your writing journey is this road map that I’ve been creating for the last ten years. It helps you to know exactly what to expect along your creative endeavor and how to transcend the shadows that naturally arise along the way. I can pretty much guarantee that whatever you intend to make will be a lot better for it; a lot more enjoyable; a lot more sustainable and a lot more rewarding along the way.
[00:17:56] All that’s required is a little shadow for some light; an equal trade of discomfort for the pleasure fulfillment and reward that await you. And it does await. Let me show you how.
[00:18:11] Yours and making baking and beyond, Dave.
[00:18:28] Thank you so much for listening to this week’s episode. We’ll be back next week with a follow up to the show. And in that episode I’ll be sharing some tried and true advice and how-to steps and what you might elect to do if you like me have had a recent creative impulse dashed by that hard and uncomfortable reality check; the destructive side of the creative equation.
[00:18:48] If you enjoyed this episode of Written, Spoken, please let me know. Take a moment to leave us a five star rating and review on Apple Podcasts. It goes a long way to help other listeners find the show. And if you have a close friend who like you and I appreciates considerate storytelling and thoughtful essays in an ever distracted, increasingly noisy and confusing age of modern living, please consider telling him or her about Written, Spoken. We live on word of mouth referrals.
[00:19:16] Until next time, remember the words we choose and those we leave behind shape our narrative understanding of who we are, what we do, and why we’re here at all. Choose to tell the story you want to be living. I’m Dave Ursillo, and this is Written, Spoken. Bye for now.