Some Thoughts on the Artist’s Life: In Memory of Robin Williams

As I write this week’s blog post, our world is still reeling from the sudden and tragic death of actor/comedian Robin Williams.

He was one of the greatest actors of this generation, and one of my personal favorites. I think it was something about his eyes that always got me; behind all the jokes, laughter and craziness his characters could bring to the screen was a kindness and humanity that isn’t always there in someone so famous and successful. He just seemed so real in every role he played, and the same light that jumped out of his eyes and off the screen changed me each and every time I saw him. Maybe it’s because I have a rich, personal history in the theatre that I recognized and appreciated the greatness in him. But I will always remember him as not only a master of his craft, but as an intense and multi-layered human being that embraced life and what he loved to do boldly and without fear.

Robin Williams   July 21, 1951- August 11, 2014

Like Robin Williams, many brilliant artists struggle with some pretty dark personal demons. Mental illness is no respecter of persons, and hopefully, Robin Williams’ death will be an ever-present reminder of this debilitating and deadly disease, and bring more attention to it than ever before. But why do artists seem to fall prey to depression and mental illness more easily than others? I wish I had the answer, but all I can do is speculate based on my own experience. I have never struggled with depression, but the artist’s life that writers, actors, painters, designers, musicians and others live can be demanding in a way that non-artists find difficult to understand. You see, we want to be perfect at what we do, but at the same time share our hearts and souls with the world around us. We don’t mean to overwhelm others with the thoughts and feelings we have, but sometimes it happens. And when an artist puts his or her work out there, it’s such a deeply personal experience that the risk of rejection, and then the rejection itself can be devastating.

Artists demand a lot from themselves and the people around them. It’s not easy to come along for the emotional roller coaster ride that loved ones find themselves on at times. But when the ride slows down, being in relationship with a creative person can be more joyful than any other experience in the world. Artists seem to love harder, fight longer and experience life more deeply just because of how they are wired. This could explain why depression can weave its way into the mind more easily, because the mind of an artist is so wide open to beauty and so vulnerable to the challenges life throws its way.

I am by no means an expert here. But like you, I’ve needed to try and sort through some of the possible whys to such a bright light in the world being extinguished in such a way. Let’s hope he is the last.

Rest in Peace Robin Williams. We will miss you!

Sensibility- Everyone has a story. Being aware of the struggles of others can help you reach out when a friend or loved one is in need.

Sense- Mental illness is no respecter of persons. If you or someone you love struggles with depression, there is help available.


What do you do to get out of your writing cave or artistic zone that helps you maintain a positive attitude and overall sense of well-being?


Just Brush Your Teeth! A Little BIC Primer

I saw something pretty crazy on television the other day (and no, it wasn’t a reality show).

It was a toothbrush that plays music while you brush your teeth. Designed with tweens and teens in mind, this amazing tool is supposed to have your kids up and dancing while keeping their pearly whites clean and healthy. Forget the fact that dental hygiene is just a part of what you have to do every day. Throw away the idea that having no cavities or gum disease is a reward all its own. No! Now boogieing while brushing is apparently the only way to get teens to brush! What’s next, floss that sings while sliding between your teeth? Seriously, when we saw that commercial, my family and I exchanged glances– two teens included—like “You’ve got to be kidding me!”

So what does a be-bopping toothbrush have to do with writing? Well, like brushing your teeth twice a day, flossing once a day and using mouthwash is the only way to keep your mouth healthy, BIC time (butt in chair for those of you unfamiliar with the term) is something you must do to keep your writing moving forward. There is no magic bullet when it comes to producing quality content that readers will love. You have to sit down, look at that empty screen and start typing. Something, anything, until the words begin to flow and you realize an entire hour has passed (or two even), and you hardly even noticed. BIC time is hacking out that rough draft, making those revisions, taking care of line edits and then doing the whole thing over again the next day. Lather, rinse, repeat. And just like brushing your teeth does not include looking in the mirror, putting the toothpaste on the brush, and getting a cup ready for rinsing, BIC time does not include answering emails, reading the latest publishing news, tweeting, posting or working on a writing course. BIC time is writing, plain and simple. Without those nervous moments of waiting for the flow of words to do just that- flow- your muse will never have a chance to speak to you in that magical way she does when all is quiet and it’s just you and a blank screen.

Not everything in life is meant to be 24/7 fun. BIC time in writing is a lot like brushing your teeth. It’s just something you have to do. Unless of course you want your teeth to fall out or your characters to never come alive. Does it get easier? Sure! Just like brushing your teeth has its own routine, the more BIC time you have the easier it is to get in the “zone.” So turn off the tunes and just brush your teeth. You may find yourself singing a song of your very own!

Sensibility- Writing can be a magical experience if you give yourself quiet moments to hear what your muse is trying to say.

Sense- Look at your schedule and set aside BIC time. For beginners, set a goal of at least three one-hour writing sessions each week.

How much BIC time to you set aside each week? What do you do to help yourself get in the “zone”?


A Room With a View

226290_1856956235756_4879800_nI’m really bad about sitting in my writing cave, aka my dining-room office corner, and hacking out copy or prose or poetry for eight hours a day. But once a year I treat myself to my own personal writing retreat. It’s really me tagging along on one of my husband’s continuing education conferences, but hey, I can call it what I want- I am a writer after all. So today, instead of sitting at my desk trying not to be distracted by the dyer buzzer, I’m looking out the big windows in my room on the eighth floor of one of my favorite spots in the world, Traverse City, Michigan. The windows overlook the Grand Traverse Bay, and the view comes complete with rolling hills and trees just beginning their spring fling. One year we got in on the cherry blossoms, and it looked like snow spread out over the orchards with splashes of yellow dandelions thrown in for good measure. Beautiful!

But I digress. This place does that to me. Today’s post is about finding a new place to write at least once in a while. It’s so refreshing to look out and see something different. We need that in ours lives- whether you’re a writer or a doctor or a mom- in order to stay fresh and remember there are many lenses through which to view the world. It’s good for your manuscripts too, because finding a new place to write every now and then may just help you see your work with the fresh eyes we writers so desperately need at times.

So get up from your desk and find a new place to write from today. Right now! Just unplug your chord, pack up that laptop and go! Buy yourself a cup of coffee as a treat and invite your characters to come out and play. You may be surprised at how far you can go just by changing your view!

Sensibility- The imagination needs feeding. If your muse seems hungry try getting out of your writing cave for some fresh air and fresh perspective.

Sense- Choose one day each week or month and go somewhere else to write. Coffee shops, the local library or the park are great choices to jumpstart your creativity.


Where do you go when your writing needs a change of scenery?