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Todd Henry is the founder of Accidental Creative, a company that helps people and organizations “generate brilliant ideas.”  In his book about developing a voice, LOUDER THAN WORDS:  Harness the Power of Your Authentic Voice, he recounts a piece of advice that artist/illustrator Lisa Congden received from her art teacher.

The teacher told Lisa that the thing to remember is that every creative project (no matter what it is) has a U-shape.  You start with a clear plan and great enthusiasm.  As you work on the project, your natural energy starts fading.  Things that seemed so very simple at the top of that U when you began the thing prove to be complex and unclear and the way gets very boggy as the mist rolls in.  Nothing is as straightforward as it first seemed.  At this point, people often lose heart and give up.

But, he said, if you keep slogging on through the deepest muck at the bottom of that U, then your heart starts to fill up again, your passion revives, you start seeing the patterns of this thing and the fog clears.  You find the path opens up again and your energy will return – sometimes stronger than ever.  When this happens, he said, the resulting work is usually far better than ever seemed possible at the bottom of that U.

For this reason, Henry says, you need to be guided by a larger vision for your work.  Your job (as you slog through the Valley of Despond) is to keep your end-goal in sight, even when your view of it is blocked by frustration and complications.

The antidote for the part when you’re running on fumes at the bottom of the valley is to remain focused on your vision and to keep on taking the next step, then the next one and then the one after that.  You keep going until you get through the downer place.

As Henry says, “There will be peaks upon which everything seems so clear and your work is so on target that you want to share it with everyone you meet, and there will be valleys in which you question why you’re even trying.  It’s all part of the process, and it’s never ending….”

Another poem….


And life goes on…

Whatever is happening

Does a slow and stately dance,

Flowing like dark molasses, heavy and dense,

Or else it tumbles like some hip-hopping crew

Zit-zack-zuck, whizzing by,

All the many, many parts

Zooming, on the fly.


Me, I’m just one little bit –

A ‘one’, a ‘zero’, a spectator, really –

Trying (in my way) to see

The whole meshugennah thang,

Trying to go for the grace,

Step-step-stepping lightly,

Looking for the beauty,

And helping other people play.


I can just do little things:

Lend a hand when I can,

Do the small move that evokes a quiet smile,

Turn on the teeny maglight

And shine it on the path,

Turn one small key that opens one more little lock.


And I’ve been thinking…

Maybe that can be a cool thing.

by Netta Kanoho

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For a long while now, I’ve been trying to figure out why certain works of art (and poetry) speak so strongly and most others don’t.  I am thinking that it could be the ones that shout out loud really are attempts by the artist to actually say something Real.

What makes it Real is the courageous, open connection and access to the artist’s heart, it seems.  A lot of times we shy away from being that exposed…and maybe that’s why the work we do only mumbles.

Entrepreneur Seth Godin once said, “As soon as you’re willing to say ‘It’s not for you,’ you’re freed up to make art.”

What he’s pointing out, I think, is that if you try to make something that “everybody” will like, something that will not offend or disturb or otherwise ruffle feathers, you are probably compromising your art.

You’re taking the nickel bet, churning out lots of little bits of meaningless stuff that most people will feel lukewarm about rather than aiming for a heart-grab that squeezes your own heart just as much as it squeezes your reader’s … one that actually means something to you and to the person with whom it resonates deeply.

The thing is, doing that means you have to shoot from your heart…and you know that’s going to hurt.

So you waffle and  you winge and you compromise and you piddle away the juice and it all turns wishy-washy.  Pfui!


  • Make what you love as best as you know how and use what you learn from that to get better at it.
  • Have the courage to follow your instincts and your intuition even if they take you way, way out of your comfort zone.
  • Take the risks you need to take to speak with your truest voice.
  • Stand up for your work when you must and push back at the fears that eat at you (A-A-A-A-H! Nobody’s gonna like it.  Everybody’s gonna hate it!  A-A-A-A-H!  I’m gonna have to eat Worms!  Argh!)
  • Turn it loose and let it fly or limp or lurch or whatever the heck it wants to do.

Do that over and over.  Your audience WILL find you and they’re gonna love you (or possibly hate you).  They will not go to sleep, however.

On to the poem:


I am a sweetie-pie,

Really I am.

See my saccharine face?

It’s all overflowing with

The godawfullest sweetness and light.

I am sweeter than Krispy Kremes,

You bet.


But, I gotta tell ya…

There’s this voice that comes:

The motormouth in my head,

The one that revs whenever

Someone comes all over “poor-t’ing me,”

And this is what that bitch says:


Yeah, yeah, yeah…

You are a precious and unique being…

One in seven billion and counting

And, yeah, you are in distress.

But, I gotta tell ya, babe,

You are trying my patience.

The histrionics that accompany

Your latest tale of woe-some-mo’…

Well, they bore me.


All that cryin’ and wailin’

Get in the way of working

Toward better solutions and resolves.

All that moaning

Trivializes your ordeal.

AND, it is giving me a headache!


Frankly, I ain’t got the time.

On a scale from one to ten,

In my world, your hell that’s playing itself out

In this here slice of heaven rates about a 1.5.

I mean, come on…

I only have the standard issue

31 million, 536 thousand seconds

Allotted to me every year, ya know.

Get on with it, get over it, or get it away from me….


Your choice.

By Netta Kanoho

photo credit:  by Joi Ito via Wikimedia Commons [CC BY 2.0]

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