Tag Archives: Kelly Slater

On the Creative Process, Jimmy Page, Champion’s Way & Music

A Midsummer’s interlude between writing, editing, coaching and counting down the hours until the Summer Olympics begin …

The other day, while watching It Might Get Loud, a tremendous 2008 documentary on the process of making music, starring Jimmy Page, The Edge and Jack White, I was struck by a comment Page made concerning the creative process. “Whether you’re writing written word or music,” the legendary Led Zeppelin guitarist said, “the creative process is a very spontaneous thing. It’s the whole reason for being here, really.”

These poignant words concern the art of moving forward, of putting pen or brush to paper or canvas and letting it happen. I find this to be both the most appealing part of writing and also the hardest to initiate. One thing is certain: once we enter the realm of a new story, song, poem or painting, we enter an entirely new world.  For some, this prospect can be so scary that they never proceed to write the story, novel, memoir or song burning to be expressed.

To me, the creative process is almost as important as breathing. I think that, if we embrace it in our daily lives, and teach our children and grandchildren to do the same, we will find vast and rapid improvements in society, education, sense of self-esteem, concentration and attentiveness, and business. Creativity, innovation and vision have never been more important to embrace, because the “tried and true” way is crumbling around us – in business, finance, education, the environment, the weather, entertainment and most other aspects of our society and culture.

I feel a lot of this backwards slide comes down to one thing: Beginning in schools, extending through television and film and continuing through the way business is conducted, we have lost what it means to be creative, spontaneous, and daring. Even the saying “outside the box” is tired and, well, inside this box of limitation into which learning and growth have been placed. This is dangerous, because creativity is nothing less than the outward expression of our hearts, souls and imaginations – the very aspects that animate life, give it meaning and purpose.

It’s time to break out. Create something new today. Just go for it. Let it happen, and follow it along, as though someone is leading you by the hand on a new journey. Chances are, that’s what you will experience: a new journey, a new adventure. Ignite your creative passion, and see in what ways it expands and fulfills your life, and presents new possibilities. It’s the whole reason for being here, really.

• • •

It’s been an interesting summer, working at different stages of two books on which I’ve spent years. Next week, the book I co-wrote with former US Ski Team conditioning coach Dr. Steve Victorson, The Champion’s Way, releases nationally – just in time to accompany the London Summer Olympics. Which is appropriate, because Steve interviewed dozens of Olympic and World Cup gold medalists for the book. I added thirty years of comments and experiences from the many champions, in sports and other pursuits, I have been privileged to interview or work with. Some of those featured include ski legends Franz Klammer, Phil and Steve Mahre, Rosi Mittermaier and Ingemar Stenmark, 11-time world surfing champion Kelly Slater, late PGA Tour champion Payne Stewart, two-time Olympic 400 meter hurdle gold medalist Edwin Moses, marathon legend Bill Rodgers, and former American Idol winner and country music superstar Carrie Underwood.

At the same time, I’ve been polishing up Voice Lessons, the novel I first wrote in draft in 2004 and have since revised – and shelved – several times. In many ways, this is my personal, 110,000-word tribute to the music of my lifetime, wrapped around a touching, lively and often intense father-daughter-daughter story line.  The polishing act is one of my favorite parts of writing, whether I’m polishing my own books or those of clients. I think of polishing from a sculptor’s perspective: if the process of writing the story is akin to drawing the desired from from raw material, then polishing is like applying the final touches to draw out a sculpture’s finest features.

For this book, which includes a concert tour, fifty original songs and a panoramic view of the building blocks of one of my generation’s great contributions to entertainment — rock music — the polishing act has been a wonderful exercise in refining what it means to be creative, to write a song, to feel how performance impacts those in the audience.  It also distills the experiences of the 40-plus years I have spent listening to music, hundreds of concerts attended, dozens of musicians I’ve met and known, and the specific types of music that originate from all corners of the country. If you like music and a good story …

What has struck me throughout this phase, interestingly enough, is that the process of perfecting a novel is the same as perfecting a sports, business or life skill that we covered in The Champion’s Way: Every word and sentence need to resonate with the energy of one’s very best effort. That’s what it takes. When that happens, readers put their busy lives on hold, sail away on the opening pages, and immerse on a journey that will entertain, enthrall, enlighten and/or change them in some way.

Voice Lessons will be published in 2013. Soon, we will activate its official website, which will be a vast multimedia experience of its own.

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Emerging From A White Christmas

Sometimes, all the forces just seem to come together. Our first full-family Christmas in ten years — and in fifteen years, if you count my mother’s grandkids, now all adults — turned into one of those days people write entire books trying to capture or experience through their words.
We gathered on the western slope of Colorado, heading in from all directions by car. I had some interesting experiences along the way: discussing poetry and the writing of a memoir with a 78-year-old woman suffering from terminal liver cancer; running stride-for-hop with a quartet of kangaroos at Grant’s Farm in St. Louis (now there’s a story — running with kangaroos in December in St. Louis?); staying the night in Hays, Kansas, where many scenes from my favorite movie, Dances With Wolves, were filmed; heading through the Rockies on a blustery day in which fresh snow honeycombed off the tallest peaks; and reminiscing about the last time I was in the heart of the Rockies — December 1999, when a freckle-faced 12-year-old redhead nearly stole Vans Snowboard Halfpipe event at Breckenridge from the world’s greatest pros. His name? Shaun White. He’s dominated the sport since, in the same way Kelly Slater owned surfing and Tony Hawk — like Shaun, from my hometown of Carlsbad, Calif. — defined skateboarding.
We gathered to celebrate together and honor my mother, who’s fighting cancer. She showed up with a sleigh-load of presents, and everyone in the room conveyed a spirit of life I haven’t seen in my family in ages. With a couple inches of snow on the ground, it looked like we’d experience something my mother hasn’t seen in 40 years — a White Christmas, even if that was gauged by standing snow.
I awoke at 3 a.m. on Christmas morning. I looked outside the window. Snow. After writing a short-story and a poem, my creative faculties revved up from the day and the weather activity, I looked outside the window again. It was dumping. It fell on the city of Montrose as though a single cloud dumped the White Christmas for my mother’s benefit. It kept going right through Christmas services, through a mid-day gift opening and up until dinner, some 12 inches later. All of the surrounding areas received four or five inches, including the nearby mountains. I looked at my mother. “You brought the magic of the day,” I said.
As one who follows tradition about as often as freezing rain falls in Hawaii, I found myself slipping into the whole deal — Christmas carols, snowball fights, making snow angels, writing down names of people who gave me gifts to send thank-you cards, shooting photos, telling tales of Christmasses past, talking with my nieces and nephew about things that mattered to them.
I also learned something that warmed my heart: my two nieces are going to fly high in the creative arts and communications, one a fabulous photographer, the other a very good writer and graphic designer. To see their work, and to learn my books have been circulating in their classrooms, really brought home the purpose of writing … to express and share a window with others.
It was one of those Christmas days about which people dream. One thing is for certain — I will be writing more about it. Next winter, images from this day will either be in print or in an e-book.
One final note about our White Christmas: The 12-inch snowfall in Montrose was the most for a Christmas Day since 1895. For a day, the matriarch of our family wove her magic … and we celebrated the greatest gift of all, living fully.

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