Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Ari's Oasis. 4. The Busy Talk Show Host

Ari gave many interviews, usually by phone sitting at his desk. The things that seemed to bother other writers about interviews did not bother him. He didn't care at all whether his host had read his latest book or any of his books. He didn't care at all whether his host misunderstood his ideas, asked odd questions, or didn't like him. He took each interview as an opportunity to talk to the world, to that part of the world that happened to be tuning in to that particular program. There were things that he wanted to communicate and this was his chance. That was all that mattered.

He knew how to get these things said no matter what he was asked or in what direction the host wanted to steer the interview. Friendly and agreeable, he would nevertheless reframe the question or refocus the host's thought and return to his own agenda. He didn't know about the events of the day, the latest scandal or breaking news, and so he always had to apologize (in his calculated way) when the host referred to anything that might be going on the world. He would apologize for his ignorance and return the conversation to the essentials of human nature, to the things that mattered.

Today the host was a man in Chicago. The time difference was many hours. It was morning drive-time in Chicago but late afternoon in the desert. Ari sat down by the telephone a half-hour early, since often calls came earlier or later than expected. He sat at his desk and thought about what he wanted to say to the world--to Chicago, to commuters heading for the Loop, to people on the Internet picking up this Midwest broadcast in Singapore and Berlin.

After offering up the usual pleasantries, the host revealed his agenda. He wanted Ari to drop names and gossip about celebrities.

"Can you tell us about some of the stars you've helped with their creativity?" the host began.

"No, Tom, I'm sorry that I can't," Ari replied blandly. "I really wish I could. But I can tell you the kinds of things that trouble them and some of the reasons why they come to see me. First, there is almost always some measure of depression. People have been sad for more than a hundred years, trying to figure out if they matter. People who mean to create carry that burden even more, the burden of wondering whether they should live or let nature swallow them back up whole. My work is always the same--I beg my clients, celebrity or not, to try to matter. I ask them to decide to live, to decide to care, to decide to try, to decide to create, despite their doubts and the hardness of the tasks that confront them."

"Dr. Ben Ami, let me ask you. If somebody wanted to be more creative--maybe at work, maybe just in an everyday way--what one or two tips would you suggest? We have about thirty seconds until our first break."

"I would tell him or her that creativity is about self-relationship, not about talent. Tip one: get in better self-relationship. Practically speaking that means bad-mouth yourself less and work on your craft until your hands bleed."

During the break Ari listened to the ads. There was one for cars, one for a dating service, one for a travel agency with great buys on pilgrimages to the Holy Land. Then the host launched into a traffic report, which he completed all in one breath, and then a local weather report, which he managed on a second breath. Then they were on the air again.

"We're back with Dr. Ari Ben-Ami, bestselling author and creativity coach!" the host resumed. "Dr. Ben-Ami, in my own case, I've always thought I had a novel in me to write. Doesn't everyone! But I always felt like I needed to get some training first, maybe do some workshops or go back to school and get a degree in creative writing. What do you think about that? Do people need the kind of training they get in an art school or a creative writing program?"

"No. In your case, Tom, if you wanted to start your novel, all you would have to do is make your world stop. Right now you're too busy to have a thought; and of course a novel starts with a thought. You probably keep yourself so busy that you can’t possibly create. Just the way you've trained yourself to do the weather and the traffic, cramming them in at breakneck speed, tells me that you would have to unlearn your present way of being, which is all about speed, and learn the creator's way of being, which is all about stillness."

"Nobody can slow down anymore!" Tom laughed. "If that's what it takes, only monks in monasteries can create! I don't have a second on any given day to have a thought!"

"But that's dangerous," Ari replied. "Speed kills. We get a million things done that way, but we're undone."

"And that's all the time we have!" the host concluded. "Dr. Ben-Ami, thank you so much for joining us!"

"It's been my pleasure."

Ari waited for several seconds, in case the host or the show's producer wanted a last word with him. Sometimes one or the other would come on the line and express the desire to have him back, which information he would relay immediately to his publicist. But today he only heard that funny silence that meant that they were done with him and on to the next thing. He replaced the receiver very slowly, to make the point that even small things could be done one way or another: mindfully or with the soul absent.


denbe said...

"...the creator's way of being, which is all about stillness."

And yet, such energy and action are needed, along with the stillness.

I'm hooked...waiting patiently for Ari to address the paradox.

Meera said...

Hi Eric,

I've been reading your newsletters on Creative Garh and i have to say your insights into the creative process are simply astounding along with being full of light and spirit.

I would be obliged if you would join our group, of art and design professionals, called Seam.

To subscribe please write to:

Warm regards,