The Lost Soul Companion
showed you how to survive?now learn how to thrive! A gift of wit, wisdom, and understanding for writers, musicians, freethinkers, and struggling artists of every stripe!
Susan M. Brackney, author of The Lost Soul Companion
, keeps the encouragement coming and offers smart solutions for artists, musicians, actors, and writers ready to share their creative talents with the rest of the world. Practical and irreverent, The Not-So-Lost Soul Companion
is the wise, whimsical--and indispensable--next step in launching the creative life of your dreams.
*How to keep your cool despite disastrous auditions, withering reviews, and well-meaning relatives
*Finding your own place on the Wheel of Creative Will
*How famous flounderers Ralph Waldo Emerson, Agatha Christie,and George Orwell found their true callings
*Artist-friendly alternatives to New York and L.A.
*What to do when you find your art hanging in a used-furniture store
*How to survive as a free spirit in Corporate Captivity
*Marketing tips, publicity pitfalls, and the magic word to open new doors
*Getting the big deal: a peek at the wizard behind the curtain
Where We Left Off and What Happened Next
This is where we left off.
In a woods populated with poofy-looking birds perched high in the tallest trees. The poofy birds call out to one another as if to say, "I am here . . . where are you?" You may already know that my first book, The Lost Soul Companion
, was really just me perched high on my branch, standing on one leg, singing, "I'm here . . . where are you?" to other artsy, free spirits of all kinds.
(Now, it's completely okay if you didn't read the first book. You can read this one and pretend there is no first book if you like and it should still make plenty of sense.)
Since then I've been able to compare notes with lots of other Lost Souls. There are many more of these intriguing people than even I had expected, and hearing from them helped me to know what to put in this book.
Roll out the bird translation machine and you'll hear a good deal more than just "I am here . . . where are you?"
For instance, many still struggle with depression and suicidal feelings.
"Every time I get full of really good ideas and am resolute in ambition and full of optimism, this demon keeps trying to drag me straight back into that horrible hell of inactivity, lethargy, can't-cope-ness."
"I feel like I'm fated for being a statistic of some kind or another, and it's not a good feeling. It kind of feels like I'm a ball at some carnival booth that someone is trying to win a prize with by throwing it into one of the holes. . . Will they throw me into the hole that says suicide or the one that says liver disease, or perhaps the one marked mental breakdown?"
Nearly all feel like they don't quite fit.
"I feel constantly driven to think 'too deeply.' . . . I am aware to an extremely high degree that I am highly unusual. No one seems to . . . understand me. . . I live in a very lonely world and only people like 'this' know what I am talking about."
Many lost souls are very ambitious.
"I want to be successful. I want to be well known. I want the whole world to know I exist. . . "
. . . but no matter how hard they try it just doesn't seem like enough . . .
"It's like you spend all this time trying to become someone but you seem to be getting nowhere. I have dreamed of being a dancer on Broadway for as long as I can remember. Every time I feel like I might be moving up to the next level, someone is there to check my hopes and dreams at the door."
"I hold on to the frail, withering hope that I, too, am here for a worthwhile reason."The Grocery-Store Epiphany
Josh and I were in the snack aisle. Crinkling the bags of pretzels aside in our search for those corn chips that are shaped like small spoons. We made it all the way to the potato chips that are baked not fried! with no luck. Somewhere near the bright orange cheese puffs, I thought about the truck driver who had probably driven his semi filled to the top with cases and cases of this hermetically sealed goodness. I wondered what he was doing right at that moment, and I hoped he was happy.
The idealist in me likes to imagine a world full of people who are able to do what they love at least seventy-two percent of the time and still have enough to eat and a place to nap. There would be no more wage slaves, only souls who happen to get paid to do what they'd be willing to do for free.
Truck drivers like the cheese-puff guy would haul huge shipments of cola and brassieres not because they have to but because they love to--Breaker-one-nine. Chefs would decoratively squirt raspberry sauce on dessert plates--Mmmm, perfect. . . Salesmen would sell, writers would write, doctors would doctor, painters would paint--all because they really, really want to. People would brazenly open their own flower shops--That orchid is Epidendrum radiatum--and because they would spend time doing what they've always wanted to do instead of what they thought they had to do, their endeavors succeed, they worry less, they have all that they need. It would be a world especially hospitable to artists, and that I'd love to see.
Still, that isn't exactly the epiphany I meant to tell you about. Running into Josh at the grocery store had been just what I needed that afternoon, since I'd been thinking about what to put in this book, and things hadn't seemed right. I wasn't sure why, but now I knew. This was the problem: I was about to skip right over Josh. Considering what a great guy he is, that seemed unfair.
Josh happens to be a great patron of the arts. Any extra money he has he spends on sculptures and paintings. He is himself a very creative person, and I know he could do just about anything he wanted, but I don't think he really knows what that should be.
He was a year behind me in school, and now he's twenty-seven years old. He's traveled all over and has been engaged at least twice that I know of. That day he told me he'd moved back in with his parents and was substitute-teaching high-school math. He seemed positively miserable--and Lost.
I could identify. When I began The Lost Soul Companion
project, I had just returned from a disastrous move to California. I'd originally moved to Santa Cruz in order to pursue my art career (and to be with my boyfriend at the time . . .), but it all went to hell. After that, I'd come back home and was living under a friend's loft bed. I had no job, no money, no confidence, and no peace of mind. I had been deeply depressed--at times even suicidal. I wanted to find other Lost Souls and let them know that they weren't alone.
Now that I was feeling a bit better, I was dying to leap ahead. I wanted to encourage people who already had their acts together to get on with living their dreams, but questions nagged me. First of all, do people with their acts already properly together need such help? And, secondly, how can you go from suicidal to ready-for-stardom? (And should anyone really aspire to that
And so I decided not to skip all the hard parts. The truth is, I probably couldn't have written that book anyway. After all, how can someone who hasn't got her own life completely together write for the already-completely-together people? These days, I have traded in my severe depression for mild, prolonged discouragement. As for thoughts of suicide, from now on I will keep breathing--if for no other reason than to see how things turn out.
Even now, I feel about as lost as Josh was in the snack aisle. Knowing what to reach for or where to find it isn't easy.
Excuse me, where can I find Happiness?
Do you want it in light or heavy syrup?
Light, I guess.
And the Fortune Flakes?
It's not, of course, like this.My Hope for This Book
If you're anything like me, then you live with a fairly insistent urge to create and to make an indelible impression on the whole world. There is, in my case, the small matter of not really knowing what it is I was "meant" to do.
Truly, I never thought I would amount to anything at all. Besides eating candy, petting animals, and taking naps, one of my favorite things of all time is to help other creative, interesting people figure out what might make them happier. So if I can better enable you to share your painting, music, acting, filmmaking, or whatever it is that you live to do in the world, then maybe I've done something worthwhile.
I've spent years trying to make a mark of my own with my mixed-media artwork, not to mention this project too, and I can tell you what's been working so far and what hasn't worked at all.
I suspect you are capable of greatness. To that end, I humbly offer some ideas to help you succeed--keep in mind, this is my kind of success and not the kind most everyone else thinks about. Did you make someone else happy? Did you touch someone else with your work? That, to me, is success. Are you able to spend lots of time doing what you love to do? That is happiness. Maybe you are even able to partially--or completely--support yourself with your art. That is true contentment.
This book is for Lost Souls looking to prepare themselves for public consumption (and, by the way, sometimes it really does feel like you're being ingested.)
So I say this to you:
It's time to do Great Things . . . but how?The Dreamy Bits
To Flounder or to Flourish?
A couple of years ago I found myself sitting in a little cafe in Santa Cruz, California, with no job, hardly any money, and no idea what to do next. I was surrounded by successful-looking people, and I was feeling especially unsuccessful on that particular day. I drew this map of possible Future Plans:
The fact that I had no idea what to do with myself was nothing new. I've always been something of a Flounder-er.
Everyone flounders from time to time. Some Lost Souls are naturally flounder-y people. They may be highly creative and capable of great things, but they may also be indecisive, filled with insecurities, and very discouraged about The Future.
Here's what I wonder: Is there really anything wrong with a little floundering? Maybe flounder-y people are just dreamers who don't want to settle for ordinary lives. Maybe we are capable of so many great things that we can't possibly choose just one. And who said we had to make a permanent selection anyway?
So maybe you can choose a little something for now. Just to start with. Want to publish a book of your own poems? Direct your own short film? Have an exhibition of your paintings? Just by picking something (and it can be a really small thing if you like) you've already become a little less floundering.
What's the difference between floundering and flourishing? Not much, when you think about it. To flourish, you have to think carefully about what is important to you and imagine what you hope to accomplish. To flounder, you have to imagine...