So, my New Year’s resolution was to put out the first episode of my podcast, “Create with John Fanning.” Click the play button above.
Below is a transcript of the introductory episode, with links to some of the references I make in the episode. Enjoy!
…go into the arts. I’m not kidding. The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possible can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.
So that was Kurt Vonnegut from his book A Man Without a Country. And I’m John Fanning and this is the Create with John Fanning podcast.
How’s it goin. Howy’re yis all doing out there? So this is my first episode, of my first ever podcast, or more a short introductory episode to let you know who I am, and why I’m doing this podcast.
So, I’m an author, mostly novels, literary – which is a daft word in itself but seemingly describes what I write. And as you can probably guess from my accent I’m Irish, although that’d probably be debated back in Ireland, what with my being married to an American and after living so long in France.
Anyway, I just got to the states about three months ago, from France where we, myself and my American wife Kerry, founded and ran La Muse, for nearly 20 years. La Muse is a writers and artists retreat in the south of France. We left the south of France and came to Maine, to the Portland area, to be closer to family, but also so our kids could get a better second level education. Like most countries, the second level education from 12 on is not what you might call helpful to the growth of a kids’ creative potential, but I’ll get into school and education in a later episode.
So, primarily this podcast is – which at the beginning will go out every second Thursday of the month and then later, weekly, the more support it gets – so, as I was saying, this podcast is gonna start with “Create”, which is what I’ve tentatively called the book I’ve just finished a first draft of. And as a lot of you probably know, first drafts can be pretty shitty, so sayeth Anne Lamott anyway – by th way, she’s written a book that’s not shitty. It’s called Bird by Bird, a book on writing or on the craft of writing and one of the chapters is actually called The Shitty First Draft if I’m recalling it correctly.
So, I hope that this “Create” book will be an inspiration for this podcast but also that it will work the other way too, that this podcast will be an inspiration for the book, a way of ironing out the kinks of what I envision as a short, sharp, shock of a book, to inspire people to be creative, to create.
So, why? Why is always the best question, isn’t it? Why did I write this book, and why am I doing this podcast? Well, quite simply to help, to be of service in some way to others. Why? Because creation is not owned by artists and writers.
Yes, not everyone is an artist, but everyone is a creator. We need surgeons, mechanics, bankers, accountants, spiritual leaders, teachers, just as much as we need artists, but this does not mean those people are not being creative, when they practice what it is they love doing but the fact that they’re doing what they love, means they are creators. A surgeon uses his hands just as deftly as an artist does on her painting and palette.
So basically what I’m trying to say is creation’s for everyone. We all create in different ways and it’s about changing our mindset about how that is viewed. A mother creates a child, an engineer creates a bridge, a philosopher creates an idea. That’s you. That’s me. And I don’t care what a person’s background is, they are a creator. Knowing you are creative is empowering, if you embrace it.
So, to be a creator you don’t have to write a book. You don’t have to paint, you don’t have to sculpt. You don’t have to be a Michelangelo or a Rodin. But simply create, out of what you love. Life gives us this wonderful opportunity to be creative in nearly everything that we do, but the systems or system put us down, grind us into believing this unspoken tenet that creation is owned by writers and artists when it’s not.
Even the most simplistic of things – the ceremony of tea in the morning, the repair of an engine in the afternoon. These are creative acts, and they’re important to the people who create in those moments and in those spaces. It makes them feel good. And so if you change your habits you’ll see everything as a creative opportunity from creating a cup of tea, repairing an engine to repairing somebody’s heart. It’s the same creative potential, the same creative fingers as an artist. These creative acts are just as important as creating a watercolor or an aria, whether you’re singing it or writing it.
Creative acts are being enacted every day, everywhere, so we have to break away from this systemic idea that creation is owned by artists and writers. There, I’ve bludgeoned that idea to death, or hopefully got across some kind of thesis of the what of the why I’m doing this podcast, and I’m sure it’ll resurface in different ways through concepts and ideas over the course of these Thursday episodes.
So, this podcast is simply my understanding from over twenty years of interacting with other creators and learning from my own experience as well.
As well, be aware that my own experience is somewhat colored by the fact that I’m white, Irish, and have a couple of degrees. So I’m coming at this with my own prejudices, like anyone would. Hopefully I don’t fall into the trap of talking too much about white European males (laugh) which would take away from my love for people like Emily Dickinson, Sojourner Truth, or Mary Wollstonecraft, or Malala Yousafzai and many other wonderful women I’ve met in my life.
So, basically what I’m talking about or what I’m talking about, or trying to say is that all this is always coming from my heart, irrespective of my background, but obviously I won’t be covering large swathes of civilization as I can only relay what I’ve learned from my own experience.
So this podcast will journey through my own understanding of creation. And another thing, this is not a podcast of theories although I’m always interested to hear other viewpoints and angles. But that’s not my deal.
Added to that… this idea of theoretical “creativity” is for others to write or talk about. I’m more into practical applications like notebooks and other stuff I’ll talk about later on. Also, books on left and right side brain activity, what parts of the brain lights up, is not my “domain”, as they say back in France.
Most of what is in this podcast comes from, as I said before, my own experience or books, but from the painters, inventors, musicians, healers, academics, novelists, poets, venture capitalists, business people. All of these people came to our retreat to write a business plan or a novel. We didn’t discriminate, we welcomed anyone who wanted to create, or dance, or design jewelry or take photos. And from that rich diversity of conversations, whether it was in our three hour Book Breaks about books that inspired creators, or long conversations in the truck up and down the mountain or just sitting on the terrace watching the swallows swoop while drinking a glass of wine, or sitting in the library beside the fire, these conversations kept coming back to the same language, themes, concepts, which was beautiful to realize because it showed me, or shows that there are universal ideas on process, craft, distractions, creators, black sheep, freedom, walls, perfection, Shakespeare, myths and lies, rejection and failure, difference and comfort zones, capitalism and much more and how they all apply to creation.
Each one of these things I’ll talk about in future episodes, and at the end, after also talking about stuff like talent, genius, dark nights of the soul, emotional memory, bushjumping, limits, genre, encouragement, action, balance, daydreaming, enthusiasm, madness, passion, audience, patronage and perhaps ending on benevolence, I’ll release all the episodes as a succinct and digestible version of my rants and ramblings in my book “Create”.
So not just artists and writers, but creative business people, architects, teachers, and all the creators I mentioned inspired this podcast, as their broadness of perspective helped me realize all the creative things we all have in common.
Actually, now that I think of it, a lot of writers and artists are teachers. These people who teach our children are oftentimes going on retreat to write a book or paint abstracts and thankfully they are because they return to the states or England or Australia to inspire creativity or creation in children. So when they go away on retreat it should be applauded. People should be applauded when they try to get away to create. Not just the teachers. I’ll get into that later too in an episode on retreats, maybe with some tips about retreats.
So teachers and people who go away to create, or who create, can bring that positive energy back to how they educate and inspire children to become business people or novelists or academics or surgeons, or inspire their spouses and friends to create too. I can’t say I know everything about creation but it has been cool to listen to all these divergent voices on it and to see the thing are always the same, process, blocks and all these other things.
And of course, later on, that’s why I’ll be interviewing other people for information and ideas and inspiration. I’ll start interviewing creators I met and became friends with over the years at our retreat, as well as some of the inspiring people I’ve been meeting from around here, in Portland, Maine.
So, this podcast is about what I’ve learned… and what I am still learning, from other creators, and my own experiences as an author, in understanding what walls are which I’ll get into in another episode too – the walls we create to block creation our creation and the practice, habits and creative action in itself and how to get there.
Hopefully this podcast and the future edited book will be helpful and hopefully be especially helpful for that young man about 25 years ago who thought he knew everything in his twenties when he came out of university. That young man being me. I wish I’d had someone to talk to me about process and craft and all the wonderful tools and tips of creation. So this is my way of maybe talking to that young man and of giving back, and of being of service to other people in some way who want to create but think it too daunting.
Each episode will stand alone, independent of previous or following ones, while the podcast as a whole will have an arc of purpose and an arc of content addressing “internal” and “external” issues, but not in a distancing kind of academic way.
At the same time, I feel it important to provide some generalized perspective on these systemic issues albeit cultural, social, or economic. Because the context in which ‘creativity’ happens, especially from access to aesthetics, which is not usually addressed in a straight-forward way, access to the opportunity to create, or to even think of creation as something that is for everyone.
So, each episode will have a key concept or concepts and language – language is very important as I said before, and these lexical prisons, or at least what I call lexical prisons, we get placed in – and I’ll try to put in human being examples and experiences, my own and or other peoples’, other creators, and hopefully each one of them will encourage you guys to create.
So, in the next episode – as I think that’s more than enough of an introduction – I’ll start talking about family, friends and what I call villains. Then perhaps get into schooling and perhaps even talk about what a creator actually is, although that may be the following episode depending on how long the episode is going. Not sure how long the episodes are going to be. This one is looking like it’s coming in at about 25 minutes or so. Maybe the next one will be a bit longer or about the same length. The interviews will be much longer as I won’t be asking them about just one concept, but many concepts, as I want people to able to get into what inspires them to create, the books that got them inspired, their process and the other concepts I mentioned that I’m going to be elaborating on as I go along.
So thanks for listening. I started with a quote from an American novelist but I’m going to end, yeah, I’m going to end each podcast with an Irish proverb because one just came into me head. This one literally means: the weather or Time is a good storyteller. In modern terms it would mean something like, Time will tell:
Is maith an scéalaí an aimsir.
This podcast is supported by you the listener via my Patreon page. If ya want to support the podcast and help me get a wage for doing it, because that’s how I see this podcast as a job, one I love doing, then please head over to patreon.com/johnfanning where you can get early and ad free access as well as extra episodes when ya sign up. Ifya can afford it then give me the cost of a price of a cup of tea or pint once a month.
Ifya can’t afford it that’s grand too, ya can listen for free, but please leave a review on itunes or wherever ya listen to it. Thank you! And thanks for listening. If you’re looking for more episodes you can find them on all the usual places like iTunes – or on my website at johnfanning.me under “podcast” where I’ve put up overview transcripts with links to all the people and ideas I mention. If you’re into social stuff and you’re looking to engage with me one-on-one, check me out on twitter @fanning_j and instagram @ johnfanning_. It’s been great sharing stuff with you today so until next time take care out there and be benevolent when you can!
Slán leat agus go n-éirí an bóthar leat.