How I found my religion on a Creative Morning
Last Friday morning I was able to attend my first "Creative Morning." What are "Creative Mornings"? It is not as New Age as it sounds, although I heard they can do some solid guided meditations. "Creative Mornings" is an event series organized by and for creative professionals. The concept is simple: it is free, once a month on Fridays, with a creative professional giving a talk. The goal is to foster a sense of local community around relevant topics. In a way, it is like a stylish version of a TED event. Because it is early in the morning, a free breakfast is served, which puts people in a great mood. These events have become a real phenomenon: you can find them in over a hundred cities in the world!
When I had a full-time job, I was never able to attend. Sure, I could have "worked from home" and gone anyway, as it takes place from 8:30 am to 10:00 am, but I never did. My woo-woo friends would say that it is typical for someone with a rising Capricorn like me. So serious. But now that I am free to spend my time on creative pursuits, I finally made it!
Last Friday was unique: the event was organized at the SF MoMA, a.k.a. The local Temple of Art and Creativity. The monumental architecture may have contributed to this sentiment, but for an instant, I felt as if I had entered a church to listen to a joyful gospel. A hip church for creative minds who would only attend once a month. The energy in the room was celebratory. The attendees were bubbling in anticipation. I wondered if this was because of the audience, a creative crowd who may be more expressive by default (than, say, accountants or dentists. And full disclosure: I am a pharmacist by training). Or if this was because it was marked as a "fun time" in everybody's calendar, like when you are going to see a movie with your school in a theater. Kids in France do that, and our devoted teachers bring us to watch Festival de Cannes-grade movies. In any case, there was a "field trip" vibe in the air. A few teams, "we are the creative team at Company X" were attending together. And I was thinking to myself: "Wow, what a gift. These guys belong to an official "creative team." That is their job title. They fully identify with their creative selves."
As someone who identified with her job title for years (which was not glamorous and which took me years to pronounce in English), something clicked in my head. I wondered for a fleeting moment how my life could have been different would I have identified with my creative self earlier in life. My other job is an important job, a serious one, one that makes a difference in people's lives. I enjoy what it is about, but the name is lacking a spark. It is a scary name that I have always worn as a coat that would belong to someone else. You know, like when someone at a bar leaves "by mistake" with your coat and leaves theirs behind, the same color but always with a worse cut and fabric. And invariably too small for you.
There is no doubt that the sparks in the air last Friday were in great part due to the scheduled speaker. Christina Amini is the Executive Publishing Director of Art, Food, and Lifestyle at the beloved Chronicle Books. If Creativity were a religion, Chronicle would no doubt publish the scriptures. They are collectively responsible for the beautiful and quirky books you find in museum stores, and the ones you gift with pride to the people you love. They have sparked passions and propelled all kinds of creatives to a global arena. No doubt that working with them is a creative's dream. And in that sense, Christina may be holding the keys to the Graal. So -- what would she be like?
A couple of weeks prior, I had attended a fantastic workshop with another Chronicle editor, Bridget Watson-Payne. Bridget led her workshop for a small group of creatives on the publishing of Art Books. I loved her, her energy, and her pink hair. And between then and the event, I had realized that Bridget worked in Christina's team. Well, Bridget and their Chronicle team (all adorable, with very expressive laughs and hair colors) sat right next to me.
When Christina appeared, I instantly loved her 60's bright red dress and flats. I had watched Pierrot Le Fou the night before which made me want to dress in primary colors for the rest of my life (again), so this was the Universe nodding. She was energetic, poignant and generous. Her talk started on a high note when she retraced her history of forming a "Pep Talk team" with her best friend in college. They would approach strangers on campus and ask them whether there was something they needed pep or encouragement for. Before proceeding to type a Pep talk for them on a portable typewriter and cheering for them. In matching varsity jackets.
This story was a perfect introduction to the topic of the day, which was Curiosity. Christina reminded the importance of connection, and of questions as a path to people's hearts. She shared anecdotes about her professional life as a publisher when her curiosity for people's work led to beautiful projects. She discussed the value of sustaining partnerships based on passion, which lead to the best working relationships. Her speech became emotional when she shared that her dear artist friend and partner in cheer, Susan O'Malley, passed a couple of years ago.
To honor her work and positive energy, Christina and her immediate circle displayed her art all over San Francisco. In "Advice from My 80-Year-Old Self: Real Words of Wisdom from People Ages 7 to 88", the artist had colorfully gathered pearls of wisdom. A passionate soul who wanted the world to remember to "travel before the knees give out" or "art before dishes." After this tender homage, Christina, in a theatrical gesture, grabbed a sheet from a typewriter-prop that I hadn't noticed until then. She had decided to give us all; the empathetic crowd gathered that day, one last Pep talk. We all cried and cheered and jumped and screamed "yay, you!" at the top of our lungs, in communion. And we all left with a cheering badge "It Is Possible" and the Pep Talk, printed for us. Ha, the force of the written word.
In a word, it was better than Christmas. I left energized and with thoughtful gifts. I encourage you to check out the closest Creative Morning near you and go. It is free; you just have to sign up online early (they "sell out" fast). Go for the vibe, stay for the coffee. Or go for the coffee, and stay for the people. You get the idea. I couldn't resist copying their Manifesto, would you need a final push:
"Everyone is creative.
A creative life requires bravery and action, honesty and hard work.
We are here to support you, celebrate with you, and encourage you to make the things you love.
We believe in the power of community.
We believe in giving a damn.
We believe in face-to-face connections, in learning from others, in hugs and high-fives.
We bring together people who are driven by passion and purpose, confident that they will inspire one another, and inspire change in neighborhoods and cities around the world.
Everyone is welcome."
I think I have found my religion.