This past week I met Bruce Springsteen. And it was a direct result of sending out my email newsletter.
About a decade ago, Reed Fry joined my newsletter list. He wasn’t an author or artist, my main target audience, but a friend recommended that he would appreciate my take on marketing and digital media.
Over the years, he would occasionally email me, sharing kind words about the newsletter. But a couple months back, he sent a more cryptic email: “What are you doing the night of June 1. I have an interesting offer.”
That offer? To be his guest to see Bruce Springsteen on Broadway. He knew I am a huge Bruce fan, and he wanted to see the show with a fellow fan. Seats for this show have been difficult to come by, and very expensive. The seats we sat in typically cost $1,000-1,500 each on the aftermarket.
In exchange, he asked if we could have dinner beforehand, and discuss his blogging strategy. He had appreciated my post “The Return of Blogging” from earlier in the year.
The result? A moment before meeting Bruce:
But of course, the evening was about so much more than that. Because I also got to meet Reed, the man who made this generous evening possible:
Reed and I talked for more than two hours, and it was a wonderful dinner and conversation. Not just about blogging, but about music, art, and life. As you can tell from this post, all of those things combine rather easily.
Bruce on stage was truly magical. His show is two hours of him telling stories and singing songs, alone on the stage except for one song with his wife Patti.
Watching Bruce tell a deeply personal story about his family to a theater of 900 rapt fans had me consider: how is he able to take the authority to do this? How does he have the capacity to do this? To wear his heart on his sleeve in story after story about his mother, father, and his innermost feelings.
After the show, I posted a photo to Facebook with the caption, “I got to meet Bruce Springsteen!.” A friend commented, “And he got to meet you!”
That honestly threw me for a loop. I mean, can you imagine that?
It reminded me that we each have a gift, and a choice. A choice in what we create. In how we share it. In how our creative clarity changes how we live.
I’ve studied Bruce’s life and art for years. He is a notorious taskmaster and perfectionist. They call him “The Boss” for a reason. You live up to his expectations if you are in his band. You work for him.
As I watched Bruce on stage telling stories, I sat there with goosebumps and wondered how this was all possible. I was reminded that successful writers and artists are a total failure at copying others, and a master at being themselves.
This is the stage without Bruce. It is a dead empty space. A hollow container:
And here is the stage with Bruce. It is a stage that now contains not just a man, but the magic of the art that he has created. For those in the audience, it now contains a lifetime of memories and experiences, embodied in the songs he has crafted:
Bruce was incredibly authentic that evening.
If you are struggling to create, to share, to grow and audience, and to earn a living off of your work, I want to encourage you to lean into what makes you 100% unique from anyone else. In your work, and in who you are.
Take authority over your creative vision in a way that no one else would.
I was reminded of the importance of authenticity and authority in one of my all-time favorite books, a biography of Walt Disney by Neil Gabler. He died far too young, at age 65. In his final days in the hospital, he worried that his newest project and biggest vision — to build an actual city of the future — would not come to fruition if he wasn’t alive to create it. And that without it, he couldn’t understand what his own legacy would be. He lamented, “Fancy being remembered around the world for the invention of a mouse!” The author states what happened this way:
“A few months after Walt’s death, the [plans for the city] were presented to Roy Disney. Roy said, “Walt’s dead.” And so was [the vision of the city.]”
Was the city a crazy idea that sounds like it wouldn’t have worked? Yep. But so were most of the other things that Walt Disney created in his life. Walt took authority over his creative vision to do the seemingly impossible.
The book ends with a summation of Walt’s accomplishments, and finally concludes, “Yet all of these accumulated contributions pales before a larger one: he demonstrated how one could assert one’s will on the world at the very time when everything seemed to be growing beyond control and beyond comprehension.”
In a similar vein, Bruce took authority over his creative vision standing alone on that stage and pouring his heart out.
I encourage you to take authority over your creative vision.
I want to leave you with a story from a writer who is in my Creative Shift Mastermind group, Susan Davenport. I encourage those in the group to focus on one to one connections, and to reach out to those who inspire them.
She wanted to thank another author who had inspired her, a woman who wrote more than 30 books, who Susan looked at as something of a mentor.
Susan explains what happened:
“As I hit the send button on my message a little voice in my head said, ‘Someone that accomplished will probably never respond to a beginner like you.’
“I did exactly what you told me to. I wrote her an email and focused on her and her work. I told her how much I had enjoyed her books and what I enjoyed about them. I even included a quote that I particularly liked.”
“She sent me an email this afternoon and told me I had made her day! She really appreciated me writing.”
“She told me when the next book in the series I like is coming out, invited me to subscribe to a series of webinars on writing she plans to release this summer if I was interested, and then she asked me to stay in touch!”
“I would never have been brave enough to do this before the Creative Shift Mastermind. I would have let that little voice in my head keep me from hitting send, and I would have missed out on making a connection that feels like it has potential. But what’s really surprising to me, is that sending that email that made her happy, felt better to me than getting positive feedback on my own work.”
The energy from this exchange fueled Susan to then sign up for a local writer’s conference. She describes the registration process:
“As I filled out that form, I could hear all of you in the back of my mind saying, “Own it.” I checked the “Professional Author” box. I felt like there were probably alarms going off on the other end of the Internet wire and bright red lights flashing on and off saying, “IMPOSTER, IMPOSTER.” But I did it anyway.”
The actions that Susan took were in some ways very small. She emailed someone and she registered for an event. But they were also profound. Her actions are no less important than Bruce walking out onto an empty stage. Doing so puts him and his creative vision out there for all to see. And that is exactly what Susan did this week as well.
After Bruce’s show, he goes out onto the street to meet fans. One person at a time. That is exactly the power that you have right now to connect your creative vision to others. Not as an email blast. Not as a follower campaign. Not as a social media ad. But one person at a time. Here is Bruce talking to a fan that evening, just two people looking each other in the eye:
How will you do that today? How will you take authority over your creative vision, and connect it with authenticity to one other person?
P.S.: The next session of my Creative Shift Mastermind begins July 1. Details here.