Today, I want to talk about why we create. Against all odds, through much discomfort, with zero validation, what drives us to create.
And I want to honor someone that I worked with who recently passed away.
In the shock of hearing of P.J.’s death, I did a Google search to get more of a glimpse into his life, and found this photograph:
This was taken back in 2009 when P.J. was 21 years old, trying to make money to pay the rent by singing in the street.
I was taken aback by his resemblance to a young Bob Dylan:
Clearly, it is sad to consider how much potential is now gone with his death. His creative verve for poetry, music, for editing is now silenced.
But there was another photo of P.J. that I thought reflected on the struggle that we all face in our creative work. In the image above, we see a youthful P.J. in a classic pose as a busker. It is a timeless and romantic image.
This is what happens when you turn the camera around though:
This is the reality of the struggle we all go through with our creative work. Of the 12 people seen in the “audience,” 3 are walking away, and 5 have their backs to P.J., engrossed in other conversations.
The only two people paying attention to P.J. is the woman in a wheelchair and her caregiver.
This is how P.J. shared his art. How he hoped to pay rent. A creative spirit finding his way, finding his voice.
This is the reality for how we all begin. The realities of how we confront silence as we share creative work that spent years to craft.
And a milestone that is looked back on fondly years later, when you truly do make your mark.
Yesterday I met with P.J.’s colleagues at Picador in the Flatiron building. Sitting in that office overlooking Manhattan, brainstorming about how to get the book that P.J. edited into the hands of readers — this is the culmination of one aspect of P.J.’s creative work.
One that lives on without him, hoping to affect the world one reader at a time.
And I won’t lie: I hope that this post lights a bit of a spark in some of you… to connect that image of P.J. to Bob Dylan to your own work. To remember what is possible, and what is at stake.
You have a vision that is alive within you. Sure, you have many challenges in sharing that with the world. But you are here today, reading this. Here today able to make your mark.
And that is a gift that we each get to choose what we make of it.