The 5 Lessons of Vogue

You expect ‘The September Issue’ to show you something specific. Specifically the world of fashion, the trivial pursuits of looking good and the mad dash to look better than someone else (because, really, fashion is always relative…and circular).

I own the docu-film and have re-watched it numerous times despite it annoying me so much in parts.

I finally realised this evening that I re-watch it so much because it reminds me, it brings me home, to some of the most important lessons of Art-making.

1. It’s all about the collaboration…

For a documentary supposedly focused on the woman at the helm of Vogue, the helmet-haired and tight-lipped Anna Wintour, the real heroine of the piece is Senior Stylist Grace Coddington. The point of this film is how these two greats of the magazine world work together, the push-and-pull of Anna’s ruthless eye for the business of print media and Grace’s Artistic sensibilities. She’s the talent behind the ‘big name’ and Wintour pretty much admits it in the final minute of the film. This documentary is entirely about collaboration and the dynamics of art-making when more than one viewpoint must be respected.

2. Are you prepared to stand-up for what you make?

Grace Coddington has a fit on camera when she realises that her spread is being cut. She bears her teeth and the depth of passion for what it is she creates is disarmingly obvious. You see just how much of herself is invests in the clothes she picks, the scenes she curates, the vision she wants to communicate. You see just how much it hurts when her vision isn’t respected. No need to ask where she gets the nerve to push back again the most respected editor in fashion or where she gets the energy to keep creating even when it has all been cut. She admits it’s hard to pick yourself up again but she doesn’t quit. She believes in what she creates.

3. Grow an Opinion

Oh man! After watching Coddington standing up for her vision and giving cheek to Anna Wintour, the rest of the Vogue team look like they might burst into tears if Wintour looks directly at them. When looking at spreads everyone is suddenly in complete agreement with Wintour, oblivious to the fact that they just stated something completely different on camera two seconds earlier. The words ‘maybe‘, ‘kind of‘ and ‘eh, well Anna said…‘ should be banned they’re used so often.

I like people with opinions, even if their opinions are completely different from my own. Bland and agreeable do not serve me when I’m pushing to create something remarkable. A bit of honesty, kindly given preferably, is what I’m looking for.

4. Keep your eyes open

Grace Coddington, while being taxied around Paris, talks about how she was advised early on in her career to never read or zone out on the move because you never know what you might see.

This is just plain everyday good advise for a society that’s obsessed with multitasking. Paying attention fuels your creative reserves because it’s life that inspires Art. Yes, I realise the irony in needing a film to remind me to pay attention to life!

5. Having a Point of View makes everything easier

Love her or loathe her, Anna Wintour has a perspective that is all her own. Knowing it strengthens her when others belittle her work. Her point of view steers a ship as colossal as the fashion industry itself and since it’s her own it is always the right direction, she is always being truthful to herself, no second guessing. It seems somewhat simplistic or obvious, even wrong somehow, and yet… How refreshing would that be in your life? She had made it so that, in her world, she is always right!


6. Make freakin’ sure that you have something more to come home to than a (albeit beautiful) bookshelf filled with with your magazines, and more work. There is more to life that work, fashion, even (dare I say it?!) Art. Don’t get swallowed up. Even if you love your work. Yes, you need to do it, follow your potential, release the beauty/message/experience into the world. But you can’t take it with you when it’s all said and done.

Just something to think about…


4 Questions to Steady your Creative Ship

In January I’m running my first round of Creative Scaffolding of 2013 and I wanted to give you a sneak peek into some of what we cover over in the course…instead I felt moved to share this in the hopes that it will be of service to you as one year ends and another begins. I like the idea of ‘practical’ more than ‘preview’!

On signing up for Creative Scaffolding the first thing you receive from me is a list of questions – a way for me to get to know you and for you to clarify exactly what you want out of this experience.

These questions are useful anytime however to right a creative ship gone astray or to investigate what’s holding you back right now. In fact I journalled on these very questions late one night last week and I’ve included by own insights below. So grab your inkiest pen, make a cup of tea and get a head start on your planning for 2013…

:: 1. How does creativity manifest in your life right now? What Art are you up to?

If your answer to these questions are ‘It doesn’t’ and ‘I don’t know’ I would ask you to have a good hard look at your everyday before you dismiss yourself as entirely uncreative…

‘I don’t do anything creative…

…but I do like to experiment with new recipes.’

…I never teach the same yoga class twice.’

…I journal everyday. I have to write.’

…I have a thing about creating unique outfits.’

Look to the little things. Consider everything as potential creativity realized. Maybe you would tell me about your parenting style, wardrobe, unique filling system that you created (that’s the jackpot word right there!), how you decorate your home or tend your garden…you tell me!

Right now creativity manifests in my life through journaling, this blog and the crazy-exciting ideas I have for it in the New Year, through Creative Scaffolding and being of service to others and through singing and songwriting with super talented friends. For me community and creativity go hand-in-hand and collaboration is currently where I feel truly inspired.

:: 2. What’s the best thing to say to you if you’re feeling scared or resistant?

After the high of the first question this might seem like a bummer but bear with me! In Creative Scaffolding, and in life as Artists, we are mindfully working against the tide of cultural, social, religious,…*insert influence of your choice*…opinion that says creativity is trivial. expendable. worthless.

We pick up this message in often subtle, unconscious ways and often from people who mean the very best, who are just trying to protect us as someone once protected them, by dismissing Art.

Poking around in these places can feel uncomfortable at best. It can feel like a betrayal of where you’re from or like you’re going against the world, all alone. Neither of these things are true – being creative isn’t a betrayal of anything , it’s a returning home to yourself! – but when these fears rear their ugly heads you need to be aware of what’s happening and deserve to be comforted in whatever way works for you.

This is a powerful thing to be able to tell your nearest and dearest. Offering support when you just don’t know what to say, or seeming to be making everything worse the more you talk, is a no-win situation for anyone. So give them a script (or tell them to back out the door slowly and leave the chocolate bar on the table) and make life a little less frustrating for everyone involved this New Year!

There is no right answer, anything goes. Some people like to hear tough love ‘Snap out of it, silly!’ and some people like softly-softly ‘There, there. I understand. It’s OK to feel like that’.

For me, I want to be affirmed that I’m facing the right direction, heading where I’m meant to go as a person, fulfilling my called – ‘Parisa, you are talented. You are meant to sing. You’re doing what you’re meant to be doing’ – because these are the first things I start to question when I get fearful around creativity.

Which leads us to our next question…

:: 3. What do you question about yourself when you get fearful about creativity?

It’s good to know where the meanies will try and attack first, where the chink in your armor is.

If you’re unsure grab your journal and ask yourself where you feel the most insecure in general or think of feedback in the past that really cut deep. Even if the person meant it as constructive, that feeling of near-shameful pain after criticism or feedback is a neon sign telling you to protect yourself.

Knowing this puts you in control. Yes, the thought might come, the feeling of pain or powerlessness may be there, but now you know what’s up! Now you can counter it with self-care. Now you can call someone you trust to tell you differently or offer support (see question 2! In fact just pop your answer to question 2 on Facebook and direct all inquiries there when the sh*t hits the fan!)

It also offers you insight. Why do your fears go there? Is there a memory, experience or doubt that needs to be aired or let go of? Is this actually someone elses fear that you picked up along the way, carrying it with you out of loyalty or pride? This is the root of the root. This is where the work really lies.

For me it is always, always, that I’m not talented and that I’m fooling myself if I think I am. I basically call myself deluded. Thanks for that one Brain! When I get mean I like to cut right to the heart of the matter and let my fears make camp there. Perfect way to stall all forward movement so being aware is paramount and backing away slowly, preferably into my bed with a good book, is the best course of action.

:: 4. What do you want to focus on next?

In Creative Scaffolding we only have 4 weeks together. Having a focus or intention (a ‘sankalpa’ as it’s called in yoga) is so important. You can’t fix everything in 4 weeks but you can narrow down and put your lazer-sharp vision on one significant area and see it shift.

This is also true in life. Now, I’m the first to admit that I love switching focus, having lots of projects on the go at once and following where the inspiration leads. Every now and then I have to admit though that seeing something through to the end, letting it develop and mature, is necessary and hugely beneficial to my peace of mind.

And when your intentions seem vague to begin with, it’s amazing what a little extra detective work can uncover. ‘I want to be more creative in my life’  OK, in which part of your life? Your home life? Work life? In relationships or how you dress or express yourself? If it’s your home life, is it how your home looks or how your household functions or what you cook for dinner? Is it in terms of how you treat yourself?

Suddenly ‘I want to be more creative in my life’ becomes ‘ I want to work on bringing more variety and fun into how I treat myself – creative self-care!’ Bravo!

Moving forward into 2013 I want to focus on bringing more fun and lightheartedness into my creativity. I’ve been taking my Art-making waaaay too seriously recently and as 2012 draws to a close I want to see it out with FUN! I want to follow what feels good to my heart and right now that is all about collaboration. In fact watch this space because January will see the beginning of my most collaborative, conversational, exploratory, adventurous, community-driven project to date and I can’t blinkin’ wait…

I hope these prompts serve you in uncovering where your creativity lies and saves you from heartache when the work seems too hard or irrelevant.If you feel moved to share your answers I would LOVE to read them in the comments below.


Being creative is a returning home to yourself

If you’re interested in joining me for Creative Scaffolding in January 2013 head over to the sign-up page now for a special treat. As a Christmas present to all you wonderful folk out there, until the 31st Dec, you can sign up for Creative Scaffolding for $150…that’s $50 less than it normally is! In the New Year the price will be going up to $250 to accommodate the new-fangled awesomery that I’m shoe-horning into it so snap it up now to start your New Year with clarity and the tools to see your Art flourish or  gift it to your most closeted creative friend and they’ll love you forever (er, love not guaranteed!)

A Flash of Inspiration

I’ve been watching and re-watching this interview for a fortnight now. Pure artistic-insight gold!

Flash Rosenberg can hold my attention any day of the week!


And when I tell people I do all four of those things [writing, photography, cartooning, performance] they’d say ‘but what do you really do?!’

And that to me as absurd a question as somebody saying ‘You’ve got four kids, what one do you like?!’….

– Flash Rosenberg, ‘Attention span for hire’

Studying Art

‘If you invest in Art, if you study your self Art, you become a freedom fighter immediately because your life changes…you start thinking!’

– Vivienne Westwood

~ What do you think about Vivienne’s take on Art?

~ Do you approach Art as self study? And if you did, do you think that would change the Art you make?

~ If you see me at work with a copy of ‘Catcher in the Rye’ under my arm, you’ll know why. Fashion advice that makes sense from a woman who knows what a fashion statement really is!

If you’re interested in exploring the ‘how’s, ‘why’s and ‘wherefore’s of your own Art-making more closely the next round of Creative Scaffolding kicks off next week and I’d love for you to be part of it. You can find all the details here and the conversation, as always, continues below in the comments…

The Power of Asking ‘Why?’

Last night I was sent an advance copy of an ebook a friend of mine is writing. It’s about writing. It’s about writing your life, writing your truth, whether anyone else will ever read it or not. I hope that once it’s finished I’ll get to share it with you here but until then…

As soon as I read the introduction I knew what I wanted to do. I wanted to put pen to paper. I wanted to write. I was compelled to write.

The sensation feels similar to hunger. It gnaws at me. I need to feed the hole, but instead of in my stomach, this hole is in my brain. Like an itch deep in my head that I can only get to through the forming of words on a page. Typing them doesn’t help all that much.

This time of year always does it to me. There is something about Autumn. Today is the first day of rain in Vancouver this season and it has bucketed down for 24 hours straight. The constant drip and patter outside is the perfect soundtrack for mulling things over.

Maybe I romanticized Robert Frost writing in the New England Autumn a little too much…

Either way, today I had to write.  And not even knowing where to begin, just knowing I wanted to write, I posed the obvious question to myself since no obvious answer had ever presented itself to me before.

Why do I feel compelled to write?

I’m a musician. I’m not an author or a journalist or a lawyer or a screenwriter or even a particularly  prolific letter writer. I’m a terribly inconsistent blogger (like I said typing doesn’t really do it for me in the same way). Writing is somewhat archaic, somewhat useless, somewhat eclipsed by emails and texts and ‘magazine’ literature, but somewhat necessary. It won’t die. It’s just not necessarily respected like it should be. Is this all just a terrible hangover from school and new stationary in September? Why the itch? Why the hunger?

Why do I feel compelled to write?

I want to write because it feels good.

I want to write because I know how.

I want to write because writing leads to beautiful things like songs and poems.

I want to write because it’s good for my health. I feel like I burn more calories and get stretched out just by writing.

I want to write because I am full of opinions. Full.

I want to write because it has that old-fashioned allure. Fountain pen anyone?

I want to write because writers are respected, even bad ones. Especially good ones.

I want to write because I love messing around with words.

I want to write because carving out a cathedral of words in the English language means something – even if it’s just for yourself, in service of your day.

English was made for writers and artists. English was made to be messed with. There is a reason it’s the only language I speak fluently.

I own my command of the English language and when I sing words like

‘There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.’

or read

‘…palm to palm is holy palmers’ kiss…’

I feel good inside. I feel like new again.

Ah! Itch scratched!

Knowing why you feel compelled to make the art you do, create in the ways you love, gives you incredible power. Power to continue creating in the face of a culture that doesn’t rate these pursuits like it should.

Writing for writings sake? Not exactly something to put on your CV…or is it?!

The next round of Creative Scaffolding kicks off next week and if you want to explore why you feel compelled to create and what it means for you, this is the place.

This is the place where you see just how useful, just how of-service, just how vital, practical, bankable your urge to create is. As far as I’m concerned it’s make-or-break important! It’s the thing that gets you the job (Yes! Creatives troubleshoot, improvise, see new possibilities, collaborate…who wouldn’t want to hire that?) helps you raise your awesome kids, makes you an engaging person, makes you unique and whole and happy.

I really hope you’ll join me. You can find all the details here

What do you feel compelled to create? WHY?

I’d love to hear what you have to say in the comments below…Happy Writing!