I’m willing to bet you’ve never heard a COVID-19 story like this before. This one comes to createX3 from France — and with a very important lesson. Creatives: follow your vision wherever it leads!
This will take you beyond your first assumptions, into unknown territory. But that’s where we find all the gold!
My good friend Josh is one of the most creative people I know.
Professionally, he’s an actor, singer/songwriter, narrator, and voice-over artist. But that’s just scratching the surface.
Josh is one of those people who inherited the creative gene. He never stops making. Ever. Curiosity defines him.
His mind is always chock full of ideas and he’s brave enough to put those ideas into action.
Consider what he did last August.
Tired of life in Los Angeles, he searched online and bought a 300-year-old manor in the quiet ancient riverside town of Argenton-sur-Creuse in France.
This is what it means to follow your vision wherever it leads:
Josh had always promised his wife, Stephanie, that one day they’d live in France. So they packed everything up, including their two daughters, age 4 and 6, and moved there.
Yes, there was a learning curve. But Josh and Stephanie have never let that put them off.
Now the girls can walk to school through a gate in their backyard. They picked French up pretty fast and life is so much better, Josh says. In fact, he’s thinking of opening a café on the corner of his block.
This is how Josh rolls.
But wait. It gets better.
COVID-19 has also hit France. Same as here, everyone is self-quarantined. Josh figured he’d use the downtime to plant a tree in his backyard. So he started digging.
This is where things got weird.
Down In a Hole
Strange things are prone to happen when you own a 300-year-old French manor.
For instance, in Josh’s basement, beside the water heater, there’s an altar that dates back to the French Revolution, a time when persecuted Catholics had to worship underground. Literally.
So there’s Josh, digging this hole for a tree. As he later described by email:
“Here’s what started it all. Dug down, it was tough going and then thunk thunk thunk WTF?!? … about 20 inches down I found square fired bricks”
Mystified, Josh kept digging. What had this new level been? Some kind of courtyard? A driveway? A secret entrance to a treasure-filled tomb?
Such questions might seem fanciful but Argenton-sur-Creuse was a Roman settlement between 150 and 300 AD. Roman ruins are all over town. Maybe this was one of their structures, Josh thought.
“The whole village has been built higher over the centuries due to the common floods from the river Creuse. Some riverside buildings from the 1500’s have ‘front doors’ that are now several steps down from street level.”
Intrigued, Josh dug the hole wider to see where it led. But it seemed to lead everywhere.
After knocking his way through the layer of bricks, Josh discovered a limestone slab. Now he was really intrigued. The Romans had used lots of limestone in their construction. What the hell was this thing, anyway?
There was nothing else for it. He kept digging
Artifacts followed. In his emails Josh described these items as:
“Nothing super ancient. Or probably … a clay pot that looked like it could be from the 1500s … another that looks like bean pot from the 1980s … wire mesh for cooking that probably isn’t more than 100 to 150 years old … but who knows?”
Eager to know more, Josh contacted the home’s previous owner. She’d lived on the property since 1978 but had no idea any of this stuff was there.
So he spoke to a neighbor who’d lived there for decades. No clues there. Nobody knew what he’d found.
So Josh kept digging.
The Art of Making Discoveries
After many long hours of sweating and groaning, he found corners to the brickwork that seemed to describe the footprint of a structure.
“It’s parallel to the eldest part of our house, so I suspect it dates back to the same year, 1703 or thereabouts. Not sure if it was an apartment, a guard house or what. But I found a fireplace, complete with a two-inch layer of ash, so it wasn’t a shed or stable. We just wanted to plant a tree! But there’s no stopping now …”
The more Josh unearthed, the more he amended his views of what he’d at first assumed. This is a high-level skill for creatives.
We start with a dream. In this case to plant a tree. We hypothesize how the work will go. But then … we must be willing to follow the process wherever it leads!
The process of creativity is like riding a dragon. It’s bumpy and wild.
We can remain on the back of the dragon when we remove our egos from the process and focus on what we discover rather than what we wish to discover.
The path of the true creative is always defined and redefined moment to moment.
Discovery is the name of the game. And fear can never shut us down.
As Joseph Campbell once said, “The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure that you seek.”
After more digging, more back-breaking labor, Josh wrote:
“… I noticed that the bricks are not parallel to the newer part of the house [which was built] 1830-1850. Instead, these bricks are parallel with the part of the house built in 1703, so [they’re] likely from the same era. After 30 – 40 wheelbarrow loads, I ran out of useful places to hide the gravely dirt elsewhere in the yard, so this is where I’ll stop until quarantine is over. The plan is to create a sunken garden, under the shade of a fragrant tree, with a curved pergola and a fireplace built into the front wall. Here’s a sketch of what I intend to do: “
It looks good to me.
Okay, I’m kidding. It looks gorgeous.
There’s a couple of things I love about this story. First, take a look at Josh’s sketch. It creates a new vision but doesn’t get overly prescriptive. That’s good. This gives him something to riff off. Something to keep improvising with.
Second, consider this: when he first hit that layer of bricks, Josh could have made any number of decisions.
He could have filled the hole back in and decided to plant his tree someplace else … or abandon planting it altogether.
In other words, he could have stopped when he confronted a problem.
Instead, he let his vision expand. Please note: the tree Josh originally wanted to plant will still be in his garden.
But since he was curious, willing to work, and eager to let his vision adapt, he’ll now have much more than a tree in his yard.
He’ll have a long-lost treasure he can share with family and friends.
May all our artistic adventures yield the same. Especially in these challenging times.
For now, my fellow makers and artists: follow your vision wherever it leads! Don’t even let this virus stop you from what you do better than anyone else: create, create, create.
Here’s to your health and joie de vivre!
Follow Your Vision Wherever It Leads
If you’re interested in creativity, check out my book, The Actor’s Art & Craft, co-written with the late, great William Esper. This book is actually useful for actors, writers, singers, dancers, and artist’s of very stripe.
And be sure you also read: