365 Days of Courage #99: "Forget the noun, do the verb"


Yesterday I spent the afternoon with my best friend celebrating his 50th birthday.  He is someone I have known my entire life and it is always so very easy to be in his company.  I like who I am when I'm with him, which is always a good reminder of how easy it is to be with the people we are supposed to spend time with.  He is the person I laugh most with in the world so it was such a pleasure to spend a Monday laughing until I cried with a dear friend.  It didn't hurt that we were laughing while having THE most amazing lunch at Nougatine at Jean George's looking out at Central Park.  I think it might have been one of the best meals I have ever eaten! 

Since I started writing 365 Days of Courage, I've noticed that I'm noticing things more because my radar is set to notice things that I might want to write about.  This is one of the side-effects of writing that I really enjoy.  Not only do I love to write but I love that the intention to write makes me more present and more observant of the world around me.

One pattern I have noticed is that I will hear the same message (often a message I need to hear) from a few different people over the course of a few days or weeks.  

The message that I have been receiving loud and clear during the past few weeks is "forget the noun, do the verb".

Last Thursday, I went to the New York book launch event for Austin Kleon's new book "Keep Going: 10 ways to stay creative in good times and bad"

Austin is also the author of "Steal like an Artist" and "Show Your Work".  I love his writing - both his books and his blog posts - so I was very excited for his new book.  I was not disappointed! 

One of the chapters is " Forget the noun, do the verb".  In that chapter, Austin writes:

"Lots of people want to be the noun without doing the verb.  They want the job title without the work.

Let go of the thing that you're trying to be (the noun), and focus on the actual work you need to be doing (the verb).  Doing the verb will take you someplace further and far more interesting."

Not only will it likely take you someplace further and far more interesting, I also think that focusing on the verb is far less intimidating and far less likely to make you get in your own way than if you focus on the noun.

Wanting to be a "writer" or a "photographer" or a "musician" has a huge potential for messing with your head.  Those nouns feel impossible to attain.  We want to "write a book" and yet never sit down to write.  We want to become a singer but talk ourselves out of it because we could never be "good enough" to really "make it" whatever that means.

So we deny ourselves the pleasure that we would derive from writing or from singing or from taking photographs because we have imbued the nouns with such terror-inspiring power.   We read the books of authors we admire and compare our writing (at this earlier stage of mastery) with their brilliance after years and years of mastering their craft.  We tell ourselves that there's absolutely no point in trying to become a writer instead of choosing to sit down each day and mastering the craft of writing by actually writing.

Just imagine the potential that would be unleashed if we sat down each day and, as Steven Pressfield writes, "put our ass where our heart wants to be".  If we did the verb day in and day out we would, eventually, become the noun or become an even more exciting noun.  Austin Kleon started out as a "poet" because he wrote poetry.  But he kept doing the verb of writing and is now a writer who writes many wonderful things, sometimes even poetry.

What is the verb you feel drawn to do?  How can you carve out time in the week ahead to commit yourself to the doing of that verb? 

I would love to hear from you as to what you plan to "do" in the weeks and months ahead.

You have to have done something before you can be said to have done something. The title of artist or architect or musician needs to somehow be earned.
— Dave Hickey

I wish you a courage-filled week ahead doing the verbs that bring you the greatest joy!

Until next week,

Sal xoxo

What has been inspiring me during the past week


Keep Going: 10 ways to stay creative in good times and bad by Austin Kleon - I was SO excited for this book to come out as I had loved Austin's earlier books so very much.  I first discovered "Show Your Work!" in a bookstore in Edinburgh and it actually brought me to tears as I flicked through it before buying it.   I was NOT disappointed with this latest book - I highly recommend it!


Noun, or Verb? with Todd Henry on the Accidental Creative podcast - this episode was inspired by Todd's conversation with Austin about Keep Going.

How To Keep Going - an interview with Austin Kleon on the Accidental Creative podcast

The very first person who made me think about doing the verb instead of the noun was Patti Digh - she has two books about doing the verb rather than pursuing the noun which I love - "Life is a Verb" and "Creative is a Verb".  All of the conversations I've heard during the past few weeks about the verb versus the noun have made me want to re-read these books so they will be on my "to read (again)" list in the next month.

The nature of fear with Sas Petherick - this has nothing to do with verb vs noun but I highly recommend that you listen to it.  It is a beautiful episode of the Courage and Spice podcast where Sas talks about when her heart stopped working on December 20th, 2018 and what she learned about the nature of fear in the following 36 hours.  

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