I tell my writing students that our teachers are always available 24/7 waiting on our bookshelves or a click away on the internet. We only have to read, to listen. If we’re lucky someone will place the book we need for instruction into our hands at just the right moment.
As they say: when the student is ready, the teacher will appear.
But writers aren’t our only teachers. The world is our collaborator, and sometimes we can be surprised from where inspiration comes.
My friend, children’s author and illustrator Matt Phalen, couldn’t stop talking about Master Class (video lessons taught by experts in their fields) the last time I saw him. He plays the lessons as he draws, and not just the ones on writing and film, but others on food, music, or science.
I was convinced and signed up for a year-long subscription. I chose to start with “RuPaul Teaches Self-Expression and Authenticity,” because I wanted something I could listen to without feeling the need to take notes. (I’m a compulsive note taker.)
As I listened to the first lesson, “Finding Your Frequency,” I was surprised to hear him talk about stillness and meditation!
There’s a frequency that is unique to you, and your job is to locate it. You locate it through stillness.
RuPaul talking about mindfulness? Yes. He talks about how there’s so much noise! As my blog is called Writing Through the Noise, he had my attention. Meditation is as simple as “being still and listening to your body.” “You want to create space in your conscious for your frequency to shine through.” When that frequency comes through, not only will you have a sense of your true self, but once you embrace it, your people, your tribe will find you.
In “Cultural Lighthouses to the Soul,” RuPaul describes himself as always being a seeker, and pop stars were who he looked to. “Pop stars represent your secret self.” He was drawn to rule breakers like David Bowie and Diana Ross, and (now for something completely different) Monty Python’s Flying Circus.
At one point early in his career, he thought that he couldn’t make it to the big time doing drag. When a friend encouraged him to return to drag, he wondered where he’d heard that he couldn’t do it. He realized that he was the one telling himself that. He was the producer of that limiting thought. As he says,
The calls were coming from inside the house.
Once he changed his mind about that limiting thought, everything changed.
RuPaul talks about his childhood, his struggles as a gay black man, his self-esteem, his tribe, his strength and creativity and so much more in these lessons. As I listened to one lesson after the other, I thought, everyone should listen to RuPaul. He’s a daily devotional, a Sunday sermon. There is so much love and acceptance and wisdom in his words. (And yes, he does talk about makeup and wigs and dressing in the right shape for your body.)
I’ve been meditating for years now and these aren’t unfamiliar concepts, but I can always use reminding, particularly from a new perspective. Thanks to my new Zen guru I remember that my teachers, whether they be mindfulness or writing or life experts, can come from unexpected places. RuPaul taught me about finding my own voice in the stillness and how to recognize when I’m the one standing in my own creative path.
When it comes to teachers, I only need to stay open to the possibilities.
I’d love to hear from you in the comments. What surprising teachers have you had? Have you ever realized you weren’t pursuing a dream, because of self-generated limiting thoughts?
I’m guessing you did take notes.
I’ve had inspiration from books and other artists (Art 21’s episode – Theaster Gates) but also from wiping the kitchen table. I did a whole series inspired by the way light hit a pale pink cloth napkin. Can spilled spaghetti sauce and napkins be teachers?
Well, I went back and took notes.
Your pink napkin reminded me of Maeve in “The Dutch a House” sitting for a portrait and understanding light for the first time.
And, of course, you’ve always been a steady supply of inspiration!
This is wonderful. Teachers are everywhere. And this is a reminder that a little spit and shine could go a long way right now—on the inside and the outside. Thank you!!
Barbara, you are a wonderful life expert! The way you move through this world is inspiring.