“Stop, Collaborate, and Listen”

The Wise Words of One: Vanilla Ice

As a self-proclaimed, semi-pro, sometimes-goes-on-unnecessary-Facebook-rants, and journals-in-her-free-time, amateur writer, I often feel as though my thoughts aren’t good enough. As though the words I put down on a page or type out in a post don’t carry as much weight as others’.

I’m not sure what causes this feeling exactly: maybe it’s a form of writers block; maybe it a deep insecurity that I could examine with a clinical mental health professional while laying on a chase and tracing these feelings back to something that happened to me when I was a child. Or maybe I have these feelings because they’re true: I don’t have the worlds wisest and most well expressed things to say; I don’t have the most original thoughts; I am not the most eloquent person to ever live. I don’t have the words to sway nations and armies. Not every word I say is meticulously choose for it’s procession and depth of meaning.

Is it a harsh reality to admit these things? Possibly, but I think it’s not as cruel of a realization as it seems at first.

Thinking or holding myself to a standard that my words should hold some significant impact on the world around me is obtuse. Does that mean I should stop speaking for what I believe in and stay silent? Not at all! Does it mean that I should take the wise words of a early 90s pop lyricist: Vanilla Ice? Absolutely.

I’m dubious that when Mr. Ice sang the infamous “Stop, collaborate, and listen.” as an intro to the 1990s hit single Ice, Ice Baby, he was speaking on a more self-enlightened level, yet his words have somehow reached that for me and for this post.

Let me explain step one to being self-enlightened by the words of an artist who’s name could have easily been a popular Yankee Candle sent or a delicious artificial food flavor:

1 when I feel that my words have no impact, or I feel like I’m shouting in to the oblivion, or my thoughts are running like a hamster spinning in a wheel, I need to stop (this is pretty deep stuff, I know). For those who don’t know what stop means (and sometimes I need to be reminded of the definition too):

Stop (stäp/) verb: abandon a specified practice or habit.

I need to stop on many levels when I start to feel useless: I need to abandon the practice/ habit of being so self-absorbed. I need to stop writing a piece that’s being forced. I need to stop trying to be Ernest Hemingway (for more than one reason… first off he was an alcoholic, secondly he killed himself — neither of those fates I want). I need to cease becoming so frustrated and unkind with myself.

Stopping what I’m doing does two things: 1) it aims to prevent further damage. 2) it give me a chance to start something new that isn’t damaging. Both of which are good for the soul and mental sanity.

2nd key to reaching nirvana, (not the band.. we’re not trying to get another medium involved in contacting the ghost of Kurt Cobain) is Vanilla’s second lyric: collaborate.

I have always been more creative and focused after spending time interacting with other people’s works. Whether it’s reading an article, listening to a podcast, having a conversation with someone, dressing in drag and doing the hula with Timone and Pumba, etc.— I always come away with better ideas as a result.

For example, I recently read Eric Kim’s article 10 Tips to Be More Creative in Your Photography, It’s full of advice that not only helps you’re photography but it helps the creative process in general. In the article, Kim encourages,

“Cross-pollination… creativity is about re-combining ideas that have already existed before, adding your own personality, and creating something new.”

I couldn’t agree more with his statement. You first have to know what’s out there in the world in order to add something new to it.

3rd and lastly, listen. This might be the most important instruction that Vanilla Ice had to share. And an instruction I often overlook because it’s usually easier to say whatever the hell I feel like instead of taking the time to acknowledge and participate in other stories.

The Greek philosopher Epictetus said it best,

“We have two ears and one mouth, so that we can listen twice as much as we can speak.”

If we were supposed to be taking in twice as much as we were putting out in 55 A.D. then I’m sure the saying remains true today (where everyday there’s more information to be taking in and processing).

If you’re anything like me, this motto keeps my head within a normally proportioned ratio to the rest of my extremities, and it keeps my ego proportioned even smaller.

Listening forces me to continually learn and remember that I’m not the smartest person in the room.

Consequently, my words are not wiser than the person sitting across from me in the cafeteria at lunch. My thoughts are not unique and have already been thought by many other people before I thought them and will be thought again long after I’m gone.

All I can share is my version of my story and that’s okay. That’s all I can do. That’s all anyone can do: share their chapter or verse to the larger story of life and listen to a little more Vanilla Ice.