Feed Your Furnace. Kwai Chang Caine Said So.

Morning Juice, January 25th, 2017

“If you cannot be a poet, be the poem.”

Today, we’re rolling with a quote from the late actor David Carradine—best known for his roles as Bill in Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill saga & Kwai Chang Caine in the 1970s hit TV series Kung Fu.

I know, I know — try not to asphyxiate on your coffee. Here’s why I dig the above quote…

Sometimes being creative boils down to how readily you can access and repurpose your experiences. Big ideas aren’t pulled out of thin air. Rather, they’re slow-cooked in the furnaces of our psyches. Just as a furnace needs fuel, a creative mind needs experience to function.

Let me take a stab at an example.

In second grade, a red baseball sock slipped into a load of my white t-shirts. T-shirt came out pink. I wore it to school. The other kids let me know about it.

Fast forward a decade or so. In college, I was tasked with developing three spec ads for Shout Color Catchers — these handy little washer sheets that prevent colors from running.

In a flash, I was teleported back to Ms. Segal’s second grade class. I felt the humiliation all over again. Laughing to myself in my apartment, I scribbled down three words — “You’re not alone.”

I wound up developing a Shout campaign that parodied those awful pharmaceutical ads. They depicted black and white portraits of forlorn humans sporting subtly highlighted pink garments — socks, bedsheets, t-shirts and the like. “Just say no to sorting,” one headline read.

So where am I heading with this?

Being able to draw from experience has a way of bringing out the truth in your creative work. You can only write what you know, and you can only know what you live. That’s why blank sheets of paper are terrified of creatives who actively seek out new experiences.

So live, experience, and create the poem you want to read — and whatever you do, never stop feeding your furnace.