Hello and welcome to the Creative Shoofly podcast. I'm Thomas Beutel.
This podcast is about exploring the creative journey as an artist. And in this episode, I wanted to try something new and improvisational. I call it, You and I Make a Thing. I invited my friend Mercedes to come up with a theme or project that we could do together. And then talk about.
My intent was to combine two recordings, one where we decide on what to do, and then the second, a week or two later where we talk about what we did. Well, it turns out that Mercedes was way ahead of me as you'll see. I think you'll like this conversation.
Well, Mercedes, welcome to the Creative Shoofly Podcast. I'm so excited to be talking with you today about our topic and we will expand on that in just a bit.
I know you as a musician, a songwriter, a painter and a writer of words, and I'm sure many, many other things. I'm just curious to know, are there any creative projects that you're working on at the moment?
Mercedes: Well, first of all Thomas, thank you so much for having me here. This has been a great experience preparing for this and yes, there are a lot of things going on in my mind.
So, you know, I am multipotentialite, so I don't have one project in hand and usually have a fan of them. But basically I'm working on using my mediums, music, performing basically my piano, fine arts, painting some cards and canvases and doing some writing to incorporate my idea of soul making and this connection to the inner power into my work.
I've been like going around it for several years naming it as creativity or life skills, but I want to put it in a way that I can share with other people what the artistic journey has been for me. But most of all, how it has taught me to live, to live from authenticity.
Thomas: Mm. Right. I love that. I love that notion of creating from authenticity, because that's when it feels right, when it feels the most true. And you mentioned being a multipotentialite, and I am a multipotentialite too, so I can totally relate to having so many different creative projects going on at once.
It's the same for me, and part of the reason that I continue to do this podcast, the Creative Shoofly, is also to discover what the creative journey is for me. So thank you for that.
You know, when I spoke with you Mercedes the last time, I didn't record our session. And the reason was that we were just talking about, you know, what is it that we wanted to do?
And I told you I had come up with this idea of You and I Make a Thing. And my concept there was that we would have a conversation about what type of things do we want to work on that we might not have done before.
And you asked me some questions at the time, and I gave you an example. And I said, Mercedes, this was back about a month ago. I was working at the time on creating a comic and it was about a bit of local history here in San Francisco. It was called the Broderick-Terry duel, where two politicians had a duel and one of them was killed in the process.
And it had a big impact on local politics here and on California for that matter as well.
And I was telling you how, I was struggling a little bit with that because I'd never made a comic before. and you said, I love that idea. Let's do the duel!
Which was a little bit unexpected at that point because I was just giving what I was doing as an example. But actually, it's kind of perfect because I really was struggling at that point.
You said the duel is a sort of perfect metaphor, so I'd like to know a little bit about what were you thinking in that moment and why did that resonate for you?
Mercedes: Well, it is because for me, being an artist wasn't an easy choice. It was not what everybody was expecting from me, not even myself. For many times in my life, I even felt it like this very funny series called Monk, always comes to me -- it's a blessing and a curse.
Mercedes: You know? So the discovery of being an artist that started with being a musician, for me was kind of a blessing.
I thought like something marvelous had opened, but the journey was very painful. Because I started very old because there was a lot of opposition and lack of support. So…
Thomas: Lack of support from people around you?
Mercedes: From people around me, from the country, from lack of resources.
Mercedes: I started to be a classical musician at 17 where everybody's graduating.
Thomas: Oh yeah. Uh-huh.
Mercedes: Yeah. But what I discovered through my experience as a student, as a teacher, as a lecturer and all that, was that when I was teaching and doing music, it was beyond music. I was teaching and learning about life.
Mercedes: And from since I was ever a kid, my search was about the meaning of life.
Why it seemed around me that life was so lack of luster, like so much suffering, so much lack of enthusiasm, engagement, when what I saw was a lot of beauty, wonder. And I couldn't understand that because I felt it completely different.
Mercedes: So I discovered that part of the things is that since we are born, we are taught not to be yourself, not to free, not to answer the call of our souls. But it's there openly talking to us when we are kids, through imagination, through the joy, through the exploration.
So instead of growing up into that joy, exploration and embracing of the call, you know, we grow apart. We bury it. We even see it rejected with shame or guilt.
So my journey as an artist has to rediscover that spark of divinity that we come from, is actually the life that will take us in a long journey of a fulfilled life.
My music taught me a lot about it because when you're learning to play an instrument, I always told my students and or people around me, it's like a polygraph. It's a truth machine. You cannot fake it.
Mercedes: You might, after a lot of time, a lot of training and technique, you might fake it.
But artistry cannot be fake. Real connection with that magic, that it's beyond you. That when it's not about you, your ego, but about the beauty of the message you channel, that cannot be faked. And that needs complete commitment and surrender to who you are and who you will be.
And that's very scary, Thomas, extremely scary because you feel completely vulnerable.
I think that I felt most of my life completely naked and, and incapable of protecting myself. What I did was to start building protections. But if you build protections and you quiet the inner voice of your soul, of your purpose, you don't become happier. You don't become more creative.
My solution at the time was to become secretive. I hid all my talents. I just share it very, very little with some people or didn't share it at all.
But when you have this fire inside of you, for me, what's completely impossible to quelch, that's why I mean it's a curse. You know, I try many times to quit. But I couldn't, so I found this weird ground where in which, okay, I will keep growing as an artist, growing all that is inside of me, but I will do it in secret.
Thomas: Mm. Okay.
Mercedes: Which also beats the purpose because the idea of art is transcendence, is transformation, is to share it with others. It's not for you. You are just a vessel, just a channel.
Thomas: You mentioned the word enthusiasm. and the root of that word, actually, if you look at it, means filled with God or filled with spirit.
And, enthusiasm used to be an insult. It meant that these people are dancing around for no reason whatsoever they're being animated by some spirit and it's not themselves, but it's actually the opposite is true. When you're filled with that spirit, that's the true you coming through, That's the true part of you coming through.
Mercedes: And the problem Thomas, I see in today's world is that not only we criticize, it's that we have become suspicious of everything that we cannot see.
Mercedes: Suspicious of all those invisible and intangible things that actually make for our humanity and connected us with that eternal part of us, which we are supposed to enjoy and expand.
And that's the place where the metaphor came from. When you talked about the duel for me was, you know, all my fireworks inside my head went on because I said yes.
Thomas: Say, say more about that. Say more about what the duel meant for you.
Mercedes: Okay. It's about the journey of, you know, we have seen this in a hero's journey. We have seen this in books and stories.
I wasn't battling the outside monsters or dragons or an army. I was battling my own demons.
Mercedes: So the duel was this battling of what I call my angel voices, which are the voices of my inner power, of my source, of my, of my soul, telling me this is what you are meant to do. “Do it!”
And then the voices of my demons, which is the voices of all my training, experience, past wounds. The beliefs that constrain me that say, “You cannot do that. You don't deserve it. What are you doing? No, you cannot do that. That's not how the world works. You know? You have to follow the standards. You have to do what other people say. You cannot be different. That's not right!”
So this duel has been a constant in my process of growth to become an artist, you know?
And I couldn't escape it so that duel continued and just expanded. There was sometimes when somebody very important to me told me, “You have to stop being a musician. You don't see that. That doesn't pay. You have to study something else. You have to become some something else.”
And I say, “Okay, I became a fine arts and sculptor.”
Thomas: Uh huh.
Mercedes: “No, I didn't tell you. that wasn't what I wanted you to do. I want you to do something else.”
Thomas: So these are outside voices telling you.
Mercedes: These are real voices that were in agreement with my inner (demon) voices that constantly remind me of what they said. Every time I failed or felt doubt of things didn't go well.
A part of me was terrified. What if what all these people told me it's true. And I am just, you know, to myself.
Thomas: The inner demon voices were getting validation from the outside, is what you're saying.
Mercedes: Yes. Yes,
Thomas: I see, okay.
Mercedes: So they come in the sense of constant doubt, the fear of showing up as I am, they're trying to use white gloves to decorate my way of feeling talking or expressing in a way that can be understood or not attacked by others.
But the problem is, Thomas, that for example when I paint, when I write, especially when I play my piano, I cannot use white gloves because it doesn't come out.
You know, music.
Thomas: You can't use white gloves?
Mercedes: No, what I can say is that I cannot fake it. And that is what is so terrifying about being in stage for me was, as a pianist, is because I couldn't fake it. I couldn't make the truth sound less, ethereal or soulful or more standard.
I couldn't, and it was terrifying then to show up and say, “Well, I'm sorry. I cannot fake it here.”
It's not that I can fake it in other stages. But what I'm trying to say is that when you are an artist, if you really want to express, there is no way you can use logic rationalization. It's not the frontal lobe handling.
It's something inside of you that takes over. Because if not you will, you will go nuts. You know, there are too many things that are happening at the same time. No mind can handle them all.
Thomas: Well, Mercedes, I know that this discussion, of the inner duel inspired you because you surprised and delighted me by sending a recording to me, maybe a week or week and a half after we had our first discussion.
And it's a wonderful recording, and what I will do is I will put portions of your recording at the end of this podcast.
You describe in your recording this idea of the artistic journey as a hero’s journey and the duel that happens within. And you interleave that with your piano compositions, the songs that you composed specifically for it.
And I thought it was so wonderful because you were really expressing emotion through your piano performance. I was just so delighted to receive that from you. So I want to say a big thank you for doing that.
I have some questions about that. We've already gone over some of in our discussion already. You mentioned in your recording, one of the things that you said was emotions are mirrors to the deathly unconscious beliefs, myths and impossible standards.
Say a little bit more about that. I like how you say that emotions are mirrors.
Mercedes: Okay, so remember that one of the premises we decided for this experience was to do something we have never done before.
Mercedes: So for me, composing in the moment. And as I was thinking about putting words was like, “Okay, I'm completely vulnerable here. I don't know what is gonna come out. I don't.”
I wanted to do something completely new that I didn't feel I had like, you know, once like the right, because you know, I'm not an expert in this because I wanted to bring all those emotions on.
So when I say the emotions are mirrors, it's that every time we feel these complex emotions, and I'm talking more about those emotions that constrains us.
I’m not talking about love. I'm not talking about wonder or surrender or appreciation.
I'm talking about fear. I'm talking about guilt or shame. these emotions come all up and interrupt the process of creation.
Mercedes: So you’re playing, and instead of playing naturally, your hands are completely stiff. Your muscles start to feel painful.
You have butterflies in your stomach and you start missing notes.
Or the ideas just go away, or you are like stuttering over something, that it's your own voice, your own creation.
But why is this? Well, this is because I'm bringing up a bunch of, and I'm gonna name it trash from the past that I've given so much importance that has become my default.
Mercedes: So the only way I can, I can actually understand this is by facing them, which I won't say is an easy task.
Thomas: It isn't.
Mercedes: After you pass this shame or, guilt. And I am grateful to you Thomas for giving me the opportunity to do this because the fact that I promise you I will do it, made me continue to do it.
Even though, all those emotions were coming, you have to feel all, those emotions and let them go. To reach appreciation, to reach gratitude, to understand, oh, the why I do this.
It's not because I need to prove something. It's not because the world is asking me. It's not because this is what musicians are supposed to do.
It's because I love it. It's because I breathe music. It's because when I am doing this and I get goose bumps in this moment, I feel more alive than ever.
It doesn't matter if my mind tells me, “You don't deserve it. You are not good enough.”
My heart tells me, “This is you!”
Thomas: Right Mercedes, I felt almost exactly the same thing when I was going through what I was going through.
So I'm a member of a local artist collective called The B0ardside. There's four of us, and I was asked to contribute to an upcoming zine, and in this case it, it was a comic about the Broderick-Terry Duel.
And I had never created a comic before. So I felt the same thing. It's like, I was grateful and thankful for them giving me that prompt, And I've done many, many creative things in my past.
I'm a maker. I like to make things, but I've never done this specific thing before and I didn't read a lot of comics when I was a kid. I read, some MAD magazine and when I was a little older, I liked the Far Side from Gary Larson.
And here I am saying yes to drawing comics for the first time.
You're so right. It's like, it was a struggle, right?
I had to learn new tools. I had to learn how to use procreate on the iPad and I had to figure out how to use comic life on the Mac. And how do I make these things? How do I make it look like something?
And I got the first panel done, I had to do a total of nine panels. And when I got the first panel done, You're right. I felt so alive by it. I felt so like, wow, I can do this. “I can actually see a path, a creative path through, creating the final product.” A
And that aliveness is just, it's indescribable really. It really is indescribable. I was definitely battling imposter syndrome. “Who do you think you are drawing comics?”
I was feeling just massive resistance. And I finished that first panel and it felt amazing, and it's like, “Okay, now I can move on.”
Mercedes: And I have to say that he shared it with me and it was really amazing.
Thomas: Thank you.
Mercedes: And I would like to add Thomas that’s part of the problem. I say first is that when you learn some techniques for one piece, when (you) play an instrument, those techniques will serve you as an scaffolding step for other higher level pieces.
So what I'm trying to say is that the skills we learn, if we learn them well, they are transferable to any field.
Thomas: They really are.
Mercedes: Yes. And part of the problem we have as artists and as everything in this society of today, is that we think we have to be perfect from the beginning because what we see is the results.
We don't see the journey, the hero journey. We don't see the battle. We don't see the failures. We don't see the pain.
We don't see the rewards would you only see all these artists is just great? Look what he did. And then if you try to compare yourself to that end result, and you know the, the gap, it's impossible. It's impossible.
Thomas: I'd like you to, to comment a little bit about… you mentioned in your recording about mentors and about going to YouTube and different places. Talk a little bit about that.
Mercedes: Yes, of course. I've been a rebel student. I am a very good student, but I'm also a rebel.
I'd like to gather information and I like to feel that information that is given to me is not only solid, grounded, but it's, but also can help me see the world in different ways.
So nowadays… you know, when I was a student, because I was too old supposedly, I couldn't go to music school. So I have to somehow do what you in America can do in some humanistic careers, which is build your own.
Thomas: Uh huh.
Mercedes: So I'm the kind of person who builds her own mentorship, a group of associates help first. You know, of course I would love to have people around me or go to school sometimes or do things, and sometimes I can.
But there are other resources, and for that internet nowadays is fantastic. If you know how to research, you can find amazing, amazing, amazing information.
So my mentors are, of course, some of the teachers I had in life. But most of all, Thomas, my mentors have been books. I have been looking for things in your truth to get inspirations and listening to myself, even if it's all twisted, I'm full of doubt listening to myself.
Thomas: Yeah. I totally agree with that, and we are actually so blessed nowadays to connect in so many different ways.
Sometimes mentors come along sort of unexpectedly, and wouldn't have guessed that that's where, an important message comes from. For me, I was really stuck and I needed a diversion.
And so I put on Disney Plus and there was a documentary about Industrial Light and Magic, the company that made the special effects for the original Star Wars.
Thomas: And they were in a sort of a similar place. They were trying to create effects that had never been done before. They had already spent a million dollars, creating the cameras and the equipment to take the shots, but they hardly had any shots done whatsoever.
And the movie was just months away from being released in the theaters. And, so at one point it looked like they were going to fail.
But the one word that sort of permeated that a whole organization was persistence. The documentary said that's what it was about. It was all about persistence.
You know what's funny about that is, I'm sitting there, I'm thinking about it. I'm thinking that's exactly. What I need at that moment. I needed to hear that at that moment to just persist. And, and so like I said, I wasn't expecting to hear any particular mentoring messages at all.
I just needed a diversion at that point. But it was the right message at the right time for me. And I said to myself, that's what I need. I need to persist. I just need to keep at it and keep at it and keep at it, and I'll get through it. and so it was a really nice message to receive at that point in time.
Sometimes I feel like the universe just is there for you,
Thomas: If you're listening, if you're open to it.
Mercedes: Yes. And if you allow me, I would like to say that I had a similar experience as yours in one of the worst, lowest moments of my life. A real, real, real, real dark night of the soul.
I came up with a series a BBC series. It was like, you know, I was like numb. I'm gonna say I felt so bad that day that I even told my soul that it was fired. “I fire you!”
Thomas: Oh no.
Mercedes: And this, I watched all the episodes. It was a BBC take of Merlin as a youth.
And that inspired me, the path I am now in life. That series caused me to reflect on many, many things that I knew and perhaps have forgot.
And, you know, you touch also about something that we as human beings and as an artist, forget that it's easy when you are traveling a path that others have traveled to gain insights and I Thank you.
Thank you for all of you who share so generously your findings and your knowledge through all these channels, books, and YouTube have made it accessible.
Now there's a difference when you are doing something that never has been done because there are no models, and that's the moment where you wrestle with so many demons and doubt and where you need a lot of persistence and trust the truth of your vision because you're going to fail a lot.
And we are in a society that doesn't understand failure as a step of exploration, as a compass to, you know, to go back into the correct track that will take you where you want to go.
So yes, it's very hard when you are doing something that nobody else has done or where you see a vision of something that you cannot find other’s responses.
But then you have to trust to gather whatever little insights you can gather around and trust your intuition. That's a tall order nowadays because we are not taught that.
Thomas: It is, it is. But I like what you said earlier about how every skill is transferable. And that's something we always have to keep in mind, that, this is actually very true for multipotentialites, right?
We sometimes lose sight of the fact that we have all these different skills that we've gained from all the different avenues that we've gone down.
And that is something that's powerful that allows you to do something that's never been done before because you can take little bits from this and that, that you've learned all these little bits, and put them together and create something brand new.
Mercedes: And I was thinking about, yes, multipotentialites can make of that an event like the four-of-live because we can put so many skills and transfer so many skills that you can see fireworks going everywhere.
But we have to remember that everybody, everybody is creative.
Mercedes: Everybody is creative and that is the essence of creativity.
Whatever can be used in multiple ways, just if you give it a chance.
Thomas: Yeah. Mercedes, so how did you feel once you finished your recording for me? What came out of that for you?
Mercedes: Okay. I felt excited. Nervous. Surprised.
Mercedes: Yes, because I am sometimes surprised of the things I can do when I put my mind into.
Mercedes: And one of the things I love about doing this kind of thing with, like what you proposed, Thomas, or in other communities that I've been involved is I always go for the challenges.
Because the challenges, and I do it in a natural way not to prove anything, not I try, if there's a challenge inside of me, something asks, “Well, let's try it. What if?”
And that's how I discovered I could write poetry. That's how I discovered I could write books or tell stories because somebody, throw a challenge as a doubt, you know.
And I said, “I'll take it!”
And then yes, I sweat. I might cry, I might tremble, I might, you know, knock my head on the wall and say, “Why the big mouth? Why you always have to do this?”
But at the end, things come up. And when you are at the end of the journey, I look back and think, “Oh, oh my God, really? I can do this?”
And you might not continue to develop that specific skill or specific thing you were doing, but you know how many doors open when you discovered that you have more skills or abilities that you ever thought possible.
Thomas: That's so true. It's so true. And I was surprised too. You know, I'm surprised on a couple levels. One is I'm surprised about what's come out of this journey that we're doing right now in this podcast. and I was also surprised when I finished the comic.
And I said, “Wow, I can do that!”
And, and you're absolutely right. I don't know if I'm going to do another comic at some point. But now I know I can and it's just a wonderful feeling. It's a great feeling.
What a gift it is to surprise ourselves.
Mercedes: Yes, it is. It is.
Thomas: It's amazing. It's amazing. Mercedes, thank you so much. This, this was a wonderful conversation and a wonderful journey, a wonderful project. I want you to know how, grateful I am for you to play along, to discover and to be surprised.
I'm just so grateful. Thank you.
Mercedes: Well, thank you to you too Thomas for giving me this opportunity to explore and learn more about myself, the creative process, and to have an opportunity to tell others.
All that wonderful richness of creation of power is also inside of you. You don't have to be a multipotentialite. You don't have to be an artist.
You just have to be you and the world is blessed for having you.
So you know, dare to explore. Dare to fail. Dare to succeed. Dare to try things.
Dare to allow your, your inner force, your soul to come up and guide you because what comes. It's wonderful.
Thomas: That was You and I Make a Thing with my friend Mercedes. I really enjoyed exploring this idea and I'm planning to record more episodes like this. So please stay tuned.
My Broderick-Terry duel comic was published in issue number 4 of the B0ardside Zine. And I'll put a link to it in the show notes.
Mercedes recorded her thoughts of the inner duel as prose and music. And rather than link to it, I've added it to the end of this podcast. So here it is. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
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