The Sheer Joy of Creating

(This is the video that led to this blog post.)

What can I say? I’m a creativity junkie. There are fewer things that are more fun for me than creating something that didn’t exist before. When I think back to times in my life when I had minimal responsibility in terms of how I could spend my time (I’m thinking back to my teens and college-age years, long before I was married with three kids), guess how I spent lots of it? Writing music. I pulled many, many all-nighters (and many, many all-dayers, too!) working on songs and learning how to play instruments. Was I trying to impress anyone? No. Was I being graded? No. Was I making money off of it? No. Fame? None of that stuff. But, I was developing a set of skills and enjoying the hell out of it.

Here I am about twenty years later and I have many more responsibilities. And, I’m pretty sure that if I didn’t have any responsibilities that I would probably regress to the days of spending virtually all of my time creating music. Still, over the years and through various jobs and careers, I’ve generally always found a way to spend time writing music. Often it’s very late at night or very early in the morning. Or when the kids are playing nicely and I can steal away for a few minutes into my home office. Or, for those 30 seconds where nobody is noticing where I am. (Or, like now, when I’m holding one daughter in my arm and typing frantically with the other before her sister finds her and tries to hurt her). Does this passion of mine make me a better or worse parent? Better or worse spouse? Probably both.

But, here’s the thing: I still get that crazy rush of excitement when I create things , just like I remember from my teens and 20s when I was just starting to understand how music worked. I certainly don’t feel that rush every time I pick up my guitar, but I often feel it when I find myself up during those special nighttime hours when I’m working on something and the hours are flying by. And, just like when I was younger, the motivation is the same: creating for the sake of creating, that basic foundation of what it means to be alive in the image of the Infinite Creator.

Last night I was working until 5:30AM producing the song and music video featured above. Left to my own devices, I would have pulled an all-nighter and slept all day. But my kids are off from school and I knew that I was going to have to sleep for at least a few hours so that I could be functional enough to spend the day with them (Yes, we went swimming. Yes, I was planning on being asleep an hour ago, but then I somehow started writing this blog post and now I’m all jazzed up again…). And, here’s the thing: I loved working through last night. I love it when I’m up in the middle of the night writing a song, editing a music video, building a website. It doesn’t matter so much what the project is. It’s that deep joy of creating something new that wasn’t there before. It has absolutely nothing to do with what anybody else thinks about what I’m producing. It has absolutely nothing to do with whether it bring me money or recognition, or anything. It is the sheer joy of bringing something new into the world that never existed before. For me, that never, ever gets old.

And I hope it doesn’t for you, either.

The Story Behing the Song In Your Hands

” In Your Hands, in Your hands, we are resting in Your hands. In Your Hands, in Your hands, please have mercy on us.”

This past Sunday, a few hours before Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) began, I received some surprising news about my health. While I won’t go into the details, it appears that I have a congenital bone issue that I will have to tend to this year.

My prayers over Rosh Hashanah were different over the holiday. Usually I have a sense of not knowing what the year ahead will bring. This year, thought I still don’t know much, there’s a high likelihood that I will require a couple of surgeries to correct the problem.  It felt strange going into the new year knowing that there will be difficult challenges ahead, but not knowing exactly what that will look like.

We are so quick to name experiences like these as “bad.” I don’t view them that way. Naming something “good” or “bad” doesn’t feel relevant to me. What feels more relevant to me are the following questions: What can I learn from this experience? How can this help me grow into the person I hope to become?

Over Rosh Hashanah, a thought popped into my head: “Your move, God.” There’s a constant dance between what is in our control and what is out of our control, and each one affects the other. The Universe makes her move, I make mine. Back and forth, back and forth. I don’t expend much effort on those things that are out of my control (read: the election, other than my ability to vote and canvas), and I expend lots of effort over those I do have control (i.e.: my reactions, how I speak and act).

Just because I don’t consider something to be “bad” doesn’t mean it isn’t emotionally painful and that I’m not grieving. It looks like I will have to give up running, one of my favorite activities. While I am lucky (I hope) to still be able to bike, swim, hike and do other activities, it does not take away the sadness and heartbreak of no longer being able to run.

” In Your Hands, in Your hands, we are resting in Your hands. In Your Hands, in Your hands, please have mercy on us.”


Lo Res Head ShotJulie Geller is a Denver-based singer/songwriter who writes and performs original music in English and Hebrew that inspires people to become their best versions of themselves. Hear more at www.juliegeller.com.

 

The Story Behind the Song This Heart: Judaism and Buddhism

When I was 25, my husband booked tickets for us to fly to Paris for a winter vacation. As the day of the flight approached, I began to get nervous. Something was off. I felt like I couldn’t get on the plane. Even thinking about getting on that plane gave me a panic attack, a feeling of being crushed and unable to breathe, a sensation that I had never before experienced. My boarding that plane – and this was coming from someone who had reached premier airline status before the end of high school – was simply not possible. We ended up missing our flight because I couldn’t bring myself to get on the plane, let alone pack up, get on the subway, and get to the gate. I didn’t need a vacation; I needed help.

My mental health situation deteriorated rapidly. Within days, the panic attacks were happening with greater frequency and I was literally having trouble leaving my house. I couldn’t go to work. I couldn’t go anywhere. I felt like every building, every subway, was about to crush me.

During those difficult months, I met a friend of a friend whom I knew had suffered from depression, and had found much relief in both Jewish prayer and Buddhist teachings and meditation. He described discovering Jewish prayer akin to finding a piece of driftwood, and discovering meditation akin to finding a life raft. He recommended that I read Pema Chodron’s book Start Where You Are, as well as Mindfulness in Plain English, a primer for mindfulness meditation.

That winter, in addition to seeing a therapist, doing behavioral therapy, and going on medication for a short while – all of which contributed to my healing – I began a practice of sitting for 20 minutes a day. For the first time in my life,  I wasn’t filling up those 20 minutes with talking, or moving around, or distractions, or doing anything. I was sitting with myself and my crazy brain. (That’s basically what mindfulness meditation, also known as Vipassana mediation, is: sitting quietly. I don’t use mantras or anything fancy. I just sit.)

What did Buddhism offer me that, up to that point, my own rich tradition of Judaism hadn’t? For starters, silence and non-action were valued. In my family and community, many important things were valued, but I must say that silence and non-action were not two of them.

I had also never heard such gentle, loving explanations for how to behave. A few years later, I attended a silent retreat with Thich Nhat Hanh, where he told us that when we get angry to drop everything and cradle our anger like a crying baby. This made me cry then and makes my cry now thinking about it. There was an exercise in which we all lay on our backs and focused attention on each part of our body, thanking it for its service to us. “Thank you liver for processing our blood. Even though I sometimes abuse you by drinking too much, I want to thank you for keeping me healthy and strong… Thank you lungs for enabling me to breathe…” I had never been exposed to radical gratitude like that before.

And presence. My life had been about success, achievement, the next thing. Many years later, I walked into a therapist’s office. Her practice was full, but I wasn’t about to let her send me away. She kept sending me to different people, but I kept coming back to her. There was something that drew me so deeply to her. Here’s what it was: When I was with her, she was completely present. I had never experienced that level of presence, and it made me feel seen and understood and appreciated.

And, finally, the Buddhist teachers that I admire speak in simple terms about core themes of being alive, such as ego, suffering, oneness with all beings, and impermanence. These ideas opened my eyes and changed the course of my life.  I think about them daily, but I don’t remember hearing much about them in my own tradition. Are they there? Absolutely. The teachings of the mystics and the Hasidic masters overlap on many of these themes. I haven’t yet put in the consistent effort to familiarize myself with their works, but I have some knowledge of them

So, my song This Heart is rooted in teachings I have learned over the years. Teachings that exist in my own Jewish tradition, but would take some excavating for me to find. This Heart is about impermanence, and about being in the moment, and about how heartbreaking life is if we allow ourselves to feel it. In the words of Pema Chodron, “Things are always in transition, if we could only realize it…To stay with that shakiness, to stay with a broken heart, with a rumbling stomach, with the feeling of hopelessness and wanting to get revenge, that is the path of true awakening.”

 

Lo Res Head Shot

 

Julie Geller is a Denver-based singer/songwriter who writes and performs original music in English and Hebrew that inspires people to become their best versions of themselves. Hear more at www.juliegeller.com.

When Things Fall Apart: The Story Behind the Song Don’t Put it Back Together

When I was 18, during a year I spent in a year in yeshiva in Israel, I wrote my first twoScreen Shot 2016-06-23 at 4.34.28 PM complete songs with lyrics. I was so excited that I decided to book a recording studio in which to record them. As you might imagine, it was a challenge for someone with imperfect Hebrew to locate a recording studio in Jerusalem. I did finally find one that had a special, affordable hourly rate after midnight. Perfect! So, I booked a couple hours, and proceeded to practice my songs tirelessly so that I would be prepared. After all, time is money in a recording studio (and, by the way, I still always go into the studio crazy prepared). My set-up that year was a Roland Keyboard and this eight-track that had I bought from a friend the summer before I left.

As the recording day (night) got closer, something started to happen: my eight-track began to crash on me. Repeatedly. And every time it did that, I had to reprogram all of the tracks (drums, piano, horns, etc.) for the song. I was starting to freak out because I didn’t know if the tracks would even be on the machine when I arrived at the studio.

I was a mess emotionally and existentially. I wasn’t sure whether I should abandon the whole project. Were all of the hardships associated with this project meant to make me work harder to realize my goal, or were the hardships a sign that I should abandon it altogether? 

Screen Shot 2016-06-23 at 4.50.20 PMI asked one of the rabbis that question and he must have told me to stick to it because that is what I did. I remember having to rebuild the songs the day before the recording and, when I arrived at the studio, they were miraculously still on the eight-track. Here’s the tape of that recording (oh, how I love that I wrote “1st recording” on it!).

I tell this story because I think that this is a crucial skill for being alive: knowing when to fight for something even through it’s very hard versus knowing when to give up on something even though you really want it. Back then, I didn’t know how to handle that dilemma so I sought counsel from a rabbi. Now, I know: it’s a gut thing.

This new song is about that moment when, even if you don’t know what the next thing is and even if you are scared out of your wits, there is something inside of you that says that it’s time to move on. And you do.

I originally wrote this tune as an upbeat song. You can watch a video of that version here. The more I sat with it, though, I decided that I wanted to hear it as a hymn. So, now I’ve got two versions and I must say that I like them both. Hmmm. Maybe I’ll see if I can combine them in some way?

Lo Res Head ShotJulie Geller is a Denver-based singer/songwriter who writes and performs original music in English and Hebrew that inspires people to become their best versions of themselves. Hear more at www.juliegeller.com.

 

Reflections on Three Years of Creating Monthly Music Videos

Last week I reached the three-year milestone of releasing monthly music videos. What began as a one-year challenge to myself is still going strong. The video that I released last week was “This is Your Life,” which is a setting I wrote for the Holstee Manifesto. We crowdsourced the entire video, which I think worked really well. Here it is:

And this is the Holstee Manifesto:

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These words were written by three twenty-somethings after they left their jobs to go out on their own and start a printing company. I read about them in a magazine, and then cut out the tiny picture of the Holstee Manifesto from that magazine and pinned it up on my bulletin board. One day, I was walking around my studio with my guitar and trying to come up with lyrics to a tune I was writing. The tiny picture of the Holstee Manifesto caught my eye and I started singing those words as placeholder lyrics. Before I knew it, I had set the whole thing to music. It stuck.

So, what have I learned from releasing over 40 music videos (so far)? Here are my favorite gems:

  1. It’s made me unafraid to fail. It’s just art, after all.
  2. Music is moving. Words are moving. Images are moving. Music+words+images = the possibility of creating something enormously powerful.
  3. I never know how a video is going to be received. Here’s what’s cool: The more videos I make, the less I care.
  4. Why do I do this? It’s fun and challenging and I learn new things every month.
  5. Making music videos requires an investment of either time or money. These days you don’t need both. I spend a small amount of money and a large amount of time.
  6. And finally, here are some (until now) closely-guarded secrets:
    1. I shot seven videos on an iPhone 5
    2. A lot of those videos were shot by son, who was 10 at the time.
    3. I learned how to make music videos because I couldn’t afford to hire anyone else to do it.

Have you ever sustained a long-term project of any sort? What did you learn from it? I’d love to hear about it.

Thoughts Before Thanksgiving

If I Die Tomorrow

I am not planning on dying anytime soon but, if I die tomorrow, please know that I was happy.

I got to spend my days alone, creating.
I got to spend the rest of the time with the people I love the most, my family.
I failed a lot. I became fearless and stopped caring if I failed. Creating things was too much fun to care what people thought of what I made.
I never made it big as an artist. I created on my own terms without having to deal with the pressures of success, money, and fame.
I got to be a link in a rich, enduring tradition dating back thousands of years.
I observed Shabbat. Every week I got to unplug for a full night and day and our children got to play hide and seek instead of on iPads.
I stopped being afraid of and limited by other people’s fears.
I had enough of everything I needed.
I had a partner who made me laugh.
I had a relationship with God.
I got paid to sing with kids.
I forgave my family.
I forgave myself.

Happy Thanksgiving 🙂

Love,
Julie

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This Heart Can’t Be Unbroken

I have always believed in God. I absorbed it as a little girl first and foremost from my parents. I stood by my father’s side many times as he soulfully led prayers in synagogue. I brought our mezuzahs to be checked the winter when things we going badly for our family and we wanted make sure that they were written correctly and would continue to protect our family. I was there when my father couldn’t stop laughing when someone stole the all tires from his car because, ultimately, it’s only money, and nothing at all in the big picture. Even today, when something goes wrong, someone in my family will say, “It’s a kapparah,” a small bad thing that happens in place of an unknown, larger one.

And it is.

I also learned to have faith in my Orthodox Jewish elementary school, where the purpose of our religious education was to teach us 1) to believe in God, 2) to understand what God’s will is, and 3) how to execute it.

There was something curious about this God of mine, though: He felt very close and present in times of joy, but inexplicably far away in times of sorrow and despair. In my greatest times of need, it felt like God abandoned me.

“That’s OK,” little me would think. “I’ll get through on my own.” But it wasn’t. I needed help.

The week after September 11th, 2001 I sat down and wrote a song, Lord Above. The lyrics are:

Lord above I want to walk with you
Want you to fill my heart with love
But when I call your name will you be there?

At that time, I felt like God was not only male (also absorbed from my environment), hence Lord, but also above – very far away and out of reach. I felt like God had abandoned all of humanity.

Fast forward to September of  2005.  I had given birth to a stillborn baby two months prior. I couldn’t bring myself to face God and attend prayer services for Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. Instead, I stayed home and wrote a song called Show Your Face. The lyrics are:

So come out and show your face like any grown man would
Come out a show your face to me
I’m getting tired of asking and I’m getting real tired of your not answering
Won’t you show me your face

So, again, God seemed male to me, and again, I felt like God had abandoned me when I most need help.

But, something else happened when my baby died, something new. My heart got shattered. I don’t mean broken. I mean shattered, as in unable to ever be put together again in the same way.

So, slowly over the course of the next year or two I began to negotiate a new relationship with this battered heart, and with this God of abandonment. During that process I learned some things about myself: I was terrified of getting hurt. I was terrified of falling apart. I was terrified of things not working out. I was terrified of failure.

So, how had I always protected myself from those things happening? I had placed a shield around my heart. My heart was whole and beautiful because it was well protected. Nothing could reach it. There was no way I was taking big emotional risks that could in any way harm that perfect, unblemished heart.

But, on September 11th, cracks started to show in that armor. I was trying mightily to protect myself, but the heartbreak was just too much. And then when the baby died I couldn’t even begin to protect it. Things hadn’t worked out. BIG TIME.

With that shattering came unbearable pain, but, surprisingly, also these: openness, softness, compassion, even relief. An openness to what was going to happen without having to control it. A softness to life, without needing to always have a hard, protective edge. Compassion for others, because I now understood the pain with which they were living. And finally, relief in being able to let my guard down because the worst had already happened. I didn’t have to be afraid anymore.

And then the most curious thing happened with my relationship with God: With my broken heart, I could finally make room for God in my heart. God had always been my Lord above, but that was because I hadn’t made any room in my own heart. With this new shattering, there was a way in, a place for God to live inside of me. And over time, God felt like less of a Lord and more like both the divine female and male energies that the Jewish tradition embraces.

The Kotzker Rebbe, a 19th century Hassidic master, taught this as well. He wrote that “There is nothing more whole than a broken heart.” Paradoxically, when your heart breaks, there exists the possibility of it becoming whole in a new way.

I once read that life tries to help us grow, and that we can either pick up on the clues as we go along, or we can ignore them and then be forced to grow very quickly in a difficult way. For me, change came in the form of the latter. It wasn’t pleasant or easy, but it softened me and made me more aware of the heartbreak of others. It taught me how to connect with my vibrant, courageous, beating heart, even when it is filled with pain and heartbreak. I don’t have to run from those things. They are part of the mix. And now, when being alive hurts so much, I whisper to God, “Help me!” and God whispers gently, “I know, my sweet child, isn’t it painful?”

And I am not alone.

Breathing New Life into My Family’s Shofar

The shofar, or ram’s horn, is one of the most enduring symbols of the Jewish people. Its use predates the siddur, the menorah and nearly all other ritual objects. For me, the shofar – and specifically my father’s – is also one of the most enduring images of Judaism in my own family. As far back as I can remember, my father has owned this shofar:

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This shofar was, and continues to be, the perfect shofar. It is easy to blow. I can’t get a sound out of most shofars but I can always get a gorgeous tone out of this one. Which, by the way, is exactly what you would want: a sad, low, hollow sound. Not piercing, but strong. It doesn’t smell when you blow it. And, because it’s hard to break a shofar, I have many memories of my siblings and me blowing it every time the High Holidays rolled around.

Throughout my childhood, my father was the chaplain at a Jewish senior apartment complex. Every Rosh Hashanah, he led the services and blew the shofar. After services, we would walk across the street and take the stairs up to the tenth floor (we did not use the elevator on the Sabbath and holidays) to blow the shofar for Mrs. Soffen, who could not make it to the synagogue. If there were others we knew of who had not heard the shofar, we would also visit them in their apartments, schmooze for a while, and my father would blow the shofar for them, too. Because everybody in that community was of advanced age, the conversations on Rosh Hashanah were real. Residents spoke lovingly of how the sound of the shofar brought them back to their own childhoods. Some cried. And the High Holidays were no joke. They were truly pleading for something: to stay alive a little bit longer, or maybe to be reunited with a spouse or family members who had already died. Even as a child I felt the gravity of their prayers.

But as usual for me, with everything related to Judaism, there was a catch: I am a woman. And a shofar, like almost every other Jewish ritual object, was for men. Growing up, I never once heard a woman blow a shofar in public even though I don’t know of any halachic (Jewish legal) issue with that. And even now, I can’t say I’ve ever seen a woman blow a shofar, even in the more liberal synagogues I’ve attended as an adult.

When I was eighteen, I spent a year studying Jewish texts at Midreshet Lindenbaum, an all-girls yeshiva in Jerusalem. The students all arrived around the start of the Hebrew month of Elul, the time of year when the shofar is sounded each morning in preparation for Rosh Hashanah. Since we had an all-female prayer service, one of the rabbis asked if any of us girls wanted to blow the shofar. At the time I found that to be shocking, since it never occurred to me that it was acceptable for females to do so. I was probably one of the few girls who had practiced blowing a shofar before, but I didn’t feel comfortable stepping forward into that role publicly. In the end, the rabbis ended up blowing the shofar for us.

Fast forward to two years ago. I was praying in synagogue on Rosh Hashanah, and I noticed the following prayer (truncated a bit for the sake of good songwriting) in the shofar service: “May it be Your will, God, that angels will ascend from this shofar and stand before Your throne and advocate on our behalf for You to forgive our sins.” I was so moved by that image and those words that I set them to music. The song I wrote is called Sheya’alu (And They Will Ascend).

I recently released a music video for this song. I began with footage of me singing and playing the song. But, as I watched it, I knew what the video needed: footage of me blowing the shofar. I had a moment of panic: But would that be OK?? I knew that the answer had to be yes. Let our girls – my two daughters and yours – grow up with an image of a woman blowing a shofar. And let us women see that image, too.

I borrowed my father’s shofar for the shoot and I added images of me blowing the shofar to the video. And, since then I’ve held onto the shofar, and every day I take it out and I blow it — for me and my own need to wake up, but also for my children to see. And every week now, when I play music for Jewish preschoolers, I bring the shofar and I blow it for them, too. Let them see a woman blowing the shofar. Let that not be a jarring image for them, as it was for me.

The shofar holds an inherent paradox. On the one hand, it is familiar and soothing. We hear it year after year and its vibrations resonate deep within our bones. On the other hand, the sound of the shofar is meant to jolt us awake and remind us that we can do better. Let this year be no different, the ancient alongside a sense of freshness, the comfort alongside the striving.

Head Shot Lo ResJulie Geller is a singer/songwriter who is healing the world one song at a time with original, uplifting music. She has been releasing one music video a month since June of 2013. Enjoy her videos here.

Eleven Secrets to Getting Your Creative Juices Flowing

For a long time I felt stuck creatively, and that’s no fun. Luckily, it’s been a number of years since I’ve felt that way.  For the last number of years, I’ve been consistently writing musicperforming concerts, teaching, producing music video, and blogging. So, I recently sat down to reflect on all that I’ve learned about living a creative life, with the intention of helping you invite more creativity into your own life.

Here’s what I came up with:

1. Make Your Unconscious Your Partner
Your conscious brain is awesome. It can come up with basic ideas and it can be a good editor (as long as it doesn’t go overboard!). But, the best, juiciest, most creative stuff is way beyond your conscious brain’s comprehension. To access that , you need to partner with your unconscious. The great news is that your unconscious brain is at work while you go about your day and even while you sleep. My M.O. is to work on a song until I get stuck and then I set it aside until a later point.  In the meantime, I let my unconscious work with it. Sometimes I even go to bed with an intention for my unconscious to sort through the problem at hand while I sleep.  Often, I wake up with the answer to my query.

2. Those Are Excuses
Yes, I know your partner isn’t supportive of your creative endeavors, you don’t have the space, your job leaves you no time, and you have a houseful of kids. Guess what? Those are all excuses. If you want to create badly enough, you’ll find a way to do it.  Before I was a full-time musician, I would often write music late at night after I put my kids to bed because that was the only pocket of time I could find. These days, I’m still often working long before the sun is up. It’s up to you alone to make it happen.

3. Be Imperfect
This is huge. If you want to produce a lot, you absolutely cannot be a perfectionist. Being a perfectionist is another way to say, “I’m afraid to fail.”  Not being a perfectionist is another way to say, “I don’t care if I fail because I’m learning and having fun, plus I don’t really care what everybody else thinks about what I’m creating.”

4. Focus on the Process, Not the Outcome
When is creating fun? When you don’t care how it turns out. I write at least twice as many songs as I release. Why? Because I love songwriting. But some of the songs don’t turn out well so I don’t release them. Writing a bad song often helps me work through what I need to work through to write the next good one. It may even heal something in me. Remember: process, process, process.

5. Trust in Abundance
There’s more out there that can be created than all of humanity could possibly manage to create over many lifetimes. How many love songs are there out there? And, how many millions more are yet to be written? There’s an infinite amount of creative work to be made. It doesn’t run out. Just because someone else created something doesn’t mean there’s nothing left for you. There’s plenty.  The songs and ideas are not going to run out.

6. Exercise
Most of my ideas come to me when I’m running. I don’t know the science behind it but I know that it works. Get your endorphins pumping, get some fresh air, and treat yourself to a change of environment. In fact, I came up with the idea for this blog post on a run last week. Truth be told, it’s rare that I go for a run and don’t come home with a new creative idea.

7. Set Aside Time to Work
Can you find an hour in your week to devote to your art? How about two or three? Maybe you can swap out an hour of TV time to work on your screenplay. Or, maybe you can get up an hour earlier once a week. The point is that nothing’s going to change for you if you don’t set aside and plan for dedicated time to do your art. 

8. Have a Dedicated Space in Which to Work
It doesn’t have to be big or fancy. Clean is terrific. Having a door that closes is amazing. One year my music studio was in a walk-in closet.  Boy, did I write some great music in that tiny room. These days, my office/studio is a bit bigger but still nothing fancy.

9. Set Deadlines and Stick to Them
When I’m killing myself to get something out according to the deadline that I myself set, my husband will often ask me why I don’t wait a few more days rather than working like crazy to meet my own deadline. After all, would anybody notice if my new song came out a few days later than planned? No, but my being consistent ensures that a) I honor my commitment to myself and my fans to create one music video a month, b) I don’t fall into the perfectionist trap (see #3), and c) I keep challenging myself to grow and try new things.  If you need an accountability buddy, find a friend to hold you accountable to stick to the deadlines you’ve set. 

10. Honor the Creative Impulse
That piece of you that wants to express something about being alive? That’s your soul. Don’t brush it off.

11. Creativity Begets Creativity
The more you create…the more you create! Allow yourself to get into the groove.

Have a trick of your own to share? Please add it to the comments section below.

DSC00241Julie Geller is a singer/songwriter who is saving the world one song at a time by writing original, uplifting music. She has been releasing one new music video a month since June of 2013. Find her on Facebook and Twitter and sign up for free monthly music at www.JulieGeller.com.

The Story Behind the Song “Da (Know)”

“Know from where you come and to where you are going: to the Holy One.” – excerpted from Ethics of the Fathers 3:1

Unlike anyone my age that I know, death is a huge motivator for me.

About six years ago, I was thinking about becoming a full time musician but was terrified of taking the leap. I remember driving home alone from the shiva house (house of mourning) for the family of a woman in my community who had been a complete powerhouse – strong, vibrant, passionate. She passed away at the age of 54.

As I drove home (well, in circles actually), I had tears streaming down my face. In that moment, I understood to my core that I couldn’t mess around forever. I could no longer hide behind mediocrity and fear. I couldn’t blame others for my own failure to move forward with my music. If I was going to continue to be unhappy, it was because I was making a decision to do so. I realized that, at some unknown point, this would all be over and that would be that. It could be next week, next year, or in 60 years. Who knows?

Within three months I was working full time as a musician.

Knowing that this journey on Earth will end at some point and in some way over which I likely have no control keeps me focused on what is important: How do I want my kids to remember me? What can I teach them? How can I help them succeed? Beyond that, I really don’t care. Will the rest of the world remember me or not? Who cares.

Carrying an awareness that this could all end or be drastically changed for me at any time severely dampens my interest in getting involved in unfolding dramas or anything that’s out of my control. There’s certainly no time to be a perfectionist. And, instead of expending energy to care what others think of me and my music, I’ve chosen to expend my energy living my life and creating music.

I wrote this song immediately after returning from my grandmother’s funeral and shiva earlier this month. This song is my tribute to her. My grandmother was an accomplished pianist who was unable to play in her later years due to arthritis. Not surprisingly, upon returning home, I also filmed this video about the connection between creativity and healing. Ask any artist and they will tell you about the power of the creative process to heal.

My grandmother lived a long, full life. In her teens, she and her family escaped the Nazis and traveled from Vienna to Paris to Morocco to Montevideo to New York. She literally had diamonds sewn into the soles of her shoes. After a journey that lasted well over a year, her family finally made it to New York, where she met a young Rabbi from Texas, a third-generation American. Together they later settled in Portland, Oregon, where they both lived until their deaths.

I miss my Oma. I miss speaking with her on Fridays before Shabbat. I miss my Opa, too, who died seven years ago. I can’t believe they are both gone.

My grandmother was the last of her generation. She showed me and all her family nothing but love. I trust that she is with her beloved and her parents and siblings once again.

And with the Holy One.

Lo Res Head ShotJulie Geller is a singer/songwriter who is saving the world one song at a time by writing original, uplifting music. She has been releasing one new music video a month since June of 2013. Find her on Facebook and Twitter and sign up for free monthly music at www.JulieGeller.com.