What's your "guiding image"?

I was sitting in the Lynn Redgrave Theater just north of Houston in Lower Manhattan Sunday night waiting for Mike Birbiglia’s one-man show to start when I saw it. This image. An empty round stage with just a microphone on a stand and a stool. And I knew instantly that this image would be leading me to and through my next creative project.

To me, it said it all: The audience is waiting, everyone’s ready, it’s time to stand up to the microphone, literally and metaphorically, and get out in the world with my story. I took a photo so I can keep this image with me, start my day with it, end my day with it, glance at it when I feel lost, depressed or afraid.

The few days before I saw this I had taught almost 200 artists between my gigs in DC and New York City.  I found myself, saying again and again: "You know what the difference is between the artist who succeeds and the one who doesn’t? The one who succeeds didn’t stop. So, what can you do to keep your spirit alive so that you keep working and marketing?" Actually, I said something more like: "How can you stay in a good enough mood to keep working?" But, I realized later, it’s not really the “good” mood that counts, it’s the keeping on, mad, sad or glad.

So, this photograph becomes my touchstone image, my guide, my soul’s direction, my true north, my marching orders. It says it all. To me.

What’s yours? Have you seen it in the world recently or long ago? Does it come from your imagination? Take a picture of it. Draw it. Sculpt it. It doesn’t have to be as literal as this but it has to move you. It has to stop you dead in your tracks. That’s what will make it work and what will compel you to keep going – which is the only thing that separates you from the pack.

What’s your image? Go find it. Capture it. Look at it. Let its fire keep you warm.