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6527212 April 23, 2010

Defying Gravity: Lou Patrou

"I no longer want to work for other people's businesses, visions, and projects."

My new theme song is "Defying Gravity" from Wicked, recently covered by the cast of Glee. Today I listened to my Glee CD on the way to a lunch meeting that may result in some great pharma consulting work. I'd heard the CD before, but this time the last song hit me in a new way.

Potential consulting work is a good thing. When I stepped back from a full-time career in the industry, I thought having more time for my writing would be great. And it has been! But I was at my best when consulting and writing at a 50/50 split, which is what I'd been doing until September of 2009.

Now I'm getting a little stir crazy.

This brings me to the topic of multi-talent, and also the difference between focusing those talents on what others ask or direct you to do versus self-direction. My guest today, artist Lou Patrou, has been creating art for a lifetime. However, for years, his creative focus was utilized by others. Now he directs himself and is focused on promoting his own art. I get the impression that he somehow broke free or took a leap, and is determined to stay on a path of his own creation.

I'm also determined yet I'm realizing that perhaps I have multiple diverse skill sets--and that's okay. I wrote for years while working full time. During the 50/50 gig, I wrote a new novel over a nine-month period (probably my best work yet), kept Aberration Nation going, and managed to paint quite a bit. Every day held something different. I still had time to devote to my creative goals. I tapped into all my skill sets and directed myself.

Lou points out that there are no rules around multi-talent. Several of those whom I've interviewed feel there should always be a primary focus, while others believe there can be only one focus if you want to be the best. Although I fully understand all the opinions, I like Lou's approach. I'd like to believe there are no molds, rules, or boundaries for how much an individual can juggle and achieve.

I'm first and foremost a writer. I still don't fully know what it means to be a writer yet I know that's what I am. Becoming an artist has expanded my creative horizon. It's taught me a great deal about myself and subsequently improved my writing. I'll not stop painting, but I can't stop writing.

The other day, I asked myself,

"If you were in a jail cell with nothing but a pencil, what would you do with that pencil? Would your first inclination be to draw or to write?"

I knew the answer before I got through the question. I would write and write and write on the walls around me until my pencil turned to dust, and then I'd look for anything else that could create a mark. In the end, I'd want and need to leave my mark, and I know it would be in the form of words.

Does that mean that I'm not truly an artist?
I don't think so.

Does that mean that I should completely turn my back on all my years of pharma experience?
I don't think so.

As Lou has discovered, I think the key is finding a way to make it all work.

Yesterday I wrote 1,000 words of my latest novel, DUST. As I sat at my kitchen table, allowing myself to melt into the words, I remembered how much I love that feeling. How much I need to create characters and scenarios that express my own humanity. How I enjoy the complexity that writing calls for and allows.

I remembered why I write, and reminded myself that it doesn't matter if my work makes it to the top of the charts. Although I'd love for that to happen, it was never the driving force behind my calling. My need has always been to express something meaningful. To caste my eyes upon the world around me and into myself, and figure out what it means to me, and then express it in a way that enables someone else to share it. What drives me is that shining moment when we both become just a little less alone.

So as I sit here introducing you to Lou with a tear on my cheek, I hope you'll consider his idea that there are no rules about who we are and what we can achieve. I started this blog with the premise that normal is a farce. Let's not forget that we're all filled with aberrations. Let's allow our humanity to bring us together not pull us apart--whether we're writers, artists, corporate folks, teachers, religious, agnostic, gay, straight, black, Asian, white, physically challenged or fit, lonely, happy, introverted, extroverted, or whether we prefer Palin and tea bags or Obama in the house.

Perhaps I'm way too idealistic. Perhaps Lou won't succeed in marketing his art. Perhaps I'll never find a new publisher. Perhaps we'll all burn in hell or turn to dust with nothing to show for it. Believe what you will. I choose to believe in miracles, happy endings, fulfillment, and peace. These things happen everyday in every corner of our world, and as my Dad used to always say, "If it can happen for someone else, it can happen for you."

Studying Lou's art, I suspect he may also subscribe to the relative nature of gravity.

What's your story (in a nutshell)? Are you surprised by where you are or did you always see it coming?

I've always known that I would work in creative fields and never an office, for better or for worse. As far as my art is concerned, I've been drawing steadily since junior high school in the 60's. Over the years I've worked extensively in film and television production, custom photo labs, both color processing and black and white printing, neon design and installation for events, concerts and commercials, animation, advertising, prop and set design, product design, photography and product licensing.

Today I no longer want to work for other people's businesses, visions and projects. I'm concentrating only on my art, designs and product ideas. If a project doesn't have my name on it, I'm no longer inspired. I just have no interest in working on it.

With regard to your current creative focus, was there an "ah-ha" moment you can tell us about?

Not any one moment--more a continuum. Over time I get different ideas about concepts and during the exploration of them, new directions become apparent and details become clear.

For you, is art more about creation or expression? It could be both, but does one dominate with regard to your need/urge/desire to be an artist?

The urge is probably an urge to satisfy oneself with the work and whoever might appreciate it, the process is about different challenges along the way to creating the work, which also gives satisfaction.

Do you believe that a highly creative person can give more than one art form 100% of their ability/soul (i.e., writing and painting, music and art, etc)? Can a person succeed at more than more, or does trying to do so dilute what they have to offer?

I don't believe that there are rules about this. I've seen some with many talents and others with few. Some people can be multi-talented, and some people can think they're multi-talented.

Do you believe some of the various attributes related to being highly creative have caused you aberrations in life, helped you deal with life's aberrations, or both?

Do you mean a curse? I don't know about that. We all have to deal with our own set of life and personal problems that come along--even those people considered talented or gifted.

As far as using your talent, I have seen super talented people waste themselves away on drugs and others just lose interest in what they were good at.

We've also seen people that used to be very talented writers and musicians become less talented or less productive over time, so who knows? Maybe it's all because of contributing factors like lifestyle, greed, or loss of ambition.

Have you had to deal with people in your life failing to understand your creative personality, interests, or drive? If so, can you tell us about it and how you've dealt with it?

I figured out a long time ago that not everyone gets everything or everybody, which also goes to personal tastes. In my case, there are many people that I don't show my art to because they just don't get it or care to get it--so I just leave it at that.

Unfortunately, many creative people never achieve the success they dream about. Which of your dreams have come to pass and what do you dream about now?

I worked in the film business in Hollywood for years and had some of the best times of my life, along with an amount of success in the industry with my art and designs. I've amassed a body of work that goes back to the 70's yet have only been focused on marketing myself for the last five years. So even though I've been producing art for decades, you could say that when it comes to selling and showing my work, I'm only just getting started.

Is there a difference between being creative and being talented? What are your thoughts on this?

Let's look at it this way, many people can enjoy being creative yet if one of them is far more talented, it is evident to all.

What is your primary motto or mantra in life? Why is this important to you?

Because of changing circumstances and aging, these things change over time. At one point you think certain things are so important or admirable, and years later they seem foolish or unimportant.

Today my business motto is, "Push ahead, stay vigilant and stay focused."

My creative motto has been, "Keep a clear enough mind to be able to make uninfluenced discovery and then follow your instincts."

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