Read Between the Lines of my FACE

My Path to Creative Mastery WEEK 9

Oh no! Is it true? That a woman disappears after 50 years old? I know so many powerful women over 50. Perhaps only I can see them?

The other night I got paralyzed by “the fear”.

Drawn by a very talented pre-schooler at the spring break camp I was teaching. This drawing depicts how I felt being surrounded by “the fear”.

Fear of failure. Fear of success. Fear of aging. Fear of not being good enough. Fear of having too many fears.

I can’t keep writing a weekly blog? Can I? What th’?

Look how grey my hair is getting.. Should I dye it? I have a grey pube! I have 2 grey pubes. Omg look at the lines around my eyes.. I can’t exercise that away.

I have a show to make by May 28th. Why am I making a show that so clearly shows where I came from? Is it too ugly? Am I too ugly?…

And I’m aging! It’s happening! Is that arthritis in my wrist? Am I soon going to disappear from the eyes of society?

Did I do the healthy things to move it on? Did I sit with the physical feeling? Did I write about it, or meditate?

No. I smoked, ate popcorn and binge watched netflix until I fell asleep with the computer on.

What a party.

Oh jeez. Did I just tell you that? Have I no shame? I have NO SHAME!

But I ask you please, Read between the lines in my face.

There it is. Evidence of life being well lived. The experience. The broken hearts. The disappointments. The lovers. The travels. The learnings. The risks. The dreams. The creations. The choices. The sex. The love.FACE. On a pretty good day.

I am but a teenager of my elder years. — I said that, Candice Roberts, and I just quoted myself.

It seems a woman who has lost her reproductive abilities is less attractive to the world? Is she less powerful? Is beauty power? But what is beauty?

Read between the lines. Beauty to me is movement, experience, story, love… the ability to see and be seen… beauty is being vulnerability, being creative, being risky, risque…

What is beauty to you?

I have been meeting some amazing women over 50. When I do, I am keen to know them. They are doing it. They are speaking out, making waves, shaking things up! They are making GOOD ART.

Women like Beth Harrington. She’s an independent producer, director and writer whose fervor for American history, music and culture has led to a series of award-winning and critically acclaimed films. (I took that from her bio.) She is so smart and spicy, I just love to be in her presence. Check out her projects, including the latest: The Musicianer.

And there is my dear friend Carlotta, who, by the way is over 70 and is teaching yoga and performing puppet shows. We have never met in person but are modern day pen-pals who share our hopes dreams and experiences with each other over email. She has a lot of wisdom she shares with me. She is lithe, fit, inspired and also strong minded and happy with who she is. She tells me that:

“Those getting old fears will actually LESSEN with age. Practice makes perfect, or perfect enough.”

Also, I will mention my friend Heather, whom I met at clown school. When I met Heather she was Regional Director for the Complex Mental Health and Addiction program in Vancouver.

She is passionate about working with marginalized populations and was Vancouver Coastal Health’s lead for the Downtown Eastside Health and Safety initiatives for 12 years. Heather knows the power of the integration of the arts in health.

She is a HUGE supporter of the arts and has personally given me huge opportunities to learn and grow around combining my mental health work with my arts practice. She is fun loving, fiery and opinionated. (yeah! go Heather!) She is a powerful woman and in her power she is learning to be vulnerable. Heather is huge inspiration to me.

Thank you Beth, Carlotta and Heather for forging ahead and doing what you love. It is so helpful to me.

Are you a woman over 50? Are you making art? Are you speaking up? Please drop me a line! I’d love to hear about what you are up to.

Oh right, this is my blog documenting my path of creative mastery through tap dance.

Well guess what world? I did 0 hours of tap dance this week. However, you may notice that my goal is around obtaining “creative mastery”, and not the tap dance itself. So here’s the deal. Sometimes you have to be easy on yourself. It’s ok, I’m not giving up.

I didn’t tap dance this week because I was teaching music and clown to preschoolers at a spring break camp 5 days in row. On top of this, I was practicing with The Assembly (an all women clown collective). We have a show MARCH 23rd and 24th! Come see it!THE ASSEMBLY!

I was also practicing with the Myrtle Family Band.

I was teaching kinder clown and physical theatre to kids. (Drop in for kinder clown is encouraged!) TUESDAYS at 3:30! Parents, let’s talk about the importance of self expression in Community and Mental Health!

I also co-produced the Dusty Flowerpot’s March Edition of Third Thursday Cabaret. Do you have an act you wish to perform? Go to the Dusty Flowerpot Cabaret website and sign up!My Sister Kat Single-Dain’s genius Disco Baby Piece. See the whole dance HERE.

Also, let us not forget the morning journaling, exercising, reading and writing. I do that. I guess I live a creative life. So there.

I always welcome feedback, comments and constructive criticism. Grammar, mistakes, inspirations, thoughts… bring it on.

Do you wish to be more creative in your life?

Let’s keep the creative energy moving. Feel free to message me:


5 Tips for Focusi…. Wait, I Need a Snack

My path to Creative Mastery WEEK 7

But seriously, how come when I have to catch up on emails, all of a sudden I need to clean the house? But when I have to clean the house, I neeeed to answer my emails first? How come when I get to the studio to practice, I need a coffee, to pee, to check Instagram and blog stats and then to pee again?

Whats this? Oh just Monday with the Myrtle Sisters!

This week I was going to level-up my practices by focusing on being more focused, but I seemed to have done the opposite. What the what? I even did a 24 hour social media fast. We as humans are very adaptable. It doesn’t take long to re-program those brain highways, but it seems that I rebel against my own self-pressure.

Hold the phone.

They say our smart phone use is like driving a reward machine. A dopamine mobile.

Dopamine is involved in all sorts of brain functions, including moving, thinking, sleeping, attention, mood, motivation, seeking and reward. Apparently dopamine causes the seeking of pleasure and the motivation to learn and survive.

Dopamine makes us curious of ideas and sparks our pursuit for information. We get a rush of dopamine that drives us to check our phones, and then we get rewarded with an email, or a “like”, or a “connection” with someone, and this makes us seek more.

Last week I found I had become rather addicted to checking the stats to see how many people were reading my articles. So I made a pact with an accountability partner that I would only look at it 3 times a day.

I was getting a RUSH from checking! But I get it now, it was the dopamine that made me do it!

Do you need to stop reading this and check your email? If you didn’t before, you might now that I mentioned it.

Distraction feels great.

David Rock, co-founder of the NeuroLeadership Institute and author of Your Brain at Work (HarperCollins, 2009), says that our brain’s reward circuit lights up when we multitask. We are getting an emotional high when we are doing a lot at once.

When multitasking is a normal part of life, our brains quickly adapt. Our society’s phone-checking habit is actually hindering our ability to focus as we are actually training our brains to be unfocused. David Rock says we should practice concentration by turning off all distractions and committing our attention to a single task. He says it’s like getting fit and building the muscle of being focused.

When do YOU pull out your phone? Line ups? Poop-time? Stop-lights? Bus stops? …Any waiting time? Oh.. I understand, you have emails to answer, this is business. You need to take care of your family.

It seems many people pull out their phones to fill up any moments of empty space that used to be used to talk with a stranger, observe our surroundings or simply think. Some people don’t like being left alone with their thoughts. I wasn’t talking about YOU. It’s the others that do that.

Sharon Begley author of “Can’t just stop” says that “By making us feel we are always connected to the world, [smartphones] alleviate the anxiety that otherwise floods into us from feeling alone and untethered.”

So, maybe our smartphones are being used as band-aids for feeling disconnected.

It always seems to come back to feeling connected. We just want to belong. I don’t know about you, but I sure need to feel seen, heard and understood.

I’m only speaking about myself here. Everyone has their own level of focus and their own set of challenges. I’ve been challenging myself to have an honest look at my negative patterns, and to break them.

In clown school we talk about the primal energies that are alerted in the unknown that is in the breaking of rhythms. That primal energy? Vitality, presence, alertness, awareness…

I’m breaking my own patterns of phone use.

Here are 5 tips I’ve found for increasing my focus:

  1. Hold the phone. No phone before bed. (Apparently it effects our ability to sleep deeply). I also do not open my phone first thing in the morning. This puts us into a reactionary state for the day instead being creative stewards of our own lives.
  2. Strategic journaling. Every morning I write down what I wish to do/accomplish for the day. I write down what I wish to accomplish before each training session. Clarity!
  3. Get enough sleep. I can’t talk straight when I’m tired. I’m already “neural A-typical” as it is and if I haven’t had enough sleep I am prone to wixing up my mords and saying 2 words at once. Like instead of wanting to pet/cuddle the cat.. I will peddle it.
  4. 24 hour social media fast. Do it! It feels good. And also, take off ALL notifications. YOU control your phone! No beeps, peeps, dings or dongs. I’m sorry, I don’t usually tell people what to do. Like a good non violent communicator, I shall invite you to do this.
  5. Meditation. Right now I commit to 15 minutes a day. How many 15 minutes-es does one waste in a day? I think it’s almost time for me to level that up a bit too.

Monday was off to a great start. I trained in tap, worked with the Myrtle Sister’s in preparation for our ARTSTARTS showcase and joined the Assembly to work on our clown-play.

Ideas Bobert and The Myrtle Sisters; in preparation for the ARTSTARTS showcase!

On tuesday I arrived at the studio to find that I forgot ONE tap shoe at home. Are you kidding me? FML.

So instead of training, I cleaned up my inbox. Meow.

Wednesday, Thursday, Friday I worked 8am to 8pm as a mental health support worker for people with mental health and addiction issues. That is 36 hours in 3 days, and I am at the moment I am still recovering. We were put on overdose alert for a particular client and carried around a syringe of narcan prepped and ready to go.

One of the reason’s I’ve been offering the Physical Theatre for Kids and the Kinder Clown classes is that I feel it is the preventative work that counter balances all of the years of harm reduction work I have done.

They say the opposite of addiction is connection. The clown work is seeped in connection and awareness skills. With the kids, we play in exploring creativity, emotions and their physical shapes. We play with sharing, eye contact and the different ways we can connect with an audience and each other.

This class was a highlight for me this week. Do you know a creative kid? Next series begins March 6th.

Kinder Clown!

There was a lot of emotional discharging this week. I know. That sounds gross, and it felt gross, but I did it. I don’t judge myself for it.

I was triggered when I felt that my safety wasn’t being considered by someone that is close to me. The situation itself seems like such an insignificant event, but a lot of grief came up in my body. Yup, grief. Feelings of insecurity, helplessness and fear of being abandoned.

I did the thing, I acknowledged the emotion, witnessed the physical sensations in my body, and imagined the opposite, and let go of the resistance to feeling the positive.

This week was hard, and I only managed to tap train for a total of 4 hours. It is what it is, I still did it! Only 9,451 hours to go!

F#*k you Fear, I love you.

My Path to Creative Mastery WEEK 6

This is #6 out of the 52 weeks I will document my efforts of tap-dancing my way to mastering the creative process. (And all of the micro-skills that go with it!)

Can we talk for a moment about fear?

It came up a number of times this week.

I got accepted into a clown festival for a show that doesn’t yet exist. To be ready in 3 months. I get naked in it. I expose my family roots. It’s edgy. It’s going to offend.

Here is the write-up I proposed:

Full of bold moves, masterful dance and hilarious wit, award winning comedy artist Candice Roberts hit’s the zeitgeist of our current cultural shift with her gender bending physical comedy. Sexy, stunning and uproariously funny, Get Lucky is a provocative take on the life of a simple “hoser’s” journey to becoming a better man.”

This is Larry. A character based on my upbringing.

It’s art! Ok? Not everyone is going to like it. But I think some people will love it. I also think some might hate it, and think I’m a complete weirdo.

Haha. I actually just laughed out loud. I’m writing in an Italian cafe full of old men speaking very loudly at each other in Italian. I am the only woman in here. I see a couple of card games happening and the occasional disapproving glance over to me. What is it? They must know that I’m writing about my weird show.

Did you notice that the write up says “full of masterful dance and hilarious wit”? Gulp. I see you there fear.

If there is one thing I’ve discovered of late is that fear is quite easy to encourage to move on.

Fear has a purpose. It’s purpose is to keep me safe. If I can take a moment to:

  1. assess the legitimate threats to my physical and emotional self
  2. acknowledge the fear without judgement
  3. surrender to the physical sensations in by body (by surrendering, I mean observing, witnessing, noticing.. what are the particular sensations?)

….then that’s all it really takes to move it on. Bye Bye fear, thanks for your concern of my safety!

Fear is a vital response to danger. Traumas or bad experiences can trigger a fear response. Taking a moment to assess, acknowledge, surrender and witness to the sensations can clear even the originating leftover trauma from the body. They say it is the fear of death that underlays all fears.

Am I afraid people will laugh at me? I’m a clown! Go ahead!

So maybe it is a fear people won’t understand me. That I will be misunderstood. That people won’t like me because of their misunderstanding. That I will be abandoned by my friends and loved ones. And because of this, I will die of depression.

See? Danger.

I might die if I make this new show.

This summer I presented a show that got a 0 star review. Who gets a 0 star review? (I must also tell you here that on the same day I also received a 4 star review from a MUCH more reputable source).

I did cry for a minute in the women’s bathroom but then was supported by a stranger who became my friend. (I support crying in public places!)

That 0 star review actually gave my show some buzz and I became somewhat of a legend (in my own mind at least), among my theatre peers. Ryan Gunther, fellow comedian and theatre person reviewed the review I got:

“Clearly, there is a subtext to this review that we, the fringe-going and review-reading public, are not privy to.

Either the performer, one of her characters, or the show itself, broke his heart, stole his significant other, or murdered his childhood dog.

There is no other reasonable explanation for how a comedy show could make someone this angry. Confused, sure. Uncomfortable, most definitely. But even Big Bang Theory (or Owen’s go-to reference-point for unfunny: SNL) doesn’t make people angry. It just doesn’t make them laugh.

This is the worst review I’ve ever read, and I’ve read some terrible reviews. It does none of the things a review is supposed to and several things it very much shouldn’t. Since the seal on zero stars has now been cracked, I’m giving this NEGATIVE INFINITY STARS.”

The point?

I didn’t die. In fact, my boyfriend didn’t leave me over this and I still have lots of friends. Lots and lots of friends.

F#$k you fear.

But wait, I actually love you. If you are not actually keeping me safe from a real immediate threat to myself or loved ones, then you must be telling me that I am ON TO SOMETHING. aha… I see what you are doing!

Ever since I became 100% in loving acceptance of who I am and where I am at by acknowledging and witnessing negative emotions as soon as they arise in my otherwise pretty clear body, dealing with fear has become easier.

I haven’t always felt this way. I did spend a good amount of time at the beginning of this year crying and meditating and acknowledging and sensing and witnessing and surrendering a lot of GRIEF in my body. I think that I have cleared out a lot of leftover trauma from my body. For now anyway.

I used to believe that I was born into a sad body. So not true.

Grief comes with a possessive quality, a fear of loss and a refusal to let go. It comes with insecurity, abandonment, and helplessness. It can be triggered by a loss of a belief system, a relationship or hope about ourselves. It comes with feelings of sadness, loneliness, regret, longing, heartbrokenness, anguish, disappointment.. And so on…

In my body, it felt like a squishing of my heart, a weight on my chest and a choking in my throat. I went into it. I separated the physical sensations from the triggering thoughts and experienced those physical sensations to the fullest of my capacity. I did this until the feelings lifted. And they did.

We’ll see what happens should another experience trigger some other monster emotion to rear up it’s ugly head. I actually welcome it.

F#@K you fear! I love you! Bring it on, I’m cleanin’ house!

Fear, comes with a quickened heart and a shortness of breath. It can be stimulating, electrifying and exciting but also it can come with feelings of panic, paralyzation, worries, paranoia, and anxiety. (and and and… )

I see you fear. I see you and I acknowledge you.

I said yes to the clown festival. I’m booking my flight. I hired my tap teacher to choreograph me a dance piece. I tried out some new material in a new to me venue. I’m joining an all female clown work/play group (if they’ll have me). I wrote another blog. I made another not so perfect tap video of me in my process of where I am at.

F@#k you fear, I love you. Every time you get in front of me I’m going to look at you clearly and without judgement until you step aside. Thank you.

This week I found 8 hours to dedicate to my tap training. (Though, I tell you, I really wanted to focus on my new show, but I set aside a different time for that.) I discovered “metronome” on google. I love you metronome. I am committed to mastering this creative process. Only 9,455 hours of deliberate training to go!

This piece was learned from a youtube tutorial. It is presented as an exercise in moves from Fred Astaire’s “Puttin’ on the Ritz”.


Gettin’ Gritty

My path to creative mastery WEEK 5

Captain’s log.

This is #5 out of the 52 weeks I will document my efforts of tap-dancing my way to mastering the creative process. (And all of the micro-skills that go with it!)

photo by Kristine Cofsky

The week was as creative as usual, but I also had more than a few moments of feeling overwhelmed. That darned 5 count riffle. Sooo close, but I just couldn’t nail it 10 for 10.

No crushing the 5 count riffle this week.

Instead of the usual feeling of inspiration by Fred Astaire and Ginger Roger videos, I felt discouraged. How will I ever get THAT good?

How am I going to keep consistent with this blog while I’m touring my theatre show and living out of my van this summer?

This was taken just outside of Spences Bridge in BC. En route home from the Edmonton Fringe Festival 2017.

How in the heck am I going to remain consistent with training? Tap on the side of the road? Tap on a rock by the river? My friend Steph said; “Well there will be tap-dancing in your show, right?” Right.

Come back to the task at hand Candy.

I spent hours over the course of this week in that uncomfortable state of deliberate practice. That sensation of always being just a little bit behind. I know, I know… It’s about getting comfortable in being uncomfortable. Isn’t that what I’m always preaching in the clown work? Learning to find comfort with vulnerability, with the unknown, with failure.

I’m working hard. My head is down my feet are shuffling. Shuffling shuffling.. A one and a two and a riffle, brush, step-toe-heel. Faster. Clearer, Don’t make that concentration face. Why are your arms flopping about?

You know what though? I got grit.

(not that kind of grit)

Grit-guru Angela Duckworth calls it “A firmness of character; an indomitable spirit”.

Yes ma’am.

Grit is described as a non-cognitive character trait that drives one to endure. It holds within it the motivation to overcome the obstacles or challenges that lie in the path to accomplishment. It’s perseverance, tenacity, stick-to-itiveness, determination, resolution and resilience in relation to long term goals.

Resilience is said to be a dynamic combination of optimism, creativity and accomplishment. In their book; Resilience: Why Things Bounce Back –by Andrew Zolli and Ann Marie Healy, they say that grit or “hardiness” is composed of 3 tenants:

  • the belief one can find meaningful purpose in life (I do!)
  • the belief that one can influence one’s surroundings and the outcome of events (I do!)
  • the belief that positive and negative experiences will lead to learning and growth (I do)

It’s official, girl’s got grit!

“everything will be alright in the end, and if it is not alright, it is not the end.” – another one of those quotable quotes made famous by a famous person but probably came from some ancient proverb from some old country.

The supremely Gritty embrace failure as part of a process along with the vulnerability that comes with it. The Gritty don’t seek perfection, but instead strive for excellence. Excellence is an attitude. It is an approach, a means and not the end itself. It is seeking, striving, finding, and never yielding.

“Better to be prolific than perfect” (doesn’t that feel relaxing?)

.. although this seems pretty perfect.. Wow!

Here are 4 insights I received in this 5th week of my process.

1. Rest

It’s important to have conscious and intentional rest periods. It is the integration period. I need to stretch properly and care for my body. And also dang it, my body was so sore. My right hip and quadricep were aching and worrying me. What if I have to give up because fear makes me injure and sabotage myself? I acknowledged that fearful thought. Experienced it as a sensation in my body and let it move on.

2. Don’t think about everything at once 

Just focus on the task at hand. This week I started a plan of writing down the specifics of what I would work on before each training session. I even did this at night in preparation for the next day.

3. Acknowledge the Successes

I had figured I could learn the 5 count riffle in one session. As it turns out, after a week, I still couldn’t clearly execute it. Maybe next week.

Instead of wallowing in the failure that I didn’t master that one technique, I gave myself a different challenging combination to work on. A victory. I think those victories are important.

I read somewhere this week to try acknowledging 3 successful events of each day. Here is today:

  • I started writing a new clown piece for one of my characters. (And just found out a proposal for this new show was accepted into a festival! Gah…fear acknowledged. I can do this!)
  • I went to a clown conditioning session with my professional peers even though I felt resistant. That was very SMART of me. Why wouldn’t I want to meet up with some of my favourite people and through group playing, explore the intricacies of what it is to be present and engaged with an audience (each other)? Basically it’s a laughing class. Loosen up the diaphragm people!
  • I started and will finish this article, even though for some reason I really wanted to distract myself by working on something else, anything else.

4. Having a Morning Routine pays off

Winnie has a morning routine that lasts all day.

I am dedicated to this. I vowed to do this EVERY SINGLE day of February. My morning routine is simple and doesn’t have to take a long time. It consists of 3 commitments:

  • Meditation- Basic of basic meditations. 15 minutes of no thinking. If I am experiencing negative emotions then I acknowledge, witness and release them. If I notice I’m thinking, I acknowledge, witness and release. That’s it.
  • 50 squats, and 50 core strengthening exercises. (Before coffee. No self help article in the world can make me give up coffee. Coffee is my friend and we will be together until we aren’t.)
  • Strategic journaling- I journal for about 15 minutes. This involves recalling any dreams, writing about big picture goals and dreams, recording any insights or thoughts or events that felt significant and then looking at the day ahead and what I want to accomplish.

I used to spend so much time processing in my journal and writing down all of the terrible and uncomfortable emotions I was in the throes of. I recently found that this wasn’t helpful to me anymore. I wasn’t actually “letting go” of what was being triggered in me, but only stirring up the distressing feelings and empowering the crazy-making.

I’ve found that the best way to let go of a negative emotion triggered by a thought or action is to simply:

  1. Acknowledge the negative emotion
  2. Separate the thought from the physical sensations
  3. Observe the physical sensation
  4. Imagine what the opposite of this negative emotion might be
  5. Acknowledge a willingness to let go of the resistance to feeling that positive emotion

I learned this technique from a book called “Letting Go, The Pathway of Surrender” by David R. Hawkins. This book was revolutionary to me.

There has been an aspect to my “love” relationship that was causing me a lot of grief, anger and fear. My partner’s actions, though causing me no direct harm, were triggering a lot of uncomfortable sensations in my body.

I discovered that these negative and uncomfortable emotions where ALREADY in my body, left from childhood trauma and past hurts. It is present day situations that can trigger these sensations to rise to the surface.

By following this “letting go” technique, I was able to clear this stored negative emotion from my body. Not to say that there won’t be any more pain found from future triggers, but I am ready and willing to witness and relinquish them.

This weeks 8 hours of deliberate practice brings me down to 9,464 hours to go! (In case you haven’t read any of my other blogs, I’ll say here, that I have a positive expectation that I will reach a level of excellence that does not take 10,000 hours. But for now, It’s a ridiculous and fun countdown. Perhaps next week I’ll share some of the mastery hacks I’ve been learning.)

Here is to week 5!


Approaching Greatness

My path to Creative Mastery; WEEK 4

Approach: ap•proach (əˈprōCH/) – noun way, means of arriving; method, procedure, technique, modus operandi, MO, style, way, manner; strategy, tactic, system, means

Greatness: great•ness (ˈɡrātnəs) noun what one arrives at with the right approach.

On this path of creative mastery, I am discovering that it is all in the approach.

‘Tain’t What You Do, Its the WAY That You do it!”

My name is Candice Roberts. I am a 5th generation Canadian settler and a Performing Artist located on unceded Coast Salish Territories also known as Vancouver, BC. This is week 4, out of the 52 weeks that I will document my path of creative mastery through the process of tap dancing.

Why tap dance? I spoke about this in Week 2, but in a nutshell, it happens to be one of my rare and valuable skills. It just is.

Can I serve the world through tap dancing? The answer is yes, but you must understand that it is through the side-effects and not the actual act of tap dancing itself.

The commitment to a goal such as this builds my self worth which feeds my excitement for life, which has me living with a greater sense of satisfaction and purpose which in turn has me connecting more openly and meaningfully with myself, my environment and with community. I can give more, share more, and be more present.

Perhaps you’ve always wanted to tap-dance or “insert creative act” yourself? By the end of these 52 weeks, I aim to be well on my way in being an expert of the creative process and I’d love to support you in being more creative in the ways that are important to you.

The suffix “ology” is common in the english language to denote the study of a subject, often the science of something, but sometimes it is the “art of” as well. Isn’t it? What about “the art of” study itself?

I like to think in these terms. The art of learning, mastering, cooking, dressing, loving, thinking. Is it the “spirit” of the approach? Can it be named? I’m curious about the ways in which we can creatively approach our goals and dreams.


This here is Loretta of “Lunch Lesson’s with Loretta”. She is a suppressed, repressed and transparently depressed motivational coach that teaches lessons from her own closet on “How to Love Yourself”. She instructs, that an affirmation is something you tell yourself over and over until it’s true. “I am so happy!” she says with a concentrated smile and sad eyes. Oh, she tries so hard to be.

Loretta is a character created and played by myself that speaks to my own experience with self-healing and self-help. I bring her up here, because she is a part of the process of changing my psychology to “be” the kind of person worthy of greatness.

Through her I play with the tropes of new age healing and self-help culture because I have sincerely self-helped myself right off of the slippery slopes to doldrums and worthlessness. This is transformation through clown. Charlie Chaplin was quoted with saying:

To truly laugh, you must be able to take your pain, and play with it.

So, what about the approach to motivation? I’ve made a public commitment, so dang it, I need to maintain a continual surge of drive!

Here are 3 key insights I’ve discovered so far in the art of sustaining motivation.

1. Intrinsic Motivation

Daniel Pink, an author of books about work, management, and behavioral science speaks to this approach of intrinsic motivation.

It is “…the desire to do things because they matter, because we like it, they’re interesting, or part of something important.”

In his TED talk “The Puzzle of Motivation” he goes on to talk about intrinsic motivation which the internet tells me “refers to a behaviour that is driven by internal rewards”.

Mr. Pink’s talk is mainly about creating environments in the workplace that produces a self driven model of behaviour where team members have their own intrinsic drive and curiosity for the work that needs to happen. I found this all very interesting, inspiring and relatable to my own creative process.

In exploring my own personal motivations for obtaining mastery of the creative process, I did a great writing exercise I found in an article by motivational psychologist Benjamin Hardy. The goal of this exercise is to find clarity and get you “operating from your deepest conviction”.

“if you can get to the core of WHY you’re doing what you’re doing, you can then realize just how important that thing is to you…. Clarity leads to motivation.”- Benjamin Hardy

The exercise: You ask yourself “What is it about __________ that is important to me?” You answer with the first thing that comes to mind and then you ask again; “What is it about (your new answer) that is important to me?”You do this at least 7 times and get to the root.

It is a very interesting process. I found that tap dancing is very meaningful to me, and in the end, everything I tested this on came down to the roots of LOVE and feeling connected.

2. Craftsperson Mindset

This is a mindset that focuses on the quality of what you are offering the world. It is a focus on building the “rare and valuable” skills that interest you, or that you already have a leverage on.

I read about this in a book about the “quest for finding the work you love” by Cal Newport. The title of Cal’s book is taken from a Steve Martin quote, which indeed is another approach: Be So Good They Can’t Ignore You.

The Craftsperson Mindset is about putting your head down and focusing on becoming of value, it is about finding satisfaction in the development of your skill.

I’ll also mention the honouring of the process. Loving and accepting where we are at and what we are doing for the pure joy of it. Also, a mindset for EVERYTHING! My head is down, my feet are shuffling, 5 count riffle… you are mine this week!

How You Do Anything Is How You Do Everything- who the heck said that anyway? So many people quote that~

I listened to a great podcast episode presented by Freakonomics called “How to Become Great at Just About Anything”. There was a wonderful story in there about a woman researcher who had a dream to become a great singer. She shared her process of deliberate practice through recordings and her transformation is incredible.

Which brings us to;

3. Deliberate Practice

Deliberate practice is about stretching a little further than where you are comfortable. For me, each practice session is about mastering bite size rhythm combinations and new techniques, such as, ahem, the 5 count riffle.

I have been having fun with tracking and creatively documenting my hours of deliberate practice. This approach is NOT about mindless repetition or punching in practice hours, but requires focused energy and rigorous skills assessment.

Deliberate practice also suggests the importance of having a mentor or teacher. I take a class at the Rhythm Room twice a week and am looking into funding support options to work with Jennifer Bishop more intensively.

When working alone, I have found that in filming myself I am able to have immediate reflection and assessment as an outside eye. This week I have discovered Tap Tutorials on Youtube such as Masters of American Tap and Operation Tap. Being that I already have a fundamental level of skill these youtube tutorials are incredible. Free training with masters!

With so much inspiration, one must remember to exhale!- paraphrased from my clown teacher David MacMurry-Smith

This week was remarkably creative, full of insights, discoveries and choices. Here is what I am doing; directing my own life, getting better at the things that matter and learning where I can be of service.

This week’s deliberate practice chalked in at 8 hours, which brings me down to 9,472 hours left to mastery! (By way, this 10,000 hour thing? It’s a game for me. There IS a Mastery Hack.. Ha!) James Altucher says there are Seven Steps to Learn and Master Anything As Quickly As Possible.

This is great news because according to the math, at the rate I am going, it would take 16 years to reach mastery. Respect for the process and all that, but I ain’t getting any younger. James says that sharing the knowledge is worth thousands of hours itself….. so,

Haven’t you always wanted to tap dance? Get at me!

I love my family… The Myrtle Family Band!
Creative for Life- Physical Theatre for Kids!

Mastery for Beginners; WEEK 3

Creativity 101

This has been a remarkable week. It is truly a creative life. This weeks process report is dedicated to the creative people of the world. If the saying is true, and “you are who you surround yourself with”, then I must but be a creative genius. I am a summation of my community, and I am thankful for you!

What is creativity?

Some folks define it as simply being able to come up with something new while others add that it is the act of connecting different and seemingly unrelated ideas. Like say, using a spatula to scrape the ice off your car window. How creative! What about making a skirt out of tin cans that is also an instrument? How creative! I’m seeing connections here between those seemingly unrelated phenomena. What about the ability to perceive the word in new ways? Or to notice patterns and recognize the vast possibilities for alternate outcomes? I really like the idea of creative communication. What are ways we express our thoughts and feelings that aren’t just with words? 

There are many thoughts swirling around about career development, deliberate practice, the creative process, my creative friends, new ideas, clowning and my tap dance process to creative mastery. Each of these subjects deserves it’s own article to itself, but this week I am touching in with a little taste of each. Here is a peek into a creative week.


Monday’s are for Myrtles. We gather in the living room of the “nearly nahormal Nanaimo house” and we make music. There is usually at least one baby, and there are always a lot of laughs. This week, we worked on 2 new songs. Sisters written by Irving Berlin in 1954 and Doing the Jive, a 1938 song composed by Glenn Miller and pianist Chummy MacGregor. Our dear Uncle Archie (who is ACTUALLY award winning, platinum record making musician Steven Drake) helps me figure out interesting jazz chords for my baritone uke.

Here we have Bort (Paul Hendriks) on washtub, Uncle Archie on a tenor guitar, myself on Baritone Uke and that there is Gladys (Kat Single-Dain) and Edna (Nayana Fielkov) dancing together with that wonderful sunshine streaming through the windows. We live in Vancouver BC, and being January, it’s totally normal to rain for 7, 8, 9 or 28 days in a row, so that sunshine in itself was an uplifting treat. You can hear the Kat’s lil’ 6 month ol’ guy Taylor Fox making sounds in the back ground.

Speaking of creativity, both Kat and Nonny are incredibly creative. Just look at this video of live performance that Kat made with Taylor. You might want to watch it a few, or several times. Brilliant.


Tuesday started with a tap class at the Rhythm Room and then a 3 hour clown conditioning session at the Dusty Flowershop studio with my professional clown peers. What the heck is clown conditioning? Oh you know, just your everyday lightening up, and building presence, awareness and performance ideas through group playing, games, exercises and feedback from the team. I tried out a new turn for “Larry”, a character I’ve developed based on my dad and brother. By the way, the term “turn” basically means an “act” and I’ve heard it comes from the times when a clown would take a “turn” around the circus ring. Clowning has become a big part of my life, and I will say as I always say; you (probably) won’t ever see me in a red nose, I don’t know how to juggle, and I definitely won’t be found standing in a sewer drain so just wipe that clown connotation out of your mind right now.

Here is one of my favorite clowns:

Next came the Physical Theatre for Kids class that I facilitate for a group of 7 and 8 year olds. Just wonderful. And I’m gathering skills too. Like the fine balance of fun, focus and craziness. Hooha! We played with “sadness” in this session. The kids have all been getting really good at sharing eye contact within their “performance”, but when it came to sadness, their eyes would often avert from the audience. It’s a vulnerable space to be in, even while “pretending”. That is a curiosity that I’d like to explore some more. The learning of how to be comfortable sharing when one perhaps isn’t comfortable. It’s ok to be sad. It’s ok to be really sad, acknowledging feelings and letting them be is the way for them to move on. Let’s make more space in the world where it is safe to feel those uncomfortable emotions like sadness, anger and fear.

Aaaaand… After that, it was off to “Clown Extensions” with my beloved clown mentor/teacher David MacMurray Smith. Stay tuned, this will get it’s own article soon enough.


I have been engaged in a 5 day professional development “Integration Learning Lab” for Performing Artists presented by ARTSTARTS. We have spent the last 5 days exploring the creative possibilities of how we as professional artists can collaborate, “cross-pollinate” and integrate our art practices within the BC school system. Not only are we learning how to link our arts workshop and performance ideas to the school curriculum, but also, how to articulate our project’s purpose and outcomes as well as the ways in which art enriches the learning process. Gloriously, this wonderful experience is free for the artists who were selected through an application process thanks to the generous support of the BC Arts Council.

The project I have been developing is an Artist in Residency program where I will facilitate a class of grade 4 students in creating, producing and presenting a physical theatre show that explores the connection between mental health and community. Through the process of weekly workshops I will guide the students in a hands on, collaborative approach to story creation, character development, and the different artistic modalities we can use to express ourselves. All of this within the theme of Mental Health and Community. The idea of a project such as this has a purpose of building and developing the core competencies in creative communication, creative thinking and positive personal and social identity.

It’s a creative life. So creative that I was only able to get to one tap class this week and into the studio to tap for 3hours this week. Thanks again to Jennifer Bishop of the Rhythm Room for her expert tap and choreography skills. So, with these 4 hours, I’m only 9,480 hours of practice away from mastery! (wink! wink!)

Here’s to week 3~

Mastery for Beginners- Week 2

Tap Dancing My Way to Success!

How am I going to better the world with tap dancing?  What kind of employment is tap dancing going to give me? I am going to stop here for a moment and acknowledge my privilege. Privilege to live in a state of being where I can focus on mastering tap dance and not where I am fighting for my life.

So why tap dancing?

You know what? It’s not really about the tap dancing. What I am actually interesting in mastering is the CREATIVE PROCESS. I have chosen tap dancing because I’m already good at it, and who do you know that tap dances? If I had a dollar for every time someone has said to me “I’ve always wanted to tap dance”, I would be rich!

I’m mastering the creative process of tap dancing because it is serving a desire and need in me to build my confidence and connect in a deeper and more meaningful way with community. Does that mean I’m going to tap dance around the supermarket connecting with people? As much as I LOVE that image, (and don’t be surprised if I end up doing that), the connection part comes more as a side effect. The commitment to a goal such as this builds my self worth which feeds my excitement for life, which has me living with a greater sense of satisfaction and purpose which in turn has me connecting more openly and meaningfully with myself, my environment and with community. I can give more, share more, and be more present.

“You’re happiest when you’re growing and giving. When you’ve become dedicated to something bigger than yourself….You can only have this type of work by developing mastery, investing in others, and being a giver.” – Cal Newport (So Good They Can’t Ignore you)

In mastering the creative process of tap dancing I am also stimulating my ability to think creatively and connect seemingly random dots that will lead me to new ideas that will serve the world and make me millions. 😉

I am tap dancing my way to success. (ha! Take that!)

This past Monday morning I had an idea to “reach out” to a relevant organization to offer an engaging, informative and entertaining presentation that shares my experience of bridging the 15 years of front-lines mental health work of the downtown eastside with the “preventative” or “recovery” creative work I do through community building through the arts. This keynote address, or large scale workshop would draw upon my performance, shadow puppetry and physical comedy skills to facilitate an interactive  brainstorm about everyday creativity and the importance of inclusion, diversity and connection with ourselves and others. We will collectively re-imagine; what IS mental health?

At tap class that very same night another tap student said to me; I work for the school board and we are having a “Mental Health Symposium”, would you be interested in offering your skills?

There it is, tap dancing my way to success.

So, where did this “new” burning desire to master the creative process come from? Suddenly,

“Good enough was no longer good enough.”  – (I said that!) Candice Roberts.

As part of a self-development course I am participating called 52 week of momentum I am learning how to create and sustain motivation. The course is designed and facilitated by Benjamin P. Hardy and it’s really wonderful to see the ways in which the techniques meet the diverse needs and goals of all of the participants. Here are three key insights from Benjamin that stood out to me immediately and relate to my path of mastery.

1. Confidence comes from action. (Not the other way around.)

Throughout my life I have often been challenged by lack of confidence and self worth. I would ask myself why is this? I have a lot going for myself I have so much potential. I have lots of friends and people like me. They believe in me.   

Why don’t I believe in myself?

I discovered years ago the importance of following through with my word to others, but I now realize that I didn’t feel the same importance when it came to following through on my own word.

This is really terrible and another subject altogether about the conditioning of young girls and their body image, but at age 10, I started being concerned with my weight. Everyday I would say, “Tomorrow I am going to start a diet”, and then I proceed to “binge” or “overeat” whatever I could get my hands on. I did that for about 25 years. Thousands and thousands of broken promises to myself. Not just with the lack of “control” around food, but I also broke promises of not getting up early the next day, or not going to that class, or not doing what I told myself I was going to do. NO WONDER I DIDN’T BELIEVE IN MYSELF!

2. Identity follows behaviour. (Again, not the other way around!)

In October 2017, after reading an article I stumbled upon by online, I decided I would build my confidence by doing what I say I’m going to do and I started a regime of jumping out of bed to do 28 squats. BEFORE COFFEE!!! By November that turned into 50 squats and 50 core strengthening exercises, in both the am and pm of everyday. It has now been 100 days in a row! This dedication has shown me that I CAN do what I say. It has inspired me to participate in this 52 Days of Moment course,  it has inspired this personal challenge of mastery, It has inspired me to take bold steps.

3. Action creates inspiration. (Surprise, surprise not the other way around!)

What is inspiration without action? Just a bunch of lofty dreams. Within the 3 weeks of this course I have been doing the journal work, I have cut down facebook/social media by 80%, I am reading books, meditating and clarifying my goals and paying attention to the insights that give me the “next steps”. I am making bold moves which in turn is spawning more ideas. When I had the idea of the “keynote” presentation; I acted on it immediately and was given an opportunity the very same day.

“If you want more creativity, you simply need to do more creative work. You battle the resistance and get to work. Then, creativity becomes non-stop”- Benjamin Hardy

I am tap dancing my way to success.

Yes, back to the tap dance. This week I trained a total of 8 hours which includes 3 classes I took at the Rhythm Room in Vancouver, BC, founded and operated by the very skillful tap dancer and teacher Jennifer Bishop. I love the interesting rhythms she writes as well as the style in which she teaches. This week I learned a form of a “slide” that I know is going to expand and develop as a favourite move for me. I have discovered an importance as well as a profound appreciation of having a mentor or teacher. When I invest in a one hour class, it turns into hours of material for “deliberate” practice.

“Deliberate practice refers to a special type of practice that is purposeful and systematic. While regular practice might include mindless repetitions, deliberate practice requires focused attention and is conducted with the specific goal of improving performance” – James Clear (The Beginner’s Guide to Deliberate Practice)

This weeks video was even harder to commit to than last weeks. The piece (as written by Jennifer Bishop) has a lot more full body physicality and I wanted to capture that. Now that this has come to my attention, there will be much more to be aware of in class and practice. There are arms to consider (why are they flopping around?), facial expression (is that a concentration face?), posture as WELL as precise tap tones. Instead of writing a disclaimer about what’s “lacking” I’m going to honour the process:

I am 100% in lovingly acceptance of who I am and where I am at in this exact moment.

8 hours this week brings me to 9,484 hours left to mastery. (Wink wink, I know that this journey of mastery is really about the process, but the numbers are a fun game, and a quantifiable goal!)

Here is to week 2!

Mastery for Beginners: WEEK 1

Let’s face it. We’re not getting any younger. The time has come to go big or go home. James C. Collin’s author of Good to Great says: “Good is the enemy of great”….”Few people attain great lives, in large part because it is just so easy to settle for a good life.”  I’ll be honest and tell you that I haven’t actually read the book, but I saw the quote in an article I ready by Benjamin Hardy . It REALLY resonated with me. People often tell me how “talented” I am. I do accept that I am “good” at a lot of skills, however it is now time for me to choose one or two things and get great. So what is it going to be?  

Through some deep investigation into the “WHY” I do what I do, I have found that tap dancing is something that keeps coming back.  I use it in all of my theatre shows and as connection tool in creativity education. It fires up my spirit, which feeds my self confidence and self worth, which has me living with greater purpose, which opens me up to connecting deeper with friends and family, which has me feeling seen, heard and understood. So yeah, super important for me to be tap dancing. Who knew? At the moment my ability is on the edge of great so I’m taking it beyond.

What does Mastery look like? It has been said that mastery is gaining a high level of proficiency and depth of understanding in a discipline. To me it is instant execution from thought or intention to action that includes an interesting and original style. Or as my friend Jesse says in relation to music (and I’m paraphrasing); “An ease in getting what is inside of me, outside of me”. So for tap dancing, it is hearing the rhythm and simultaneously creating it with my feet and body in a unique way. I aim to be highly proficient at tap dance improvising, at creating interesting choreography, at developing character and feeling through movement and rhythm. That’s what I’m doing. 

They say the road to mastery is a lonely road, but does that have to be so? Sure there is a lot of time dedicated to practice, but this week alone I participated in 2 group classes which were fun and social. I spent 2 hours this week teaching what I’ve learned to the Myrtle Sisters and that is always so full of laughs. Next week I begin a contemporary class that will also feed into the interesting ways I can move my body to accompany the rhythms.  All of that is a lot less lonely than Netflix and facebook.  Not to mention, the part where all of this feeds my self worth, which feeds my ability and desire to connect more deeply with other humans. Having said all of that I do understand that there are times when the priority to practice may be chosen over spending time with a loved one, and that may feel lonely. Will it be worth it? I don’t know, but I can only imagine that a greater sense of self satisfaction will bring about a higher quality of presence when I am with my friends and family.

So here is where I tip my hat to the process. FULL RESPECT to the process! Do you know how hard it was for me to film this little video? “NOT READY!!!!!” says that voice. (You know that voice right?) I need to be a little better first. Wait… a little MORE better. But mastery begins NOW. This is my process. This is where I am at RIGHT NOW.

I am 100% in loving acceptance of who I am and where I am at in this exact moment.

In his book Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, he claims that it takes an average of 10,000 hours of dedicated practice to reach mastery. In low balling the amount of time I have thus far put towards building a foundation of tap, I think that I am at about 500 hours. That includes 5 years of teenage weekly classes and as an adult, I’m sure I’ve put forward a couple hundred hours developing material for my tap and uke class as well as creation time for the Myrtle Family Band. This week, on my path to mastery I have put in 8 hours. Only 9,492 hours to go!

Here is to week 1.