Kick Off Your Boots and Save The Cat

I read a lot. Usually a strange mix of things, like eating a spoonful of mac and cheese, followed by a nip of jellied cranberry, then a slight detour nip of buttered roll and a gulp of water to wash it all down. I can quickly move from reading a section of a book, reading a blog piece, watching a video, and then landing back to read an online magazine article. This is how I spend my spare moments, engaging in this process of nip tucking pollackian conjuring is the fuel that stokes my creative processes.

As you know I am a writer (, visual artist (, and musician, you can find my one solo song on iTunes and CD Baby, so my mind often moves from written word to visual imagery to sounds very quickly. It has taken me quite some time to accept my form of creative expression. I feel like an oddball, and have spent a lot of my life hiding or minimizing whatever talent I might have…partly because of when I was born in 1959; where talent is alright but blending in was better, and the other part has to do with how I internalized racism and more than likely internalized homonegativity.

I want to connect with other artists like me, I know instinctively that I am not alone, and hope that this writing will help many of us to come out of the closet of awkwardness that we are sometimes placed in. You know being called “Jacks (and Jills) of all trade and master of none,” and other supportive but sometimes perceived as slighted compliments, “No one can be good in everything” or my favorite, “How do you do so many different things?”

Since the reading is all on my plate, so to speak, the bites make sense to me. This morning I dived into a piece of “Save the Cat” by Blake Snyder, read the bio of Wyatt Mason, whom I found as the writer of a GQ article on Kehinde Wiley who is represented by Sean Kelly Art gallery in New York.

Let me back track a little, all of this was preceded by a phone conversation with my business partner, American Express. Well not really a business partner per se, but the Amex worker and I were making “business” arrangements so that my account would stay in good standing. Somehow we got to talking about our divorces, she to her former husband of 18 years, and myself having been married for 8 years to a woman –but feeling really good because my second marriage has now lasted for 22 years and counting –with a man. I got to Wyatt Mason because Sean Kelly gallery sent me a mass email letting me know that one of their other artist was knighted, Anthony Gormley. Mr. Gormley is a sculpture whose work is abstract yet oddly understandable.

Anyway, Wyatt leads me to a Spanish writer, Javier Marías, that I never heard of–so I find a review of his book, Infatuation written by Edward St. Aubyn. I take a bite of this review and then check out what other readers are reading on the online, New York Times, and one of them is “A Speck in the Sea” written by Paul Tough (nice name, right?)…which explores a lobster fisherman who gets into real trouble in high seas off the coast of Long Island…I stop reading the story, because of this powerful sentence, which then leads me back to you my blog reader:

“The first thing you’re supposed to do, if you’re a fisherman and you fall in the ocean, is to kick off your boots. They’re dead weight that will pull you down.”

I like this line because it reminds me that the things that we have with us on our survival journeys are the things that we have to get rid of in order to survive. Living a creative life is about holding on and then letting go. The creative process involves forms of birth, life, and death, and then rebirth.

Save the Cat is the title of the screenwriting book, where Blake tells us the nitty gritty and art behind crafting a good screenplay. Sadly, Mr. Snyder died unexpectedly in 2009, and his book is a soliloquy of love to all writers and creative souls who love what they do, who have passion but sometimes need help putting it all together in a cohesive way. Save the cat refers to the concept that every character, good or bad, must or should have some good redeeming quality. In other words, no character should be so despicable as not to show that he or she is humane, that they will stop what they are doing and save the cat. The cat may have nothing to do with the overall plot line but it shows us the reader/viewer that the person is human.

In my mind these thoughts intertwine; Kick Off Your Boots (sometimes you have to lose things that you think you need in order to survive) and Save the Cat (never forget that within each of us lies a human miracle, the ability to care for another species or person with great compassion). Not sure if these two thoughts fit together like hand and glove but they make an interesting dual thought for you to ponder as you continue to grow, love, and learn.

Being the creative person that I am means that I believe in the ability of the mind to hold more than one thought or feeling at a time.

8 Comments Add yours

  1. pheralyn says:

    Hi Brian,
    I just found you by way of your comment on Steven Pressfield’s blog. So far scrolling through your blog, I am loving your creative expression and look forward to delving further into your online offerings. Thanks for sharing. You give me inspiration, because I too am an artist with several different leanings. I navigate from my base as a writer (writing across the board from technical to creative), and spread out to acting, spoken word, film making, visual art as a collagist and landscape photographer. Sometimes a single hour can find me in the mix of alternating among three or more of these activities. And to me this feels “normal.”


    1. brianlragsdale says:

      Hi Pheralyn,

      Thank you for this wonderful comment on my work. I also think that my creative process comes from watching my mother, who was divorced, left a really bad marriage with two small boys in 1968 …and watching her problem solve across wide social domains. In my heart I honor creative folks, particularly those women of color who showed me how to create, build, and maximize. And this does not mean that I haven’t learned from others because I have. I will check out your blog and look forward to building our connection. Thanks again for affirming our normal process….see you at the Oscars, Tony, Emmy or even the virtual blog water cooler. You have made my day. Peace and blessings, Brian


      1. pheralyn says:

        Thanks for your response, Brian. Happy to pay forward the richly deserved compliments about your creative (and intellectual) work.


      2. brianlragsdale says:

        Thank you pheralyn…thank you…Hope you have a great weekend….we finally got a batch of warm days in Nh and then more snow. I love snow..probably because I was born on Dec 10th. I always feel like I am coming out, when I say I love the fluffy stuff.


  2. Ty Wilson says:

    Interesting musings……what’s the title/link to your song on iTunes?


    1. brianlragsdale says:

      This Embrace…sorry about that…thanks for the reminder.


  3. Mark Hoffman says:

    Nip Tucking Pollackian Conjuring – sounds great to me. Got a chuckle from the description of your business partner!

    Keep on writing, dreaming, and of course, reading!



    1. brianlragsdale says:

      Thanks, it is always nice to hear from “me”…too cute, you little devil you. I also mentioned you in there too!


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