A call for creativity: Interview with Andrew Zahn.
by Todd Foley
The Oxford Dictionary defines “creative” as “of or involving the skillful and imaginative use of something to produce e.g. a work of art.” This is often thought of as limited to the realm of art. Thankfully, our world is blessed with individuals who strive to implement their creativity into everyday life.
Several months back, Twitter kindly suggested that I follow Andrew Zahn, an actor-turned-businessman who blogs at Zahndrew.com. He describes his site – aptly titled Creatives – as a “highway for creative growth by providing food, water, and shelter for those wishing to live, work, and play with creative zest.”
Andrew lives with his wife in Pennsylvania, where he currently uses his creativity as a corporate sales trainer for a multi-million dollar company.
I’ve become a big fan of Andrew’s witty and insightful work and am honored to share some of his story.
You can find him on Twitter @zandrew.
Todd: You play many roles – actor, blogger, businessman and husband. How would you describe your core identity? What makes Andrew “Andrew”?
Andrew: My core identity is creativity. I feel it’s a common bond between all the roles and a chord that gives me a “through line” and helps me to not feel so bifurcated. The days are varied and I love that. At any given moment I could be training sales reps, rehearsing a play, going on sales calls, writing a commercial, editing a training manual, or performing. I believe by being creative in all venues, I can bring change to the world in big and small ways.
Todd: On your first blog post (the earliest I could find in your archives), you wrote about the struggle of using your creativity – “Why do I have the abilities I have if I’m not supposed to use them… somehow” – as a means of earning a living and transitioning into an unknown life chapter. Fast forward nearly five years later, where you have an established online platform as a creative. How does your present-day life compare with what you wrote about in that initial post in 2007?
Andrew: Wow. I had to go back and read that one . . . you’re quite the sleuth Todd! Since that post, I’ve reframed my definition of creativity and, to some extent, the word ‘work.’ Creativity doesn’t always involve a stage, makeup, actors, and lights. It doesn’t always involve paint, brushes, and canvases. Since that post in 2007, my belief-framing increased from “creativity is art and art alone” to the view that creativity is life. Creativity is doing anything in a way that gives sight to someone’s blind spot.
Todd: You describe yourself as an actor who has worked on many “stages.” What “stage” has been the most definitive on your development as a creative individual?
Andrew: Our lives are recipes aren’t they? A dash of this, a dollop of that, baked over the course of years and years and voila, we have an individual! Pondering this question made me realize that every facet of who I am as a creative is equally as important as another. Back to the baking example . . . What would bread be without flour? What would ice cream be without sugar? I wouldn’t be who I am – thinking the way I think, believing the way I believe – if it weren’t for all the stages. The stage I’m currently traipsing through is more about business. I’ve learned volumes about people, marketing, and sales in the past few years that I wouldn’t trade for anything. Experience on the stage, in front of a camera, holding sales meetings, directing commercials, all provide a brilliant cross-pollination for the other stages. Seeing the orchestration of it all makes me marvel at the creativity of The Master Creator. As I reflect, my heart can see an unseen hand painting, forming, and sometimes chiseling my life into a multi-media masterpiece.
Todd: How has your career as an actor transitioned into your work at a corporate office?
Andrew: We’re all actors aren’t we? I mean, really? Didn’t some writer guy say something about that hundreds of years ago? That whole “all the world’s a stage” thing? But it’s true. I still do gigs from time to time. I’m currently working on a short piece composed by a local playwright and then I write a newsletter, or commercial script, or sales methodology at work. It’s just another role to play.
Todd: When you’re not creating, what do you do in your spare time? What fosters your creativity?
Andrew: As an artist I should be enjoying life to the brim. Strike that. I should be brimming over into other lives. I want to be a composer, not just a consumer. What I take in during the day to day will, for better or for worse, shapes my life and the lives of those around me. How do I do that? I fuel myself by reading other blogs, laughing with my wife (an amazingly talented actress/writer/business woman), reading and spending time dreaming, running, savoring, and enjoying.
Todd: Who, where or what do you look to for inspiration for your work?
Andrew: Who: Other creatives. I think it’s important to enjoy a varied palette of other’s work. I like most any artist, even those bordering on pretension. I respect anyone who has written a book. For real. What an accomplishment. I also like Lady Gaga. There, I said it. She’s crazy. She’s fearless. She works. I have respect for her creativity even if I don’t love some of the things she does; I can still respect a lot of her work. How’s that for varied?
Where: I like to spend time alone. We have an amazing trail I love to run or bike on. I find that most creatives need that time alone and when a creative is somewhat athletic, the majority of the time it’s a solitary sport like running, biking, or swimming… aren’t you a swimmer, Todd?
What: Fearlessness. I’m not there at all. I still think way to much of what others will think of my work, what I do/don’t do, and how I do it. I love fearlessness in creativity.
Todd: What single message do you want someone visiting your blog to walk away with?
Andrew: You can do it. You have what it takes. Stop talking, dreaming, wishing, and hoping that you’ll someday create something. Do. It. Now. It might be junk. It might be uninteresting, but you’ll have done and and you know what? It might be amazing… because you are. Take a lesson from the old Nike campaign and ‘just do it.’