“I have forced myself to begin writing when I’ve been utterly exhausted, when I’ve felt my soul as thin as a playing card, when nothing has seemed worth enduring for another five minutes . . . and somehow the activity of writing changes everything.” – Joyce Carol Oates
What if we made an active choice to keep our creativity alive and vibrant? What if we supported that choice with a daily creative practice?
With our ‘to-do’ lists already weighing us down, one more item might mean an act of self-drowning! Or, what if it became the life-saver (literally) that not only keeps us afloat, but also lends us more buoyancy in life?
Joyce Carol Oates is the author of over 50 books, has won the National Book Award and been nominated for a Pulitzer Prize three times. And as her quote above reveals, it required work and discipline.
“Keeping busy is the remedy of all the ills in America,” Oates writes, “It is also the means by which the creative impulse is destroyed.”
I have been writing most of my life and I have been avoiding writing most of my life. It is amazing what I can accomplish when I decide I need to sit down and write. Closets and drawers have been reorganized numerous times, my desk cleaned off, and its top polished to a sheen with pledge.
In the past year I’ve been learning the only pledge I need to make is to myself. It goes like this: get up, wake up, pray, write! It doesn’t matter if my desk is in a clutter—stuff can get pushed to the side. Mostly it doesn’t matter if I feel like writing. Creating is not a matter of mood; it is a matter of commitment.
It doesn’t matter if I am inspired or even have an idea of what to write (create.)
One simply sits down and begins. Fingers to keys, paint to paper, hands on clay, foot on sewing machine pedal, eyes on recipe. As a writer, I simply start writing whatever I am thinking about. In a short time, the pump is primed and creativity flows. I may not be satisfied with the end product, but that is the point, I come back again and again editing, rewriting, watching the raw material take shape and come to life.
That’s what A.R.T.S. Anonymous teaches us. On their web site they promote “5 Alive! 5 minutes every day keeps my art alive, 5 minutes every day keeps my block away.”
What if our problem is not-knowing what art or creative expression we want to pursue? Experiment! Notice what inspires you. Pick up Julia Cameron’s phenomenal book The Artist’s Way, A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity. She teaches us that “the creative process is a process of surrender, not a process of control.”
Indeed perfectionism is the enemy of creativity and what can hold me hostage to organizing instead of writing.
Last week I wrote about some adventures I had on an airline flight. I was going to a reunion for a beloved journalism professor I had in college, Nelson Wadsworth. Before entering academics he had worked as a photographer and journalist for both Time and Life magazines and The National Observer. He had also been a Marine. He was brash, blunt, and had a short fuse. And he was brilliant. He was also willing to go the long distance with his students.
When he edited an article for me, it would be returned completely filled with bright red editing marks. Then he would go over the work with me one painstaking word at a time teaching me what would make the article rise to its highest creative potential. He launched the career of numerous successful photographers and journalists.
I was the first person to arrive at the reunion. Nelson was already there waiting. I hadn’t seen him for 35 years. Now he had an eye patch due to a stroke and walked with a cane. When he saw me and registered who I was he became emotional, he embraced me. It was our first hug ever. We held each other for several precious moments. I knew it meant something to him that I had come. And it meant volumes to me that he had set me on the writer’s path professionally.
Here was my teacher. And it was sacred.
Soon other journalists, and photographers arrived. The “Nelson” stories flowed along with the laughter. We reminisced about past stories, looked at photographs members of the group had taken, learned what path each person’s practice had led him or her to. Our spouses complained about our “news” addiction. Here was my tribe!
The same day as the reunion my computer completely crashed and has been down for two weeks to the day. I can write longhand, but I find I am most productive with a computer; being without it was an interesting reality check of how much a daily creative practice brings to my life. My mood wasn’t quite as bright, I was less engaged with life, and definitely some passion and purpose was missing.
Creativity is about trusting that which is unseen, but possible, the mystery of life’s synchronicities and miracles. Creativity takes us deep into our soul, to the edge of The Divine. Creativity is a call to life as a process. To create is to surrender and trust which allows us to enter a deep flow. As we do we connect with that which is held most deeply in us – our own infinite intelligence, with its wisdom and creative power.
Creativity is part of every human soul.
As Julia Cameron so beautifully puts it, “. . . I have come to believe that creativity is our true nature, that blocks are an unnatural thwarting of a process as normal and as miraculous as the blossoming of a flower at the end of a slender green stem… In a sense your creativity is like your blood. Just as blood is a fact of your physical body and nothing you invented, creativity is a fact of your spiritual body and nothing that you must invent.” The Artist’s Way