Sometimes, I forget what this creative stuff is all about. I get distracted or even a little lost. Does it happen to you?
I’ve been in an unusual place, at least for me, I haven’t wanted to create. I don’t like when that happens, I start feeling guilty and lazy, I start to believe that I am cheating at life. What do you call a writer who doesn’t write? A fraud?
Thanks to some reflection and a great weekend, today I am renewed and eager to get back at it. Let me see if I can explain why:
The most persistent theme in life is renewal and creation. Whenever I am at a loss for something to do or having trouble getting motivated I simply need to make something. It can be a dinner for my family, a blog that allows me to bleed onto paper a little, or installing some new plants in my garden. At least for me: being creative is a usually good answer to almost any question.
It really isn’t about creating art, although art may happen, its about the verb, the creating. For those of us who like to take it all the way back to the very beginning and put a philosophical reason on things, its easy to understand why God may have created the world: because he could. Creation comes from the realm of the Gods and we mortals get to tap into the supernatural whether we are making babies, building bookshelves, or writing poems. Creation is the closest we get being God, creation is the reason we are here.
When I tell people to be more creative I often get one of two reactions: professional artists, who understand the discipline, talent, and skill required to be a true artist simply laugh at me. Or, they role their eyes as if they are tired of people saying, “Oh I paint too, last week I did a paint by number!” The very idea of me telling people to be more creative annoys them, who needs more competition?
The other reaction is from the person who is overwhelmed by the very idea of being creative, who feels as if they aren’t up to the task,
“I’m just not very creative.”
“Everyone is creative!” I always answer, but I’ve already lost them, they’ve banished me to California or Provincetown, or wherever they think people who spout my particular philosophy come from. They are comfortable in their feeling of inadequacy and don’t like to be challenged by some do-gooder telling them to find their Creative Beast. For the record, I didn’t say everyone is an artist, I said everyone is creative. There is a difference. Being creative doesn’t mean you have to buy a beret and an easel. (Fashion note: The often mocked Beret is making a big comeback, try raspberry).
I shrug, smile and move on knowing that I haven’t quite gotten the message across. Wait… Expression, that’s it! We are what we do, aren’t we? So that’s all I’m trying to say, whether we prepare a loving dinner for our family, make love to our partner, or build a birdhouse for the backyard, it’s through our actions that we are expressing ourselves. That expression might be that you are passionate and loving or that you are indifferent and numb. When I talk about creation, about being an artist, I’m really just trying to encourage someone to find that means of expression, to tap into that part that needs to make something cool. What better way to find that expression than with our actions? We all have a creative medium of choice (or maybe not of choice, tequila is the medium of repressed anger). We must express our heart!
You might be a highly skilled and trained artist, but that doesn’t mean you are putting your heart into everything you do; even artists can become jaded mercenaries. The skilled artist is merely a craftsman until he puts his soul into his work, he is a mechanic. While we need mechanics, we need magicians more. The paradox is that we all have magic inside and if it doesn’t come out we are left empty and frustrated. The magic has to come out.
My yoga instructor is fond of telling us that if we barely get into a position but still feel the stretch, we are getting as much from our yoga practice as the advanced yogi who is contorted into a position we can’t even conceive of reaching. It’s about feeling the stretch. When I say we need to make something cool, it isn’t about creating something that will make you rich and famous, its about the stretch; the expression. Expressing your heart doesn’t necessarily correlate with commercial success, it’s much more important.
I plead guilty to being dismissive of my own forms of expression. I’ll play my heart out on the guitar, to the best of my ability, and then dismiss it, saying to myself, “Well, I’m no Clapton.” I self edit myself into inaction, forgetting that the purpose of art isn’t necessarily to sell it, perform it, or get rich from it. It’s about the magic, the stretch.
It’s about the expression. It’s about putting this indescribable and vague longing on paper, on a plate, or even in how you clean your house. It’s the transference of love, or enthusiasm, or anger… the stretch. When you tap into this need, you are experiencing the real you, the you that came here to have a human experience. Having that experience doesn’t require skill with a paintbrush, a guitar, or a literary agent. It requires a heart and a need to express something that comes from a place you only glimpses upon; a need to get just a thimble full of the supernatural, the overwhelming desire of self expression.
I must confess, in the last few months I have self-edited myself out of 2 book projects and countless blogs. Every idea I immediately crushed with one simple, deadly, and violent thought: “No one wants to read THAT!” I allowed creative resistance, the enemy, to establish a naval blockade around my creative impulses. What do you call a writer who isn’t writing? In my case you call him someone who goes to yoga, walks 10,000 steps a day, and counts calories. My Creative Beast has been trying to tunnel out by turning me into a health freak, which is fine as far as it goes, but I know that I have been a lost creative. Guilt is a powerful thing.
Then I remembered:
It’s about the stretch. It’s about the heart and tapping into the supernatural. For me, it’s that feeling when my fingers type words before my brain knows what is going to come out, when I feel like the angels are typing for me. That’s when I know that I’m writing again, when I don’t worry about the results and surrender to the magic, when I feel the stretch.
I hope You go make something cool today.
I promise: I will.