How have you been harnessing your creative side lately? Do you feel like your present creativity is like spring run-off, plentifully flowing to the point you fear some of your ideas might flood others? Or do you feel like a dry well these days, unable to dig up any gem that nurtures a creative outlet?
I have been on both sides of the coin, and everywhere in between, it seems. More and more, I am finding that the creative spirit rarely comes knocking on its own accord. That’s not to say it doesn’t; I will never forget the way a graphic poem tumbled out of me when I was 13. I lay on my bed with a pen and a notebook and a single image in my head – an unfinished letter – and when I put the pen to paper, it was like I was detached from my hand. My hand wrote and wrote, without any regard for my own mind or filters. When it was finished, I had produced this gut-wrenching poem about a young woman who writes an anguished letter to her lover, but doesn’t finish it before he climbs the hardwood stairs to the room she is in and kills her.
Where in the HECK did that idea come from? And what did it suggest about me, an innocent and naïve 13-year-old girl? I struggled with how to share my poem with others. I wanted to – because it was good! – but would they fear I was suicidal? Afraid of being killed? In a bad relationship? All of these heavy what-ifs surrounded me, when the truth was, an image had simply come to my mind and I had “run” with it (or rather, my hand did).
But that experience was almost two decades ago, and it is one example of only a few where I can remember the creative spark simply showing up and taking over. It’s a blast when it happens – it’s like you can sit back and watch another side of you go to work – but if we had dimes for every time this phenomenon happened, we’d be, well, poor.
The best way I have found to nurture the creative spirit? To live a little. To push ourselves out of whatever cushiony box we call our comfort zones. And to actively look for the countless stories happening around us every day.
In the first trimester of my current pregnancy, I spent a couple of weeks in mournful agony, facing the reality that my morning writing time would probably greatly decrease, because it was all I could do to get out of bed before 6:30 a.m. without throwing up. I knew I needed to be kind to myself; yet I also wanted to keep my momentum going with the writing projects I had been working on.
I found that the longer the stretches were of staying in bed late, the less the creative spark was interested in showing up. But on the days that I felt good and actually pushed myself to rise early and write, there it was again, a promise of creativity awaiting me at my keyboard. The hardest part was just showing up.
The moral is twofold here: First, we have to acknowledge that our creative fires endure seasons. Sometimes we’re totally on the ball, and sometimes we’re not. And that’s okay. On those mornings I stayed in bed late, I knew my writing was suffering. But I knew it was suffering only temporarily, and I knew that taking care of my physical self was more important in that particular moment.
Second, we have to seek out our creative spirits and actively pursue them. We can do that by living vivaciously. Taking time to smell the roses, for an overly tired cliché. Even in the seemingly most mundane of moments, there is always hope for a creative spark to spring forth. You just have to be willing to look for it.
*Stay tuned for an upcoming post that lists ways to nurture creativity.
*What do you do to get your creative juices flowing?