Settle in and pour a glass. I got wordy on this one…
I am at a point in my life where I am really diving into all aspects of my creativity. I’ve dabbled. Now I’m diving. I feel sorta like the young 20-something in art school, trying all the things until my voice, my particular style and my methods come together to form my own brand of creative expression. Except I’m a 40-something and I’m piecing my “art school” education together via online classes, books, observation and life experience. Why didn’t I do this when I was actually in my twenties? Hell, why does anybody wait or hold back? I had my reasons and they made me who I am. So I can handle starting brand new things even while “the voices” whisper awful things like it’s too late for me. I know enough now to call bullshit on “the voices”.
With all this creativity happening, I have been thinking a lot about it. How are we creative? Why do we avoid our work or avoid everything else to do our work? Why are some people wildly creative while some think they aren’t at all?
How creatives operate in the world is fascinating to me because I believe we are all connected – or one. It dawned on me that what I perceive as my separate mind isn’t really separate at all. I take that to mean that the creativity I admire in someone else could also be mine. If we are not separate but instead of one mind, I would have access to the same pool of creativity that everyone else has access to. Just to be clear, by mind I mean the greater intelligence we perceive with our brains and our consciousness that hums behind all things in our known universe. The miraculous but unexplainable genius that makes all the stuff work, like human bodies, eco systems, STARS, bunnies that always grow up to be rabbits and never giraffes – that kind of stuff. That would mean, then, that we are all remarkably creative. Or could be if only we would allow it.
I think that what fouls up this fabulous creative connectivity is that we close ourselves off. In so many ways…. usually via “the voices” or more accurately, the thoughts we believe to be real. The ones that say we are not creative. But since we are all connected and by default remarkably creative, we DO get creative impulses that sneak through the barriers of our I’m-not-lucky-enough-to-be-creative stories. Then, because we haven’t done the work to develop the skill set so that we know what to do with the creative spark that lights us up, we get an idea that we don’t know what to do with. Or we try to do something with it and it doesn’t look good, sound right or something is wrong enough that we go back to telling ourselves that we are not creative.
I think maybe this is why people who successfully do creative work offer the same advice… Sit your ass down in the chair and get to work. Make things that look, sound, taste or could otherwise be labeled as shit. Why? Because it’s fun and I can’t think of another way to learn a craft, can you? This would mean that you would be ready when it’s your turn to interpret that creative spark with your own individual flair instead of doing battle with it.
I heard an interview with Elizabeth Gilbert the very day after I had my epiphany about the one-mind-creativity thing. It made me think that I am really on to something! She said that she thought of ideas as simply energetic beings (paraphrasing) that want to be be born. They fly around from person to person, asking “are you my mother? are YOU my mother?” That is their single purpose, to go from formless to form (paraphrasing again). Listen to the interview because it’s really brilliant.
Then sit your ass down in the chair and get to work. That’s what I have been doing.
I’m making work that is laughably awful while having the time of my life. I think that because of this – because there’s no other thing in my life that has changed to account for it – I’m also experiencing phenomena that is totally new to me. Like sometimes I wake up before the alarm goes off. I never hit snooze anymore. The other day I felt so excited that I wanted to fling my fingers up and down in that universal gesture of giddiness. I find myself wanting to come play in my studio more than I want to watch TV or indulge in whatever procrastination.
It is wonderfully bizarre.
And completely unrelated to any kind of goal setting, baby steps, accountability partners, etc. that the books suggest when one is digging around for a solution to the conundrum of not doing the work one claims one wants to do. (One can really fuck themselves up that way…)
FYI: I’m not saying all those things don’t help. I’m saying I found myself doing my work without the need to implement any of them.
I’ll tell you, the single most important thing I did to “achieve” this state of blissful productivity was to simply start doing what I wanted to do and stop believing the stories (aka “the voices”) about what I should be doing vs what I shouldn’t – about never being good enough – how I’m too old and I started too late – I have to know exactly what I am going to do and/or (the biggie) how to monetize what I’m doing. You know what I’m talking about… Your stories might parallel mine or maybe you have bigger, meaner stories. No matter what the stories are, they all have one thing in common: we made them up. We made them up! It doesn’t seem so because those thoughts look so real! Especially given the very compelling illusion that they are a direct result of current circumstances. It turns out that thoughts come and thinking just happens, circumstances be damned. We could no more control thinking then convince somebody like Rush Limbaugh to voluntarily stop talking.
You remember that comedy skit from Bill Cosby where he talks about some of the stuff him father said to him as a kid? One of the lines was, “I brought you into this world! I can take you out!!”
That is the best way to explain the thought thing. Thoughts come into being but sometimes, they are naughty little shits that you really love but have to put in time out, lest they destroy the house or something. Hmmmm… maybe this isn’t the best analogy since thoughts can be ignored as the pesky illusions that they are while children, not so much… But you get what I’m saying, right? Thoughts = not real. (Children = real)
To me, it feels very much like meeting Oz or getting a shiny set of keys to the universe. Now that I’ve seen the light, I am forever changed. With regard to my creative activities, it didn’t even take 21 days or however long it’s supposed to take to make new habits because it’s a know-it-in-my-bones kind of thing. Which does not mean I won’t ever procrastinate again or get in my own way – I’m still a human having a very wonderful, yet human experience. I just know how to course correct faster now.
And so do you. Here’s the Cliff notes version in case you forgot already: Do your thing. Don’t believe, argue or otherwise engage with the voices (thoughts) that tell you not to do your thing. Know you’re connected. Smile. Keep doing your thing.