Today’s scribble is a leftover thought from yesterday’s post. As I sat down in front of my blank book of hours today, I glanced over at my book pile and picked up this worn-and-torn book of mine, The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World by Lewis Hyde:
On the cover, there are my fingerprint smudges. Inside are notes and highlights I have made through the years. I always looked at it from one side – how I appreciated other people’s art and writing as a gift. Today was a different story. I picked it up and saw that what I create is in fact a gift – a gift received and a gift given.
The above quote by Joseph Conrad is found on the Intro page of the book. The basic premise of the book is exploring art as a gift. Hyde maintains that if there is no gift, there is no art which poses many questions surrounding the sale of art. There is a place for selling and buying art as long as a sense of giving remains.
Hyde writes, “The spirit of the gift is kept alive by its constant donation.”
I have mentioned combinatorial creativity before – how nothing is original and how I am influenced by other people’s ideas and make my own connections through my unique experiences. As I discover more and more that creating involves drawing from inspiration across the ages, I receive this as a gift.
Let me explain.
Every day I write my morning pages, open to receiving inspiration. It comes as insight or an image or a connection of dots or a spiralling in or out. Words flash. A quote is remembered. I’m not sure how this happens or what is happening exactly. All I know is that the more I pay attention to life, the more this happens. It’s like an awakening – like I’ve had this wisdom inside somewhere in my consciousness all this time and it’s like a memory that I had forgotten. I used to brush these instances off as weird coincidences or have personal ‘aha’ moments and move on or write it down for my own records. But since I have started to write and create publicly, sharing my discoveries, these “gifts” from beyond or within, have become imperative.
Hyde describes it as a “passage into mystery”:
The passage into mystery always refreshes. If, when we work, we can look once a day upon the face of mystery, then our labor satisfies. We are lightened when our gifts arise from pools we cannot fathom. Then we know they are not a solitary egotism and they are inexhaustible. Anything contained within a boundary must contain as well its own exhaustion. The most perfectly balanced gyroscope slowly winds down. But when the gift passes out of sight and then returns, we are enlivened.
It is like receiving unexpected letters in the mail that come just at the right time. Sometimes they contain advice. Sometimes they are maps. Sometimes they are a staccato of words. Sometimes they are colour palettes. Sometimes they are snippets of my life in rewind or in fast forward or in pause. Sometimes it’s a conversation overheard. These letters are from the Divine “without” awakening the Divine “within.” It is all coming and going from one source. My job is to pass it along – to use it and to give it away so that I can keep the mailbox empty for more messages.
For example, I came across the mini letter in my pile of supplies that was sent to me by Rowena at Paper Plus Cloth along with some supplies I purchased from her shop. In her package, she generously donated some sample items as well. I felt a true gift exchange when receiving her beautiful supplies. I felt her both her kindness and gratitude in receiving her handwritten notes and hand-picked supplies. Now it is my pleasure to share them here as I create my Book of Hours.
I have discovered that this gift exchange, on so many levels, is key for me to remaining in a state of creation.
Hyde talks of the “paradox of gift exchange”: “…when the gift is used up, it is not used up. Quite the opposite, in fact: the gift that is not used will be lost, while the one that is passed along remains abundant.”
This applies to gifts outside the artistic sphere. When you hoard or deny your gifts, they dry up or become scarce. We are afraid that we don’t have enough so we hold on to them. Only through letting them go can we receive gifts we don’t expect – the most transformational ones.
“The gift is to giver, and comes back most to him – it cannot fail….” – Walt Whitman
Each morning I will continue to wait at the blank page, acknowledging my inner critic (notice I reduced it to lowercase as opposed to yesterday’s uppercase reference). As my friend Brooke commented yesterday, it is there to humble. It leads me to a crossroads between gratitude and self-loathing. I will use it as a reminder to surrender to the process and to have faith that the gifts will always be there as long as I am ready to receive them.
100 scribbles…hurriedly writing the here and now.
(FYI: I am not an affiliate for any of the supplies I recommend for my Book of Hours…I use a mix of supplies from Paper Plus Cloth, Moleskine, and my own scrapbooking supplies. If you have any questions about any of the company source info, drop me a line or leave a comment. I do have an Amazon affiliate link which you can read about here.)