Here’s the deal. I know that you have doubts. I know there is a voice telling you many things.
I hear that little “no” sitting on your shoulder hissing at you.
“You have no time for this.”
“This is self-indulgent.”
“This isn’t a practical use of my time.”
“This is child’s play.”
“Stop. Where will I get the energy for this?”
“Why should I even try? I’ll just quit mid-month anyway.”
“I am not an artist. I can’t draw. It will be frustrating.”
“I am too busy.”
“What is the point?”
Write down every little reason why you shouldn’t and why you can’t commit to this project for 31 days and then read on.
Let me share something with you.
I used to tell myself these things all the time, sometimes several times a day, when I wanted to do a project like this one – this mayBE. Until I started writing every day. Every single day. I have written every single day for almost a year. And when I say write. I don’t mean lists or to-dos. Sometimes I write my thoughts on a quote that prompts me or I record an experience that I don’t want to forget with all the accompanying emotions that were fresh. And the more I wrote, the more I started to see things differently. I became more of an explorer and an observer which infiltrated the rest of my life.
One day, I had trouble writing. I wrote about this trouble again and again. One page was full of obscenities about Spring (and her lack-lustre appearance). I was frustrated and angry and blamed everything else going on in my life, especially Spring. Finally, I let go. I stopped trying so hard. I wrote whatever came to mind which was absolute crap. Then the idea for mayBE literally popped into my head. I needed to switch gears and add something else to the mix of my routine while connecting to others outside of the characters talking in my mind.
There are other reasons why I want to do this. Why I need to do this. Perhaps if I list some of my own reasons, I can address some of your own objections and answer some questions.
“Hell is a place where nothing connects to nothing.” – T.S. Eliot, Introduction to Dante’s Inferno
1. To get Unstuck.
We all get stuck. In parenting, we get stuck. In work, we get stuck. In life, we get stuck. For me, I get stuck when I homeschool and when I write. You know the feeling. It’s the frustration of not finding a solution. It’s the banging of your head against the wall because you feel like you have read every book or ahem, blog, to get unstuck and you can’t find the answer that will work for the problem in front of you. It’s the restlessness because you know there is a block. And this is what it is – a creative block.
2. To see the forest AND the trees.
Sometimes we all are so focused on our day-to-day activities and responsibilities that we don’t step back and zoom out. We lose track of the connection of the big picture and the small details. This change in perspective is sometimes all we need to move forward or to see something from another angle that we may have missed.
3. To give myself a gift.
I want to give myself a gift of time to explore, to give myself the permission to create, and to make those connections. Because that’s what creativity is – the ability to make connections to solve a problem. What needs to be created, whether it’s a solution or an expression, comes when you give yourself the time to get back to basics. Yes this may be self-indulgent but if you can get out of that rut, and take some time to care of yourself, as my beautiful friend said yesterday, “This gift is actually a gift to everyone in your life.”
4. To make compassion and empathy everyday companions.
Creativity and imagination is a gateway to those states of being.
In The Faraway Nearby, Rebecca Solnit writes,
Some empathy must be learned and then imagined, by perceiving the suffering of others and translating it into one’s own experience of suffering and thereby suffering a little with then. Empathy can be a story you tell yourself about what it must be like to be that other person; but its lack can also arrive from narrative, about why the sufferer deserved it, or why that person or those people have nothing to do with you. Whole societies can be taught to deaden feeling, to dissociate from their marginal and minority members, just as people can and do erase the humanity of those close to them.
Without imagination, we can’t walk in each other’s shoes or even understand each other. Expanding our thinking can translate directly into fostering connections, strengthening relationships, and building community.
5. To cultivate a new creative habit.
I am inspired by people who have been able to create daily and who have made creativity a habit, like 97 year old Marie Ulmer. I have seen the beautiful ripple effects of a creative habit and the disaster that ensues when I neglect it. I have many times quoted from one of my favourite books, The Creative Habit: Learn it and Use it for Life by Twyla Tharp. Here is another great gem:
Over time, as the daily routines become second nature, discipline morphs into habit…The routine is as much a part of the creative process as the lightning bolt of inspiration, maybe more. And this routine is available to everyone.
Creativity is not just for artists. It’s for businesspeople looking for a new way to close a sale; it’s for engineers trying to solve a problem; it’s for parents who want their children to see the world in more than one way.
6. To make mistakes even faster.
Failure is a gift if you can transform something out of it or if it leads to new insight or if it reflects something back to you in just the right light. When you try something new, you take a risk. You could get hurt. You could humiliate yourself. You could lose faith. But the smallest of risks can give you just enough courage to take an even greater leap the next time around.
7. To open myself to getting a little lost.
I can’t see the end. I don’t know where this mayBE journey will lead. In fact, the very creation of this project has caused me more than once to feel nauseated. I am nervous. I am anxious. I am trying to let go of expectation and my anxieties about putting myself out there. I was afraid to press publish multiple times this week. I woke up in the middle of night sweating (partially because of hormones and partially because of this project). I am afraid of committing to this. But there is this push that is making me jump in because I have felt this before. With all past creative endeavours, there is always the “getting lost” part. The part I am most afraid of. The winding down the unknown and meeting the unexpected. The impasse and the obstruction. It’s there waiting. But this is where faith and hope come in. The faith that I need to get lost and wander about to get to that moment that always shows up. It ALWAYS shows up. The Oprah “AHA” moment. The spark.
8. To collaborate.
16. Collaborate. The space between people working together is filled with conflict, friction, strife, exhilaration, delight, and vast creative potential. – Bruce Mau, Incomplete Design Manifesto
I look forward to sharing stories, creative moments, and all the highs and lows that go along with it. I am excited to collaborate with some inspiring people this month on the blog who will bring another voice and another perspective to the creative process. Take comfort in the fact that nothing you do or I do is completely original. But we can still create something special in the process.
Mark Twain said it best in his letter to Helen Keller: “…all ideas are second-hand, consciously and unconsciously drawn from a million outside sources” and that “the kernel, the soul … the actual and valuable material of all human utterances [is] plagiarism.”
We bring our personal experiences to flavour our creations. But we are influenced by things we have read or heard or seen before, created by someone who too was influenced.
9. To model, to play and to unlearn.
My children will be a part of this process. They will be invited to do the prompts alongside me or on their own time. This celebration of creativity and honouring its significance in my life will hopefully infuse their own lives with it. Maybe one of these prompts sparks something in them. I have seen it before. The idea generation. The creative flow. Children are naturals at being creative. In fact, they make it serious work. I want to show them that it’s still serious work as an adult. I want to play and return to that place of naivete and innocence before the world told me that I wasn’t doing it right or that I should give up child’s play. I want to unlearn and learn and re-learn.
(See that graphic at the top of the page? The background is filled with hand-drawn triangles that my daughter drew one day because she followed a creative hunch. She was inspired by something she saw that had repeating shapes. Then proceeded to spend hours drawing hundreds of connecting triangles – for the joy of it. I want them to teach me that again.)
Those are my 9 main reasons. I want you to write #10 for me.
Why celebrate creativity? Why do 15 minute exercises to imagine and to create every day for a month?
10. Insert intention here.
I must warn you that this path may lead to more questions. More stirrings. More disquiet. But the good type. The urge to move. To change. To listen deeply. To observe. To explore. To see the world.
31 days of a glimpse. A faint glimmer. A what-if.
There is nothing like fear and self-doubt to shut doors and encourage NO.
You may not last 31 days. But you may get inspired just enough by Day 3 or Day 9 or Day 19. You may take this habit into Day 563.
“Creativity is the residue of time wasted.” – Albert Einstein
Remember, the decluttering is always messiest at first. That taking everything off shelves and sorting through period. The doubt of your use of time and your ability to commit.
But have faith. Have faith in the not knowing. Have faith in the glorious uncertainty.
Give yourself a chance to create. mayBE you might just have a little fun while you’re at it.
And don’t we all need to have a little more fun?
(Pssssst…that’s my #10: to have fun.)
Tomorrow, some last minute tips and preparations. And a peek into my own creative process that involves homeschooling and a little procrastination…
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