Befriending Your Creativity
(Don’t waste your time telling me you aren’t creative—life is the ultimate creative act and you are alive, or else you wouldn't be reading this).
Self-care and creativity are best friends—one cannot exist without the other. Yet we don’t often think about befriending, romancing, or inveigling our creativity. Instead we:
- Compare our efforts to others. (Look at the colors she uses in her knitting.)
- Raise the bar. (I said I would write for 15 minutes and I did but you know, Toni Morrison writes for longer than 15 minutes and so 15 minutes isn’t good enough and I'll never amount to anything and…)
- Fight with our work. (Paint, if you would just do what I what you to, we wouldn’t have any problems. I hate you, paint!)
- Run from the creative energy in our bodies. (Oh I’m feeling so much, wow, I can’t take this, I better go clean the kitchen.)
- Indulge in shadow comforts to soothe away comparisons and self-criticism, and to ground our energy. (Cookies are very grounding.)
For years, I’ve been actively researching and experimenting with ways to make creating effortless, joyful, and fun.
Here are three ways I use to create—writing, parenting, life—with a light heart and a saunter in my step. See what you think.
1) BE A SERVANT OF THE UNIVERSE
Right before my first book was to be published, ‘The Woman’s Comfort Book’, I called Conari Press to ask about a resource, published by their house, that I was quoting.
Years later, I learned my casual phone call had caused quite a stir. Conari was about to bring out a book from the beloved author Sue Thoele entitled, ‘The Woman’s Book of Comfort’.
Now some people would read this and say, “See, ideas are everywhere and you have to grab first and work secretly and fast or someone will get there first.”
I couldn’t disagree more. I believe the collective unconscious, the cultural Zeitgeist, the mind of God—whatever you want to call it—is an endlessly infinite source of creative energy equally available to us all.
If you hoard your ideas, if you hold onto them too tightly, or if you fall in love with a certain expression of your creativity (a particular title or that your idea has to be expressed only as an opera never as a one woman show) you stymie the creative flow. You limit your gift. You increase fear and decrease productivity.
Instead, do what Katherine Olivetti, MSSW, suggests: “If you take the stance that you are the steward of the words, the servant of the universe, the baggage handler of the collective unconscious, unlimited ideas will pour through you. And treat the words as if there are ten more better ideas for any one that you throw away.”
“Don’t hold on to the one great sentence or paragraph that you think is the best you have ever done. Throw it away and BELIEVE that there is even more that is even better,” she says.
Instead, imitate the Greek poet Sappho, the Sufi mystic Rumi, the stunningly prolific Leonardo. Be bold. Expect more. Listen to the cosmos.
2) NOBODY EXPECTS THE SPANISH INQUISITION
This line from a famous Monty Python skit reminds us that we never expect things to go differently yet they often do, and perhaps never more so that when we are creating. This is also known as Murphy’s Law.
When you stop expecting perfection and start accepting twists and turns, as well abrupt, sometimes painful halts, you save a tremendous amount of energy—energy previously spent trying to control the outcome of what you are working on and energy spent demanding life be fair (my daughter’s favorite complaint).
You also allow yourself to adapt to what is—a basic principle of evolution and a very powerful place to create from.
Expecting the Spanish Inquisition DOES NOT give you permission to be a negative cynical old poop who walks around muttering, “I told you so.”
That is living in resentment and that just gets you suffering and stuck. It simply means when something goes differently, don’t waste your time resisting. Instead, learn.
3) CREATING IS PHYSICAL
We can change how we create by changing the shape of our body. As renowned yoga teacher Rodney Yee says in his book ‘Poetry of the Body’, “I don’t understand what is so mysterious about it—you create different shape with your body and it creates different emotions.”
I would add, when you create different shapes with your body, you create different ways of being in the world.
My teaching partner Suzanne Falter-Barns is a tall, slender woman who has perfect posture. But most of her life, she slumped. Until she started singing lessons.
Her dream (to write and star in an off Broadway one-woman show) brought her to singing lessons and the physical act of creating (singing) brought the change her body needed to pursue her dream.
Ask yourself, “What is the body of creating for me?” Put on some music that makes you feel creative, close the blinds, and experiment with embodying this question. Find the posture, the breathing, and the movement of your creativity.
Don’t think, instead bring your attention into your body and sense, play, make subtle adjustments, be wild, be quiet, notice the body of creating for you.
Another great creativity practice is to find a physical discipline to play with—aikido, yoga, Tai Chi—and as you do your yoga or catas, bring your creative blocks, challenges, questions, into the practice.
That is how YogaWriting was born—I noticed the incredible creative energy and insights generated during my yoga practice. So I started bringing my notebook into the yoga studio and asking myself questions about my work.
I also noticed that the way I create is the way I do yoga—surrendering, letting go, and grounding intense energy are issues in both places.
So by paying attention to and working with the different poses AND how they relate to my creative process, I began to change the way I create.
I hope your creativity flowers with delight. I’d love to hear how it goes.