“The world of reality has its limits; the world of imagination is boundless.” Jean Jacques Rousseau
CREATIVITY IS WORTH MINING FOR
For the past year or so, I have been intentionally trying to step into being more of a creative person. God’s pretty brilliant at creativity. All we have to do is look around, and if we are not stunned at his radiance in all the nooks and crannies, we need to look with new eyes on the miracles all around. I came to the conclusion that my creative self must have been buried during my school years, where staying in the lines and producing work that looked just like the teacher's sample got you a good report card. I don't really have to become more creative because I already am. I just have to find the buried treasure lying within. There is a diamond of creativity within every human being waiting to be buffed and shined. For me, the polishing process has been a bit exhausting. For one, I have issues with perfection, (which is getting better) and because of this, I end up being a creative workaholic, trying with all my might to become an artistic genius at light speed, which is a joy sucker. Instead of that diamond gradually being discovered through a gentle process, I try and buff it with steel wool, a process as painful as going to the gym or writing a novel. It becomes excruciating because I have trouble slowing down and taking my time. I have difficulty trusting that things unfold and don’t have to be ripped open. You would think slowing my pace and recovering my creativeness would be a joy, but it’s hard work. I’ve tried to be a contemplative person because artists seem serene and meditative, yet that journey, at times, has been laughable. When I have had breaks during my work day, I have set the timer on my phone for 10 minutes to practice deep breathing, aiming to be more like the Dalai Lama, but I’m bored and restless and squirmy. In spite of my incessant fidgeting and my wandering mind, I keep practicing the art of slowing down and being still, but have let go of the results. In time, I will learn and will get better with practice. I just have to get out of the way and let the process happen. Thankfully, I don't have to come up with my own brilliant ideas because God is eagerly waiting to shine through me in a myriad of ways.
I recently read a story about Michelangelo in Marianne Williamson’s book, A Return to Love. When Michelangelo was asked how he created a piece of sculpture, he answered that the statue already existed in the marble. God himself had created Pieta, David and Moses. Michelangelo’s job, as he saw it, was to get rid of the excess marble that surrounded God’s creation. God always wants to create through us, but we have to remove that which gets in the way of his expression, which is almost always ourselves. Our doubts, fears and self-judgements keep building barricades around our creative sweet spots.
CHOOSING THE PATH OF CURIOSITY AND NOT THE PATH OF FEAR
Naturally, creativity longs to burst out of us and make its mark on the world. But where do we start? Elizabeth Gilbert would say the beginning of creativity is learning how to be curious and then following those threads of curiosity instead of our pathways of fear. It means we don’t have to sketch or paint or write to be creative. We just need to cultivate childlike curiosity. A child never sets out to produce anything. She just creates because it’s part of her divine nature. I’m a doer, and apparently after doing the Enneagram personality test, I am an achiever, which isn’t a news flash. But knowing I don’t have to be productive is freeing. Recently, I’ve begun a creativity course online with Elizabeth Gilbert. I wasn’t a huge fan of her book, Eat, Pray Love (maybe because I was jealous she could throw responsibility to the wind and go on a radical adventure), but I loved her book, Big Magic, which is all about discovering our curiosity. Big Magic is what prompted me to take her online course, which helps people live a curiosity-driven life.
USING WRITING PROMPTS TO TRIGGER THE CREATIVE PROCESS
Using writing prompts is a wonderful way of accessing your creativity. It is important to write quickly when responding to a prompt so you can bypass the inner critic. Don’t worry about spelling or whether it makes sense. Just set the timer for twenty minutes and write whatever comes to mind. One of the questions in the first section of Elizabeth Gilbert’s creativity course asks, “What was the last thing you wondered about?” Just for fun, I’ll share what I wrote. If you have an opportunity, have some fun with this question and explore your thoughts. Remember to ignore the voice that says you don’t have time.
RESPONDING TO THE PROMPT “WHAT WAS THE LAST THING YOU WONDERED ABOUT?”
There are so many things I wonder about, which makes it all the more frustrating when those wonderings bounce around in my brain like a ping pong ball but never manifest in real life. I wonder what it would be like to be on the ElIen Show or Jimmy Fallon’s Late Night show. I wonder if I could be an Olympian if I set my mind to it. I wonder if I’d be able to survive a 1,100-mile solo hike of the Pacific Crest Trail like Reece Witherspoon did in the movie Wild. Would I have what it takes? Well, thanks to my dad being attacked by a grizzly, I now have anxiety about being in the middle of the woods alone. But could I do it? Would I have the stamina? Would my MacGyver instincts kick in or would I turn back at the first sign of adversity. If every day was sunny and my tent didn’t leak, and I had delicious meals every night, maybe I could do it. Could I be with my thoughts for 1,100 miles and not go nuts? After a long day of hiking, I imagine writing in my journal with my brilliant, Zen thoughts flowing out effortlessly. I’ve never known this luxury, but maybe the Pacific Crest Trail would be the catalyst for my writing career. Maybe I could be in National Geographic. I would most definitely discover my core self, which seems to be buried deep and doesn’t have a burning desire to show itself. But out there, I wouldn’t be concerned with how I’m seen, or whether I’m measuring up to the ridiculous expectations I put upon myself. Mind you, hiking the Pacific Crest Trail is a ludicrous expectation. I might find myself, or I might end up like Tom Hanks in Castaway, painting a face on a basketball and naming it Wilson because I’m dying of loneliness. I just wonder if I would push through or climb to the top of the highest hill, hoping to get cell service so I could call the rescue team to come in and get me out.
This is just a sample of a twenty-minute writing session. It’s a quick rant really. But often there are glimmers of longing within these writing pieces. I may not hike the Pacific Crest Trail, but there is a part of me hungry for new adventure and that part of me likes to express itself in imaginings.
A FEW PROMPTS FOR YOU TO PLAY WITH
Here are a few other thoughts you may want to wonder about for yourself, which I’ve borrowed from The Artists Way by Julia Cameron:
• If I had five imaginary lives to lead, what would I do in each of them?
• If I could lighten up a little, I would let myself….
• I’m afraid that if I start dreaming….
• Describe your self at eighty. Write a letter from your eighty-year-old self to your current self. What would you tell yourself? What interests would you urge yourself to pursue? What dreams would you encourage?
• What are you doing when you feel most beautiful?
The video I'm posting is well worth watching. It shows where curiosity can take you!!