Free Spirit


I have a confession to make.

In a lot of my writing  I talk about my relationship to the creative process as something that’s kind of abstract. Or simply the workings of my own mind. Which isn’t exactly the truth.

I’ve been avoiding telling the truth because I’m afraid that if I do the next time I open the front door I will be greeted by the proverbial men in the white coats with their clipboards and soothing voices.

But in all fairness to you I think it’s time I stopped being chicken-shit vague in the service of preserving any appearance of sanity.

So here is the truth.

I often feel like my creativity ( AKA my muse) is a separate being.

No, no, no…. see I’m STILL waffling.

OK. OK. One more time.

I KNOW that my muse is a separate being.

Yes, you could say she’s another aspect of my psyche. And maybe she is. But she clearly doesn’t think so and she certainly doesn’t act that way.

I mean, do you get into whiny, pissy fights with something that’s just a part of your subconscious? And routinely lose those arguments?

There are definitely clues that point to her independent existence, such as the fact that she often wants things other than what I think I want. Like I thought I wanted to write this post about the futility of planning but she thought it would be a much better idea for me to write a post about her!

She so clearly has a mind and needs of her own. She has her own rhythm and her own sense of flow. She comes, she goes. She talks to me louder sometimes than others. She feeds me, entertains me, supports me and gives my life an incredible sense of meaning.

And like any relationship with someone who is not you, she is unpredictable. I have no idea what she’s going to do next.

Whenever I start a new creative project- whether it’s writing or painting or designing a workshop- I never know where it’s going or how it’s going to end up. I mean, sure, I have some general outlines to work with. Like right now, I am writing this blog post. I know that it will be about creativity and maybe will have something to do with the futility of planning. ( Although you can see exactly how far THAT has gotten me).

But I don’t really know what I’m actually going to say about ANY of that. I have no idea how it’s going to come out or what tangents I’m going to go off on. I don’t know if I’m going to like what I end up with. If it will please my critic or my audience or if it will even please me.

All of that is a total mystery.

My job when I enter into a relationship with the creative process is to put in a request (one article about planning and creativity, if it’s OK with you), invite the creativity goddess to pay me a visit, pick up the brush or put my fingers on the keyboard and then sit back and see what happens.

And this is something that makes my stomach clench and my skin crawl every time.

Because, you see, I am rather addicted to feeling safe. I want the money-back guarantee. I want to know for sure where it is that I am going and what the final outcome will be. I want the map and the destination and everything in between. And I want to know that I will be happy with where I end up.

But I never get that sense of confidence when I invite my muse in because she’s wildly capricious.

Sometimes she gives me tons of good stuff and sometimes I have the distinct impression that she’s holding out on me. Sometimes she floods me with more words and images than I know what to do with and sometimes she is slow and halting and meandering and I end up spending a great deal of time staring out the window .

It’s very clear that I don’t have any control over her. And because I can’t control her it actually scares me.

I’m scared because I’m not all that crazy about facing the void each time I am creating something. I don’t like feeling so lost and wondering, again, if this time I will finally find out that there is nothing more left inside me to express.

I’m terrified of the possibility that I will discover that maybe the creative well has finally dried up. That the creativity goddess has abandoned me and left me high and dry with my fingers perched expectantly over the keyboard but no words, or images or stories cascading through my brain and out of my hands onto the screen or paper in front of me.

I’m afraid of the silence. The empty space.

I forget that this silence and emptiness is so much a part of the creative journey. I forget that I need to empty myself before I can be filled with the creative fire. That I need to make room and get out of the way.

And then even if she does deign to allow the words or paint to flow and I end up with a painting or a blog post I get scared about other people seeing it and what they will think about it. I get worried that they won’t like it or think it’s weird. And because they don’t know that it’s really not me writing or painting they will think that I’m not a very good writer or painter. Or that I’m weird.

They don’t understand that it’s completely out of my hands.

Whenever I start worrying about other peoples reactions I get confused. I forget that whatever shows up on the paper has nothing to do with me. I forget that I can take no credit or blame for how my creativity manifests.

And then I start IMPROVING what she is giving me. Making value judgments. Behaving as if I know better than her. Forgetting who is really in charge here.

Which is a monumentally bad idea. Me forgetting that she is the boss of my creative life, that she is the source of all creative goodness makes her incredibly cranky. And when she gets cranky she pouts and sulks and won’t give me anything at all.

I call it being blocked. She calls it being unappreciated.

Ultimately what it comes down to is that I need to trust. I need to trust that there is this other intelligence operating inside of me that I call the muse, or the creativity goddess or my intuition. I need to trust that this part of me is not only alive and well, but knows exactly what it is doing.

And to try and remember that if I just give in and let her have her way with me I actually enjoy the whole process immensely. It’s really wonderful to be in that creative flow. To not feel like I have to be responsible. To be in that place where I am inspired and surprised by what shows up. It’s endlessly fascinating. It’s a lot of fun. It’s energizing and relaxing and incredibly fulfilling to just let the spirit move me.

I am actually the happiest when I am doing exactly what she wants me to do without question. Which may seem a tad sick and twisted to someone looking in from the outside.

But truthfully, I didn’t want to write that blog post about the futility of planning anyway.