Each January I choose a word that embodies an energy that I want to call in, dance with and learn from in the coming year.
Last year it was EASE. Learning about EASE was no picnic and so much more demanding than I could ever have imagined. But I did discover a lot about what was in the way of ease for me.
My word for 2014 is CREATE. And as I thought about that word and what it means to me I also found myself asking this question “What do I need in order to be fully engaged with my creative process and to be utterly, creatively alive?”
Here are some of my answers.
TIME IS NOT YOUR PROBLEM
Most people talk about the issue of time when they’re chiding themselves for not being creative. Telling themselves things like “I just don’t have the time. There’s not enough time. I wish I could make the time. If only I had 25 hours in the day, etc..”
As if time itself is somehow conspiring to keep us from creatively expressing ourselves.
But we can always find time for the things that matter to us. Even if it’s only 15 minutes a day. And some days that’s all the time I DO have.
So the real issue is about choice.
It’s about answering the question “What do you really WANT?” And if what you want is to spend your spare moments playing the game of trying to figure out which character you are on Downton Abbey or watching Buffy The Vampire Slayer reruns on Hulu, then go for it.
(And by the way, doing these things is sometimes EXACTLY what I need. Especially if I’m in burnout mode. So I’m not saying they don’t have their place.)
But what if what you TRULY want is to create? And you’re not doing it. If that’s the case then you need to find out exactly what it is that’s putting the brakes on your creative rocketship.
What would it mean to allow your desire and passion and hunger to BE creative to become a priority? What are you telling yourself is more important than your creative needs? What psychological belief or pattern stops you from honoring your creative yearnings?
If you can answer those questions honestly, then time to be creative will magically appear.
I’m not one of those people who needs to have their physical space looking like a Zen monastery before they can begin creating.
Right now I’m sitting on a couch piled high with pillows and stuffed animals. And a bunch of books spread out and lying on the floor at my feet. Plus a box of kleenex. And an empty plate from my lunch sitting on a table next to the couch. This does not distract me from being creative in the slightest.
But there is another kind of decluttering that I DO need to do and that’s making space in my brain in order for the muse to find her way through. What that looks like is clearing out things like worry. Problem solving. Obsession of one sort or another. Thinking about the future. Or the past. Judging myself.
My creative juice flows most profusely when I’m in a place of relative peace and inner spaciousness. And if I’m chewing on some business or personal complication or having a heated inner conversation with someone who recently pissed me off or criticizing every creative move I make then I’m not EMOTIONALLY available for the ideas and inspiration from my creative source to come through.
To unleash the spark of my creative vitality, my attention needs to be focused as much as possible in the here and now. My emotional energy needs to be fully engaged with the work in front of me, whether it’s writing or painting or brainstorming about a project.
My MIND has to feel like a zendo even if my couch looks like 3 kids on a sugar high just spent the last 15 minutes jumping up and down on it in frenzied glee.
WHO’S RUNNING THE CREATIVE SHOW, ANYWAY?
If I think that my creative efforts are totally up to me then I am royally screwed. The real truth is that everything I have ever created has always been done in collaboration with my muse. It’s me and her together. We’re a creative team.
Now, I definitely play a role in the process. For example, I wanted to write a blog post today and because my word for this year was Create I thought the post might be something related to that topic. But I didn’t know if that was truly the case and I had no idea WHAT I was going to say until I sat down at the computer to write.
I simply asked her what SHE wanted to address and this is what showed up.
Over the years I have learned to trust her. Implicitly. And I also know that if I simply open the door and invite her in, that my creative work will come through me with a minimum of stress and effort and a maximum of joy and ease.
When I experience any kind of creative block, it’s because I’m fighting with her. Trying to impose my will on her or questioning her every step of the way.
So one of the qualities that I cultivate on a regular basis in service of my creative mojo is that of surrender. Which means letting go of the need to control things as well as thinking that I have to know ahead of time how something is going to turn out. Learning to listen. And to follow orders. And letting myself be surprised … often COMPLETELY surprised… by what shows up.
This is by no means an exhaustive list.
This is just what wanted to come through today. And as you sit with this question yourself, you may come up with totally different things.
But I do encourage you to ASK the question. And if you want to be creative, to take the answers very seriously. Your creative life just may depend upon it.