What is it that you feel when an idea strikes you as you drive to work, or when you’re on the treadmill at the gym, or taking a shower? Do you reach for a paper and pencil to jot it down, or hope you’ll remember when you get around to making a note of it later? When you begin a creative venture or project, what emotion surrounds you, drives you to ‘do’ something with your idea? Do nerves zing under your skin, your pulse race, your eyes glow as your medium of choice for sculpture begins to reveal the image, or the brush strokes begin to outline the form, or the characters begin to unfold? Is it the same feeling in your gut, that sense of courage, of fearlessness, that seizes you by the heart as you complete your piece? Do you remind yourself of the questions: Why do I create? For whom am I creating?
Excitement. Joy. Drive. Desire. Sensual inspiration. Muse. Whatever label you attach to the feeling, are you familiar enough with it to allow the flow to direct your creative process? When we are in the flow, in the moment, there are few bumps and potholes in the road. Or, if there are, we seem more equipped to deal with them. But what happens when the bottom falls out of a project?
There are numerous suggestions that have been shared as to what could be done when stumbling occurs with creativity. I’ve always been of the mind that I write every day. That is my intention, not my goal (see my previous post on Intention). When a day or more slips by and I have not, for a variety of reasons and excuses (i.e., potholes and bumps), taken my story any further along towards its completion, I’m very careful about guilt. Guilt is a killer. So what? So I’ve skipped one, or several, days of writing. The story is still ‘there’, in my mind. Very much aware of how the passage of time alters the story, the perspective, even the voice, I’m vigilant to return as soon as possible to the characters and their conflict. And if I still am unable to ‘get back to writing’ for a length of time? Still no guilt. I refuse to indulge in the ego’s attempt to control the creative process. With the guilt, comes doubt, and with doubt, criticism and judgment, followed by fear. And once that arrives on your doorstep and camps out in your spare bedroom, enormous amounts of effort will be required to oust the squatter.
Perhaps, like me, you’ve been cruising along, everything is flowing, then life jumps in to shake things up a bit. How long does it take to get your stride back? And are your shoes then covered in the odor of guilt, doubt, and fear? For as long as you remain away from the feeling that bubbles up from the depth of your being, the one the pokes at you until you pick up the pencil or the brush or the chisel or the guitar, you are allowing the ego to take control. As I’ve stated before, once we create from that perspective (especially initially), then the piece is contrived, fake.
Perhaps my muse had fair warning that a few bumps and potholes were on the road ahead. For the first time ever, I was given the whole story. Scenes, characters, conversations: the storage unit on fire, the mixing of chemicals in the darkroom, the late spring snow storm, the man-made avalanche that seals Carli and Ethan inside an abandoned mine, the shooting on the courthouse steps, and more, were all recorded over two months ago. Now, whether I stick to that or not, remains to be seen. What I do know, is that my intention remains to write every day. If you’ve read my blog from a couple of weeks ago, you know that I write in a variety of places. There is a push to get the story onto paper, as my perspective of the events of the story changes. How do I return to a running dialogue between characters, finish a sentence that remains half-written, or know what needs to come next so the reader doesn’t forget about the protagonist or the antagonist, especially when I had just given one completed spiral to my typist and therefore have nothing to go back to and reread?
I plug in to the excitement. The sparking nerves, the fluttering stomach, the itching fingers that long to pick up the pen and scratch the words I feel stuck in my chest, my throat. Returning to the joy creating brings, the desire to birth the project into the world, fuels my intention and creates the time and space for me to write.
Is there a project that you have abandoned? Pick up it up, look at, close your eyes, and reconnect with the feeling that first blossomed the idea in your mind and heart. The colors, the lines, the lyrics, the notes, the dance moves, the flavors, the characters, the sensual input . . . can you see it? Feel it? Allow that feeling to soak into your pores, to fill you up, to direct your hand and return to the piece and finish it. Too far gone to get the feeling back? Has your perspective changed? Take something from the project and build anew. But take what you are guided, what breathes the most excitement. If you keep that which might make money or that your mother likes or is so typical of your usual work, then you’re choosing to allow the critical mind to venture into the deep waters of creativity. It won’t drown, for it has a life raft, a personal floatation device, and a flare gun to ensure you see what it wants you to see with something other than your muse or your heart. Not that it is bad (as a yogi I attempt to withdraw from the duality of ‘good’ and ‘bad’), it will just be different, and perhaps the flow will be halting as your creative side attempts to wrestle with what the mind has saved. This is just an invitation. Try it out. See what works for you. Those unfinished projects deserve to see the light of day. If not, you would have never been given the inspiration to begin them.
I recently read an essay by Isabel Allende from Writing as an Act of Hope. The author suggested that as writers, we have an obligation to inspire others, to shine a light, however small, against the crowding shadows of society. There was an immediate connection I had with this writer. To urge even a single beam of dim light into that which threatens to overtake lives, to turn away the joy, to expose the ills of mankind. Spontaneously, completely, issues have arisen in my own writing that cast a glance at the border issue and illegal immigration, drug use, religion and spirituality, child abuse, and political corruption. If you’re interested in what this author has to say, you can read an excerpt from my three novels on my web site www.myjoyenterprises.com Are there issues that speak to you? Do you allow your muse to be directed, even colored, by them? Why, or why not?