“We have to come to trust our way and not think we should do it another way.” Thank you, Natalie Goldberg, author of Wild Mind, for confirming for me what I’ve felt. With practice, I have developed, as all creatives have, a way to make my art that works for me. Though others share their process, and perhaps that’s helpful for beginners as it gives them something to try to get the wheels of creating greased, after a while we all develop our own way of going about the process. The challenge, and there’s always a challenge, is to keep going, to try new practices or prompts or mediums, keep having new experiences so our Muse has something to give us, because then the critic and the fear can’t gain a foothold and keep us from what we find is an integral part of who we are.
“. . . there is a quiet place in us below our hip personality that is connected to our breath, our words, and our death. . . the quiet place exists as we exist . . . It just is.” How we connect to that quiet place is different for each of us. Sometimes we begin with a ritual, in a particular place or with certain items. We open the door for our Muse, invite her in, and get quiet so we can listen to what she has to say. What we portray to the world is sometimes different from the turmoil inside. The heat generated from the compost pile of our experiences can be directed to the canvas or the dance floor or our paper. But we have to get quiet first.
“What I mean by silent is that it communicates directly to your heart and mind, and there aren’t any squeaky words that don’t fit, words that are afraid.” It takes a little bit of courage to create. If we paint or play an instrument or write a story, we can be brave enough to put some paint on the canvass and laugh because we think it isn’t very good if the eyes are lopsided or the orange isn’t round or the waves have the wrong direction of sunlight. We can play someone else’s song, note for note, and give reasons for why our version is a little simpler. Maybe we’re just learning. Maybe the song is a bit outside our skill level. If we write, we don’t have to show it to anyone. Then we won’t be judged. Or if we do, we can say we’ve been reading a lot of Stephen King or Ernest Hemingway or Virginia Woolf and claim that it’s their influence on our Muse. But if we take it a little deeper, search within ourselves to the shadowed places, and record what we see and hear and feel, then it’ll be from the heart and the words won’t be afraid.
It’s easier to stick with the surface stuff. The thoughts and feelings that are shared by many, verbally and on social media. “. . . a writer must be willing to sit at the bottom of the pit, commit herself to stay there, and let all the wild animals approach, even call them up, then face them, write them down, and not run away.” The ‘pit’ is where we are when we create. The wild animals are what scurries away when we strike a match to light our creativity. Being in the pit, being committed to what comes to us, and recording it as truly and honestly as we can takes another notch of bravery. I admit that I’ve run before. I’ve chosen easier words, easier situations for my characters, and I’ve left out descriptions that would turn stomachs and cast doubtful and confused glances my way. When we realize we’ve done this, we can change it or we can make up excuses to explain away why we stayed safe at the edge of the pit instead of at the bottom, or why our commitment to stay at the bottom, faltered. But every time we sit down to write, and take out our paints or instrument or dance shoes or camera, we get the chance to revisit our commitment, our courage to stay at the bottom of the pit. The only judgement we face is our own. There’s always an opportunity to come clean.
Publishing one’s work on their website is an act of bravery, tossing projects out there for the world to see. I invite you to read mine: www.myjoyenterprises.com
What have you created when you’ve committed to remaining at the bottom of the pit? What is your usual way of creating? Does it include wandering in the silence?