During the Creative Process
1. If no one ever saw anything you created, would you still create?
2. Are you letting your heart have what it really, really wants?
Believe it or not, the answers for these two questions are very connected.
The first question was posed to me many years ago and at the time it was very disquieting to me. The exact question was, ‘If no one ever saw any painting you ever did…would you still paint?’ and although that person was confident of their own answer, I was silent on the matter.
I didn’t know.
What I did know at the time was that I wasn’t separating out the creating part from the response of the mighty “they” in my life. In other words—it was one big ball of making a painting, entering it into a competition, hanging it in a show, being sensitive to what someone else’s reaction to it was. The actual doing of it (and how I felt when I was doing it) was buried underneath all the things that came afterwards. I was so vulnerable about the outcome of what I was creating that I allowed it to back flow into the process itself and impose its sense of carefulness. Careful not to take a chance. Careful not to risk too much. Careful not to listen too close to my own voice.
Carefulness has no place in the imagination OR in creating.
What was lost to me during those years was the uninhibited, go for broke, seize the moment, paint the day away for tomorrow we may die kind of thinking that opens the creative door wide.
How would it change what any of us are doing if we behaved as though whatever thing we created today would be swept away tomorrow before another soul laid eyes on it?
Would we perhaps bring more undiluted JOY to our work, a sense of freedom, a non-judgement frame of mind to whatever it is that we are called to do? Can our true work come forth if it’s done for the purpose of how others will perceive it?
Food for thought.
Which brings me to the second question of letting your heart have what it really, really wants.
If we change how we handle the first question by saying YES, it opens an immense door of possibility.
Yes, if no one ever saw anything I created, I would still create.
If it really didn’t matter, if the real JOY comes in the actual creating—not in its wake—then why oh why would we withhold our heart’s desires??
We wouldn’t of course. We would let our heart have at it! We would trust that it knew best. We would not be racing ahead in our mind to what someone else would think about our choices. If we decided that we wanted to start working in crayola crayons and doing it on brown paper bags we would not be sweating over how archival is it, will people buy something done on a grocery bag, or what will the all important powers that be have to say about us.
And that, as you might have guessed, is ONE very important place to arrive.
The place of letting your creative heart run wild.
Crazy with inspiration, grandeur, and possibility. Because no one (in theory) would ever see it, we are free to be us in our art!
“I feel assured I should write from the mere fondness and yearning I have for the
even if my night’s labours should be burnt every morning
and no eye ever shine on them.”
John Keats in a letter to R. Woodhouse Oct. 17, 1818
It’s good to do a self-check on occasion.
Checking in to see why we are doing what we are doing.
Asking ourselves if what we are creating today were to disappear by dawn’s early light, would we do it the same or would we do it differently. Are we holding back or are we leaning into the fire?
I’m not saying I am there. My paintings? Yes. They feel more like me than they ever have. I have JOY every time I paint. That is Truth.
My writing? Still scares me sometimes.
The what if’s and what will they think tends to sit next to me, trying to make eye contact that would intimidate me from even the words I would write to you now.
If I live my life carefully, weighing my creativity against an unknown future critic, I forgo living a fully expressed life.
Seeing it here in writing makes it seem pretty simple.
Create like there is no tomorrow.
Live to your heart’s highest expectations.
Give your heart what it really, really wants.
Note: As to the image in this post—I had been playing in the water while staying lakeside in Louisiana. The piece below (catch those twinkling watercolors glittering in the sunlight– they always make me feel like a kid!) was done on the banks of the Cane River in a little town called Natchitoches. The movie Steel Magnolias was filmed there.
Springtime in the south….nothing like it!!