I feel that my responsibility as a blogger is to give my reader some kind of takeaway: a laugh, a different point of view, a helpful insight…something of value. So, as I consider topics to write about, I’m always looking for that takeaway—what is the punchline? What is the lesson? What is different or interesting about this post that makes it worth reading?
Unfortunately, these last few months have been so overwhelming that I haven’t been able to boil the chaos in my head down to anything useful. I’ve been swept along in the current of my life– new job, new home, new relationship status/living arrangement, newly empty nest—and it’s been tough to stay afloat.
When I used the expression, “swept along in the current,” what I actually envisioned was more like falling off my raft on a whitewater rafting excursion: me, totally unfit for whitewater rafting in the first place, bobbing and flailing in a churning, twisting river with rocks all around. Periodically my head breaks the surface and I suck in a big gasping breath and then bam, back under I go. I’m not trying to swim in any particular direction; I’m not even trying to avoid the rocks. I’m just trying to remember which way is up and when I have the opportunity, breathe.
Over these last few months, my creativity feels dead. No writing, no painting…any creative effort I begin seems forced and frustrating.
Today I am feeling particularly overwhelmed. I googled for a lifesaver and found this gem from Pema Chodron:
Take the whole teatime just to drink your tea. I started doing this in airports. Instead of reading, I sit there and look at everything, and appreciate it. Even if you don’t feel appreciation, just look. Feel what you feel; take an interest and be curious. Write less; don’t try to capture it all on paper. Sometimes writing, instead of being a fresh take, is like trying to catch something and nail it down. This capturing blinds us, and there’s no fresh outlook, no wide-open eyes, no curiosity.
Maybe that’s why I’ve been struggling to find something blog-worthy to write—I’m trying so hard to capture something and boil it down that I have no fresh take, no wide-open eyes, no curiosity. No wonder I can’t find anything new to say.
A long time ago I learned a lesson about creating for the sake of creating, without fear of failure or pressure to achieve an expected result. It was one of the most memorable days of my life. (You can read that post here.) Even so, the lesson seems to have gotten buried and writing this post has reminded me of it.
For writing, for painting, for whatever your creative process– and that includes the life you are creating for yourself–you don’t need to know how it will turn out. You don’t need to fear that it won’t be right.
The nature of creating is venturing into the unknown. True creativity is making something NEW, bringing something into existence that didn’t exist before. If you’re in a true creative state, you’re not traveling an established path. So how can you possibly know you’re right? More importantly, how can you be wrong?
See, I spend a LOT of time worrying about screwing things up. Can’t write this blog post; it might turn out stupid. Can’t paint a painting because I don’t have any ideas, or for that matter, painting skills. On a bigger scale, I have life decisions staring me in the face and I’m paralyzed that I will choose the wrong path.
So I started writing today not to achieve a tidy result, but just to feel what I feel, to look around me with wide-open eyes, and to practice creativity for its own sake. As often happens when I start writing, a shape starts to form and I figure out what I’m writing about after I start writing it. In other words, I found my takeaway. It’s mostly for me, but I know there are others in my shoes who might find this helpful, too.
We create our lives. You are the first to walk your path, and I am the first to walk mine. Therefore, there is no established way: no right way and no wrong way. So we have nothing to be afraid of. We can’t know how it will turn out, but we don’t need to fear that it will turn out wrong. It’s ours to create, and the process of creating is where the joy lives.
Thanks again to every one of you who encourages me to keep writing. You can’t possibly know how much that means to me.