About the Creative Process
Get ready for a long post! This bad boy has been percolating for a few weeks.
Just over a month ago after a guided medicine journey, I felt inspired to join in on Jo Klima's Make Art Monday project.
It had been a while since my last painting so I approached this project with some trepidation. I know I would have to engage my courage muscle to start up again.
The thing about creativity is that it has the potential to be both exhilarating and debilitating. It takes a whole heap of courage to use our creative power.
Which is why I give kudos to all the brilliant people that had the courage to give form to their wild ideas.
Recently I read, The Courage to Create, by Rolly May. In it he describes creativity as an, "act of rebellion against death". Ain't that the truth! He recommends using our rage and frustration about our mortality as a catalyst for the creative fire - and then out of that inner chaos, create form.
I also recently listened to a great talk by self-proclaimed "creative catalyst”, Jamie Catto. He spoke about the creative life and our addiction to approval, i.e.: "how many likes did I get on Facebook or instagram?" Catto suggests that we replace this anxious worry with surrender - to be with what shows up. Though I agree, I can imagine I’m not alone in saying that at times this is, "easier said than done".
Often, instead of surrendering to the creative process and becoming a channel of Spirit, I become a slave to resistance. Steven Pressfield discusses this in great detail in his inspiration read, The War of Art.
Truth be told, for as much as I get done, I'm no stranger to resistance.
I'm a gifted procrastinator. I'm great at distracting myself, wasting time on Facebook, reading books or online articles, or scouring through images on Tumblr.
I avoid the possibility of feeling frustrated or enraged amidst my creative process.
Until one day I took the plunge and dove headfirst into my ocean of creativity. I sat with my resistance and I pushed through it.
I whipped out my paint brushes and watercolor paper and started to paint. Whap Bam!
Here's what happened next:
The blank white page glared back at me.
So I started painting colorful strokes on the page in response.
Circles….lines...a feather….a zig-zag...a heart. I thought, "What the FUCK am I painting? This is ridiculous".
Whoa. The Critic just rolled in.
Who invited this asshole to my painting party!?
Its voice got nastier with each stroke of paint, going off about how stupid it looked and saying, "why do you even bother, Danielle? You aren’t any good.”
As I continued to paint, this voice went bat-shit bananas with remarks.
I paused. I listened. I took a deep breath and kept painting.
I thought about Mary Oliver’s poem, The Wild Geese and remembered, "I do not have to be good".
Life isn’t about being good.
As David Whyte says: “it's about brushing up against life, doing bad things thinking we’re doing good things, doing good things thinking we’re doing bad things”.
It’s about having the courage to be myself and to love who I came here to be.
I kept painting.
When I decided the work was complete, I snapped a few photos of it. I decided I liked it better cropped. I suppose this is part of being an editor and a lover of abstract art.
Still committed to the process, I sat still and waited for something to happen.
Despite my boiling frustration and urge to scream at the top of my lungs, I began another painting.
With another swirl of my paintbrush, I started painting circles - chartreuse green, turquoise, bright orange. They looked pretty but I thought, “…now what?"
I drew some lines to connect the circles. I saw this new image appear. Then it started looking like an ugly math problem. So, I set that aside and began yet another new painting.
Then I filled up my brush with a big drink of water and turned the paper sideways. I dripped the saturated brush down the page as if to create tears - my attempt to express my internal frustration and sadness.
Something shifted in that moment.
I felt those tears. I felt in the flow.
Quickly, the process started to feel great. Then I started cutting painting # 1 into pieces and tore painting #2 into shreds.
The shredding felt liberating. I felt empowered releasing that rage through my destruction.
As I did this, I realized: the process of piecing things together is my life's work.
It’s my purpose to take the painful elements of life and transform them into something new and beautiful.
This realization echoed my inner definition of alchemy. I recognized how I am the alchemist for my life.
This metaphor swirled around in my mind as I continued to cut circle after circle after circle.
Circles. Cycles. The planets. Wholeness. It was all coming together.
I constantly seek wholeness. I put the pieces of my life together like a puzzle.
I thought of Guru Singh’s quote: “Let your heart, not your brain, try to put this puzzle together.”
So many times in my life I thought I had to know what I was going to do in order to do it. So many times I judged myself and demanded that whatever I created had to be “good”. When really, I was missing the point.
The point is in the process. And, the process is more about allowing, surrendering, and bearing witness to what wants to unfold.
Amidst this realization, I started glueing the cut out circles onto a new page. Finally, the new piece emerged - and, I loved it. Not because it was a "good" piece of work, but because it reflected my process. It taught me something about myself. It provided me with a profound awakening. And THAT was beautiful.
When I think back to that afternoon, I realize what was most effective is that I kept going. When I stopped thinking and moved into feeling and intuition - I felt more clarity, more freedom, less frustration, and less judgment. I had more gratitude for my creations. I felt more courageous to express my subconscious and dance with my shadow. Staying with my process made it safe for me to visit the dark void of pure potentiality.
Typically, shit can get pretty freaky down there. That’s why creative blocks are so real and scary. Many of us are afraid of what we may find discover in the dark caverns of our minds.
But that is where the gold is.
That is where we touch the void and come back with the gift of life. Our creative force lives there. And that force is what gives births to all forms of life - people, plants, animals, suns, planets and galaxies, the whole of our universe.
Creative energy is on the other side of destruction. Just like the Plutonian lesson of death and rebirth – energy doesn’t die, it just transforms. Sometimes you have to destroy in order to create something else. Just like I did when I tore up my paintings to create something new.
It all made sense.
This is my process, and I love all of it. The stuck parts, the moving parts - the whole experience.
And, it never looks the same. Sometimes, I'm totally in the flow and the water of inspiration is rushing so fast I can barely contain it. Other days, it’s like I am sitting under a dripping water spigot on a hot summer day begging for a sip. It’s on those lean days that I crave being in the flow and forget: you can’t force the flow, Danielle.
But, I can sure as hell make best of the raindrops when they show up. And that day, with patience, I made myself a refreshing, tall glass of water out of the drops that came on through me.
Patience, trust, surrender. This is what we do to heal.
I’ll be writing more about Neptune and the creative process in an upcoming post. In the meantime, I’d love to know how you engage with your creative process. What happens? Is it the same or different every time?