Create for Life

We were born to create. The creative drive – to make something out of nothing from our own sustained effort and imagination – is woven into the fiber of our being. If we accept the axiom of God as creator, and that we are made in His image, then we too are creators!

This goes beyond our most fundamental instinct: to perpetuate our species through procreation. We create because it nourishes us, sustains us, motivates us, heals us, defines us, and connects us to each other and to God.  Through creative expression we begin to understand both our selves and our world.

How is this done? I prefer a broad definition of creativity: any form of self-expression. While for many people avenues such as music, art, or writing are the most satisfying, there are countless other methods of creating that are readily available and deeply satisfying. And they are all fueled by artistic vision.

Think about what gives you joy, wonder, and a sense of accomplishment. You undoubtedly apply creative energy in these activities.

My father loves anything with an engine, and he has always used his creativity to build motorized contraptions beyond the wide-eyed comprehension of people around him. My mother created through gardening, fashioning the most beautiful rock garden in our neighborhood – the envy of the neighbor ladies and her fellow rock garden club members. My son writes poetry – deep and enigmatic, the kind his parents struggle to understand. His professors applaud and say “he has an old soul.” My daughter can write with humor, whimsy, and originality. Her unique way of seeing is evident in her insightful stories. My husband can craft a sermon with theology, language, illustrations, and oratorical flourish that make craggy old men cry. What an inventive preacher!

Despite my conventional appearance I am a “right brain” person who approaches my work with a distinct “differentness.” My leadership style has been described as “thinking outside the box.” What strengthens this method is my proclivity to embrace my creative flow. I am in love with my work  when I am so engaged that I forget about time. It is exciting and energizing to create something new. This makes every day unique, and fuels me through the unavoidable minutiae of community mental health services.

But matters as simple as playing with a child, telling a joke, cooking a meal, or decorating a room can invite creative expression. How about choosing one’s clothes in the morning? Artistic considerations are made with each decision about color, design, shape, form, and texture. Every mood can inspire a new pairing of clothes and accessories. The possibilities are endless … especially if you have a closet as jam-packed as mine!

I recently spent a year writing my memoir about my experience with major depression. This was the most sustained creative process I have ever engaged in. Now finished, I miss the discovery and delight that come from taking facts and turning them into beauty. The creative challenge of selecting a structure, images, symbols, metaphors, syntax, and meaning behind my story was like formulating my own universe. I can imagine the otherworldly transcendence that fiction writers must feel. Writing this blog provides some of that same satisfaction.

Creativity is a natural way of life and it can be a spiritual practice. I learned about this in the book The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. Her work involves a self-discovery and renewal process to recover one’s creative vision. Ms. Cameron works with people interested in practicing the art of creative living. She teaches tools that dissolve blocks to creative capacities. She helps people develop and maintain their creativity regardless of their vocation: artists, painters, filmmakers, homemakers, lawyers, social workers … anyone.

One of her key disciplines is the practice of the “morning pages.” This involves starting the day writing three longhand pages, strictly stream-of-consciousness. It is designed to be a form of “brain drain;” there is no wrong way to do morning pages. They are not meant to be art, or even writing. Morning pages are meant to be, simply, the act of moving the hand across the page and writing down whatever comes to mind. Nothing is too petty, silly, stupid, or weird to be included. The goal is to evade the censor; there are no mistakes in writing morning pages. The logic brain must stand aside and let the artist brain play. It is the triumph of the right-brain over the left-brain.

Several years ago something powerful happened while I was doing my morning pages. I became aware of an area of my life that needed to change, and I suddenly had the clarity and imagination to envision it. A creative and emotional block was powerfully removed. And then it was inevitable; I just did it. Consequently, my life has been much richer. (The specific tale is one for another blog post). I am so glad that I opened myself up to the creative process of the morning pages.

In support of being well and staying well, I urge you: explore many avenues for creativity. Embrace them vigorously and consistently. You will find your life enriched, and you will arrive in places you would have never imagined. Create for life.

“I want to live like a river flows … carried by the surprise of its own unfolding.”

 -John O-Donahue, Irish poet and priest

 

 

 

 

11 Comments

  1. Another great post Lisa. It helps to motivate me to work on a project for my Sister’s 4th of July Party. As part of the festivities, we will be exhibiting our personal works from art to poetry to song and whatever else anyone cares to imagine. I am hoping to have a couple of entries. Thanks for the inspiring words and encouragement to follow our creative instincts!

    • Even Albert Einstein (truly a powerhouse of knowledge) said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.”

  2. You are very tapped in to your creative spirit Mat … just let it come forth! You enrich those around you through your creative talent.

  3. Meredith Ball

    Wow! Another amazing post! I have more ideas and learn more about creativity playing with Joshua every day than ever before! He teaches me about how to be more creative! I am looking forward to reading about your morning pages epiphany!

    • Yes, so true Meredith. I have always been impressed by the creative juices that flow when interacting – i.e. playing – with children. We adults would be well served to remember how to generate that kind of joy. And stay tuned about the morning pages epiphany. (Don’t you love that word?)

  4. Kathy McGillivray

    Creativity is why I bought my wind chimes. While I did not create them, I love their deep, haunting, moving sound. The wind is like the Spirit. We are like wind chimes. When the wind blows, a beautiful sound can be created if we will just hang out there and let ourselves be carried on the wind. Having these chimes lends a distinctiveness to my house. It is a sound of beauty that greets me when I walk past them.

    • How beautiful Kathy. I love the thought of you being greeted by the delicate music of the wind chimes when you come home. Also, nice metaphor for the Holy Spirit. Very creative!

  5. David Estrada

    Lisa,
    Thank you for sharing these beautiful thoughts. You’ve put into words how I feel about what I’m doing now. After 7 years of retirement I am giving back to my community in a very meaningful way as President of a nonprofit agency. I enjoy reading your blog and working with you.

    • I am glad you can relate to this blog and my message. Yes, David, you are giving of yourself and creating beauty in the lives of others. What an inspired sense of purpose this generates!

  6. Rozanne Miller

    This is a truely wonderful essay. I agree with you whole heartedly. Creativity is similar in its’ process to gratitude. Practicing it increases it and increases awareness of its’ abundance. Both creativity and gratitude are healing of psychic pain. In action, they move us beyond the place where we are stuck and reveal a vastly larger view of our world. I tell my clients, (and therefor myself); when you find yourself sinking in the quicksand of negativive thought circles, physically stand up, go outside, look up at the sky, look at a tree, look at flowers, the myriad shades of green; watch a dog at play, and children laughing. These are free pricless treasures that remind us of our capacity for joy, and move us to continue with our own creation.

    Thank you for inspiring my creativity.

    • What a wise perspective you have for therapy. I greatly appreciate your insight and comments. You sound like a terrific therapist Rozanne!

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