The Creative Life

Calla Lilies
Calla Lilies

“Creativity itself doesn’t care at all about results – the only thing it craves is the process. Learn to love the process and let whatever happens next happen, without fussing too much about it. Work like a monk, or a mule, or some other representative metaphor for diligence. Love the work. Destiny will do what it wants with you, regardless.” ~ Elizabeth Gilbert

“There is no innovation and creativity without failure. Period.” ~ Brené Brown

“Curiosity is what keeps you working steadily, while hotter emotions may come and go.” ~ Elizabeth Gilbert

A few days ago I began reading, Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. It’s about living a creative life without fear. Some books blow your mind, others help you work through trauma, others are just plain fun. Then there are the books that confirm your feelings, your point of view. Those books can give you courage to continue on the road you’ve chosen. Big Magic is that kind of book for me.

Though I’ve only been writing for eight years and consider myself a new writer, I do have years of experience in the world of theatre. And to echo something from Elizabeth’s book, when you commit yourself to the creative life, you have to stick with it through thick and thin. I’ve been cast as characters that were very different from me and consequently very difficult to play because I had a hard time relating to them. On the other hand I’ve played characters that were so much like me that it was difficult to know where the character ended and I began.

Writing is like that too. Some days I sit down to write my weekly blog post or work on my novel and the words flow out my fingers with little need of revision. Other times I struggle with the concepts I’m trying to convey. I write, then dump whole sections or sometimes begin over. Since I’m under a deadline for my blog, I have to publish it even though what I’ve written may not adequately express the idea that’s been running around in my head looking for an outlet.

At the beginning of this year, I decided that I’d like to try my hand at writing essays and stories to send to publications with open submissions. One particular opportunity struck my fancy. The magazine, Story has called for submissions on the theme of identity. When I saw that, I thought, “I have lots to say on that topic,” and I began writing. That was over two months ago and I’m still struggling with the piece. The deadline for submission is fast approaching and I have too much to say about identity. I can’t narrow my thoughts down into a coherent whole. It’s like when I get close to a vital idea for the piece it floats away from me. As a result I may not get it together in time to submit it for publication.

I was feeling discouraged about that, but after reading Big Magic, my viewpoint has changed. Maybe I’m not supposed to write about identity. On the other hand a story idea flitted toward me the other day, and it’s demanding attention. This story wants to be written, and written by me. Elizabeth’s theory is that creative ideas float around until they find the person who is supposed to bring the idea to life. That’s how this new story idea feels to me, unlike the essay on identity. I’ll continue to work on the essay until it tells me to quit. That’s all a creative person can do, follow the breadcrumbs and see where they lead you.

You also have to put your work out into the world anyway you can. Last night in the section I was reading, Elizabeth related a story of the first piece she had published. The title of the story was “Pilgrims”, and the editor of Esquire magazine wanted to publish it. She was ecstatic. Finally after years of trying, her work would be published in a major magazine. Then she got a call. A large advertising sponsor had backed out of placing their ads and the editor would have to reduce the number of pages for the edition that was to include her story. They wanted to know if she would be willing to cut her ten page story by thirty percent. She could wait for a future publication, but the magazine business was changeable, her contact warned, and her story might never be published. She chose to rewrite the story and it turned out to be a good thing she did, because two months later, the editor left for a new position and her story would have gone into oblivion.

Choosing the creative life sends the practitioner off into a mysterious world. There are peaks and valleys. One day everything is going well with your project and the next, the idea well is dry, or tastes funny, or has gone underground and is flowing toward another artist. All we can do is commit to the work. I find that the deeper my commitment, the more I’m supported by the creativity fairies who sometimes lead me in directions I had no intention of going. Yet, I’ve committed myself to them, so I must follow. The point is, I look forward every morning to sitting down at my computer and following the breadcrumbs left for me that day.

Well, this is one of those blog posts that is kind of all over the place. My ideas are still not completely formed. The ideas from Big Magic are still drifting around in my head, and out in the ethers waiting to crystalize. That doesn’t matter. I’ll publish this post anyway.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment or share with a friend.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2016

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