Estimated reading time: 10 minutes
A love note, prod and embrace from one creator to another to finally step into your creative dream project and get it done
I used to be a professional disease hunter, a board-certified surgical pathologist. I was the M.D. in a white coat who stared at your skin (or breast, brain or bone, etc.) biopsy under the microscope and let your doctor know what, if any disease was present. After twenty years, I grew less interested in what makes people sick and more curious about what makes people WELL.
As I began to explore this state of wellbeing, I discovered that people who regularly dance, sing, tell stories and create things tend to be very lively… full of LIFE. Joyful. Vital. Healthy. There is something about self-expression that makes us more ALIVE.
I eventually quit disease hunting to help humans have more LIVELY lives.
At their request, I lovingly help my clients get their ships righted and back on a trajectory towards more vitality, peace and contentment. I’ve learned a lot about what stops us from prioritizing the things that make us more ALIVE. So, whether you have a book to write, a song to record, paintings to paint or a new invention/idea to help others, these are five very valid reasons to get it done…now.
Number Five: Do it because somebody told you that you can’t.
A lot of us who feel drawn to create fancy ourselves as black sheep. We believe we don’t fit in, or that everybody is against us for some reason or another. It’s a perspective and rebellion can be a powerful motivator. Years ago, when I presented my first draft of a book to an editor I admired greatly, she told me that I couldn’t write that book. In fact, I wouldn’t be ready to write it for at least three years. Her assessment sent me to my bed to weep uncontrollably for hours and wedged me in a semi-permanent quagmire of self-pity that lasted three full months. I must have moved through a few of the stages of grief because I finally hit anger. PAYDIRT. I got incensed. Who was this woman to tell me I couldn’t write a book? I found a new editor who believed I could write a book and I did write that book and went on to (outrageously) write five more.
Maybe you believe you can’t do your creative act because of something a teacher said to you back in the eighth grade or because your mother wouldn’t approve. Or maybe there’s a wounded part of you thwarting you at every turn that wants to keep you safe. Gently put your arm around them and remind them that you’re a sovereign adult and that it’s going to be OK. And then do this thing! Please remember to surround yourself with your champions, those people who believe that you can and will do this wonderful creative thing. There is almost nothing sweeter than proving a naysayer wrong.
Number Four: Because it will make you a better human.
Not only will your life become more LIVELY and AMAZING, as you make your creative act, you will develop a very deep and rare compassion for others…especially other creatives. That author who wrote the book that changed your life? The songwriter whose song got you through a dark night of the soul? The filmmaker who helped you see the madness of being a tortured artist? You will begin to see yourself as a member of a crazy sort of wonder-family with these other creators. You will want to get down on your knees and thank them for the body of work they have created because you will see just how challenging it is to create any work at all.
In addition, most challenging of all for many of us is this: you will have to ask for help. Somewhere in this process, you will realize that you cannot do this thing alone. It is in the asking that you will need to learn to trust others and listen. And with help, you can make something even better. Much better.
You will also, I’m sorry to report, have to stick your neck out. Maybe what you are creating isn’t an excruciatingly personal memoir or series of nude self-portraits, but even if the work you create isn’t super vulnerable, sharing it with others will be. Your heart will grow at least 6 ¾ sizes, one hundred percent guaranteed.
Number Three: Because it will scare the hell out of you
Everybody knows that “doing the thing you think you cannot do” is the BEST thing you can do. But we avoid it like the plague: hiding under the covers, hitting snooze and idly gossiping about those people out there doing those very things. [Writing your book, painting your paintings, launching your new service to help others] is your hero’s journey. It is a normal and expected part of the tantalizing story that the hero must refuse their calling at first. That’s why it’s such an exciting plot twist when they change their mind and SAY YES. This is the PLOT TWIST you have been waiting for! And Joseph Campbell assures us all that once we say yes, all manner of magical things will happen and “…doors will open where you would not have thought there would be doors and there wouldn’t be a door for anyone else.” Not miraculous enough for you? Keep reading.
You will be forced to SLAY THE DRAGON on this amazing quest, which of course is your fear:
- Fear of critics. (tip: go read the one-star reviews of your absolutely favorite creator).
- Fear that it’s already been done and been done better by somebody else (Ha! A laughable lie! Nobody can do it like you will do it).
- Fear you are an imposter and not the artist/writer/torch singer or creative you claim to be (for example: Just because you haven’t been obsessed with writing in a journal since second grade doesn’t mean you’re not meant to be a writer!).
We all know how the hero’s story goes. The dragon guards the hero’s treasure. Facing your myriad fears, this treasure will be acquired by you and it will be something you can share with your family, your community and the world! Come on! Who doesn’t love treasure! It’s one of the last things on earth you cannot buy with Amazon Prime. This adventure promises to be a powerful spiritual housecleaning of your body, mind, and spirit and you’ll emerge a clearer, more confident version of yourself.
Number Two: Because it is the most Generous thing you can do.
A lot of us worry that if we take the time and resources to do this creative thing it will be selfish. We worry that it will make us bad mothers, sisters, daughters and friends. The truth is just the opposite: as you become willing to create, you will set others free automatically to do their thing: to paint huge portraits of Marmosets, to shoot a short dramatic film about Dandelion coffee, to write and perform an opera about Lizzo and her flute…to follow their yearnings.
If you are a mother or father or uncle or aunt of grandmother or grandfather, it is morally imperative that you make this creative act. If you show your kids that you’re a martyr, they will grow up to be martyrs. But, if you show them you are a creator, they will become creators too. Author Brenda Uleand says it best:
“[Write your book or paint your painting or sing your songs] Because there is nothing that makes people so generous, joyful, lively, bold and compassionate, so indifferent to fighting and the accumulation of objects and money. Because the best way to know truth or beauty is to express it.”
Number One: Because a Messy House (or basement) won’t haunt you on your deathbed like the creativity you never exercised might.
But I hear you cry, “There’s no time! I’m busy with [challenging stain removal situations with my laundry, sorting complex recycling, dusting my Lladro collection, shredding damning documents, booking dental appointments for my six kids]! We each have the same twenty four hours each day. It is prioritizing that makes the difference between living a little more each day and dying a little more each day. If you decided that this creation was of critical importance, it would get done. And yes…you might very well run out of paper towels or your eyebrows might get wildly untamed (temporarily) and you might get a red check by your name at the library, but the other option is so much more bleak: You will reach the end of your days without having truly lived.
As Mary Oliver said,
“It is six A.M., and I am working. I am absentminded, reckless, heedless of social obligations, etc. It is as it must be. The tire goes flat, the tooth falls out, there will be a hundred meals without mustard. The poem gets written. I have wrestled with the angel and I am stained with light and I have no shame. Neither do I have guilt. My responsibility is not to the ordinary, or the timely. It does not include mustard, or teeth. It does not extend to the lost button, or the beans in the pot. My loyalty is to the inner vision, whenever and howsoever it may arrive.”
― Mary Oliver, Upstream: Selected Essays
A Post-Script from the field:
I’ve just published my first novel (after writing five non-fiction books) Where the Deer Dream and I have to report that the process was extremely mysterious as it always is when you are acting as a conduit for something greater than yourself. I’m a bit sheepish to admit that I gave up several times on this particular hero’s journey. The dragons I had to slay seemed more fiery and intimidating than ever before. Each time that I gave up, something strange happened. The first time I had quit the novel, I was leading a Pachydermal Pilgrimage in Thailand when my co-leader shared a personal detail about her sister that was so specific and so rare (The chance of her sister having this precise experience was one in a million). This was my missing puzzle piece, her sister was the human who I could now interview and finish my novel.
Then, even after that crazy synchronicity, I gave up again. This time I chickened out because I thought the whole manuscript was terrible and I just didn’t believe I could do the story justice anymore. I didn’t know how. Months later, in the murky parking garage at Seattle SeaTac Airport I stumbled into a stranger who needed help and as I offered my assistance to her, she spontaneously shared a personal detail about her life that was so specific I could hardly believe my ears. It was intimately tied to my novel. In that moment in the dark damp garage, I knew that I had to find a way to finish this book. So, even when I have been through this process dozens of times, it’s never a passive process. But, what I want you to know is that you will not be alone. This project of yours has a spirit and life of it’s own! It will be riding shotgun with you to ensure you keep going!
All you need to do is keep saying YES: To it and to your life.
I hope you’ve decided to make creative action a priority, because we need you to be as ALIVE as you possibly can be. Your responsibility is to the extraordinary. We are inter-depending on you!
Ready to get your book written? Join Sarah + Inger for their group writing program in January!
You may also enjoy reading How Good Are You Willing to Let Life Get? Daily Messages from a Spirit Animal, by Sarah Bamford Seidelmann.