By Elizabeth Cutright
© 2012 The Daily Creative Writer
“We are traditionally rather proud of ourselves for having slipped creative work in there between the domestic chores and obligations. I’m not so sure we deserve such be A-pluses for that.” Toni Morrison
Last night, just as I was dozing off to sleep, one thousand and one ideas hit me all at once: solutions for a project at work; ideas about how to streamline my freelance assignments; and plot after plot for every kind of short story/poem/screenplay or other creative writing endeavor. Why is it that just when you want your mind to settle down, the world comes rushing in all at once?
I think it has to do with keeping the hounds of want and desire in check day in and day out. I’m not just talking about skipping the cupcake at lunch, or the third drink at happy hour. I know we are all gritting our teeth and steeling ourselves against mad dashes to the mall for new shoes or fancy gadgets – we’re on a budget and it’s a crazy, insecure economy and blah blah blah blah blah.
We are responsible adults, most of the time, and with that responsibility comes a squelching of artistic desire. We don’t just deny ourselves guilty little pleasures or self-destructive benders. More often than not, we throw the baby out with the bath water, and our writing, painting, knitting, crafting, drawing – whatever it may be – flies right out the window along with the new year’s resolutions and Ben and Jerry’s.
So what’s the solution?
Time. We need to give ourselves time. We need to take back an hour or more from our days. We need to start listening to that quiet little muse who whispers, “write it, draw it, sing it…”
Why do we ignore her? Perhaps it’s as Sara Ban Breathnach writes in Simple Abundance.
“Maybe it’s because we’ve convinced ourselves that we really don’t have the time for personal pursuits that bring us contentment if they take longer than fifteen minutes,” she writes. “Perhaps we don’t hear the whispers of authentic longing because we don’t want to hear. If we hear, we might have to acknowledge, even respond.”
And if we respond to those urges, then we’ll have to act – and we all know that inaction is much more comforting and comfortable; it’s the “doing” that gets us every time.
“We’re afraid to hear the promptings of the woman who wants to learn how to draw, dance, raise orchids, reupholster a chair, cook Szechuan,” explains Breathnach. “We might have to take a class or buy a book, a pad and pencils, a leotard, a plant, a fabric, or hoisin sauce.”
And oh that scary, scary moment right before we commit: what if I draw two pictures and give up? What if I don’t make it through the first lesson? What if I’m awful? What if everyone laughs at me?
What if…what if…what if…
For years, those kinds of fears kept me from trying new things. And it’s clichéd to say, but I rarely regret the things I’ve tried and failed at, it’s the things I never gave a shot that haunt me the most. I may cringe, or smile ruefully over past missteps or foolish undertakings, but underneath it all I’m proud of myself for giving it a go, for trying out jewelry making…and pottery…and Thai cooking…and…well, you get the picture.
No, what I regret are the missed opportunities. The times I should have said “yes”, but allowed fear and insecurity to answer “no.” And while I’m starting to cultivate a peace with where I am and who I’m starting to become – I know that the person I am today is the culmination of all those previous choices and regrets – there will always be a couple of things I wish I’d done differently. A better reaction. A little more faith. A tiny bit of courage.
But at least I’ve still got time. The silver lining to a long illness is that sense of rebirth and recuperation. As you may know, I was down for the count last week, and amidst the naps and naps and occasional bad television, I found the time to pause and reflect and plan. January 1st may be months away, and summer is winding down, but it’s never too late or too early to reboot and restart.
So I plan to take Breathnach’s advice and carve out the space and the time to nurture my creativity. I’m going to take Georgia O’Keefe as inspiration and do what I can do every chance I get.
“I found myself saying to myself…I can’t live where I want to…I can’t go where I want to…I can’t do what I want to. I can’t even say what I want to. I decided I was a very stupid fool not to at least paint as I wanted to….that seemed to be the only thing I could do that didn’t concern anybody but myself.”