Skipping Out on the Creative Life

Skipping out on the creative life.
Photo by Melissa Petrie via Flickr

Taking time, chasing trade winds, and discovering the all-forgiving nature of the muse.
By Elizabeth Cutright

It’s no secret I’ve not been living up to the ideal I envisioned when I named this blog “The Daily Creative Writer.” From the beginning, “daily” was more of a suggestion than a rule-of-law, but this last year it’s been tough to post an entry even once a month. We all know that consistency in creative endeavors is crucial, but all of us have felt the bitter sting of artistic-absence and unacknowledged-accountability.

I’ve written about the importance of pauses before. A sabbatical from your aspirations can be a godsend. Sometimes you just need a break … a rest … a moment of silence.

Sometimes skipping out on your “creative life” comes with the territory.

In no way has my absence indicated an abnegation of creativity altogether. Like a good little “Artist Way” acolyte, I’ve been using my downtime to noodle around, trying new things and investigating other avenues of artistic expression. I’ve painted a bit, tried a little gardening (a two-tomato harvest is just the first step towards what I hope will be a grander urban farming future), expanded my musical palate, and streamed a handful of documentaries on Netflix.

I feel as if this summer, I’ve set off on a ruminative expedition in search of artistic adventure along stony shores and undiscovered countries. The travelogue’s been bleak at times, and I’ve certainly experienced my share of Robinson Crusoe moments: stranded by a palm tree with a pen, a notepad, and an inkling that something might be lingering just beyond the horizon. I’ve sighted some similarly-minded pilgrims along the way – other creatives navigating their own private journey – but we’ve only passed the merest acknowledgment between us; a slight nod or squinty stare, nothing more.

My trip is still ongoing, but once I sail into my figurative harbor – that cute little writer’s nook with a window and a built-in bookshelf woefully neglected since the start of my new tenancy – I am sure I will be filled to the brim with tales to tell. In fact, being a writer-in-absentia has stoked my creative impulses. I feel as if the seeds I’ve planted along the way are just about ready to push up out of the fresh, spongy soil and bloom into vines of intricately woven prose full of colorful buds of plot points and laden with the ripe fruit of character development.

That fallow earth will soon host a harvest of ideas and imagination. In the meantime, I will find faith in the cycles of mother nature. I will remind myself that sometimes the most meaningful growth happens just beneath the surface. I will steady myself with the knowledge that the antidote to misguided action is deliberate dormancy. I will wait, and I will listen and eventually, I will write again.

So while I continue to sail out towards the west – keeping in mind William G.T. Shedd’s warning, “A ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are for”– I will leave you with the concluding paragraph of Lev Grossman’s recent Buzzfeed piece entitled “How Not To Write Your First Novel”. I feel that it speaks to the notion of skipping out on your creative aspirations and delusions in order to finally find the creative day-to-day existence that works for you.

… it’s OK not to be a genius, whatever that is, if there even is such a thing. Since then I’ve learned that the creative life may or may not be the apex of human civilization, but either way, it’s not what I thought it was. It doesn’t make you special and sparkly. You don’t have to walk alone. You can work in an office — I’ve worked in offices for the past 15 years and written five novels while doing it. The creative life is forgiving: You can betray it all you want, again and again, and no matter how many times you do, it will always take you back.

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