How To Pursue The Creative Life, Even When It’s Hard

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This morning I saw the sunrise.

It pretty much killed me. I couldn’t be less of a morning person if I tried.

Nonetheless, I stumbled downstairs at 5.30am, made coffee, wrapped myself in a blanket.

And then I wrote.

I did this, because for weeks now I have tried to write in and around the distractions of the day, the clutter in my mind, the interruptions from those around me, the demands of life. I’ve struggled to write. I’ve struggled to make it a priority. I’ve struggled to believe the creative life is justified in its pursuit, and have believed my time would be better spent elsewhere. I lost the faith, the vision, the love. My writing dwindled, slowly, until it withered completely.

And with that, I felt as though I did too.

I lost motivation, lost joy, lost the feeling of connection with something greater than myself, the life force that feeds my soul. I couldn’t stay like that. I wanted – needed – myself back.

I remembered back to my best writing days, when I first started writing, the days I would crawl out of bed before the rest of the world woke. Bleary, I would write. Not think. Not worry about whether it was good or not, right or not, enough or not. Just write. Here, I would find my treasure, in this lonely hour before the day started, before the first hint of colour caressed the sky, before my girls would stumble in with eyes half closed and crawl into my lap, signalling my time was up – which was always okay, for I’d nurtured creativity, and creativity had nurtured me in return. I felt full, complete, content, inspired for the day ahead.

Elizabeth Gilbert in Big Magic writes that we need to consider our creativity as something we fall in love with, something we consider ourselves as having an affair with – not because she advocates affairs, but because she uses the example of how people who have extramarital affairs always manage to find the time to spend together – even if it means losing sleep or missing meals. She writes, “They will make whatever sacrifices they have to make, and they will blast through any obstacles, in order to be alone with the object of their devotion and obsession – because it matters to them.”

It reminds me of the guy I liked when I was fourteen. We had a clandestine friendship; his parents weren’t so keen on the idea of female friendships and I was by far considered the least favourite girl in his life due to being the most likely to lead him astray. I was actually a pretty innocent fourteen year old – but not the first time, and definitely not the last, I’d been misconceived based on where I came from, not who I was.

So, this guy and I would find ways to hang out together, away from the watchful eyes of the small town we lived in. He was a football player, athletic, and used to get up early and run laps of the oval. By choice. I hated running almost as much as I hated early mornings. But I pretended to like both just to spend some time with him.

I’d set my alarm for some ungodly hour so I’d have time to shower, then take half an hour to decide what to wear, another half hour to do my hair, another half hour to agonise over whether I looked okay, before I’d sneak out the front door as the sun came up. We’d meet at the oval, I’d run a lap to try and make him believe I was sort of fit before I’d die on the grass with exhaustion and watch as he continued to run lap after lap with ease, until he’d come and sit with me and we’d hang out before the world came to life.

He probably could have run all day, just as I could have stayed in bed all day. We both sacrificed in order to spend time together. We both risked in order to spend time together. We both did that because it mattered to us. 

Our creative pursuits matter to us. We need to find them within us, find what it is that gets us out of bed in the morning, even when mornings are our nemesis. We need to find the passion of our hearts, pursue it, grab hold of it, let nothing come in the way of it. We need to treat our creative pursuits like lovers, to make time for them, to sacrifice for them, to selfishly indulge in them, sometimes at the expense of our family and friends and social lives and demands of life we must learn to ignore.

Those demands will always be there, but if we allow them to steal our time away from our creative pursuits, we will live, but we will not be alive. Our creative pursuits bring us joy, they bring us meaning, they bring us life. They bring us to ourselves.

This morning felt as though I reunited with an old love. One who had never given up on me. Who called me back, who reminded me of the importance of my creative heart and mind. Who brought me back to myself.

The pursuit of a creative life won’t always be easy.

But I know, for me, there is no other way.

Photo courtesy Evan Clark via unsplash.com

The Power Of Too Much

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Sometimes I wonder if I share too much.

Sometimes I wonder more when people ask, “Do you ever think you share too much?”

There is nothing easy about writing my life onto the page. You can pretty much count on the fact that every time I hit publish or submit, I do it with my eyes squeezed closed, face screwed up and shoulders aligned with my ears in some kind of god-help-me cringe position.

But I don’t think it’s as hard for me as it is for people I know, people I meet in the street, people I stop and talk to in my day. The ones who know me intimately and yet don’t really know me at all. Who aren’t sure what to say, who glance in the other direction, who offer an awkward smile between stilted silences.

It can be hard to feel balanced in relationships – I can hardly ask another person to bring their most personal diary entries to coffee to make things a little more square between us, even though most people I have coffee with have pretty much read mine.

Yes, it can be hard at times. So hard. However, I continue to share.

I share too much of myself because that’s how I feel best able to love. To take the broken pieces of myself and offer them to another person – here, here is my humanity, it’s messy and flawed and imperfect and damaged, but it’s real and honest and the best I have at this point. Some people will turn away from that. While others will take my offering and offer their broken selves back to me. And from that comes connection and relationship; two broken pieces put together to help make one another a little more complete.

I share too much of myself because my core belief rests in love, in the way humans can heal one another through the courage to love. But love isn’t always warm and delightful and perfect. Sometimes love is broken, tough, painful, exhausting, vulnerable. It’s your heart being ripped out and stomped all over, only for you to go back and do it all again the next day, because you refuse to give up your belief in love. It’s uncomfortable and difficult and will test your character and perseverance and ability to withstand the toughest circumstances.

But even when love is hard, even when I want to quit, even when it hurts and when I get hurt, I still choose it. I still choose to come back to the page because I still choose to believe in love.

I share too much of myself because I don’t believe, in a world so rife with pain, there can ever be too much.

So here, here is my humanity.

It may be too much for you. It may make you turn away, and that’s okay. I offer it anyway, because I choose to believe in the power of too much.

But it may also be enough for you to be able to offer your broken self back to me.

And that’s when too much becomes not only enough, but exactly how much we need.

Photo courtesy Boram Kim via unsplash.com