I’ve noticed a common thread running through a favorite book revisted and a couple of blog posts lately: you must chart your own path to a creative life.
I know what you’re thinking.
Oh, great, a post full of “The Little Engine that Could” rhetoric. Delete. Skip. Unsubscribe.
I get it. Rejections and Writer’s block will do that to a person, turn you into a realist and a pessimist (they do that to me, anyway). But, don’t roll your eyes just yet.
…[C]reative expression, whether that means writing, dancing, bird-watching, or cooking, can give a person almost everything that he or she has been searching for: enlivenment, peace, meaning, and the incalculable wealth of time spent quietly in beauty.
It makes sense, right? Don’t you feel great when you bind off the last stitch of a scarf you knitted from that crazy pattern that made you cross-eyed? And, the scarf looks as lovely as the photo! How about when you serve up that meal you made from scratch that, soon after, becomes everyone’s favorite? And, once in a while – admit it – you take a picture with your digital camera that’s so good, it cries out for professional framing and a place on your living room wall.
Whenever we create something, on purpose or by accident, the result is a shot of adrenaline, a skip in our step, a whole new outlook on the day. So, why not set our sights on experiencing those moments more often than not?
Julia Cameron has successfully published a whole series of books that link creativity to spirituality, books that offer advice and written exercises to help guide you towards creative success. I worked through The Artist’s Way, and while I did roll my eyes at some of what Cameron wrote, I followed her advice anyway. I started writing morning pages; I listed my aspirations (and, in doing so, sent them out into the celestial world so that they might come true); I took my writing seriously, for once.
Things started happening – mostly because I put thought into action – and some of those early aspirations have come true.
Sage Cohen wrote a book (The Productive Writer) and writes on her blog (The Path of Possibility) with a similar philosophy in mind: teaching writers “strategies, systems, and psychologies” to increase productivity. Cohen’s guest post on Lisa Romeo Writes offers a glimpse into Cohen’s belief that answering a few simple questions can re-kindle or re-focus anyone’s creative juices.
First, she asks, “What do you intend for your experience to be each time you sit down to write [or knit or cook or whatever]? Inspired, meditative, energized?” I write in concentrated chunks of time, time that generally falls within the late evening hours. When I sit down to write, it’s so much less about meditation than it is about energy — a “get ‘er done” kind of energy. I save my morning pages for meditative writing. Sure, I want to be inspired when I sit down to write, but I’ll take inspiration at any point during the day: on a five minute bus ride, while listening to a song, when I’m standing in line at the gas station. That’s why I keep a notebook handy.
Cohen also asks, “How do you define success in any of the following: publication, money, awards, leadership, freedom/flexibility/continued time to write?” At this point in my writing career, I don’t focus on monetary success. But, I can outline what success might look like in terms of publication, awards, and the amount of time I find to write. I’ve yet to have one of my short stories published, but a few of my other shorter pieces and a poem are in print. And, I managed to get my name on a list of Glimmer Train’s Honorable Mentions last summer. The Honorable Mention wasn’t on my original list of goals, but once I firmed up even a small vision of what I wanted, I kick-started an inner drive to turn that vision – and then some – into a reality.That’s worth remembering on a day when that rejection letter hits my inbox.
What about you?Have you read The Artist’s Way or The Productive Writer? Do you buy into the idea that if we dream it, we can live it?
On a side note, I haven’t ignored the results from that poll I ran a few weeks ago. It seems you still want a good flash fiction read here and there. I’m already thinking of ways to incorporate more flash fiction, mine or pieces of fellow writers. Thanks for voting!