I will preface all of this with a disclaimer so that I can stop saying, “I think. . .”. This is based only on my own experience, so it may or may not hold true for you. In fact, please refer to this disclaimer from now on whatever I write. Nothing I say holds any more authority – or less authority – than your average opinion.
I don’t know what creativity really is, but if I had to come up with a simple definition, I would say it’s a manifestation of the impulse towards life. Any kind of an activity can be deemed creative. It seems to me that labeling one sort of person or another “creative” based on their profession is a mistake. We have actively creative people, and we have people whose creativity lies dormant or perhaps damaged. We have creative janitors and creatively challenged sculptors.
All my life I have been told that I am a “creative”. I have been told that I come from a creative/artistic family. You would think that being told over and over that you are a creative and/or artistic soul would have a positive effect – that it would become a self-fulfilling prophecy. I can only say, well, yes and no.
If there’s one thing the Muse hates more than a six-pack in front of the tube, it’s pressure. I absolutely cannot for the life of me will myself to sit down and write a song. All I can do is place myself in front of a piano or a piece of paper and see what emerges. Sometimes it feels as if all I can do is run a scale on the keyboard or practice my penmanship. And sometimes, that’s pretty much what I do. But most of the time, I find that by simply fulfilling my wish to doodle, sketch, noodle, fool around on the piano, or just hum a melody, something happens.
The quality of what happens is certainly not in my control. This was one of the hardest lessons for me to accept. Most of the time I come out with drivel. I do the modern equivalent of filling a trash can with balled up pieces of paper – I delete, delete, delete, delete. But I cannot delete the drivel from my brain.
It turns out that drivel has a purpose. Deep in the unconscious, the drivel becomes the seed and the fertilizer (how fitting) for the flower that will bloom somewhere down the road. Furthermore, and probably more importantly, it creates habit. (If you need more information on this, please read Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, and try the exercises in the book. You will be amazed!)
A voice teacher once told me that the reason the earth revolves around the sun is habit. When you think about it, even doctors go to school so that they can form the habit of being a doctor ( a complicated habit comprised of many smaller habits).
So, the paradox is this: In order to be creative, you have to be habitual. I am creating the habit of being a writer. And by creating the habit, I am in fact becoming a writer. Now, I have written all my life in a stop-start kind of way. Call it laziness, call it writer’s block, but I go through long stretches where I don’t write, and then bursts of inspiration where I write like there’s no tomorrow. But depending on the occasional inspiration makes me feel like the well could dry up at any moment, and that’s not a good way to feel.
So, here’s the idea: Slow, steady, habitual, reliable, unhurried, unpressured, uncensored, every morning after breakfast (or before breakfast) an offering to the Universe. I cannot control the quality. I cannot control how people will receive it. All I can do is write.
© Robin Munson