It happens when “creative” people like us spend a lot of our time working in what we may consider noncreative fields. When the opportunity comes for us to be free, to drop the worker’s hat outside the car window, we slow down wondering what’s next. The feeling can be freeing yet paralyzing.
It’s the first day off from work in awhile and I’m rattled with anxiety. What do I do to kick off a three-day holiday and extended weekend? How do I fill the space with myself? What should I work on first? What should I complete? Or do I rest? Let my mind run free? Should I vacate my usual to-do list when I have time to do some of what’s on it?
Every morning that I have to get up to go to work (my office job), I lament over having to leave my bed while the sun is rising. This morning, when I can sleep in, I’m wide awake at 5:30?!
What is that about?!
Thankfully, I fell back to sleep about an hour later. And when I woke at 8:00, I felt I could say I was on vacation. But still, the question of how do I create a perfect day was lingering in my sheets. What "should" I do today that will bring me and others joy? How am I to be a good steward of alllllllllll this time “off”? Oh, the burden.
Finally, making my way to the living room, sitting with my cup of coffee, looking out of the window, asking myself these questions one after the other without stumbling across any answer that makes sense, I realized the pressure I put on myself to “create something.” And not just something, but something worthwhile.
It happens when “creative” people like us spend a lot of our time working in what we may consider noncreative fields. When the opportunity comes for us to be free and creative, to drop the worker’s hat outside the car window, we slow down wondering what’s next. The feeling can be so freeing yet paralyzing.
It’s as if this is all the free time we will ever have in our entire life and we wish we had our wishlist ready to see what we want to do now that we have the space and time. But we don’t have our list (well, some of us don’t) and this it’s all the time we will ever have.
There will be days, consecutive days, more vacations and holidays and weekends and sick days (the ones we take we aren’t really sick) to play. And playing is just that. Who says we have to spend all our down time trying to create a masterpiece?!
Goodness, the relief I feel knowing that I don’t have to write my next poetry book over my low maintenance Thanksgiving break (though it would be nice). I don’t have to come up with the next great business idea. I don’t have to have the “aha,” that I wonder if it’s ever coming, THIS WEEK.
Yes, time is precious and we should not waste it on the frivolous (I could spend an hour at a time on Facebook, if I allow myself). But there is also the time to do nothing. (Plus, just because we aren't externally creating doesn't mean our Muse isn't internally creating while we rest!)
Being creative doesn’t mean we always have to be actively creating or thinking about it or planning it or wishing for it. It includes resting, playing, surrendering, creating for the fun of it, messing up, sleeping in, goofing off. It does not have to include self-induced stress over not filling our time creating for the sake of being successful. In a lot of ways, that's contradictory to the creative process and to who we are called to be as artists.
What will I do today and the days that follow? I have no idea. I have no plan. I have no creative self-imposed deadlines. Will I regret that come Monday when I have to be back in the office at 8 a.m.? Maybe. But something tells me that what I need more than more scheduled, orchestrated “to do” lists is time to dance in the middle of the floor while singing off key to a great '80s hit, like Cyndi Lauper's "Girls Just Want To Have Fun," or Michael Jackson's "Beat It." And with that folks, I'm hitting the dance floor (i.e., my living room floor) to do the Moon Walk!
I decided to turn from the news, that stayed on throughout the night, to watch Super Soul Sunday on OWN. I thought a shot of spirituality would help give me the proper perspective in dealing with the grief being felt around the world and inside my soul.
My mind wasn't on the television much as I'm visiting my Mom, who isn't feeling well. Still, I was able to catch the last segment of the repeat show from last week. The question was, "What makes you happy?"
Excerpts of stories of about five people flowed on the screen. Each saying they found what made them happy in their childhood. Each continuing into adulthood as a painter, or swimmer, or horseback rider, etc.
Naturally, I asked myself that same question. "What makes me happy?" I began to journal and the answer surprised me. What others might say and what I thought might be my response was different than what landed from my gut and onto the page.
I found my voice through poetry at a young age but it wasn't until my early 20s that I had my first poem published. As a quiet child, I spent a lot of time by myself. And, I enjoyed writing as it was a way to imagine a different situation. (Looking back, I had a lovely childhood, but at the time, there was always something different I wanted; you know: more friends, later bedtime, you get the drift.)
I didn’t have an imaginary friend. It was writing that gave me an outlet where I felt most accepted. I journaled. I wrote plays. I wrote poetry. But, that isn't what made me happy. Most of what I wrote about was sadness. Writing made me feel whole, but feeling whole and feeling happy aren't necessarily the same thing.
Then, there's paining. As a child, I loved painting class because I could wear one of my Dad's oversized old shirts to class (I wish I still had one of those shirts). I don't remember "loving" painting or being good at it. It wasn’t something I did outside of the public school’s art class. But as an adult, it's something I go to that brings me peace and joy.
So, what's my response to what makes me happy? Perhaps it's yours to. It's creating. Being in the middle of the creative process -- Whether it's writing, painting, dancing, cooking, conversing. It's the feeling of being in the moment, surrendering expectations, allowing myself to be free and trusting what will happen next.
That’s it. That’s what makes me happy.
I was at first terrified by this bubbling up of an answer because I thought it would make my life more complicated moving forward. If there isn't one thing I love then what one thing will I focus on?! But here's the gift: we don't need "one thing" or one person or one gift. We just need one moment.
The gift is being in that moment and being a part of creating that moment.
What will I do with now knowing what truly makes me happy? I will resist the temptation of having to know what that looks like for me ahead of time. I will be attentive to what I need and those around me need, and prayerfully, be a force that will help create something better, be in through a poem, a painting, a meal or a smile.
What have I learned so far on the journey? Your creative joy doesn't have to come from childhood. It doesn't have to be something you've done all your life. It doesn't have to be one thing. But once you discover and accept your creative joy, it does need you to embrace it, to share it, to make room for it to breathe. That's, after all, when you truly begin to live.
I tell people I'm a poet, if I'm asked. But I what I realize today, as honored as I am by that title, is that I'm a creative catalyst. We all are. The fact that we breathe dictates our ability to create.
Now, let’s go create something beautiful simply by being who we are and doing what makes us happy. Whatever those many things may look like.