The Creative Process
It’s an odd thing we do, we artists. Pull ideas and notions out of the ether and interpret them in such a way that they become the written word, art, music, lyrics, a song, a dance.
In the past 24 hours, I’ve listened to two artists talk about their lives and how they maneuver this thing called life while communing with the ether. Some let the process become a torturous affair. Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, sees the process much as ancient civilizations who believed that something outside of the artist was responsible for the success or failure of a work—that the artist was just a vehicle. Wouldn’t that be awesome if we could put the success or failure on someone or something other than ourselves!
Singer Keith Urban, who has dealt with alcoholism, said in a recent interview, “When I stopped fighting, life ceased to be a war.” Doesn’t that bring into focus the image of the tortured artist? Just let it be. This resonates with me. I fight against myself and the process of creating. I allow external circumstances dictate my ability to create. It’s the darkness that pulls me down toward the depression against which I struggle. A lot of people have to be inspired. Well, I got over that pretty early on, finding that if I put my behind in the chair and fingers on the keyboard, that it would come. And experience tells me that it always does. But I find struggle in quieting my mind so that when I sit with computer in my lap, it can come.
I’m fascinated with the notion of meditation and the meditator’s ability to sit for hours quieting their mind so that a blank canvas emerges on which God can write the message He wants you to receive. I operate from the belief that He is the power outside me, the only one, that drives the process. He alone determines the success or failure of the work He has given my hands. My weakness is in the quieting that comes in believing and letting Him have sovereignty over those things I cannot control.
I lost my job last year. I had no control over that circumstance. I now write full-time. I have no control over how many or how few people buy my books. I have no control over my income. I don’t even know how much it’s going to be when that royalty check comes twice a year. This vexes my husband, and because it vexes him, it vexes me. I keep thinking I need to do more, figure it out, get another job that pays a set amount each week. But then, that too can go away…
So, how do we sit with fingers on keyboards, or stand on a stage ready to interpret the writers’ words with our voices, or make the first stroke on the canvas, or form the clay from nothing? How do we quiet our mind to receive the message when so many voices compete to be heard above the message it is our work to bring into the world?
I once did a workshop where we had to write a physical description for our muse. I chose a warrior who secured the perimeter, making a safe space for me to work. As long as he stood sentinel, sword at the ready fighting my demons and distractions, I could deal solely with the interpretation of the message into my medium—the novel. I need that safe space. I long to find it and sit in it. But how to find that space . . .
Maybe Keith Urban has it right. Stop fighting. Let go and Let it come. Maybe today will be the day, maybe tomorrow. But it will come. It always does when I get out of the way.