So many people want to create art and aren’t. What is this about? I mean seriously, what is this? So often we have a sense of who we could be. We could be artists sharing music on big stages to hundreds or thousands of people, we actually know we could, so why aren’t we? We could be authors of incredibly moving books, or documentary film-makers who bring new insights to our species, or myth tellers who recall old cathartic stories to our families and friends, so why aren’t we? We could grow a garden, we could say yes to whole-hearted love, we could put some music on and move our bodies, so why don’t we?
Is it that we’re resisting feeling things? Is it the emotional intimacy of creativity? Are we afraid of being seen? Are we telling ourselves we’re not good enough? Are we afraid of the hard work? Are we passionate about too many things? Are we not passionate about anything?
In a culture so taken by notions of freedom, where do we learn the art of staying through the more difficult times into the next stage or phase of creation? How do we learn how to weather the winter, hone the craft, or show up to love? You can become a parent… that’s one sure way to learn the art of devotion, but what are some other ways?
What’s working for me at the moment in terms of creative devotion is giving myself daily or weekly windows of time to create, say one hour or two hours. Then within this time and container I can be present with what wants to come though. This way I can work intuitively within the structure and holding of time and space. I can experience fertile focussed time. Also the simple act of writing a poem a day is a clear way to show up to the craft and to the part of me that is a poet. She can too easily be forgotten amongst the seeming chaos of everyday life. I must refuse to forget her. I must defend her nature.
Writing a poem everyday is one of the richest creative practices I’ve ever experienced. It directly shows me that I can hold more than my limiting beliefs think I can. Often I go to write the poem for the day and I’m convinced that there’s nothing to write about, that the well might be dry, but it honestly never is, and that’s not because I’m special, I’m simply making way for art to happen with my hands and integrating experiences and emotions and thoughts in poetic threads. Sometimes the ‘poem’ is quite blunt, other times it’s rich and mysterious. But as long as I keep showing up, something happens – sometimes catharsis, sometimes a not-so-amazing poem (that I can rework later), sometimes magic, and intimacy and full-on beauty.
Not being practiced in the art of staying has major impacts on realms such as writing a novel! I mean seriously we’re talking 80,000 words or more and many many drafts and edits, deep frustration, confusion, elation. Without devotion no novel can ever be finished. My friends use the phrase ‘how you do anything is how you do everything’ a lot. Seeing the micro in the macro and the macro in the micro. It’s a great one to call upon in day-to-day life to see how we’re showing up.
What if devotion doesn’t look like sweeping claims and best-seller books, what if it’s more humble than that. What if devotion is giving your lover or your mother or your friend a good foot-massage, making a meal for your friends, and finishing a pretty good first novel. What if that’s actually more than enough to get started with. What if that’s the path to becoming who we know we could be. Building a fire with small sticks and breathing your loving oxygen into the embers.
I had the good fortune of hearing many incredible stories with mythologist Martin Shaw at The Westcountry School of Myth and his wonderful commentaries between tales. Martin talks about giving up endless possibilities for something specific. This concept excites me. There is sacrifice necessary to live any true and deep path.
So here are some questions that you might want to riff on.
- What might I need to let go of in order to make space for creative devotion in my life?
- What am I resisting feeling/ doing/ being?
- Who am I when I open to soul-making and let myself live?
- What do I honestly want to devote myself to?
- And in the words of the well loved poet David White what’s the next close-in step, ‘the one you don’t want to take?’