Sometimes “the muse” is feeling coy (As a former MFA student I really, really groan whenever someone calls it that…let’s just call it “creativity,” okay? And please let’s take off the ironic hipster glasses…), other times, inspiration seems to flow. The push and pull of the creative life changes with our lives. Sometimes we have more hours in the day and more energy to devote to creativity. Other times life seems to explode around us, eating up and choking all of our creative oxygen. Sometimes we write and get in the groove and keep writing. Other times we stop.
I firmly believe that people are creative beings. (Why, yes, I did grow up in California, with a painter for a mother and a dad who used to live on a Buddhist commune…why do you ask? That’s how come I can say “creative beings” and talk about the “Universe.”) Creativity is our mode. That’s what we do. Life is also creative. That’s the point.
For all of you out there who are still struggling to validate your own creative impulses or give yourself permission to create — both of which are really hard for some people to do — I say: Get cracking. That’s the first step in fulfilling the rest of your creative dreams. Everybody has them. Not many people get around to honoring them, and then that disappointment tends to fester. If you feel really damaged or self-conscious about your deepest desires to write or paint or do performance art on a street corner, for goodness’ sake, run out and get a copy of The Artist’s Way, buy a journal, meditate, go into therapy, shut your kids out of your office, and do whatever else you have to do to take some responsibility for your creativity.
What’s that? You have no time? Or work is too hard and leaves you too tired? Or you’re trying to go back to school? Or you’re sick and in pain? All perfectly valid. However, all are excuses. As I tell my clients: You are the only person on this planet who is going to care the most about your creative output and your career. Sure, you will get people in your corner, like your agent, your editor, your mentors, your friends and family, you cat, and your fans, who will care about your books or whatever else you do, but nobody will care about it half as much as you. (I do work hard to be a close second for my clients, though!)
Instead of this idea being empowering and liberating to a lot of people, it’s paralyzing and scary. It means you have to take responsibility for your creative ideas. It means you actually have to do something and make them happen. It means that you have to face (gasp!) obstacles and failure. Sure, there’s fear in every endeavor, but that’s good. That’s the way it works. I’d rather live a life where I’ve followed my dreams, been myself, created, lived big, failed a lot, succeeded more often, and experienced as many things as possible. Unfulfilled creative people really are the worst…they’re bitter and resentful, they blame everyone and everything else for how little they accomplish, they pull dark gray clouds along with them as they walk down the street.
Lots of people have really valid issues in this area: parents who weren’t supportive or present, real economic hardship and family obligations, societal pressure to conform, crippling self-doubt. I don’t mean to mock or make light of these things. But they are all negative. Creativity is positive. (California, remember?) And creativity doesn’t have to mean something big: a million dollar book deal, a novel completed in a month, a sleeper hit music video (ahem, Rebecca Black), a poem published, an agent secured after the first round of queries.
Creativity can be something small: one page a day, one journal entry in the morning, one picture taken, one walk at sunset. But the point is opening yourself up to it…and then being disciplined. The more you do, the easier it becomes, and the more your creativity builds off of a solid, steady foundation. Be creative regularly; every day is best. Do it for its own sake, not for the sake of the outcome (book, agent, publishing deal, etc.). Just create. Nobody will do it for you, you’re gonna regret it if you don’t, and time’s a-wastin’. What are you waiting for?
(This is as much a pep talk for y’all as it is for me. And yes, I fully acknowledge the irony of talking about creativity and the Universe and positivity and hating the term “the muse.” I’m an enigma, yo.)