The kettle is warming up, and I slip on my black fur slippers, the kind you wouldn't dare wear to the grocery store. The kettle screeches from the kitchen. I grab a dark chocolate peanut butter cup for good luck. Some chocolate is good for you, right? I situate the pillow on my bed, placing it just so. I turn on two lamps for ambiance, maybe light a candle, and tidy the room a little. And after positioning the my tea on the tray atop my bed, I settle in to write, internally chanting to myself, 'I can do this, I can do this, I can do this...'
And if I'm being 100% honest, I don't always "do this."
I've had an idea for a creative nonfiction book brewing in my head for the past year, but for the past year, I've put it to the side. Whether it's because of a lack of time or a lack of focus, I can't say. The vision I have for this book keeps creeping up on me in the small hours of the night, when I'm about to turn my lamp off, or when I'm brushing my teeth, nagging at me, like a plant that I keep forgetting to water, with it's leaves turning shades of brown and yellow. So why do I keep pushing it to the side?
About two years ago, I read Elizabeth Gilbert's incredible book, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear. In this book, she bravely speaks about what most artists don't want to admit, talking about everything from fear to follow through to simply showing up, even when you don't feel "inspired." The whole book is quote-worthy, but there was one idea that stuck with me long after I read the last page: creativity is a choice.
What? Let me repeat that: creativity is a choice.
I can't speak to everyone's experience with this, but for most of my life, creativity has been linked with talent, and even more daunting, inspiration. Who else gets intimidated by inspiration? It stresses me out, big time. It seems to be like a muse that visits you one day and leaves you the next, without a clear list of instructions on how to carry out the mission: the poem it's whispered you to write, the painting it's commissioned you to paint, the song it's hired you to compose. Inspiration, or at least our interpretation of it, can be more of a pain than a blessing, but why is that?
I'm a Liberal Studies major, which means that along with having a pointless degree, I also have an ongoing love affair with words. And I feel like understanding inspiration, what it actually means, should trace back to it's definition. Here's what Miriam Webster has to say about it:
the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially to do something creative.
"Helen had one of her flashes of inspiration"
synonyms:creativity, inventiveness, innovation, ingenuity, genius, imagination, originality; More
the drawing in of breath; inhalation.
The first definition is one that I think we're all familiar with, but the second one, that's the curveball.
The drawing in of breath; inhalation.
Is it just me or does that definition make you giddy? What I interpret this phrase as is that inspiration is everywhere. It's not reserved for that successful photographer or badass travel maven. It's for you too, the same portion, the same quality, the same frequency. It's yours! So what does that have to do with creativity? Well, dear reader, it has everything to do with creativity. And everything to do with what Elizabeth Gilbert wisely said in Big Magic. Take a look-see below.
“So this, I believe, is the central question upon which all creative living hinges: Do you have the courage to bring forth the treasures that are hidden within you?”
-Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic
I feel like I blame a lack of inspiration or dull ideas when I have weeks or months when I'm not creating. The truth, the truth that none of us is normally comfortable confronting, is that creativity takes courage. It takes vulnerability, and walking into a mist where you don't know the outcome. Will people respond to what you create? Will they hate it? Will you hate it? Fight as we will, the creativity in us wants to be set free. Even the dull ideas, or the ones we don't think will ever work. They want to be seen. They want to be heard.
I'll admit that my reasoning for not starting my book is this gnawing sense of self doubt. I know I am a person of value in a lot of ways, but sometimes I can't shake this feeling that the dreams or aspirations I have are reserved for someone else, as if I'm stealing out of another person's storybook. There's no reason for me to think that way, but I still do. And I might have those thoughts for the rest of my life.
But excuses can only have power if you allow them to. By giving into the fear of failure that I have with this book, I'm doing myself the disservice of ever being able to try in the first place. Without risk, there's no possibility for failure or for success. And I write that not to be preachy, but to be encouraging, to both you and myself. I need a push more than I don't, trust me.
So if you've been feeling like you're in a funk, know that it's okay to be in a funk, but don't let it stop you. Create, even when it's hard or it isn't pretty or it isn't even good. It's a part of the process. And although it's not a very fun process at times, it's necessary, and always, always worth it.
Is there an idea that's been fighting for your attention lately? I would recommend inviting it to tea, possibly having a chat. You never know what may be starting.