Whether you're writing songs, books or poems, or painting, or sculpting, I believe every creative thrives on a good dose of the four following things:
What on this blue and green globe am I talking about?
Okay, the Sun
Starting with sunlight, creatives need the warmth of a friendly listener, observer and reader and the tempered heat of quality feedback. How do we ask for that? When we're creating, it is most often a solitary endeavour. One friendly confidante can nurture our creative adventures in ways that feed and motivate us to continue creating. We can ask the observer, the reader, and the listener, to tell us what they see or hear from what we're sharing. What captures their attention and leaves them wanting to know more about what we're painting, composing, creating or writing?
By now, you know words are my medium. So I may default to the art of writing though I aim to speak to a broader group of creatives. Specifically with writing, when we want to recruit or find a friendly reader, we want to ask them a few simple questions. “Where did you stop or find your mind wandering? What made you think? Can you pinpoint a place you want to know more about? What words captured your attention? When we hear this type of feedback, we know, “Oh, wow, this part’s working!” Songs will work with these questions. Now with sculpting or painting and the visual arts, your questions might be, “What holds your gaze? What feels just so right in your hand? What do you ache to touch and hold? What grabs your heart and makes you gasp? Along these lines, form the questions that will spur you on in your craft. Having these friendly viewers and listeners is the sunlight that all creatives need.
Now, Good Soil
The soil is time to plant and claim stillness to sit in our creative zone of genius. The richest soil is uninterrupted time. A writer/colleague in the next city over from me panicked when his wife retired because he no longer had the house all to himself. It was like she was there, her footsteps above interrupting his thoughts. At any moment, she might intrude. Oh, no. What was he going to do? He was hilarious talking about navigating this change. He had to find a new way of being and creating for himself when she was in the house.
On a similar note, I heard this poem at New Mexico State University, almost 30 years ago, and it still sticks in my mind. I think it's because it's my love language, a sixth love language that is not typically known or even coined by the original author. I feel the truth of it. Some people, like me, need more distance and time alone. Some of you may know my story about the Palindrome, which is what I call a past lover I cohabitated with. His love language was quality time. He wanted all my time, and he wanted it all to himself. I kept very well in the pumpkin shell for nine years because I learned a lot about my gifts in that reclusive soil. He would work out for 90 minutes every morning in the room next to my little eight by four feet office cubby. During that time, I wrote and wrote, once challenging myself to write four poems a day after one a day was just too easy. Uninterrupted time is precious. And yes, I did blast out 1,460 poems in that one year.
The poem I remember from NMSU is about a man writing a love poem for his wife, and it's just amazing how it's coming together so well. His wife tiptoes in bringing him a cup of tea and a quick kiss on the cheek. Not a word to interrupt his thoughts, she goes out and closes the door. The poem was ruined. He went from being so pleased with his love poem to absolute dejection. That tea was love in a cup, and the silent kiss was love. Ironic. But I understand his dilemma. When I was living with the Palindrome, only 30 minutes a day were guaranteed mine without interruption. If he had an idea or something he wanted to share, he would walk through the door at any time and return to his next stretch. When he switched from weights and stretching, he skipped rope for 30 minutes of cardio and would not stop for anything. Only once in nine years because he had a cold and realized he couldn't breathe well enough for cardio. For nine years, I knew that those 30 minutes a day were mine and that he would not come walking through that door into the other side of my little space that I claimed for writing in the basement suite of his parents’ house.
Now the flow of water.
Water stands for a steady flow of inspiration. We have to take responsibility for that ourselves. Observe, as Natalie Goldberg says in her book, writing down the bones. We have to watch with two eyes and see everything twice. The clue something interests your muse is when you pay closer scrutiny to something, and your thought lingers before moving on. You may want to hear what somebody said again, or you want to rewind a program or re-read a page or paragraph, or the rhythm of the city’s bustle creates a melody in your brain or a scene you want to paint. Capture enough of it to return to what meaning that moment held during your next bit of quiet time. Explore different directions, play, expand and mould that inspirational moment and clue for yourself in whatever art form is yours that makes your heart sing.
It is an artist’s duty and pleasure to watch for and catch these moments. I used to carry old one-sided business cards and a pen in every jacket pocket or backpack. I would write thoughts down on the blank side. If you don't have the time to act on that inspiration right then, make a promise to your muse to capture enough of it in the moment to recall later. Ideas and inspiration are like dust bunnies; they roll away or disappear. Somebody interrupts the moment or comes along and vacuums them up. In the mornings, I would flip through those scribbles and turn them into poems.
A lawyer friend in Ontario wanted to be an artist since she was a child. Her parents wanted her to choose a secure occupation because they had grown up in tough times. So she decided on the next best thing to becoming an artist – international tax law is creative, right? In her late 50s, she started having dreams of paintings which suggests early passions in life will continue to call. It’s up to each one of us to discover your purpose, your vision and your creative zone and genius. Her dreams showed her a hand painting beautiful art but never the artist. These remarkable paintings called to her, wanting to be found. She thought they must be famous. At the Louvre in France, she felt the urgency to return to her artist self. She journaled and wrote about the paintings in her dreams. She captured, in words, every aspect of those canvases. Only when she committed to returning to her artistry did the dreams reveal that the hand painting in her dreams was her own.
All those fleeting dreams she captured in the pages of her journal are now painted and tangible outside the world of wishes and regrets. If you have a chance, visit her art studio, where she offers artists' workshops in a lovely renovated 1800s farmhouse with a luscious yoga studio and a new spacious gallery in Prince Edward Wine County outside of Toronto. One day soon, I hope to hold retreats there.
So water/inspirational flow is your responsibility. Catch those ideas that pop, moments you want to repeat to maintain the flow of inspiration, the water every creative needs. Artist dates as suggested by Julia Cameron in her book, The Artist’s Way, can fill in any gaps.
Keen attention to the rotation of the earth
And that brings me to my metaphor of the spinning globe we call home. This was the main gift I received from the Palindrome. His life and routines kept him safe and comfortable, and while it grew increasingly restrictive for me, the routine structure of our week created space for a daily habit of writing. Early to bed, we’d wake at half-past four to start our day. Then I had two glorious hours to write after a light breakfast.
In that routine of showing up every day, my muse took me seriously, and practicing my craft grew my skills. I found that going to the gym on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays built a flow to the week where the writing fit into the time allowed, but the other four days offered flexibility. I could drag out the last few minutes, expanding them with the flow effect. My preparation during the day ensured that I arrived at my desk with ideas. Metaphors came easier. My mind would play with those ideas and snippets of observations because I showed up just as the sun rises every day. If we creatives honour our ideas, they will plant themselves on the page, on the stage, on canvas, on keyboards, in your clay or the vibration of your strings. If we show up, the ideas show up. Peter DeVries said, “I write when I am inspired, and I see to it that I am inspired every morning at 9:30.” Show up, play with your art and create.
Find those warm sunny friends, guard your soil of time, create a flow of ideas, show up every day or Tuesdays and Thursdays, whatever works for you and you will find a rhythm as dependable as the sun and moon.
These are the four things every creative needs. And it wouldn't be fair of me to talk about inspiration and all of these things if I didn't offer something you might be able to bank on for your creative needs. So here it is. This will work for all types of creatives, with a bit of revision for those delving into other arts beyond writing.
Click here to receive the Habit Creation Program. It is written up specifically for writers, though anyone can replace where it says to set up your journal or writing station with setting up your easel or putting your favourite coffee cup on your piano bench or set your clay up for the morning. Or whenever it's your time to create. You get the idea. Just because I'm a morning person doesn’t mean your art will fit there. Substitute morning for evening or afternoon tea at your favourite coffee shop. You’ll figure it out. Just know that inspiration and boredom are one thought apart from your next incredible creation.
Reference links in the body of the story above:
Practicing your craft, debunking the 10,000-hour theory link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5MgBikgcWnY
Habit Creation Program Link: https://forms.zoho.com/wordquest/form/HabitCreationProgram
Heather Kerr’s GRACE (George Russell Academy of Creative Expansion): https://gracedcanvas.com/
Sign up for Friday Writing Challenge Ideas and Video: https://tinyurl.com/bdd3dp4s
To Join Monday’s free Writing Room: https://tinyurl.com/mt9d8dz8
Learn more about Rusti:
Rusti L Lehay, a global editor and book and writing coach, created over 40 articles guiding writers to authordom. Witnessing writers find and speak in their voice to serve the real boss, the audience, not the editor, is one of Rusti’s greatest joys. She offers bi-monthly online writing STAY-Treats and monthly lounges and teaches weekly creative writing classes. Her primary mission is to inspire, provide value and make writing fun and easy.
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