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The Thing I'm Not Supposed to Talk About

This month in the newsletter, I’m going to explore creativity—what it has meant for me, how it relates to work, why it matters, etc.

Even if you think (especially if you think) creativity has nothing to do with you, I hope you’ll read the newsletters this month. And if you already identify as a creative person or work as a creative person, I also hope you’ll read the newsletters because I'll also be talking about creative blocks, what happens to our creativity and all sorts of other fun stuff. But today I'm talking about something that makes me super uncomfortable...keep reading.

We are born creative. We are born curious.

We are also born with an ego that, like a crab, is soft and fragile and builds a hard outer shell for protection.

Every time we hear something that threatens our ego, which also means it threatens our sense of belonging, we build another layer of the shell. This shell includes all the stories the ego makes up to protect itself and stay hidden. This is all fine and dandy, except that dragging around this hard shell makes it difficult to move or to connect with others, which is the whole reason the ego started building the shell in the first place: to protect itself from being rejected by others. Round and round. That’s where following our egos takes us: in circles. So if that’s where you are, know that your ego is in charge.

So what does any of this have to do with creativity? I’m getting there but needed a bit of a preamble because right now MY ego is telling me to abandon ship, write about something else for the love of Pete, choose creativity and education for godsake, there’s plenty to talk about there. But no, I’m going to start this foray into creativity by talking about spirituality.

Whew. There. I said it.

I never meant to be a spiritual person. In fact, I spent a LOT of time and energy ignoring, avoiding or fighting the whole notion of spirituality. Note: I do not believe “spirituality” is synonymous with “religion.”

Anyhoo. As I was saying, I didn’t ever think spirituality was for me. But I’m coming to believe that when I’m unhappy it’s because I’ve cut myself off from spirituality and am looking for happiness in all the wrong places.

How it ties to creativity is that I think one of my access points to spirituality is through being creative.

Until I read The Artist’s Way (TAW), I had no relationship with spirituality. Didn’t think about it.

In fact, I did let The Artist’s Way sit on my bookshelf for two years because it has the word “spirituality” in the subtitle (...”a spiritual path to higher creativity), which scared me.

Spirituality was, I thought, kooky. Weird. Woo-woo. For flower children and hippies. It meant rocks and crystals. Or just smoking a lot of pot.

But I was pretty unhappy when I started TAW for the first time, so I was willing to read the book, do the exercises and thought I could just ignore all the spirituality crap.

Haha, joke was on me.

Julia Cameron, the author of TAW, blew my mind with her approach to spirituality. One of the affirmations she offers is, “Creativity is my gift from God and creating is my gift to God.”

That was the first time that I considered a different way of thinking about God and creativity; the first time I considered that maybe spirituality could be fun and inspiring; That creativity is a way to honor being human and to honor our connection to something greater than ourselves.

Another side note: Because the term "God" makes me think of old white men with long beards that look something like Dumbledore from Harry Potter, I prefer, generally, not to use the term God at all. I figure any human concept of God is automatically limited by the fact that we are humans and not God.

What I believe now is that spirituality and creativity are intertwined, and you don’t have to believe anything in order to access them. They just are. Practicing creativity leads me to that elusive concept of “flow,” to feeling joy, to feeling connected to something greater than myself.

The act of creating is one of the most vulnerable things we can do; it’s like turning our insides out. And in order to do that, we have to keep the critical voice of the ego quiet long enough to make something. Spiritual practices help me create by moving the ego out of the way, by putting distance between me and the ego’s litany of self-doubt and criticism.

What I’ve learned from studying and practicing (maybe consuming is a better word?) spirituality is that I don’t have to do everything on my own. I don’t know where my creativity comes from. I don’t understand what this force greater than myself is. I don’t actually need to understand it.

But I can depend on it. I can depend on something that’s not my logical, overanalyzing brain to deliver ideas to me. I don’t know where the ideas come from. But I can trust that they will come as long as I’m properly sustaining myself. When I listen to my ego by pushing too hard or worrying what others will think, the ideas dry up.

Why am I writing about any of this? Because I want people to be happy, and it feels disingenuous not to be transparent about what contributes, I think, to my happiness.

BTW, a quick note about horseshoe crabs. They have 10(!) eyes and they follow the lunar cycle. So that means that this little crustacean gimping around in the sand is connected to the white blob we see at night called the moon, which happens to be 238,855 miles away. That's a powerful connection. I’m sure science has an explanation for it AND it’s still an example of nature (or something) being a power greater than we are.


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