Writing has always been my preferred art, even before I knew it was art.
When I was in high school, the walls of my bedroom were papered with poems and mini memoirs. On those walls I hid messages to my parents that I was too afraid to speak aloud but desperately needed to get out of me – and then I tore them all down in a fit of rage and tears the first time my words were used against me.
I started putting my words in journals. Then, on a whim, I put them on the Internet for invisible strangers to read. That’s when I discovered that I made things – stories, and pictures, and feelings – out of letters and punctuation. The whim turned into a hobby, then an obsession, and eventually a career.
Still, it wasn’t until two years ago when my daughter suggested she got her artistic talent from me that I considered the possibility that I was creative.
Since that realization, I’ve been experimenting with lots of different methods of creativity. It’s all been for fun – words are still the medium that I am best at – but it felt very, very necessary and essential to my happiness. It was as if I’d discovered a secret treasure map to Something Super Important and I had to just keep making stuff if I wanted to get to the big X.
And then the words left me.
I haven’t written anything I’m extremely proud of in months. Every post here has been a struggle, a pulling out of me instead of the release of an unstoppable flow. I haven’t written word one of my next book even though I finally know exactly what it will be about. I haven’t submitted a single article or guest post for anyone else, despite requests and lists of possible topics.
It’s terrifying for a writer to lose her words. But it has also been a blessing in a way, because it’s been during this scary wordless drought that I’ve come to fully appreciate my creativity.
The words and I have been at odds, but the need to create was always strong.
So, I learned to paint with watercolors. I rehabbed old furniture. I went on long photo walks, discovered blackout poetry, bought coloring books, made collages, and started an art journal.
Along the way, I’ve rediscovered something primal and, I believe, universal: inherent creativity.
This kind of creativity doesn’t exist to generate an income or to garner validation from an audience. It exists because in being creators we are connected to what creates us.
When I’m making something with my hands, I can feel this strand of soul inside me hum. My stupid thinking brain shuts up and my intuition takes over. It’s like going to the source and refueling with the very best of my original ingredients.
Creativity isn’t the only way to access this super refueling station. I get the same recharge from being surrounded by nature or having a deep connection with someone I love. My creativity isn’t the only part of me that matters or the single key to my happiness.
But it’s an important one, I’ve learned. And it’s fun.
Painting and drawing and gluing things together is fun for me because, I think, I have no standards for myself. I don’t expect to make masterpieces or even something pretty. It helps me practice doing just for the sake of doing.
And really, I can’t say this enough: it’s fun.
My words are slowly starting to come back to me. I hope that I’ll actually be able to write that book this year and regain my confidence in storytelling. But in the meantime, I’m so grateful that I’ve discovered new ways to sustain my creative spirit.
Do you have a creative spirit and live in the Pittsburgh area? I’d love it if you’d join me for a special weeknight retreat in March. Go here for details & ticket info.
(And if you’re not in Pittsburgh, stay tuned… I’m planning something big for you later this year!)