During my “dark night of the soul” period several years ago when I felt profoundly uncreative, I started thinking about what it really is that causes me to want to create. I noticed that certain things — watching a sparrow splash around in a puddle while I took my morning walk — truly lit me up, while other things — believing my novel needed to be “serious literature” — felt dull as a dishrag.
I realized that “Art with a capital A”, as Julia Cameron puts it in “The Artist’s Way,” felt like a big drag to me. I’m interested in the ordinary. I’m fascinated by the ordinary. Or maybe a better way to put it is, one of my gifts is seeing the extraordinary in the ordinary.
I love to write, but I get turned off by “literary discussions.” I am interested in the craft of writing — what makes a piece of writing strong, what makes it sing off the page — and I am very interested in writers, their thoughts, joys, and struggles — but I’m not interested in keeping up with what’s going on in the “literary world.” I don’t consider myself an “Artist with a capital A.” I don’t think artists are “special.” Artists are human beings, reflecting the human experience.
Maybe that’s why during the past year I’ve developed such a fascination with monkeys, which I wrote about previously. Monkeys are very human-like, but, well, they’re not human. And because they’re not human, they don’t take themselves that seriously. And, as Havi Brooks pointed out so eloquently here, they don’t care if anyone else takes them seriously.
What lights me up these days? If you’ve talked to me at any length lately, you probably already know: Crystal the Monkey. I feel nothing short of giddy when I think about Crystal. Why? Because she is who she is. Monkeys can’t help but be exactly who they are. And that’s what gets my creative juices flowing: being exactly who I am, and reveling in the joy of others being exactly who they are.
My friend and fellow coach Melissa Wirt said to me a while ago, “How can you approach your business with monkey energy?” I couldn’t stop laughing, because she so hit the nail on the head — it was exactly the question I needed to hear. (And that’s what a good coach does, asks you that “just-right” question. Often, you can tell it’s the just-right question because it gives you a massive case of the giggles).
What makes me feel creative? Embracing my own “monkey energy.” In fact, I would venture to say that when we are exactly who we are, we can’t help but create. Creativity comes to us as naturally as breathing when we are true to our very own natures, whether we are monkeys or just lowly humans.
I hear a lot of creators saying, “I should be creating more.” I’m going to suggest we take the “should” out of the equation. What makes you want to create? What makes your heart sing, what makes you giddy, what can’t you stop talking about even when you wonder if people are rolling their eyes at you? Can you get really specific about it? Start from there.
By the way: I do have a special — free! — offering coming up, as promised in my last post. If you’re feeling “creatively stuck,” this is for you. Stay tuned for more info!
And: I offer ongoing free Creativity Consultations. You can read about them here.
Image is MONKEY © Alexey Arkhipov | Dreamstime.com