If there’s one thing I’ve learned through the “skin” of a writer, it’s how to give into and trust the creative process and its ebbs and flows.
Creativity is not something that can be controlled or directed. It can’t be summoned. It can only be opened to.
I think of creativity like courting: we need to remain open, aware, and ready to move when it invites us to dinner. Like this, from Elizabeth Gilbert, best known for her book, “Eat, Pray, Love”:
“…ideas spend eternity swirling around us, searching for available and willing human partners. (I’m talking about all ideas here: artistic, scientific, industrial, commercial, ethical, religious, political.)
When an idea thinks it has found somebody — say, you — who might be able to bring it into the world, the idea will pay you a visit. It will try to get your attention. Mostly, you will not notice. This is likely because you’re so consumed by your own dramas, anxieties, distractions, insecurities, and duties that you aren’t receptive to inspiration.”
I don’t want to miss the call of creativity, so I try to stay awake and aware of the messages and synchronicities that arise that tell me when to go, when to slow down, and when to take a turn in a new direction.
While I’ve learned all these things through writing articles and blogs, the most potent lessons came in the six years I spent writing my first book, “Embodying Soul: A Return to Wholeness.“
To be clear, I didn’t write constantly, day in and day out, for six years. I would write for weeks at a time, followed by weeks of letting it marinate. Those years contained what seemed like endless periods of sitting in wait as editors–content editors, line editors, proofreaders–did their work before I could resume mine. I spent time reshaping sentences that I had already reshaped many times before to get just the right verb in the sentence, and just the right cadence of the sentences strung together.
One entire summer I put the manuscript aside–never once looking at it–and concentrated only on reading magical realism books such as Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s “One Hundred Years of Solitude” and Isabelle Allende’s “The House of Spirits” to tap deeper into my imagination and creativity. When I returned to my book, I brought in much of what I learned in those studies to bring to life my Soul Realm imaginings.
Each time I stepped away from the work and returned to it, I had a better understanding of the book’s direction and how I wanted to shape it. I realized that even when the manuscript sat unopened, creativity was still working on me, in me, and through me.
Through this six-year time period, I learned a lot about writing and publishing, but I learned even more how spirit works through us, and how, if we let ourselves be the brush and creativity the hand, greater magic than we could’ve dreamed possible can arise.
Yet, even though I’ve experienced that magical way creativity works, I still face frustration when things don’t move on a timeline of my own desires.
Last fall, I was ready to start book number 2. In fact, I wrote 50,000 words toward this new book last November, during the annual NaNoWriMo event.
I let it sit over the holidays, but as the calendar flipped to 2021, the idea of the book no longer resonated with me. I couldn’t explain why. Still, I decided to trust that this wasn’t the right book, or perhaps not the right time.
Without a new book to shape, I used the 50,000 words as starter material for blog posts. This gave these words and ideas new life, and me some satisfaction of the work finding purpose.
As the winter turned into spring, I slowly accepted the fact that my second book was just not ready for me yet, nor I for it–and figured I’d completely let go of it and reconsider in the fall of 2021.
And then it happened. That’s when it always happens–in the moment we truly let go.
I was out for a walk, listening to my favorite podcast by Michael Meade. He was answering questions about uncertainty, and how different people respond to times of uncertainty–how they reach for anything that might give them a sense of security, even if it’s lies, conspiracy theories, or cult-like thinking.
It was fascinating, as always, but it didn’t trigger anything specifically in me in that moment. Certainly not an idea for a new book.
Later that evening, I opened a new book I’d put on hold at the library several months ago that finally showed up, entitled “Savage Grace: Living Resiliently in the Dark Night of the Globe” by Andrew Harvey and Caroline Baker.
In the introduction to this book, and pretty much the first thing I read, the authors share a quote from an article titled “Lie to Me” written by Adam Kirsch in 2017:
“The problem with our “post-truth” politics is that a large share of the population has moved beyond true and false. They thrill precisely to the falsehood of a statement, because it shows that the speaker has the power to reshape reality in line with their own fantasies of self-righteous beleaguerment.”
While different in context, both the Michael Meade podcast and the opening chapter of “Savage Grace” spoke to the same concept: people are generally not equipped with the tools to navigate times such as ours–times when systems are failing, institutions are failing, and authority figures who should be guiding us back to truth and reality are in service only to power, barely pretending anymore to serve their constituents. So, people seek comfort in anything that provides stability–even if it’s a lie.
The flavor of the two sources was the same, and I went to bed contemplating this.
This happened to be the night of the full moon, which clearly plays into the increased creative energy.
An astrological reading I had last fall also factored in greatly. It predicted that this summer, and especially around my birthday in June, I would have a spike of creative energy.
I couldn’t fall asleep. I kept thinking about what human beings do, and are doing today, in such uncertain, confusing times. How we don’t have the resiliency to sit in the unknown. How, when we can’t find meaning in our lives, we’ll borrow it from falsehoods or seek shelter in conspiracy, all the while shamelessly justifying our behavior through dehumanization language, tactics, and reasoning.
And that’s when a title of a book came to me, along with the subtitle and an organizational structure. I had to get up and write it down so that the creative energy knew I had it, was claiming it, and it did not need to move on to another person to make it manifest.
I do that with creativity: if an idea comes to me on a walk or a drive, I will say, “I got you,” to tell the idea that I heard it, and that I will manifest it. I do believe that, if we do not demonstrate availability, attentiveness, or readiness and receptiveness, ideas will move on to the next person. It’s not personal; it’s simply that its sole purpose is manifestation.
Sometimes, a few months or years later, you might hear someone else expressing the idea you had but did not claim, and you think– “I had that idea!” Yes, you did–for a moment. But you didn’t commit to it, so it left you. Rough stuff, but it’s the truth.
So, as far as waiting until fall to begin this book, well, that was a nice idea. But it wasn’t up to me. It never was. It’s always up to creativity. And I know better than to try to negotiate or play games with it.
I got it, I’ve claimed it, and now, I need to manifest it.