What it means to be Free to Create II

This evening I experienced a different aspect of what it means to be free to create. My husband and I have recently decided to put one evening a week aside for creative pursuits- whether individual or joint- and tonight was the night. I always look forward to these evenings, as I feel I have permission to be creative in a way which feels different to other times of the week. However, tonight I found myself experiencing a certain amount of anxiety and tension at the idea of spending time in this way. As I have previously mentioned, we recently experienced a bereavement, and I found myself envisaging doing some kind of cathartic piece of art- this felt simultaneously as if it would be satisfying and it also felt heavy inside of me, as if it were some kind of obligation.

I discussed this with my husband and decided to do some free-form writing as a way of getting in touch with myself. Almost immediately what I ended up realizing was that I wanted this evening was to be truly free to create, and that what that entailed was permission to let out the child within. But what is needed to give permission? Gentleness, lack of judgment, forgiveness, spontaneity,courage, permssion to have fun, to have a blast. To go with the moment. Here I was, imposing some kind of task on myself, and what I needed was to tune into that child-like energy and freedom which is always available to me if I know where to look.

Have you ever watched a child at play? Children are totally wrapped up in what they are doing… and then they are done. No sense of obligation, of having to be consistent, of having to finish what they started. Could I give myself that? Be really process-oriented? Immediately I felt a rush of energy, a buzz, as the child part of me became excited.”Sounds great! You mean I can do what I like?”

I looked at the art supplies I had felt drawn to put out on the table. Ooh, crayons, a new box, 96 colors… those were what I wanted to use. A new sketch book, perfect! I began to draw, using any color I felt attracted to, doodles, shapes, stars, squiggles. This felt good!

I decided to stay aware of my focus and energy- to tune in to that small child part of myself that remembers that quality of rapt concentration which is effortless and has its own flow, its own beginning and ending. When I felt my concentration waning, I checked inside… “Do I want to carry on with this drawing, or is something else pulling my energy?” If my energy was moving me towards something else, I allowed myself to follow and see what was next. I knew instinctively when a drawing was finished, and/or when I was finished with it! As a result, I continued to experience a relaxed concentration which felt almost blissful.

Coincidentally (or maybe it is not), this process seemed to act as a stimulus to other seemingly unrelated ideas and thoughts which I jotted down on a separate piece of paper- a kind of unblocking was going on. I have had this experience when playing the piano also. Somehow it’s very satisfying and not distracting. So long as the thoughts are on paper, I feel content to let them be until I can come back to them.

After an hour or so, I felt complete. The drawings pleased me and felt honest- in other words, a true and free expression of what was inside me this evening. That was all that mattered.

Another voice inside me is asking- “But what about discipline, what about consistency? If you just drop what you are doing in the middle, how are you going to achieve anything?” I’m not sure how to answer this voice this evening. I just know I had a very free and creative experience- much more so than many other experiences I have had in my life- by following my intuition and honoring my spirit. Since our recent bereavement, I have felt an increasing desire to be impeccably honest. I am unwilling to indulge any longer in false modesty or fake cheerfulness or stoicism (part of my British conditioning). My commitment to greater emotional honesty and spontaneity feels like something worthwhile is coming out of a major life challenge. It’s therefore no surprise that my relationship with my creative expression is shifting too. I want to celebrate James, and one way is to let my joy in creativity be a tribute to him.

2 Responses to “What it means to be Free to Create II”

  1. The way you so enthusiastically described this wonderful creative episode reminded me of what I learned in a course called “The Psychology of Creativity.” It especially reminds me of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s discussion of the flow, which is the optimal state to be in for creative endeavors. Here’s a brief article by him on the subject of flow:

    And more on Mr. C, as we used to call him in class:

  2. This is a good rendering of artistic inner dialogue – those “voices” that we all hear while we’re trying to create:

    “Must create.”
    “Must be productive.”
    “Now feeling frustrated.”

    And so forth …

    I have found, in much the same way that Valerie suggests, that if I write down ideas, regardless of their state of completion, I can let them be and move on to something else. Using this method, I don’t feel as though I may have lost something potentially very good. And, in a related way, sometimes ideas will simply not bloom when I force them or will them to do so; instead, I have to coax them along over a period of time.

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