Creative Happiness

creativityI seem to only be truly happy when I am actively engaged in the process of creating something. Creativity gives my life focus and clarity, a goal around which I can organize my otherwise chaotic and sometimes self-destructive thoughts. In addition, creating something — whether it is tangible or intangible, permanent or temporary— brings with it a great deal of self-satisfaction, boosting both my self-efficacy and my sense of self-worth.

Creativity represents a healthy balance in-between two other extremes: restlessness and stagnation. Both restlessness and stagnation are linked to insecurity and detachment. I know when I am getting restless because I feel impatient, ungrateful, and agitated. Restlessness can lead to brooding, unthoughtful behavior, and sometimes devastating life consequences. When I start to stagnate, I feel bored, lazy, and hopeless; stagnation inevitably leads to psychic death. This is perhaps similar to the theory of bipolar disorder in which there are two extremes of mood: mania (restlessness) and depression (stagnation).

Creativity, then, is an outlet that brings together complex emotions in a positive, goal-oriented way. It bridges the novel brilliance of restlessness with the structure and stability of stagnation. When I feel restless, it is often because I want something new in my life; when I create, I make something new in my life. When I feel stagnant, I feel empty and as though my life is on hold; when I create, I initiate and sustain movement through which meaning and fulfillment emerge. Through the creative process, I am able to use and reconcile conflicting emotions in a complementary way that hopefully adds more beauty and peace to the world.

Hungry Muse, Naughty Muse

I yearn to create writing that is imaginative, playful, honest, and luscious — and to do so on a consistent basis. Writing is not only an emotional outlet, it is a reflection of who I am. It serves as documentation of the interconnected processes of self-exploration and transformation which I continually experience. It is an exhumation and selfless giving of the most special, sacred spaces in my heart. Writing is what makes me come alive, and in turn it gives life to ideas that hopefully inspire others in unique and meaningful ways.

At one time, I barely wrote anything for about four months. I was depleted, uninspired, and exhausted. My life felt heavy and stagnant. I was unable to produce anything of merit, anything worth sharing, anything worth reading. The less I wrote, the less I wrote. I was sucked into a downward repressive spiral from which emergence seemed more and more impossible. Was this it? Was there nothing more to say? Was I all but gone?

There was a lot going on my life at the time, and as a highly sensitive person I am often unable to filter out certain types of difficult experiences. I absorb them, ruminate, and internalize other people’s insecurities. Eventually my despair serves a purpose — connecting me with greater awareness and understanding, and illuminating new insights. This lengthy and difficult process is necessary for my spiritual awakening. But I could have been writing to help me make sense of those experiences along the way.

When I get stuck, it is usually because my naughty, naughty inner muse is assisting me in this self-sabotage. And like unruly children who are neglected and unfed, that naughtiness comes from a lack of attention and nurturance which renders her incapable of engaging in a creative relationship with me. When I feed my inner muse, she astonishes me with her support and tender loving care; In other words, I am better able to invoke passion and love through the written word when I take care of myself and indulge my desires — regardless of how often I stare at a blank piece of paper or screen. Because my writing is so deeply connected to, and a part of, me — I need to be well in order to write well.

There are certain special things I like to do to feed my inner muse, like immersing myself in sunshine, bubble baths, ocean waves, and spectacular music, eating ripe peaches at the height of summer, and traveling to previously unfamiliar places. Daily rituals, like meditation and physical movement, also fill her heart with joy. I can also approach every moment with openness, wonder, and curiosity and engage with the world as my playground, rather than a battlefield. Neglect her, leave her hungry, and naughty girl will once again emerge. At every moment, I need to treat her, my most wise and beautiful inner self, with lovingkindness so she, and my writing, may flourish.

Procrastination

My life has been a series of unfinished projects. Yes, I have seen many books, reports, home repairs, and other projects to their bittersweet end, and it would probably surprise most people that I suffer this perhaps self-imposed impediment. But there are many more, thousands more, that remain submerged inside of me.

Some of them are in bits and pieces, swirling about, searching for the perfect moment of emergence. Others are already complete, inside of my head, but have not yet started the journey to the outside world. Yet others have been spewed out — here, there, and everywhere — but have not yet been brought together into a final masterpiece. My unfinished projects are toys in the box, lonely and neglected, yearning for a playmate to make them come alive and have more than a symbolic meaning.

I tend to be good at starting things, but not finishing them. I once worked with a man who was good at finishing things, but not getting them started. We were the perfect (working) pair.

I have tried to organize my projects with index cards, notebooks, two different types of note software, file folders (both electronic and hard copy), websites, spreadsheets, three ring binders, sticky notes, and posterboard. I’m sure I’m missing something. And don’t even get me started on the calendars.

Perhaps it is subtle self-sabotage. Maybe it’s ADHD, mostly but not entirely without the H. Or it could be my vain and fickle heart that chases one dream after another. Possibly a fear of failure? Bashfulness?

Whatever it is, I have enjoyed the creative journey of generating ideas, whether or not they are shared and brought to fruition. The unfinished, and even the unstarted, project carries with it the allure of what might be. As long as it doesn’t cross over into the regret of what could have been, a certain amount of disorganized procrastination may be healthy. It serves as a reminder that creativity is a generative, rather than a depleting process, and that the process itself is what really counts, most of the time.