“But I’m just not creative.”
Sad words, filled with regret, uttered as an apology, sometimes in a whisper. I hear them from people in my classes, from people in bookstores and art galleries who are mentally comparing themselves to the featured writers and artists.
It’s a common belief. Creativity is for THEM, not for ME.
The problem is, IT IS NOT TRUE.
Creativity is as natural as the desire to communicate, to be safe, to be part of a community, to learn, grow and love. It’s our nature, written into our genes.
Every day, we create:
- Our reactions to the events of life
- Ways to spend our time
- Where we live
- Our job or career
- How to spend our leisure time
- Ways of being of service
- How to have fun
With our intelligence and intuition, we are constantly choosing. This or that. Am I happy or sad about what just happened? Do I argue with my neighbor about his barking dog or try to understand his point of view?
We have more choices than we give ourselves credit for. Most of the time we create unconsciously, using patterns of thought and beliefs that are familiar. We learned them in the past and use them so often they become habits.
If your thought is, I don’t have time for creative work, then daily tasks will multiply. You’ll get so busy you’ll be grateful you didn’t start that painting, song, or story.
If you think, I can start my creative work even though I’m busy, you’ll notice how to change your schedule, what activities to scale back, and resources that can help.
By noticing our habitual patterns, we can change outmoded beliefs into new and positive ones that support health, happiness, and creativity.
First, comes the thought.
Do you have a thought or an image about a creative project you’d like to work on?
Thought is the first step in the creative process. Say YES to the thought.
Second, comes the act.
We take steps to transform the thought into physical reality.
Write, draw, design, sculpt, sing, dance, paint. All the physical acts of an artist are accomplished with human hands, voices, and bodies. We start small and learn as we go.
The creative drive is inborn. We learn how to make our visions physical.
All creative acts have one thing in common: the first attempt to bring alive a thought or vision will fall short. The finished product will not match the perfection of the imagination.
If that happens, congratulate yourself! Just like every other creator, you have made a start! Now you have something to work with. To shape, form, edit, and revise so each iteration comes closer to the image in your mind.
Creative Expression Feeds the Soul
Not everyone can write a best seller or paint a breathtaking landscape, but everyone—including you!—can express themselves. People who express themselves creatively are happier, healthier, and more satisfied. It doesn’t matter if their efforts bring financial success or recognition. Simply exercising the creative muscle makes the difference.
Taking a break from the hectic demands of daily life allows us to slow down and refresh ourselves. The imagination exists to be used, for our pleasure, and for the benefit of others. If you don’t have time for your creative pursuits, consider how you can gain some time.
Think about it for a moment.
The obstacles in your way are not immovable. Your Creative Self already knows how to improve your life. Why not take a few minutes and listen to what it has to say?
It’s right there. Behind that tree. In the shadow of the curtain in the room where you sleep. In your dreams, glowing with golden light.
Since I learned to meditate, new information presents itself as a door to be opened. Or ignored. In the world of spirit, there is always choice.
I made my choice long ago, so I open every door that beckons. Sometimes after reflection. Sometimes with trepidation, for once opened, there is no going back.
Doors lead me forward—to repair a misunderstanding, to an old belief that needs releasing, or a different level of awareness. Some doors are an invitation to explore my relationship to the inner world from which all creativity springs. Behind others lurk the characters and worlds that populate my stories.
I needed to slow down my thoughts before I developed a habit of regularly producing creative work. That meant taking time to sit at my desk and tune into the frequency of my Creative Self. Some people can write a chapter of the novel on a commuter train or on their lunch hour. I applaud them. They must be very productive. But I need more space.
If you hear the call but can’t find the door, be patient. You may need to quiet your mind. Your body must partner with your mind and feelings for ideas and visions to be translated into words and brush strokes. This takes practice. Sit in silence. Spend time in nature. Watch the grass grow. Listen to the leaves of cottonwood trees chattering to each other. The inner world works on a slower time cycle than our ordinary outer world. Rhythms need to be respected. Telling it to hurry doesn’t work.
Some doors are shy but they want to be discovered. Yours may hide behind a cluster of ivy. Or on the far side of a sagging wooden fence. An image flashes on the edge of your vision, so beautiful you turn, heart lifting, but when you do, it’s gone. Maybe you turned too quickly. Maybe it melted back behind the veil.
If you see it in the heat of the day as you trudge through a desert, your mind might dismiss it as a mirage, but in your heart, you know it’s real. You know it’s waiting. For the time to be right. For you to be ready.
It knows you well. It knows you may need to gather courage before you walk toward it. You may need to stop the noise of the outer world before you notice its shape, its color. To see that it pulses with excitement at your approach.
But, you may say, not yet. I’m busy with work, family, and the pressing tasks of daily living. How can I open a door that leads to who knows where? What if it takes me to places I’m not ready for? What if I get lost? What if walking through it changes me?
Stop and breathe.
You can turn away. The door understands. As you retreat, the rhythm of its pulsing may slow, but it will never stop. The door will never disappear and it will never fail to welcome you.
Even if you wait until you are old and tired and finally face the door because there’s nothing else left to do.
Even if you wait longer than that.
You know what to do.
You were born knowing. Rattle it gently. Give it a push. And when you see, with amazement and delight, what lies beyond, be still and listen for the voice that holds the treasure.
When Spirit Whispers
It wants your attention. It wants to be free. Have you heard it whisper?
You know what it is. It dances through your dreams. It causes you to be late because you’re mesmerized by a cloud formation that looks exactly like the city in a story you want to write. In a rare moment of silence, it says, Come, follow me, I have a story only you can tell. An image only you can paint.
It offers impractical ideas, suggesting you compose a poem or a symphony. A ludicrous idea. After all, you’re a busy person. Who has the time for frivolities? Ridiculous. But, is it?
The call of the Creative Self is real. It means that something inside you wants to be born into the world of time and the light of day.
The seeds of inspiration reside within us. Often just beneath the level of awareness. It takes a receptive attitude to invite those seeds into our lives so we can shape them by creative acts into a poem, a story, a drawing, a clay pot.
Children have unfettered access to the messages of their Creative Self. They draw on walls, paint on their toes, and sing at the top of their small lungs, simply for the joy of it.
As we grow, we learn what pleases our parents, teachers, and friends. We want to fit in, to be loved and praised, so we learn to follow the rules. We don’t fingerpaint when we’re supposed to be studying. We don’t eat dessert before the meal. We don’t spend nearly as much time watching clouds drift by.
Even though we learn to ignore its subversive messages, the Creative Self does not disappear. It is always waiting.
When it makes itself known, it can burst out like thunder, impossible to ignore. Or it may whisper, faintly, its voice only discernible in the vague moments between sleep and waking. Don’t be fooled by volume. The faint voice may have more to say.
Humans create biologically. We also create the conditions of our lives, with our choices, our willingness to learn, observe, and investigate what lies beyond our immediate surroundings.
- Every explorer wonders what waits beyond the horizon.
- Every athlete imagines the heights of skill she can achieve.
- Every artist practices her art to faithfully reproduce the images of the imagination.
People who perform at the highest levels of their sport, art, craft, or profession have an inner drive urging them on. They might call it inspiration or ambition. The words don’t matter. The vision that urges us to keep us moving forward comes from the Creative Self.
You can do it, the Creative Self notes, because it knows you can.
No matter how loud or soft, how often it comes, or how clear its message, the voice of the Creative Self is what you are waiting for.
“Don’t be satisfied with stories, how things have gone with others. Unfold your own myth.”
My next nonfiction book has a working title of Your Creative Self is Waiting for You. I am writing it for readers who want to access their creativity in any form. I believe we are all creative. Even those who protest, “Oh, not me, I have no talent.”
We can’t all be famous painters and writers, but everyone can express themselves. Taking a few small steps to give form to our thoughts, images, yearnings, and ideals is empowering.
Writing in a journal, doodling with a pencil, coloring images in an adult coloring book, re-arranging a room, setting a beautiful dinner table, taking time to teach a child—all are creative acts that feed our souls.
With the humanitarian tragedy unfolding in Europe, my stress level has gone up. I wondered if writing about creativity is appropriate given the turmoil in the world. But then I remembered how writing eases my tension. Writing stories, especially, feels good.
And I remembered Paul Levy, a wise man who teaches about the negative effects of trauma in the mind, what he calls wetiko. Wetiko is a Native American term referring to the negative mental programming, or mind virus, that causes selfishness, insatiable greed, and the unfeeling wielding of power over others. Levy offers an answer to the question many are asking. What is happening to our world?
A few months ago, I took an online course from Levy. It was profound and inspiring. He said that we all suffer to some degree from the effects of wetiko It can take the form of the inner critic who judges and criticizes, often urging us to act against our own interests. The good news is that one way to counteract it is with creative acts. So the time spent in the writing room, the studio, the workshop is not wasted. We can free ourselves by opening ourselves.
We are all stressed and anxious. The pandemic is winding down. But now we have inflation, war, cultural polarization, and the juxtaposition of truth and lies which is truly terrifying. All my life, I’ve struggled with discerning what’s true for me. People dealing with the effects of early trauma are often confused about how much to trust their feelings and intuition. I have used many methods to separate the easy messages of the common wisdom from my truth. Opening the channel to the inner world works. That’s why so many people are journaling. Writing memoirs. Taking up painting. Intuitively, they want the different answers that lie within.
So I write about the inner self, the Creative Self, the part that pain, disappointment, grief, loss, and illness have not damaged. The part that reminds us we are more than our experiences. We are creative beings who can change our thoughts. We change how we perceive our lives by playing, making music and art, by writing, and by opening our hearts to people, animals, and plants.
Being creative is not a panacea, and won’t solve the world’s problems, but accessing our creative energy brings us closer to life as it is supposed to be. It will relieve stress, release endorphins, and help distance us from the inner critic. When we play with the Creative Self, we remember who we are.
So don’t say, I’m not creative. Don’t listen to the critic who judges you not good enough to write/paint/build/compose. You’re exactly good enough, right now, to start. And that’s all it takes.
When the pandemic of 2020 crashed down like a tidal wave, I retreated into my home to wait it out.
A writer and teacher who works at home, it wasn’t a stretch to teach classes online and restrict communications to telephone and Zoom sessions. Enforced isolation seemed the perfect time to w0rk on ideas I’d been gathering for a new book. No more excuses. Time to write that book.
For the first few weeks I believed my own story. Kept my commitments. Participated in online meetings and classes. On regular bike rides with my dog, Zena, I spoke to neighbors I had rarely seen. Everyone was eager to say hello, pass the time of day, and relay how they were coping. At the park, passersby were friendlier than usual. I sat under a ramada near a favorite tree while Zena rolled on the grass. Dogs trotted over to say hello. People waved. It was interesting how being forced to separate brought us closer together.
Weeks passed. I taught my classes, worked with students, completed editing jobs, and wrote. My writing practice is decades old, so I always write, but the new book’s focus eluded me. Anxiety kept me moving but also made it hard to sit and concentrate on an intensely private subject: my relationship to Spirit.
Fiction was easier to write, so I did that. Sent out short stories. Got a couple published. Still, I felt like a skittish animal running in ever-tightening circles around the one thing it wanted but feared to approach.
Facing my new book, which my mind had told me would be short and easy to write, I trembled.
An optimist at heart, I believe we have more freedom than we realize. We aren’t victims of our genetics, family upbringing, finances, politics, or experience. These things shape us, but at every moment, we have the choice to change. No matter our circumstances, we can embark on a fresh path.
Practice what you preach, I exhorted myself as I created a new spreadsheet and listed my chapters. I forged ahead with another draft—wrote, edited, researched, and organized. But something wasn’t right.
It was time to examine my own beliefs. One More Time.
After serious meditation and journaling, I uncovered the face of my resistance—my lifelong reticence to write about who I am. Not in the external sense. What was uncomfortable was writing about my inner world, which is far more real to me than what I do “out there.”
I am one of the lucky ones. From early childhood, I have wandered the inner world. I also knew that, if I spoke of it, the outcome would be ridicule and shaming. So I kept my counsel until I got older and found safe spaces to be myself.
The roots of my personal challenges were buried deep. Not “out there” in an unmarked grave but inside my psyche and body, what I call the “biofield.” Because of early trauma, I’ve berated and second-guessed myself, agonized, and rationalized when deciding about jobs, relationships, business, writing projects, and finances. I doubted my inner perceptions and the common wisdom. Anxiety was a constant companion. No matter what I did, I judged myself, taking on more responsibility than was mine to bear, experiencing the exquisite torture of teetering on the line between worlds.
Struggling with a book I couldn’t grasp, an epiphany burst forth. I realized that, at this moment, only what’s important counts—and what’s important is what I’ve learned from sojourning with my inner self. The lessons were not complicated, but I’ve been a slow study, so it’s taken time to re-member them
- There is a path through life which we chose before birth.
- We walk our own path, whether or not we know it.
- Our inner self guides us, whether or not we notice.
- Life is easier when we heed the messages from within.
- When we listen to the messages of our inner self, it grows into a Wise Inner Guide.
- Spirit possesses infinite patience.
- It’s never too late to listen and learn.
The book, When Spirit Whispers, a journey of awakening, will be published soon, along with an accompanying workbook. This article is an amended version of its preface. I plan to write two more volumes, Visions of Healing and Doorways to Healing.
Going forward, I will use this monthly blog to write about healing, trauma, and writing, the three subjects that intersect to form my path. I hope you will find it useful
If you would like to be an advance reader for When Spirit Whispers, contact me at email@example.com. I will send you an electronic copy of the book. If you enjoy it, I hope you will be kind enough to leave a review.