• Sarah Ratermann Beahan

A Love Note to My Creative Heart

I think and read about creativity a lot. It's this ungraspable state that is innate in all humanity, and yet something that befuddles us. Artists and philosophers have mused over this word, this noun for millennia. Even the definition is difficult to put your finger on:

  • "the state of being creative" [duh]

  • "the ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, relationships, or the like, and to create meaningful new ideas,forms, methods, interpretations, etc.; originality, progressiveness, or imagination"

  • "the ability to create"

  • "the use of imagination or original ideas to create something; inventiveness."

Its all a bit vague, isn't it? And how then does one create or achieve this state of creation? That's the real stumper. There isn't a human that has walked the earth who has figured that out.

Photo by Christopher Campbell on Unsplash

Some people want to believe that creativity is discipline. It's showing up and willing that creation to, well, manifest. It's akin to going to the gym and doing bicep curls and watching the muscle grow. Others want to liken creativity to a transcendental experience, that humans are simply vessels for magical pixie dust of creativity to firehose through. Wham, bam, thank you for your brain and hands and keyboard or workbench, here's a masterpiece, signed, Creativity.

I believe creativity is a relationship. It's symbiotic. It's me having a conversation with my work, whatever that work is. Some days it's what I'm crocheting. A lot of days it's my writing. Some days it's putting together the workshop I'm leading next. I think of Creativity as this thing that pulls up a chair with a cup of coffee or a glass of wine and says, ok, let's hash this thing out. And sometimes, it takes over and suddenly something occurs that feels like magic. Other times it drops little breadcrumbs and I do the work of gathering them up and putting them together.

I'm providing it with a channel. It's providing me with a place to crack myself open and then put the pieces back together over and over. Sometimes it's just a little crack, sometimes a dramatic smash.

I am leading a The Artist's Way workshop right now. We are only in week 2, and I keep saying "trust the process" and "you won't be the same person when you finish this book." It's all totally true, but the other day as I was writing in my morning pages, I realized that the last time I did the whole 12 weeks of The Artist's Way was the year after my dad recovered from Stage IV colorectal cancer.

Those couple of years before and after that watershed life and death experience were intense. Aside from my dad's illness--an illness so grave that everyone gently encouraged us to be ready for him to not recover--I also got divorced, moved across the country, moved across the country again, met and married my partner, and then moved across the country for a third (and believe it or not, not the final) time. Those years around that time felt like the equivalent of breaking myself into small pieces, shoving them in a blender, turning it on and then walking away for a few days. For years I'd worked really hard to be as unbreakable as possible, so when the shattering happened, it took a long time to figure out what still was true and what had vanished forever. I wasn't the same when I poured myself back together. I didn't have the foggiest idea who I was.

The process of opening back up to my own creative self was vulnerable and anxiety provoking at best. It was traumatizing at times. But it started a journey for me, one that led me back to writing. And with the writing, I could figure out who I was again. And the drawing. And cooking. And running and painting and teaching and crocheting and yoga...all the things I created in my own self-recovery.

So I can't really just think of creativity as a muse deciding to bless me with an idea. I have to think of creativity as a two beings working together, healing and opening each other simultaneously. When I think of my work as a thing I am in love with and in a relationship with, I can visualize how best to care for it; when it needs tending and when it needs space. And that feels so much more tangible and magical to me.

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