I feels as though this is the most obvious thing I can say – and yet, letting this essay soak in (even as I write it) in has made me feel renewed in a way that gives me peace & purpose, and I hope will do the same for you.
As sure as there is passion in the creative process there is also something else, something that feels unwelcome and limiting (especially in contrast to the excitement of creativity). Humanity. It’s limitations hold tightly to the hands of the hardworking, making it’s weight known in every area of life, but especially in the creative process.
The force of inspiration within me wants to give and give without end; to be overwhelmed with creativity, washed with love for the process, the idea; but soon, I find that I have created a thing that is bigger than myself, something that lives outside of my limitations – and my limitations then become painfully clear.
Humanity is hard to live with – hard to create within. But you know what? Being a human is beautiful. It’s messy and complex. It means that I get to love other humans and do amazing things within the confines of my flesh and bones.
Sustainable creativity is being aware of your limits yet intentionally fostering that powerful passion within their walls. With time, you become familiar with their edges, their joys and hostilities, and you begin to exist quite well within them, growing creatively and as a person despite (or maybe because of) them.
I am in this phase now. My creative process is so life-giving and familiar to me and I wish I could pursue it without end, but, my humanity feels very intimate as well and I am learning to respect it and to better work within it’s limits.
This year I chose the word “freedom” as a mantra to carry inside my heart through the thousand choices I make each day. Freedom is beautiful to me because it does not mean I can do whatever I want but it does mean that I can say NO to things that feel like bondage – things that will unnecessarily test the strength of my walls by their very nature.
I picture my physical & creative energy like a room. One wall is inspiration & ideas, another is time, the third represents my physical needs (hunger, tireless, strain…), and the fourth holds all needs outside of myself (family, money, society…).
I can only create a sustainable career as an artist if I am centered in the middle of all these needs, working in harmony with & inside of them.
In my imagination, the “middle of my room” is one of those thriving indoor courtyard gardens found in homes along the Mediterranean. The home is literally built around an opening in the roof allowing trees and flowers to grow in the very heart of it. The rain pours in, the sun shines, and the home is refreshed and cleaned by the beauty of the garden.
The garden can be as fertile and lush as you make it – that’s up to you – but the space for you to create is there (one seedling, one stolen moment, at a time)
This is my sweet-spot. It is where I need to create. This “garden” is my freedom within the walls of my life.
It is hard to say “no” but it is even harder to find yourself worn thin, cracked, and overspent on things that may not have been worth it anyways. When I think of it that way, “no” feels like the most generous word I can say. I can literally feel it breathing life and refreshment into my mind. And you know what happens with a refreshed mind, right? Creativity.
I’m hoping to share, in more detail, some of the ways I am trying to implement this mindset into my life and creative process over the next few days or weeks (I’m not one for scheduling things…) 😉
In the meantime, I hope these words refreshed someone. Know that you are in the right place, that you can cultivate the life you want to live within the mess and irregularity of your life, that small things are huge, and that claiming some space in my heart and mind for quiet creativity is so deeply valuable.
Please share this post with a friend you think may need these words.
I agree completely! The balance is so hard. I’m stretching myself recently, in good ways I think, but I’m also trying to be careful to say no to the things that will stretch me too far at this point. The one I struggle most with is introversion, and trying to balance getting out and being with people and realizing that I need recharge-time and can only go to so many gatherings in a week before I’m just DONE.
Thank you for your encouragement and beautiful, peaceful words ❤
It’s so important to get to know your own strengths and limits! I completely understand (fellow introvert here!) and it feels so good to say no sometimes to take time to refresh yourself.
Beautifully written words of encouragement and kindness, thank you 😊
I’m so glad they were meaningful. xo
Emily, you may enjoy reading the book called”Essentialism”. I just read it and your blog post speaks to some of the ideas in this book, especially the necessity to say “no”.
I’ll have to look that up! Thank you!
You are an exceptional artist and a superb writer.
Beautiful and true words!
I’ll be sharing this post with a very dear friend. Thanks for sharing it with us.
Great post! Feeling this way lately. “No” is “yes” to something else and vice versa.
Wow! So glad to have found your blog. Beautiful writing and art, so inspiring. Thank you!
This was so good! Thank you so much for shading. I’ve struggled for years knowing that creating is my calling but always pushing it aside for everything else. I’m slowly giving in and making time for it and pursuing it and trying to find some sort of balance. What you wrote was so perfect and beautiful and relatable ( and a house with a courtyard in the center is my dream). So anyhow thank you thank you for being real and inspiring and open!!!!!
I’m reading this in the right moment 😉 ❤
I loved reading this. I studied art history and one of my professors always made sure to remind us that no artist creates in a vacuum. There could have been many artists over the course of history that we simply don’t remember because they weren’t given the circumstances to allow their art to grow. It goes without saying that this is a constant struggle for artists – a balancing act. It’s a beautiful thing when we’re able to create something amidst the demands of modern life.
Thanks for your words! I needed to hear something like that to keep on going in muy creative world
This is so true and I like the idea of a room, especially the connection with nature. I had contemplated going back to school to be a teacher but it really isn’t the dream job I want. I want nothing more than to be an artist. I must work hard and find my balance. I know it’s been awhile but don’t you just love when your words and your art are timeless. I hope the same for me too.