I enjoyed reading Brenda Ueland’s If You Want to Write: A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit a decade ago. One statement etched itself in my memory. This spirited eighty-year-old woman wrote, “Creativity is the Holy Ghost.” I love her bold way of claiming this truth for creativity is deeply spiritual. It is generative, reflective, connective, relational, mysterious, healing, disturbing, beautiful, and powerful as spirit is.
Creativity is close kin to spirit for it is profoundly personal. It can reveal what you need to be whole, which can be frightening, so it takes courage to cultivate creativity and engage in its mystery. In her book, How the Light Gets In: Writing as a Spiritual Practice, Pat Schneider muses, “If I am made in the image of the creator, then I am myself a creator, and my acts of creating participate in mystery.” In all humans of all systems of belief dwells creativity, surely one of our best treasures.
Somewhere in mid-life, I lived a long season in which I did not pursue creativity. Tired from a long day’s work and a much longer dry spell in life, I was trudging up a hill on my commute home. My world was vacuum-packed with family needs and work obligations. On that fateful walk to the car, I noticed a daffodil staring into my face with its fluted sun and what seemed like a question.
I stared back at its elegant yellows, breathed its perfume, and pondered its generous short life. Its free beauty struck me as extravagant and tender, a spunky contrast to our culture’s obsession with the bottom line, capital gain, efficiency, and productivity. I walked on somewhat stunned by the implication of that flower, the character of its creator, the desire and hunger it raised within me. Mary Oliver wrote in her poem Sometimes, “Instructions for living life: Pay Attention. Be Astonished. Tell about it.” Red Bird: Poems
In honesty, I had not been paying attention, so seeing that flower came as a mysterious gift. I was astonished. Perhaps the questions this flower-teacher posed were these: what are you doing with your beauty? How will you keep alive life-giving astonishment? How will you tell about it?
I sat in my car a long while before turning the key. I had let lay dormant my creativity and was living an anemic life. I, a former art student, a musician, a lover of literature had let these major arteries shrivel. I made an appointment with myself, the next time I sat in my car in this parking lot, I would lay out my plan for moving creativity back into my life, and I did. I chose creative writing and a world of health unfolded beginning with that choice.
What about you spirited women? Creativity is larger than the arts, but no matter the form, a question worth contemplating is this: how is the mystery of creativity expressed in your life?
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