Eric Fromm said that ‘Creativity requires the courage to let go of certainties’.
In my own creative process of writing a poem I recognize the stages of this. It all begins with an idea, a restlessness, an agitation. Then:
1. The Fear – of the blank page and the enormous power, freedom and potential of that
2. The Excitement – mingled with the fear, this is like the magic potion that waters the seed or the idea
3. The Taking of risks – putting words down with no thoughts about whether it is ‘good enough’
4. The Working with what has arrived – this is the process of crafting, the drafting, the refinement
5. The Release – the joy and satisfaction of having produced something beautiful or valuable that will enhance the quality of life of whoever reads or hears it – either by them learning something or feeling something, or both. This is also a release of tension, mental, emotional and physical, before the cycle repeats again.
And all through this process, there is no certainty at all, just liminality, limitless possibility. There is an illusion or glimmer of certainty when the poem is ‘finished’ but when the piece goes out to an audience, there is no certainty of outcome. Being brave is the necessary condition for all of this to happen.
In my work with young people and clients over a period of nearly thirty years, I have witnessed their unfolding through the creation of poetry. First there is fear, then there is excitement as we explore what is possible, and so the fear is transformed into its opposite. Excitement is then the fuel for risk-taking which is absolutely necessary in art and in life in order to move and grow. And having taken risks, and experiencing the satisfaction and release they want to do it again and again. And so this opens up a life of freedom, joy and confidence.
Our lives are also works of art, unique and beautiful, and impactful whether we direct that or not. We create our lives moment by moment using the raw materials of thoughts, feelings and actions.
So what fears do we bravely need to transmute so that we can have the energy to take risks and create our lives as we want them?
We fear that we are not good enough and never will be. We fear that we will upset people and be ostracized by friends and family and end up crazy and alone. We fear that we will be successful, and we don’t know how to handle that. We have become used to living in the so-called ‘comfort zone’ safe and small. We are even afraid of finding our tribe, of meeting people on the same wave length who understand us completely and do not expect us to behave in certain ways.
In 2016 I had several wake-up calls. One of the many things I realized was that I could no longer tolerate the feelings that daily arose (and sometimes several times a day) when I allowed myself to be victimized and used by the system. Feelings of despair, grief and furious rage that I could have legally medicated if I had chosen to. I decided to really listen to what these feelings were telling me. Your story will be different, but for me this meant finally resigning from my well-paid but soul-destroying job with nothing tangible in its place. That makes it sound simple – in fact it came with astounding green light clarity – ‘You cannot do that, be that, go there any more, end it now, go!’
I will leave you with two questions and an invitation:
• What are your feelings telling you?
• What leap are willing to make to live a life of freedom (and awareness of risk, yes) and creativity?