Wellsprings.

One of the things I love is to pick the brains of creative people. Nerdy, yes – but I long ago decided that nerdy is cool.

I was talking to my oldest friend who is one of the most incredible people I know: she’s a talented artist, and creativity flows out of her like light; her intuition and spirituality naturally shine out of her. She’s an inspiration, creatively and spiritually and intellectually and simply in who she is, and amazingly, she’s my friend.

Anyway, we were talking about creativity, and I asked her where she feels that her ideas come from. Her answer: there’s a wellspring within each of us, something we can all access. It all comes from the same Source.

And here’s an interesting thing: as I’ve been learning about prayer and meditation, and delving, even slightly, into spirituality and meditation, I’ve discovered the very beginning of learning to delve down into the depths of my self, below thought. I have no idea what it’s like under the sea while a storm’s going on, but I imagine that there’s a sense of stillness beneath the tumult (I’m prepared to be proven wrong on this; it would be very interesting, and I am a nerd, after all). It’s that stillness, beneath the tempest of my daily thoughts, that I seek.

I’m learning – haltingly, stumblingly – to move beneath the chatter of the everyday, and dwell and be within my self. I’m learning that it’s within the depths of my self that Spirit dwells, and from where Spirit reaches out to Itself in what becomes prayer. It’s within my innermost being that I discover Spirit, the Source of my being, the genesis of my Creation, and, apparently, the origin of my creativity.

It’s why, despite the difficulties, I need to continue – hesitant, stumbling – on this journey of learning to meditate, of learning to pray. I need to learn – or re-learn – to be safe within my spirituality. To be cradled within the love of the Creator of compassion, the Source of love. I have to trust that my self holds not only the wellspring of creativity, but the wellspring of the Creator. I have to trust my self, and I have to trust the Creator.

It’ll make me a better writer, and it’ll make me a better person, but more than that – it will make me a whole person.

I’m not going back to being half a person.

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Creativity is weird.

Perhaps a year ago, I sat at an outside table at my favourite cafe in Newcastle (it’s called Ground Floor, the coffee is amazing, and they let me sit at one of their tables for hours most Sunday afternoons when I really don’t buy enough food to justify my long occupancy) and wrote a short story. The story was about St Peter, in the hours after making his famous denial of Jesus in the tumult and turmoil of his trial and execution. I wanted to tell the story from his point of view, to explore why he might have done such a thing, how he might have even begun to live with the weight of those words riding his conscience forever afterwards.

I never finished that story – I ran out of time that afternoon, and life got busy, and I never came back to it. It’s probably still sitting in a notebook somewhere. Apparently, it’s been sitting in the inner layers of my mind.

I think I might have mentioned on this blog, but at the moment I’m writing a book. It’s a poetry anthology, due to be published soon-ish (I’m still oscillating between incredulous disbelief and mindless terror), and it’s about death and resurrection. Partly it tells my story, of domestic violence and escape and healing (me, me, me – I am a soprano, after all!) but there are also poems about death and resurrection in nature and the passing of the seasons, and there are poems about the fundamental story of death and resurrection: the story of the execution of a travelling rabbi on a hill outside Jerusalem two thousand-odd years ago, and what happened three days later.

It occurred to me on Sunday while I was sitting in the choir stalls at the Cathedral (I was listening to the service, I promise!) that the short story I started writing a year ago might end up being a poem, but I didn’t know what that would look like. Then I got distracted, and the week has been overwhelmingly busy, and I never really followed the idea – until tonight.

I got the feedback, from someone whose opinions I trust implicitly, that the book’s a little light-on when it comes to poems about Holy Saturday – that day of loneliness and bleakness and grief and fear between the horror of Good Friday and the amazement and euphoria of resurrection on Easter Day. And all of a sudden, there was the short story that had apparently been biding quietly in my mind for all this time. And there, fully formed, was the poem which had murmured so fleetingly in my thoughts during Mass on Sunday.

I’m learning to trust my creativity, my intuition, in this process of writing. I’m learning to trust the narrative to unfold, the poetry to draw its own form. I’m learning to trust that sometimes my conscious, rational mind needs to take a step back, and to let creativity swirl in that space which exists beyond reason. I know it’s worth doing, and I know that capacity is strong enough to trust.

It’s still weird though.

Something else for my year of care.

I ended up speaking last night with my oldest friend (we’ve been friends since we were eight years old; our favourite game at that age was called Splat, and involved bouncing a tennis ball soaked in water and saying “splat” when it slapped wetly against the tarmac. She remembers it as being far more intricate and involved than I do). As well as being a wonderful friend – one of those friends with whom you can be out of contact for years, and then pick up where you’ve left off as though the hiatus never occurred – she is also a creative inspiration to me.

There’s nothing she can’t do, creatively, because she genuinely believes that she can learn anything. She will attempt anything. Creative experiments are not too frightening for her. She plunges into creative pursuits like a water-bird through reeds, completely at home, utterly competent.

Well, that’s how I see it, anyway. She’s one of the greatest inspirations – creatively, but also just in the person that she is – of my life.

Over the course of the conversation – one of those wonderful meandering conversations that wander from topic to topic the way only conversations between good friends can – of course we ended up talking about creativity. What we’re doing. The challenges and barriers we’re facing. How we’re overcoming them. What we want to do, and how we might get there. And I hung up the phone feeling like the person who hasn’t noticed the dimming of the room until the light is switched on. Like the person who has become so used to pain that she only notices it in its sudden absence. Like the person who is so distracted that she hasn’t noticed that she’s hungry until she’s taken her first inattentive mouthful of food.

And I realised that a huge part of my year of care – for the world, for others, and for myself – will be caring for my creativity. I have been do distracted – by things that fulfil me, but distracted nonetheless – that I have forgotten about caring for my creativity. For that reflection of the Creator within me. For that part of me that lives words, that dwells in narrative, that tells, in my own way, the story of the world in miniature. For that girl who stops what she’s doing to write down a nice chewy sentence, or thinks of the characters in her head as almost as real as she is. For that woman who makes the heat of a summer’s day into a poem, whose writer’s notebook is as precious to her as anything else she carries with her in her shoulder bag.

My creativity is important. I am the creation of the Creator, and I am designed to be creative. And I’ve lost touch with that, recently. What I have not nourished, is starting to wither.

So, year of care: suddenly, that little monosyllable gets another job to do. And this one, I now remember, is pretty important. 

The Poetry Game.

For the last few days, I’ve been playing the Poetry Game with someone who is not only a friend but an inspiration. To be honest, I don’t know how she could possibly get anywhere near as much out of our friendship as I do, because she’s so amazing and vibrant…but that’s beside the point. (Hello, Bean!) She lives a thousand kilometres away so we’ve been doing it by text message.

The Poetry Game is simple. You pick a theme (in this case, water) and you bounce words back and forth, relating to that concept. Not so hard, certainly. It’s made slightly trickier by the fact that each word has to start with the last letter of the previous word. Life – Endless – Sleek – Kingdom – etc. What makes the Poetry Game so tricky – and so utterly lovely – is that the challenge is to make the words beautiful, and creative, and reflective of the essence of the thing. It requires me to think outside the box – although I did enjoy sending a message offering Wet – to think creatively and laterally, and symbolically and metaphorically. I am challenged by my friend’s intellect and creativity and immense vocabulary; and it’s not often during my day, especially the day-to-day interactions of working in mental health, that I get to indulge a pure love of words, the way they feel on my tongue and resonate in my mind.

I love, too, the creativity of the Poetry Game. Some of the words pertaining to water: multiplicity; yearning; rush; enduring; harrow; tumultuous; swirling; Gaia; affirming; dance; lucid; gift; surge; tremulous; ephemeral. And just like that, my idea of water grows and deepens beyond its usual understanding. Those words will be with me when I drink coolness and clearness; when I cleanse my hands, or dirty plates and cups; when I stand overlooking the quiet strength of the Hunter River, or the endless expanse of the ocean…

Plus it’s not every day that you receive a text message containing the word Evanescent.

Feeling not quite right, and creation.

This is the thing about being just a little bit not quite right these last few weeks: I feel like I’ve lost my creativity.

I haven’t, of course. I’m being a bit of a drama queen. I’ll accept that. Which in itself is probably not helping, because now I’m grumpy with myself about being a drama queen as well as everything else. Honestly, humans are such inconveniently complex creatures sometimes!

But the reality is that I’ve struggled this last few weeks to be a creative being. Despite the beauty of the world around me, the wealth of resources and inspirations, I’ve struggled to write so much as a Haiku. My journal and writer’s notebook have been carried around in my shoulder bag as usual (I’m still not quite able to trust that I can safely leave them on my desk at home without danger of them being violated and their contents used against me; I feel insecure without them in my possession at all times), but they’ve been crying out in silent, abandoned reproach. I’ve had the opportunity to do some writing – opportunity, but, apparently, not capacity. The words simply aren’t there. The thoughts aren’t there. It’s like wading through treacle.

And then someone said to me, out of the blue, “May God bless your creations”. Not, may God bless His creations, or may God bless Creation itself, but may God bless my creations. Naomi’s creations. And that was my very small ah-ha! moment for the day. Because the Creator created me to be creative. And while I struggle with the idea that anything I can create is worth anything at all, I am also aware that to refuse to be a creative being is to go against my creation. Against my Creator. And so (I think) it follows logically that the Creator wants me to be creative. That the Creator blesses my creativity. All I have to do is show up for it. Put pen to paper, fingers to laptop keyboard. Raise my voice in song, even if I do have to keep my fingers mentally crossed in the blind hope that my pitch isn’t entirely off the reserve. Trust that I’m doing what I’m meant to be doing. And that when, like now, it’s hard – when at times it seems impossible – that’s ok too. I’ll keep showing up at the keyboard, I’ll keep sitting at my desk, I’ll keep surrounding myself with music and words. And a lot of what I produce will be rubbish and some will be worth something (I hope!) but the important thing is not the outcome – it’s the process. It’s the fact that I’m doing what I was created to do: creating.