Saturday Creativity Quote

What to write about? How to keep going? It’s often a quandary, especially for beginners, driven by desire but lacking craft or confidence. And while I don’t mean to say “write what you know,” or at least not to confine yourself to writing what you know, I do know that our stories can be a powerful place to start. And that all writing is more powerful when we give it the understanding that comes from empathy and from knowing ourselves.

“You need to claim the events of your life to make yourself yours.”

— Anne Wilson Schaef (1934-2020), who wrote extensively about addiction and popularized the concept of co-dependence

(Tranquility, oil on canvas by Tabby Ivy; collection of the author)

Saturday Creativity Quote — Jung on creativity and play

“The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect but by the play instinct acting from inner necessity. The creative mind plays with the objects it loves.”

— CG Jung

Words, stories, memories? Colors, shapes, the intervals between sounds? Play, and find what you love.

(Alpine Moon, Wengen, Switzerland; photo by the author)

Saturday Creativity Quote — Cameron on morning pages

I’ve felt a bit at sea lately, and after Christmas, decided it might be useful to start writing morning pages again. You know the idea, I’m sure: write three pages, by hand, first thing in the morning as a form of clearing and centering before heading into the day’s work, whether it’s your creative work or something else. Julia Cameron, their primary proponent, cautions that they “aren’t meant to be art, or even writing.” They are simply a tool, useful not just for writers but for all artists and anyone looking to deepen their creative experience.

The morning pages are the primary tool of creative recovery. As blocked artists, we tend to criticize ourselves mercilessly. Even if we look like functioning artists to the world, we feel we never do enough and what we do isn’t right. We are victims or our own internalized perfectionist, a nasty internal and eternal critic, the Censor, who resides in our brain and keeps up a constant stream of subversive remarks that are often disguised as the truth. . . . By spilling out of bed and straight onto the page every morning, you learn to evade the Censor. . . . Morning pages will teach you that your mood doesn’t matter.

“Morning pages are meditation, a practice that brings you to your creativity and your creator God.” — Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way

Saturday Creativity Quote — silence and purpose

Creative work often begins during a time of crisis, when we are driven to connect with something deeper inside ourselves. No wonder I like this quote from psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross on finding yourself:

Learn to get in touch with silence within yourself and know that everything in this life has a purpose. There are no mistakes, no coincidences; all events are blessings given to us to learn from. There is no need to go to India or anywhere else to find peace. You will find that deep place of silence right in your room, your garden or even your bathtub.”
— quoted in Yoga Journal (h/t James Clear newsletter)

Painting: Oil on canvas by Tabby Ivy (from the collection of the author)

Saturday Creativity Quote

When I talk about the creative process,* I talk about the importance of asking questions in our work, to keep ourselves growing and our work maturing. For writers, those questions often have to do with craft, but I think we should also be challenging ourselves in what we write about as well, particularly delving into emotional experience. I like how this professor put it:

“Once you have learned to ask questions – relevant and appropriate and substantial questions – you have learned how to learn and no one can keep you from learning whatever you want or need to know.”
— professor and author Neil Postman on the value of questions, in Teaching as a Subversive Activity (h/t, James Clear newsletter

*Watch a few minutes of my talk on creativity as part of the book launch for BLIND FAITH, last month at the Bigfork Art & Cultural Center.

The Saturday Creativity Quote

Let’s close out the month with one more quote from Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life.

“So why does our writing matter, again,” [my students] ask.

“Because of the spirit, I say. Because of the heart. Writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation. They deepen and widen and expand our sense of life: they feed the soul. When writers make us shake our heads with the exactness of their prose and their truths, and even make us laugh about ourselves or life, our buoyancy is restored. . . . It’s like singing on a boat during a terrible storm at sea. Yo can’t stop the raging storm, but singing can change the hearts and spirits of the people who are together on that ship.”

— Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird

Be the song, my friends. Be the song.

The Saturday Creativity Quote

Turns out it’s harder to quote from Anne Lamott’s classic Bird by Bird than I thought it would be, because Lamott doesn’t dole out her wisdom in bumper-sticker size snippets. Instead, she embeds it into stories — which is itself a great lesson. But I do love this:

“Becoming a writer is about becoming conscious. When you’re conscious and writing from a place of insight and simplicity and real caring about the truth, you have the ability to throw the lights on for your reader. He or she will recognize his or her life and truth in what you say, in the pictures you have painted, and this decreases the terrible sense of isolation that we have all had too much of.”

Speaks to the importance of writing honestly and with your whole self at any time, but especially now, don’t you think?

Saturday Creativity Quote — Lamott and Polaroids

This month I’m sharing some of what struck me while re-reading Anne Lamott’s classic, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life.

“Writing a first draft is very much like watching a Polaroid develop. You can’t—and, in fact, you’re not supposed to—know exactly what the picture is going to look like until it has finished developing.” But, she says, as the picture emerges, you see something else besides what you thought you were focused on. “Knowledge of your characters also emerges the way a Polaroid develops: it takes time for you to know them.”

I love this image. It’s true whether you consider yourself a planner or a pantser. Whether we start by making notes or by writing sentences, we’re all after the same thing: the images that emerge from the sticky green goo of creativity.

Friends, if you’re in the Flathead Valley, join me Tues, Oct 11, from 5:30 to 7:00 at the Bigfork Art & Cultural Center (in the Village, next to the library), for the launch of BLIND FAITH (written as Alicia Beckman) and a talk on the creative process.