DAY ONE: Remember Yourself
This is a 30-Day Exploration of Creativity.
“You can’t use up creativity, the more you use, the more you have.”
MAYA ANGELOU, Author and Poet
2020 has been challenging for us all and it has forced most of us to rethink a lot of things. It is not just countries, governments, businesses etc. that have had to rethink and re-strategise, but us as individual humans as well.
I remember being a kid and the days I would spend writing poems in a notebook or staring at the creatures great and small being formed by the clouds in the sky. I also remember being in Math class in Primary Seven, my worst class not only in terms of performance but all my Math teachers seemed to be mean men (never had a female Math teacher now that I think of it!), and seeing a huge dragon coming in from the window to the teacher’s side at the front of the class and swallowing him whole! That would have ended all my math problems, no? Unfortunately, it was just my imagination. But it was during such dreary classes (and even exams) in school and by writing little poems that I learned the power of my imagination.
Then adulthood arrived with the demand to get a job and to make something of myself. I thought about it and realised that making money from my writing could be a good way to make a living, no? It was the one thing that came so naturally to me. So, I started to do a lot of targeted writing simply for a paycheck. Now, I would like to clarify some things before I go on. First, I am not the kind of creative who believes in ‘waiting for the muse’ but, rather, I ascribe to a version of what Maya Angelou said about creativity – that it is like a muscle which, when used more and more, grows and brings returns. Building muscle requires consistency and discipline, the consistency of always showing up. That is what this series is about because I think I used to wait for the most opportune moments to write… like when the feeling took me or the promise of some money was great. The discipline of the craft was absent. Anyway, as I continued to write for the main goal of making money, I see now that I lost something along the way.
As I was saying, I started writing for a paycheck and, in so doing (please, I am not saying that there is anything wrong with this), I totally lost the joy I had as a child when I would write without the promise of anything. I wrote because it was my most natural mode of self-expression and it brought me joy incomparable.
At this stage of my life, I would like to combine all the knowledge I have garnered as an adult about discipline and consistency with the practice of joy. To children, joy is a natural phenomenon but with adulthood comes the understanding of the pressures and problems of life, and this understanding, more often than not, steals our joy as we are buried under responsibilities and duties. Therefore, as adult creatives, we have to find a way to reclaim the joy without totally forsaking the sense of responsibility (especially if you have contracts that need to be fulfilled, bills to pay etc.) because it is possible to fulfil our responsibilities without losing the joy of our craft!
I think that, as adult creatives, there has to be more intentionality because joy is not our natural state. It is a state that is natural to children but which has to be pursued and cultivated by adults. The question then becomes: how do we go about cultivating our creativity without losing our joy? How do we reclaim our joy while pursuing our craft with diligence, commitment and an understanding of the importance of dedication to the work of our art whether we feel like working or not…whether the muse shows up or spends days and months hangover in bed refusing to answer our calls!
Through this series, I want to remember who I was while also still being who I am now as an adult. I want to reclaim my childhood joy of writing without losing all the valuable and precious life lessons I have learned along the way.
A 30-Day Process of Exploration
Take a moment to recall the feeling that you used to have when you got to do that thing you loved without having to do so because of the pressures of life. Or, on the other hand, maybe the pressures of life drove you to write or paint to get back some semblance of control and peace. Start to ask yourself how you can learn to practise your craft with or without pressures, whenever you want to, while still getting unbridled joy and fulfilment from it.