Archives for September 2014

Creativity is a Drug

CBD creativity quote

I planned to start this essay by saying that creativity is like oxygen.  But it’s not really like oxygen.  Creativity is not actually necessary to live from a physical standpoint, but it’s hard to imagine a rich and fulfilled life without it.

So I think Cecil has it right. Creativity is like a drug one cannot live without. Once you begin to experience the pleasures of it, you can’t imagine not having it in your life daily.

(In my mind, I’m pronouncing his name Seh-suhl like the character Cecil Terwilliger from The Simpsons, not See-suhl, the way it’s usually pronounced. I feel like that works better here. But I digress.)

Creativity is also like a muscle that must be used daily or it will atrophy. 

I created a “commandments” list a couple of years ago, ala Gretchen Rubin from The Happiness Project and on it I wrote “do something every day to make myself happy,” which for me more often than not means a creative project of some kind – writing, brainstorming ideas for articles and essays, cooking a fabulous meal, rearranging a corner of my apartment, capturing images with my iPhone, freeform daydreaming, and so on. 

For many months I didn’t practice creativity daily in any real way. This was when I was working a couple of part-time jobs while getting my freelance writing business off the ground.  All my writing at that time was for clients; I didn’t write for myself daily like I do now. Instead I worried daily. Fretted. Felt myself pulled daily further and further into the mesmerizing undertow of living below what my true inspiration called me to do.

I was not happy and fulfilled in my work then. But happiness is a choice, so looking back, I can see that I participated in my unhappiness by buying into the false notion that creative fulfillment is something “over there,” something that has to be put off until all one’s other ducks are gotten in a row. If you know what I mean, and I think you do.

As long as I believed that creative fulfillment was something that was unavailable to me while I was slogging away writing what I didn’t want to write and doing work I didn’t necessarily love to do, then that’s where it would stay – “over there.”

But the truth is, there are ways to assure you get your daily creativity fix, even if it’s in small doses. If you’re a writer, you write. If you’re a photographer, you make beautiful images. If you’re a painter, you paint. And so on.

So I started writing for myself for 30 minutes daily, longer on weekends. Writing that had nothing to do with client work, and nothing to do with blogging for my writing business website or weekly newsletter either. I simply opened up a Word doc in June of 2013 and started “journaling” there daily.  Then later, I began writing in a physical journal again, writing my way through one journal, then another, then another after that.

And that practice is what pulled me out of my creative cul-de-sac. It’s an ongoing project, this trying to make more space in my life daily for unfettered creative practice, and sometimes it takes a back seat to client work, or marketing my business, or those boring but necessary admin tasks one must do each day to keep the wheels on the bus going round and round.

But what I notice is that if I’m not committed to accessing that well daily, the sometimes elusive substance known as creativity will shrivel, or evaporate altogether, and I’ll be staring into the abyss of the “mehs” once again.

What about you? How do you make space in your life for the creative work that fires you up? I’d love to hear how you make your creative practice a priority. Please share your thoughts in the comments below!

 

 

Book Recommendation: The Happiness of Pursuit: Finding the Quest That Will Bring Purpose to Your Life by Chris Guillebeau

The Happiness of Pursuit by Chris Guillebeau

Once you’re near the end, there’s no time for bullshit. But what if you decided there’s no time for bullshit – or regrets – far in advance of the end? What if you vow to live life the way you want right now, regardless of what stage of life you’re in?”

Of all the inspiring passages and quest calls in Chris Guillebeau’s recently released book, The Happiness of Pursuit: Finding the Quest That Will Bring Purpose to Your Life, the quote above is the one that resonates with me the most.  

The context: Chris tells the story of Kathleen Taylor, who was a hospice bedside counselor for 8 years and loved her work. Frequently asked how she could enjoy her job, Taylor responds, “Because people at the end of their lives are incapable of bullshit . . . when they’re facing the task of wrapping up an entire life, the distractions that usually tempt us away from being honest with ourselves kind of fall off the map.” (I’ve linked up Kathleen Taylor’s TED Talk on this topic at the end of this post under “Additional Resources.”)

It’s a great question, right? What if you vow to live life the way you want right now? What if, what if, what if . . . it’s exactly the question I’ve been asking myself for months now, which is why the book left such an impression on me.

If you’re a seeker, inspired by tales of others’ accomplishments and adventures, and feeling a vague (or pronounced) sense of discontent, The Happiness of Pursuit is for you. If you’re feeling dissatisfied and restless, this book could be exactly the inspiration you need to bust out of the doldrums and find the right quest to help you get your happy back.

When You Sense Discontent, Pay Attention

The Happiness of Pursuit examines the link between questing and long-term happiness, chronicling real-world quests of “normal people doing remarkable things” who have brought meaning and purpose into their lives through their quests.  Chris (we’re not on a first name basis, mind you, but spelling out “Guillebeau” each time I write his name makes me mighty tired), also writes about his own quest to visit every country on Earth (193, I believe) before the age of 35, a task he accomplished.

As I got eleven pages into the book, I started underlining fragments, sentences, and whole passages.

For example:

“If you want to make every day an adventure, all you have to do is prioritize adventure. It has to become more important than routine.”

 “If you want to achieve the unimaginable, you start by imagining it.”

“Courage comes through achievement but also through the attempt.”

“Everyone is busy, yet we all have access to the same amount of time. If you want to prioritize adventure but can’t find the time, something’s got to give.” (This one was like a punch to the gut for me. Note to self: STOP WHINING about not having enough time!)

“Lesson: When you sense discontent, pay attention. The answer isn’t always ‘go for it’ (though it often is), but you shouldn’t neglect the stirring. Properly examined, feelings of unease can lead to a new life of purpose.”

If you’re thinking, “Hey, that all sounds groovy and everything, I would love to experience more adventure and lead a life of purpose, but I can’t quit my job to travel or pursue some far-flung adventure,” I hear you.

But the quests in this book aren’t all of the travel to distant lands variety.  No, many of them were undertaken closer to home, and some, without ever leaving home.

For example, there’s Sasha Martin, a thirty-year-old wife and mother in Tulsa, Oklahoma who decides to shake off the complacency she’s feeling by embracing “culture through cuisine” and cooking a meal from every country in the world.  Yep, every country, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, a cooking project that took close to four years.

Then there’s Sandi Wheaton, who worked at General Motors for twelve years before being laid off during the upheaval in the automotive industry. At first, she planned to look for another job, as her other laid-off colleagues were doing, but she started thinking about the toll her corporate career had taken on her – “devoting her best energy to . . . corporate America instead of the adventure that tugged at her heart.” What Sandi really wanted to do was travel Route 66 and document the trip along the way. And for six weeks she did, taking 60,000 photographs, sleeping in campsites each night, and getting up early each day to head back out on the road.

As Sandi says, “I had zero clue how to do it, but I was driven by the desire to avoid looking back years later and calling myself a chickenshit for not using the opportunity for something.”

And there’s Elise Blaha, who upon turning twenty-seven set a goal to create twenty-seven different craft projects using twenty-seven different types of materials.

And Travis Eneix, who committed to practicing tai chi and writing down everything he ate for one thousand days.

And Tina Roth Eisenberg, who has multiple creative projects going at all times and set out to publish a body of work promoting innovative design.

Then of course there are the more adventurous quests – such as that of sixteen-year-old Laura Dekker who set out to sail around the globe solo, and Nate Damm, who walked across the United States, and Miranda Gibson, who lived in a tree for an entire year to protest illegal logging, and  John Francis, who maintained a vow of silence for 17 years, and Martin Parnell, who ran 250 marathons in a single year, and Adam Warner, who is in the process of fulfilling every goal on his late wife Meghan’s life list, and many others besides who undertook quests of the creative, self-discovery, exploration, activism, and academic variety.

The core message of all the quests documented in the book is this: a quest can bring purpose and meaning to your life.

And in The Happiness of Pursuit, you’ll see inspiring evidence of this in action, many times over. And if you’re like me, you’ll finish the book with your own list of quest ideas. {More on that in a future post.}

I’ll leave you with a short passage from Chapter One, Awakening:

“What if you could study with others who’ve invested years – sometimes decades – in the relentless pursuit of their dreams? That learning opportunity is what this book is about. You’ll sit with people who have pursued big adventures and crafted lives of purpose around something they found deeply meaningful. You’ll hear their stories and lessons. You’ll learn what happened along the way, but more important, you’ll learn why it happened and why it matters.”

As for me, I’m keeping the book on my bedside table as a powerful reminder to prioritize adventure, and live the way I want to right now, sans bullshit.

Additional Resources

Learn more here about The Happiness of Pursuit and Guillebeau’s other books.

Check out Rethinking the Bucket List: Kathleen Taylor at TED here.

And for a jolt of reality from a former palliative care professional on the importance of living your life the way you want to now, read Bronnie Ware’s Top 5 Regrets of the Dying.