I remember a time when creativity moved me; in fact, I think it saved my life.
I wrote when life made me feel, when speaking couldn’t do justice to my emotions, when life overwhelmed me, underwhelmed me, confused me, concerned me, and created me. I wrote to churn my insides up, to connect deeply with the heaviness in my belly, the joyfulness, and the gratefulness. I wrote to get all the feelings inside of me out, in order to survive, and in order to transform. I wrote to decipher what was true; what was real for me in the present moment. I’m a writer, but somehow in the chaos of life, buried underneath the voice of my inner critic, “you’re only a writer if you publish your work,” I had forgotten this. I had forgotten that I used to consider myself a writer simply because I wrote.
I speak of writing in the past tense because in full disclosure, I just started picking up my pen again a few months ago after taking an entire year off from my creativity. Without thought or warning, it seemed I had grabbed my pen and paper, climbed to my Brooklyn rooftop, and tossed them off with explosive verve and vowed to never pick them up again. I know I did this consciously, but for the life of me, I can’t comprehend why. I had just come out of a two year Creative Nonficition Writing program, so shouldn’t that have been the time for me to start that memoir or to push for publication? Yes. It SHOULD have been. And there was the problem. During my MFA I went deep. I jumped head first into my past; crafting memories into writing that would be critiqued and re-molded, and somewhere along the journey I lost my voice. Writing no longer felt like an exploratory journey into the depths of my soul, but instead something that needed to be well-written and eloquent, with arc and conclusion. My perspective had shifted and writing became something that wasn’t about me, but rather about what others would think about my prose. Writing no longer transported me.
After graduating I put writing aside and delved into my Coaching career. Coaching made me feel connected, purposeful, energized, self-aware – all the things that writing had previously done for me. I found that I was constantly attracting clients who were creative, and I was letting THEIR creativity move me, holding them accountable for creation. There were moments I would sit in front of my computer, or the empty lined pages of my notebook, and I would try; I would try with everything I had in me to create something. But the trying overtook me, the effort overflowed in me, and my creativity soon became a task, a have to, a should have. Writing no longer moved me; it blocked me, it awoke my inner critic who told me, “you can’t, don’t even try, you’ll never be good enough, you are not a writer, do everything you can to distract yourself.” And that’s exactly what I did.
I didn’t realize how stagnant my life felt while living in the uncreative void. There was little movement there for me, and I kept pushing and shoving my way back to myself but I couldn’t land where I wanted to, until a few months ago. Without warning, while talking to my life coach about writing, the phrase, “writing saved my life,” fell out of me. Suddenly, I remembered a time when creativity moved me. It was during my days as a Peace Corps Volunteer, when I found myself the only American in a remote village in the hills of Swaziland, Southern Africa. I was twenty-two, just out of college, and eager to experience the world. Only, I met these experiences without any boundaries, and I was thrust into a country with the world’s highest HIV/AIDS rate. I was young and unafraid and ready to open my heart. However, people that I grew to love became sick, and began to pass away. Over the next two years, I loved harder than I ever had before, and the harder I loved, the more aggressively the loss hurt.
So, I turned to the blank pages of my brown leather journal at the end of everyday. Returning home to my small hut, built from cement stone, under the corrugated iron roof, I would light the candle on my old orange desk, sit atop my green water bucket, and write. Some days my pen would connect to the page lightly recounting my day, while other times my pen would furiously attack, letters large and ink dark, and I would curse and cry, my hands red from the pressure that surged out of me, emotion traveling out of my fingertips. And when I put that pen down, I could breathe.
Today, as I remember the time when creativity moved me, I smile. I visualize myself in that small hut writing furiously with no intention to share it. Writing was the one thing I could count on, an open ear, an active listener, someone to share the joyful moments of love and connection with - someone to witness me feeling truly alive. The empty pages of my journal invited me in, “tell me your thoughts, let me know how you feel, I will listen to you, without judgment. I will hold you in this space and let all that is within you, come out.” Writing saved my life because I let it.
This month, I’ve called myself to action. The action is to once again be moved by my creativity. When I started writing this blog, it poured out of me, and then the next day it felt like dragging my body through tar. Every day is different. What I do know is this – there was a time when creativity saved me, opened me up when I wanted to close off and comforted me when I was alone. This past year I’ve turned my back on it, and now we stand face to face with my arms wide open, waiting for the blank pages to bear witness to transformation yet again.
I know there will be moments on this journey where I will stray off my creative path, and I vow to honor those twists and turns. I can see now, that it is the awareness of those moments that bring me back. It is through this awareness that I remember my creativity does not simply live in my writing, but in the act of creating a life that matters, filled with joy and sorrow, and the growth that explodes from moments of awareness, presence, and connectivity.
Now, I ask - when did creativity move you? Can you remember a time when you sat in your joy, your loneliness or vulnerability, and asked it to draw, or write, or dance? Can you remember a time that you were creative in solitude, for no ones eyes to see but your own? If you want to share these stories, please do. If you want to keep them sacred, please do. The stage is yours, the blank canvas is yours, the empty pages of your journal – yours.