Every human being is creative. Every human being must constantly create new patterns of sensing and responding in the moment and for the moment in order to survive.
Yet there are some humans who find themselves called or impelled or otherwise choosing to spend their lives exercising this creativity in a particular sensory range, whether visual, aural, tactile, linguistic, or kinetic. These artists, in so far as they share their work, inspire others to sense, imagine, and understand anew. They make possible ways of seeing and knowing that would not otherwise exist, thus opening the way for new realities to emerge. It is difficult work, and not always rewarded, for its value can be difficult to perceive in terms of product and profit. Often, only those who cannot choose to do otherwise persevere.
Here are some words for those on the path.
1. Discipline yourself to your gift.
A gift is a potential to move and be moved. It is a sensibility, a receptivity, a vulnerability. Whether the gift is in dance or design, those with it are able to notice and articulate impulses to move as those impulses arise in them in response to the unique experiences of their living. They are able to create and become new patterns of sensing and responding that express this attentiveness. A gift is thus an opening to the movement of the universe, creating itself through us. And sometimes the energy coming through can overwhelm.
For this reason, a gift is not something upon which we make demands. It is something that makes demands on us so that we can learn to surf its tides. A gift compels us to act in ways that allow it to unfold and flow. It compels us to surround ourselves with the kinds of nourishment, structure, encouragement, and opportunity we need in order to cultivate our receptivity and responsivity. It guides us to act in ways that keep it alive, and if we want to enjoy the experience of its facility and power, we must.
2. Keep the channel open.
The discipline involved is not that of mastering form or perfecting technique. It is not, in other words, a question of learning movements that someone else has made. Rather, it is a question of staying open to one’s own ability to create new movements. In this task, the practice of technique helps, but not necessarily as a measure of achievement. It helps because it serves to mark the time and space, the context and the medium through which we invite new patterns. Such practice helps keep the channel open.
The channels through which impulses to move appear are easily clogged. Anxieties hung from hopes, fears of failure, disappointments and grief, or even successes that strangle us with the thought that we will never match that height again can all compromise our ability to create. We are easily clogged as well by the remedies for which we reach in response—the painkillers and distractions, the addictions and dependencies. The challenge, then, is to stay grounded in the gift, and align our actions with what it needs to keep moving.
3. Greet every obstacle as a guide to your own unique offering.
The key to keeping the channel open and staying grounded in a gift is to use it, all the time, in response to everything. What we have to offer is what we know and whatever happens to us contributes to that unique set of movement patterns that we are and can be. It is when we are forced to respond to obstacles and challenges, disappointments and fears, that we do the kind of singular work that resonates with universal meaning. The moves we make make us into people who can. No loss is simply a loss when we create through it.
4. Be ready for the desert.
There will be times when the landscape of life seems barren indeed—bereft of all life forms, ideas, companionship, or opportunities to share. Such times are inevitable. They will come when we choose to act in ways that honor our gift. They will come when we keep the channel open. They will come when we are nose to nose with our greatest challenges. And in those moments, we will need the willingness to dive deep within ourselves for the sustenance we need. It is in those times that we will find those hidden wells, when we come to appreciate their resources, and when we realize that it is OK to be alive. For we are.
5. Give competition and critique their due--and no more.
Along the way, there are ever twin allies that can complicate or complement our journey. Competition and critique can lift us up or leave us in the dust. But the point isn’t to win. Where is the race? The point is to allow our sensitivity and vulnerability to others--to their gifts and insights and responses--to inspire and challenge and stretch us to find out what it is we have to give, and then to give it.
There is no judge. There is never any judge. Never anyone to tell you that your gift is too small or too big or not worthy. The question for you and you alone is how will you use it.
6. Remember relationships.
No one, absolutely no one, does anything or make anything on their own. We are all held up by others who enable us to be. And these others we must remember—our mentors, teachers, family, and friends. Our colleagues and collaborators. We need to cultivate these relationships, respect them, keep them alive, and so provide ourselves and our gift with the counsel and comfort we need to continue.
When we do, the deserts are fewer and farther between; the obstacles less challenging to surmount, and the resources for growing are greater.
Keep in touch.