Updated: Aug 26, 2021
This piece is dedicated to my mentors, Elad Nehorai, Brenda Ueland, and her bible for creatives, “If You Want To Write.”
Over the last few days, there have been so many posts encouraging people to finally achieve what they never had time for until now.
“Instead of binge-watching Netflix, pick up a new language! Learn a new instrument! How to code! How about those abs of steel you always wanted? Finish that book.” The list goes on.
Doubtless, this is true and perhaps the most obvious silver lining in the global crisis we are facing. Yet, that ambition comes at a price we are all too familiar with. The stress to achieve. Looking over the shoulder to make sure people notice we are achieving and at a quick enough pace. Worst of all, the inadequacy felt when others achieve at a scale we can’t possibly catch up with.
Over the last few years, I have been cultivating my creative spirit. I learned that it is nurtured by a completely different attitude than one might expect. When the creative spirit is nurtured, beautiful creations are born and brilliant achievements are realized. This is the gift we can take from the depths of this tragedy: The conditions necessary to nurture the creative spirit.
The soul of a creative requires room to breathe and the space to tumble around with abandon. Not by sitting down with a determined posture and tense facial expression, pulling out a fresh sheet of paper or opening a blank Word document. We are all born with a deep desire to simply be. To play, to take our time, to daydream. These are the secrets for sprouting good ideas.
Picture an infant lying on her back kicking her feet up until suddenly, oops! She tumbles over and moves from a stationary position to one of motion. One does not have to prod the infant to realize she can move. Simply laying down a soft blanket with colorful stimulants and perky noises does the job.
The same goes for an adult. If you find yourself taking your time while brushing teeth, don’t immediately berate yourself. Allow yourself to be.
“How could you waste your time like this? Move on, you're an adult for god sake! Go be productive! Haven’t you spent enough of your life being lazy? Don’t you want to change?”
These voices are the vile poisons holding back our ideas from blossoming.
If you are writing or working on a project and get stuck, allow yourself to daydream. Scroll aimlessly through photos on your phone. Go prepare a cup of tea for thirty minutes.
The real challenge is not coming up with ideas. It is the belief that your idea is worth pursuing. Care for it, nurture it, and treat it with respect. Give it attention and don’t let it go. Believing in your worthiness is the difference between those who are visibly creatives and achievers and those who aren’t.
It is the agility to move from idea to idea and circumstance to circumstance. To bend, adapt, recover, and spring back when things go wrong. It is the endless rebirth that occurs, never striving to arrive but rather to stay on the ride. These are traits you can nurture to fill your heart with desire and your soul with wonder.
Wouldn’t it be silly if someone said, “My favorite part of riding a roller coaster is when it ends?”
Anyone who loves adventure would laugh at such a notion. The best part of the roller coaster is when it is barreling downward at impossible speed. The movement is so exhilarating that time itself could stop if only to maintain that feeling forever. Those who can’t wait to reach the end, miss the point.
Have you ever ridden on horseback at a breakneck pace? Then you know the feeling of indescribable pleasure. The full-bodied, blood thumping, pounding beast beneath you. The wick of air bursting past you. Every second or so your body flies up suspended for a moment, defying gravity.
These are the feelings you have, not when the idea comes, but when you decide to pursue it. Then in mid-motion, while writing, or painting, or crafting, or running you realize that you are flying. You are in motion. No one and nothing can stop you.
Remember, not to stop. Don’t will yourself to complete the task but to lengthen the pleasure as long as you can. For the end of a ride is the most disappointing reality check you will have. All rides do end but it is up to you to enjoy it while you're still going.
So yes, while you are stuck at home, make your dreams come true and achieve all that you ever wanted to. But do it while sauteing onions on low heat for twenty-five minutes. While laying on your couch because you can. While sitting in bed at night way past your bedtime. While staring at the wall for no reason at all.
None of us know who will survive and if we survive what and who we will lose. Do yourself a kindness and don’t waste it by criticizing yourself for not achieving. Believe in yourself and your worthiness of being brilliant. Then, hold yourself close and don’t let go. You’ll look back one day, and others will too. They’ll see a new you who is as close to the real you they have ever seen.
I know, because I’ve done it and it fucking works.