‘Freedom is not the absence of commitment, and to be committed to something or to someone does not mean the loss of freedom. But freedom exists in the realm of the unbound and to be free is to be committed to that which is a part of the unbound realm. Whatever sets your soul to flight is freedom. If someone sets your soul to flight, to stay with that person is not to lose freedom but to stay with that person is to retain freedom. Together you have what is unbound. Whatever will swell your spirit and give you wings, is freedom, and it is a fault if you let go of that for the very reason that you are afraid of losing your freedom and in doing so you have in fact let go of what will keep you unbound.” - C. JoyBell C.
Creativity is a wild, beautiful, mysterious energy which like a river requires banks to flow in an intended direction. The banks are formed by boundaries in time and space - when I feel inspired to create music, the time I want my song to flow in is measured in beats and contours of melody in the space of pitch. The music and lyrics of the song as a container for my feelings, intentions and expressions in that moment. For that process to occur I need to arrive at my piano and commit my full attention.
The liberating flow of creativity requires a container - a commitment in time and space to become a song, cake, book or poem.
In our world of competing multiple demands, distractions and technologies committing time and space to creativity can appear challenging. Additionally, our complex, free, wild human natures will often resist and rebel against what appear to be constrictions. Especially if commitment is presented and conceived of as a limitation to our endless options for instant gratification.
When we are relating to the world from an egoic perspective, fixated on getting what we want as quickly and painlessly as possible we will likely fall for that which gives us cheap thrills and quick fixes for low investment. This is the chemistry that fuels addiction and we carry in our pockets devices that offer unlimited instant hits - everything from the dopamine hits of likes and follows to fantasy porn sex devoid of the vulnerabilities of human intimacy - all at the click of a button.
Finding the Muse - image Luis F Pizzaro
However as all the wise sages and The Rolling Stones sang, we don’t always feel fully sated when we get what we want - we are hungry for that which meets our deeper needs. Our wild and mysterious creative self/ essence/ soul/ spirit - call it what you will - is not easily taken in by trinkets. The Ancient Greeks conceived of Muses as nine nymphs, who came into being as the whispers in the ears of those seeking inspiration. Hesiod (c750-650BC) described being given a laurel crown and the inspiration and permission to write/ sing poetry by the Muses whilst tending sheep on Mount Helicon. In his epic poem Theogany, he describes the freedom he found as a result of devoting themselves to their service: “when a singer, the servant of the Muses, chants the glorious deeds of men of old and the blessed gods who inhabit Olympus, at once he forgets his heaviness and remembers not his sorrows at all; but the gifts of the goddesses soon turn him away from these.”
Fortunately these days we don’t have to climb a mountain to make burnt offerings to the Muses. We just need to put aside a small portion of time and space to hear their whisperings - which could be anything from taking ourselves off for a walk, train journey or putting the ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign up on the door.
Here are a few steps I’ve identified in my creative process - which has involved navigating all the human perils of self-doubt, procrastination and distraction.
The Call - listening for and answering the call to create. At times this is very clear and specific - eg the calling to create a song, album, blog, painting. At others, it’s just the calling to noodle around on the page, musical instrument, canvas or dance floor until something arises.
Focussing - to answer the call we have to make space to both listen and act on it. This involves letting go of internal and external distractions - coaxing the cat off the desk, switching off the phone, blocking our socials and giving our self-doubt a loving pep talk. Saying yes to our creativity flexes the spiritual muscle built by saying no.
Surrender - creativity flows in different ways every time we make space for it - sometimes everything flows brilliantly, gracefully, easily. Other times we run into creative roadblocks - a paintbrush breaks, a string snaps or the laptop crashes. Surrendering to the creative adventure with all its valleys and peaks builds our resilience and humour, teaching us to embrace all that we are and all that occurs along the way.
The final piece which I’ve found to be fundamental is the love we need to cultivate for ourselves and our creative process. When we love ourselves enough to feed ourselves the deeper soul food of creativity rather than fast food junk, our self-sabotaging mechanisms heal and drop away. It’s a daily process rather than a destination - a process of moment-to-moment choices and actions.
The commitment to love and honour our creativity is ultimately a gateway to freedom from the yanking chains of egoic compulsion. It is to take to our wings and fly…
Wonderful owl shot via @steve_woods_photography
After note: I wrote this post as part of my commitment to post weekly, having been interrupted during the time I’d put aside by an internet issue. The Muse won out! ;)