I have a solo art show happening, and I am inviting to you come and create along with me. For real. See the end of this post for the when-and-where details.
Drawing, writing, folding origami animals, composing music, planning next year’s garden. Whatever gives you joy, come and play.
What gives me joy? I ask myself this question every day.
My upcoming show The Joy Diary is about joy, creativity, and sharing. It’s about inviting people into the studio. Showing the work behind the work. (I stole that line from Austin Kleon, awesome creator that he is.) I’m sharing creativity and process—what happened before that drawing was hung on the gallery wall, what made it become what it is. Sharing the path my creations take, mess and masterpiece alike.
My favourite advice on creating art (and life) comes from Canadian artist Norman Yates. ‘’Disorder opens a space.’’ Last year I asked myself, ‘’What if I bring some of Norman’s disorder into the gallery? What happens if the gallery becomes a place of sharing creative process, including the messes?’’ We all expect the art gallery to be a place of completed creation. The artwork is polished, the product of a year-long (or more) artist’s process. Our experience is passive.
I am making The Joy Diary interactive.
Imagine opening day, walking into a gallery show that begins at the beginning of creating the art. One drawing, dated today, and blank sheets of paper on the walls. Anticipation. The gallery expanding into artist studio.
I’m reading Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. Just past halfway through. I love this book. A conversation about creativity and creating and living a creative life. There are parts of this book I wish I had written. I didn’t because they did not come to me. I am glad they came to Elizabeth, and glad she has shared them.
Elizabeth says let yourself live a creative life. She gives you permission, if you need it, on page 90. What she is really saying—you do not need anyone’s permission. Just create a life for yourself out of what you love.
How do you make a creative life?
You let inspiration and ideas in.
And where do ideas and inspiration come from?
Elizabeth’s ideas visit and stay if she is ready and available. Inspiration, looking for a partner who is ready to play. If she isn’t ready or available, inspiration moves on to someone else. So, not really her ideas. Rather, ideas and inspiration moving in the air around her, around all of us, all the time.
Natalie Goldberg says the same thing in a different way. Inspiration and capability as the water table below the surface of the earth. It’s always there and we tap into it through our effort and action.
Julia Cameron talks of dropping down the well when she is engaged in listening through writing. Moving below normal consciousness into the stream of ideas that live below the surface and flow through all of us. Alternatively, Julia describes inspiration and ideas as radio waves, always being broadcast on all frequencies.
This is where my ideas come from. Inspiration Radio. I can tune in any time. It is always broadcasting. 24/7, as my son describes it.
I love this. Ideas and inspiration are always available to all of us. Always flowing, always moving around and beneath us.
How do we connect with this flow?
Elizabeth’s words: ready and available.
Natalie’s words: effort and action.
Julia’s words: engaged in listening through writing.
Action. We connect through our action. I am writing and drawing, and my action is an invitation to inspiration to connect with me. I am open, ready, available, tapped in, listening. I am saying, come and play with me.
I am not waiting for inspiration to show up first, and then acting on it. I am acting first, and this opens a space for the ideas to come in.
There is something else going on as well.
When I am writing and drawing, I am fully present. I’m not in my mind, thinking over yesterday or planning tomorrow. I am right here, right now, with the words and lines and colours. With the feel of the pen and the pastel in my hand, and the sound they make as I move them across the paper. I am in my senses and my body, and in my heart too, because I am doing what I love.
I am sure that love is an equal part of this. I’d much rather spend time with someone who loves me, and I will bet that Ideas and Inspiration feel the same way.
There is another piece, before the action and the listening and the loving.
Give yourself big permission. Elizabeth says we don’t need anyone else’s permission to create. Absolutely totally true. We don’t. But most of us need to give ourselves permission.
Give ourselves big permission to play. To waste time and materials. To make ugly art and bad writing and sing out of tune. Give ourselves big permission to hear the crazy idea and the huge inspiration, and big permission to say this is mine and I know we can create this. And then do it.
Ideas and inspiration are always here for us. Learning how to connect with them, partner them, play together and create something from what looks like nothing–this is the magic. And we are all magicians. A creative life is ours for the making.
Say it out loud and with love.
I am a creator. I am a magician.
Inspiration is listening, and she knows an invitation when she hears one.
In this post, books full of inspiration and ideas (and don’t just read about creativity, do creativity—it’s actually a verb, not a noun.):
It is just past noon. I’m at the beach. Sun, blue sky, a diamond ocean. A perfect breeze. The smell of kelp and sea grass and hot beach stones. At the horizon, three boats at full sail.
Perfection and delicious joy.
There are others here too, sharing this beauty. Someone eating a slow lunch. Another reading. A quiet conversation carrying on the breeze. Two bike riders pausing on the road above the beach, and a bike that squeaks with each turn of the wheels as they leave.
I am an ocean baby, born in July as the summer began. My first beach day at a few weeks old, and every summer since.
I am home here. I feel it in the way my body relaxes and becomes present to all my senses. I feel it, my mind quieting, the river of thoughts slowing, stopping. Rest here, my heart says, be open. And I do, I am.
There are places that open me. Places that are physical or spirit or imagination. That open me to my biggest self, the one that has no lines, boundaries, walls, fences. The self that is connected to all, easily and gracefully, through joy, love, just being
I keep watch for the places in my life that open me. I know in these places my grandest ideas and creations come to me. The sparks that flash into sight, then stay and grow if I let them. They live here, waiting, in these places of connection.
And what is the spark that flashes into view today? Exactly these words I send to me and to you, about the perfect delicious joy of being here. Present, open, connected, and writing.
I’m in the library. It’s cooler here than outside. We had a heat wave last week. It is done and gone, but cooler is still feeling better to me.
I am sitting by the windows, writing, a table for four all to myself. Sketch book and loose leaf papers and BIC 4-colour pen and ipod spread out before me. It is quiet at this end, away from the entrance and check-out desk and dvd section. I’m deep in the 900’s stacks. Biographies. Katharine Hepburn looks out at me from a cover. A namesake and one of my heroes, she is.
In the library I am no hero. I am a pirate. I’m here for treasure.
There is treasure everywhere in the library, so I’m always a very successful pirate on my voyages through this word and idea space.
Today I am searching for no particular treasure. No. Today I am on the lookout for buried treasure, unearthed by hands other than mine.
The book sticking out one inch beyond its neighbours on the shelf. Someone thumbs through it. No, not for me, they say, replace it carelessly, walk away. I come by later and there it is, mine. Just what I was looking for, although I did not know it until now. I drop it into my sack.
And here is another. Left lying on top of other books. Like my first find, looked at, discarded. Left for me to come along the shelves and recognize its possibility in my life at this moment. A second piece of treasure into my sack.
I am a rich pirate today. Double treasure to take home and play with. Try out the words and ideas and story for their fit. Ooo, I do like this first one. It’s all me and beyond. Hmmm. This second one, not so much. Doesn’t fit me and my life as comfortably, but there is an interesting idea and turn of phrase, the way the writer links her words that I write into my sketch book for thinking on later.
There is learning in both my treasures today. The one that fits me well and sparkles brightly. The other that does not, yet offers me a pebble for polishing and playing with, turning it in the light and finding its brightest face.
I love being a pirate in the library. Gathering treasure unearthed by others gives me a different point of view. I would never have gone looking for these books on my own. They weren’t in my usual pattern of interests and thinking. Yet here they are crossing my path and, because of that, worth a look.
I have long practice at this joyful plundering. Sailing the library stacks and then turning for home, my sack full of treasure, my heart full of pleasure and anticipation, delight and surprise at what I have found today.