Creative spirit

“If we let ourselves, we shall always be waiting for some distraction or other to end before we can really get down to our work. The only people who achieve much are those who want knowledge so badly that they seek it while the conditions are still unfavorable. Favorable conditions never come.”
― C.S. Lewis

I’ve been thinking a lot about time, and the spending of it. I go through my days, spending my time, as if there were an infinite supply of the stuff. I have periods of great energy, great productivity, and then I slump. I hit the proverbial wall. I do the minimums. Get through my days, do my basic chores, exist. This is a frequent lament.

Why do I cycle? I can’t point to any outside influence. There are times of hurriedness, of pressure, and periods of casualness. This isn’t solely about having weekend time, or time carved out of a traditional work life. It is about a cycle of energy and creativity.

I’ve finally come to see this cycle as a break in my ability to create. And I’ve come to recognize that my creativity thrives when I am writing or engaged (whatever the activity) for the pure pleasure and desire to be creative. I am not writing or creating for other purposes. Something more may eventually come from my creativity. Let it! I would love to experience new opportunities because of work I’ve done. But for me, the work should be done for its own reward, and stand on its own merit, first. And here is where I also acknowledge: I am my own audience. This is not an exercise in self-absorption; it is an exercise in self-expression. I am writing, creating, to express myself. Period. If something I write or create touches someone else, I am humbled and happy. But that is not the focus. It can’t be the focus. Because I am not a wise woman, sharing knowledge with others. I don’t have profound thoughts. I have thoughts. I am a woman, sharing my experiences. Others can determine if there is wisdom, or joy, or humor, or anything else of value. I have come to see that creativity is its own reward.

I began this year thinking that I wanted to create a new way to work, and that I wanted to channel my work through writing, through online opportunities. I still want that end result. But I am coming around to the realization that, for me, this process has to begin with the desire to write, rather than the desire to create income. The two may be connected. Or not. I don’t have the answer to that yet. But I know that if I am writing from the heart, the practical details will sort themselves out in time. That’s the nature of life. Maybe some people can make it work from the other direction: set a goal and create to fulfill it. I can’t, and it’s time I acknowledge that.

Growth

As part of re-balancing my life, I have been doing a lot of soul searching. Disclaimer: This blog is not named “Sheila.” Blogging provides a personal record of this journey, but I’m also writing with the thought that my work may prompt someone reading (all five of you!) to do your own soul searching – if you need to. Maybe this is only useful for me. But regardless, the point is not to be endlessly focused on self. The point is to become a better person, a better everything…and that takes thought and work.

Life is a process of growth and evolution. We move through visible and defined changes, from one birthday to the next, from baby steps to running, from being the child to being the parent, the grownup. But once we arrive at the stage of adulthood, other than physical signs of aging, change can become less visible, less measurable.

So how do I know I am growing, maturing? I’ve heard it said that some people grow up, others just grow old.

I can look back and see many differences in myself, spanning the years. I see changes in style of dress, taste in food, decorating, in personal pleasures. There are some constants. I am always going to love chocolate, home-grown tomatoes, ice cold Coke from the can. I will always need music and books. Faith and family are foundational to me.

There are surface changes. I love rich colors now; in my 20s I chose blues and creams as a home color scheme. Nothing wrong with those colors. But now I choose vibrant shades of berry, greens, black. For many years I loved the country theme and found it cozy and soothing to surround myself with that look. But gradually, I have come to appreciate a more traditional and classic style. I still love the country motif…in other people’s homes. But not in mine.

I love traditional Southern foods…fried okra, butter beans (ok, most of you will know them as Lima beans) black-eyed peas, my grandmother’s cornbread. But over the years I’ve added a lot of other favorites to my food list. I am intrigued with herbs, cheeses with names I can’t pronounce, cooking methods that I haven’t tried before, regional specialties that seem exotic and luscious because I didn’t grow up eating them…I have broadened my food horizons.

I can easily recognize external growth. It is harder to catalog the evolution of my thoughts, my personality. Am I just mellowing, as I hear happens as we age? Am I just worn down by life? My husband says we (he and I) are worn “down to the nub”…we’re just two nubs….not sure exactly what a nub is, but it doesn’t sound particularly attractive. But here’s my question…what change comes from my own effort, and what has occurred due to external forces? I’ll be honest to say that I want to believe positive change has been intentional. I’ll let nature and time have credit for the fine lines around my eyes or the gray hair that I very regularly color blonde.

Bottom line, I’m not sure I can sort it all out. But I know I am more giving, less judgmental than I was in my 20s and 30s. You probably remember that time in your own life. In mine, it was a curious combination of insecurity, bluffing my way, trying to put on an adult act; and viewing life in very concrete terms. I thought I knew a lot then. This is hardly unique to me; I know many people have this realization. But the fact that it is a common occurrence does not lessen the profoundness of it to me.

Sometimes change is so incremental, you don’t know it has occurred until you have the “aha” experience, and realize you’ve rounded a bend. Sometimes change is intentional. And sometimes it is thrust upon us…no option to stay with the status quo, the status quo ends; you have to find your new normal. The challenge is to nurture positive momentum, resist negative movement, and gracefully accept the un-sought, unbidden change that is here to stay. You can’t stand still; but you can focus on moving forward, not losing ground.

Where are you on your journey?