When I first came across writer Anna Lovind’s website, I immediately subscribed to her blog and newsletter. I started following her on social media. And I saved several of her pieces as vital reminders in my Evernote. It’s what so many of us do when we discover writing that rings so true for us. (And you just might do the same when you read her powerful words.)
Today, I’m honored to share my interview with Anna, who’s also an editor and mentor of hungry women. She writes about what it takes to live a happy, sustainable creative life. Through her online course, The Creative Doer, she helps individuals of all disciplines to go from dreaming to doing. Anna lives in an old log cabin on a mountainside, overlooking a lake, where she drinks countless cups of tea, tends her garden and her kids, and writes.
Below, Anna talks about the power of creativity and how everything inspires her (and her answer is very inspiring to me!). She also explains how fear and resistance are actually part of the creative process—and how saying no is important to it, too. Plus, she shares her favorite books on creativity and a whole lot more.
Q: How do you define creativity? What does creativity mean to you?
A: Two things: Creativity is the act (and art) of moving things from the realms of energy and idea into the world of form. It’s joining forces with inspiration to bring new and original stuff into being.
And creativity is—at its core—a way of being. It’s more about how you work, how you love, how you move through the world than any specific activity that you do. You can be a creative writer or an un-creative writer, you can be a creative salesperson or an un-creative salesperson.
It’s not in the activity. It’s about your willingness to give all that you’ve got to the work at hand. It’s about being open, and getting out of your own way, so that beauty can come through (always through you, never from you).
Q: Why is creating important to you?
A: Because the alternative is repetition. Or stagnation. Death, even. When you’re not creative, you’re just going through the motions and life loses most of its meaning and all of its wonder.
As soon as you bring creativity into the picture, it comes alive—you come alive. You don’t just strive and produce, you add true value to whatever you do. To the people around you. To the world.
Also, being creative is the most joyful experience I know. To enter a flow state in my work is pure bliss.
Q: What are your favorite ways to create?
A: Writing is my heart. It’s been my favorite expression since I learned how to write as a kid. It always came easy for me, the words, the rhythm, the images and the stories. I’ve always felt the most me when I write, and I think that still holds true.
But I also enjoy dabbling in other art forms immensely. Painting, sketching, photography, playing the piano. I do none of these things very well, but I love it and it enriches my life and my creative reach.
It’s good to put yourself in the position of the student, over and over again. It’s humbling to learn something new, and it will show you the truth about your capacity to play—if you can allow yourself to be crappy just for the joy of playing and exploring. This is very important. If you don’t know how to play, you can’t be truly creative.
Q: What are your inspirations for your work?
A: Almost everything. Really. A conversation overheard. A song that awakens a certain feeling. A sentence stringed together perfectly. The way my kids play. Spending time in the woods and learning about the rhythms and sounds and textures and cycles that make up that world. The moon. Darkness and the way the world feels different in the dark.
I walk in continuous awe of this world. It’s like I haven’t quite taken in that I get to be here, in this strange and beautiful place. I feel like I’m just visiting and I’m so curious! There’s so much I want to know. I often feel like I could spend a lifetime trying to grasp the mysteries of one tree.
Not to mention the mysteries of human beings. We are an odd breed, and quite frankly, there are many aspects of the human life that confuse or bore me. But our creativity, oh my goodness! I’m obsessed with it. What an amazing thing it is. All this worldly, dreary stuff we fill our lives with, and then this, this divine spark, this flow we can tap into. In an instant we become co-creators of the universe instead of just little hamsters caught in a never-ending race towards death.
This is what I write about and it seems that however deep I go into this subject, there is always another layer to be peeled away. I doubt that I’ll get to the core of it in this lifetime.
Q: There are many culprits that can crush creativity, such as self-doubt and distractions (I’m looking at you, Instagram). What tends to stand in the way of your creativity?
A: I stand in the way of creativity. It’s as simple as that. We give our power away when we believe something outside of ourselves can hinder us from being creative. It can’t. Never.
I’ve had so many excuses over the years. Having small kids, living with chronic pain, having no money, being depressed, moving twice a year for 20 years (not kidding!), living in utter chaos—and also living with a steady routine. I’ve tried it all and I’ve been creative and not creative through all these phases and changes.
Ultimately, it’s not about that. It’s about making a choice. To devote yourself to this path, no matter what.
Outside circumstances may affect how much time you have to spend on your particular creative work, for instance, and that’s something to be handled with proper planning and by getting real about your priorities. I noticed Facebook seriously distracted me, for instance, so I quit it. It’s a choice to be made and you need to make it.
But creativity is not just about the actual time you sit down to do your work. If you believe that it’s limited to the few hours each week that you have to spend on your particular choice of expression, then you’re cheating yourself of the most magical aspects of a creative life: The way it flows through your entire existence and sweeps you clean. The way it activates powers in you that you weren’t even aware of having. The way it changes how you see the world and yourself.
Fear and resistance will come up, yes. But that’s not something to get rid of so that you can then continue on your creative journey, it’s part of the journey. It’s part of the creative path to meet and learn about fear and about your own boundaries. To stretch and grow—and do so in a spirit of kindness. Don’t assume resistance gets in your way to stop you. It gets in your way so that you can go deeper and become a braver creative being.
And that said, there are practical tools to deal with it, so that the learning becomes smoother.
Q: How do you overcome these obstacles?
A: The practical obstacles, like lack of time and money, for instance, I meet with good planning and fierce prioritizing. If there is something I’ve learned along my own creative path, it’s that we need to say no to a LOT in order to say yes to what we truly want.
So I say no. I live a very simple life. My family, my health, and my work. That’s about it. For long periods of time, I say no to dinner parties, to traveling, to renovating the house, to new clothes, to a million small things I’d like to do, but—and this is key—I don’t want it as much as I want time to do my creative work. I want to do my creative work more than almost anything else, so I choose accordingly.
Fear and resistance I meet with kindness, meditation and inquiry. Fight it and it only grows stronger. Fear is just a sign that I’m outgrowing my old boundaries. I don’t need to fight it, no need to toughen up or push through; I just make space to listen and learn what I need to feel safe enough to move forward again, and then I move forward. Softly, fluidly, in my own pace.
And I’ve also learned to plan in a way that makes it possible for me to succeed. Every time I bring a project to completion, I learn to trust myself and the process more. So in that sense, it gets easier. But no matter how much I learn, I still come up against new layers of fear. It’s just part of the path. No biggie.
My own experience with this process—the path from dreaming to doing—is what led me to create my online course, The Creative Doer. Because I realized most of us know very little about these particular challenges and how to meet them. We certainly didn’t learn about how to live a creative life in school.
Q: What are your favorite resources on creativity?
A: I read a lot and a few random favorite titles are: Women Who Run with Wolves, by Clarissa Pinkola Estes; Steal Like an Artist, by Austin Kleon; Succulent Wild Woman, by Sark; Inspired and Unstoppable, by Tama Kieves; Creativity, by Osho; and anything by Rumi. (That should keep you busy a while :))
Q: What is your favorite way to get your creative juices flowing?
A: To just get to work. Just start. Just write. I find I rarely need any tricks to make it happen. I just show up for my work and I find inspiration there—not right away and not all the time. But most of the time, and that’s enough.
If I’m working on something that is extremely challenging and I feel stuck, it helps to shift into some other expression temporarily. To look at this particular work through a different lens. For example, instead of writing about a certain topic, I let my subconscious get to work on it by making a collage. This usually opens things up again.
Q: How do you suggest readers cultivate their creativity?
A: Make time and space for it, like you make time and space for everything else that is important in your life, and honor that time and space like your life depends on it (it does, you know. Your creative life, anyway.). It has to start there, with the choice and the devotion. You have to make it a priority.
When you honor that space, when you show up to do your thing over and over again, miracles will eventually take place there. It’s absolutely inevitable.
Q: Anything else you’d like readers to know about creativity?
A: That it’s there for you. It’s available, always. Living a creative life is totally doable, for you too, not just a chosen few. It’s a path, there are signs to follow, and everyone can learn to navigate them. Really, it’s not more complicated than that. (So go on now, love.)