In my interview series “How I Create” I pose this question: Why is creating important to you? In one of my favorite interviews, writer Anna Lovind said, “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.”
Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about this, about what makes us come alive, about what invigorates, restores and exhilarates us. Me. You.
For me it’s words. A beautiful phrase. A sentence that catches you off guard—like this one from Anaïs Nin’s novel Ladders to Fire: “When she cooked the entire kitchen was galvanized by the strength she put into it; the dishes, pans, knives, everything bore the brunt of her strength…. The fruit was stabbed, assassinated, the lettuce was murdered with a machete.”
Or this one from Lee Zacharias’s essay “Buzzards”: “To see a turkey vulture close up is to know the bird’s tragic beauty, for there is a majesty to the crimson head, bare save for a sparse black stubble; the bird looks less bald than vulnerable and shorn, a Nazi collaborator exposed before a French village.” (Wow, right?)
Right now I’m reading Priscilla Long’s The Writer’s Portable Mentor: A Guide to Art, Craft, and the Writing Life. (She includes the above excerpts in her book.) And I’m realizing just how energized I get when I read about the art of writing. I’m realizing the wonder and delight I experience as I’m exposed to captivating and surprising sentences and stories. It’s similar to how I feel during and after a workout. It’s as though the words kick-start an endorphin rush. And like with exercise, I feel alert and awake. I feel as though my senses have been sharpened. I feel like I’ve been given special access to a special place, privy to a special secret. I feel inspired to create and produce.
I feel the same way when I visit a museum or come across a really creative work. I feel this way when I’m visiting a new place. I feel this way when I’m watching, reading or listening to an interview with an artist, writer, or anyone else who’s super passionate about their work.
What makes you come alive? What activities energize and awaken you? What reminds you of the beauty in this life? What inspires you to create?
Maybe it’s simply looking at a sunrise or the colors of the changing leaves, and marveling at Mother Nature’s paintbrush. Maybe it’s being in a big library surrounded by oh-so many books. Maybe it’s traveling, both to far-off places and somewhere just 20 minutes away. Maybe it’s learning about space and worlds beyond. Maybe it’s dancing. By yourself. In your kitchen.
Maybe it’s marathon chats and laughter with a best friend. Maybe it’s teaching or speaking. Maybe it’s hiking. Maybe it’s singing. Maybe it’s helping out at church. Maybe it’s Russian literature. Fishing. Flowers. Musicals. Architecture. Design.
Maybe it’s all of that.
If you’re not sure what energizes and awakens you, start paying attention. Start focusing on what activates your senses, on what stirs your soul. Read more. Read books on different topics. Take a class or workshop on painting, cooking, baking, sculpting, sewing or photography.
Give yourself the gift of exploring what ignites you, what reminds you that there is magic in this world. Do this especially if you’ve been struggling with something difficult and heavy. Do this especially if you’re too busy. Do this especially if you think it’s selfish to spend time on yourself. Or you think it’s a colossal waste. Or you have more serious things to do. Like actual responsibilities.
And start right away.