When Creativity Asks to be a Marathon

I'm working on a new book.

I wasn't expecting this. In fact, back in December, I set intentions around me completing my memoir by March. And well, obviously this isn't gonna happen. It wouldn't even happen if I negotiated an extension and told my creativity I would be done by June. I know the time it takes for me to finish a book now, and if I sat down and wrote about 1000 words a day, I would definitely be nowhere near wrapping up that particular story. 

But a few months ago, I realized something that stopped me in my tracks.

This doesn't really matter. All of the moving and breathing through scenes, all of the struggle with wrangling the narrative, all of the wondering why it felt so difficult to write about my own life: it's part of it all. My memoir will be a marathon.

I think I always knew this was going to be the case. I mean, I started this book three years ago when my husband and I went away for the weekend. Sitting on the balcony as the sun ruse above the clouds, I penned what would soon become the first chapter. Since that moment, my ideas for what the over-arching theme would be have morphed consistently. 

Finding my voice.
Building a life out of words.

It's only been recently — as in a few weeks ago — that I finally understood how it all comes together. Every single piece. Because of this, those words and pages need space and breath to grow. And so, my words slow to a crawl for that particular project while they spill out fast and hot on another that wasn't planned.

This is creativity. 

Building, moving, growing, changing, inhaling, exhaling — it's all a dance. You think you have it figured out. You think you know what's happening behind the scenes. And then something else will happen: a shift in character, a real-life glitch, a flash of inspiration.

Before you know it, you're chasing the muse, desperately reaching for her coat tail so she doesn't get away.

This takes a lot of grace. 

It's easy to get down on yourself — to say things like, you should have seen this coming or you need to be better prepared. But all of that is useless self-talk that will get you nowhere. 

This is what I'm learning. It's easy to say things like I want to become a student of my own creativity. But when things up and twist themselves inward, and suddenly your goals become catty-wompus because the thing you were working on is now the thing you know you're not meant to produce in this season, well that makes your practice a little tricky. 

Every breath we take is an opportunity to give ourselves, and our creativity, grace.

There are no bullet points, no bold headlines that make this easier. It just is: when it comes down to it, we are the conduits of grace our creativity needs.

Think about your own projects. The ones you wish you worked on more consistently and the ones perking up in the corners of your soul just at the mere possibility of you paying attention to them. Which one of these is pulsing with life? Which one of these is needing to stretch and is waiting for you to make room? 

When I stumbled on this new book, it was through a text message. 

"I wish I had something like _______." 

Jolt of electricity. Chills down my arms. Brick in my throat. 

"Oh. I have that. Well. Not that exactly...but definitely the outline." 

Later I would open up the file, shaking off the dust from words I penned not too long ago. Sure enough, those jolts of electricity quickly became tiny spheres of connection. It wouldn't take long to scroll through and get the old familiar feeling back in my bones — there is something here. Pay attention. Develop this.

And so, a project was (re)born.

It's all that writing is, really. Open hands, ready for the jolt. 

It is winter. Ravens are standing on a pile of bones — black typeface on white paper picking an idea clean. It's what I do each time I sit down to write. What else are we to do with our obsessions? Do they feed us? Or are we simply scavenging our memories for one gleaming image to tell the truth of what is hunting us? — Terry Tempest Williams 

1. What in your creativity is asking to be a marathon? How does this make you feel? What is your next step in getting to the finish line?

2. What connections are you making this week that may prove useful for your creativity? These can be conversations, books, movies, TV shows — anything can be a catalyst for inspiration if we're open. 

3. What in your creativity is hunting you? Why are you running from it?

Letters From the Creative Underground

Writing is more than articulation, it's allowing yourself the space to hear the truth that you have something to share. Letters from the Creative Underground is the fuel you need to remember the truth: you are a writer. You have a story. 

And we desperately need to hear it. 


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Posted on May 23, 2016 and filed under Building Your Craft.