Birds emerge out of splashes of color. They are my assignment in Carla Sonheim’s online art class Blobimals. First, we splatter a large sheet of paper with two different colors of paint. Then, we turn the page this way and that as we search for images. Squiggly lines become birds, a bunny and then a snail. For five days, all kinds of animals and of course mermaids appear from random blotches of color. Next, I set about enhancing what I see with brush and paint.
Creating and the challenge of living a full life have a strong correlation. Daily life and the creative process teach us how we shape what we are handed is what counts. How do we make sense of life’s random events? That is particularly challenging when “something we are handed” is painful. It is not as simple as, “If life hands you lemons make lemonade.” This phrase makes dealing with difficult situations sound simple. It isn’t.
People I admire take difficulties and work with them until they find something of value. Not that they are happy a disturbing event entered their lives. No! They persistently turn the upset over and look at it from every angle until they find the boon wrapped in disruption. That is also what creativity requires. How can we make something pleasing out of this tangled mess of lines? How do we create a poem to bring meaning to our struggle?
Friction of living can ignite the fire of creativity. Read The Journey by Mary Oliver and you will hear a woman straining to value what she needs. Placing her words in a poem surely helped her appreciate her predicament. There is something inherent in conflict that can drop us into the core of our truth. And communicating it in words or images can be healing. It takes more than squeezing a few lemons. It takes staying with uncertainty.
The creative process lets us practice stepping into the unknown.
To create we must actively engage with moments of doubt. It doesn’t matter what we are creating; a poem, a quilt, a business plan, or software there is always a moment where we wonder if it will turn out. And when it appears as if it won’t, we have a choice to make. Will we release our notion of the imagined outcome and allow the unexpected to appear? Or, will we clutch what we think should happen and avoid stepping into the unknown? If we say yes to the uncertainty, what appears is often as refreshing as a summer rain.
When things easily fit together we are not pressured to explore new perspectives. Over this last month I have been in a period of self-examination. I am being asked to grow and change in different ways. Promoting my book, Unfolding, reconciling relationships and reshaping my retreats are my main focus. Somehow I did not realize a published book would come with such strong waves of change. But it has. Doubt has replaced the certainty I usually enjoy.
We all encounter moments when our tightly held positions are challenged. Can we see the problem and ourselves with new eyes? It is risky. But just as letting go in the creative process makes our creation more vibrant, letting go of our firmly held stance about who we are can give us more energy. As I wrote in Unfolding “If– and it is a big if — if we take a risk and let go of who we think we are there is an untried and more lively self to discover.” As my brush finds its way across the white sheet of paper I am finding clarity.
I am letting go.
I am not sure what is next.