What I've got running through my head these days is Bach.
I know, right? Singers are the worst.
There was a time I thought I couldn't sing Baroque music, and here I am, and Baroque music is one of my primary genres, as well as one of my favorites. When I'm down, I legitimately listen to Cleopatra's arias from Giulio Cesare because my girl Cleo is a badass.
To be honest, I don't know what to write and I am SUPER not feeling it today.
I've got my Bach cantata in my head, and I don't really feel like writing beCAUSE it's so painful. It brings up so many painful things that I cannot ignore.
Julia Cameron said that the week of this writing, Week 3 of her incredible creativity course The Artist's Way, the artist will experience a lot of Big Feelings. Grief, joy, sorrow. SHE WAS RIGHT. I have cried so, so much this week. Or been on the verge of crying. And that comes from both writing AND from singing.
So today, when I didn't want to sit down to write, I knew why. I mean, I didn't know why at first, but when I asked myself why I just felt like I did NOT want to, it didn't take me long to answer my own question.
It feels painful.
Newsflash, folks: a lot of times, being creative is the painful part of adventure.
Creating brings out things we can't ignore.
I'm not a big TV watcher -- I really only watch The Great British Baking Show, The Next Food Network Star, and The Bachelor or The Bachelorette. Mindless stuff, really. But I can tell the difference between when I'm watching TV because I want to enjoy myself/I have a day off or a rest day and when I'm watching TV to numb myself. To tune out whatever is working away at the inside of my mind.
It's in those times that I can't really focus until I Get It Out. That's what writing is, or singing. Sometimes I just have the singing itch, and until I go to a room and sing for a while, I can't focus on anything.
That can be just because I have something to say. Because I have to flex a muscle. Because I have a love-itch that needs to be scratched: I have to do this thing that I love so that my soul is fed.
But right now, these days, I've been avoiding creativity because it feels like pain. Or, how about this: WHEN I avoid creativity, these days, it's because it feels like confronting things I didn't want to confront.
When I thought I didn't want to go to music graduate school, I avoided singing, because I knew if I DID sing, I would want to go to grad school. I would want to do it forever. I would start asking myself really hard questions.
When I don't do my Morning Pages, a vital exercise in The Artist's Way -- writing three pages longhand at the top of every morning, before I've even made my tea or had my breakfast or worked out -- when I don't do my Morning Pages, sometimes it's because I'm feeling like I want to go back to bed, but I think sometimes it's because I don't want to face whatever is spiraling around in the back of my mind like a top.
When I don't want to write blog posts, sometimes it's because I'm tired. But really I think that means I'm emotionally exhausted, and I just do not know if I can handle any more Big Feelings.
So I tune out. I avoid.
Let me just say. This is another form of avoiding our adventure. This is our version of Bilbo Baggins' "Good morning!" to Gandalf at the door, to get him to go away.
No, thank you, we say. It's too hard.
Also, we think it's too hard FOR US. We think it's too hard FOR US to create. We think someone else can better bear the hardship. Can better handle the stress and strain of whatever is going on. It is for someone else of more fortitude to wade into their own psyches and souls and do the tough work of writing down or painting or acting or sculpting or whatever-ing what is going on there. We don't know that we have what it takes to go on THAT adventure.
I am here to tell you: you do.
You do have what it takes.
And God calls us into that.
One of the Basic Principles at the front of The Artist's Way (how many times can I reference this course in one post; love of God) says that the refusal to be creative is self-will. Another says, essentially, that we're created to be creative. It feels hard, because we have to reach into ourselves and pull out a long string of soul placenta (what a phrase. I can't decide if I'm grossed out by it or not). There is a thread of messy twine that we've tugged gently out of our bodies, tied to our hearts, and we have to try and untangle it in the broad light of day.
More often than not, when I'm writing here, I'm trying to figure it out myself. Things come tome when I use my words, when I verbalize. Whether that's here or in prayer or in conversation with my mom or my best friends, I am trying to figure it out through my words.
Figure out what's going on in my heart.
And let me tell you, this is HARD. WORK. Opening this blogging software this morning was a STRUGGLE.
Because what's going on in my heart and mind these days feels heavy. Feels risky. And I hardly know that I'm equipped to deal with it at all. I don't now if I'm prepared to take a risk, and I certainly don't know if I'm prepared to challenge myself to do that. To deal with the fear inside myself. Though I will say, the more I wrestle fear, the more I discover that it only has one move. As Elizabeth Gilbert says, fear is boring.
Getting down and dirty with your creative work is not a joke. You have to discover things that are hard to take. You have to have real life chats with your soul and with Jesus.
What ends up happening is that you internalize what you have worked on, eventually. Very eventually. And it makes you new. But the process of transformation is not pretty. I'm reminded of a comparison that CS Lewis made when writing about sanctification. He says it's like we are a house. We are in some disrepair, but we find ourselves alright. We expect that Jesus will come in and touch up our paint, sand our baseboards, the like. Just a little refurbishment. But then He starts knocking walls down and tearing things out and we are altogether shocked. We are a cottage, and we thought we were just going to get a touch-up. We are unaware that He is making us into a castle.
That's what creating is like. We think it will just improve our lives. Or we will be more well-rounded people.
No. I mean, yes, this does happen, but it's only the tip of the iceberg. On the list of things that change, this is FAR down the list.
What happens is we become new people.
We are transformed from a little house in the suburbs to a castle.
I hope my castle looks like Mont St. Michel.
God uses our creativity to make us new.
"... many gentle but powerful changes are to be expected."
It's hard and it's gritty and it's SUPER emotional. I have cried more in the last three months than I can remember. Usually I just go numb when I'm dealing with big feelings. Not this time. This time I'm SUPER raw.
But I'm okay with this. I'm actually GLAD. You know why? Because this means I am a human. This means I am in touch with what is happening within me, with what the Holy Spirit of God is doing in my life. This means I'm alive.
And not just breathing.
I mean I'm abundantly living.
I'm adventurous. Adventuress.
It's hard to get up and slog through the depth of our souls, neck-high in what feels like mud and water, our boots getting stuck in the soft muck under our toes -- it's really hard. We would rather tune out. And that can be a gift, to be able to tune out (thank the Lord for books and podcasts and Netflix sometimes). But there is a a reason Week 4 of The Artists's Way is a reading deprivation week: no input whatsoever. Because you have to learn to pay attention to what is going on in your own heart. And this is an adventure in and of itself.
Through the pain and the hard work we are becoming more whole. More ourselves. More His.
Braver and more vulnerable. Braver in our vulnerability.
We are becoming more human. I've cried so much recently. I feel more like a person than I ever have. I've opened the floodgates of myself and been rewarded by simply knowing that I am more alive than I have ever been.
The work is hard. And it feels like death. But ultimately, it brings us life and brings us home and brings us back to ourselves and to God.
And isn't that the point?