My teabag offers me a lofty thought for the day: “A relaxed mind is a creative mind.” I think of the times I write – sometimes it’s in my office, but more often it’s at home, after meditating, or after a long, quiet sit on my purple couch where nothing at all has happened in the previous hours. Those are some relaxing times that inspire writing. Sometimes, I’m somewhere else when inspiration flows. Over the last few months, I’ve taken a couple of trips to the Oregon Coast. One weekend was designed to be a (scholarly) writing retreat, while the other was a girls’ weekend. Creativity abounded. The first trip was full of ideas and progress as two of us mucked our way through a manuscript on a painful topic. The second trip had no agenda – people colored, knitted, and crafted through the weekend. Bernard, a seagull with a bum left leg (seems like his claws and webbing never fully formed), kept us company for three days of relaxation and expression. I read books on topics I plan to write about in the future – sexuality education for youth, and karaoke (no, not in the same book) – and I could feel my mind making connections between the words I read and my own developing ideas as I stared out the window of our wonderful beach house. It’s always hard to leave places and friends like that.
Bernard with Haystack Rock in the background (Pacific City, OR).
But sometimes I write as the mood strikes me – inspiration hits suddenly: a line, a concept, a moment arrives, and I begin narrating events and feelings in my head as my life is unfolding. Often, these are moments of intense emotion, nothing close to relaxation. These are the times when I grab a pen and a scrap piece of paper from my purse and begin to scribble. If I was lucky, I could read my own writing a few hours later and share it in my blog, or transcribe it into my computer journal. Elizabeth Gilbert describes this phenomenon in her book Big Magic. She believes that ideas exist in the world, and it is up to a person to be open to receiving them — that creativity is an “exhilarating encounter between a human being and divine creative inspiration.” If a person isn’t in a state or position to take in an idea and express it, the idea will go off and find a willing recipient. When “genius comes to pay a visit,” you better answer it, because genius is an impatient partner.
While I’m not sure I completely believe that creativity is out there in the world, waiting for a human vessel to work with, I’m not taking any chances. Earlier this week I bought a small spiral journal that I now carry in my purse — no more scribbling frantically on stray pieces of paper. It makes me feel like a writer, though its pages are still blank. In its small pocket, I carry the stub from my return ticket from Oman and a small card given to me by a dear friend. It reads: “replace your shame with the hope of pressing on towards your highest goals, and your fear with a passion to fulfill your dreams.” I’m working on it, though fears nibble around the corners of my self-confidence.
I rip the tea quote off its string and place it in my journal’s pocket. I’m ready.