Not long ago I saw a scenario unfold which I couldn’t understand, what I was seeing was discomforting and puzzling. A knowing neighbor saw my reaction and told me the past story, a heart-bursting tragedy, a hand-over-your-mouth-so-you-don’t-cry-out type of sad, really sad, story. When you or I hear a story like that we are forced open, vulnerable once again, touched in a special chamber of our heart. That tale of real life misfortune has stayed with me and still colors many of my thoughts.
I’ve read numerous books and articles on creativity lately. There are lots of tricks and lists and advice on how to get to the wellspring of creative flow so necessary to a productive schedule. One point is usually to reconnect with your “child within”. In reality, many of us don’t like to go there. That inner child is needy or petulant or just plain sad. But sometimes you have to slog through the sad to get to the joyful.
Once you are in that vulnerable child-like state, it can feel like you are an open nervous system waiting to twitch at the next wound; you can see and feel levels of reality blocked to others. You will dwell in an electric state, as a conductor of power and that power will flash from your hands or your voice or your body into your work. And you must put it into your work or you will burn out and the power grid system that you supply will falter. This is important. As adults we try to guard against being too vulnerable or emotional. We are not groomed to deal with so much sorrow. It’s hard to listen to one more story of mass grief. But deep in that cradle of your inner child is your creativity.
Years ago while sitting at a red light, another car pulled up beside mine. Inside, a young woman dropped her head and began sobbing. From her sadness, I knew that we were listening to the same news coverage, as all the media outlets were reporting on the same disaster. We both sat suspended in our cars crying for suffering people we had never met, whose lives would never be the same. But to live in the world, we harden our hearts to keep from weeping all day. Yet as artists and creators we need to stay in touch with the realities of human need and emotion. It’s a burden, it’s not easy. But use that emotion to slap the perfect expressive color on your canvas, to find the most exquisite chord, or use it to write that poignant chapter you have been avoiding. The one that makes you want to cry out to your mommy. Then find comfort, or give it to someone else, through your art.