Opening the Door (for Creativity)

I spent years pretending I wasn't creative. Creativity was low on my list of priorities, after laundry but before yard work. I longed to "be more creative," but I didn't know how to let the creativity in.  My artistic attempts were more like fights with myself.

Here’s how it used to go:

Creativity knocked at the front door. I could hear it, but I ignored it because I had other things to do. Creativity moved on to a window, tap tapping away, but I went in another room. Creativity turned cartwheels until it broke the window with its foot and disappeared. I was angry but I didn’t have to engage, so I thought I had won, but creativity had a different plan. It burrowed underground, dug its way into the house, and laid in an X on the floor so I kept tripping over it. 

“Fine!” I said, “Enough already!” I sat down to honor this creative idea, which was now covered in mud caked with shards of glass. Plus, it was pissed that it had to work so hard to get my attention. By this point, the creativity and I didn’t even like each other any more. Our time together was awful and ended in tears or cupcakes or both.

Here’s how it goes now:

Creativity knocks at the front door. I open it. I work with whatever arrives, and then I show it out and close the door.

Sometimes creativity is quite jolly and brings five of its friends. But sometimes it eats all the hummus and sits on the couch to sulk. Doesn’t matter. I open the door and am responsible for protecting and providing for my guest. What shows up is not of my concern.

This might sound counterintuitive. If we’re making art, shouldn’t we make good art? That sort of pressure stops us before we even start. We can’t make good art unless we make art. The most important thing is to open the door.

Know that very few people can sit down and write a novel from beginning to end, or compose a symphony from opening chord to final crescendo. (If you’re one of those few - great, stop reading this and get cracking.) I’m not one of those people, though. When I open the door, all of my ideas appear in the wrong order. I put them down anyway, because - hey - I’m just in charge of opening the door.

This imagery has helped me develop a healthier relationship with creativity. I no longer berate myself when my art isn’t immediately wonderful (it never is.) As a result, I can open the door more frequently because I’m not afraid of what’s on the other side. My creative sessions are more prolific, but take less time because I don’t spend the hour before procrastinating and the hour after recovering. 

You can access your creativity right now.  All you have to do is open the door. Maybe it’s for five minutes at a time, maybe it’s a few times a week. Chances are that your art will not be as good as you want it to be. That’s okay, because that’s not your concern right now. If you open the door, you've done your part.

Creativity is knocking. Go on, let it in!