Thoughts on creativity.

Can you do it for the sheer joy of it and not worry for even a small second about whose eyes land on it and whose mouth has a kind opinion about it. you are a created thing, you are made in the image of your God, and it doesn’t matter what name the one you worship goes by, or whether you find yourself at one with them when you kneel down in the middle of a meadow, and not within the walls of a church, or any other building. you are glued together from stardust and atoms, and tiny fragments of all the women who lived before you. you are a womb, within a womb, within a womb without end. you are a being that was created, and even Jesus walked around in the dust with his feet strapped in leather sandals just making things out of nothing with his carpenter hands. and all he did was believe in himself and his own truth, and so should you. your words are connected to everything sacred, so use them wildly and generously, but please use them wisely, they hold so much power over your own life and everyone you share a life with, so use them like water and let them bring life.

if all you have ever wanted was to create and make things, and you have told yourself that you can’t—that you are not an artist, or a writer, or any other fancy title that the world holds up as important, then know this—you have always had something beautiful pulsing through your body, whether you believe this, or not. every time you paint a wall in your house, you are creating. when you faithfully follow a recipe for cheese scones, right up until that point where you listen to that nudge inside your head and you boldly add the rosemary that wasn’t called for, then you have been creative. you have added something new to this world—to your world, and someone will enjoy the taste of what you have made with you, and what a gift that is!

and if you want to write, then the most important thing to do, is just to start. really, that is it! nothing else can begin until you do this. and there isn’t anything mystical to the process, start with the very first word. trust that it knows that it needs to be the first one on the page and then after you have made your first mark, you just keep starting over and over. you just keep telling the story. this is how every single book is written, whether fiction, or poetry, or a guide to electron microscopes. all of it is a story and there is a reader for every book and what you need to do is write until you have run out of words, and then you start again on the next page, and you write a hundred new beginnings until it is all done.

don’t be afraid of ripping things out and starting over. my whole life is a field of starting-overs, and second and third chances, and i have undone so many things and some of them i have regretted, but always i did what i had to do in that moment. hold your work loosely and learn to start over.

trust your body! she knows what she needs, but you need to listen, and you need to listen in silence, and you need to switch the world off for many hours a day, but especially at night, because that is when everything is thin, and all the stories dwell here in the thin places, and stories want to be heard, but they won’t shout, so make sure that you are in control of the noise that surrounds you. begin by switching off your television, your radio, by putting down the newspaper, and signing out of social media, and looking, looking, looking at the wide world around you, look low, and look high, scratch at the dirt, sniff at the air and listen to things that don’t have an on switch. listen to the stories your children tell you. children are still so close to the other world, that they can touch what is hidden.

if you want to hear truth, don’t listen to someone who wants to be paid to give you the truth, and that goes for almost everything in life, but especially when they tell you about holiness. it’s right there in front of you, and right in the middle of you, and if you slow down you will hear it right inside of you. it doesn’t shout, it’s a whisper. a lover’s voice in the middle of the night.

and play! have you forgotten how to play? i had to learn it all over again, after i spent the first five years of my life perfecting it, but then i went to school and they told me all the ways in which i was doing it wrong, and so i gave up a little bit, but it found me again—thank God for this miracle. so, let your body play, and let her move anyway she wants to. have you ever just put the music on and danced? have you done yoga to Bach, or Creedence Clearwater Revival? have you held a drum between your knees and closed your eyes and stepped across the boundary? just close your eyes and let the music move you, or jump, or run, or walk into the water and let if remind you that you are a body, a soft thing and that you don’t need what you they tell you that you need, you need water, and earth, and food, and love, and beauty, and kindness, and clothing to cover the nakedness of you in front of strangers, and air, yes always the breath. always return to this. always bring yourself back to your breath. there, rest.

you need very little. they will tell you that you need more, always more, but you don’t. you only need enough. too much, is dangerous, it will drown you, unless you give it away.

and also, the most dangerous thing you can ever do is to court he opinion of others. don’t do it unless they are teaching you. unless you have agreed to listen and to open yourself up widely to what they are saying, and only do this if you trust them and if you hold their opinions close. if they are none of this and they have given you an opinion about your work, then be careful, because this is where the path gets rocky. the view is still beautiful, and all your creativity is still there. it has gone nowhere, but if you are given a good word, then hold it loosely and say. ‘thank you’ and bless your work for the beauty that it brought a stranger who is travelling home with you. again, you have made the world a more beautiful place. what holy work you have done! untie yourself from the need of approval, even from the ones you love. your work is your work. let it stand on its own. do not compare it to anybody else. how can you? all the different voices and none of them yours.

but if you are given a sharp word, or one that tastes bitter on your tongue, then don’t even pick it up, because you don’t have to! it is only an opinion from someone who could never know the inner shape of your thoughts or the sound of the song inside your head. just leave it right there and once again, pull out your bag of blessings and bless them, and ask for beauty to find them in the exact shape that they need. then, lift up your head because there are things to see, and walk on, because if you take their words from them, and if you lift them to your hungry mouth and you eat them, you will be in deep, deep trouble. listen to me—what you eat can nourish you, or poison you, and it will become what you give to the world. it will dwell in your bones and only you can set it free, but others will be forced to carry it with you, so be careful about what you eat, what you listen to, what you wrap yourself up in, what you give yourself to, and what you open your windows and doors to. you are a tender, fertile field. grow beauty, grow kindness, grow wildflowers, and trees, and moss like velvet. even here in my words there are a hundred river-smoothed pebbles that i have held in my hands as beauty, that will cause someone to contract with anger. this is the cost of my creative freedom. this is the cost of honesty and honouring myself. learn to recognise the burrs and the thorns for what they are—a part of everything, but they do not need to be a part of you.

and do not ever lend your voice to the mockers. do not become a part of the thing that will break others down. everyone has God growing inside of them—namaste and amen. be kind. be beauty, be truth, be your own truth and live this, and show this and others will come, and they will find you, and some will leave, and they will find what they need somewhere else, and it won’t be with you, and it won’t be with your work, but it is a true thing that has happened. let every human be themselves and you, be you. where you find the need to control, let it go bit by bit and i know that this is scary. you have walked the perimeter of your life always looking for threats, for intruders. you are a child wrapped in adult skin. be gentle with your fears but learn to step back and ask yourself whose voice you are speaking with.

be humble. know that if you lived a million years you still wouldn’t walk into all the truths that are out there. there are things you will never know. there are things you will never understand. others will know them. others will understand them. this is life. this is truth. listen to voices who speak old things. listen to voices who speak new things, but do not, do not, do not let your voice become that of another. if you can’t be your own champion, your own friend, your own lover, your own kindness, your own mother, your own father, then, if you let others be this to you and for you, everything you create will taste like their approval, and their disapproval will stop you from creating, even the fear of it will crush you, so let it go.

if you are asked to explain what you have made, do so only if you want to. let your work speak for itself but remember it will tell everyone a different story. isn’t that incredible?

if you are asked to defend your work, then i would say, do not fall into this trap. if it needs defending, you have walked into battle and very little beauty grows on a battlefield. let the fighters be fighters. let them disagree. let them break it open. don’t bite. remember what you have been given, the walk home, the voice that speaks to you in the silence. let everything go except your own truth. trust what you are given. show what you have seen. let your work be your work. own every scrap of it with fierce acceptance. own yourself. then watch the cool, green water flow—the life flowing from your mouth.

© Liezel Graham 2021.

{Image by Kinga Cichewicz on Unsplash}

A few (hundred thoughts) from my morning pages on creativity and being a creative person. If you don’t know the discipline that is morning pages, then look up Julia Cameron’s website for more information.

It is characteristically long and winding, but I hope there is something in there for the one who is too scared to start making something for fear that it will be a failure and that it is not good enough.

My thoughts? Just start!

One word at a time. One sketch at a time. One stitch at a time.

Then follow that up with one more.


2 thoughts on “Thoughts on creativity.

  1. Great message here. The importance of creativity is to just start, and the most universal advice in writing is to just write. We often overthink things, when the real place we’ll find the answers will be in the work. Anyway, thanks for this post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • You are most welcome, Stuart! Thank you for reading my post, especially if you made it all the way through! That fear of starting something can be quite paralysing, and yet it is so simple to overcome, and get a project moving in the right direction. Just start with one word, then follow it up with another.


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