Guest Post: Creative Reluctance

Guest Post: Creative Reluctance

by Carolyn Scarborough

Creative projects are messy. They ooze and flow outside the lines, bubble out of the pot and get sticky goo all over everything. They do not respect boundaries. They do not stay in the lines of linear thinking or time.

They are sooooo inconvenient.

Let’s face it, there’s a part of us, maybe the biggest part, that loves order and structure. I know I can get an almost unwholesome glee at checking things off my list. I’ve been productive! I’m in charge! I’m successful!

And then I start a big creative project – in this case, a re-visioning of my business brand. This is not an intellectual process for me, because it’s not about dollars and strategy. It is about going deep inside and really listening to what’s there. It’s about stringing together disparate ideas and gluing them together with intuition. It’s about weaving input from the outside – my clients, the needs of the world right now – with input from the inside – what are my gifts, what do I love. However, the particular creative project doesn’t matter. The process is the same no matter what we do — we need to get into our zone.

When I start to work, first I have to move out of creative reluctance and ease into a certain mindset. That often means beginning with more mindless activities. Looking at a few emails. Standing outside and inhaling spring. Wiping off the kitchen counter. All of a sudden I notice time has gone by and I have gotten nothing done!, or so screams my shrill inner bean counter. The day planner has no checks! My life has no meaning! Focus!

time-committmentsBut alas, much has been done. My head is clearing. I am slowing down. I am sending a message to my muse that I am getting ready to play.

As I move deeper into a creative project, like pieces from a Jenga tower, sometimes big chunks of my day fall that I had meant to get to. The letter to the IRS doesn’t happen. Commitments might be rescheduled. The organized plan in my head that I envisioned at 7 a.m. is falling apart by 2 p.m. Something new is arising and I don’t know what that is and am not entirely sure I’m happy about it. I don’t have that thrill of control. The sense of progress.

But slowly something shifts. I realize that I am listening. That rather than going after life and structuring and controlling it, I am opening to what wants to be heard. To the smell of oak leaves, the sun lighting up the yellow on my backyard sunflower. I am slowing down and a different kind of focus is arising, one that comes from my heart rather than my head. Suddenly I notice that not getting other things done doesn’t feel scary. In fact, it feels irrelevant. A different measure of my day has taken over and it looks at success in terms of aliveness. Of being in sync with a more essential rhythm. A trust that whatever needs to happen, will.

I am there. In the creative flow. It didn’t happen by magic but it didn’t happen by control either. Once I let the edges of my day blur and bleed off the page, my inner focus grew stronger. So what started as a terribly inconvenient and inefficient process that I had half a mind to flee and leave for another day… instead led to this moment. An opening to the work that really matters to me. A sense of unlimited, bright possibilities… instead of the small, tight ones on my to-do list. This is the creative journey.

Check out Carolyn’s website, for information on her coaching, writing retreats and women’s groups. as well as more blog posts.

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