“But unless we are creators we are not fully alive.” -Madeleine L’Engle
I begin writing this post in a spare notebook that my dear Michele had lying around her apartment. The notebook has the name “Brenna” written on the front cover in Sharpie by a precise adult hand. Michele tells me that she inherited it from a middle school church program, left behind by its no doubt devastated owner. The book is blank save for the first page, which is filled with a few pithy and enigmatic statements of junior-high musings, a very pleasant looking heart, the word “NOTHING” overlaid with a lazy single-stroke scribble, and lastly the existential pondering, “when you have to discard, can you discard monsters?”
How many stories, how many creations, could be spring from any item on this page?
Sometimes I wonder if our society really encourages us to be creative. No doubt, inlaid into day-to-day American life are messages of independence and self-realization, which would seem to foster creativity. Looking out my urbanite window, poking around the internet on the computer, it doesn’t take much to be bombarded by the call to “be your best self.” But what is this “best self” that’s being pushed forth?
A billboard directly across from my apartment advertises a tech-friendly airline. “More technological access on your flight will make you a happier traveler.” Ads plastered on the sides of passing buses. “Shop at this store.” “Go on this vacation.” “Watch this television website.” The list goes on (as do the buses). All selling the idea that this product or service will make you happy, and that Happy You is Best You.
Is that all there is? Happiness? A vague, vapid feeling of contentment as we move from one entertainment to the next?
We are creative beings. We are enriched, enlivened, deepened by the act of creation because creating is at the core of who we are. Our society calls us to be independent, but then doesn’t do us a whole lot of favors. That independence, that pursuing of Who We Are To Be on a deep level, is reduced to “Happiness”, to filling our days with entertainment and consumerism. There’s no room for personal creation in that framework.
What, then, is the alternative? Well, I believe it can begin by making space. We turn away from that call to fill every moment and instead experience quiet, stillness, even peace as a regular rhythm. When we throw out our elbows and create this kind of sacred space, we enact a change within ourselves.
We start noticing, listening. In that place of stillness we begin to hear our souls’ callings. We hear the urgings, the heartaches, the questions, and the joys that otherwise get lost in distraction and noise. We hear our longing for something more.
From that place springs creation. Our longing and our listening reveal opportunities, possibilities – ones that might normally be brushed past without second thought.
Such as noticing a sentence written years past in a forgotten notebook and seeing whole stories unfold.