As a creative being I hope you have come across journaling as a way to connect with yourself and set you off on a creative journey. Most mornings I spend some time journaling. I have done so for many years now, on and off, after the time I spent following Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way”. She advocates three pages or twenty minutes of free writing. I manage two pages covering what is bothering me or the random stuff that goes through my head at 630 in the morning.
A couple of years ago I started to sign it off in a particular way. I had read or heard about someone who had a difficult role in public life. He was asked how he managed to keep his head and said he used the serenity prayer every day. So I started to adopt a bit of his practice.
At the end of my journal I wrote the words: Courage, Patience, Wisdom before closing the book and going on with my day. I still do it. The words give me a reminder to engage my courage to change what I can, have patience to accept what I can and the wisdom to discern the difference. Recently I have added the word “Faith” to the end of this list as a recognition that this is a prayer and I am asking for these gifts in faith as well as stepping out in faith hoping these gifts will come with me.
Why does that matter to a creative?
You may be reading this and thinking, that’s lovely, I’m glad you do that but why the hell should I care? I’m busy trying to create something here. I don’t have time for serenity.
I would say you don’t have time not to embrace a bit of serenity if you want to be creative. Creativity requires all of who you are. It asks you to solve problems in new ways and bring to life things that have not existed before; whether that’s a bridge, a piece of art, a new drug, an alternative system for ticketing train passengers or a movie.
If you are anxious or distracted then creativity cannot work through you, it can’t allow you access to those “aha” moments that unlock new possibilities. In short, creativity needs a calm mind to partner with. A serene mind is calm, it is focused, it is accepting of how things are but also looking to make changes to improve them. This is the very essence of creativity.
Patience and Acceptance
The formulation of a creative solution or response to the issues we see in the world first involves really looking at them from our unique point of view. Neuroscientists have shown that we all create our own reality, none of us has an objective viewpoint. But this doesn’t mean our views are not valuable. The subjectivity of our view is intensely valuable to creativity.
As human beings we cannot take in all the information that flies at us from our senses, our conscious brains can only accept so much and any more would be overwhelming. So we have a filter, based on what we care about. Everyone cares about slightly different things but there are over 7 billion of us so everything should be covered by someone.
Part of accepting how things are is accepting our own limitations and embracing our own particular way of processing and creating the world we inhabit. While I conjure words and stories, a friend effortlessly draws pictures, another designs experiments to better understand the workings of the human mind. We all make our own unique contribution to the world we are all responsible for creating.
Wisdom to Discern
Our unique contribution has to fit us. It has to be something we have the skills to enable or enact. It also needs to be something we genuinely care about, the call that sets our soul on fire.
This wisdom is hard won and a constant path of learning. We must listen to ourselves and our creativity, ask what it is that we are uniquely placed to contribute right now. What we care about changes as the world we inhabit changes and as we go through the natural phases of life and encounter concerns we knew nothing about before; the fire of youth, the concern of parenthood and the unwinding of our bodies as we age.
And as we alter so does our perspective, helping us to see things in a new light, emboldened by the risks we have taken before, ready to step into change with courage and determination.
The Courage to Change
With our particular perspectives we can see ways of shifting things slightly, altering the way we do things to achieve a better result for ourselves or others. We can use our artistic endeavours to connect with others, to comfort them, to heal their pain or simply let them know that we have felt this way too; we are in this together.
We can also use our creativity to solve the problems we become aware of: to highlight the need for cleaner air, to delve into the possibilities for technology making our lives more efficient and less energy hungry, to campaign for supermarkets to cut down their plastic packaging, to decide where to put things in our cupboards to ease our day to day concerns.
This takes courage because we are stepping into the unknown and we do not know if our original ideas will work. It may take time and experimentation, dealing with results we don’t expect and refining what we are doing. We may never see the desired results. We may work tirelessly toward an end and leave a baton for someone else to pick up, as Stephen Hawking did in his search for the theory of everything. But that does not negate the value of the journey. Quite the opposite.
Stepping out in Faith
Every time we take on a creative challenge, every moment we engage with creativity and look for a new way to express something or approach how we do things we take a step of faith into the unknown. We put our trust in something greater than our conscious mind can contain. We practice faith in our capabilities and our potential to work out a way through what we once believed to be impossible. We recognise the power of the energy that flows through us and the astonishing ability of our minds to adapt, to grow, to think new thoughts. We as individuals become stronger, calmer, more serene and if everyone does it our whole species becomes stronger, calmer and more serene. And from that place of serenity comes creativity because a serene mind is a creative mind.