Every time I sit at this keyboard to write, there is a moment where I am caught between two worlds: do I trust that my voice matters to someone out there or should I just stay silent (because my voice can’t possibly matter in all the noise out there)?
This is a moment that many of us pivot on every time we actually get to the “starting point” in our creative work. That pivotal moment where a decision has to be made, again, fresh, every time, as if we’ve never been here before. (Is that because in reality, we never have been at this point in time, right here and now, faced with these blanks pages, new paints, new lines, new notes, new images?)
Every time we come back to our creative expression we have to decide. Does our voice matter or doesn’t it? What is the reason to express ourselves? There are those abundant times when so much is moving through me that expression is an overflow — it simply must be poured out. More often there are the quieter, drier times when my mind says: you’ve said everything there is to say. You’re just repeating yourself. (With 109 blog posts, I probably am)…
But, even repetition seems necessary. More than necessary. More like we have specific themes that we keep diving back into because we feel compelled by something to explore them again and again. What keeps that from being boring is that fact that my themes are mine and yours are yours. Somehow through us being One Consciousness, we find the people and themes that speak to us in the ways we need. (And that’s usually the point of logic I use to convince myself to write.)
So, does it matter?
When I think of my life, there have been (and continue to be) very specific artists who have unknowingly shown up in my life at very precise moments. Not only that, but there are specific people in the business of art who have no clue that their executive decisions to keep saying YES to what called to them have repeatedly impacted my life and creative journey. For example, an executive’s decision to sign a particular band and produce a particular song that became my saving grace during a dark period, who eight years later, turned out to be an executive behind another artist I interviewed — (blessings go round). Or an author who published her journals and in doing so, gave voice to my feelings when I was too young to trust my own voice. She said what I couldn’t and in that, gave a certain companionship to my journey. I could go on and on… but the point is, NONE of these artists have any clue that their work has impacted me the way it has. That a song, a line in a book, a phrase in a poem, a scene in a film — has shown up at just the right time, met just the right need, been there, and inspired, turned my thoughts, and guided my choices along the way.
None of them.
So what does that mean for you and me? When we come to that starting point and hesitate between two worlds?
Everything we create finds its way. IF we say YES to bringing it forth into this world.
What do we need to commit to? Not “being an artist.” Not “this many units of work within this period of time.” Not “getting published.” Not “being famous or making a living at this.” No. Those things just aren’t strong enough to get us from one world to another in that pivotal moment.
Expression. That’s what we can commit to. That’s the only thing that really needs us.
That commitment will get us from one world to another.
In New Age and Consciousness circles, there is a strong emphasis on dreaming big, expansion, growth. What does this mean for the artist who feels stuck or tired or uninspired?
That’s a great question. I do believe that the basis of life is expansion, we continue to grow outward and upward in life. And while it’s wonderful that there is this focus on dreaming big (which I fully support), at the same time, if we only focus on growth or achieving the next level, we ignore another very true aspect of our nature: the need for renewal and rest. As a writer, I’m tempted to believe that I should be continually putting forth more work. Finish one project, start the next. Keep moving. How many of us are like this? Sometimes this gets fueled by a fear that if you stop, you won’t start again. Much of it comes from a culture that ties performance to worth.
As artists, we are in this world, not always of it. We naturally move to a different rhythm. This is no different for us in our growth as it is in how we move through our daily work-life. The reality is that we are not meant to be creating and bringing forth new work non-stop. Another reality is that when an artist is not creating, he still remains an artist. So, we’re not going to lose our identity by not painting, writing, performing, etc. We can crush that fear, right here and now.
What if, instead of believing that the pressure to constantly be productive is true, we stop and question it? What if we look at our lives not for quantity, but quality – quality of our daily life, of our emotions, of our presence? And quality of each project, too.
We are meant to live differently and we need to realize that it’s okay to be different. Be in the sense of “being” – how we live. No one is going to give us that permission. We have to claim it. We have to stop wasting time trying to make our lives look more like non-artists, and do what works for us. And that means taking time. So, instead of finishing one project and jumping into the next, what if you were okay with taking three months, six months, a year, even, off? What if you looked at your artistic career in terms of a body of work, whole, complete, and not how much you could generate?
How would that feel?
(If you’re like me, you can already hear those voices judging you, can’t you? Pushing you back toward being like everyone else. Eh, I didn’t say this was easy.)
I know we all have financial reasons to keep working. Yet, aren’t there other jobs you could work if you needed a year off from your art? And if you can’t take a year off, what if you just took a few more days than you had planned before you jump into the next project??
We have been taught that downtime, rest, renewal, doing nothing, not creating, not producing, not having results to show for our time for more than the bare minimum allowed (what, 24 hours off for a funeral, one week a year of vacation, six weeks to deliver and nurture a newborn??), are signs of an inadequate human. It’s a lie we keep believing. We don’t come to this earth to see how much we can make, we come to this earth to see how much we can love. And enjoy.
So much of the deepest growth in consciousness happens in the dark silences, in the quiet times, in the stillness. And we live in a constant state of noise and distraction and energetic stimulation. We need the winters of life. We need life stripped bare, down to the bones, seemingly doing nothing but being present to time and space. We should know by now that what is perceived is not all there is to reality. We see stillness, no results, no tangible return for our time and we do not see that underneath, in that stillness, there is something just as absolutely necessary??
Dreaming big is good. But it is not what defines us. The life of an artist is not linear. The life of an artist is not about productivity, it is about awareness. It is about being present enough (that means more than everybody else is) to perceive what they don’t, and with grace, show it to them. That’s your calling. That’s why you’re here as an artist.
So, if you’re feeling stuck, it may be that you simply need to not be creating right now. It may be that the next project isn’t ready, or that you aren’t ready. It may be that your inner life is more important than how you express it to the world. Like I said, this isn’t easy. It’s actually risky. Because you draw stares and questions and judgment when you follow your own way of being in this world, and god forbid, are happy doing it!! But it is worth it.
We feel stuck most often when others’ expectations go against the grain of our own desires. That’s when we get trapped. We stop and can’t move, because we’re afraid to move in the direction we really want to go out of fear that others won’t like it. But going our own way is the only way to actually go. We need to listen to what our hearts and spirit and body is telling us. We can dream big and still let time for renewal and stillness be part of the whole.
Are you settling?
Keeping your dreams small, contained, manageable?
What is holding you back? Or down?
Have you ever stopped to realize that the only thing that holds us back are the thoughts we think?
What we believe is possible or doable, or justifiable. Thoughts. Those strings of words we give meaning to. Words that have no power at all until we decide to give them power and embrace them as truth.
What if you dreamed a little bigger? Just outside of what seems reasonable?
What if, instead of asking what is safely attainable, you asked: what do I want? Really, really want?
What would that look like for you?
I guarantee you what you really want is bigger than what you’re asking and hoping for.
We decide what is possible and impossible for us. Then we use other people’s reactions to our dreams to shore up our beliefs. Stop saying it’s too hard. Stop saying the chances are slim. Stop even looking at chances.
Look at what you want to experience and go for it.
There is no advantage to dreaming small. And there is nothing to lose by dreaming big.
Either way, you take a risk.
There is, however, a danger to dreaming small. And that danger is a life half-lived.
I find it hard sometimes to find words.
Words I believe in. Words I think will matter. Words worth saying. Who will care? Who will hear? What difference will it make? Who am I to say it? (always, ‘who am I to say it?’)
So I sit and stare at the screen. Up against the wall that seems so adept at silencing me. I have nothing to say, I think. Nothing.to.say.
And sometimes that’s true. Sometimes all the best words, the deepest words, the words that lift heavy hearts and fight for a soul’s freedom have been poured out elsewhere. And I am left with nothing more to say.
Or so I think.
The fact is we are each a drop of ocean in the ocean.
The fact is we are each the entire ocean.
We measure our voice in the world against the noise. We should measure our voice in the world by the sound of our own voice.
We should measure our voice in the world by the fact that we have one.
It isn’t the audience that makes our voice valuable. It’s our capacity to express it.
We shouldn’t decide whether we express our voice based on whether or not it will be heard or welcomed or received by another. We should express our voice because it’s our voice.
A drop in the ocean. Each drop makes up the ocean.
Without each drop the ocean doesn’t exist.
So what about those times when the words won’t move up past my heart onto the keyboard?
When something, something tender and protective, holds them close inside, refuses to let them go?
Maybe words aren’t always meant to be found. Or said. Or expressed. Or heard.
Maybe sometimes they just need to be.
Maybe sometimes the only audience words need is me.
And maybe sometimes that’s the way it should be.
Because maybe having a voice is first and foremost about being able to hear your own.
They may be the two most important words in an artist’s life.
Every time we step away from our creative work, we risk it being the end.
We return to the keyboard, the canvas, the clay, the rehearsal, the notes. And every fear that has ever thrown its weight against us steps up. Every reason to not continue argues for its right to live. Every ounce of fatigue, doubt, boredom, discontent tugs at us: “Not in the mood.” “Not feeling inspired.” “This is crap.” “Another day.”
There is more at stake than us being artists.
There is more at stake than the work not getting done. It’s NOT about us. It’s not about our talent. It’s not about reward, or recognition, or accomplishment.
It’s not about us.
The art we are called to make, the stories we are called to share, the music we are called to express — it needs us.
It needs us, because there is something more at stake.
A heart somewhere, just one perhaps (one is enough), will see, read, hear what we have allowed to be expressed through us. A heart that, in that moment, will recognize something of itself.
Whole lives are turned on the point of that moment.
New perceptions experienced.
That point. That still, small point, one second in time, when the Light of our art enters a soul and changes it. It is no small thing, my friends.
It matters so much more than you can ever imagine.