Wednesday, September 29, 2010
"I have long considered the creative impulse to be a visit– a thing of grace, not commanded or owned so much as awaited, prepared for. A thing, also, of mystery" -Lorenna McKennitt
As my writing sabbatical winds to a close, I find myself reflecting once again on what it's provided in the way of learning. Time is an amazing concept, as is space; one month at home can come and go with seemingly little import. A month away, however, provides a treasure trove of insights. Not necessarily for what does or doesn't happen, but for the attention upon and increased receptiveness to the newness of surroundings and ourselves in them.
I'm particularly intrigued by what I've learned in this state of awareness about expectations. We all know of their power as well as their perils. For better or worse, eyes set on a prize often find it… a dream come true when it's what we really want, a nightmare when our unclear or unaware vision has set ill sights.
Yet even with the most incredible of goals, fixation can cause as much blindness as it can clarity. So focused, we often miss the different- and better- views and paths that a more objective and open mind might have seen, and taken…
I came to California with the fixed notion of doing nothing other than work on my second book. It was to be a glorious time dedicated exclusively to planning the structure and writing. No distractions, simply formulating ideas in my mind and placing them in a certain fashion onto the page.
It was a wonderful plan. A wonderful, disastrous plan.
Two weeks in, I found myself surrounded by drafts upon drafts of marked up and discarded tables of contents, pages upon pages of narrative ideas that didn't quite seem to work within their contexts. Story boards and post-it notes covered the walls, attesting to the productivity I was determined to achieve.
But not to the spirit and creativity.
I finally threw up my hands, telling the ocean on a walk that perhaps this wasn't such a great idea.
At that moment, the better path laid itself plain before me…
I'd planned a sabbatical based on a practicality that disregarded everything that works so well at home. There, inspiration comes when it comes, reflections in and of moments. Structure has always emerged later- proud and sure- as a gathering up of these ideas. By trying to intellectually pre-plan then command what to say and how to say it, I was preventing the very flow of in-the-moment inspiration necessary for me to create anything of value.
What's more, this inspiration comes largely from my work… my passion which this writing sabbatical necessarily put on hold. By stepping away from my surroundings, I was cutting off the camaraderie and conversations that fuel the very ideas I then long to write about. An incredible view and loving pup- while wonderful- couldn't make up for this important engagement and feedback.
Fortunately, less than optimal experiences can be highly beneficial if we're open to the lessons they're offering. The last three weeks of my time in California have found me honoring the wisdom from that walk along the beach. I threw out the tactical table of contents I'd settled upon and for. I put aside schedules and plans for structure, reopening the space for ideas to come how and when they wanted. I allowed myself to work with clients and on other projects.
It was then that ideas worth writing, and hopefully worth reading, began to emerge.
I'd read all the books and followed all the advice. But nothing worked until I followed my heart.
Establish your expectations. Set your intentions and make your plans. And then let them go. Expectations, like ideas, will fight to be heard and heeded if they're worthy. If not, they were never meant to be…