Like “running over a butterfly with an SUV” is how Ann Patchett describes the experience of putting her novels into writing.
Yep. It’s a superpower, I reckon. Not just the novel writing. More the daring to express yourself creatively at all.
How dare we gaze at Renoir or Monet, read Anne Tyler or Emily Dickinson – and then pick up a paintbrush or pen?
Surely it’s sheer courage to attempt to write or draw what shimmered so sharply in your mind’s eye.
Surely it takes a wilful act of self-compassion to create for pure joy, not knowing whether you or anyone else will enjoy the final work.
And surely takes creative courage to contribute your words or imagery or voice somewhere, gently trusting that it will spark something positive in someone else’s life.
To sit down at a blank page with a pen or pastel in hand, to clip a microphone to your collar, to pick up an instrument, to click “publish” or “share” … to speak, to make marks, to listen, to doodle, to comment, to be in awe of another’s work and dare to respond with what comes alive for you … is this not a superpower of joyful and compassionate courage?
To risk criticism, to savour appreciation … is this not the superpower of trusting there’s some light within you that can shine beyond you too?
Only a few of us are going to be willing to break our own hearts by trading in the living beauty of our imagination for the stark disappointment of words. This is why we type a line or two and then hit the delete button or crumple up the page.
— Ann Patchet, The Getaway Car: A Practical Memoir about Writing and Life.
To invest your money and time in ink and paper, in trying new tools and playing with techniques … is this not the superpower of treating yourself with the compassion that you’d give a best friend or precious child?
In fact, I see self-compassion as the foundational superpower. How many humans even consider they are worthy of cultivating kindness and joy and peace for themselves in any way – be that through creativity or something else that lights them up?
When we take time to enjoy creativity for its own sake – in a shed or on a page, in the kitchen or on an instrument – I see it as a powerful way to treat our mind and body and soul as if they matter.
I laugh whenever I remember hearing Marshall Rosenberg say, “Anything worth doing is worth doing badly.” As an empathy educator, peacemaker and best-selling author, Marshall was wont to pick up a guitar and sing partway through a workshop. He seemed to enjoy it as a way of connecting with people and expressing himself.
And, guess what, his music might have sounded pretty rustic to some ears, but his voice is still being played for hours on YouTube and SoundsTrue, many months after he died at age 80 in 2015. (Hey, I wonder if that joyful energy helped him get that many decades here of living life to the full?)
So why not learn an instrument or play with words and imagery for sheer pleasure? Why not dare to share from your heart?
I get a kick out of hearing Elizabeth Gilbert say something along the lines of, “If other people don’t like your art, smile sweetly and tell them to go and create their own f#*@’ing art.” Fair enough? Who else can make the song or art or photo of your own eye, heart and hands in this moment where you are?
I see creative courage as a superpower that only we can bring to ourselves. We’re gifting ourselves the time and space and opportunity to be delighted with growing skill or discovering unexpected results. We’re also giving ourselves the freedom to accept our disappointments, to choose how little or how much we share, and to be gentle with ourselves when we experience frustration or sadness or overwhelm along the way too.
It takes a wilful act of self-compassion to create for pure joy, not knowing whether you or anyone else will enjoy the final work.
So, while I laughed out loud with relief and shared reality after reading Ann Patchett’s quote about running the butterfly over with a SUV, boy am I glad she writes anyway! (I bet the butterflies are glad she’s sticking with her keyboard too).
I receive Ann Patchett’s words as permission and inspiration. I want to practice creativity as a superpower – as an act of courageous self-compassion and also a joyful contribution.
I dare to hope that through sharing creativity, I can cultivate gentle curiousity and acceptance in our world as well as within myself.
I see that my creative fulfilment has immediate benefits too for my children, lovelife and workmates as I bring a more relaxed and open-hearted energy to our interactions. (Hey, just try being around me when I haven’t had some creative retreat time each morning!).
So, please, before you crumple that page … would you like to consider the courage of your own creativity? And if it gives you joy to make and share … please, keep going and growing wherever inspiration calls you.
Why not dare to let your creativity shine as a courageous and compassionate superpower?
What harm is done by trusting your creativity to land wherever there’s another heart waiting to be lit by the song or story or words or picture that only you can make?
And when you hear that something you shared made a difference — even once to someone else — I find that’s the kind of joyful kryptonite* that refuels my creatively courageous superpower for days!
Thanks to Krista at WordPress for this week’s prompt:
It led me to a visual meditation and creative play with Renoir’s “The Blue River” (courtesy National Gallery of Art Washington). I’ve just finished recording it and it’s now available for you to play to your heart’s content as you listen here.
* And thanks to my niece Brigette for spelling kryptonite over my shoulder. Blogging while you’re camping with extended family sure does have its advantages!