Courting Creativity

For two months now, I have been dedicated to a daily practice. Each morning I wake up and write morning pages before doing anything else. Some mornings my eyes are half open as I write and I can barely see the words spilling onto my pages. The mornings I think I have nothing to write about usually produce the most insightful, introspective content.

If I miss doing my morning pages due to an early appointment or meeting (or my kid staying awake until 3 AM like she did the other night), I commit to writing later in the day. However, the magic is in the morning for me. I have been able to see a clear distinction in the days I do morning pages vs the days I don’t.

I can feel a difference in how I view myself, those around me, and the day in general when I do my morning pages. Everything feels less rigid. More flowing and easygoing. The world around me feels more vibrant and actual poems stream through my brain as I go about my day observing the world around me. Sometimes I jot them down in my notebook to save for later, and sometimes I simply enjoy the way they softly move through me, a passing gift, and I don’t worry about scribbling them down. When I don’t tap into my creative energy and outlet first thing in the morning, by way of morning pages, it’s almost like that part of me stays closed the rest of the day. You didn’t have time for me so now I don’t have time for you, the creative part of my brain says. It’s not that she’s bitter, she just understands her role for the day if I give her time and attention first thing in the morning.

It got me to thinking this morning, as I was writing, that my relationship with my creative self is a relationship not unlike human relationships I care about and nurture. If I treat it as such, what could happen? It takes discipline to create an environment that will lend to creativity, and it’s my job to set the tone and environment just like I do for my personal relationships. I don’t expect my human relationships to grow and deepen if I don’t dedicate time and energy to them, so why would I expect that with my creative relationship?

If I treat my creativity as a true relationship, as though it were a human relationship, how would I treat her? I did some reflection on my best practices in my human relationships to help me discern how that would look:

  1. I acknowledge that she is separate from me. This is a good thing. We certainly influence each other and Lord do we know each other well. We like a lot of the same things and finish each other’s sentences and all that cheesiness. But she is her own entity with ideas, visions, longings, hang ups, insecurities, motivations, and driving forces. She may have routes she wants to explore that are surprising to me. I shouldn’t let the surprises that unfold during our relationship turn into me holding her back from who she is, and all she can become. I never want to be the reason that the other person/entity in a relationship feels stifled and stunted.
  2. She needs and deserves quality time. If I neglect her, she won’t grow. She will become resentful and will eventually stop trying (shudders as I think about past, unhealthy human relationships). There’s a significant trust element here. The more time I spend with other humans, the more I trust them (most of the time anyway). The more time I spend with my creativity, the more I will trust her. The more we are trusted in relationships, the more vulnerable, free, and expressive we are.
  3. Why so serious? I value deep connection, honesty, and authenticity in my human relationships. I also strongly value humor. For me, a relationship strengthens when I can incorporate humor into it. My creative self, she wants to be in on the joke, too. I can practically hear her asking, Hey, why so serious? Let’s relax about it and have fun while creating. Creating is not meant to be a serious sport.
  4. Listening and validation. Listen to both her loud desires and her quiet asks. Pay attention to the road she may be taking me down, even if it feels intimidating. Validate her even if you I’m not sure I agree with her. She is talented, capable, and worthy of following, even if the road seems uncertain and uncharted.
  5. Surprise her and take her on dates. Figure out where she most likes to go, places that help her be her best self. Where does the magic happen? Is it helpful to switch it up or stick to routine? What makes her feel safe, cared for, and free to express? Take her to places that give her that spark and drive.
  6. Don’t judge. Whether she’s having a good or bad day (i.e. creating art in a way that makes me feel accomplished and proud vs empty-handed and frustrated), whether she is flowing with colorful ideas or is coming up dry, I won’t judge her or ask her to be anything different from what she is in that moment. I know that she evolves and ebbs and flows, so I won’t worry that the rut or mood she’s in is permanent. I will give her time to work through it, and hold her hand reassuringly as she does. She’ll only want to come back to me if I’m a safe place to come back to.
  7. Don’t fight with her or name call. We can have disagreements, but we won’t raise our voices or make sweeping judgments about each other. No shame-speech or name calling. For example, “What is wrong with you?” and “Why aren’t you doing better?” These statements in a human relationship would be incredibly damaging and hurtful, just as they are to my creative self when I so easily say things like that to her.
  8. Grow with her as she, and our relationship, grows and evolves. We won’t always be the same, thank God. Commit to growing with her and being open to the idea that our relationship may look really different down the road. Her badass creative self may pursue paths that are completely uncharted territory for human me. This is a good thing. Sometimes excitement can mask as fear. When I feel fearful, remind myself of the trust we have already established, and follow her.
  9. Tell her she’s sexy. OK but really…compliment her! Positively reinforce her. Tell her what I love about her without a “but…” or asking her to do anything in return. Just compliment her because I love her and value her.
  10. Push her. I know her well so I also know how and when to push her to be the best version of herself. And it’s never from a place of disappointment or neediness or codependency, it’s from a place of care and excitement to help her grow. I know when she feels intimidated and can lovingly reassure her, You’ve got this. Go for it.

I’ve been talking to my creative self differently since viewing her like the other side of a true relationship I’m in. And as with everything, the more compassionate we are, the more freedom (to be, to create, to express) we are granted.

3 thoughts on “Courting Creativity

  1. Hi, Courtney,
    Wonderful suggestions about how to treat your Muse and what to expect from her. All of us can benefit from paying attention to our creative selves and nurturing them to increase their involvement in our lives. Thanks for putting your creativity out here for all of us to enjoy and learn from.

  2. I love this. Not only a great article on how we can cultivate creativity but good reminders for our relationship with ourselves and others too. Thanks for sharing, Courtney!

  3. What a wise and wonderful post on creativity, Courtney. I will share it with some of my writing students who are struggling to give themselves this precious and enduring relationship. You are truly a writer and I look forward to reading your new creations. Love, Brenda

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