Creativity Takes Place in the Now

Last week, I had the opportunity to share my new talk, “Ignite Your Bursts of Brilliance,” with some very lovely members of our local writing organization. Since it’s the start of the year, the director thought it might be nice for me to focus on helping people realize their writing matters so they’d stay motivated to keep writing throughout the year.

In my 32 years as a professional writer, I’ve heard and probably tried every piece of writing advice you can imagine. In my 17 years as a writer’s coach, I also learned that each and every one of my clients approached their writing in their own unique ways. There is no particular method, or schedule, or structure that works for everyone. Trust me.

So, it’s great to set goals for our long-term art or writing careers. It’s great to set goals for just this year. It’s even great to set goals for just this week. It’s fine to create vision boards, and focus on intentions, and declare resolutions, as long as we understand that it is the creating or stating of those visions or intentions that matters most. The real power lies not in revisiting those goals and resolutions, but in the moment when you decided you wanted them in the first place.

If your vision board, for example, helps you revisit that moment, great! But our goals or intentions can just as easily weigh us down. If looking at your vision board is bringing you joy, then leave it up. But if there comes a day when you look at it and see all the things you’re not accomplishing, take it down. Right now. Feel into the freedom of letting go of your plans and come back to the moment. You can always put it back up later, if you want.

Creating takes place in the now, and only in the now. It is sometimes inspired by the past, that’s true, and our dreams can take us into an exciting future, but the act of art can only take place in the now. Think of it this way . . . you suddenly remember one of your grandma’s recipes that you haven’t made in a while, and now you’re in the past. You’re remembering how much you loved that dish or how much you loved your grandmother and you’re feeling inspired in the now to make that dish again.

So, you plan to buy the ingredients tomorrow and make it on Sunday night. Now you’re in the future, and that’s necessary too. But the actual act of creating and eating that meal can only take place in the now. If you make the dish perfectly, you might feel such joy. If you burn it, you might be disappointed in yourself, but succeed or fail, the thing you remembered and then set out to do is happening now.

I’ve always said, “We are in charge of our goals, they are not in charge of us.” That’s because we create with body, mind, and soul. So, if your goal is to write for an hour before work each morning, and one morning you “blow it” and go back to sleep, you did not fail to achieve your goal. Your body decided it needed more sleep. It did you that favor. So rather than wasting precious energy beating yourself up, be grateful for the extra sleep, and then find some other time during the day to write or just to think about your writing. Turn off the radio while you drive to work and plot out your story, record some thoughts on your phone as you take the dog for a walk, jot some ideas down as you cook dinner. Not all art takes place at our desks or in our studios anyway.

My point is, you can’t schedule in or plan for your Bursts of Brilliance® . Creativity doesn’t work that way, and neither does life. If you uncover a schedule that works for you most of the time, you will sometimes be visited during that time by some awesome ideas. But just as often, they’re going to strike outside of your plans and schedules. So, leave space for them, and save energy for them. If your goals are currently giving you energy, that’s great. If your schedule is allowing you time to create, that’s a gift. But if any of those things are weighing you down, release them and find your way back to the now.

If you want to create, there’s only one vision you really need . . . to see yourself as someone who loves your art, when it’s working and when it’s not; when you’re on schedule and when you’re off; when you’re achieving and when you’re resting. See your unique artist self as someone who is moved by the past, pulled toward the future, but always in the creative now. Because that is the only place you will find those Bursts of Brilliance® that come to you and through you in a way that is uniquely, only, and always yours.

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