Whatever Time It Takes: Defining Creativity

bossofyourartWe often believe one of the biggest challenges to creating is time. Often I still hear that voice in my head say, “There’s no time for THAT because you must do THIS”. Even more often, I still listen to it and do what it says thus losing another inspired moment to create. I convince myself there is not time for all the things in my life that are important, that the email won’t wait, that the answering machine can’t pick up my phone calls, that I don’t have enough time. Oddly enough though, of all the things in life we may not have, time is not one of them. We always have time. In fact, it’s all we really have but we convince ourselves that we have too little of it to do what we love, to create, to inspire, to live.

For many years, I held my writing close and hid both my interest in and my art from others. I was certain I didn’t have the time to be “good enough” and even if I had the time to devote to it, no one would enjoy what I created. I complained of having no time, yet spent what time I did have doing things I really didn’t want to be doing with people I didn’t really want to be with. I remained so weighed down and stressed about relatively unimportant events, creating rarely entered my mind. The voice, the pull, the calling was almost always drowned out by the din of day-to-day life. When it came to making time for creativity, whether it was writing or making art, that stuff that was fun, imaginative, healing, life-affirming, nourishing and mood lifting, I was usually hard pressed to make the time and justified my choices with a myriad of excuses. Sometimes, I wonder if I would have ignored the call completely had I not been injured and forced to change my life.

When I see the world outside myself, outside the little artistic microcosm I have created for myself, time is a synonym for money and it’s use is measured by profitability. People often spend years in school getting degrees and diplomas, not to learn but just so they can make more money. The world sees art, our work the same way. If it makes money, it’s considered time well spent. If it fails to make money, it is wasted time. Many define themselves by what they do to pay the bills when what we do rarely has anything to do with who we are until we are listening to calling in our hearts, the hugging on the heart, or in the work that has little to do with money.

My concept of time has evolved and changed over the last few years as a result having a spinal cord injury and being forced to change my life. I’ve learned that whatever time it takes to create, is never, can never be a waste. When we arrive at our work with the intention and knowledge of creating something that only we can make, something that reflects who we are and what we have experienced, then we are participating in creative activity that is worthy and deserving of whatever time it takes.

Making time for our art, our creative time, regardless of our medium, is often like making time for meditation or prayer. For some it is meditation and prayer. Creating is a holistic act that involves all parts of us as well as the known and the unknown, the seen and unseen. Creating can be healing as we build something whole out of the pieces of our lives, seeing how each piece matters, understanding where they fit, and seeing them more clearly. Making time for creativity can be a break from the confusion of the surface to the stillness of the center.

We don’t need to have our art installed in museums or galleries or posses the praise of critics to be artists. It’s not imperative that we earn a living from our art, that we are published or even that the famous own one of our works to be artists. To be artists, to live creatively, we need only to breathe deeply, taste the colors of the mountains and the sky, to know the wind, feel the bark of an old oak, the smell of a storm, the sound of swamp grass bent in the breeze. To be artists, we need only live with our eyes wide open, to take in every detail, rub life all over and jump when we reach the edge of a plateau. To be an artist is to notice gorgeous moment, bear witness to the small miracles and messy mishaps, to feel freely and collect these events, shaping them into forms and images and words others can share.

Creativity is being productive and alive with every moment instead of whining about not having the time. Our creativity isn’t about waiting for others to define who we are, but defining ourselves, claiming our own lives and creating for ourselves, for love, not money. Being an artist is about becoming familiar with creativity’s mojo and how it works: we hear a voice, feel a pull and begin the work.

We create, often not knowing where it will lead us. Clues arrive and then they don’t and still we continue until one day the piece is complete and we know it is ours alone. So we bow our heads or life our faces to the sky and give thanks. This is what it is to be an artist. a creative spirit.

Towns and cities are stuffed full sculptors, painters, composers and writers who wait tables, check groceries, answer phones, and drive taxicabs to pay the bills. Very few of us are paid much for our creative work and passions, so it gets squeezed into the in-between hours. Our books get written in between loads of loads of laundry, soccer practices and homework. Our short stories are written in waiting rooms, parking lots and at bus stops. We paint in our studios through the night and work in our darkrooms in the wee hours of the morning. It’s hard to think of ourselves as artists under these circumstances, but we are. It is our creative work that carries us to life, feeds our spirits, nourishes our souls and sees us through the darkness. We often feel alone but we are not alone. There are literally hundreds upon thousands of us trading stolen moments and sleep for the serenity of creating.

There are many things we may not have in life, but time is not one of them. It is really the only thing we do have. We have this lifetime to produce a catalog of art, a body of work that says, “This is how I see the world around me”. Indeed, our art, our creativity, is worthy of whatever time it takes.