On Creativity and Starting Over: Debris

March 20, 2009

Each spring I experience familiar rumblings of renewal.  I note with gratitude longer hours of daylight, leisurely walks under Colorado sunny sky that help to shrug off the remnant of winter, copious amounts of energy for new projects, and a deep sense that all shall be well in the world with the advent of warmer temperatures.

The budding season this year has delivered yet another experience that I was not anticipating: a visceral, insatiable desire to clean things out.   It is not a pragmatic need for “spring cleaning,” nor is the impulse a response to the material disorder that seems to accompany my life in graduate school.  Instead this inclination to de-clutter seems to be generated by my increasing vocational needs:  long stretches of time to work without interruption at the easel, and temporal margins that allow enough room to steep in the things that feed my studio practice and also allow for the germination of new ideas.

I don’t want to presume that all people who commit themselves to creative endeavors have the same needs.  But let’s face it: any of us who on a regular basis show up to a blank canvas, blank page, computer screen, or to a silent rehearsal room have chosen a way of life that can get stymied when too many things encroach upon our thoughts and schedules.  Fidelity to creative work requires well-honed discernment regarding what merits our attention.   Much to my chagrin, my attention has limits.  But I am increasingly convinced that embracing those limits, rather than ignoring them, leads to deep satisfaction in the process of creating excellent work.

At this moment in history there are oodles of people more erudite than I who have drawn comparisons between creative vocations and tending gardens.  The parallels are not lost, nor do I find the return to this analogy trite.  For as I prepare my garden for new crops by raking up leaves that were forgotten over winter, or rooting out the gargantuan morning glory that has volunteered this year and promises to once again dominate the entire flower bed, I remember that the work of clearing away unwanted debris is well worth the effort.  It’s a process of making room for new growth, an act of hospitality toward those things that will ultimately nourish and inspire.

For those of you who are joining me this spring in revising life to better provide for your vocational needs, I hope for us to have confident focus, and look forward to the fruit that will emerge!



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