Your Creativity Archive

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I recently read a post on Austin Kleon’s blog, “The Garden Where Ideas Grow,” that I found encouraging and even life-giving. For those of you who don’t know of Kleon, he writes about creativity and is the author of several books, most recently Keep Going: 10 Ways to Stay Creative in Good Times and Bad. The blog post spoke of creativity as being like gardening, which rang true for me even though I’m not a gardener, in the literal dig-in-the dirt sense of the word. Each of us has notes for some creative idea planted in a number of places, such as emails or letters, journal pages, new project files, the margins of books, blog posts, and so on, and these seeds don’t go anywhere while they’re in those places. But then—and often rather out of the blue, because you didn’t realize at the time when you wrote these notes or phrases that you were really planting seeds—a moment comes and you’re surprised to see something germinate and push toward the light, and you realize then that all this time that seed had been growing tender roots. I discovered that this week with something I had worked on over 3 years ago.

I had been reading Dancing on the Head of A Pen by Robert Benson, and he wrote about how he writes 600 words every morning related to an emerging project and uses the rest of the day, all of the rest of the day, to work on projects that are further along or market the ones that are already out in the world. As I read it I thought how wonderful and wise, that this is how the work gets done, but the next day as I got ready to start my day job, I felt nearly upset at what I’d read because it so clearly leaves out someone like me, and perhaps you, who has to give so much to other things like earning a living. Then I remembered the little project from 3 years ago, and it clicked together in my brain with the Kleon blog post about creativity being like gardening and the clue from Benson of giving a certain number of words per day to something new, and so now something new is slowly growing and in a fun way, come what may from it.

I mention this because maybe it will cause you to think of something you started once upon a while and to wonder whether roots have yet formed hidden.

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Related posts:

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[Photo: Dusk, the evening after summer solstice, at one of Minneapolis’s beautiful lakes.]

755. Beyond work

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Over the long Thanksgiving weekend, I watched the 2016 film Paterson for the first time. For those of you who haven’t seen it, Paterson the film is about Paterson the man who lives in Paterson the village. Paterson the man, played by Adam Driver, is in his late 20s or early 30s and drives a city bus. He is married to Laura, played by Golshifteh Farahani, who is passionate about many things, including home decorating, learning to play guitar, and baking and selling cupcakes at a weekend community market. Paterson does more than drive a bus; he also writes poems.

He writes poems in his head as he walks to work each morning. Before he drives his bus out of the garage, he writes down the lines that came to him during that morning’s walk in the notebook he always carries with him. At lunch, while he eats his sandwich and drinks coffee from his thermos, he again takes out his notebook and adds the lines that came to him while he drove. At home, he goes down to his basement office—a desk and some shelves in an unfinished basement—and adds a few more lines. His wife begs him to read some of his poems to her, and he keeps promising he will but never does. She begs him to send his work out to some magazines. Instead, he just keeps writing, line by line.

The world around him seems to give him signs that what he’s doing matters, although the signs are not profound or recognizable to anyone else. No readers show up cheering his work, and no agents or publishers suddenly appear. He has no social media account that magically gains followers. The signs are more along the lines of “I see you.”

As he writes line by line in his head and in his notebook, he has a steadiness about him and an inner drive, not toward success, which is usually how the word ‘drive’ is used today, but a drive to keep putting the words together until they fit, and the final click unlocks some inner release and the eyes widen and the soul opens.

I wish this film had been around while I was writing Finding Livelihood. It probably would have made its way into one of the chapters. While the film features a man writing poetry while he also drives a bus, the broader implication can be a fill-in-the-blank sort of prospect for any of the rest of us. What else are you about beside your work or alongside your work? In what ways do you seek the opening of eyes and soul to what is beyond your work?

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[photo: taken of the juniper berries on the table at the American Swedish Institute while I drank my coffee last week.]

706. Revisiting the mystery at the table - and the desk

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Nearly 7 years ago I bought the icon known as The Holy Trinity, or The Trinity, by Andrei Rublev, brought it home, and hung it above my desk where I could see it every day. Honestly though, over time, I have tended to forget to look at it even though it's right in front of me as I work. After all, there are papers to read and chapters to write and slides to edit. This morning I'm re-reminding myself to look at it, to think about it. So in that spirit, I'm sharing the blog post I wrote just days after I purchased it in February 2010.

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Last weekend I went with a friend to a bookstore in St. Paul that was closing. A bookstore closing is always a sad affair, yet the owner seemed in good spirits and prices were slashed so joy was still to be had. I bought a few books and an icon wall hanging. Since hearing Dr. Roy Robson from the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia speak at The Museum of Russian Art a couple years ago, I've had my eye out for a copy of the Holy Trinity icon by Andrei Rublev, which reflects the story of Abraham's hospitality from Genesis 18. Robson showed a slide of this icon, with three figures seated at a round table. Two of the three figures were robed in brilliant blue. It was so beautiful I could hardly stop looking. The figures represent the Trinity, as its name suggests, and they are seated at the nine, twelve, and three o'clock positions. Left open is the 6 o'clock position. As Robson said, it invites you to "contemplate sitting at the table with the Trinity." I like that sense of invitation and so for that reason I'll hang it near my work space where I can see it.

I want it where I can see it for another reason as well, particularly while I write. In Mind of the Maker, written in 1941, Dorothy L. Sayers examines in great detail the analogic association between the Divine Creator and the human creative process through the doctrine of the Trinity. The ideal literary artist composes his or her works in the image of the three-fold mind comprised of the co-equal and co-substantial Idea, Energy, and Power.

The Idea—or the Father—is the “Book-as-Thought” in the writer’s mind irrespective of any words actually written. The thought precedes the actual activity or material production of the work, but continues on eternally after the work is written and read. The work “is known to the writer as …a complete and timeless whole."

The Energy—or the Son—which “brings about an expression in temporal form of the eternal and immutable Idea,” is the “Book-as-Written." It is the creation that the writer or a reader can witness either as the material form of the work or as the passion and toil of the writer.

The Power—or the Spirit—emerges from the Idea and the Energy. This is the “Book-as-Read” and is the “means by which the [Energy] is communicated to other readers and which produces a corresponding response in them.”

To the writer, the Idea, the Energy, and the Power “are equally and eternally present in his own act of creation…they exist in—they are—thecreative mind itself." To ignore this co-equal and co-substantial pattern of the ideal creative mind, Sayers argued, is to invite failure to a literary work.

Much to think about and be reminded of for 50% off.

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