761. Your Creativity Archive


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.


Related posts:


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

757. With thanks to Mary Oliver

757. Carlson-MarchIdyll.jpg

Mary Oliver, superlative poet and essayist, died this past week at the age of 83. I first started reading her work, particularly her essays, in mid-life when I was in graduate school. Reading her was like having a friend next to me, urging me on to pay attention, to pause, to look, to wonder, to praise. In Long Life: Essays and Other Writing, Oliver wrote:

“And that is just the point: how the world, moist and bountiful, calls to each of us to make a new and serious response. That's the big question, the one the world throws at you every morning, ‘Here you are, alive. Would you like to make a comment?’"

When I heard that she had died, I took Long Life off my bookshelf and went through, re-reading the lines I’d starred and underlined.

Here are a few of the other lines my eyes landed on:

“What does it mean, say the words, that the earth is so beautiful? And what shall I do about it? What is the gift that I should bring to the world? What is the life that I should live?”

And this:

“I walk in the world to love it.”

And this:

"And here I build a platform, and live upon it, and think my thoughts, and aim high. To rise, I must have a field to rise from. To deepen, I must have a bedrock from which to descend." ( I had wanted to use this as an epigraph for Finding Livelihood but due to permission issue I had to cut it.)

This morning, here in Minneapolis, the sky is blue and sunny, the air cold. New snow, not much, is glistening white. Although the thermometer reads –1°, it is all so beautiful. Oliver wrote, “There is a rumor of total welcome among the frosts of the winter morning. Beauty has its purposes, which, all our lives and at every season, it is our opportunity, and our joy, to divine.”

May you divine much beauty, live the life yours to live, think thoughts and aim high, walk and love. I thank Mary Oliver for writing and sharing her deeply meaningful words. If you have some words of Oliver’s to share, I’d love to read them in the comments.


I’m experimenting with providing an audio version of my posts. Let me know what you think!


To read other posts I’ve written about Mary Oliver, click here.

[Photo: taken of a painting viewed at the Minnesota Museum of American Art: “March Idyll or Winter Landscape, Woodstock” by John Fabian Carlson; used with permission. I love that crack in the sky in the upper left corner that tells you the sun is about to break through. I think Mary Oliver would also have loved it.)

730. What to think about today

Fall Sky.jpg

This past Sunday our minister's sermon was on this text from Philippians, which gives a gentle push to thoughts of a higher order.

"Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things."

I needed this reminder and perhaps you do too. These words are a touchstone that serve as not only wise guidance, but permission, yes permission, to at least occasionally turn thoughts away from the evening news, away from fears, away from sorrow, away from grievances, away from social media trivialities, away from [fill in the blank], and toward what is noble and right and pure and lovely and excellent and praiseworthy.

This morning I'm blowing the dust off something I wrote long ago. In Just Think: Nourish Your Mind to Feed Your Soul, I launched from this verse in Philippians to write a bulleted list of reasons to stock one's mind well. Here are some of the bullets in that list:

  • To be catalyzed, expanded, and ignited. Those of use who have battled a blah spirit and lifeless mind on one or more occasions won't find it difficult to draw a link between the state of our spirit and the state of our mind.
  • To stay optimistic and not lose hope or vibrancy. The world is full of wonderful things.
  • To link reason and imagination. To see the chasm between what is and what could be. To see possibility. To see opportunities for greatness.
  • To know the richness, vastness, and beauty of that which has been divinely created.
  • To form a solid foundation from which to launch action
  • To provide sufficient mental content of beauty and joy so that we are less likely to gravitate toward content of despair or fear.
  • To be equipped for creativity.

It's always OK to be a student of what you've already learned long ago and have needed to learn again and again. May your day be one of joy and hope. The world is full of wonderful things.


[Photo: taken this week of fall trees and sky.]