Revitalizing the Creative Spirit, by Lisa Hunt
(Article originally published in The Llewellyn Journal.)
Nature has a lot to teach us. Just before a hurricane struck my town in South Florida, the animals began to act strangely: birds flew in a hurried manner, the usual cacophony of frogs grew silent, and my cats acted skittish and nervous. As the palm fronds began waving erratically the world assumed an eerie presence that spoke of the ominous event ahead. The ferocity of the winds grew in intensity and barreled down on us; lifting trees, roof tiles and screened-in porches, I started wondering about the many animals that were being exposed to winds exceeding 110 miles per hour. How can they survive under such extreme conditions?
After the storm, everyone emerged from their homes in my neighborhood to check on each other and inspect the damage. There was the initial shock upon looking at the devastation, but then many of us put on work gloves and began engaging in the arduous clean up. The plant life took a beating and I didn't hear the usual frog croaks, but as the hours passed I grew to appreciate the miraculous resilience of nature more than ever. Wildlife began to reawaken from its organic shelters in my garden. One emerald green fly was sitting on a leaf looking stunned but alive. After a few minutes, it spread its wings and flew into a now serene atmosphere. Great herons landed in the yard and began foraging through the rain-soaked grass, opportunitists in the midst of the disaster. Even the cats began to assume their normal feline antics. They instinctively knew the storm was over and that life goes on.
The persistent hot days of summer broke with a hurricane-steering cold front. The days grow shorter, the nights cooler and the festive tropical atmosphere that dominated the summer season is a little more subdued. As the days pass since that storm, I have become more reflective and more appreciative of nature's awesome power and resilience. I have been cajoled into a sort of hibernating mental state, letting mind and body rest after the intensity of the destructive hurricane season.
I have been understandably distracted, but at the same time, the hurricane and subsequent cooler weather has wakened me out of a seemingly deep sleep of unawareness. Before the storm, I was working too intensely and obsessively feeling driven by impending deadlines. Creativity is something to be nurtured and respected. It cannot be forced. It is an extension of a soul's need to express itself. I'm sure most of us have experienced burn out and many of us don't even realize that it is happening. The continual efforts that we put forth without pause can actually result in uninspired, lackluster material. It is as though we start peddling backwards with no landmarks of achievement in sight.
Instead of stagnating in the midst of a project, sometimes it is good to slow down, take a deep breath and allow the senses to be rejuvenated. We don't need a big storm to initiate this more sensible approach to creativity. Take a walk, read a book by the fire, or engage in a ritual that helps remove you from the mundane pressures of everyday life. Even though you may feel your creative endeavors deserve all your attention, you can actually trigger an aversion to what was once your most enjoyable pastime.
It is necessary to let yourself go and allow your mind to be fed, inspired and rejuvenated as a prelude to another spate of activity. People often ask me how I create so much artwork—where do all of those ideas come from? For me, inspiration is a combination of external stimulus and internal exploration. New ideas will spring forth after a period of dormancy. This is analogous to the new buds that start poking through the newly defrosted springtime soil. Creative vigor will return with an irrepressible energy if you let it. Ideas burgeon to life and manifest themselves in spirited articulations and depictions if you allow them to germinate as they will. After my own forced retreat into hibernation, I am starting to feel a wonderful rejuvenating spirit return. The post-hurricane haze is dissolving into a new cycle of creative need. This is when sketches, paintings and other gifts from the muse will overflow and ignite my creative passion. When creativity is exhausted, I have to recognize the signals for another cycle of reprieve. Maintaining a balance between proactive creative acceleration and reflective idea gathering is paramount to creative longevity. This is not always easy. It may take a conscious will of spirit to slow down and take a break.
If we look upon the patterns and cycles of nature, we can see the displays of nature as poignant metaphors of our own psychological makeup. Hibernation is nature's way of pausing. For many animals, their torpid states allow them to survive through inclement environments until spring beckons their revival. We can observe this cycle of activity and inactivity and apply it to our patterns of creative engagement.
Life after the hurricane will eventually return to normal. My shredded bougainvillea vine will sprout new buds and the frogs will return with their nightly symphonies. I am sure my garden will grow back stronger and more beautiful next season. And I intend to sketch its progress with renewed inspiration.
Article originally published in The Llewellyn Journal. Copyright Llewellyn Worldwide, 2005. All rights reserved.