Ok, so I’m turning 41 years old in just a couple of weeks, and I’m supposed to have life figured out by now. After all, I’m technically half way to the grave. But I have to admit, now that I’ve been 40 for almost a year, I am realizing that maybe a person doesn’t have life totally *figured* out until they are 50. Phew! That realization will give me a few more years!
One thing that I have been struggling to figure out for years is how to tap into my creative side. I mean, I know I have creativity inside of me that wants to get out. I have ideas for songs to compose, books to write, and paintings to paint. And creativity is part of our God-given heritage (see this wonderful YouTube by President Uchtdorf on creativity). But for some reason, I think that “someday” I’ll get to it, and I don’t really work on these creative pursuits. I realize I’m busy, but honestly, I think I’m creatively blocked and won’t allow myself to create out of fear of being exposed. I think I’m afraid.
And so I have turned to reading about creativity, to help me understand what my problem is. One book I’ve been perusing is Rollo May’s “The Courage to Create.” As I have read some in depth psychological musings about the process of creativity, I am learning that it, indeed, takes courage to be brave enough… to be bold enough…. to be brash enough… to create something.
So, as all of this is rolling around in my mind, I attended NorthStar’s fireside this last Saturday. Nicholas Gregory was one of the speakers there, and he said something that got me really thinking. He talked about how he had struggled with his identity in terms of gender, but that eventually he came to look at identity through a different lens. He started looking at identity in terms of who he was as a person…. at his very core…. as a CHILD of God. The identity he was referring to was more deep than what social role you fill, or how others perceive you. It is a core identity of who a person is beyond all of that.
Many of my clients struggle with their identity, whether this is a sexual identity, or whether through co-dependence or some other issue, they simply don’t know who they are. When we are working on this in therapy, I have them start by noticing what they like and don’t like through their five senses. I have them notice their emotions and make note of their internal reactions (and this doesn’t mean reading other people’s minds or anticipating what someone wants you to like or think, etc.). I then go on to have them work on re-engaging with hobbies, or exploring possible new ones. Eventually we get to setting and achieving goals and developing talents, as well as identifying and developing virtues that he or she identifies as important, and offering service to others to help them along their way. (Reaching out to others seems to be a both a symptom of identity development and also a great assistant to that development.) All of these steps take time, and they overlap. It is a fun and rewarding process!
Now, back to my problems with my own creativity. Recently, I have become so frustrated/motivated in regards to my creativity block, that I have started a program with myself where I will force myself to paint, whether I like it or not. In doing so, I have actually finished some paintings, and I have enjoyed observing my reactions, to see what I can learn about myself. First, I have noticed my fear coming out in my work. I am so afraid to make a bold mark on the canvas. But I make myself do it anyway. I don’t like how the painting turns out, but I make myself notice the good. I delay starting, continuing, or finishing the work. But I remind myself of my commitment, and I get back to work.
As I overlay my experience with my blocked creativity with the thoughts from Nick’s talk, and my work with clients working with their own identities, I am seeing some connections. I see that it takes a great deal of courage to create. My painting takes courage. It takes bravery and boldness to dare. I have to fight fear to do it. It’s all so silly, really. What’s the risk? That I might actually succeed…. or learn something? There really is no risk, and yet I still have to force myself to fight some dark power that would keep me from it. And then, I see that it takes fighting fear, a dark force, a block of some sort… to find and create an identity. And in all of that work on one’s identity, one is frequently forced to face his or her own creativity. To make a place for one’s self in the world, with all of one’s deficits, hopes, fears, talents, and unknown future included.
From the great 70’s LDS play, “My Turn On Earth” comes the wonderful lyrics: “I’m the one who writes my own story, I decide the person I’ll be. What goes in the plot, what will not, is pretty much up to me.” (Listen to the song here!) In the words of David O. McKay, “The greatest battles of life are fought out daily in the silent chambers of the soul.” How true those words are. And for those of us who are battling to create an identity for ourselves, how desperately we need the assistance of Heavenly Father in fighting this battle. As President Uchtdorf relays as the closing statement in his “Create” video, “The more you trust and rely upon the Spirit, the greater your capacity to create.” I would add, the greater your capacity to create an identity.
What can possibly be more important in terms of our creativity than working on who we will become, and in tapping into the knowledge of the marvelous person that we already are? I cannot think of anything more important, because as we solidify in this knowledge, we feel sturdy and sure. From this place, we can reach out to lift others and fulfill our rold that Heavenly Father has for us in the Plan of Salvation.
In his talk entitled “Finding Joy in the Journey” President Monson reminds us that, “one day each of us will run out of tomorrows.” My hope and prayer is that each of us can “write our own story” with courage. It takes tremendous creativity to carve out a life that is satisfying and bold and righteous and integrous. When someone experiences stress related to gender identity or sexual orientation, that task can seem exponentially larger. Nick’s suggestion is that we can find an identity even more basic than what is attached to our gender or sexual orientation.
Being a child of God does not indicate a certain gender or marital status or relationship type. As a child of God, we feel urges to create. Engaging with these creative instincts, through the instruction and guidance of the Spirit, is one way that can lead us to an identity that is centered on our Heavenly Father.
God bless you in your courageous, creative journey of carving our your identity as the unique and beautiful and brilliant child of the One who made this marvelous universe and everything else that lies beyond.
**NOTE** The acrylic artwork that graces the header of this post is NOT my latest painting exploit….because I couldn’t get my own painting to upload (this was due to the fact that there was nobody around for me to complain to about it not uploading…. if someone is around, the upload would have spontaneously started working as soon as they come over to help me, thus making me look like a total fool). Anyway, in regards to the painting that I *tried* to upload and courageously share with y’all (despite its serious imperfections), I look to my 10 year-old daughter as a great example. Every painting she creates, she loves. She is a huge fan of her own work, and finds great joy and satisfaction in each of her projects. I only hope she keeps this outlook, and hope that us poor adults can bring more of that child-like innocence and goodness into our own lives — to be our own biggest cheerleaders — to see beauty in our work!