During college, my modern dance teacher Carmen Beuchat continually challenged my comfort level. In class, she’d urge me to reach toward the horizon of my limits. Straighter torso, she’d say. Hip closer to a classmate’s. More energy. I squirmed. Daily. Unfamiliar stretches, walks, leaps, runs, stillness, and touches launched an internal battle. Each class I’d arm myself with ample justifications for the shortcomings of my movements.
Carmen encouraged me to press past my limits. She coaxed me out of the comfort of my small-minded can’t-do-it world into a try-it-out world. The try-it-out world roused my discomfort and awkwardness. I second-guessed myself. I lacked grace and fumbled. I persisted, however, and months later created a choreographed work.
This very territory of awkwardness and uncertainty is the fertile ground for creative exploration, growth, development, and ultimately achievement. When writing a book or pursuing any creative endeavor, one navigates what feels like the perilous sea of uncertainty to generate new work. Once we’re immersed in the process and managing doubts, creating can feel as natural as bone and breath, the perils offset by excitement and a depth of connecting to something larger than oneself.
Although the particulars differ for every new work, each project requires balancing courage with doubt, the strain of trials with the relief of discovery. Anticipate these and you’re well on your way.
Below are several key reminders, signposts for creative pursuits:
- Set an intention. Define what you want to achieve. Visualize it. Be as clear as possible.
- Surround yourself with inspiration. Situate important items on your desk. Read a poem. Listen to music. Light a candle.
- Trust yourself. Be impromptu or create a plan. Follow your instincts. Pursue hunches, nudges, whispers, a fleeting image, a sensation in the body.
- Be mindful. Watch the flow of your attention. Follow thoughts and feelings as they meander.
- Pursue curiosity. Cultivate wonder. Question the obvious.
- Give yourself permission. Encourage and support your pursuits. Analyze later. Be whimsical. Cross boundaries.
- Accept uncertainty. Anticipate doubt, a lack of clarity, and discomfort. Find a way to balance instability.
- Expect resistance. It’s hard to break new ground and enter unfamiliar territory. We’re creatures of habit and prefer things to remain the same. Resistance may come from yourself and others. Even once you’ve conquered your own judgments, you still have to contend with the doubts of others.
- Connect bodily. Engage your senses. Root yourself in your body, and the power of the present rushes in. Look around. Touch, taste, smell, and listen to the world within yourself and the world beyond yourself.
- Document progress. Keep a record of your exploration. Note mistakes (which may prove to be informative later).
- Be persistent. Success comes with repeated attempts. Show up. Do the work. Stay engaged in the process.
- Take a break. Do something new. This may be as simple as driving a new route to work or taking a walk mid-afternoon. Suspend a habit.
- Dream. Ask your dreams for assistance. Before falling asleep, ask your higher self for an insightful dream or to steer you in the right direction.
- Bend the rules. Take my advice. Ignore it. Make your own rules.