Episode 12: The Art of Creation

I couldn’t sleep last night. Yes, one factor was the venti iced coffe that I pounded way too late in the day (I blame the longer hours of sunlight and the friend who brought me the coffee, but hey that’s life). The other factor was a natural buzz. The kind that keeps you up at night, riding the high of anticipation of whats to come! I was daydreaming, but at night. A process which, for anyone who has tried it, does not easily transfer to “night dreaming, ” instead it just keeps you awake all night long. But I’m not complaining. The buzz was a natural response to the things I’m beginning to see unfold in my life. The buzz (while somewhat due to caffeine) was my body’s response to the excitement that is currently bustling around my brain.

To give some context to everyone not living inside my head, I recently spent 5 days in a flurry of meetings, work sessions, and ‘sneak peak’ evenings discussing the book. For those of you who know me well, the book to which I refer is the book I am currently ghostwriting for somebody else. The book that I began working on sometime in mid-August and am still pounding out to this day. (LOL at my initial breezy contemplations that writing a book would just be like writing multiple essays. Not so, friends. Not so. Much, much harder). The dramatic italics were used because, damn, the book has been hard work. Also, in my mind whenever I refer to the book it has to be somewhat dramatic because the fact that I am currently writing a book is still an insane concept to me! Hence, my recent excitement. But I digress.

Some of the most unexpected and incredible things that happened last week were the feedback sessions, where I had the pleasure of reading a couple “sneak peak” chapters aloud to small gatherings of people. It’s hard to describe, but there is something remarkable that happens when an artist finally reveals a snapshot of their work. Yes, maybe it’s sort of remarkable for those listening or viewing the art I suppose, but really it’s something that happens inside the creator of the art. As I read my pages aloud it was like the last 9 months of my life were finally recognized. Realized. Comprehended. Grasped. Appreciated. Applauded. The past 9 months came to light; they were seen. I was seen. It was like the book-baby I’d been pregnant with was finally being passed around, and everyone got a glimpse at what had previously been just a dream.

But isn’t that just everyone’s deepest desire? To be truly seen and truly known? I think somehow it is also our deepest fear. (That’s another post for another time).

The other incredible moment happened between myself and the man I’ve spent countless hours interviewing; the man whose life this entire book is really about. John Rohrer. After just our first morning working together I noticed there was a new ease with which we worked, a new confidence for both of us within our set roles, and a new vision for what the book is beginning to look like. (*Shameless plug: Stay tuned, its gonna be rad). John felt it too, because he stopped what he was doing and looked me directly in the eyes. He said, “Ames, I think we made it over the initial hump!” I smiled and he added, “Yep, we’ve landed on our first plateau.”

And just like that I knew he was right. There are a lot of easy comparisons to make, but the easiest of all is climbing a mountain. If you’ve ever climbed the East Summit of Mount Rundle you know what I’m talking about. Literally the first 20-30 minutes are just this direct uphill scramble. It’s absolutely brutal. Every time I climb it I forget that I’m going to regret the first 30 minutes. Every time I climb it I am humbled by my lack of hiking cardio. I mean for the entire start of this hike your poor little lungs and poor little legs are just screaming for mercy.

That was kind of like the first 7 months of writing this book.

 So why am I babbling about this? Do I just love to talk about me? Yes, duh, but that isn’t it.

As my over stimulated brain and I lay wide awake, I began to think about the stages of creativity. Or rather, the ones I have experienced so far in this process. I’ve had a lot of people express a desire to know “what goes on behind the scenes.” To that I just have to laugh, because honestly I have no idea. (Probably it looks like a lot of me staring off into space, scribbling on notepads, applying DIY face masks, and typing away in really ugly sweatshirts. IT AIN’T GLAM, PEEPS.)

I digress, again. As I thought and overthought what this experience has been to me, immediately my mind jumped to childbirth. Now to clarify, the closest I have ever come to being pregnant is the very real food baby I carry from time to time. So this post will not be a factually accurate analysis on the timeline of carrying a tiny human. (Sorry to disappoint). I’m actually going to make my own comparisons, so here’s hoping the young moms out there don’t crucify me!

PHASE 1 (ish): the dream [ie. the “we’re trying to get pregnant but nobody knows yet” phase]

In this phase you don’t tell too many people yet, only your inner circle. Your excitement is definitely building but nothing is certain. It’s still scary to think it could be real one day. It’s literally just the seed being planted, the start of the dream. For myself, this happened when John called me and asked me to consider ghost writing for him (about one year ago now, woah!) I knew my heart was in it, but I still had a lot to sort out. I was beyond thrilled by the possibility but there was still so much up on the air. My full-time job, my career, my future, etc etc.

PHASE 2: the announcement [ie. cue the sending out of the kinda cute/ kinda creepy sonograms of baby-to-be. Post it on Instagram, blab it on Facebook; it’s time to tell EVERYONE]

IT HAPPENED! The dream is official, the ink is dry, and you have the go-ahead to get people as excited as you are! This phase is honestly just a hoot. There’s no other way to say it! The launch of my blog, sharing my dreams for the future, constantly getting encouraged and congratulated… I mean who doesn’t like that?? Phase 2 is an absolute delight. No one gets your baby announcement and tells you that it really sucks your pregnant. Phase 2 makes you feel like the entire world is in your corner. Phase 2 feels like a big win. It feels like the universe is smiling down upon you. You have a pep in your step and just a splash of “new parent” naivety. This is going to be great.

(Please note: at this stage no uncomfortable pregnancy side effects have set in yet. No hard work has begun. Its just parties and celebrating. Which (in hindsight) is hilarious because none of the work has been done yet).

PHASE 3: the first trimester (ish? Sorry if I botch my metaphor here…like I said, never been pregnant). I’m not fact checking anything here because I have enough to do right now, but lets say this is when that infamous morning sickness comes out to play. This is when that “pregnancy glow” doesn’t feel very glowy anymore. This is when all the people who “liked” your Instagram post, high-fived you outside the office, or hugged you at work have sort of melted into the background. Your life is BUSY. You’re still working, but your exhausted constantly. Because now your attempting to maintain all the semblances of your old life – despite the fact that a new life is forming inside you.

To shift this into the “birthing of a dream” metaphor, all the symptoms feel the same. Personally, I felt super confused in this phase. No one warned me that Phase 2 had an expiration date. I would’ve happily celebrated with people the entire time! But suddenly birthing became lonely. It also became exhausting, just being myself was suddenly draining. That was because no longer was I seeing friends, meeting for dinner, or going to the gym after my mindless 9-5 job. I was doing all of that after entire days spent creating something new. I was attempting to live the exact same way I always have, not realizing that birthing a dream means something deep inside of you is changing and developing. I know it seems a little dramatic to compare my body creating a tiny human to my brain creating a book, but this is how it felt to me.

The creative process is exhausting. It’s lonely. It’s long. I’ve come to realize that really the only time creativity is celebrated is when it becomes visible. That means that for 9 long months (or fill in the blank however long it takes) you work alone. You and your body (or brain, or paintbrush, or laptop), the only real contributors to the beautiful life that will eventually pop out.

PHASE 4: (*From here on out I will not be using any more trimester metaphors, mostly because ya’ll would laugh at my inaccurate knowledge.) Instead I’m going to call this phase “GIVING UP”. I don’t want pregnant moms to start shouting at me – so right off the bat let me be clear. I am not suggesting that at some point you can “quit” being pregnant. I’m talking about giving up control and realizing you cannot do this alone.

 I firmly believe that one point or another my last line in Phase 3 gets revoked. (You know, the line that caused all my feminists to cheer, where I said “you and your body are the only real contributors to life”…etc). At some point you have to realize that what is happening inside you is nothing short of miraculous. At some point you have to realize that you and you alone did not create this baby, just as you were not created solely by your own mother. I feel like Phase 4 could also be called the ‘Laissez Faire’ stage, or ‘hands off-type approach.’ (AKA the one line I remember from grade 10 social studies). Yes, obviously a man was involved in the making of this tiny human. But I think every independent women realizes at one point or another that “it takes a village” is not an exaggeration.

Creativity is much the same. (Obviously, or this would be a terrible metaphor). I think it took me until January to realize this. 5 months of independence. 5 months of slaving away in my lonely Phase 3. 5 months of thinking that being a writer meant I, and I alone worked on my creative baby. 5 months of struggling. Honestly, I hit the “I give up phase” purely because that was just where I was at. I wanted to give up so bad. You can’t birth a creative baby alone.

I didn’t know that. God, I wish I had known.

The moment I started inviting people into my struggle some of my funk lifted. In that moment I realized that my dreams aren’t just mine, they weren’t just manifested by me in all my own creative glory. Dreams are formed from a tiny seed. They begin, I believe, as a outlet or response to the desire in our hearts. Those desires aren’t just mysteriously there; they are intentionally placed inside you and I by a very intentional Creator God.

You may think it sounds like this robs us of the credit of our creative pursuits.  Not so. Does the fact that it takes a man and women to create a baby rob that mother of her ability to birth children? Not in the slightest.

God drops dreams into every persons hearts from the moment they start to breathe. The more you begin to explore and understand that God isn’t restricted to a pained-looked painting hanging on a cross, or a memorized hymn sung once a year on Christmas… the more you see God as an active participant in a relationship and less like a religion, the more of your own dreams you will discover. Trust me.

Two years ago during one of my (many) summers on Maui, a good friend of mine looked me in the eyes and asked me, “What’s your dream?” I was totally taken back. Who asks someone that? I hadn’t heard that question since I was a kid in elementary school (and the answer was pro basketball player or marine biologist…. but most likely both.) I hoped he would forget the question, but alas, no such luck. Eventually we worked together, and with his coaxing and my deepest of deep thinking I finally came up with this.

“I want to be a storyteller. I want to help people who don’t have the means or the ability to tell their stories. I want to help them share it on a global scale.”

It seemed pretty abstract and ridiculous at the time. But wouldn’t you know it… guess what I’m doing with my life right now? (And hopefully forever!) I wouldn’t be doing the book if not for that dream. I wouldn’t have even known I wanted to! I wouldn’t have known that dream was inside of me if not for others.

Walt Disney, the undisputed king of dreaming, put it like this,

“You can design and create, and build the most wonderful place in the world. But it takes people to make the dream a reality.”

Creating a baby isn’t a one-woman show. It’s actually physically impossible. (See?! I know some things about pregnancy!!!) Birthing something creative is also a team effort. The work may be done by you, but everything about the birthing process- from conception to the actual birth takes a village. Initially, it takes a dream. That dream requires a seed, planted and rooted in the depths of your heart. No one knows the depths of your heart like you do, save one. God knew you before you were formed, and He knows you well enough to know which seeds to plant inside your heart.

I know I never finished my metaphorical phases. But to be perfectly honest, I’m only 1/3 through my own book-birthing story. So who am I to be writing about Phases 5-10?? I haven’t experienced them yet. This is where I am at. I recently hit Phase 4 and gave up, realized I couldn’t do this alone, and then let others in. In the process this project became 1000 times more exciting, more real, and more enjoyable than it has ever been before. I literally cannot wait for the day I finally get to push this stinkin’ book out and hold it up for the world to see. But I’ve realized you cannot rush a creative process. No matter how badly I want things to happen in my timing, the reality is that there are important things that need to happen while the book remains hidden (or in the womb, so to speak.) There are lessons I need to learn, there are developments that need to be made, and there are more and more people that need to be invited in.

If you are in the process of creating art I hope this resonated with you at some level. If you never saw yourself as a “creative” but this still resonated with you, I highly recommend you rethink your definition of creative. You may find that you are one. And, if you haven’t had a dream in a long time, or you don’t think dreams are for you… think instead about the deepest longings of your heart. The things that make you thrive, the things that make you tick. Sit yourself down and ask yourself what my friend asked me, “What’s your dream?”

Think about those things, and do you. You’ll find a dream in there somewhere!