Thursday, September 6, 2007

Creative Work is Not a Luxury

Since I closed Studio Pardes about four years ago, my last foray into a public presence, I have accepted that writing is my primary work in the world and I have accepted that everything else, no matter how worthy, must arrange itself around that center for me to function well.
Today there is a mixture of cooler air beginning to infiltrate the muggy heaviness of Oak Park in August, the promise of sweaters just hinting. I have been writing every morning for three hours for about a year now, so I am able to keep some commitments, even if I can’t get myself to blog every week. That little bit of cool air started me thinking about my relationship to my creative work and the balance with other work in the world that we all try to do, whether its volunteering at a homeless shelter, picking up trash on a daily walk, or calling our congress people on a regular basis and participating in the democracy. It can sometimes seem like creative work is somehow an indulgence and work done directly in service to others or the world more ‘serious’ or important.
Lisa Longworth, a fellow artist and writer and I have been sharing our reflections on the balance of work as ‘engaged artists’ (to borrow from the engaged Buddhists). Neither of us is content to be alone in our studios and feel no connection to the world but our efforts to be ‘activist artists’ have been less than satisfying. (I’ll speak for myself, if you want to learn more about what Lisa is thinking, visit her terrific website and blog.)
Here’s my thought of the day on the subject: without a strong anchor in my own creative work, the energy that belongs there, which is really powerful stuff, the white light-straight-from-the-Source, gets stuffed into whatever the vehicle at hand is, a committee meeting at my temple, a volunteer bake sale, or even a casual lunch with a friend.
At times when I have not been plugged into the creative work I am called to in a daily, disciplined way, the energy can also ‘leak’ into life in general and causes intensity, emotional drama, and unnecessary conflicts and struggles with those around me.
The problem with creative energy is that it requires transformation in order to be shared successfully and a little goes a long way. Creative work, in whatever form we are called to it, is not a luxury but is the basis of life. It constitutes my relationship with the Source and if that relationship is not in order, we tend to seek substitutes in people, substances, and things.
This may seem like a pretty basic insight from someone with, oh, I don’t know, about thirty-five years of experience and education in art therapy, but there you go.


Anonymous said...

I just read your most recent paragraph and substituted the word "Spirit" for each reference to "creative work" you used. You often write about your struggles as an "artist," and while I consider myself a very creative person (work, relationships, music, etc.) I don't primarily identify myself as an "artist", engaged or otherwise. For those of us who don't claim that identity as a profession or a calling, what does "creative work" really mean?

I thought of my sense of being linked to the Creative Source, the way you consistently describe it, and I get a sense of feeling connected to Spirit, to aligning with my soul's work, which can take a lot of forms (relationships, preparing a workshop design, carving pots, writing music, etc.) If I think of being linked to Spirit and being open to the flow of Spirit being revealed, no matter what I'm doing, I feel I have a closer understanding of what you're describing.

M.G. Maloney said...

well said. awesome title: "Creativity is Not a Luxury" feels like a battle-cry.

M.G. Maloney said...

well said: "Creative Work is Not a Luxury" sounds like a battle-cry; or in suburbia, a bumper-sticker.

M.G. Maloney said...

well said. "Creative Work is Not a Luxury" sounds like a battle-cry; or in suburbia, a bumper-sticker.

Pat B Allen said...

Creative Source and Spirit are the same thing as far as I'm concerned. But, while I agree that connection to Source/Spirit can take lots of forms and at our best it permeates all we do, there is a different relationship that I feel to the presence of Source in my writing and artwork. In those realms I am receiving a direct transmission of a kind of powerful energy that the art making transforms into something that can be shared with others. Without the art as a form of transformation the energy can actually be dangerous.

Anonymous said...

How would the word "Essential Luxury" work for us to use? Creative work is "essential" for those of us are called to it... and we have the "luxury" of time and focus due to the gifts of our ancestors, our culture, financial freedom, education, etc.

In my own journey, being true to myself both as an individual and a whole living world, has continued to be my growing edge of development. That creative tension is always present, as an enormous living river of fire, as Pat referred to as "white light-straight-from-the-source". For me the fire both creates new forms and destroys old one all at once.

Love the words "engaged artists" and "activist artists" Pat...

How else can we be as artist of life, but passionately involved in this evolving glorious life that we have the privilege to participate in.

O.K. Now is this "privilege" a luxury or essential?

Beauty stills the mind. Be out of your mind with Beauty...and the world will get active and be engaged...or you will-out of the wiggly undulation of energy that cannot be contained.

Yeah Team!

Anonymous said...

I believe this is the problem in our society. There should be no question here. The creative arts enages a person in processes that integrate all aspects of the self. Creativity awakens feelings of self worth and nurtures us. We then cycle toward being in sevice to others.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Pat for this writing. Just the title alone "Creative Work is Not a Luxury" is something I long to hear. Reading this title actually relaxes me. I crave more time for the creative and it feels good to see that there are others who feel it is essential to create.


elizaBeth Benson said...

this is a fantastic piece of white light brilliance--and so clarifying for me. when i am not connected to source through creative expression, i show up as the overwhelming firehose of energy that bowls over and alienates and causes conflict--so that i can have something to obsess about. i love this insight--it is healing and helpful and worthy of your 35 years of learning things about knowing things.