Happy Monday, Friends! Here are five dynamite quotes about creativity and play that I hope will inspire you as a brand new week begins. Print them out, use them as the background on your phone or computer, or bookmark them for when you need a quick boost of motivation. Wishing you a wonderful week full of curiosity and creativity!
Ok, admit it: we all lie. Especially to ourselves. And there's one particular lie, a real whopper, the one I like to call the Biggest Lie of All, that I believe is responsible for us agreeing to stay small and dwarf our dreams. The Biggest Lie of All is used by all of us at one point or another, and it make for a convenient way to explain away why we cannot possibly audition, write, paint, cook, publish, perform, or make something in our present lives. It's like artistic, emotional, and spiritual chewing gum, sticking to everything in its path, getting more and more tangled as time goes on. I have told myself this lie for years, and if you're like me, maybe you have, too.
But first, let me back up. Or rather start at the end.
I wrote a book. It's not polished and it's not published, but it's a real live book. My book, one part love letter to creativity and one part practical exercises and experiments to help you build the creative, playful, sustainable life that you dream of. On Wednesday of this week, I printed out the book draft in its entirety for the first time before a meeting with an editor. I watched the pages flow out of the industrial size printer at Kinkos and I grinned like a fool. Clutching the 233 printed pages as I walked to my day job, my heart was full; I am convinced that Louisa May Alcott couldn't have felt prouder of Little Women when she held the draft for the first time.
I never thought this would be possible. The Biggest Lie of All said it wasn't possible.
Though I dreamed of being an author as a kid of six or seven, it took me until I was 30 years old to seriously start a book that I would also finish. I always told myself I needed to have more time to write a book, that I couldn't do it with a day job. In the fall of 2013, after going to an Elizabeth Gilbert book talk event in Portland, Maine, I was fired up. I felt something new sparked from meeting an author and human being I had long admired and at the time, was working in a job that was very unhealthy for my mental well being. Once again, my dream of writing a book flared up, but this time, it was accompanied by a vision of writing a book that would become wildly popular and allow me to leave my job, to leave day jobs forever. In my mind, if I got to write a book about said day job, a memoir of sorts, somewhere between David Sedaris and Elizabeth Gilbert herself, it seemed possible that I just might get to quit my day job and achieve my dream of spending my days making art instead. Auditions, performances, writing, and play; these were the lovely things I would fill my day job-less days with. Would writing this long dreamed of book really help me to free up my time and clear my schedule for making art anytime I want?
"If you had unlimited time in your day, then you could be creative," the little voice in my mind told me.
WHAM. There's the Big Lie. The one we cling to, blindly strive for, and sacrifice precious energy to, day after day. The BIGGEST one that gets in our way.
"If I didn't have to (fill in the blank with any activity you'd gladly wipe off your schedule), then I'd (fill in the blank with any activity you are dreaming of doing)."
Anyone else use these lines on themselves?
To our credit, it seems logical to want a life that allows us more space to create. After all, if our days are packed to the gills with appointments, meetings, and the like, where's the time to do the things that make our souls soar? In my mind, I couldn't start settling into a big creative life right where I was, in the present moment. No. I had to do something drastic, something that bought me a brand new life--in the future--that would allow me to secure day after day of unscheduled time to create. Only after having all the time in the world could I do things that I dreamed of doing.
What did I dream of doing? I wanted to audition more, spend more time performing, and writing my own work. Going back to my plan, the promise (or mirage) of writing a bestseller seemed my own route to get the time I needed to pursue these things. However, when I took the time to reflect on this plan dictated to me by Biggest Lie of All, it started to crack. The Biggest Lie of All started to show.
Why was I investing so much time and energy in hustling and hatching plans to buy myself more time during the day instead of spending that time and energy acting or writing?
Why did I have to defer my dreams?
Why wouldn't I just start to go to more auditions NOW?
Why couldn't I start writing another one woman show to perform NOW?
Why was I continually turning down opportunities and closing myself off to chances to be creative NOW because I would tell myself that these needed to be done only when I had all the time in the world?
As scary as it was to confront the truth--that I was putting off my own dreams because I was convinced I didn't have the time--it was even scarier to think about continuing to live by the Biggest Lie of All.
The Biggest Lie of All tells me that I cannot be creative with a day job or doctors visits or any assortment of obligations blocking my path. This is where I start talking back. "Alright then. If what you are saying is true, then how is it that I have always had these things and at the same time, have managed to write a book, three plays, blog, act, teach, get my Master's degree, and co-lead two theatre companies? Huh? Care to share?"
This is where the Biggest Lie of All doesn't know what to say. The illusion is shattered and I start to see that there are no cosmic contingencies on acting and writing, only the ones I make up in my mind.
Let's stop lying to ourselves and get clear about our creativity: we don't need to quit our jobs to make something. We don't need a wide open schedule to get planning the next project. We don't need to move to that other city or state or country to be creative. What we do need is the ability to recognize and seize all the moments in our days that we so easily cast off as "not enough time".
Those five minutes waiting in the line at the grocery store? That's enough time to memorize a line or two of a monologue.
Ten minutes that you are waiting for the train? That's plenty to dream up dialogue for the novel you are planning.
Half an hour waiting at the doctor's office? Bring your journal and get brainstorming.
Let's give up the ghost of a squeaky clean schedule that has all the time in the world for creativity. Instead, I dare us to press on in the present moment, stealing moments and minutes until they turned into hours and days and weeks and months and in time, years. Soon, you won't have to steal moments any longer; eventually you will be gifting them to yourself. And then? You have a lifetime of moments of making things that matter to you. And you will have proven it's possible, and proven it to yourself, who is the one that really counts anyway. What could be better than that?
My name is Melissa and I'm an actor, writer, and teaching artist who never really left my playful seven year old self behind. I'm also passionate about sustainable creativity - we must take care of ourselves in a holistic way if we want to keep thriving as an artist. What does being creative mean to you? How do you play every day? This is a space for taking a break, a breath, and finding ways to flex our imagination and find the joy where we can. No one is going to present us with a ready made creative life--we have to step up and gift it to ourselves. I'm so glad you're here.
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Copyright © 2020 by Melissa Bergstrom