the unexpected simplicity of creative joy….

When my dear friend Jennifer Louden invited me to participate in a creative joy EXPLOSION, I was getting ready to step out of a fierce writing and triathlon-training streak in order to venture off and visit my in-laws in the flatlands of Indiana. While I looked forward to the adventure and the change of scenery, I also figured that it would pretty challenging to keep my creative fires burning while I was away.

So I brought a camera with me, thinking that might be a wonderful (and handy) creative outlet…  but unfortunately, I was so busy that I only remembered I had it a few times during the entire trip.

I brought a journal and a sketchbook with me with every intention of filling up a page each night before going to bed…  but each night, exhausted, we marveled at this peculiar thing called cable television in our hotel room instead (this is what happens when you don’t have television at home!).

The artsy, soulful me, lay forgotten on my bedside table along with a bottle of water and a tube of Burt’s Bee’s lip balm.  So much for celebrating creative joy!

Or so I thought.

But then there was one night when the folks in the next room rolled in around midnight, and with them was a tired and cranky child who made it perfectly clear that there wouldn’t be a whole lot of sleeping going on.

I lay there staring at the ceiling wondering what to do with myself as chaos ensued next door.  I thought about turning on the light to write, but knew that I’d risk waking up my own kiddos, who would inevitably determine that to be an invitation to see who could stay awake the longest.  So instead I decided to use that time to get CURIOUS about creative joy… in the dark, noisy, middle of the night.

Being an artist, a creativity catalyst, and a women’s tribe builder, the first assumption that naturally moved through my noggin was that creative joy had everything to do with purple markers and splashes of paint and glitter and fancy words put to paper.

But the mere act of choosing to happily stew on this rather than whining and growling and banging on the walls made me realize that I was limiting myself with these assumptions.

Joy in and of itself is a creative act…  a product of both our desires and our imaginations, woven with a hefty dose of self-trust.   It’s a journey of MAKING MEANING out of the ordinary, feasting on the juiciness of existence, stepping into the fullness of each moment that passes us by (even the challenging ones).  It’s a choice.

What tends to get in my way of claiming that choice is that niggly, inner-critic notion that there’s a right and a wrong way to do everything…   that there is some set of rules I must follow in order to experience authentic, sustainable happiness.  And by all means I must do so to a point of impossible perfection.

And yet a huge part of what feeds my creative joy is the practice of LETTING ALL THAT GO.  Breathing through it, moving my body, and simply being with whatever is happening around me, staying grounded in my own sovereignty and WILDNESS rather than a sense of giving in or giving up.

Creative joy for me this week didn’t involve crayons or paintbrushes or carefully placed words.  It didn’t involve meditating or writing in my journal or twisting myself into bizarre yoga poses.

Don’t get me wrong–  all of these things hold a precious place in my life….  and had I been writing about any other week, you would have surely read more about them…

But this week, it involved slowing down and resting, being deeply present with family, walking through a forest hunting for morels, offering Mamaw a bite of fresh spinach, trying to talk Papaw into hoola-hooping, lots of laughter, and making room for unexpected waves of tears.  It involved getting up early and walking on a Holiday Inn treadmill to get the blood flowing, speaking our truths even if it rubbed others the wrong way, sharing awkward silences and smoothie recipes, giggling at ourselves for being sucked into HGTV and Wii games, difficult conversations about aging parents, and restless nights in noisy hotel rooms.

Creative joy isn’t always the slap your knee, beaming-with-smiles, YEE HA kind of delight (although it certainly can be!)…  it’s the sacred, magic flow extracted from the currents that we face day in and day out…  and our own innate choice to be inquisitive and open to it, regardless of the circumstances.

(If you’re wanting to embrace your own creative joy, don’t miss out on a wonderful opportunity to play with Jennifer Louden, Susannah Conway and Marianne Elliott at the Creative Joy Retreat  on June 28th- July 2nd~  a beautiful celebration of writing, yoga, and photography with three of my favorite wild women ever!)


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  1. A few good things: Spreading creative joy | Marianne Elliott
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