When people describe the “whys” of their creative life, I tend to hear “E” words.
“I need to express myself.”
“I like to teach (i.e. educate) people.”
“I want to entertain people.”
“I hope to enlighten others.”
“I enjoy writing/painting/performing/etc.”
I’ve come to believe that these are not the root reason we write, paint, sing, strum, drum, photograph, design, sculpt, cook or do anything “creative”.
Sure, we enjoy the process and product of our chosen art. But I don’t think that’s why we really do creative work.
I believe at the root of our creative impulse is a need to connect. With ourselves. With others. With God. With our world. And with a host of other things.
This seemingly inherent need to connect manifests itself in our desire to express, entertain, educate, enlighten, etc.
Which means our creative life is relational at its root.
And if connection is at the root of why we create, then it seems the highest calling of a creative life is to tend to the needs of ourselves and others.
The creative life deepens and cleanses our everyday life.
However, without a root, without an anchor, without a focus, our ability to tend to each other’s needs can be scattered and shallow.
A mantra can focus your creative efforts.
And a ministry can fuel them.
A mantra is a frequently repeated word or phrase that helps you focus.
A ministry is a specific way you tend to the needs of another living being.
I know I’ve taken some liberties with these definitions, but this is what each means at its core.
Do you have a mantra? A focusing agent for your creative work?
And have you ever thought of your creative life as a ministry?
My mantra is to, “See the familiar in unfamiliar ways.”
I got lucky and discovered this as a Literature major in college. But it’s taken me nearly two decades to figure out how to apply it.
As I write poetry, essays or even blog posts, I am constantly repeating this mantra in my head. As I find myself writing things that are obvious, predictable or have been said before, I delete them and begin again.
As I’ve cultivated the ability to see the familiar in unfamiliar ways, I have developed a unique ability to help creative people overcome block, burnout and loneliness. It's my ministry.
I want my writing to be a sanctuary for you. A place of respite. And a space of reawakening.
Consider finding a mantra that focuses your creative work.
And consider offering your creative work as a ministry to others.
You can tend to their physical needs. Emotional needs. Intellectual needs. Spiritual needs. Relationship needs. Financial needs. Environmental needs. Or spatial needs.
And your work can be educational, entertaining, enlightening, expressive or all these mixed together.
Whatever you do, keep connecting.
I know it can be lonely, thankless and frustrating.
And I know it can feel as if you are floating aimlessly at times.
But it’s called the creative life, because it requires you to create it as you go.
And, as with all creative endeavors, it takes a few drafts before you get it right.
Keitharsis focuses on creativity, roots and the portfolio life. It is written for writers, artists and other creatives. New essays are published each Tuesday & Thursday. A creative exercise is published each Wednesday. Click here to receive all new posts via email.