One of my favorite things about writing, which is also (funny enough) what makes it terrifying, is that I never know what I am going to create when I sit down to write. Even when I have a theme or plot in mind, I am always surprised by how it appears on the page.
Writer Elizabeth Gilbert (author of Eat, Pray, Love) reflects on this same idea in her 2009 TED talk, “Your Elusive Creative Genius.” In the 20-minute talk, Gilbert encourages writers and artists to be vessels for creativity, instead of feeling pressured to be geniuses. She encourages artists to think of their creativity as being channeled from a divine source. Allowing yourself to be a vessel, Gilbert explains, takes the pressure off of you to be “a genius,” and frees you to surrender to whatever the muses provide.
I know the experience of allowing myself to be a vessel from my own writing practice. It’s funny — pretty much every time I’ve tried to plan a poetry collection (for example, a collection based on my travels to Poland, or my love for country music), I was lucky to get a few poems out (if any at all), and they mostly felt forced and contrived.
I will say, though, that choosing a theme for inspiration can spark a creativity in you that you may not have seen otherwise. This is another way to see the creative muses at work and be the vessel. Every time we’ve picked a writing theme in my writers’ groups, we’ve all brought very different pieces back to share. It’s amazing how two writers can take the same theme, and produce such different pieces with it.
There is a difference between using a theme as inspiration, and trying to force an cohesive idea on a body of work. Every time I’ve tried to force an idea on my work, it has felt strained and it lacked that same vibrancy that it has when I just open myself up to be a vessel. Having a theme as inspiration allows me to see what the muses do with it, instead of feeling pressured to create something brilliant from it.
What does your creative process look like?
How do you see divine mystery in your own work?
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