Posts Tagged ‘inspiration’
There are few times that I get down about living in a small town in North Carolina, but this weekend is one of them. I have been excited about the film debut of Precious for weeks. I thought I was going to see the film and do a bit of film analysis on the blog, since I have read and taught PUSH by Sapphire (the powerful novel that that film is based on), for years. But, alas it is not opening anywhere in the Raleigh/Durham area until Nov 20! So I can’t write about the film. I can, however, share a bit about how Sapphire’s coming into her own as a writer at 40, along with other writers and activists, who started their journeys later in life, have been an inspiration to me.
Two weekends ago, I was watching MILK, the incredible story of the gay activist Harvey Milk. Early in the film, he picks up a man who will become his long term lover. At this time Harvey Milk is a closeted gay man. Right after the clock strikes on his 40th birthday, he says to his lover plaintively, “I’ve haven’t done a single thing I’m proud of.” (I’m paraphrasing). With his lover’s urging, they move to San Francisco, reinvent themselves and within a year, he is on the path that will eventually shape the modern gay rights movement.
When I have students read PUSH, I ask them to also read an interview with her conducted by Patricia Bell Scott in Flat-Footed Truths: Telling Black Women’s Lives. Here is an excerpt from that interview:
“Although I had been writing for some time, I was almost forty before I claimed my identity as a writer. In 1990, when I did my last major performance, a fifty minute choreopoem, ‘Are You Ready to Rock,’ my business manager, a wonderful young African American woman, said to me, “If I’m going to promote you as a writer, where’s the writing? Where’s the book?” I was trying to do the performance work, trying to write, and none of it was making a living. I was exhausted. Dead tired. And I couldn’t go on.
I went through an intense midlife-turning forty crisis. I felt that I had not really done much with my life, when I compared myself to mentors like Ntozake [Shange], who had five or six books. Then I looked at some of the reasons I hadn’t tried. A lack of confidence-a belief that maybe I couldn’t do it or that I wasn’t good or smart enough. I also realized that I had never committed myself to any one thing. I had always tried to dance, act and write at the same time.
With this awareness, I decided to totally commit myself to becoming a writer. I said “I will put together a collection of writings for publication,” and that became American Dreams. I said, “I will go to school and get an MFA degree”; and I did.”
Witnessing Harvey Milk’s decision to begin over again at 40 and Sapphire’s commitment to writing at 40 makes me grateful about manifesting my creative work at this stage in my life (41). It’s only been recently that I’ve come to appreciate that the path to your heart’s desire is rarely straight and narrow, or, progress easily demarcated strictly by one’s age.
I’ve always been somewhat enchanted with child stars and people who seem to achieve big things early in their careers. And, it’s true that as an academic, I’ve had solid and early professional success, so I can’t complain on that front. I’ve, however, been creatively writing all my life, but it is has only been in the last ten years that I’ve made more space for that identity to flourish. I used to be more convinced that something needed to happen at a particular age: 20, 25, and 38. I’m now less worried about age being a gauge of inner or outer success. I do think that by midlife, people are usually getting intuitive prompts, urgings and guidance about new directions, if they have been blocked. This often leads to new commitments to pursue buried or unrealized dreams.
I am also cheered by examples of writers including Amy Tan and Toni Morrison that didn’t start their writing careers until their late thirties or early 40s. PUSH is a remarkable novel and I think the skill and focus it took to craft it might not had happened if Sapphire had not lived a full and complex life (sex worker, writer, incest survivor, performance artist, teacher), and faced her internal demons and doubts squarely in the face as a mature woman. Her life and other ‘over thirty’ creative bloomers are useful reminders of the arc of human potential.
I hope that you will read PUSH and see the film. So, if you’re lucky enough to live in a place where it is opening this weekend, go see it. Seeing the film sends a message to Hollywood that the viewing public is interested in being challenged and hearing new stories.
I’ve included a link to Sapphire being interviewed on NPR:
Sapphire’s Story: How ‘Push’ Became ‘Precious’
All things considered: NOV 6 – 2009
This is the time of year that most of us start worrying about the flu and taking safeguards to build up our immunity. Our immune system is very important as it works to protect our bodies from germs and ideally, helps the body keep a balanced inner ‘terrain’. I’d like to propose that this is also a great time of year to consider your creativity as a practice that supports your health.
We can often feel the physical effects of being creative immediately in our bodies. They usually include an upbeat outlook, feeling intense curiosity, better energy and greater control over our moods. We know that our brains reward creative activity by producing more dopamine and serotonin, important hormones. And, that is great brain juice! We also know when most people create that they are in the ‘alpha’ brain wave state which is a relaxed state that lowers blood pressure and produces more endorphins. Neuroscientists like Nancy Andreasen (The Creating Brain) also point to ‘brain plasticity’ (neural adaptations and new neural pathways) that creative thinking encourages.
Stories from doctors about their clients as well as others in the healing professions have provided good anecdotal evidence about creativity and health. There is also growing clinical research on the interrelationship between creativity and health. Research has shown that people who are creatively challenged at work keep themselves healthier. And studies are being conducted across the country to look at the effects of creativity on stress, resistance to illness and as a strong boost to immune function.
So, here are some tips for building your immunity through creativity this fall:
—Spread your fertilizer. First, recognize that on a metaphorical level, it hurts not to create. Clarissa Pinkola Estes has said, in her work, that we can think of creativity as a type of rich excrement in us. And, that we need to use it, or get it out of our bodies, daily. And if we don’t use it, you know what happens? It backs up in us and makes us feel…well, you know, like we have a lot of unused fertilizer lying around inside of us. When you haven’t been creating very much, don’t you feel sort of backed up? Don’t you feel sluggish when you’re not consistently writing, drumming, acting, singing, dancing, etc? And, then when you create something, anything, doesn’t your body feel better, almost immediately? Ask yourself for the next couple of weeks: Am I letting my precious fertilizer back up? If so, what can I do in the next ten minutes that will stimulate my creativity?
–Make more great brain juice: Our brains invite creativity when we are able to slip into a quieter and relaxed state of mind. Getting relaxed is different for everyone. An hour in the garden may produce lovely relaxing results for someone. Another person might love to create a collage, or plan a dinner party for sixteen people. If taking a long luxurious bath helps to really relax you, then by all means make sure you do it. It doesn’t matter—identify what really relaxes you and commit to doing it for at least ten minutes a day. Regard those precious ten minutes as the down payment on the long term outcome of a stronger immune system.
–Practice ‘walk-by creativity’. A dear friend of mine used to grow and arrange flowers. I would visit her at her office and often did not expect to see the most artfully arranged group of wild flowers sitting in a vase on a table in the lobby outside her office. There was no good reason that they were there except she wanted other people to enjoy their beauty. This is an example of what I like to call ‘walk-by creativity’. You’re just walking by and you notice something another human being has created and you enjoy the moment. What about creating a walk-by-creative moment for someone else? Is there something that you can make, or do, so that when someone walks by your desk, patio, lobby, window, etc., it catches their breath, eyes and intrigues? I encourage you to delight someone with your creative expression.
–Be an inspiration detective for one month. Many people tell me that they wait to be creative for when they feel inspired. But when I ask them: What inspires you? They often don’t know because they have been waiting for so long that the creative impulse has ebbed far away. Waiting for inspiration often means that we treat our creativity like this rare crinoline dress we get to wear only on special occasions. Sometimes many other things get attached to this ‘waiting for inspiration’ moment. I’ve found that it usually means I’m waiting for the perfect magical moment when there won’t be “too much to do”, I’ll be the perfect size, and I’ll have learned how to stop judging myself. The problem is that if we wait too long to start being creative then our anxieties, guilt, and unused fertilizer builds. Then, in the middle of the night we desperately race to the closet, snatch the dress off the silk hanger and stuff ourselves into it. This is usually not a pleasant experience. So, why don’t you, for the next month, actively notice what you’re inspired by and allow that to lead to your own relationship with the creative process? If you’ve forgotten what inspires you to be creative: Keep finishing the questions:
What inspires me? Where are some new places that I can look for inspiration?
Treat the inspiration to create as a great mystery.
–Laugh yourself into better immunity-Research has popped up all over the place supporting the connection between laughter and health. Deep belly laughter gives the heart and diaphragm a great work out, relaxes the muscles, and stimulates the immune system. Several years ago, I went to a ‘laugh –a-yoga’ session and discovered that as adults we often don’t laugh deeply, and/or for no reason. Babies and very young children are always laughing deeply and for no reason. The best thing is there is no wrong way to do a deep belly laugh. What a relief! And, as Diane Ealy, expert on women’s creative cycles, says “Ha-Ha=Aha” (The Woman’s Book of Creativity). When you’re laughing you’re more likely to feel creative. Laughing allows us to shift our perspective and the ability to see new ideas and approaches. And, that is what creativity is all about.