Last week I shared a bit about how I’m fighting with creative block. It has been pretty exhausting for several weeks, and then it hit me: I was trying to control and hold onto everything so tightly. I want my work to flow from a natural place of rest, rather than control and striving. I was never a tortured-artist-type who could create from a place of angst. My work comes from a place of peace, a place of spiritual depth, a place of wonder and reflection.
Yet it felt like I was strangling my work to death with control. No wonder I couldn’t create.
The awareness of these things has come slowly. I feel like I’m re-learning how to ‘just be’ and let the work come to me. For a time I feel like I’ve been trying to chase after inspiration instead of immersing myself in curiosity, exploration and well, rest.
So last weekend that’s exactly what I did.
On Saturday my husband and I set the whole day aside to go on a date. It was crazy hot out - like 95 degrees with a heat index over 100. Super humid. So yeah, really great day to be outside. However, we decided to stick with our original plans of visiting Kennett Square, PA. This part of Pennsylvania is very passionate about their mushrooms, being known as the Mushroom Capital of the world, and were appropriately holding their annual Mushroom Festival. Kennett Square is also home to Longwood Gardens which is a treat, no matter what season. We figured we couldn’t go wrong with food and flowers, even if it was a balmy 100 degrees.
Instead of allowing myself to be miserable and cranky from the heat, I had an absolutely awesome day. It felt like the whole day was a gift - just what I needed to refill my well (even when sweat was rolling down my back and I was searching desperately for the nearest water fountain.) As I reflect on it, I think there are four things that helped me to let go and ‘just be’…
Choosing to enjoy the moment - Yes, it was hot. I mean HOT. But we came prepared with ice water, sunblock and even extra deoderant! :) We weren’t going to let the heat spoil a day of exploration, so we chose to make the best of the day. And bonus: the heat kept the crowds away and that meant we could walk slowly, pause when we wanted and I could snap away on my camera without bothering anyone else.
Embracing spontaneity - You may not struggle with this, but I’m totally a planner! It’s easy for me to map out exactly what I’m going to be working on during the day down to 15-minute increments. But Saturday was a day for relaxing so we left home with a couple loose ideas of what might be interesting and just let things roll. It was great. I loved not feeling like I had to control the experience. The Mushroom Festival was much bigger and more entertaining than we expected with lots of great food and artisanal goods. We left saying, “We have to do this again next year!”
Losing the hustle - Saturday was a day of slowness. Slow walking, slow exploration, slow eating. This sort of pace is exactly the thing that refuels and inspires me to create. If I’d gone into the day with an agenda of how I could “get inspired” I would no doubt have felt pressure and stress instead of being able to just be present in a beautiful place with the person I love most in the world.
Recognizing the gift - When our bellies were full from an amazing farm-to-table dinner and we’d headed back home, we had such a deep appreciation for the unexpected joys of the day. Saying thank you—to each other, to God—made the gift that much more precious, and one we won’t soon forget. Receiving creative inspiration is much the same way. It’s a gift—something we can’t control or manufacture—something we can only receive and be grateful for.
Learning to ‘just be’ and find my creative groove is still a process. Some days I will undoubtedly struggle for control. But I’m realizing that the practice of letting go and embracing rest will move me much farther than striving ever will.