I’ve been reading Liz Gilbert’s Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear.
I like it. Just over half-way through, I find it inspirational, insightful, and encouraging. She writes in short anecdotes that make you want to keep reading, except that at the end of each one I feel the need to put the book down and create.
Which is exactly what I did this afternoon. I read these words–
Perhaps creativity’s greatest mercy is this: By completely absorbing our attention for a short and magical spell, it can relieve us temporarily from the dreadful burden of being who we are. Best of all, at the end of your creative adventure, you have a souvenir—something that you made, something to remind you forever of your brief but transformative encounter with inspiration (172).
–and decided I needed to be absorbed, to adventure, and to hold something that I made.
I pulled out my watercolors and paper, a ruler, pencil, and markers. I sketched a circle and erased it. I reconsidered. I tried again, this time with no circle.
I recalled a delightful summer morning painting with my kids. We splattered watercolor paint in bright streaks and splashes across paper, sheet after sheet. We laughed and giggled and lost ourselves in the joy. Later I cut the paper into little squares, then cut petals, and then poked holes into which I wound chenille stems. We made a bouquet of flowers for my grandma, their great-grandma, flowers that would eventually fade, yes, but would not wilt with age. She loved them, and I found them in her apartment years later, after she herself had wilted.
But this time I couldn’t get the paint to cooperate. No big swaths of vivid color, but instead tiny dots. I told Fear and Frustration to get lost, and I kept at it. I prayed. I felt eager to play, to recapture the joy of that memory. Joy played Hide-and-Seek, and I kept playing.
When the paint dried I added the letters, and then I held my souvenir. It is not what I had envisioned. It is not what I set out to create. It is, in truth, a little bit of a hot mess.
And I love it. Who cares what it looks like, really? I made it. It’s an expression of me, The Whole Point! I can be bright, wide ribbons of color, and I can be subtle pin-prick polka dots. I can be precise and smeared. I can be a beautiful hot mess.