Restlessness is a fundamental ingredient of the creative process.
Embrace it in order to understand your full artistic potential.
In 1989, actor Robin Williams starred in The Dead Poet’s Society. As you may recall, this film centered on a small group of high school students who were suffocating under society’s conventional definition of success for them. As their English teacher, Williams uncompromisingly promoted poetry, literature, and the theater to inspire their artistic independence and creative self-expression. His repetitive incantation of the Latin phrase, “Carpe Diem” (Seize the Day), added magnitude and urgency to their journey.
As these young people discovered the joys and freedoms of the written word, they began to break the mold at their elite boarding school: they hoisted themselves on desks, marched in quirky hallway parades, and met in clandestine caves to celebrate creativity. Simply put, the movie encouraged voracious, restless souls (like mine) to undertake an imperative and uninhibited odyssey of self-exploration. Needless to say, that message resonated deeply with me. It still does.
Who is running your life?
This movie taught me to honor my intuition—which is a wonderful platitude but hard to achieve. Much like the students in Dead Poet’s Society, we are inundated at very early ages with external expectations for our lives. The world, our families, and our peers shape our realities from the beginning: sit at your desk and be quiet; go to college and get a job; pay your bills; become a spouse; buy a house in the suburbs; have perfect kids; take care of your aging parents. Oh, and don’t forget to eat organic foods, sleep ten hours every night, drink zillions of glasses of water every day, wear the highest fashions, and smile while doing it all.
Please. That life is completely exhausting. Why? Because somebody else made that list for you. Yes, we have to grow up and become responsible adults. But that journey does not have to be mutually exclusive of our aspirations, our natural predilections, and, most notably, our authentic voices.
Your inner disquiet is a pest.
Where does your imagination go when you allow it to take flight? What is your genuine story? Answering these questions honestly—and acting on those answers—requires gumption.
To get meaningful answers, you will likely have to get quiet (see our earlier blog for tips!) and go deep several times. What you will find when you enter these magical depths of introspection may surprise you, scare you, delight you, or (most likely) inspire all of those reactions. An immediate and very natural response, of course, is to cling to that tried-and-true list that somebody else made for your life.
The good news, however, is that you are hardwired with an inner voice that will guide you through all the disruption that self-discovery creates. But if you deprive it of attention long enough, that inner voice will get continuously louder and even more unruly until you are forced to pay attention to it.
Listening to and honoring my inner voice (a lifelong process, by the way) has led me to choices that would have been unimaginable if I had followed somebody else’s list for my life. My inner voice has guided me to quit a legal career so I could advise (and, ultimately, befriend) two governors on major issues of the day; to divorce a wonderfully gentle, successful man who had no idea how to speak to my soul; and to leave a lucrative, upwardly mobile corporate job because it was crushing me. All of those decisions were hard and uncomfortable. But my inner disquiet kept rising up, forcing me to ask myself difficult questions, and required me to own the direction of my life.
“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.”
~ E. E. Cummings
While it will likely create some havoc, that inner disquiet is actually a huge ally in your creative process and in your life. It is sending you a warning signal that your current path and your current choices are impeding the full expression of your authentic voice. It is telling you that you have a story that needs to be told, a path that needs to be explored, and a journey that needs to be commenced.
Don’t resist your inner disquiet.
Listen to it. Surrender to it. And enjoy the journey.
CHANTA G. COMBS
Chanta is the newest member of the AROUND THE WRITER’S TABLE team and is a regular contributor to our blog. Chanta’s professional experience has been in law, policy, politics and corporate America. However, she finally surrendered to her lifelong passions of reading, writing, and researching, and is following them to new frontiers in her life. As part of that journey, Chanta is currently enrolled in the Graduate Certificate in Editing & Publishing Program at Florida State University. Her goal is to absorb all she can about the editing and publishing industries while also finding new dimensions to her authentic voice. Chanta is a mom in love with her eight-year-old son, two dogs, and two cats and she calls Tallahassee, Florida home.
This creativity tip is inspired by The 97 Best Creativity Tips Ever! by Dr. Eric Maisel (2011), and is used with his permission.
Gina Edwards is a retreat leader, a certified creativity coach, and a book editor. She is also a writer, so she’s intimately familiar with the challenges and elation that come with being one.
She supports all writers—published and aspiring—who want to write as an act of courageous and necessary self-expression.
Walking the writer’s path hand-in-hand with her clients and students, she helps them establish a writing practice and define a creative life on their own terms.