Originally published February 19, 2013, at Creative Dream Journals.
1. Falling in love with a creative project. I fall in love with all my creative projects. I’m not one of these people who looks at my work and never thinks it’s good enough. That’s not because I think my work is so great—it’s because I don’t have an evaluative relationship to my own work. To me, creating anything—a book, a painting, a song—is like having a child. When people have children, they don’t look at them and think, “Is this baby good enough? How well does she match my idea of a perfect child?” At least, I hope they don’t. I think people just love their children because they’re theirs, and because babies are good. Falling in love with a creative project is like that—you’re infatuated with this idea because it’s just so cool, or delighted by this painting because it used to be a blank canvas and now it’s got your colors on it, and you love it because creative projects are just good in and of themselves.
2. Loving support. Books’ acknowledgments sections are filled with gratitude for “the one who always believed in me” and “the ones who supported me in down times and celebrated my triumphs.” Some of your greatest supporters might not care about your project at all if it weren’t yours. But in an extension of number 1, they care about your project because they care about you.
3. Supportive love. Some people don’t love you—don’t even know you—but love your project. They really want to see a book about that or a novel that tells this kind of story or a song whose harmonies carry them to their own soul. These people are your audience, but they’re also your early supporters. They will do what they can to forward your project, to help it along, to help it reach other interested people. They’ll recommend it to others, they’ll tell you they can’t wait to read it, and they’ll tell you what it means to them.
4. Miracle people. People who are both 2 and 3—people who love both you and the work that you’re creating—these people are miracles. A true adviser who cares about you and believes in the work you’re creating; a best friend who’s fascinated by the things you’re writing about; a lover who can’t believe how beautiful your music is.
5. Love as a creative project. When we think of creativity, we often think of the arts. More and more people are also approaching careers as creative projects, and life in general as a creative project. Loving relationships, too, are an act of creativity—an ongoing creative project for both people or everyone involved. That’s the trick about relationships, too. I can sit down and say, “Today, I will write a blog post or begin a painting or take some photographs.” But I can’t sit down and say “Today I will create a loving relationship.” Relationships are cooperative creativity, collaborative creativity, maybe more like making a movie or a play. You have to find someone who wants to create the relationship with you, and you have to want to create it with them.
6. Creative projects as a form of love. Any creation is a gift from you to the world. The book I’ve written, the blog posts I write, the book I’m planning—I start them for me, because I’m driven to, but in the end, they’re always wanting to help people—wanting to share what I’ve found with people who might wonder about the same kinds of things that I wonder about. The song that you write because it’s yours, because it came to you, and that you then hone because you want to hear out loud what you hear in your head—that song brings me life. Your artwork that you make to enrich your days fills my days with beauty.
7. Creative loving. As our loved ones change and go through life, we find new ways of loving them. Sometimes, we might love by listening; other times, by giving practical help. We love by playing, engaging, paying attention, teaching, learning, giving and asking for advice, explaining, offering and asking for help, thinking of fun things to do, sympathizing, touching, smiling, reassuring, challenging, keeping company, leaving alone, asking questions, sharing our worlds, and remaining silent. The creativity comes in learning new ways to love, in figuring out what loved ones want and need, and in discovering your own ways of responding.
8. Self-love. To be your best creative self, you have to respect your own nature and treat yourself with love. What do you need? What do you want? Down time, fun, beauty, adventure, softness, healthy food, unhealthy food, exercise, solitude, companionship, sunshine—whatever it is, give yourself that. And sometimes, creating itself is an act of self-love: I’m looking for a book about this topic, but I can’t find it—I’ll write it myself. I have a song in my head; by bringing it into the world, I feel like myself. I have a poem inside me; by writing it, I heal.
9. Falling in love sparks creativity; creativity makes you fall in love. I fell in love with the way light played on the water, so I painted it. I loved the texture of her skin, so I drew it. And—in drawing you, writing about him, photographing that flower, I saw your beauty and complexity, and his, and the flower’s—I fell in love with what I was looking at. And in seeing that beauty, I saw more beauty everywhere, and I fell in love with life.