Last week in my Dimensions of Creativity class, we were asked “What is your creative process?” The following is my response.
There is an exercise in Pilates called the “Seal Pose,” where you begin by sitting on the tips of your sit bones as demonstrated in the picture below:
[Photo credit: Marguerite Ogle as featured on About.com – Pilates]
As you engage your core muscles, you literally tilt your pelvis under ever so slightly and your whole body rolls back — like a big musclely beach ball, and the momentum of the movement and your abdominals propel you right back up to sitting. It is easily one of the most fun exercises in Pilates, reinvigorating your playful (and creative!) side. Sometimes, simply sitting in the prep position is good enough for me. Inner congratulatory dialogue going something like this:
Hooray! Look how strong I am that I can sit in this position and my tailbone isn’t screaming in agony! Hooray! Look at how my abs are engaged so they can support me, and I look so beautiful doing it, I could be on the cover of a fitness magazine! Hooray! Does everyone see how awesome I look? I can just stay like this and not have to do a damn thing more!
However, having done this exercise many times, I am acquainted with the joy it brings just by finally LETTING GO and entrusting all that potential energy to tip me past the brink, giving myself the freedom to get caught up in the merriness of the movement.
As illustrated in Rollo May’s The Courage to Create, in chapter two under “The Creative Process” section, he refers to a gentleman coping with escapist creativity. Escapist creativity “is that which lacks encounter” (May, 1975, p. 41). The young man knows he has the talent to be a great writer, but simply attaining that point of recognition after he’s done all the brainstorming, all the prep work, and even the full book outline in his head— stopping there is good enough for him. He simply resigns without writing a word, because just seeing the finish line is pleasure enough (May, 1975, pp. 41-44). I share in both his pleasure and his agony in that truncation. I, too, allow myself to get stuck just short of following through with many a project merely because having my potential recognized (either by myself or by others) is sufficient enough for me.
Growing up, my father always referred to me as the “Golden Girl” of the family. I’m the first born, and I’m also named after his mother. He recognized my creative talents at an early age. Most times just expressing a budding creative idea was thrilling enough for him, and he would shower me in praises and encouragement. Going through with the idea, of course, would earn me more recognition and even more praise. He, after all, was grooming me into the “better life” he wished he had. So, having received accolade no matter if I’m teetering or if I propel myself past the brink — this in-between space is where I really struggle in my creative process.
Just called my dad. He, true to form, praised me on my latest submission.
My creative abs are so weak.
Let’s take this blog post, which is a result of a writing prompt posted last week in my Dimensions of Creativity class. Our professor posed the question, “What is your creative process?” and I instantly knew I could write something brilliant in response. So, I readied myself up into the psychological prep position for “Seal Pose” and sat on my mental sit bones ever since. It is only right now, this moment, that I finally found my inner creative strength, engaged my intellectual core, and rocked myself into this assignment.
And what joy there is in being caught up in the flow of writing right now! I can’t be distracted. I don’t even want to look at Facebook or check my email or my text messages or my Instagram account or get a snack, because I’m in it. I’m rolling like a happy seal, content that I’ve finally done the assignment. This, my friends, is what May calls the encounter or the creative act or the “absorption, being caught up in, wholly involved […]. By whatever name one calls it, genuine creativity is characterized by an intensity of awareness, a heightened consciousness […]. We become oblivious to things around us [including] time” (May, 1975, p. 44).
The creative act itself is so delicious and so life-affirming, I can’t understand why so many of us often choose to just settle in preparation. Maybe it’s fear of falling, of failing, of looking stupid, of getting hurt, of not being able to get back up again, of not being as strong as we think we are, of simply believing this is as far as I can go, this is all I am capable of.
To you, and to me, I say: just let go already.
And the more we engage our creative core, the teetering will ease, the balance will come, and the joy will be infinite.
May, R. (1975). The Creative Process. The Courage to Create (pp. 41-44). New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.
Ogle, M. (2006). Seal Prep. and Core Challenge. [Photograph]. Retrieved from: http://pilates.about.com/od/pilatesmat/ss/Seal.htm