When we show up to make art. That phrase of author Mirabai Starr pulled me up quick.

I show up. That’s what I tell myself. I’m dependable when asked to do something. 

Mirabai Starr holds up a different kind of truth below, something a little deeper. Something a little more tender.

It’s the beauty that calls all artists, writers, actors, sculptors, photographers, dancers, and musicians. The fire in our souls. The pain we hold.

Choctawhatchie Bay at late sunset with author's profile silhouetted against the water reflecting the sunlit clouds

I especially appreciate the sense of birthing, of getting out of our own way, of tuning onto something beyond ourselves, of stepping into not knowing. Of loosening control.

“When we show up to make art, we need to first get still enough to hear what wants to be expressed through us, and then we need to step out of the way and let it. We must be willing to abide in a space of not knowing before we can settle into knowing. Such a space is sacred. It is liminal, and it’s numinous. It is frightening and enlivening. It demands no less than everything, and it gives back tenfold.”

Mirabai Starr

Do you know this space? I bet you do. The Mystery of creativity. Have you ever considered your muse to be Mystery Himself, the Lord of all that is?

What a sense of awe we behold when we co-create a little human with God. Why not live in that same awe about our creative work?

I wonder to myself how things might shift if I consider all my writing to be collaborative writing. Instead of bearing all the weight of a new book or blog post or proposal on the shoulders of my own efforts and ideas, how different, dare I say joyful, might be the creative experience if I imagine turning over my work to my Divine Partner and wait for feedback?

When we show up to make art

Non-creatives may not fully understand the courage it takes to show up for art and share it with the world when whatever feedback we get is done. We step back and look at our work and decide that’s our truth at that present moment. As good as we can make it. And give it birth.

For writers like me, giving birth is the moment we push the SUBMIT button. Such a little movement of our finger. Such a huge fear the world will disapprove or dislike it. And by it, I mean us. They will disapprove or dislike us.

The work of a creative is so personal. The submission of it to the public feels like a deep breath of vulnerability.

“There is a vital connection between creativity and mysticism,” continues Mirabai Starr. “To engage with the creative impulse is to agree to take a voyage into the heart of the Mystery. Creativity bypasses the discursive mind and delivers us to the source of our being. When we allow ourselves to be a conduit for creative energy, we experience direct apprehension of that energy. We become a channel for grace. To make art is to make love with the sacred.”

connecting with mystery. Sunlight streaming through a forest.

How does the word mysticism strike you? Do you sense a connection between creativity and mysticism? I’ve been attracted and repelled by the word for years. I think we’re starting to become friends.

Each time the word “mystic” or “mysticism” gives me the heebie-jeebies, I remind myself it means an encounter with God. Lots of us have had those.

Innocuous flicker moments of a voice speaking in our innermost center.

Whispers we’re not sure we should pay attention to.

Fall-on-your-knees experiences.

A light bulb moment.

A brief glimmer of something. We call them many things, these mystical moments. They happen at different times, often when we’ve given ourselves a chance to be still.

Fallow Time is important for creatives.

“Artistic self-expression necessitates periods of quietude in which it appears that nothing is happening. Like a tree in winter whose roots are doing important work deep inside the dark earth, the creative process needs fallow time. We have to incubate inspiration.”

Mirabai Starrn

I love that phrase “incubate inspiration.” I cherish productivity, so I struggle with fallow time even when I know I need it. It feels like skipping class, and I have to give myself permission to take it. Even then, anxiety rises when I’m not “doing” anything productive. Mirabai addresses that next.

“We need empty spaces for musing and preparing, experimenting and reflecting. Society does not value its artists, partly because of the apparent lack of productivity that comes with the creative life. This societal emphasis on goods and services is an artifact of the male drive to erect and protect, to engineer and execute, to produce and control.

Do you have a empty space for musing?

“Art begins with receptivity. Every artist, in a way, is feminine, just as every artist is a mystic. And a political creature. Making art can be a subversive act, an act of resistance against the deadening lure of consumption, an act of unbridled peacemaking disguised as a poem or a song or an abstract rendering of an aspen leaf swirling in a stream.”

Reference: Adapted from Mirabai Starr’s Wild Mercy: Living the Fierce and Tender Wisdom of the Women Mystics (Sounds True: 2019), 159-160.

When we show up to make art, our Divine Collaborator is writing and painting and dancing and sculpting right beside us. All smiles. He loves the creative process, especially when we join Him in it. Especially when we don’t leave Him out of it.

Thank you, artist friend of mine, not only for reading my blog but for creating beautiful work in your own unique way. I salute you.

Additional posts on creativity. Read more here.

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