When is the last time you had butterflies? During a particularly engaging date last week, or every morning when you wake up next to your beloved? Maybe that feeling is a distant memory, with a love long ago ended, or when your now deeply intimate relationship was brand new. Most of us creative types, as we dance in the world of emotion and human experience, cherish that uncertain, exciting feeling of that brand new potential love, the many possible visions stretching out before us into the horizon. A crush can take us by absolute surprise, and sticks us in the solar plexus. The hot iron turns and warms us, and whole hours become meditations on reverie. We daydream, we glow, and there is a special magic-hour quality to the light at all hours of the day.
Now what is your relationship to inspiration in your creative life? Does it hit you like a hard brick on the side of the head? Does it feel like a homework assignment, or like the weight of the world upon your shoulders, the magnitude of the thing almost overwhelming? Does it make you manic with drive, unable to put down the pen, or set down the camera, wanting to beat the thing into its perfect form? What if your relationship with a project felt like a love affair, one you nurtured carefully, allowing those butterflies to flutter inside you, warming you, kindling a deep and blazing fire?
Too often inspiration can be burdensome. Oh, all the work it will take to turn this beautiful vision into an actual thing with form, and all the additional work it will take to get eyes on it. And oh, maybe it will be for naught. Maybe no one else will get this thing that spoke to me so deeply. And yes, it’s going to take more work than you ever imagined at the outset. You would have turned back had you known. Maybe you would have studied economics like aunt Betty said, had you known. But guess what, love can be like that too, and still we dive (or wade if we’re smart) into the pool, because love warms us, love gives us a reason to celebrate this incredibly precious experience of being alive.
So I challenge you, and myself, to treat every new creative endeavor like a love affair. When the gentle breeze of inspiration strikes, take a moment to acknowledge the butterflies, give that muse a smile, and allow yourself the surprise of this new story that’s fallen into your heart. Acknowledge that it is a gift, and then begin to nurture it. Set dates with it. Soak in your idea like a bubble bath. Spend hours imagining its potential, all the ways it could go, all the ways the thing could pour from heart to page to screen. Imagine the people you could bring on board. It isn’t a chore; it’s watching the butterflies dance. It’s allowing the hot iron to stick you, to move and stir you. It’s asking yourself to dive deep and then still deeper in love with your inspiration. It’s taking the time to create intimacy, rather than rushing into an instant commitment.
Remind yourself that your ideas and your inspirations are worthy of LOVE in all caps, that your relationship with your creativity is your most important relationship as an artist. Don’t burden it with false expectations, don’t beat it up. Cherish and nurture your process, dance with it, and fall in love, again and again with it. Your creative gifts deserve to be nurtured. Your process deserves its own Valentine, its own love letter. For if we can love our creations as much as we can love those human relationships we most cherish, than what we create will be compelling. It will be vibrant. Utilize this amazing ability to love and nurture, utilize it in the work that you do. Embrace that incredible feminine quality to love, and make the creative process joyful for yourself. That is an incredible gift to give yourself and the art you create from that place of devotion will be a true gift to the world.
Photo credit: still photo from the short film “Similitude”