I have been wondering about what it means to be a creative and I am starting to think that the sole defining benchmark is whether or not we are willing to say goodbye to our current selves to evolve, reshuffle, and welcome a newer, different version of who we are.
Honestly, I don’t think someone makes or creates without change. Is this a hot take? Do you agree with that? Do I agree with that?
I know someone who may have the answer! Frozen’s Elsa!
If you haven't seen Disney’s Frozen or Frozen II yet, I highly recommend them! Especially Frozen II.
One of the opening songs to Frozen II features our protagonist, Elsa, singing into a crystal night describing how she is noticing a calling and feeling hesitant about trusting it. 'Into the Unknown', her "I want" Disney song, made me feel right at home as a creative and maker. Take a listen or sing along as a refresher.
One day as this tune was stuck in my head I felt a familiarity with Elsa’s emotions, you may also be relating. As makers, we are familiar with a continuous fumbling through inspired momentum to a calling, inspiration, or feeling. We are just like Elsa, we are debating and deciding whether or not to dive into the unknown and it feels both enticing and very unnerving.
“I've had my adventure, I don't need something new
I'm afraid of what I'm risking if I follow you
Into the unknown”
“Where are you going?
Don't leave me alone
How do I follow you
Into the unknown?”
The second we follow the whim of an idea, inspiration, or twitch of a new connection, the unknown is present and if we dare, growth can guide us to a new discovery and understanding.
The unknown is a messy place. It is not for those who crave control. Juan Gris, a Spanish painter, has wisdom that regularly humbles and reminds me that the unknown is an important growing edge of mystery and that if we step into making with a preconceived plan we may be missing the point. His quote “You are lost the instant you know what the result will be.” pushes us to constantly reassess, challenge, and step away from familiarity. To be a creative is to dive into uncertainty, and attempts at control will only get in our way. Control also assumes a relationship of power over everything, we make the decision, and this can be comforting. Creativity is the opposite, it is a shared, working with, power-with dynamic that involves an equal relationship with our medium. We are not in power in the unknown, we are instead a part of the process just like our creations.
Ruth King describes in her book Mindful of Race: "To express oneself in art is to explore and even dissolve the edges of the ordinary; to penetrate resistance and tumble into mystery itself and be carried by it. It feels like a personal journey, but I believe it is the revelation of something deeply needed --- in fact, something that belongs to all of us." (pg. 239)
I appreciate how Ruth King believes that exploration of art is a given human need and skill. We are all creatives in our own way and each of us has an inherit process that is craving a creative outlet and process to help us step outside our normal to shift, change, and evolve.
What I LOVE about this is that no matter the medium we choose to work with there is ALWAYS an additional medium present in our work. There is another material shifting and coming into being and that medium is us. It is our journey that makes a piece come alive, and it isn’t always easy. What we process, feel, question, misunderstand, grapple with, celebrate, challenge, and express as we create is what our pieces hold and what transforms us.
This can be scary and confusing. It can be difficult to trust the excitement and hope of inspiration when it feels so uncertain and requires leaving our comfort zone. We have to be willing to risk our certainty for a completely unknown outcome.
Jon Kabit-Zinn’s quote” Everything is constantly rearranging.” can often be heard in my studio muttered under my breath with a wee bit of sass and attitude. I say it whenever I know J.K.Z is right and I notice that, yet again, I need to adapt or adjust to an unplanned change of circumstance. I have yet to find something that it doesn’t apply to. Going into the unknown is no exception to this and neither are we. I think the idea that things stay the same can give us false hope and false comfort. When in reality everything is constantly rearranging. Our world is rearanging. We are rearranging.
We are the ‘Unknown’ that craves to become known through our work.
Let’s pull in Andrea Gibson’s poem, ‘Becoming’ as it explores how embracing change can serve as a gentle practice of curiosity and inclusion.
“There is so much love
in consistently asking,
“Who are you now?”
There is so much love
in letting our loved ones
be continually new to us.
To love someone isn’t so much to know
them, as it is to know
their never-ending BECOMING.”
We must ask ourselves this question “ Who am I, now?”
The pieces we create are continuously asking us the same question, “Who are you, now?”.
Just think, what will be different because we created, challenged, questioned, and rearranged? Who are we, now?
When we create, we have the opportunity to change. Our making, when led by the ‘Unknown’ within us, becomes the direction and the witness to us shedding a version of ourselves to a new understanding and expression of our current selves.
We must allow ourselves space to try on new, different versions of ourselves, process residue from past learnings, and remain open to the enthusiasm of what could be. Our creative process gives us this space. It is inviting us to the “Unknown”, waiting for us to join in the messy rearranging of life.
We are always invited to go and to change, but do we have the courage to be open to what might be?
With that, before your next creative endeavor, I ask:
Who are you becoming?
What do you have curiosity and enthusiasm for?
What next part of you is waiting to be rearranged, expressed, and understood?
And, what control are you willing to trade as your entrance fee to the unknown?
Finally, my friends, we don’t have to do this alone. We all get to dive into this space.
So, I invite you, will you join me? Let’s go into the unknown together! I look forward to seeing you there!