Digging back into the archives of papers, (ok, computer files) from the past couple of decades, I ran across a piece I had written in 2007. I was surprised at how little had changed in the way I view my life.
What have you written in those antique journals and how do the words translate to your present world?
Creating requires us to make choices. Even the act of not choosing is a choice in itself. If I make no decision, then the decision is by default, and the result of that decision is also by default.
I realize that I do not want my work, my art, my creative statement to be the default. Therefore I had to go into an almost meditative place to define what my process is about. I feel that it is getting in touch with my inner self. If I can go back to the beginning of this paper as an example, I stated that as a child I used art as a safe place. A place where I could go to be in touch with something that is in the core of me. I am driven by that need to create. Whenever I begin to work either on a painting, an illustration or a piece of creative writing, I essentially have a small out of body experience. In the best of times, when I am making art of any kind, I almost have no thought as to how it is being achieved. When a painting or illustration is really working for me, it is effortless. It is in that place some call ‘the zone’ where something is coming through me and taking form. When I stand back from a work that is created this way, I often find it difficult to recognize the brush strokes it took to make it something concrete. When it is a piece of writing, it flows from me with a certain flair that makes me marvel at the words I have chosen or the phrases I have spun together.
This is the creative process as it manifests in my life in its purest form. But there is something else that accounts for those moments of pure creative genius. And that, I find more and more, is practice. When I paint every day or write every day, the chances of those brilliant words and pictures coming from me are more likely to occur than when I leave it to chance.
Before I had any training, and when I was just doing the art because I had to do the art, I bought into that belief system that artists had to wait for ‘inspiration’ to be able to create. And so I waited. And waited, and waited, and noticed that other people who weren’t waiting were actually getting things done and I was still hoping for that inspiration to drop from the sky and give me the impetus to move ahead and do something masterful. It is much like the statement about the two groups of students – the one group had to create the perfect pot by trying to make as many as they could and the other group had to try to do it by just creating one….but one perfect pot. It truly is practice that makes perfect.
Nowadays, when I think about creating I, try to do something about it. Not just think about doing it. I have art journals all over the house, in the car, in the bathroom, next to the bed. Everywhere I carry some little book that I can either scribble in or write a few lines in. If I don’t do this I lose those moments of inspiration that come when I am in the midst of shopping at Safeway or watching the news. Creating has become a fulltime job now. It is what I have been trying to make happen in my life for the past fifty years.
Take up one idea. Make that one idea your life — think of it, dream of it, live on that idea. Let the brain, muscles, nerves, every part of your body be full of that idea, and just leave every other idea alone. This is the way to success.
Well, Swami Vivekananda had something there. I am sure most of us have at one time or another longed for a goal so consuming, something we were so passionate about, that nothing and no one could stop us from going after it. Whether it be a new house, a career, a relationship, or even getting a dog. But for those of us who have Multiple Sclerosis what we were given, we didn’t ask for at all. And for many of us, MS has become that idea that we dream of, think of and plan for. This doesn’t mean MS is negative, instead it can be a springboard to a new and different kind of future.
When you feel that life has dealt you an injustice by allowing you to live for decades with Multiple Sclerosis, know that you are not alone. But when you feel like there is nothing left to do after the diagnosis is to give up and let the disease take over, then you have an unhealthy idea. One that is antiquated and based on false facts.
We do not need to give up. We need to find that idea, and do exactly what Vivikananda said. For me, part of the big dream, the big idea, the big picture, is to help people with this condition live better, bigger, healthier lives. MS is not only the physical disease but the mental challenge as well. Sure we can roll over and die. I know a few people who have chosen that route. Or, we can start living even better than before.
It is your choice. Your idea. Your life.
If I were you I wouldn’t waste a lifetime complaining about MS when instead you could spend the same amount of time on your big idea, which will make you happier, healthier and easier to be around.
Make your ideas count. Other people do. MS is not a valid excuse. MS is not a reason to close your eyes to the possibilities that lie before you. It is an opportunity to create new ideas.