a work of art, in progress

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Out roaming the local trails, I came upon the bit of graffiti pictured above. I couldn’t help but appreciate the intent, despite the misspelling: “Live your life like a peice [sic] of art.”

Still, it somehow missed the mark, and it was bothering me.

I realized that the graffitist’s use of the expression “piece of art” suggested to me something complete and static, something to stand back and gaze at. It evoked a painting on a wall, or perhaps a sculpture resting, unmovable, on a pedestal. Everything over and done with, you know. The expression does not reflect on the journey.

The phrase “work of art,” however, draws to mind various stages of completion or even incompletion. It suggests a process. It hints at the messiness and energy of art and other creativity. It implies the endeavor itself.

As I walked along, I realized there was an even better phrase to apply: “work of art, in progress.” Here, we have all the possibilities in the world available to us. This work of art could turn out to be anything – depending on our intent and our dedication to the effort.

I can be satisfied with that:

“Live your life like a work of art, in progress.”

I think that describes things pretty well, actually. It honors our aspirations and inspirations, creativity, the necessary problem-solving, the nitty-gritty work, muscle, tools, education, intention, insecurity, and hope. It implies deliberation, intention.

I do think, however, that plenty of folks actually do live their lives rather according to the initial maxim’s unintended advice: “Live your life like a piece of art.” I think plenty of people attempt to live in a way that looks right, perhaps, more than it feels right. I think most of us do it at least for some portion of our lives, and others for all of their lives.

I prefer to carry on in the studio, if you will, where there is paint spilled on the floor, and dirty brushes, and perhaps some swearing. It is, at least, my hope.

Despite my nitpicking, kudos to the graffitist who had the guts to put this thing out there. I’m ashamed to say I wouldn’t do it. I love someone brave enough to break the rules to make us think, purposefully. So a misspelling, who cares?

“Live your life like a work of art, in progress.”

overcoming creative resistance

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I have a difficult relationship with creativity.

Creativity seems to be absolutely essential to my wellbeing, to making me all of me. I feel an almost constant and fierce desire for creative efforts.

And yet, I confront my own incredible resistance to it. The resistance wins, more often than not.

Sometimes, I think of the problem as a matter of being able to allow creativity. That, say, conditions must be just right for my creativity to emerge and flourish.

I think that maybe I need daylight hours in which to do my creative work. Or I need a particular environment that is somehow unavailable to me. Or I don’t have the right materials. Or I’m not skilled enough. Or the planets are not in alignment. Or the Muse is absent. Or. Or. Or.

Kind of sounds like excuses, eh?

And then I think that it’s not really a matter of engineering conditions to allow creativity. The problem is really a matter of eliciting creativity – calling it forth.

This involves setting the intention to do my creative work, committing to it, and forcing myself to carry through despite conditions.

I managed to prove to myself that this is possible. And fruitful.

Still, such commitment takes both courage and self-compassion.

I am not whole if I am not creative. If my creativity is suppressed, part of me is missing – a pretty important part.

I have looked long and painfully at the reasons my creative soul hides. I have learned a few things.

The world is a pretty scary place for that corner of my soul.

She is not at all convinced of her own absolute legitimacy and worthiness. She has no assurance whatever that she is loved and wanted and safe. And she just knows it’s totally not okay to get messy.

It is a matter of compassionately taking her hand and showing her it’s okay to come out. Indeed, showing her that the world is not whole without her.

It gets better with practice.

Intention, commitment, action.