Writing from the Deeper Self

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Writing from the Deeper Self

Creativity Isn't Just About Having Good Ideas

Creating is what happens when you pay attention to who lives inside you.

By Naomi Rose | Updated November 19, 2018

Creativity often seems to be viewed as the ability to come up with a lot of out-of-the-box ideas ~ a brainstorm of ingenuity, a mental agility. And while it can include this, of course, creativity is so much more than this. It is, at its essence, a soul-thing. And since this is so, everyone has the capacity to open to and cultivate it, if they are called to.

But like many realities of our deep nature, this can be invisible to people about themselves, and it also can be invisible to a larger culture ~ such as our own. And the effects and side-effects of this neglect can be far-reaching, even if we are not consciously aware of it.

For example: When I was an art student in high school (a high school for students of music and art), we had a substitute teacher come in one day. An imposing man in a fading tweed jacket with a quick wit and a quicker tendency to dismiss, he stood at the blackboard with a piece of chalk in his hand.

"How would you suggest chalk, in a painting?" he demanded.

The class was soon atwitter with raised and waving hands.

"White paint, scumbled over to look rough," called out one boy.

"Acrylic paint with sand mixed in!"

"Black crayon on white paper, scraped off to let the white show through!"

The substitute teacher nodded his head, as if to acknowledge all those creative tries. Then, for some reason, he looked straight at me. "What about you?" he asked.

"Me?" My mind was a total blank. If there had been any ideas in there, they were quickly routed out by my fear of the teacher's booming voice. I froze and tried my best to disappear. But as I was in plain sight, that didn't seem to be working.

"Yes," he drawled. "How would you suggest the look of chalk?"

I took a breath, hoping for inspiration. When none came, I offered, "How about using ~ chalk?" It wasn't a creative answer, but it made total sense to me.

But he shook his head back and forth, back and forth. "And you call yourself an artist!" he said witheringly, and turned to someone else.

Well, no, I didn't ~ not after that, not for some time. Thanks to that experience and others I encountered along the way, I came to believe that creativity had to do with coming up with ideas, with unexpected ways to do things ~ the less obvious, the better. And though over the years I became able to train myself to think more in that way, it always seemed a superimposition ~ an effort that taxed my counter-efforts to simply be at home with myself.

I thought of this old story about the chalk because finally, almost 50 years later, I think I have more of a sense of what real creativity may be. It's not what I was told it was, not what I was made to feel inadequate about. It's not about being able to brainstorm 100 ways to fix a drain/bake a pie/change a lightbulb/mix your own paints, though creativity certainly may come into all that.

If we are the outcome of a creative universe in which we participate, in which we live and move and have our being, then surely we are heir to something within ourselves, which we can reach for, that goes beyond merely intellectual pyrotechnics.

To be creative is to listen inside. To be able to be inwardly directed, and follow what opens up, even if we don't know (a) that it will work, (b) where it will take us, or (c) whether we will even recognize ourselves as familiar, in the process. To be creative is to be an instrument for something that is both of us and beyond us-the whole that is greater than the sum of the parts, appearing in the part that is given to us.

Having good ideas is the surface level of creativity. Living with the creative attunement is the deeper reason, challenge, and joy.

There is such a difference between creating from the ego, and creating from the deeper Self. The ego may know a lot and have its cleverness; but often there is an insecurity underlying even the most impressive of accomplishments. In my own book-writing, and in working with my clients, it becomes so clear that the closer you get to your true heart, the more vulnerable you feel.

Whether you can be present to that vulnerability without wanting to disguise it, hide it from others or yourself, or just close it down speaks to how hollowed out your instrument is becoming. Empty of self-images, we can receive the truth, beauty, healing, and surprises that can move through us from a deeper Source. When we are able and willing to lay down our need to know exactly what we are doing, and approach this open door with an open heart, something essential rises up from within us to meet it. That something essential moves us, speaks through us, loves us into expression. We become the reeds that can carry the music played by the Beloved. Which may be our deepest longing, after all.

How can we move into this true creativity, without feeling like we are being examined, graded, tested for how well we are doing? What is this creative field that we are part of, which asks us from inside (no demanding teachers at the front of the room) to make room for something that seeks to tell itself to us?

I have heard some people confess, "I'm just not creative." But this isn't possible. This error must have to do with some sense of being graded, or with the thought that you have to come up with 1000 great ideas. Anyone can learn to slow down and listen inside, if they wish to: listen for what calls them, what draws them to it, and what their own true internal response may be.

I often find myself recalling a saying of Jesus: "If you bring forth what is with in you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you." Learning how to listen it forth, evoke it from your heart, and be present in frequent wonder to its unfoldment has proven to me ~ as a book developer and as a writer, both ~ that when you bring forth what is in you, what is in you does indeed "save" you, and opens you to the magnificence of what lies inside.

As a writer, I used to think that what I needed to do was have everything basically worked out ahead of time, and then sit down and carry out that template. When I couldn't do that, I concluded that despite my growing up in a family of writers and going to a high school for artists, I had no innate artistic talent and should just give it up.

And I guess that would have worked, except for some yearning inside me that I could not box up and bury underground, forever ~ a yearning to make something meaningful and beautiful out of what I knew and even what I didn't yet know ~ to find something that "had my name on it," which would allow me to recognize my true nature.

The process now called "Writing from the Deeper Self" did not evolve from writing techniques, but from my healing journey. Indeed, most of the doors into writing that have meant something to me and my clients initially came from nonverbal domains: breath awareness; inner sound; inner imagery; what makes itself known through movement and body wisdom; the soul's arc throughout a life, dipping in and out of visibility. At a time in my life when I felt most despairing over my seeming inability to create ~ a "writing block" that lasted eight years, long ago ~ no writing techniques were able to touch the aliveness hiding under the despair. But there were healing ways (present in many religions and cultures because they are universal), which brought what was in me closer to the surface.

Then I could write about what was in me ~ or use it to fuel writing about what was also outside me ~ because it was right there, intimately close. When your breath, for example, is a vehicle for bringing you close to what your soul has to tell you, you can trust it to create the you-that-creates. When your heart's pulse is a vehicle for telling you what wants to be brought forth, you can trust its presence to guide you, simply by listening to it. You never have to go out of yourself to come up with a list of clever proofs of creating. Creating is what happens when you pay attention to who lives inside.

The skills accompanying creating of course are consequential. If you want to play the piano, it does help to know the names and sounds of the keys, and to develop a sense of chords and intervals, and the emotional qualities that go with certain modes. But skills can always be developed, at any age, if the desire is there. Over the years, I have taught myself to read music ~ once seemingly impossible, and now such a comfort that I can't imagine how I lived without it. Being able to read music allows me to become, literally, an instrument for playing Bach, or Mozart, or old-favorite songwriters like Judy Collins, James Taylor. It enables me to write songs of my own ~ musical interludes that feel inspired in the moment ~ and write them down in case I turn out to still love them later on. I would never underplay the role of skill and technique in any art.

Yet desire, I believe, precedes everything. And if you use your own inner being as the source of finding that desire ~ and see how it shows itself to you (does it speak in paragraphs? In stories? In small, intimate details, the dappled shade on the ground from a tree overhead in the sun? In some not-yet-heard inner music that feels only like unformed desire, desire seeking some form for its expression?) ~ what is in you will ultimately lead you home.

To be creative is to be alive, is to be in touch with the subtle dimensions of your own being. The devotional path asks us to become clear, emptiable instruments ~ so that the empty space within the clarinet can carry the blown-in sound, so that the hollows of the cello can contain and let the rich bowed-sound out. To be a creative human being is both an extraordinary opportunity/gift, and the most natural thing in the world: to be the one seeking to express, and also the unformed presence seeking to be expressed ~ creator and created, in one.

Many years ago, I used to think that writing a book was a task, a challenge, an impossibility, a shallow victory at best. I think, now, that writing a book from the deeper Self is a way to know yourself as creator and creation; a process of listening so intimate and true that you rewrite your life and being, as the book gets written. Whatever creative modality you are drawn to ~ visual art, music, writing, and so on ~ creating asks of us that we meet ourselves without disguises; and gives to us that we meet ourselves in much deeper beauty, resonance, and glory than we ever could have hoped for.

Maybe using chalk to represent chalk has its place, too. The point is, we can love our creativity into being. We don't have to scare it into being. All the seeds are already there. Just add water.

©2011 Naomi Rose. All rights reserved.

Next: In Praise of the Feminine in Creating