Seven years ago, I made a bid on an eBay item that would change my life in ways I couldn’t have imagined at the time. The portrait of Eva Braun had been drawn by an artist who never gained acclaim for his work, though his infamous name is branded on humanity’s history forever. Eva Braun chose to die with him 70 years ago this spring.
I’d been writing for most of my life but had no awareness of the surprising turn that day was launching for my work. That portrait is at the heart of everything that’s become a part of my novel’s story ever since. Among the many things I didn’t yet know was that the experience of this book would show me that, rather than being something I “do”, writing process is something that acts upon me, strengthening a sense of connection with my own wholeness, and with that of others. My role — my responsibility — is to listen and watch for its revelations, rather than impose ideas or plans of my own on what comes forth as a story — or on anything else.
Along the way, I’ve been thankful to discover that this is also a kinder and generally more effective approach to living, and it brings with it an unmistakable cycle of three distinct stages. Writer Penney Peirce offers a helpful model of them in her book, The Intuitive Way. She describes how, moving from a centered place of being, where we can receive what comes to meet us there, we are inspired toward doing, and this takes shape in action that eventually leads to a condition of achieving or having.
We may then begin to notice a tailing off, energetically, which is the reminder that it’s time to do what our very cells know they must: rest, recharge, and be restored again to a state of being that’s ready and inspired for the next cycle of expression and activity. Ready to receive, and then express. Cells do not restore themselves after they expend their energy, but are restored by something beyond themselves. Cells seem to know innately the wisdom of returning to their fullest being through the “re-sourcing” of what truly sustains them.
So often today, the world and the insistence of its demands can make it very easy to get caught in just one segment of this cycle – stuck on a repeating, depleting loop of constantly attempting to do and to have. I hear of so many creative souls collapsing in a kind of disheartened burnout, and I think a misunderstanding of this cycle may be at the heart of that. If we follow the cycle all the way through, we will naturally realize when it is time for replenishment so that we can again be ready to express, expend, and be effective, with joy.
Creative process is as much a matter of balance — of finding a stable stance — as any other meaningful experience. It arises both from within us and without, and requires the fullest kind of trusting attention (i.e. presence), which, in a way, is a repeated act of surrender. And of faith. I know that, for many people, hurling themselves at creative process can follow patterns similar to the ways in which they might hurl themselves at life by trying to force or control things. But life, and creative process, are each waiting for us to meet them, I believe, just as our feelings await this, so that they can help us know and understand what it is we need, and what might come next.
This is not the rational mind’s style, of course. But I’ve come to feel that the mind serves best when it’s not trying to lead, or force, but to follow, as we pursue the things we feel drawn and called to do. When we honor that reality, the things that sustain and help us arrive in ways that will also unfailingly surprise us, because they are beyond anything that our minds, which are confined only to previous experience, could imagine or predict.
When we open up to meeting the greater possibilities of what we don’t yet know, our minds will be repeatedly astonished by what is disarmingly precise, unfathomably generous, and remarkably right.