Creativity is an Essential Nutrient
The point of a journaling or writing practice is not to sound smart or create something of great significance even though that might be one of the byproducts.
Words are the building blocks of sentences, sentences the building blocks of paragraphs, and paragraphs the building blocks of pages.
Each building block reveals who we are and what we’re capable of. People often talk about “finding your voice” as a writer. But that assumes that you’ve lost your voice. We don’t have to find our voice as writers, we have to connect with it by brick by brick or in the words of Anne Lamott bird by bird.
As we sit before the page, there’s no telling where our words will take us. In the uncertainty of creative life detours, dead ends ,and false horizons are all necessary steps in reaching our desired destinations. We have to travel without a predetermined itinerary, collecting experiences, adventures stories, and emotions all of which serve as stamps in the passport of a creative life. Some of those stamps will be the scars from our wounds, from people who broke our hearts. Others will be memories and moments with the people who touched our hearts.
We need a tapestry of experiences, the wide range of human emotion that comes with living what my friend Pam Slim calls a full color full contact life. Without them there would be nothing to write, no story to tell.
A few days ago my friend Jessica asked me after reading my book “do you really do all of these things every day. Unless sex or surfing are an option, or I’m mildly hungover, yes I do this every day. It’s the part of the day I look forward to the most.
The practice gives us an opportunity to plant seeds, put messages in bottles and ideas in the oven to bake. We might not see the results of our efforts a year from now or 5 years from now. But as my friend Michael Bungay Stanier once said to me “creativity is a moment when your past suddenly makes sense.”
In 2012, I had a journal entry in which I was outlining an idea for a book with surfing as a metaphor for life and business. In 2015 I was driving up the Pacific Coast High Way for a friend’s wedding in Santa Barbara when my co-collaborator Robin called me and said “what about surfing as the organizing metaphor for this book.” That became Unmistakable: Why Only is Better Than Best
I’ve always said that if you read through my journals (assuming you could actually read my handwriting), you’d be horrified that somebody was crazy enough to pay me to write books. But the practice requires us to surrender the page, to approach it with humility, to suck, to write shitty first sentences, shitty first drafts, and God awful essays, and spastic ramblings that would cause someone to question our sanity.
But if we keep at it, the work will begin to reveal itself.
With each word we peels back layers, remove masks, shed labels, and let go of ego driven bullshit versions of ourselves until we start to find the kind of emotional resonance that in the words of my friend Ashley Ambirge“hits people in the face with a crowbar.” Not what we want to experience in a prison yard, but absolutely the goal we with our words.
As we persist with the practice, what once was an item on a to do list an an obligation transforms into a habit and privilege. Cheryl Strayed once said that “love is our essential nutrient. Without it life has little meaning. It’s the best thing we have to give and the most valuable thing we have to receive. It’s worth of the hullabaloo.” The same goes for our creativity.
There’s a profound shift in consciousness that starts to take place when we can focus our attention on a single task for an extended period of time. Cloudiness transforms into clarity, madness into meaning, and spastic ramblings into eloquence. You begin to operate with a level of efficiency and accuracy that begins to make you feel superhuman.
The best surf sessions are the ones in which you stop counting waves. The best writing sessions are the ones in which you stop counting words.
This fuels our greatest accomplishments, while paradoxically releasing our attachments to external rewards. The work itself becomes the reward. Flow is not just an amplifier of ambition that keeps us coming back from more, but a determining factor in detaching from outcomes. It forces a level of presence on us that makes it impossible to worry about the future or dwell on the past. It becomes our essential nutrient. It allows to create for An Audience of One.