This seems like such a simple thing. Yet it is quite profound. Giving ourselves permission.
I give myself permission to play, to experiment, to listen . . . to my characters, to myself. I give myself permission to see what happens next.
Some days I just give myself permission to do nothing at all, at least nothing that seems or feels productive in the sense of creating new poems or chapters, or work for my day job. Ironically, however, those are some of the most productive days as they give us back essential parts of ourselves–energy, equanimity, strength, hope.
My good friend Terry and I experienced a week full of bliss recently during West of the Moon from the beautiful birth of his grandson to heartfelt moments of joy shared with our retreaters to a number of moments when those retreaters gave themselves permission . . . to play . . . to just be who they are . . . to create without preconceptions . . . without judgment . . . but mostly to listen (to their souls, their hearts, the deep down parts of themselves).
After WOTM 2016 was over, I gave myself permission as well. The first two days I had my journal and my camera with me, but I gave myself permission to not write and to not take photographs—two of my favorite things to do anywhere, but especially in New Harmony.
I gave myself permission to explore. To rest. To enjoy some wine and music, and the company and conversation of people I know and of complete strangers.
I spent the next week giving myself permission each day to simply listen. I had coffee each morning, grabbed my journal and my camera, but with no pressure to write or to snap off new photos. I had those tools just in case . . .
As a result, I started 36 new poems (mostly crap, sure, but that’s the point).
Now that I’m home, I spent two hours yesterday throwing two of those raw clay poems onto the wheel of my computer and shaping them. And they’re quite promising.
While I was in New Harmony, though, I didn’t say, I need to write this many poems today or I need to write all day long or I need to get some photos tonight. I simply listened. Sunday, Monday and Wednesday, I started my day in the coffee shop and the words just came once I gave myself permission to play, to be open to anything, even to the stuff that didn’t seem relative to my story.
The other mornings, I was called to begin my day by exploring with my camera. By the end of those days, I also found myself at the page.
At least four of those new raw poems didn’t seem to have any place in my book–I mean when flying monkeys from The Wizard of Oz popped into my head, my normal reaction would be to think that has nothing to do with a football player, yet I allowed myself to play and soon found something I probably would have never thought of if I hadn’t given myself permission to explore anything.
It goes back to that Ray Bradbury quote: “Don’t think. Thinking is the enemy of creativity. It’s self-conscious, and anything self-conscious is lousy. You can’t try to do things. You simply must do things.”
It all comes from giving ourselves permission . . . to listen . . . to spend some time pursuing something that doesn’t even exist except inside us somewhere. Something we may not even have words to describe when asked, that we may be unable to explain in any other way than through our doing it–for that is our ultimate act of self-expression.
As members of society, we have responsibilities, some very valid, others less so. We learn over time to focus on the tangible, on the actions that bring a knowable reward, like income. We can’t ignore the necessity to provide for ourselves, or for our loved ones, but there’s a different kind of provision that is also necessary. The act of listening to ourselves. Of hearing that small voice inside that says, honor me, too. Give me some of your time, your attention. Because I am you.
Of course, to do so, often means pursuing something that is unknowable, that is not tangible, at least not to start. It is an act of faith based on sensations, feelings, ideas . . . done on speculation. It may be pursued with the goal of being shared, perhaps even of being sold, of becoming a means by which we might provide. But the intention behind it is, most of the time, something much deeper.
Something much more inherently connected to who we are at our core.
My two weeks in New Harmony are always more rewarding that I hope. In part because of the genuine connections I make with the the rest of our WOTM family, and also in part because of the ideal setting for uninterrupted time and space for creating, for the chance to slow down and immerse myself into my writing and into my photography. To explore the vibrations of the world around me that are resonating with me. But mostly, my time away is rewarding because I always find ways to give myself permission . . .
If you are only able to give yourself one gift the second half of this year, give yourself permission . . . to listen to yourself . . . to pursue (fill in the blank with what you hear) . . .
I’d write more, but my poems are calling to me. The beautiful sunshiny day is calling to me. My friends are calling to me. The rest of today is going to be a day of words and images, of laughter and play, of seeing what comes next. Days don’t get much fuller than those.