What if living a creative life did not necessitate a tortured anguished existence but rather was simply following curiosity into an abundance of ideas and energy swirling about you? What if those ideas were looking for someone, you, perhaps, to give them shape and form, to bring them into being? What if creativity meant elevating curiosity above fear?
“What if”–two of the most powerful words there are.
In her book, Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert offers a glimpse into such a world with the remarkable story of one poet, Ruth Stone, catching her poem by the tail and pulling it forcefully into existence:
[Ruth Stone] told me that when she was a child growing up on a farm in rural Virginia, she would be out working in the fields when she would sometimes hear a poem coming toward her -– hear it rushing across the landscape at her, like a galloping horse. Whenever this happened, she knew exactly what she had to do next: she would “run like hell” toward the house, trying to stay ahead of the poem, hoping to get to a piece of paper and a pencil fast enough to catch it. That way, when the poem reached her and passed through her, she would be able to grab it and take dictation, letting the words pour forth onto the page. Sometimes, however, she was too slow, and she couldn’t get to the paper and pencil in time. At those instances, she could feel the poem rushing right through her body and out the other side. It would be in her for a moment, seeking a response, and then it would be gone before she could grasp it –- galloping away across the earth, as she said, “searching for another poet.” But sometimes (and this is the wildest part) she would nearly miss the poem, but not quite. She would just barely catch it, she explained, “by the tail.” Like grabbing a tiger. Then she would almost physically pull the poem back into her with one hand, even as she was taking dictation with the other. In these instances, the poem would appear on the page from the last word to the first -– backward, but otherwise intact.
Even if we are not sensitive enough to hear poems galloping toward us, we may have experienced a moment of feeling like we were a part of something far bigger and more mysterious than ourselves. Of being in the flow where our sense of time stopped and we were caught up in the bliss of creating. Maybe while writing, drawing, dancing, gardening, cooking, running, skating or whatever it was that made time stop. We each step into this creative swirl differently, but what we encounter there is much the same: joy, transcendence, and mystery.