I write often about nurturing creativity. It is a concept close to my heart. When we're creating, life bursts forth. Pleasure. Joy. Lately, I've been watching The Great British Bake Off. Even though I don't like to bake or cook, I enjoy watching what happens as each baker gets his or her assignment from the show's hosts. Each contestant has a different background. They are not professional chefs. But they could be. Most of them work as engineers or teachers or homemakers to earn a living. They bake because they love the art. Upon completion of each assignment, I notice two things each composition has in common. One, their finished projects are beautiful. And two, none of their elaborate designs are perfect. There are always flaws. But perfection is not the point. Actively engaging in the projects is the goal. All creative endeavors usually have these two features in common I know that each of my books contain aspects I'd change if I could go back and do the projects again. Yet, I still love my books. To me they are still beautiful. As I'm nearing the finish line with the rough draft of my fourth book, I again offer a brief excerpt. I write about a question I asked myself while I wrote On A Clear Blue Day. I questioned why I kept going back to the page. Perhaps you will relate as you pursue your creative process. Whether its creating baked goods, writing, painting, singing, gardening, (you fill in the blank), we are never that far from delight when we allow ourselves to create and shrug off perfectionism...
“I didn’t know that if you want to write and don’t, because you don’t feel worthy enough or able enough, not writing will eventually begin to erase who you are.”—Louise DeSalvo (from Writing As A Way Of Healing)
he day was cold, yet I knew that Folly Beach would be empty of tourists in the winter. And the sun shone, adding just enough warmth to bear the gusty winds. I drove over and found the beach empty, just as I’d anticipated. I ran to the water’s edge and began walking, feeling the wind’s chill through my layers of clothing. The ocean dazzled in the sunlight, navy blue, beckoning me further. I began to run, not feeling self-conscious at my slow pace, reveling in the isolation. I thought that this experience was akin to the practice of writing. I would layer up to face the chill winds (as it was always a choice to go outside), venture to my study, immerse myself in the writing process and be overwhelmed by the enchantment of the page, engaged with solitude. I’d consistently written my narratives, one by one. Increments. I had twenty-five more to complete. Even though it seemed impossible to finish, I kept telling myself, “Just do one more. Just one more, Priscilla.” And always a story surfaced. I’d come to depend on God’s leading, His ability to guide me on the page. I would doubt that another idea would come, but then be astonished by what emerged as I continued to “get to the page.” I’d think, “Oh, I’d forgotten about that, or I didn’t realize that’s how I felt, or oh, yes, that’s what happened.” For so many years, I’d abandoned the page, believing I wasn’t capable, not good enough to write, but anymore, I couldn’t stay away from writing. I clung to its life-giving properties. Writing was oxygen.
I slowed my pace, realizing I needed to turn back. I could see my parked car in the distance. It was only a red speck. Reluctantly, I turned around and began walking back. This difficulty turning back, too, was much like the writing process. I’d get lost on the page. Each narrative appeared to take about four hours to complete. My study resembled a fragrant cave, scented candles burned long, wax dripping from the candle stand, a thesaurus splayed open on my desk, journals underlined in yellow highlighter, books stacked up by my feet where I’d plucked out quotes. Once I began to write, I covered more territory than I’d thought myself capable. I wanted to extend the time. If I could somehow define the feeling of joy, this was it. Writing cultivated a delight I’d never experienced.
Near my car, a shelter was contained in a miniature tower where there were picnic tables, a place to rest and look out over the horizon. I’d never climbed the tower before, but on impulse climbed up and sat down at one of the tables. I pulled from my pocket several shells I’d collected as I’d walked back—shards of pale peach, rose and bright white. I brushed the last traces of sand from the pieces and lined them along the table—like my narratives, bits of beauty. I looked at the ocean, the mesmerizing blueness. I could hear the water’s comforting, constant caress against the shoreline. I didn’t want to leave—like I hesitated to leave my scented writing grotto.
I placed the shells in my pocket and climbed down the ladder from the tower and headed back to my car. Twilight created streaks of tangerine and violet streamers in the sky. The wind had died down. I climbed into my car, still heated just slightly from the afternoon sun. I felt invigorated, sand still clinging to my fingers where I’d brushed off the shells. I started the car, but before I pulled out of the parking spot, noticed a slip of paper peeking from a book I was reading. I picked up the book, lifted out the scrap of paper and read my scribbled handwriting: All humanity finds shelter in the shadow of your wings. You feed them from the abundance of your own house, letting them drink from your river of delights. For you are the fountain of life, the light by which we see.