Lessons from The Music Room No.1: The Creative Life is a Struggle

For one year– from Spring 2010 to Spring 2011,  I turned my growing family into a laboratory.  My purpose– to set each of us on a Creative path of our own.  We began in the grand central space we call The Music Room.  Our old piano is here and our shelves are stuffed with great books.  There are Kapla blocks to build with and a wooden castle with queens and kings to play with. For one week I’m writing about what I’ve learned this year– about Creativity and what it takes to live it.  This is the first post of the series.

The Creative Life is all about dichotomies. The most troubling dichotomy is that what makes you more Creative is exactly what also kills your Creativity.

Years ago, Alejandro (my uncle’s childhood friend) drowned in a sparkling river on a sunny day for no good reason at all. One second my uncle saw him swimming ten feet away.  Then the boy was gone.  My uncle dove under, desperately looking for him. Over and over and over.  He finally figured out Alejandro was sucked into a very black hole by a whirling under-river tornado invisible from the surface.  The boy lost his life while very much in it.  He drowned for too much of the very substance that makes life possible.

Creativity requires flow–  but sometimes to get flow you tread over under-river tornadoes.  You could leave this energy absorbing zone to glide with gentle water, but you choose to stay. You stay in the thick of the River for love, passion and material.  I’ve been treading over mild water-whirls all day today.  I stopped my writing to read the writing of my students.  I stopped my writing to hold the crying two-year-old I love.  I drove an hour to visit my sick dad.  I talked on the phone with my traveling husband and sang to my eleven-year-old daughter.  All the while my laptop sat open ready to take all I had to give.

All day I wanted to write–  I’ve learned so much this year and have so much to tell you.  But I must begin with the things that stopped my writing.  Interruptions gained force with mass.  They pulled on me to shut my computer and write another day. But I kept coming back to add another line.  I kept treading.

But my biggest struggle–  fierce enough I fear for my own Creative life,  is helping my children discover their Creative lives.  In his book You!  Having A Baby, Dr. Mehmet Oz explains why some babies are born large.  He says pregnancy is a constant battle for the mother’s resources.  The fetus wants more of everything the mother can give.  To live, the mother’s body fights to keep what she needs.  So the battle rages until the baby is born.  A big baby means the baby was winning the fight.  If the baby is tiny, the mother stored more than necessary.

Struggling to stay on your Creative path turns into an all-out-war for resources if you bring the kids along.   But all this drama makes you more Creative than a mental couch-potato version of yourself.  A complex dichotomy-ridden, ever-flowing life gives you plenty of material to Create with.  Complexity makes you larger.

The American poet Walt Whitman said,

Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.

I couldn’t agree more.  Your Creative life exists only among contradictions and you need them all to Create. The scary truth is you can drown in a mess of Life or you can swim among your many selves and choices non-stop–  inhaling energy constantly.  If you keep up the struggle the flow moments will come.  But for now, there is more struggle than calm.

I say– Keep on treading baby!