Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Creativity Ritual

Being creative isn't always easy for me. In theory, I love the idea of connecting to God through art. My heart and mind grasp that when we create, we are imitating God, the artist. 

It is our unique gift as humans to see visions of beauty and inspiration and give them form. (Tweet this)

In practice, however, I often feel limited by the process. Writing, most often, is my chosen form of expression. I love to write... most of the time. But sometimes bringing the ideas in my head to fruition and giving them palatable words and form feels anything but spiritual. I lumber through the process, frustrated by my own lack of ability. The peaceful, spiritual image I have in my head flies right out the window (along with pages of deleted words). 

This week for Lent, however, I was determined to focus on, nurture, and find my creative joy. It occurred to me that just as church is a ceremony to prepare us for worship, I could implement a ritual to open my heart, elevate my spirit, and be more receptive.

1. Lighting a candle. I found a candle with a lovely, soft scent, placed it on my desk, and lit it. As I did so, I said a prayer asking God to light my heart and help me be a soft and gentle light. 

2. Read. I took a few minutes to read a text that challenged and elevated my mind. Currently, I'm working through a book called In Fact: The Best of Creative Nonfiction, a collection of very well-written and thoughtful essays. Reading others' creative pieces helped set my mind and heart towards my own writing. I could have read poetry or scripture, looked at art on the internet, or watched an inspiring video or TED talk-- anything to feed my heart and inspire me. 

3.  Music. I need relative quiet when I write. Even music with lyrics can disrupt me. I found a station on Pandora that is strictly instrumental. It plays a lovely mix I find soothing and uplifting. 

4. Tea. I don't think there's anything mystical in a hot cup of tea, but the scent, warming liquid, and earthy flavor helped me feel pampered.  

4. Turn off the Internet. While I think social media serves a good purpose, I also believe it is the antithesis of creativity. (Tweet this) It is, at least for me, numbing and distracting. I downloaded an alarm clock app and set it. I'll be honest, I felt a bit "twitchy" wanting to check my mail or Facebook (now isn't that telling), but the lack of distraction was wonderful and reminded me that this time was special and sacred. 

4. Create. I wrote, not euphorically or without wrestling with my words, but I allowed myself to write, even poorly. Towards the end of my time, one piece I worked on took me to the lake near our house during summer, kayaking on the glass-like surface. My heart soared with the words. I was in the heart of creating, reliving nature, and lost in sharing an experience that brought me peace. 

Have you ever tried to make your creation process more an act of worship? What ideas do you have to set the stage and mood for a receptive heart?

And now, the winner!

I admit, when I first thought of giving away crayons and a coloring book, I wondered if it would seem childish. It was an idea born from my own love of coloring. I find it so peaceful! But it was fun to see the eager responses. I'm enjoying giving away a few gifts! The winner of the coloring book and crayons, as selected by the random list generator at is:

Julia Munroe Martin

Yay! Julia, get in touch with me and give me your mailing address-- I'm so excited you won!


  1. I didn't know you had this blog, too. I saw your Facebook post about the coloring book and started to leave a comment. But the comment that popped into my head may have been too risque of a double entendre, so I didn't. Congrats to the winner!

    1. Carol, I actually spend a little bit more time here than my other blog because I write about all kinds of things, rarely writing. I happen to be doing a series of Lent posts, so these definitely have a bit different tone than I otherwise would do on here.

      As for the comment-- I'm laughing. Yup, that's exactly what kind of books they were too!

  2. So excited to have won, THANK YOU!! I could really use a pick me up and some color inspiration. Perfect timing. As for a way to nurture my creative self, often early morning silence really helps me. There's something about being awake before the sun comes up when everything else in the house is still that really inspires me. Thanks again, Julie!

    1. Oh Julia, I love love love my quiet mornings and am going to get into that later too. Bliss.I'm so very happy you won! I know a boost to the spirits is much needed. :)

  3. Love your creative ritual, Julie. And I add a hearty AMEN to the part about shutting off social media when you really want to create. I'm enjoying these Lenten posts so much. Have a blessed rest of the day.

    1. Thanks Mary Ann. I'm enjoying your donkey stories too! So cute! I am having fun exploring different aspects of worship and meditation during these 40 days.

  4. Wonderful and inspiring words, Julie. As I sit here on my bed, knowing that I've finished my typical ritual, I still feel resistant to focusing on the short story I was daydreaming of these past two weeks. The urgency to finish it is likely the reason the resistance is stronger than ever. Sigh...
    But to your post, I also apply a ritual before my writing sessions. I feel it helps me get centered, preparing both my heart and my mind. I'll definitely try some of your tips! (Mine get old after a while :)

  5. I also like to write without any distractions. I usually come up with ideas after everyone's gone to sleep. The photo of your kayak by the lake looks very inspiring. Congrats to Julia on winning the fun coloring book!


  6. Distraction is the greatest hindrance to creativity...I need utter peace, too, to find my happy creative place.