Breath of Life

På toppen av Navaho Pass med utsyn mot Mount Stuart

Choosing a creative path isn’t always an easy course to travel. It’s a path of much struggle. At the same time, though, it’s also a path of much joy and fulfilment. For me creativity is a healing path. Part of the struggle is because when we open ourselves up to creativity, we open up to our vulnerability. We learn about ourselves and we see ourselves in a different perspective, cannot hide all that we so often try to ignore about and in ourselves. Being creative means opening up—and that can be very challenging.

I think every human being has creativity in her- or himself. We are all creative beings. Life itself is but creative. Every creature (and just the word itself gives away the fact) is part of the natural order of creativity. We are ourselves creations. And the natural order for us is to continue the creation through our own creativity. But along the way to adapt to life’s demands many of us lose sight of our natural creativity.

To get back on the creative track, particularly for those of us who have been away for a long time, can be a roller-coaster experience. It can be painful, full of doubts and mountains of frustrations. However, as long as we don’t give in, we will eventually experience the fruits of becoming creative again. The fulfilment. Feeling whole. Feeling connected. The creative joy. Yes, creating.

Being creative, means to live. As the poet Alain Arias-Misson once said; «The purpose of art is not a rarefied, intellectual distillate—it is life, intensified, brilliant life.»

When you begin down the path of creativity, you will encounter challenges and moments of insight and growth, each time at a different level. There is no such thing as being done with an artistic life. You will always experience downturns as well as highs. As the writer, director and producer Julia Cameron writes in her book The Artist’s Way. «Frustration and rewards exists at all levels on the path. Our aim is to find the trail, establish our footing, and begin the climb. The creative vistas that open will quickly excite you.»

The peaks-and-valleys that are part of the growth along the creative path are like a series of expansions and contractions. It’s like breath of life. We breathe, in and out. Expansions and contractions. We create, in and out. Thus, become alive.

So at times when you feel lost, don’t feel creative at all, when everything seems like at a standstill; know that it’s just a time of contraction. It’s necessary in order to be able to expand again. Don’t get discouraged. We are all in this cycle of expansions and contractions. We all have times when we can’t get out of the box, feel discouraged, but then suddenly the box fall to pieces, we feel free again, free to create.

If you have followed my blog for some time, you may remember that I was in a deep contraction just before Christmas. Now I am in an expansive uphill. Things begin to open up again. And I enjoy being creative, see things that I otherwise would ignore, feel like I am paying attention to life’s details as I wrote about in the post Pay Attention, two weeks ago. It’s a joyous place to be. But I also know, as certain as rain follow sun in my part of the world, that before I can blink I will be moving into a contraction again. Being alive means constantly alternating between expansions and contractions. Each time I enter an expansive mode, I see new vistas, I learn to appreciate all creation with different eyes—yes, I expand.

87 thoughts on “Breath of Life

  1. Such true words. I see this more in my husband, he has the ups and downs, the moments of doubt. But he is a creative, it’s just simply what and who he is, not just what he does.

  2. That is beautifully expressed, Otto. I have been experiencing the same kind of thing too. Wishing you much success and energy with your current creative phase!

  3. Totally with you, Otto! Thank you an inspiring post. I feel like to rejuvenate myself in blogging and photography nowadays. I need to be more open up and more paying attention to my surrounding.

  4. Oh thank-you for this. You mentioned how it can be painful.I was making that point yesterday at an art collective and felt unheard, even discounted after I mentioned that sometimes growth is painful. Reading what you wrote I feel “heard.” You have expressed the process so much better than I and I will just continue to try to be present to this group and especially to myself.The topic we are exploring is “Growth” and while we all need to be heard, we all need to listen, too.

    1. To be heard is important. I am sorry you felt you weren’t in your art collective. Sometimes we just have to turn in other directions for my supportive and understanding people. 🙂

  5. There is a feeling of vulnerability because of the honesty that making and doing art brings. That opening up, as you define it Otto, is part of the process…the highs and lows. It is a tandem process I find. I do so enjoy “our” chats. Thank you. Raye

  6. That is a stunning picture!

    You described creative track very well. It is a roller coaster. The high up you get the deeper you roll down too. That seems to be true for any parts of life, doesn’t it.

  7. I really like this post, Otto. And the wonderfully peaceful winter image. When we are walking the expansive uphill, we will eventually arrive at the top and new vistas, creative ideas will open up in front of us.

  8. yes, indeed, the ability to create is like the ebb and flow of the sea. i wish i knew how to capture the tide as it comes in. i tend to forget it’s leaving just as quickly as it made its entrance.

    1. Yes, unfortunately there are no tide tables for creativity. We really have to be alert when it happens. And I think many of us have missed a high tide – surely I have. 🙂

  9. The ups and downs both have value, for sure. The middle can get a bit complacent! I love your idea of our being as creativity itself, and the natural order is to continue that creativity.

  10. I share your philosophy wholeheartedly and I’m delighted to hear that, at least for the present, things are happier for you. One of the real joys of my life is that I don’t have to meet other peoples expectations of my creativity and I don”t depend on it to put bread on the table. I can enjoy my creativity in an unfettered way and, interestingly, it is easier to be creative!

    1. I think that is the best way to enjoy one’s creativity; not having to meet others’ demand. On the other hand I feel fortunate to be able to be creative in my work, too, instead of doing something less interesting for a living.

  11. The sine wave does seem a better metaphor for the creative process than a toggle switch. And while I often think of the cycle of the seasons as a nice way of describing creativity — lying fallow as opposed planting and harvesting — the in-and-out of breath is lovely, too.

    There’s something else. When we’re healthy and filled with life, breathing is totally unconscious. It seems to me we only begin to think about the “creative process” when it becomes difficult. The rest of the time, we’re just creating, in one way or another.

    1. That is a very good point. Breathing is easy when we are unconscious about, just as being creative is. But when we start to struggle, it can quickly become very hard. Thank you for adding to the discourse, Linda.

  12. Thank you for sharing your insights and thoughts with us. “opening up” —and that can be very challenging… well said, Otto.

  13. so true I believe that art does express our vulnerability, ever since I have continuously created artwork I find that it reflects my mood and way of life!

  14. This is a gorgeous photo, Otto. It reminds me that creativity and life itself are a series of mountains and valleys, clouds and sunlight. This post really resonated with me today, as it echoes and expands upon thoughts a friend and I were discussing yesterday about our own creative journeys.

  15. Your words are very moving. There’s a high that comes with creativity, which I have been missing for some time. I am finding enjoyment in uncovering photos I forgot I took.

  16. Our energies are affected by so many different factors and there are simply times when we are more in touch with our creative spirit than at other times, but it is always there. Sometimes a contraction period is a period of temporary hibernation where we later emerge refreshed. i like the way you expressed yourself in this post, Otto. You are very encouraging.

  17. I’m really happy to hear that your creative spark is reigniting your observations and the natural creativity you possess. A great article as always and a lovely photograph to go with it. 🙂

  18. Den kreativa vägen är aldrig lätt. Den kreativa vägen kräver sin man, kvinna…sin människa.
    Frågan är vad som är viktigt, vad som är rätt? Så är det förstås, att det som är rätt för den ene är inte rätt för den andre…men…om man är kreativ och utåtagerande finner man för det mesta en väg framåt…på gott och ont.
    Kom så småningom till Havanna…nätet fungerade inte, (som du säkert känner till) så nu när jag har kommit hem, har jag ett uppdämt skrivarbehov:)
    Havanna berörde mig djupt och med sorg i hjärtat var jag/vi tvungna att utesluta Trinidad som jag sett så mycket fram emot. Sånt är livet och det går “flera tåg (flyg)”…
    Redigerar bilder och reflekterar, tänker på livet i allmänhet…och i stort.

    Återkommer till kreativiteten…för mig den viktigaste livlinan…näst efter tanken.

    1. Å begi seg inn på en vei full av kreativitet er krevende, som du sier, men også full av belønning. Det blir er livsstil, ja, en livline, som du også sier. Jeg har det på samme vis. Det var synd at du ikke fikk besøkt Trinidad, men jeg tenker at du likevel fikk oppleve mye spennende på Cuba, hvor veien enn tok deg. Det er vanskelig å reise til Cuba og ikke bli berørt.

  19. Thank you for the inspiration. I find too that in times of contraction, patience plays such a huge role. Being better able to go with the lows until the next high comes is part of the challenge of enjoying this creative roller coaster ride.

  20. What a comforting read! I enjoyed it immensely! I feel as though right now I am in the middle of contraction and expansion… hahaha… I am working myself on a post relative to this but nowhere near as well structured and beautifully-spoken as your post. 🙂

    1. I am sure your take on contraction and expansion is going to stand on its own ground. No need to caparison. For us creative people, we express ourselves through our soul, and as long as we do, we add to the beauty and accumulated knowledge of the world. 🙂

  21. This is indeed comforting! It adds to the comfort that your language is so clear and precise. In connection to what you are saying here, I have a question. You say initially that creativity may be a hard way to travel, and for those who haven’t been in contact with their creativity for a long time, it can also be a road difficult to find. My question is, how do people get access to their creativity in the first place? I mean, once you’ve found it – once you’ve got in contact with these layers of your self – then it may be a hard road to travel, but once you’ve hit it you get into those expansion and contraction periods and the thing you’ve got to do is understand in your heart that these periods are like the seasons of the earth. They recur. They come and go and come again. Just like you said. But before you’re there – how do you get there?

    1. An interesting question, Arletta, which I actually had to ponder a little about, since it’s not something I have given much taught. But it goes directly to my basic belief that everybody has inherent creativity, but some just lose sight of it. So how to find it again. I think I might need to come back with a full post about this—after having given more thoughts to it. One immediate answer, though, is to just start with anything, play around with something you for instance enjoyed doing when you were a kid. Actually reading and doing what Julia Cameron prescribes in her book “The Artist’s Way” is a good way to get back on the track of creativity. Anyway, I will get back, as a once famous actor said. 🙂

  22. Well said, Otto. It’s true every time a person tackles something creative it is like offering your child to the world to judge. You never know how other people will see it. No matter what anyone else thinks, we must forge on as it is who we are.

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