This guest post is by the introspective blogger and amazing author, Brenna Layne. I think you’ll see what I mean once you read this post. She is on social media sabbatical, so her blog is a good place to get to know her better.
Thank you, Brenna, for your courage and depth. You are inspiring my own personal and creative process.
Over the past couple of years, I’ve been learning about tea and loss.
I give each cup of tea the steeping it requires—sometimes longer, sometimes shorter, depending on the type of tea, the water temperature, my mood.
My elderly dog has been my tea companion, curled beneath my table as I cupped the steaming vessel in my hands. I have marveled at the small miracles of heat and water, leaf and vapor, and mourned their evanescence as I watched her fur grow grizzled and her limbs stiffen.
Yesterday evening, I said goodbye to my dog, my constant friend for twelve tumultuous years. I can’t even begin to process her loss—I know it will take time. This steeping will not be quickly accomplished.
Her death came nine days into a social media break. For the month of April, I’ve sworn off Facebook, Twitter, and all the rest in an attempt to home in on my writing, to engage it with greater focus and intention. The coinciding of my loss with this break feels deeply healthy. I’m grateful to have the freedom to grieve in private, in my own way and on my own schedule.
We all grieve differently, of course. I’m learning that I grieve the way I create—over time, and in increments.
There’s a lot of advice out there on the creative process, and much of it, while valuable, emphasizes the process at the expense of the creative. Tips and tricks can be useful, but we need to give ourselves the grace of honoring our own creative processes. I’ve read blog posts by wildly successful writers who write novels in four months, or four years. Many insist that you’re only a writer if you write every single day. Others rush to contradict this. I’ve learned that I need to quiet the influx of information sometimes and look inward to find what’s authentic for me.
As creatives, we need to find our own authenticity, but we also need the flexibility of realizing that our process can change depending on the unique demands of each project or even the season of life in which we find ourselves. This is part of the creative life—living is itself is the ultimate creative process. The authentic process for each of us is not one that’s circumscribed and inflexible, but one that honors this fact.
The siren song of “expert advice” is alluring, and so is the comfort of familiarity. It’s easy to feel wedded to others’ ideas or even to our own habits. But we are creators—experimenters. We play. We seek joy in the journey. It’s important to tap into the healing and transformative power of our art by opening ourselves to a practice that evolves over time to meet the needs of each endeavor in each season.
The process of creation, like the process of grieving, looks different for each of us. We can’t dictate it, but we can learn to ride the wave and emerge stronger, well-steeped in experience, wonder, and love.