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The Yearning to Create: A Universal Impulse

The Yearning to Create: A Universal Impulse

By Dennis P. Slattery

I like to write and have spent my professional life both reading and writing. I have over the years written several volumes of poetry, one novel, and an assortment of books of essays on a variety of topics that interested me. I have also taken both pottery lessons and painting classes. While you may or may not have engaged any of the above, my guess is that you have found other outlets for this deep hunger in all of us to create, to make something, to feel the frustrations and satisfactions of pushing yourself into new areas of crafting something new, from a piece of music to a life well-lived.

This deep desire in each of us to shape, create, construct is a universal desire that we may respond to at various moments in our life or simply pass on its persistence. Either way, the yearning is or has knocked on your door in one form or another, and not once but many times. So insistent was this drive not only to create but to think creatively about creativity that three of us began writing on this topic about three years ago. The current result is a book on creativity. We titled it Deep Creativity: Seven Ways to Spark Your Creative Spirit (2019). I bring this product of our creativity up to let you know it exists, but more importantly, to share a few ideas that we discovered about this rich and mysterious element of being human. We were surprised to discover how far-reaching the act of creation extends deeply into some of the hidden corners of our lives and how it can cultivate a richer, more meaningful form of being most fully ourselves.

Painting by Dennis P. Slattery.

One of the most interesting recognitions we discovered is that, at its most basic level, creativity is an attitude. Not aptitude. Not a skill set. Not training. Creativity as attitude is a perspective on life and our selves in creative relationship to it. From this basic insight, we discovered many others, only a few of which this essay has space to accommodate. Here are some of the most crucial ones, from our perspective. You can add to this by means of your own creative projects and achievements:

  • Creativity is Receptive: here we open ourselves up to the world, to what appears, to what pulls our attention towards it; we make ourselves available for inspiration. Inspiration has its origin in “to be inspired,” or “to be inspirited.”
  • Creativity is spiritual: it calls to our spiritual nature, not necessarily through the aperture of any systematic religious belief, though it could. But here we found that spiritual related to that most mysterious part of our being, one that cannot be explained but it can certainly be experienced deeply. It is also transcendent because it has the capacity to lift us out of ourselves.
  • Creativity is Idiosyncratic: no two of us will be drawn to the same thing or in the same way, and our creation of it will be as unique and novel as our fingerprint. When we create we reveal some of the most unique features of who and what we are. “Tell me what you like to create and I will tell you who you are” has some validity here.
  • Creativity is Healing: our creative acts in whatever form they assume, may be the source of our self-healing and when shared with others, whether it be product or service, may assuredly be healing for them as well.
  • Creativity is Participatory: when we allow ourselves to move into creative space on whatever level we choose, we join a population of creatives who engage their lives in similar ways. In the painting classes I attend once a week, now for seven years, I am enthused and inspired by those I paint with. Our community is held together by how diverse we are in what we choose to paint or draw; we all participate in one another’s efforts.
  • Creativity is Reciprocal: in the act of creating we are both subject and object of our efforts and achievements. As we create we are created. What I make in the world I make simultaneously in myself and perhaps in others.
  • Creativity is Embodied: when we come to creativity, we come with our senses, we come to our senses. We are fully sensate and conscious of the mystery of the world through all our senses. Creative yearning stimulates the senses to be more sensitive to life’s presence.

All of these qualities of creativity lead us to a hunger to risk something, to be courageous in the face of newness that, quite frankly, and I am a good illustration of this point, that we may fail at, fall short of achieving what we had planned to accomplish. But that is no reason to cease breaking new ground in our lives, regardless of our age. The urge to create is timeless and ageless, which makes it possible to put our feet into this mysterious miracle that we call life and to leave a trace for having lived it.  

If you enjoyed this blog, you may also enjoy this four-class course by Dennis P. Slattery: Personal Myth and the Quest for Meaning.

Dennis Patrick Slattery is Emeritus Faculty in the Mythological Studies Program at Pacifica Graduate Institute in Carpinteria, California and lives in New Braunfels.

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