Grateful, I have something to share that comes out of a collaborative experience. Grateful, I have something to say to your creative soul. Grateful, I honor the spark in you.
I begin by asking you to listen. Listen to the call that comes to you on the wind. Open to the voice that says, “Hey, come join us. We’re going to create something new that’s never been seen or imagined before. Come. We need your light.”
Then jump. Even if you aren’t sure what this will look or feel like. Jump. Especially if you aren’t sure what this will look or feel like.
Recently, I experienced a community event, a gathering that was a year in the making. Portsmouth’s poet laureate, Kimberly Cloutier-Green, conjured, as only a gifted poet can, a living, breathing organism that rose up and danced among us for 5 days. We watched in wonder as this beautiful being came to life, revealing itself little by little and enfolding us one by one into its wholeness.
As we danced, we shared laughter. We shared tears. We shared moments of resounding silence. Songs with and without words sprang from our mouths and hearts.
And then we went our separate ways, each carrying a spark from that communal fire to start a hundred hatchling fires … and more.
It all began with a line, a question from Kimberly’s notebook:
“Stranger, orphan, outlaw, beloved … how shall we live, so many hungers upon us?”
Creation circles formed. Then, the circles met once a month from January through June and worked with prompts. The prompts came in the form of packets of evocative thoughts and questions and poems pertinent to the subject at hand.
Stranger. Orphan. Outlaw. Beloved. Hunger.
The work was all about process, not product. The journey, the exploration, the discoveries and the surprises, were all part of the essence of the work and the focus of the gatherings. No one was expected to bring finished pieces each month and no one was to critique or interfere with anyone else’s work. Many struggled with this. Many had to step outside habitual patterns in order to participate fully. It was deep work, indeed.
In July, we parted and worked alone, ultimately choosing one piece to bring to the final celebration week in November. For most, that was a difficult choice. I, for example, had begun a poem and an art quilt for each of the prompts. I had to decide whether I would exhibit art or read a poem.
When we signed on, none of us knew what to expect of the Portsmouth Poet Laureate Project, not even Kimberly. Thus, the days of unfolding were filled with a delicious curiosity and a sense of surprise at every turn — the wide-eyed sort of surprise you see on the faces of children as they encounter some new delight. It was exhilarating.
Working in such a collaborative spirit is good for the writer/artist’s soul. I truly believe that. Look around. Listen. Open.
And if there’s no such project in the works right now, create your own or set your own solo challenge. Consciously choose to dance with the Universe. Start by taking yourself on an “artist date” (a Julia Cameron creation). Go alone to a gallery or into the woods and fill your self up with imagery, sensation, whatever the artist in you most needs.
The other day in a gallery not far away, I found a piece by fiber artist, Jodi Colella. It had an organic feel to it as it climbed the wall, spread up onto the ceiling and crawled into a corner of the space. A nearby video showed the multiple participants involved in its creation — young and old, male and female — sitting cross-legged on a hard wood floor, each fashioning circles and tubes with soft pliable window screening and hand-stitching them together with steel wire. When I saw the title card, I sucked in a breath and smiled, deeply satisfied. It was called, “Hive.”
A display in another room intrigued me as well and I spent time examining four dresses. This solo artist had set herself the challenge of creating a dress a month of scraps and materials reflective of her life over the course of a year.
Her work reminded my writer self of Maine Literary Fellow, *Claire Guyton, who challenged herself to write a short story a day for a year — a “daily shorty.”
I was filled with inspiration by these artists and the Poet Laureate Project and the community that came together in celebration. The specifics haven’t sorted themselves out as yet, but something’s brewing and my ears are open, listening to the wind.
There is nothing like accepting a ride on the let’s-share-an-adventure-express; and, there’s nothing like setting a challenge for yourself that stretches ahead into unknown territory, complete with a set end-point and a commitment to stick with it.
So. What do you say? What challenge might you offer your creative self? What project might you join or found or fund?
Of course, you don’t have to do anything at all. But where’s the fun, the hidden surprises, in that?
*I first met Claire Guyton when our short stories were selected to be included in Summer Stories: Paintings by Leslie Anderson; Stories by Ten Maine Writers. Three of hers which began as “daily shorties” are included in the book. I highly recommend her site and her writing. Her story can be found on her blog site along with writing prompts and encouragement for self-challenges for writers.