We can choose to take our chance, to speak up, and to contribute.
— Seth Godin, The Practice
If you're asking yourself, what have I always wanted to do, but haven’t, you’re not alone. All of us dream of that one thing we’re called to do… Someday.
But last year taught us we can’t always count on “someday,” and there’s never been a better time to accelerate your drive to fulfill your creative destiny.
Why now? Because the creative mind thrives on unrest.
Creativity often emerges during the darkest times.
Authors like CS Lewis, Hemingway, and J. K. Rowling have said some of their best work was born in the midst of struggles. The chaotic brain becomes more alive in its deep-rooted battle to find a new way, to solve the problem, and to survive.
Once you feel the creative yearning it’s already in motion. It becomes part of your DNA. You can shove it aside, deflate its importance, and put it on the back burner. But even then, it will gnaw at you forever, and maybe even lure you in the midst of the darkest hours of your life.
But, do you know what to do when that happens?
For 15 years, I was content to hide my desire behind my husband’s successful career. He was a writer and producer for television and film. All those years I was an essential part of his script development.
I often questioned… Was I a writer or just a contributor?
In reality, I knew the contributions I made to my husband’s work were critical to his success. Besides editing his scripts, we worked together on storylines. We’d read the scripts out loud and bring the scenes to life. We’d work out plot twists, character studies, and clever dialogue.
I knew I had good ideas but was I good enough without my partner, my love, to write on my own? Of course, I could have asked him to collaborate with me, but I didn’t. I just kept waiting for something that would spark my courage and change my beliefs that my creativity was limited to collaboration with my husband.
I was about to discover creativity has unlimited potential if you accept the call. It’s a living, breathing force inside of you, wanting to find expression.
It IS a collaboration, but one with yourself and the ideas fed to you from the great “flow” of the universe.
Your contribution — the one that you want to make, the one you were born to make — that’s what we’re waiting for, that’s what we need.
— Seth Godin
It begins with an agreement to finally sit down and do the work.
Don’t let last year stop you from thinking that you’re stuck because the whole world feels stuck. The creative mind thrives on unrest, even in the darkest of times.
In my darkest hours, my doubts broke free…
Decades ago, my husband worked as a writer and producer on a show for CBS, Beauty and the Beast, starring Linda Hamilton and Ron Perlman.
I passionately loved the romantic drama, and we spent most evenings on our patio talking about potential storylines and characters in the series. We speculated what it would be like to have a facial defect so troubling that Vincent, the Beast, could only roam New York City in the wee hours of the night, hiding his face behind a cloak and hood.
One night, Vincent discovered Catherine lying in the bushes of Central Park. She was assaulted and left to die
He gathered her in his arms and whisked her below the city streets where outcasts had created a community in the underground tunnels.
Day after day, Vincent cared for her, and yet she never saw his face. She was weak, and her eyes bandaged. As she lies barely able to speak, Vincent reads poetry, Sonnets by Shakespeare.
She began looking forward to his daily readings, his voice, so soothing.
When it was time for her to remove the bandages from her eyes, she saw Vincent’s face for the first time. She wasn’t frightened at all. Instead, she saw the man who lovingly cared for her. It was love forged from pain, but love without physical barriers.
At the time the show was in production, I was pregnant with our third child. I remember the joy I felt walking the Red Carpet of the Emmys, hoping that the show would win “Best Drama” that year. I felt like I was truly living my own fairy tale.
I didn’t know then, my daughter would be born a few months later with a severe facial defect… just like the Beast.
This wasn’t the fairy tale I expected at all. I was devastated but felt such incredible love. I looked into her eyes, kissed her face, and promised to love and protect her. She was my focus, my call to duty, and I was in charge of helping her become strong, capable, and beautiful in every way.
On the day after her birth, I was told she would need a team of specialists to repair her defect and that it would take several years of surgeries. But it was fixable.
Until then… what would her life be like? I knew the early years in school would be rough. Would she feel like an outcast? Kids tease what they don’t understand. I knew what that felt like. In fifth grade, I was teased unmercifully for just having red hair and freckles. It wounded my heart and my self-esteem.
I vowed to step up and be our daughter’s champion.
In a strange way, all those nights of talking about Beauty and the Beast had prepared us for the birth of Julianne, and the role we would play in raising her as a confident powerful woman.
I believed in the power of stories.
I’d studied English, literature, and fairy tales in college. Even the television version of Beauty and the Beast had its contribution in teaching people compassion for those that have physical defects. The audience loved the weekly stories and its message… love conquers all.
I now had a reason to write. I sat down to begin my very first book… a fairy tale for my daughter.
Within a year, I found a publisher, a small educational publishing house that was willing to take a chance.
I didn’t know then, my daughter and I were part of God’s greater plan to raise awareness about birth defects. The book attracted a wide audience and Julianne and I went on talk shows, radio shows, and were featured in newspapers all over the country. The book was placed in schools, hospitals, libraries, and clinics. It made an impact I didn’t anticipate.
Honestly… it went way beyond my wildest dreams.
And I ask myself, as I struggle to write my next blog, or my next book… what if I hadn’t heeded the call?
If you’re asking yourself what to do with that creative idea that has suddenly landed at your mind’s door, don’t hesitate to accept the call to action. It’s there for a reason, and at this point, you have no idea the impact it will potentially make.
When creating is what you need for healing.
A few years later, I tragically lost my 16-year-old son, Garrett, to a deadly form of bacterial meningitis. We were in the middle of the Type A flu pandemic and the doctor misdiagnosed him. He said, “take him home, give him fluids, he’ll be fine in a few days.” But he wasn’t… he died in the middle of the night while sleeping.
His loss was the darkest time of my life, and yet, it awoke something inside of me that is my greatest creative accomplishment.
On the day it happened, a friend who’d also lost a child showed up with a book in hand, The Bereaved Parent. It was written by a woman who’d lost her son.
That book became my lifeline. It helped me with the courage to face every day that followed. I kept it by my bed and would slip it into my purse to accompany me throughout the day. I knew if the author could survive, so could I.
It filled me with the hope that there could be life after loss. I couldn’t imagine it, but I had to live my life as though I could.
And what if I did? That thought was a call to action. I vowed I’d write my own story of loss and resilience… someday. It wasn’t something I might do… It was something I must do. It was a fierce calling to give hope to parents like me.
Loss never goes away, but it becomes manageable.
I often share with parents who are new to such a loss, that their love never dies. It seems like there will forever be pain attached to the memories, but that is simply not true. The love for your child grows every day in your heart, as though they are with you on this planet.
I kept a rigid schedule of journaling to document my recovery journey. It was my preparation for the book to come.
Writing helped me find meaning in loss.
In 2014, I wrote and published my book, and it’s my greatest achievement.
In the process of writing, I found moments of tremendous healing and a deeply loving connection with my beautiful son, Garrett. He was my collaboration, looking over my shoulder, helping me write his legacy.
Is it a best seller? Nope. But some books aren’t meant to be best sellers… they are meant to be timeless, though. After all these years my book continues to find its way to the parents who need it; and that was my purpose.
It has won numerous awards and caught the attention of a publisher in China. It’s now being translated to provide heartbroken parents of Chinese descent a way of feeling not so alone.
What I learned is this… when you begin your creative project, you never know how far-reaching it will be. Once you complete it, the universe will decide its place in the world. Be ready to take action.
I’ve now written a number of books. Two were successful in terms of sales and accolades, but the others had their own importance in my creative growth. I’ve also written hundreds of articles, and not all of them found a big audience. Some sat quietly uncurated, and not many views, but they still made a difference.
Every article taught me something, and every book was a proud accomplishment. Because I put it out there, I’m asking the universe to keep feeding me ideas.
“Let me tell you a secret about creativity: it’s not a well that runs dry, it’s a muscle that strengthens with use.” — Brianna Wiest
Create a plan for exploration and discovery.
Don’t doubt your ideas. Write them down. They’re there for a purpose. Each thought is a gateway to the next great idea.
I document thoughts throughout my day. I keep a notebook by my bed, at my desk, and in the car. I never let a great idea wander away, I write it down as potential for my next project.
If you commit to the discovery process, one thing will lead to another and another. Then, one day you’ll recognize the flutter of excitement with an idea that pops into your head and you’ll get to work.
Guess what… You’ve just met your creative destiny in 2021.
I love helping people discover the creative process. Here’s a gift — a five-step process to get you started on your creative journey: How to Develop the Creative Mindset. I will also send you occasional emails to inspire you on your creative journey!
This article was originally posted in Medium Illumination.