Since I’ve spent the past month and a half in a mad dash to move across country and help my fiancé open a spice and tea store, I’ve been thinking a lot about change, stability and how they relate to our creative lives. If you are in the midst of upheaval or, on the opposite end of the spectrum, worried that your life is too predictable, journey with me this week through the virtues of change AND stability.
As a kid, I never understood how someone could want to live in the same town their entire lives. We moved several times, both in and out of town, and I found it stimulating, exciting and educational- perhaps a testament to my parents’ approach. That said, the town in which I mostly grew up was just such a place that people lived out their entire lives quite happily. Even a number of my friends who went away to college ended up back there afterward.
I took a very different path, headed to college half-way across the country, then moving from place to place, in and out of the country. I discovered stories, wrote songs, met new friends, and stayed inspired. It seemed like the ideal milieu for a rich and productive creative life and, having little if no rent to pay made it possible for me to live as an artist. Only years later, while touring full-time around the country, not spending more than a few days in each place, that I discovered the virtue of stability.
One of the joys of touring as a solo artist is long stretches of quiet in the car. I found myself turning to audio-books. This one, I accidentally discovered in a discount book store in North Carolina. It was Kathleen Norris’ book, Acedia & Me. In this unexpected exploration of an archaic relative of depression, I ran into the monastic virtue of stability. This was not the stagnation of a life lived by others’ expectations that I deplored. It was a kind of quiet rebellion, a commitment to one’s callings despite what the world demands and a groundedness my life was sorely lacking. Something deep within me leaped up in recognition and longing.
It would be a while yet until I began to understand the power of stability for creativity, however. In fact, while I have seen that in the lives of some of my favorite musicians, artists, and writers, it is only now, in the midst of incredible change and transition that I see myself moving into a calm still place, the kind of stability that will allow me to connect to the source of creativity every single day, with a joyous predictability that turns my craft from happy accident to profession. I have had glimpses of this and notice my songwriting increase exponentially during these periods of stability.
The key, then, is stability without stagnation. New research is emerging on how to prevent, if not Alzheimer’s, then at least standard dementia, and going outside of one’s routine, getting together with friends regularly and learning new things are keys to staying mentally fit as a fiddle. These are also the keys to staying inspired and having plenty of mulch out of which your creative seeds can grow strong, tall and beautiful.
You don’t need to move every 9 months or change relationships like outfits to have plenty of good material, though. This is an invitation to go deep.
You may discover that change, while an important virtue to a rich creative life, might not need to be drastic to be powerful.
Oh, and let us know what you discover on my Facebook Page, won’t you?