In this dark threshold season, I am thinking about originality and the often terrifying emptiness which precedes creativity. So often in the creative process, people are frozen by the invalidation which says, “What you are working on is not original. Others have done it sooner, done it better, so why embarrass yourself with trying.” And with the weight of that thought, so many projects sink back into hiding, the divine longing to sing into the great song silenced.
But what if originality is not something we invent, so much as an utterance through us by our origins. By origins I mean that inexhaustible well from which every human being drinks; and which is dreaming us. You might call it god, nature, source, divinity, but whatever word you use, it is this great unfolding of which our lives are but a single thread.
Originality then becomes about tracking your own becoming. Instead of clambering for growth and productivity, it is the practice of respecting idleness. To hear our original voice, we must gestate in the dark, whose source is vast and terrifying and requires us to suspend our ambitions. Originality comes when you stay close to that emptiness, making it hospitable, adorning it with your longing, refining the shape of it with your questions. Make a temple of your emptiness. Every great artist I know has a question which obsesses them, and their artworks are less attempts to answer that question than they are exaltations of asking. As John Cocteau puts it, “The poet doesn’t invent. He listens.”
It’s much harder to sit without an idea and push out into nothingness than it is to go through the regular, known motions. But if you can move through the initial shock of being adrift, slowly forms will begin to appear in the fog. And even if they are but feelings of what you long for, where and in what precise way you feel lost, you can paradoxically become oriented by that.
We need more wayshowers, who have penetrated the fog of their own uncertainty to find something truthful. Something eternal, tragic and lost, something small. But like cupping your hands around a tiny flame, if you protect it from the harsh winds of dismissal, it may become a real heartfire. That fire then becomes a beacon for others to sail towards. Not to imitate it, mind you, but to emulate its quality of bravery, which has been left like a vibratory signature on the thing you’ve made.
As you track the curve of your own curiosity, may that you find networks of people just like you, adding their voice to a thing we’re all trying to make real. Some will be the fire of inspiration you need to inch closer to your edge, and others will look to you for that push. But make no mistake – this temple of originality is not yours alone, but something we’re building together.
In my own creative workshop, I have several exciting projects underway this winter. We have the Women’s Dreaming Retreat coming up in just 3 weeks! (There are a couple of spots left for the intrepid and spontaneous!) And for those who can’t make it in person, I’ve just announced new dates for the online Dreamwalking course in January. If you’d like to receive my newsletters with writing like this, or hear about upcoming events, click here to get on my mailing list.