What Does Your Heart Have To Do With Your Creativity?

I should have suspected that starting a business would be the single-most important creative endeavor of my life to date—second only to gestating, birthing, nursing, and rearing children– but for the first two years, I didn’t.

For the first two years, I worried more than I worked.

Then I got un-stuck.

I was in The Film Practice with Dan Cordle at the Helm. I’d enrolled to get over the fears I had about being on camera. I saw it as the next right-business move.

Dan promised I’d get more comfortable on camera and learn how to use equipment and lights to my advantage. During the three-day workshop in New York City, we did all of that and more.

What I wasn’t expecting was the synergy between the women in the practice to be so world expanding—so connective—so bonding. At the end of the three days, no one wanted it to end.

Dan offered us the opportunity to expand the practice: He instructed us to make daily videos, no more than six minutes, post them to a private site, and practice.

Essentially, the project became a four-way video diary.

Which scared the hell out of me.

The last time I’d shared a diary, I was nineteen years old, living in Florence, and doing an independent study with my favorite English professor in the states.

We fell in love in the process.

Four years later, the break-up was devastating. I wrote a handful of heartbreaking poems that had the grown men in my creative non-fiction class in tears. Then I shut that shop down. With one exception, and that was a class assignment, I didn’t write creatively or keep a journal anymore. I stuck to the academic stuff, the professional writing.

Like my relationship with the professor, my life as a creative writer was over.

Or was it?

The summer before I started my business, I was in Saratoga Springs, New York vacationing with my husband and sons. For three consecutive nights, I woke up at three o’clock in the morning with the same words in my head: Go to a psychic. Go to a psychic. Go to a psychic.

The day after the third night, out with my family, I noticed a psychic. I walked into the parlor where I promptly talked myself out of such ridiculousness.

On the penultimate night of our vacation, I put the kids to bed and went on an errand alone. On my way back, I heard about a world-renowned psychic who would be seeing people at a nearby sister hotel. I listened intently for the details. When I learned it wouldn’t be happening for two weeks, I couldn’t deny my disappointment. We’d be long gone.

Just then, I noticed a log cabin in front of me with a flashing sign: Psychic: Walk-Ins Welcome.

“You know you’re only operating on about a tenth of your energy,” she said before I sat down.

Skeptical, I reasoned that I was as tired as any mother of two small boys. “That’s not what I’m talking about. The writing you used to do. It’s somehow tied up in that old relationship; the one that broke your heart.”

The professor was the first person to encourage me as a writer and see me as an artist; among his many gifts to me were an antique writing desk that had been his father’s, a vintage camera, and a bundle of pottery classes.

The psychic said I hadn’t finished healing that old wound, that I’d written from my heart and until I learned to open it fully again, I’d remain stuck…this she said, “has everything to do with your business.”

How do you heal a twenty-year-old wound? I didn’t know.

Then I met Dan. When we sat down to our first coffee, he said, “Tell me about your poetry.”

I nearly spit out my coffee. I hadn’t breathed a word about my poetry to anyone in years but I’d been early that day with time to wander around downtown—not far from NYU and Think Coffee where Dan and had agreed to meet– and I’d found myself wondering when the last time was I’d been on the particularly hip looking New York City side street I found myself walking down en route.

Oh right, it was that time I read my poetry at the Knitting Factory. My mind travelled backward to those days when I’d regularly practiced my art, when I’d connected with others by sharing my heart.

“How did you know I once loved poetry?” I asked.

“Well, I don’t know. You look like a poet to me,” Dan said.
When I said that I hadn’t written poetry in years, he offered The Film Practice. He said he thought it would be good for me to share myself with others in a daily art form and, in the process, move forward.

When one of the women in the practice filmed a short on the subject of abandonment, I intended to make a video about the surprising fact—given my history—I didn’t have abandonment issues.

You can imagine my surprise when I tortured myself over whether or not I ought to submit the video I actually created: a story about the dark night of the soul I experienced the first time my father left. I did at least ten takes to try to get one that didn’t have quite so many tears but I couldn’t stop them and I couldn’t invest any more time that day in shooting video. The coconut oil I’d used to moisturize my face that morning had smeared the lens. On camera, I was blurry and out of focus; that’s exactly how I felt.

Every person in the practice reached out after that video; they said they were with me; they could feel that story. I wrote it down, found myself beginning a memoir, and writing my way to myself; Turns out, I had to go back even further than I thought. Turns out, I had to go back to that first heartbreak, the one I thought I’d long ago accepted.

Writing creatively again has made me healthier. I’m better at running my business and relating to my clients, better at identifying and crafting the stories the people that work with me really need to tell to get their message across effectively, and I have a better relationship with myself. As a result, I have more energy for the people and pursuits I love, especially my writing.

I’m reading Everyone’s an Artist, a great book by Ron Tite, Scott Kavangh, and Christopher Novais. It’s about the mysterious process of creativity. It uses science and study of the brain to help people harness their innate creativity by understanding how it works. I highly recommend it in tandem with exploration of that other mighty body part, your heart; it could be the organ that most needs your love and understanding if you want to live a healthier, more creative life and profit from a business that’s aligned with your authentic self.