I stalked this pair of sandhill cranes one afternoon a few years ago near my old home in Florida, trying to get a good closeup of the parent and offspring (anyone know the parenting habits of cranes?) together. They did a little dance with me, aware but tolerant of my presence as long as I didn’t get too close. It dragged on for nearly an hour, the circling and repositioning, but really, the best shots I got were somewhere in the beginning, long before my ego got involved in getting the “perfect” picture. As a result, I was dissatisfied with what I had. If I had paid closer attention to what the moment was giving me, my experience might have been completely different. I could have gotten myself out of the way.
Creativity is that same dance. It’s painful when what you envision doesn’t materialize–when the song or the poem or the painting seem to be missing something or feel like they are grinding to an unsatisfactory place. It’s tempting to circle and fret and take a million shots. Tweak and revise and go again and again. But truly creative people believe in what they are doing enough to sometimes simply sit with it, hold the idea softly and let the process unfold. Most of the time it’s just about leaving well-enough alone and allowing the art or music or word to find its own voice. It’s about getting ourselves and our ideas of success or beauty or perfection out of the way. It’s about opening to all the possibilities rather than stubbornly demanding that THIS ONE is going to work no matter what. Creativity is about patience not pushing. My favorite guru Pema Chodron puts it like this:
“Patience means allowing things to unfold at their own speed rather than jumping in with your habitual response to either pain or pleasure. ”
So even though it was painful to think there were better shots of those beautiful cranes to be had and I didn’t get them, no doubt my insistence on trying to force the moment let something else beautiful slide right by me.
Next time I’ll let the birds call the shots.