Today I learned something so vital about creativity: you constantly create and then let the project go into the world.
Letting the project go means you stop trying to recreate, evaluate, or worry over it. You fully immerse yourself into a book or another kind of creative work, and then at some point, you end it. You close the book and move on to the next thing.
I remember the best advice I received from PhD program mentor when it came time to begin my dissertation. She said, “At some point, you stop researching, you write the dissertation, and you move on. It might not be your best work. You might not even publish it. But you’ll finish it. And then, you’ll move on to so many other books and projects.”
That day, I developed dual vision: I could see this one project, but I could keep a sharp eye for what would come next.
Her words helped me exit the dark side of creativity—the quicksand that keeps you endlessly considering ideas without ever landing on one, that sinks you into believing this one project must be everything, and that devours your imagination by making you think this is your only chance.
You’ll do so many wonderfully creative things. This one thing is just the beginning, and it doesn’t have to be everything. You invest all of yourself for a time, but then you close the project, release it for the world, and then start on your next idea. This way, you always have room in your heart and mind for fresh breezes of brand new adventures.
It’s a joyous, whimsical day around here. It’s a bonafide snow day! It’s not simply a normal 2- hour delay for the start of school, but a real, genuine, legitimate all-day snow day. Even the university shuts down in response to the fluffy half-foot of snow now frosted with falling ice.
We stay in pajamas and plan our snow day just like we did when we were all much younger. Not much has changed in a decade: we still make a special lunch, watch way too much TV, and consider what warm treat to make in the afternoon.
And we still, much to our delight, receive an invitation from a friend down the street to journey to the sledding hill, just as we did when the girls were little.
Just as I did when they were little girls, I’ll have the steaming hot chocolate with marshmallows ready for their return home.
You’re never too old for snow day.
This morning, a fellow faculty member shares the most encouraging words to me. I sat slumped in my office chair as I considered the long day ahead. It’s one of those days when I wonder if I’m in the right place, doing what I’m supposed to be doing, and feeling completely foolish.
She says, Do you know what I see when I look at you? Someone who does us all a favor by being here. You could do anything else, and you’re here.
I couldn’t believe it. Her words elevated me out of an otherwise demoralizing day. It’s rare that anyone recognizes your effort or work at a huge state university, and on most days, I feel like everyone thinks I’m just bumbling about, not doing anything of value.
And then, encouragement.
I realize the power of well-timed encouragement. I realize that I might say to a hundred people today, “Do you know what I see when I look at you? I’m not sure what you’re seeing, but I see this astonishing, wonderful thing about you.”
Living with flair surely means we tell others how we see them. They might not see themselves that way, and our vital words breathe life, joy, and truth into their hearts.
This morning, my daughter asks me why snow is white. What is it reflecting? She explains that seawater isn’t actually blue; it just reflects the sky. You’ll know this when you capture it in your hands or in a bottle.
I find a website, “Ask a Science Teacher” for us to learn. I read this: “When light goes into snow, it hits all those ice crystals and air pockets and bounces around, and then some of the light comes back out. Snow reflects all the colors; no it doesn’t absorb, transmit, or scatter any single color or wavelength more than any other. The ‘color’ of all the light wavelengths combined equally is white. So all the colors coming out are the same colors that go in, combining to make white light.”
I love thinking of the soft, white, snow showing no favoritism. It reflects everything, absorbs nothing, and brings us such beauty. When I look at snow, I’m looking at bouncing light.
I love learning with my daughter.
I sometimes hold leaves and flowers, newborn things, and marvelous creations, fully grown. I’m strong enough for others to build nested dreams upon my frame. I support a universe; I shade everyone near me.
I lose all foliage, and then I sometimes carry only frozen drops of paralysis and blocked flow. I sometimes weep water coming down from above or ooze the sap of wounds. But this way, so much shines through every empty cut or stripped down limb. The sun turns me golden.
And sometimes, when the conditions form perfectly, I carry the snow like frosting. I make a winter palace. I’m a marvel.
I’ve been thinking about Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 5 where I vaguely remember how, if someone wants a tunic from you, you give him your cloak as well, or how, if someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. It’s a teaching on doing even more than what’s expected or demanded.
I think about that expression “go the extra mile” in a new way. What would it meant to not only fulfill someone’s request (or demand) but to also do even more? How can I practically “go the extra mile” in how I treat both friends and strangers?
In a very practical and immediate example, my phone rings and a woman asks me to make a large salad or several batches of cookies for a women’s ministry event. She needs food, and gathering volunteers seems to overwhelm her. Suddenly I say something out of character for me so surely led by God: “What if I brought both for you–the salad and the cookies?”
It was a simple moment of responding to a request with even more. And now I find myself waiting for the next request so I can do even more.
Yesterday, I spent the entire day moving from meeting to meeting, class to class, event to event. When I returned to fall in bed late in the night, I realized how hard it is to live a life like this. Even though everyone felt cared for with a dinner made in advance and everything in order in the home, I felt so out of sorts. My Big Day Out reminded me that it’s time for a Big Day In.
I listened to my heart. I found myself lingering so long to talk to my daughters in their beds that night and wanting to drive them to school instead of the bus. I found myself so excited–overly excited!–to vacuum and dust the living room and light a fresh candle in preparation for our time as a family tonight. I couldn’t wait to have a Big Day In to work from home, wash and fold all the the laundry, prepare dinner, and think of a fun snack for after school.
When I think of the rhythms of my life, I remember to balance going out with coming back in, back to family, to meals around the table, and the quiet order of silence away from the hustle and bustle.
In Genesis 16, we find a woman running away. She’s a mistreated slave, scared, and most likely in despair. The angel of the Lord finds her and asks this:“Hagar, slave of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going?” As the Lord interacts with her, we read this in verse 13: “She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: ‘You are the God who sees me,’ for she said, ‘I have now seen the One who sees me.'”
You are the God who sees me.
I think about Hagar in strange settings where I don’t feel seen. At this one doctor’s office in town, you stand apart from the check-in counters by this wall where they obviously cannot see if someone stands in line. I felt so frustrated for days about this set-up. How can they see me? Do they know I’m here? Why am I standing here alone and ignored? Can anybody see me?
Then my daughter pointed to the ceiling where titled mirrors showed each attendant exactly who stood in line, where, and for how long. They see you. You are never not seen.
The same thing happened again as I arrived early to the English Department to work in my office. I approach the deep, dark, lonely hallway. I’m nervous because I see no light switches anywhere. I’m alone and have no idea what to do while walking toward my hallway. And then, when I’m still at least 10 yards away, the lights all click on in anticipation of my arrival. Motion sensors! Hallelujah!
The tilted mirrors. The motion sensors. Hagar. God always sees me. He’s always here. I am never not seen by Him. In Psalm 33:15, I remember that God formed us and “considers everything [we] do.” And like motion sensors that know I’m coming and have been there ahead of me all along, I think about Deuteronomy 31:8 “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”
He sees. He is already where you are going.