Remember The Artist’s Way, by Julie Cameron? The self-help book for artists came out in 1992, and is still read and used by creative people, and people who want to be creative but feel stuck. I’ve been reading it, doing some of the exercises, and meeting online with a small group of local women to discuss its ideas and our progress for the last couple of months.
At the same time, we opened The Body Electric Athletic Company. At first it seemed like I couldn’t have chosen a worse month to try to break out of my writer’s block, and do anything besides get this behemoth up and running. It didn’t occur to me until later that “creation” didn’t have to mean a work of art in the usual sense.
The BE Athletic project was a big one. It involved but was not limited to: finding the spot, getting the money, planning and designing the space, building it out, creating the programming, hiring staff, training the trainers. The facility itself is enormous. And inside are people we’re just getting to know, literally tons of equipment, and classes that are new to us. I had a role in its conception, but the whole enchilada was essentially carried and birthed by my wife Katelyn, with myself and the team acting as midwives and doulas. The build-out went right up to opening day, and then one day beyond, and we opened on January 2, 2020.
The gist of The Artist’s Way, very condensed, is that Creativity is a divine force that we need only to tap into and allow to happen. When you unblock the flow, creation simply follows. Blocks are made up of all of our fears: of exposure, failure, success, unworthiness, criticism from within and without. The book’s exercises are designed to help you identify, explore, and then remove your blocks. Removing the blocks restores the flow, and reconnects you to your own divinity, and your creative force. It’s not unlike the yoga practice in this way.
So, our great creation of the past year has been The BE Athletic, an endeavor into group fitness with a yoga mentality.
Last night, late, I was talking with Katelyn after she came home from a meeting with all of our trainers at the new BE. They had been reviewing the first two weeks, refining class ideas, exchanging feedback and thoughts, and cheering each other on. Katelyn has been pretty emotional lately, and I think a lot of it is just the release after the enormous effort of creating this place. She has been carrying a lot of weight. I keep returning to the metaphor of having a baby, but it’s also very much like creating a work of art. People often say to Katelyn things like, “you are so brave,” or, “I can’t imagine taking such a big risk.” But to Katelyn, the project simply felt like a necessity. Once we started talking about it, it was inevitable. She said, “My college philosophy major self would have strongly disagreed,” because it’s sort of an argument for determinism, “but now it’s like once an idea occurs, it’s set into motion, and it just has to happen.” Like there’s no choice; it can’t be helped. To me, this sounds like the creative flow Julie Cameron is talking about.
Putting yourself out there in such a big way, even if you can’t help it, doesn’t make it easy. With great effort, care, and pain, you create something, and then it’s out in the world to be judged. You want it to be loved. You want it to be understood. You want people to think it’s beautiful, and you want it to be perfect. And it is perfect, in its way, but then there is self-doubt, second-guessing, and external criticism that comes along and fucks with you.
So we’ve been really wrapping ourselves up in all of the support, enthusiasm, and buy-in we’ve been getting, from our leadership team, our new staff, our veteran teachers who’ve been coming over to work out, and from our new and extended BE family, who’ve been showing up, and bringing their faith, energy, and love to the new baby.
Working through your creative blocks might be done with mental exercises, journaling, visioning, and digging into your past, but there’s a lot to be said for embodying the blasting away of blocks. That’s what Katelyn’s been teaching me. Yesterday morning, she and her crazy crew of CrossSUP paddlers completed a self-created challenge: Christian and Patrick would do 1,000 pull-ups before noon, and Katelyn would do 600. It was a very impressive thing to behold. Impressive but pointless, in the way of the old question posed to George Mallory: “Why do you want to climb Mt. Everest?” “Because it’s there,” he said. There are people who are just addicted to growing, and pushing and challenging themselves are how they live.
It does take courage, and faith, to create. And the stuff Katelyn and her crew do can seem nuts. But I see how it works: a challenge is put out there, and it takes on a life of its own. It has to happen. And in stepping up to it, you face your fears: that it’ll hurt. That you’ll fail. That you’ll be judged. That you won’t be good enough. And then you accomplish the thing, and over time, that fills your reservoirs of courage and faith. It’s not about doing 1,000 pull-ups. It’s about seeking out and confronting your fears. And when you show yourself that you can do more than thought you could, you can live bigger, more fully, and more in the flow. No one escapes doubts and fears, but you’re not paralyzed by them. I think that’s how happiness happens. And that’s what it’s all about.