Creativity at Artcroft – Carlisle, KY

I’ve been in the writer’s residence at Artcroft for almost two weeks. One of my goals for this residency is to write daily and create a substantial first draft of a novel. My current tally is 12,000+ words; I am good with that.

I’m taking a short break in Lexington for a couple of days with my family. This will give me time to take care of some personal affairs that require Internet and phone access. On residency I have only limited Internet access using my phone.

Upon arriving at Artcroft I was bolstered by the beauty of the surrounding land and the care that has gone into creating this place. The fact that Robert and Maureen Barker built this place specifically in support of the arts is truly inspiring and motivating. I am grateful to be one of the many recipients of their support and encouragement. Their own creativity and art endeavours enable them to truly understand and provide what a person needs to sustain himself in a creative space.

I stay in the main house, a one-story building with four bedrooms at each corner and one large main room with a dinner area and sitting area with a couch, two comfortable chairs, a fire place and two walls of bookshelves. My bedroom window looks out at a flower garden full of butterflies. Beyond the garden is a valley, beyond that are Kentucky hills.

On my first night, after dinner with Robert and Maureen, I went for a walk around the garden and took a few pictures with my phone. Delighted that I could get service, I uploaded the pictures to Facebook and have posted many more during my stay. The contemplative walks I take between sessions of writing are restorative and invigorating. When I got back from that first walk I found several books on the shelf I wanted to look through (such as A Spring Fed Pond) and sat in one of the comfortable chairs with good lighting.

That first evening I felt an emotional shiver. A notion came to me in a cold voice, I am not worthy of this.  It only lasted for a brief moment, but I felt undeserving. Part of it was the residency and the natural beauty that surrounded me. But I was also thinking about the next day when I would sit down to begin writing a novel that I’ve been planning for months. I was thinking of the creative impulse that inspired me to this effort and that I would have to call upon daily to meet this task.

What a terrible feeling! What a terrifying thought! Who do I think I am? I don’t deserve to create. 

I let out a long breath. This is not true. That feeling is not true. That thought it not true! Of course, I deserve creative energy: I am alive. Life is creativity. I took another breath and let it out. Life is not something separate from creativity. I am alive  is synonymous with I create. 

That terrible notion would not only deny me my creative mandate, but would mislead me into considering creativity as something separate from life. I took out my journal. Using affirmations and introspective writing I was able to work it out, so that the next morning I wrote six pages.

At the end of the next day I felt exhilarated. I stood near the garden and watched the sunset. Maureen had commented earlier on the holy light , and I wanted to revel in that holiness. Of course, what usually happens when I’m trying to experience one thing is I notice another.

There is music here. The sounds are more constant than the city. Bees, birds, frogs, crickets together make the soundscape. Very little is contributed by humans. I saw a deer in a field that dips down into the valley. She stepped through the tall grass a good distance off. I stared at her in the setting sun. After some time she looked up and stared back.

My writing for these first couple of weeks has been going well. The structure I set up for myself is working as I had hoped. I am getting to know the characters and find them interesting. I’m enjoying the story that is unfolding.

This contemplation and creative introspection has given me some insight into my own writing style. I’ve noticed that what consistently motivates my writing (and reading), what interests me, and moves me is separation and specifically love that endures when the beloved is lost: a motherless child, a young lover dying in the snow. This is the story that concerns me, but not for its sentimentality. I want to know what happens to love situated in absence? How does love fill the spaces left vacant? What happens to the bearer of enduring love beyond the point of endurance?

Sensuousness disappears and in its place surfaces a poverty in which there is nothing superfluous. 
~ John Daido Loori, The Zen of Creativity

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