On the very first day of graduate school, one of my professors welcomed us to the program and then informed us that if we were there because we loved movies, he was sorry, but the experience of being in film school was about to ruin that for us. We all laughed, thinking he was kidding.
What he meant was that if we loved just watching movies, not putting any thought into them, sitting in a dark theater or on a couch in our living room simply letting a movie take us from point A to point B, that was never going to happen again once we began to understand the process of filmmaking. We were going to watch a love scene and think about how the lights were fitted with soft filters to make everything more romantic. We’d see an action scene and know how to dissect the shots and the exact moment where the stunt double replaced the featured actor. We’d listen to a scene of dialogue and know they were on page 45 of the script and the writer just missed the point where she was supposed to foreshadow the end of the movie.
In other words, once we knew what we were looking for, we couldn’t stop seeing it.
When you embrace your creativity as part of who you are, not just something you do, the same thing happens. If you cook, every time you bite into something, you’re thinking about how you would recreate it – or improve it. If you are a photographer, you’re always aware of the light and how you would compose the picture. If you’re in a band, you think about where the best place for a stage would be for a show every time you go out in public. None of this is bad of course, it’s just that it can be all-consuming.
Here’s what happened to me this morning. About 6:15, I went outside with the dogs. It was still dark, the air was crisp, everything was peaceful. I looked up at the stars and across the field, took a couple of deep, relaxing breaths…and immediately started thinking about how I could turn the whole thing into a blog entry.
So here’s the trouble. Very often when you are living from a place of creativity and your head is filled with all sorts of possibilities, you can forget to live in the moment. A conversation with a friend suddenly turns into the piece of dialogue you need for your novel. You’re so busy trying to remember the exact phrases that you miss out on the connection the friend is trying to share with you. You’re at your son’s play, snapping pictures of the big moment to have for the future and you suddenly realize you have no idea what he said in his monologue. You’re so distracted by a brilliant new idea for your company that instantly popped into your head, you have no idea what question your boss just asked you in the quarterly meeting but all eyes are now on you.
I am not asking you to put restrictions on your creativity. By all means, be the most creative version of you that you can be. Just remember to take a few notes, or pictures or a quick sketch and then spend the rest of the time just being. Living in the moment may be the hardest thing we are called to do creatively.