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34. What the Beast Looks Like

January 26, 2012
okapi okapi okapi beast beast creativity creativity creativity

Courtesy of

Faced with school enrollment, property taxes, Republican electoral politics, rain, Triple Town, children who bite, children who snarl, children who are crying out for deep loving, a dog who needs to be fed and walked, three unpaid part-time jobs, a pantry so messy that it spills its guts every time it’s opened, dirty laundry, an ex-husband, a blog, Twitter, StumbleUpon, Pintarest, consignment stores, bags of clothes to go to the consignments stores, dirty hair and a broken garage door opener  – I am feeling a lull in my creative juices. Here’s where I turn for hope and help:

From Stephan Tobolowsky, “The Light of the First Day,” The Tobolowsky Files, ep. 51.:

“Creativity is not the same as beauty. The process is not the same as the result. Ask any obstetrician.”

“Many of the letters I get from writers, actors, center on the great concerns that the path they are on seems dangerously chaotic with no clear direction. It recalls a story of a different sort. In 1887 an expedition was sent deep into the heart of Africa, and found traces of the existence of a previously unknown creature. It was heralded as a lost species, perhaps even the elusive unicorn. In 1901, another expedition was sent and found what we would come to know as the Okapi. By accident they stumbled upon it in the densest darkest jungles of the Congo. One man was startled by the appearance of this animal that seemed to be part giraffe, part antelope and part zebra. As the story goes, he gasped and said ‘My god it’s a monster,” to which the head of the expedition coolly responded, ‘Yes. Unless that’s what the beast looks like.’ For those currently wrestling with their own creativity…try to heed the words of the perhaps mythical expedition leader. The creature we call creativity that hides in the darkest shadows, the thing that is part chaos, part vision, part obsession, isn’t a monster at all. Maybe that’s just what it looks like.”

From Maya Stein10-Line Tuesday:

The Canvas

Enough has been said about that blank space, the pause

of possibility pointing to a still-unnamed story. We don’t need

another poem about potential, or the way we bend at the knees

toward the dark tunnel we hope might lead to greatness. Instead,

I want to celebrate the opening mark of the pen, the infant half-inch of paper

glued to the upper right-hand corner. The inaugural dip of a soaked brush

that lays a line of paint down flat. The “yes” that finally tilts the doer

into doing. This poem is for that plucky charge into the gauntlet, the dogged push

through all those voices arrowing critique. This is for the stroke that bursts the bubble

clinging us to fear. The hand that reaches in not for beauty, but for rubble.

From  Pema Chödrön, The Wisdom Of No Escape: How To Love Yourself And Your World:

“There is a story of a woman running away from tigers. She runs and runs and the tigers are getting closer and closer. When she comes to the edge of a cliff, she sees some vines there, so she climbs down and holds on to the vines. Looking down, she sees that there are tigers below her as well. She then notices that a mouse is gnawing away at the vine to which she is clinging. She also sees a beautiful little bunch of strawberries close to her, growing out of a clump of grass. She looks up and she looks down. She looks at the mouse. Then she just takes a strawberry, puts it in her mouth, and enjoys it thoroughly. Tigers above, tigers below. This is actually the predicament that we are always in, in terms of our birth and death. Each moment is just what it is. It might be the only moment of our life; it might be the only strawberry we’ll ever eat. We could get depressed about it, or we could finally appreciate it and delight in the preciousness of every single moment of our life.”

tiger tiger tiger tiger creativity creativity beast beast beast beast

Early 19th-century tiger. Courtesy of Soane Antiques

4 Comments leave one →
  1. January 26, 2012 2:40 pm

    “Unless that’s what the beast looks like.” Awesome. I love this perspective. It’s so easy to convince yourself your direction is wrong, your circumstance is wrong, etc. But what if this is what it’s supposed to look like? Exactly as it comes?

    Great post.

  2. January 26, 2012 2:53 pm

    Wonderful words at 6:30 in the morning. It’s not even light out. The only sound is the house, waking slowly and with some hesitation. This is the one moment, and then there is the next, and the next….Thank you!

  3. January 26, 2012 4:23 pm

    I love The Canvas part. Thank you for sharing, I needed that today!

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