Oh, Let Go
by Jennifer Paros
Creativity can be described as letting go of certainties.
-- Gail Sheehy
The other day I was playing with our cat Lou and because he is still relatively new to me (we got him about a month ago), I found myself studying him. What I noticed as I watched him play, first tracking some string and then a small toy, is that every time he’d catch what he was after, he would soon let it go. Because if he were to continue holding on, the fun would be over and the game done. Letting go of his hold was clearly critical so the next thing could happen.
I’ve never really liked the expression “Let go”, even though I know that as a directive it’s top of the line. My problem has been a bothersome voice in my head that says, “Can’t I just control my way to the outcome I want? That would be so much more comfortable.” But the truth is, holding on always causes stress and is nothing but uncomfortable. And just as Lou has discovered, it leads to the end of fun.
When I was in junior high, my class went on a trip to an outdoor adventure camp designed to help kids trust themselves, each other, and strengthen their self-esteem through a series of outdoor challenges. It was a good deal of fun; however, there was one exercise that was not so fun for me. We were to stand on a platform with our backs to the group and fall backwards, knowing the group would catch us. When it came to my turn, I walked up the steps to that platform and could not, through argument, encouragement or shaming, get myself to fall.
This was one of my earliest indicators that I have a mental inclination to be Let-Go-Resistant. And although I haven’t had occasion to stand upon a platform recently, I do still find myself reticent about trusting I’ll be safe once I let go. I witness it in my creative work often. For, in order to write, I have to let go of my fear of what other people will think. I have to do that in order to write authentically and I have to do that in order to share whatI’ve written authentically. And when I speak of sharing authentically, I am speaking of offering my work without expectation or demand that the response I get in any way lifts me up or quells my insecurity.
So, how do I do that? And how do I get myself to fall backwards off a platform into a group of people? Well, luckily, at these
moments of fear, we have two frames of mind from which to choose. The first I’ll call the Analytical and the second, the Creative. The Analytical makes equations out of things, puts lists together and organizes. It’s a great “go fetch” feature that allows us to access and order things. The other, the Creative, likes to make things. It does not assess or analyze, nor make comparisons, it just makes stuff, writes stuff, draws stuff, builds stuff, designs – and it will do it using whatever is available. Its expertise is in making things workrather than projecting whether externals are conducive to something working or not. It thrives on what the Analytical considers limitation because the Creative is ready to work with whatever it’s got and views limitation as just another way to focus its energy.
The Creative’s thoughts never frighten. So, there is nothing it will bring to us that will spin us out or wake us in the middle of the night sweating. However, the Analytical may – for it looks for ways to measure, compare and contrast – and if not tethered to the creative mind in service, it can wreak havoc on our emotional stability, like what happened with me on that platform. I was thinking like a captive rather than a creator. For the Analytical was providing input like: “Well – in the past you’ve been afraid. Data indicates you’re not the type of person who does this kind of thing. If you don’t choose to fall, it will greatly reduce your chances of getting hurt – everyone knows that.”
When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.
-- Lao Tzu
What I needed was to switch minds and use the Creative. The Creative would have said, “I’m curious; let’s go - it’s safe.” And if it hadn’t been safe, it would have told me that too, but not based on old information fetched and assessed, but on the present moment. And right then I would have ceased to be a captive of my old perceptions, and known myself as a creator. And in this knowing, letting go would have seemed easier and a lot more worthwhile. For there is no discovery, no adventure, and no freedom without the Creative mind and letting go is what it takes to open the door to it, as Lou already clearly knows.
Jennifer Paros is a writer, illustrator, and author of Violet Bing and the Grand House (Viking, 2007). She lives in Seattle.