I love Brain Pickings. If you are not familiar with it, go to it directly. Well, read this first – THEN go. Because you’ll want to read what Patti Smith remembers of her first creative impulse. Reading her words transported me back to my own first stirrings of creative curiosity.
In Patti’s wonderful words:
Swan, my mother said, sensing my excitement. It pattered the bright water, flapping its great wings, and lifted into the sky.
The word alone hardly attested to its magnificence nor conveyed the emotion it produced. The sight of it generated an urge I had no words for, a desire to speak of the swan, to say something of its whiteness, the explosive nature of its movement, and the slow beating of its wings.
In my case, it was an old, battered and deserted boat on a beach in Provincetown, MA. I was eight or nine. The entire incident would have been lost to memory were it not for my grandmother, an educated woman far ahead of her time and an enormous influence on my growing-up years. She encouraged my childish words to the point of getting it published somewhere. I no longer have any scrap of the original – even a copy – due to multiple moves, floods and lost boxes over the decades.
I do however recall the opening lines:
‘And of the wonders by the sea
the old wrecked ship holds you and me
What magic powers do ships possess
lying beached, showing lost distress?
As if that power has but to say
‘go see the ship, I’ll have my way,’
we go …’
Recalling these words, that image, the (indescribable) feelings of then layered atop the soul-feeding experience of now – living by that same sea many weeks of the year – I am struck by still more veins of truth. How curious I have always been. How driven to create, use my hands in service to beauty, to invention, to capturing moments and connections. How long it took me to tumble to my need to write as a way into myself; and equally, as a way out to others. How long it took to value that need and its attendant requirements for solitude, down-time – all the apologies I have lived defending those things that, I now understand, are who I am and what I need.
My invitation to you, today, is this: give in to that ‘twinge, curious yearning imperceptible’ to others. Intercept it on your own behalf, in whatever form or medium speaks to you. Give in to a creative impulse.