I've begun a new tradition with friends, and I hope it continues.
The tradition goes like this: each Saturday morning, we meet at a friend's house in San Francisco and gather around the living room. We cozy up, chat about our weeks and give "weather reports" on how we're feeling (the best way to ask "how are you?" in a fun, playful, sincere way!) and then we start with a prompt.
And then we write poems to share out loud.
The prompt the first time has been a question or a concept, like "How are you?" and motherhood. The second time (yesterday), it was another poem by David Whyte, a recent discovery of mine that I love, that we then talked about and responded to in our own poems.
Yesterday, the poems of seven of my friends, three of whom I met that day, blew me away.
I was moved. We all were. We laughed, we bonded, we shared stories through poems, some funny, others deeply personal, and still others were a masterful blend of both humor and personal narrative.
Why do I tell you this?
Because it was then that I learned: each of us has a poem, a drawing, a painting, a song in us.
There is a reason we are the only species that can cry at a movie or a beautiful poem. There is a reason people leave behind survival-optimized jobs and lifestyles to recklessly self-express. There is a reason some of us feel like something essential in us is dying if we deny ourselves the supreme pleasure of creating.
I don't think this is as intense or universal of a phenomenon for me to be able to say that each of us will live better lives we stop delaying and start making.
But I will come back to a realization that has brought me to life when I thought I was already living: if you do have the urge to make, take the leap. Start now. Start small.
It will feed your spirit. And if that sounds like woo-woo nonsense, maybe so. Or maybe you will understand, like I did, exactly what it means when you finally experience it.
The poetry morning sessions we've done—only two, granted—have been sweet, affirming, joy-filled. But what's amazing is that few of us would identify as "poets." We were designers, consultants, entrepreneurs. We were from science and business backgrounds. Some of us dabbled, sure, but most of us were hidden poets: lovers of great storytelling, eager to unleash our creative side and to share it, but uncertain of our potential, or at least, somewhat inexperienced and showing up just to go for it and see what magic (or mess) could come out.
If the kind of poetry I heard yesterday is what may be hidden in us all, I really hope each of us can make the supposedly useless and silly and unproductive time to bask in our artistic side, the kind of playful expression we may have left behind when we entered the double-digit ages, thinking it wasn't valuable.
Here's the part that may make this less scary for you, as it did for me. I thought I would struggle to write anything beautiful and worth sharing at all, let alone in a group where I could easily feel pressured to recite something worth sharing with friends I respect.
But in fact, being around people I love being around made it easier. I have a story, I like you, and I want to share it with you. And sometimes, poetry makes it easy to put into words what the rationality of everyday speech fails to capture.
Write about something personal. Write about something that moves you.
Next time, and as long as I engage in this weekly soul uplifting practice, I'd like to do more of the first. I was able to put pen to paper (or pixels to Evernote) towards what moved me, but I think my poetry was a little abstract yesterday.
The stuff that tended to evoke surprised laughter, joy and emotion were the ones that were really just stories of our lives, slices of our own personal histories, brought to life through vivid detail and spoken out loud in our own unique voice. (Hearing poetry spoken by the person who wrote it is give-you-chills, make-the-hair-on-your-arms-stick-straight powerful.) Because ironically, I have found that the more specifically and truthfully you share your story, the more universal it can be.
This is also feedback I've gotten on my past month of writings.
The more I share my personal story (like about how I got into college), the more heartfelt the outpouring of love and positive feedback has been. Which is deeply humbling and encouraging (so thank you, friends).
It's a delicate dance for me, this balancing of insight-sharing and storytelling. I'm an evangelist by nature, and burst at the intellectual seams to share things I've learned. The constant observing and analyzing of the world around me is what makes my very cells rejoice.
But I committed to this project of writing for #100days (oh so sporadic now, I know) because I wanted to hone my craft of writing. I enjoy it deeply, and want to get better at it. I would love for my life to involve writing in some significant way, and I am propelled by the idea of perfection and striving for this ideal endlessly, enthusiastically.
And I'd like to end with this idea: that maybe there is a "creative type"—sure—but what if it's a spectrum? What if you've got an itch to design, to decorate, to craft, to illustrate, to photograph that's a hungry part of you waiting to give you new eyes and a brighter heart? For some, this urge can become a craving. For others, maybe it's just a small whisper.
If you take the pressure off but make space for some play in your life this weekend or next, you may be surprised at the beauty that comes out. It doesn't have to be masterpiece. It just has to feel good to make.