The Labor of Creativity

My life changed significantly just over one year ago. We don’t need to talk about it much here.  But one of the significant changes is that I went from a fairly standard office environment to working outside and working with my hands.

Now — when my business consulting docket is not crammed full, which it sometimes is — I spend hours sweeping. Or building. Or painting. Or patching leaks. Or stacking firewood.

And oh, how I love that firewood. The feeling you get after two hours of stacking firewood, two hours of methodical, simple, patterned movement, is meditative. It’s not blissful. It’s not ethereal.

It’s sweaty






And when the podcast fades and the basement light is just as dim as when I started, when I haven’t had any obligation beyond fitting together this puzzle of a heat source, when one full spot is now empty and one empty spot is now full, my brain has unearthed stories, ideas, and images I didn’t even remember were buried in my synapses.

I am a creative. In my truest moments, I am a creative being. I crave freedom. I inhale inspiration. I gorge on imagination at a cellular level.

I live in a world of date blocks and Google reminders and gymnastics lessons that preface soccer practice. My constant internal interrogative is, “Wait, what do we have next?”

Accomplishment consists of a day survived in tact. A day where we’ve all connected our dots and didn’t run out of ink. It is not a creative world.

Manual labor asks only for labor and offers a tangible product. Spend time stacking firewood and eventually I have a stack of firewood. Spend some time sweeping a barn floor, eventually I have a clean barn floor. Get out the shovel and work, square foot by square foot, clearing the fallen snow… look at that, my driveway is open. The winter air cleansed my lungs. My nose is pink. My muscle fibers are already healing, slightly stronger than before. My tangible product, my end result, walks hand-in-hand with the moments I spent caring for my family, caring for my property, being with myself and with my task.

In those moments, my brain listens. It hears the repetition. It observes that I don’t need it to engage, so it takes a walk.  It gets started on its own hard work. It shovels. It sweeps. It digs. It stacks. It builds. It creates. When it has something, it taps on the inside of my cranium and shows me what it’s been up to.

These are the moments of my best ideas, ideas that will require even more work and even more labor, but they are moments of crystalline accomplishment married to enthusiastic potential.

And today, when I spend a little too much time working in front of the computer, I start to stare longingly at the leaves to be raked, the space between the barn floor beams that need a Shop Vac, that empty space in the horse barn asking for a shelf… and I get to work.