Work and Creative Desire


Creativity in Work

I’m preparing to co-teach the annual fall class, Creativity and Leadership, at Stanford Continuing Studies. We have a full house, again: 50 students.

Much of this particular course is based on the Stanford Graduate School of Business course, ‘Creativity in Business’. In its day, it was a highly popular course for business students, many of whom went on to create some of the core businesses that were the foundation of what has become Silicon Valley.

In this class we speak of Self and Work, capitalized with intention. Self is a term many are familiar with: who you truly are, your deep Self, Essence, true nature. Many aren’t as familiar to Work, to what it means when we capitalize the ‘W’.

“W” is the work of your life. Some may refer to this as purpose. I like to think of it as that which brings you most alive.

Spiraling Deeper

I’ve been wrestling with this very question, myself.

I spent many years working as a programmer/analyst for a financial institution. While I loved programming, it certainly wasn’t my Work.

After I graduated from school in mid-life, I could see that I did not want to spend more decades doing that work.

So I ventured out to find something else. I became a coach, a teacher of Creativity in Business, and subsequently a writer. I’ve been teaching this material for eight years, now, and I have to admit, even as a teacher, and maybe most especially because I teach this work, I’ve been spiraling down closer and closer to discovering what I love.

Re-discovering what we love (and yes it is re-discovering, since we did know it in our youth) is integral to learning to love oneself. After all, to truly honor what we love, what is at the heart of our soul’s deepest longing, is both honoring of Self, and honoring of the Sacred.

I’ve kept what I love deep down in places where I can’t see it, where it can’t pull at my heart. It is painful to do what you don’t love for over forty hours per week.

I put what I love away a long, long time ago when I was very young and decided that I shouldn’t love it, but instead should love what I saw adults in my life doing. After all, they were the wise ones, right?

Not. So. Fast.

The juicy joy of doing what you love makes you come alive. Deeply alive.

The sheer pleasure of doing what the soul loves emanates love from the soul into the world.

Think about it. When someone spends decades doing work they are ambivalent about, maybe even hate, what kind of effect does that have on them? on the people around them? the world around them? the world at large?

What is the wisdom, here?

Creative Desire

I’ve been writing (for the course I’m teaching this fall in Berkeley, The Whole Woman) about what it would be to ‘work’ from creative desire, pleasure, love and joy, rather than from striving, pushing, and sheer will. Flow doesn’t happen from the latter.

For many of us, just considering our desires and pleasure causes us to cramp, to contract, to tighten up. Yet, when we are in the place of pleasure and joy, there can be a delicious kind of freedom and devotion to beauty, to harmony and love, even to the truth.

My friend, Mandy Blake, shares the following quote on her site, and for me it truly speaks to what a shift from work to Work might mean for us all…

“I feel that the attitude “work is a means to an end, which you have to put up with to get to the fun in life” is pathological.  I think it results in no end of harm.  The philosopher David Hume had a motto which was “work is its own reward.”  If this thought is just meant to express the Protestant work ethic gone mad, then I think it is awful.  But if it means we should do the work which is of itself fulfilling and meaningful then I think it is right.  If people the world over stopped doing the work they didn’t believe in there would be no arms trade, more equality, and greater well-being for everyone.”  ~Robert Poynton

The Artist in Me

I am coming to the place where I can finally re-claim the artist within. As a child, I love to paint. As a teenager, I painted in oils, taking after my mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother. I have paintings painted by each of these women in my matriline. Yet, at some point, I put down the brush.

One way of seeing this is to do what we love as a hobby, while doing what we’re ‘good’ at or what can make us a lot of money for a living. And, there might be a different way…

A question I’m exploring:

Can what brings us pleasure, sheer pleasure and joy, be what financially supports us and helps us to remember the sacred to a world that seems to have forgotten what these are?

I do know if so, it will be because rather than my intention being to save the world, my intention must be to do what I love, while I let go of the outcome. Perhaps it’s as simple as people doing what the soul loves, emanates the beauty, the peace, the joy that is at the heart of a truly alive world, a world that is sacred.

While my soul comes alive through art, creativity is NOT about art…it is about the art of being fully human. Creativity is what we are. It’s our nature. We are all creative creators.

And, you?

Take a moment to consider what it is you really love to do. Not what you’ve been conditioned to love, or taught to love, or believe you are supposed to love, but that which, when you do it, causes you to forget time, feel most alive, joyous and a deeply connected part of this wild and wooly world.

Can you let yourself do what you truly love?

Can you know you deserve to do what you love, and that the world might be better off for you doing what you love?

What is your Work?

Early Bird Discount

Tomorrow, September 18th, is the last day for the Early Bird discount for my new course, The Whole Woman. If you live in the Bay Area, or know someone who does, check it out here, and register here. I’d love to have you join me.

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19 Replies to “Work and Creative Desire”

  1. Here you go again spilling out words that feel like they have been swirling around in my own head recently…this happens often when I read your work – perhaps this is not the first time our souls have crossed heart paths.

    2011 for me has been all about diving deep into these very questions you pose here and redefining what it is I want out of my life which then points to getting clear on what I truly love and desire. For me this has not been an easy task – because under this question has been an additional stealthy question of self-acceptance – which I have sorted out for myself is in fact different from self-love and yet a non-negotiable prerequisite. And up until this very week the key to unlocking this piece had seemed elusive – because I could not understand the bigger picture that had brought me to this place of such resistance of self-acceptance. It was this week that I watched a documentary about the history of the Goddess here on Earth. The first part focused on the pre-history of matriarchal systems where humans lived (primarily as gender equals with a reverence to the creative life-giving power of the feminine) in connection with their Mother the Earth. The second part (appropriately named) The Burning Times explored the little known/discussed specifics of the rise of the Patriarchy (in relation to women and the banishing of the Feminine) and particularly during the period of the Inquisition. In this documentary they suggest that this period could be appropriately named the Women’s Holocaust where over 9 million people mostly women were killed for showing up in the world using their feminine power – the multi-faceted/layered impacts of this run deep and I believe are held in the DNA memory of all of us both men and women. And it is this covert residue that makes the journey toward self-love challenging for many. Yet it is indeed the journey that will move the planet into the next vibrant phase of human evolution.
    As always Julie, thank you for making me think more deeply and inviting discussion of these paradigm shifting topics!
    (P.S. In many ways this dynamic for women has the complexity that is held in the White Shame dynamic we have discussed previously…powerful stuff!)

    1. Amy, Wow. Thank you for sharing about this documentary. Your words about self-acceptance ring so true. For me, the lines between self-love, self-acceptance, self -confidence, etc. all bleed together. Somewhere in there has been a deep, deep fear of stepping out into my power, showing myself as I really am.
      This sense that these experiences of women and men during those times are in the DNA, in the psyches, and in the energetic and pain bodies is so real for me. And, I know I must do it anyway.
      This covert residue…
      What is the title of this documentary?
      With love,

      1. The Goddess Remembered – 3 part series documentary by Donna Read (Part 1 1989, and Part 2 1990) – It is so worth accessing – it unveils so much history that has been mostly unwritten about – yet I feel so essential (to know and be aware of in order invite the kind of evolution we are all looking to create for ourselves and the world. 😉

        Part 1 –
        Part 2 –
        Part 3 is called Full Circle – Yet I can’t find a link to a preview clip

          1. Part 2 can be difficult to watch in parts – Note: yet a powerful thing it also revealed was the historical events (of women’s betrayal of other women during this period out of fear and survival) that help to explain (DNA residue) why many women also have challenges around trusting other women – which is another key piece of the puzzle in transitioning from the mistrust of the competition paradigm to the trust of a collaborative partnership paradigm

  2. Can what brings us pleasure, sheer pleasure and joy, be what financially supports us and helps us to remember the sacred to a world that seems to have forgotten what these are?

    Oh, may it be so! And it MUST be so, right? If not, what hope do we have? We must diligently, passionately recover this for ourselves…and for our world(s). Beautifully stated, Julie. Compelling. And full of gorgeous invitation to life, as always.

    Thank you.

  3. Once again, my body was covered in chills as I read your words – the chills of recognition, of knowing, of my soul sighing into that place of “yes…finally…yes”. I have been working with these questions too over the last years, following path after path, pulling at memory, letting go of doubt and fear. I too am spiraling closer to Truth, to my Soul’s work, to living in that space of creativity and joy that is our birthright, to believing that it can support me in all ways and that there is room for all of us to live like this.
    After decades of pushing away what I love, it is coming back and I am held by it as we dance together, figuring out how we fit, smiling as we look deeply into each other’s eyes and step on each other’s toes.
    I echo what Ronna said: “Beautifully stated, Julie. Compelling. And full of gorgeous invitation to life, as always.”

  4. I have no idea Julie, but I’m praying so, and just today I took the first few baby steps towards it being a reality! I know I’ve been rejecting life’s invitation, and it’s time to welcome and embrace it. >> (fast forward) a few months and I wonder what I’ll see!!! It’s never ever too late, is it?

  5. You ask:” Can what brings us pleasure, sheer pleasure and joy, be what financially supports us and helps us to remember the sacred to a world that seems to have forgotten what these are?”

    And I must respond: For me, this seems the ONLY way the world will remember; it also seems that this is the crack through which the sacred is finding her way back into the world – through pleasure, joy and connection with the bright creative impulse that illuminates the soul.

    In other words, yes. Yes. YES!

  6. Oh, Julie, as usual, as ever, your words bring a shiver up my spine. Yes, yes. I know this is true. The problem, for me, is that I’m still figuring out what this Work is, what the passion of my life is. My father has, for all the years I can remember, hammered on this with me: what, Lindsey, truly brings you alive? Not what are you good at, not what does the world reward, but what do you LOVE? And somehow I still don’t quite know. I think I am edging closer, but I am not there yet. Which makes me sad and inspired in equal measure. xox

  7. I’m “Thinking about it. When someone spends decades doing work they are ambivalent about, maybe even hate, what kind of effect does that have on them? on the people around them? the world around them? the world at large?
    Good questions

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