Reflections on Creativity and Spirituality
I recently had an epiphany.
I’ve been reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic and reflecting a lot on creativity, specifically how I can get myself out of this seemingly endless rut/writers block that I’ve been in lately. I was trying to recall different ways that I enjoy being creative beyond my writing – needlecrafts, scrapbooking, organizing – when I remembered something.
I used to be an avid listener of Tiffany Han’s podcast for creative entrepreneurs, Raise Your Hand, Say Yes. She always used to speak to people who don’t consider themselves “creative” in the artsy sense, reminding listeners that even simple, everyday problem solving is a manifestation of creativity.
For the past couple of years, I’ve been expending all my creative energy in solving problems, putting out fire after fire that seems to come up in my life. Of course I don’t have anything left to draw from the well when I sit down to write.
There was a time, not too long ago, that my situation was so uncertain and unstable that I couldn’t make plans for the future in any capacity. When I was asked to think about anything beyond the immediate present or the next day or two I would be crippled with nausea, breaking out in a sweat and on the verge of tears, finding any excuse possible not to think about whatever needed my attention in the future.
Just a few weeks ago, I allowed my mom to buy theatre tickets months in advance as birthday gifts for my sister and I, even though I’m not sure what my life will look like in a few months. It was wildly brave, and I’m proud of myself for doing it.
However, when I went and opened up my laptop later to do some work for The Dua Journal, I ended up scrolling our Instagram, and ultimately ending up on Netflix.
“Why am I so lazy?” I asked myself. “I love this work, so why can’t I bring myself to create anything for it?”
The answer, I’m now realizing, is because I had already expended all of my creative energy on fixing a date, months in advance, for theatre tickets. I had used up all of my mental power for that (seemingly) simple task, and I was worn out and fatigued from the massive decision making.
Even as I write, I’m beginning to note more patterns of mine that contribute to this creative drain.
For example, I can tell the difference between when I'm doing something for enjoyment and when I'm doing something simply to “numb out.” In the past, I’ve attributed my phases of numbing out to depression, because at one point (years ago) I did deal with depression and often felt the need to numb it out with shows or other mindless entertainment.
But, reflecting on how I’ve been feeling these days, I don’t have any of those telltale symptoms. And in fact, when I think back on how I was feeling, or more accurately what I was avoiding, during my latest Netflix session, the most appropriate word would be overwhelmed.
Where will I find sustainable, halal income?
What will I do until I do?
When will my husband’s visa get approved?
Will I have to move back to North Africa? When?
How will we find a sustainable, halal income there?
When will we be able to start having kids?
These are huge life questions that I’ve put the burden of answering on my own shoulders, in addition to all the other little day-to-day questions that come up in life.
And as I write now, I’m finally realizing that I won’t get out of this rut, I won’t feel that spark of inspiration again any time soon, unless I can give those questions up to Allah.
Our lives and affairs are truly in His hands. Release the burden that was never yours to bear. Stop spending every ounce of your energy on fighting battles that aren’t yours to fight. Open up and make space for His will and inspiration from Him in every facet of your life.
I wrote this late the other night, in a burst of realization.
As I am going over it now, re-reading it and deciphering my own offensively bad handwriting, I feel so much lighter. The other night, that last paragraph was where it stopped. I had been in flow, probably for the first time since I originally laid out my ideas for The Dua Journal with Quran Reflection, but when I wrote those last words, it just stopped.
It felt done, complete.
But the next morning I woke up with a drive to continue writing, continue feeling – I’ve felt so disconnected for so long – and to put myself out there on the page like I’ve never done for an audience before. And again, I came to another shocking realization.
While I enjoy sharing beneficial information and knowledge with you, my creativity doesn’t flow in writing a typical post about how to do this or that, tips for this or that, or giving action steps to achieve this or that.
My creativity thrives in writing me. This is me. This is straight from my soul. I don’t know if there is anything in here that is useful to you or that you can even understand or relate to, but I want to share it with you, our audience, anyhow. Because I truly believe that this is from Allah.
Some people talk about having flashes of inspiration, having a “muse” that informs their creative work. Reflecting on my own inspiration reminds me of a saying of Umar, may Allah be pleased with him. He said that he is not worried about the answer to his supplication, because he knows that if Allah inspired him to make that supplication and put the words on his tongue, then Allah wanted to bless him through it.
If Allah inspired me to write these words and then share them with you, He must intend good for someone through it.
So I pray that as we progress through our journeys in this world we can open ourselves up to the inspiration Allah sends us, open our true selves up to those around us, and in doing so create not only more joy in our own lives but in our entire ummah as well in shaa Allah.
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