My favorite times are the ones spent by the sea. Beach life is full of simple sweet pleasures: early morning walks by the ocean, jersey peaches fresh from the farmer’s market, big belly laughs over board games and terrible jokes, and luxuriating in the salt air on the porch at night.
I have known since high school that I feel my best by the sea. I feel calm, energized, and capable with the salt air in my lungs. Dipping my toes into the ocean early in the morning is like a small baptism, washing away the sins of self-doubt, chaos, and frustration that so easily slip into my everyday life. I feel inspired: ideas for projects flow, schemes for classes, workshops, and programs creep relentlessly (yet gently) into my brain, plans for performances, blog posts, and books take shape.
Coming back from the seashore, always armed with a notebook full of ideas, some fully formed, some simply sketched, I feel both ready to tackle them all and completely unprepared to do so. For a long time I thought that bringing the beach back to me would somehow help me get over that unprepared feeling. If I filled my home with enough shells and scented candles, I could trick my psyche into somehow thinking I was still ocean side, and therefore somehow more able to make my seadreams a reality. Lately, however, I’ve realized that it wasn’t necessarily the location that brought out my prolific, creative, ambitious side, but how I treat myself when I am there.
I am nicer to myself at the beach. I don’t know if it is the pace of life or the way the tide ebs and flows or the mix of warm sun and cool breeze, but it changes the way I think about my goals, my desires, my place in the world. Being at the shore softens me, and creativity soaks into my new squishy self like a sponge. I absorb it, and am filled with the desire to wring myself out, to share it with others. I am generous by the sea.
So on the edge of this new school year, as I see my calendar fill up with orientations, meetings, back to school nights, rehearsals, deadlines, and duties, I want to offer my 10 rules for creativity, inspired by the seashore:
1.) I will breathe. Deeply, and without apologies. Even if the air is not salted sweetly.
2.) I will walk. Slowly, and alone, offering myself the time to think, pray, and be filled by this simple ritual.
3.) I will laugh. I will find things to laugh about in the stressful times. I will remember not to take anything too seriously. The same God (or higher power, or evolutionary process, or whatever you choose to believe in) who created the majestic sea and all the tiny grains of sand also created me, and will continue to provide for me. I don’t need to worry so much. I can laugh.
4.) I will make time. Vacations are not practical things. Time spent at beach is time that could be spent working, profiting, furthering my career. But it’s worth it to lose the week of pay and potential prestige once and a while. The things I gain – connecting to family and to myself, reflecting on where I’ve been and where I’d like to go, just enjoying the moment – are worth much more than my hourly rate.
5.) I will feel the ground underneath me, whether its made of sand, stone, grass, or carpet. I will root myself to what is most important, and stay grounded in faith, hope, love, and peace.
6.) I will appreciate simple gifts, like shells that wash up on the shore. I will find beauty in the broken shells of my life, as well as those that are perfectly whole. I will stop and acknowledge them, I will hold them and admire them, but I will know that I could never collect all the shells on the beach, and when it is time to let one go, I will do so with love and gratitude.
7.) I will let myself ebb and flow. I will give and receive, generously. It’s much easier to be a generous giver than a receiver, but I will work on it. The sponge needs to absorb before it can be wrung out. The ocean needs high tide and low. I will allow myself the same chance to fluctuate. It’s okay.
8.) I will share what’s important. I will not overshare. I will not fill my friends’ Facebook feeds and inboxes with excruciating, mindless details of my existence, like sea weed tangled in huge brown and green clumps at the water’s edge. I will unplug occasionally. But when I have a real treasure, like a sand dollar unearthed and plucked from a beach filled with unsuspecting vacationers, or a real pain, I will invite those I love to celebrate and mourn with me.
9.) I will close my eyes, occasionally, and feel the hot sun, the cool breeze, and the sound of the ocean in my bones.
10.) I will get up with the sun and start something great. I will return to the coast when I need a reminder of just how to do so.
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