Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Call to Creativity

I used to say that Rolling Stones drummer Keith Richards looked as if he was preserved in colorless nail polish-- but really that description relates more to Cher, whose beauty has remained delightfully smooth and wrinkle-free thanks I am guessing to a fair amount of cosmetic attention. Whereas Keith Richards' years show on his deeply lined face. Richards' just-published autobiography has been attracting media attention, and Cher's role in the movie Burlesque has, too. But of course one does not have to be famous to continue to be creative in later life.

Creativity is a wonderful asset at any age; it provides a meaningful, passionate way to enjoy and engage. The older I get, the more true that seems to me. I have two big projects I want to finish. My involvement with them enriches my life. I have written about my musical revue on aging A New Wrinkle here over the past year. I am also working on Songs of the Inner Life, a book which I began when I was in my mid 50s. I have written several drafts. I wasn't ready to finish it all the intervening years, but now I feel mature enough, and want to complete the book by 2012.

These two projects are very different. The musical revue is full of social commentary that is funny and sometimes scathing. It focuses on the value of aging as a stage of life and presents a more full, accurate view of the later years than our current anti-aging social perspectives allow. The book is much more reflective, exploring peak experiences, dark nights of the soul and persistent life lessons and patterns-- the life of imagination and spirit over time. Both projects are very exciting to me. I love working on them; the experience of bringing them to completion is quite thrilling, as it engages me not only with the solitary work of creating, but also with collaborating, meeting a steady stream of new people, and learning new skills.

It seems wise to me to continue to dream big, or if one never has dreamed big, to pull out the stops and go for it. What is there to lose?

I have a friend who is a dancer and she is holding a 70th birthday party tonight in our downtown community center. A vividly spiritual person who really comes from her heart, she teaches 4-5 classes a week, leads a dance company that offers regular concerts and does ongoing weekend seminars, too. Her engagement with her creative process and everyone she meets continues to be very alive. Her aliveness inspires us all.

The current blog post of IAHSA, the Global Aging Network, had a wonderful report on some older singers, one of them Chavela Vargas. "At 91 years old, Chavela Vargas, a well-known Costa Rican singer, continues to have a thriving music career. Vargas rose to prominence in the 1970′s as a singer of Mexican rancheras, boleros and corridos. These songs are like miniature operas, with over-the-top expressions of tragedy, heartbreak and redemption. For many, her interpretations of these songs are the versions that best define the power of these pieces." What a rich and powerful presence she is in this film clip.

As Gene Cohen wrote in his terrific book The Creative Age, creativity can have a Big C or a little c. The call to creativity embraces the whole spectrum, whether it's making jam, painting a room, writing a poem, praying or creating a pottery bowl. Creativity means opening our senses to the present moment. It gives us the opportunity to climb out of any boxes we may be habitually sitting in and simply play. Play and creativity involve spontaneity, letting go, being seen (to ourselves and others too), pleasure and enjoyment, a delightful bath in the immediacy of the moment. What calls you to creativity?

Wishing you a happy Thanksgiving time. There is so much I am thankful for.


  1. Happy Thanksgiving. I like the post on creativity and agree with it.

    Cher really depresses me because she was so beautiful, would have made a very interesting and gorgeous old lady, but now it's like her face was changed cannot move. Maybe it's all about photo shopping and she really can get expressive. Her new movie will probably tell more about that but in any photo, she just doesn't look real and as though the price she paid for no wrinkles is freeze frame and a rather odd expression. No thanks. I think it's plain sad.

  2. I'm in agreement, Rain. Frozen in pseudo youth. Hope you have a great holiday, too...

  3. Greetings Gaea, Oh your post -- so true about creativity. For me growing old has been like a blossom opening. I am more creative now, with many projects, then at any time in my life. May all aging persons have the benefit of your new book. And younger folks too! -- barbara