Can You Hear the Whisper?

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Captain's Blog: Stardate 072618.6

Everybody wonders what creativity feels like. “How do you know when it’s right? What is the physical sensation of inspiration?” I’ll give a different answer every time.

“It tickles. Like when your new boyfriend sneaks up on you and dances his fingers along your sides.”

“It burns like you fell asleep on the beach and no one came by to roll you over.”

“It’s chills. Your hairs stand on end like the AC just kicked on or someone walked across your grave.”

But to be perfectly honest it is simply none of those things. At least for me.

No, my creative experience feels very different. Mine starts as a whisper. Someone is speaking with my voice just off and behind my right ear. I hear myself articulating an idea that I’ve never thought about before. Fashioning words into sentences, paragraphs into pages, and suddenly I have given birth to a new life.

Whispers.

But there are times that I cannot hear this voice. The din of the necessities of everyday life simply overpowers the whisper.

And I have a choice to make. Will I listen harder, or must my muses roar?

Whichever choice I make, there are very few moments where honoring the whisper means I am a successful, functional adult. Often, to hear my creative voice I have to put other things on hold. I’ll sit at a work desk with project after project wasting away unfinished in my inbox. That’s assuming I’ve chosen to go in at all.

The whispers love to come when I’m naked. With waters dribbling down my flesh, I’ll hear the voice telling me the perfect obstacle for my newfound life to overcome. Sometimes, even as I frantically loofah my suds away, repeating the idea over and over in my mind and mouth, it will still spin down the drain with the body wash, lost forever in the sewers of undiscovered thoughts.

There have been times I was unwilling to listen. I once had this boyfriend who, despite his fascination with my work as an artist, was also doubly convinced that without me finding a “real job” I would be nothing to him in the long run but a drain on his finances. He further drilled this point home when he decided he would rather find a roommate on Craigslist than let me move in when my lease was up. When he finally dumped me, I decided he must be right. I must not be worth much without a “real job.”

So, I took my skills, of which I have many, and found one. It was a job in marketing and, to be honest, there was a lot about it I loved. I represented several different departments and had a lot of great stories to tell, within the confines of the brand and the business. Much of my work was lauded. I even got a communications award that I continue to forget to put on my resume.

And somewhere down that road the whisper went away. I didn’t even realize it was missing until an audition for a show I loved came and went and I chose to stay at this job and miss the opportunity. I was twenty-nine. My life was settling into a predictable, safe, and perfectly valid routine. And then the cast list came out. And my whisper roared louder than I had ever heard before.

For my birthday that year I took a solo trip to New York City. On my first day there, I won the lottery to see “Wicked” from the second row. Before the show, I could see Gelinda hover into the air in her bubble, and heard her vocalizing, like so many singers will do, in anticipation of the curtain. From start to finish, Kendra Kassebaum and Julia Murney delivered a heart-stirring performance and, just like that, my whisper was back with a vengeance.

Since then, I’ve had more moments of success and failure honoring my whisper. Sometimes I mistrust it. Sometimes I beg it to speak up. Often there are elements of both.

What does creativity feel like?

It feels like an old friend, with their hands on my shoulders, giving voice to my dreams. Giving permission to my whims. Creativity feels like love. It’s scary, and important, and lifts me to a place above this earth where there is clarity and peace.

Can you hear the whisper?