Taking the Creative Pledge: “I’ll show up to do the work.”

Juan Huey-Ray and Leon Burke at Shivers Fund Finale

Juan Huey-Ray and Leon Burke at Shivers Fund Finale 









Taking the Creative Pledge: “I’ll show up to do the work.”

Essay and Photo by Janet Riehl, copyright 2013

This is the fifth anniversary of my Creative Catalyst column which started in November 2008 when Telling Her Stories was launched. This is my 62rd post. A life filled with creative practice is sustained over time. This column has been an anchor in that practice during turbulent times. By posting a column each month I’ve built a body of work.

A theme threading through the collected posts is that there is no art without craft. From that first post in 2008 through March 2012 I worked in cycles—nine cycles in all—each post exploring a given topic. The first cycle examined “What is creativity anyway?”  How to build a creative practice,  and  working from source in your creative practice.

This end-of-the-year column continues to affirm that “Art is good, but craft will see you through.” Our muse comes when we’re at work. The trick then, is to keep ourselves at work, as happily as possible–to keep moving even when our brains or our lives seem paused. Not a week passes that I don’t see living examples of the synthesis of art and craft. Look around and I’m sure you’ll see it, too.

My simple definition of creativity is this: “Uniting heart, hands, and head to make or do something of value to yourself and quite possibly the wider world.”

My complete definition of creativity is: “Nurturing and directing the raw life force within us to do or make something that matters to you and the wider world. Showing up consistently to do the work.”

And work it is. For writers there are those dratted drafts. For performing artists—actors, dancers, and musicians—there are rehearsals that culminate in something fleeting.

I just returned from Colorado Springs where we celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Shivers Fund. This was the last biennial celebration. These events have supported the endowment for the Pike’s Peak Library to ensure funding for the African-American Historical and Cultural Collection and to offer scholarships to young artists. Peggy Shivers and her late husband Clarence—both accomplished artists in their own right—began the fund in 1993. The fund has made immeasurable contributions to the community and demonstrates what can happen when we are in it for the long haul.

I could hardly turn around at the Shivers gala without bumping into a cousin performing at a high level in the arts. My friend Leon Burke is such a one. But the Shivers extended family goes beyond blood relatives. One of our greatest pleasures there was getting to know Juan and Doris Huey-Ray. Juan (a choral conductor and singer) and Leon (an orchestral conductor and singer) bonded like brothers. Back home I found this quote on his Facebook page from one of his chorus members at St. Clement’s Episcopal Church.

Rehearsals: “We’re professionals here.”

Intense work.
Instruction on technique and sound from the best directors around.
Utter discouragement when we can’t get it right.

Then suddenly we have church right there in the middle of practice.

Aaaaannnd then we’re back to the grueling work. Totally exhausting. Totally fun. Totally worth it.

During our conversations with Juan he spoke of the twin principles of gaining and grounding inspiration through the vertical dimension and sharing it with community as the horizontal dimension. Inspiration is tapping into our life force. Then we must become servants to this force as we nurture and channel it into our creative products. This is where those drafts and rehearsals come in as we make our creative pledge to work through the “utter discouragement when we can’t get it right” and keep going until we do.

Accept the gift of inspiration gratefully when it comes and don’t waste it, knowing that this is only one of the means you have available to shape your creative force into products that will gift the world.


Janet Riehl is an artist, writer, storyteller, and undisciplined musician.  You can learn more about her work at http://www.riehlife.com.

4 responses to “Taking the Creative Pledge: “I’ll show up to do the work.”

  1. It’s hard to believe that you’ve been writing this column for 5 years and that I’ve been reading it that long too. Seems like only yesterday when I got so excited about your ideas on creativity way back then. Thanks for doing it, and for keeping on with it. That you are still writing and sharing your inspirational wisdom is a testament to the value and meaningfulness of true commitment. You’re my heroine! 🙂

  2. Janet,
    Thank you for this glorious, thought-provoking body of work. I glean something special from each and every post. Keep ’em coming!

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