In my old age, I’m realizing that something precious has been lost from my childhood. And I’m not talking about the loss of innocence or ability to spring into headstands (even years of yoga hasn’t helped that one). I’m talking about the ability to create behind closed doors.
I learned the metaphor of open and closed doors from Stephen King’s brilliant memoir, On Writing, where he advises:
“Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open. Your stuff starts out being just for you, in other words, but then it goes out. Once you know what the story is and get it right — as right as you can, anyway — it belongs to anyone who wants to read it. Or criticize it.”
When I was a kid, I’m told that I would sing and dance and draw and voice my ever-popular opinions without filter. Loquacious is the word my grandmother used. I got on stage and sang my heart out into the microphone. I sat around the preschool table and blew kids out of the water with my signature equestrian illustrations. I published a series of novellas featuring a fictional African elephant named Kilimanjaro and his band of exotic hoofed and horned friends.
Ever drawn to creative outlets, the same way I am now, one thing was different: I had no awareness of anything outside myself during the visioning process. I was blissfully carried away in a vortex of imagination that offered escape and yielded a product raw and entirely true to myself.
I’m sure you were the same way.
This is what Stephen King calls working behind a closed door - a mental force field around your raw creative power, free from self-judgment and practical application. A space for your creative genius to breathe and expand and reveal itself.
So what happened as I got older?
I became more aware of others, their perceptions, and how my performance had an impact on both. Sitting down to draw, write or sing felt like putting myself naked on a pedestal for everyone to see. I had forgotten how to create behind closed doors.
Through my schooling I began to approach the canvas and the blank page with thoughts like, how can I make this more conceptual? How can I create stronger metaphors? How can I increase the value of this marketing plan?
Those thoughts are all fine and good - after you’ve detailed the vision A to Z. These thoughts come from the “open door” mentality that is open to criticism, refinement and improvement. But as a writer and creative entrepreneur, the closed door is my greatest asset. It’s my time to tune in to something that no one else has, a perspective and an approach that is entirely my own.
And you have one too.
Stephen King says it best:
“When you write, you want to get rid of the world, do you not? Of course you do. When you’re writing, you’re creating your own worlds.”
I’m learning again how to create with the door closed. And it feels beautifully liberating. The joy is rushing back into my creative process. My voice is more and more true. People around me are responding to the shift in energy. My creative time is turning back to that impenetrable bubble of my childhood, that magic land of imagination that frees the mind and feeds the soul.
What have you been creating lately? Have you been doing it with the door open or closed?