Creativity and Spirit


Recently, a young friend of mine asked me at the tail end of an email for my thoughts on creativity and spirit. I thought, “You have got to be kidding.” But I wrote back and asked if she wanted me to do a blog post, or could we save it for a conversation when I see her at Christmas (desperately hoping for the latter).  She hasn’t responded, so here goes . . . .

I have written before about the importance of being in the moment – or putting yourself back into the moment – when you’re writing. That seems to me the only way to achieve authenticity, to re-experience things, events, people, or conversations in a way that will reach into the reader so that she can see it, feel it, experience it in a new way. That’s the kind of connection writers always want to achieve, because it is truth-telling at its deepest level.  Spiritual teachers point to this “being in the moment” as connecting to the Divine . . . although there are plenty of great writers who are atheists!

But “spirit?” This is a word with far too many meanings, and I have no idea which meaning my young friend was referring to – and I’m afraid to ask her until I see her. Concepts like this are too difficult to pin down in an email.

Do we create only when “the spirit” moves us?  Or do we sit down every day in front of the computer just like going to work?  Where does that going-to-work discipline come from? Surely we are driven by something inside, be it ambition, egotism, the desire to connect with other human beings, anger at the injustices of the world, revenge, the profound love of the sheer beauty around us, despair, divine inspiration or just the simple desire to see our name on the marquee. Whatever it is, it flows through us . . . and will not be denied.

Personally, I have difficulty defining what drives me, so for convenience sake I’ll call it “spirit.”  Hope I’m not stepping on too many toes here!

I expect this post to rouse up a few of my readers to comment – let’s get a conversation going. My young friend will certainly be one interested reader.

Photo by SSH

Photo by SSH

About SSH

Philadelphia native and graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and Cornell, Shaw Homer has lived in Costa Rica for over 30 years, where she has taught languages and worked for environmental NGOs. In addition to writing for the local press, her fiction, creative nonfiction and poetry have appeared in both print and on-line literary and travel journals, as well as on her blog, Her travel memoir, Letters from the Pacific, received excellent Kirkus and Publishers Weekly reviews. Her most recent book is Evelio’s Garden: Memoir of a Naturalist in Costa Rica. She and all her books can be found at

6 thoughts on “Creativity and Spirit

  1. Alison says:

    Your mention of the discipline of working each day to draw upon the creative spirit reminds me of Jim Yaffe, who was the writer in residence at Colorado College many years ago. Jim worked each day in his home office and likened it to opening his shop, “Sometimes I have customers and sometimes I don’t.” I am always in awe of people who seem able to turn on their creative juices like a spigot. It doesn’t work like that for me.

    The question really begs a definition of spirit which, for those of us without religious alignment, sends us into the deep unknown. But if we think of spirit as some kind of force that exists outside of our mortal, earthly shell, then – somehow – the opening of ourselves to accept its entry can result in a creative impulse. At that moment, it’s as though we are compelled to create something new, perhaps something of great beauty, or great meaning. Personally, I have not worked at leaving myself open to this kind of inspiration. For me, it’s rare and always comes unbidden, usually through a sensory stimulus, like the color of madrone trees at sunset, or the sound of water lapping at a sea wall, or the smell of green in the heat of summer. And that creative impulse may rumble around in my head for many months until – again unbidden – it will out. It’s the crazy thing that sends us into a hotel bathroom in Paris at 2 AM to draft a new poem. And as the thoughts flow and the words arrive, I feel imbued with something very special as though – somehow – I am glowing inside. Definitely in the moment. Is that spirit? I’m not sure, but I’ll take it!

  2. I like the perspective you pose for spirit, and you detailed it well. I’d like to hear more about the connection between spirit and the creative.

    Plus my personal belief system is completely in sync.

    So what about ego, spirit, creativity?

  3. SSH says:

    I agree: no religious discrimination when it comes to living in the moment. And the “moment” does indeed linger, sometimes long after getting up from your desk. A writer is living with her characters on some level of consciousness all the time. Which explains why one jumps out of bed at two in the morning to write something down. And also raises the question: what about spirit and “inspiration?” SSH

  4. Nice. Although I don’t see a requirement to believe in any form of a deity to live in the present, especially when writing. One could be an atheist for example, and be immersed in the present when writing one’s story. When I’m lucky I get so immersed in writing from a particular character’s point of view that it stays with me even after the writing is paused. I suddenly know what this protagonist should do and feel.

    Is that spirit of some sort? I don’t know but yesterday I got a shot of plot direction simply by reading a quote from Carlos Castaneda (speaking through Don Juan). Suddenly I saw my protagonist on a hero’s quest. It’s hardly the first time that idea has crossed a writer’s mind but suddenly I had some direction for this story and this protagonist and I was grateful.

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