Regain Your Creative Joy

“While the hero journeys for external fame, fortune, and power, the heroine tries to regain her lost creative spirit.”

Valerie Frankel, From Girl to Goddess

This quote has rocked my world. It feels very, very important.

Frankly, I started Savor & Serve because I was exhausted by the “creativity for creativity sake” message I saw in so many books, blogs and retreats. It seemed so self-indulgent. The world is burning, people, we need to do something!

I still believe we need to do something – doh – but I now know – KNOW in capital letters – that the only way to do  something is to regularly imbibe, inhabit and bathe in creative joy.

As Rachel Naomi Remen, M.D. says,

“When you help, you see life as weak. When you fix, you see life as broken. When you serve, you see life as whole. Fixing and helping may be the work of the ego, and service the work of the soul.”

The soul needs creative joy so it can serve.

But here’s the rub, the key, the most important part my friends: if you go to creative joy with any agenda, even one as noble as recharging yourself to serve, creative joy hides. It goes underground. Does not come out to play.

Creative joy is pure. It is a state you invite for its own self, not for what it might get you – which might be everything and which might be… nothing.

It may recharge you. It may give you ideas for projects and solutions. It may make you feel more alive. Or it may leave you feeling frustrated and crabby, lonely and thwarted. You can’t know ahead of time, you can’t insist, you can’t force it.

You can create conditions that help creative joy thrive but after that, it’s a wide open mystery.

All my life I have worshipped at the altar of creative joy – and often, as an adult, I have excommunicated myself from that worship because I had “work to do” or even more deadly “creative work to do.”

No more. Making time for creative joy is holy work and part of how we will reclaim the world.

Are you with me? Do you agree? Or am I all unicorns and rainbows?

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CA - April 18, 2012

I so agree with you! Since I began painting again I decided I would paint and market only as it was effortless or fun.
So far a gallery found me an hour after displaying my work with a friend who had been urging me for years to bring some paintings by and he’d put them out with his work. Another business (unrelated) saw an example of my work at a different friend’s and suggested I bring by a poster to hang in their place of business. yet another friend, unasked is drumming up comissions 2,000 miles away.
I sold a painting to someone I’d run into by “chance” (I’d been sitting in church thinking yes I want more joy in my life when I looked over and there was my friend Joy who was attending unbeknownst to me for the first time)  and only  texted her a picture of what I’d been up to since we’d last met.
 Leonard Cohen summed it up for me when he sang
 “If it be your will
That I speak no more
And my voice be still
As it was before I will speak no more I shall abide until I am spoken for … If it be your will That a voice be true From this broken hill I will sing to you From this broken hill All your praises they shall ring If it be your will To let me sing “When we do what gives us joy from our deepest heart, the world cannot help but be affected and joyfully support us.

Sherold - April 18, 2012

Jen – I loved this post.  The quote from Rachel nailed it “…When you serve, you see life as whole. Fixing and helping may be
the work of the ego, and service the work of the soul.” 

When we have service as our platform for the work we each do in the world, then it becomes the work of our soul – our true destiny.

Your workshop sounds delicious.  May you three be showered with lots of participants;)

Trishm999 - April 18, 2012

It was so refreshing to see this spoken out loud and in public because it is so true. Joy is sacred because we can’t make it happen, but can create a apace and a place for it to emerge.

Thank you for this wonderful post.

Michelle Barry Franco - April 18, 2012

Oh, I am SO with you! Thank you so much for articulating this. Holy moly, have I experienced the “wide open mystery” of diving into creative play and having it lead to things I didn’t expect – both exciting and really quite “nothing”! When I go in with expectations, it is often less satisfying than when I dive in for the joy of it. I simply have never thought about what’s going on there until right this minute as I read your post. Now, I will intentionally dive in for the joy of it more often. This is good. Really good information. Well-served 🙂 Thank you, Jennifer.

shirleyhs - April 18, 2012

Lovely quotes, Jen. And you wove them together so simply and beautifully. I agree with you. Unicorns and rainbows are OK too. 🙂

Karen - April 18, 2012

Your Shero’s class this spring re-energized me precisely because of the first quote that you shared in today’s blog. 
I’ve also noticed again and again in my life and in the lives of my business clients–  it’s when we do something we love, with a heart felt goal in my mind, and keep doing it regardless of whether our goal is achieved that unexpected miracles occur. 
There’s something about the way you talk about creative joy that is very important.  It’s also been inspiring to see your process of re-awakening or expanding your vision in the last year through your blogs.

Melissaiquintero - April 18, 2012

I like todays post ( well I like most of them if not all)
so CUTE , so SOOTHING, to think that , our work should be JOYOUS, and that feeds us again !! for more work, and for PLEASURE..

    jenlouden - April 18, 2012

    it is simple and soothing and true thanks Melissa!

Jecolorfulheart - April 18, 2012

oh yeah…we all too often listen to the messages around us (and coming from within ourselves) that it is a “waste of time” or is “selfish” to take time for creative joy…I’m learning that such moments are what fills me up and energizes me so that I can work hard at more mundane responsibilities!

Thanks for so clearly affirming the importance of making room for the pursuit of creative joy!

Terry Jordan - April 18, 2012


Wonderful post and quotes woven together.The way you see creative joy is the yearning I have to make time each day for this playful, unexpected, creative expression. Yet, here I am, once again on the computer chatting about it instead of playing in the moment of creativity. This little laptop of mine brings me wonderful views on the world like yours, but often takes me away from the moment. I long to find the balance. 

owlsdaughter - April 18, 2012

Thank you.  I couldn’t agree more. My own repetitive bouts of amnesia about this are the proof!  This was a profoundly timely reminder.  

Also, underscoring why it is holy work, I offer one of my favorite quotes ever: “The opposite of war isn’t peace. It’s creation.” ~ Jonathan Larson, Rent

Debra Eve - April 18, 2012

So timely, Jen. I’m reading The Virgin’s Promise by Kim Hudson. She brings to light the heroine’s journey, which is  a return to self, just at Valerie Frankel says. I will keep this phrase with me now…”holy work.” Thank you for another gorgeous post!

    jenlouden - April 18, 2012

    off to request the book!

jenlouden - April 18, 2012

beautifully said!

Patty Bechtold - April 18, 2012

I love it that you didn’t get it for a long time, the thing about creativity for creativity’s sake. Same here. So Shero of us to resist the call.

But then something shifted for me and there was this unexpected letting go of the need to know what it was all about. Surrender, I guess I’d call it, in a good way. 

Now I try to let it have its way. Just the other day, in the middle of cleaning my office, I came across a half-finished collage. And I knew in an instant that it was way more important to finish that than clean my office!

If it is unicorns and rainbows, that’s good too.

Kathryn - April 18, 2012

I’m with you Jennifer. What I discovered when I wrote about this in my newsletter recently was a shift from hankering after the creative high which would come and go, to gain more stability by exercising joyful mindfulness toward all my work and play. The energy that we bring to our creative expression underlies what gets created as well as sustains us and informs us throughout the creative process. 

I particularly resonated with this quote from Dr. W Edwards Deming which I heard many years ago: “Why are we here? We are here to come alive, to have fun, and to take joy in work.” 

More and more, I see my work, my calling, and my creative expression as a call to love – and one to imbue with joy so that it will, in turn, imbue me with joy and all who it touches.

Much appreciation for your work and your call to serve. 

    jenlouden - April 19, 2012

    so nourishing to read this!

Tracy @ Bent Tuba Studio - April 18, 2012

Jen, I think you’re absolutely right. It all comes down to our ability (willingness) to be fully present in the moment, in being open to everything that arises–joy and despair and everything in between, just as it is–and to play with no agenda. Play isn’t always “fun,” but in its true form, it’s a state of absolute engagement.

Rene' Seigh - April 18, 2012

Yes, I’m with you, and yes, yes, yes, I agree! I have this feeling right now in my solar plexus that I just stepped onto holy ground, and something is happening. MOST of my life I have denied creative joy until work is done. OUCH! It’s dangling there, right in front of me. Can I reach for it? If not to save myself, then to do the work that I’ve always known I was meant to do???? Will I????? A lot to ponder… Love, NayNay

    jenlouden - April 19, 2012

    NayNay what would be a baby step toward allowing yourself to have the creative joy first? small is beautiful.

jenlouden - April 19, 2012

thanks, me too! it’s beautiful!

Rainyinashland - April 19, 2012

Yes I get that.  What came up for me was the truth that we do it all for ourselves, not for others, and that’s okay because that is our holy work.  And that being joyful is delightful, a gift, not logical, not related to anyone else or what they’re doing, the state of the world. ….we just get to slip into it and say “oh, there you are! I love you!  ..stay with me please….oops, there you go”.  “Oh, well, I know you’ll be back but I don’t know when”.

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