It’s not the pearls…but it is the pearls.

Once upon a time I heard a quote that said, “It’s not the pearls that make the necklace; it’s the string.” I suppose that this meant that our life is not made up of the abundance of our possessions, or that we can’t count on flashy things in life to make us happy… I have since googled the phrase and have come up with nothing of any help.

If I held onto this phrase with the grubby little neurons of my brain, it’s not really because I like it, but because it irritated me a little.

Simultaneously, along this tightrope of life that we are all trying to walk, my grubby little neurons also grabbed onto an idea which was, and I paraphrase, “If we can add just a few beads of joy each day to our necklace of life…” (I sadly cannot remember the rest.)

This seemed easy to put in place. This spoke to me. I decided to practice the art of savoring: really taking a moment to enjoy a pleasant experience during the course of a day: whether it is sipping my coffee alone before everyone else gets up, to an impromptu snuggle from a scalawag who wants something from me…

Enter the Creative Mind

All of this is well and good, whether it be the string metaphor of life or the beads metaphor.

But here is what I have learned about people like us, and by people like us, I mean creative people: We have no control over when creativity strikes us. We are at the mercy of some galactic confluence of events, or a butterfly effect (a butterfly flaps its wings and I must start spinning wool). If we don’t embrace the moment, the creativity floats by, ne’er to return again.

If we do embrace it, then we can be lost for hours, days at a time in a flow of all-consuming, forget to eat or go to bed creative passion.

These moments of flow are so few and far between that embracing them feels like a moral imperative. They are pearls for the necklace, too; they are, however, unwieldy ones that become uncomfortable if they go on for too long. The string (our everyday lives) that holds the necklace of these pearls together is not so strong as to not break under their weight.

Not people people

We creative people can go long periods without one of these all-consuming projects. We can be normal, and for long long spells, too. Get ourselves into normal people rhythms and routines. From personal experience, routine and rhythm are critical for me when I am not in an all-consuming creative flow, otherwise I find I am floundering to do the basic things.

It seems backwards, doesn’t it? When I have the mental space and energy and no project, I flounder without routines and rhythms to organize my days. When I have a creative rush, I will get everything done quickly and without thought so I can just get on with my project.

Recursive Shapes

I have come to realize that, because I ain’t people people, my life is neither a string nor a bead, but more like a shell, with the little compartments of increasing size. The recursive compartments of my life are similarly shaped, only the size varies. Each compartment contains: one dash of boredom, routine and rhythm, one butterfly wingflap of magic, one heap of intense creativity, one dose of backlash, one sprinkling of letdown.

I find that the more I learn to establish routines and rhythms into my everyday life, the easier it is for me to survive the ebb and flow of creative inspirations. The more I lean into routine and rhythm during the build-up to a creative period, the easier it is to return to normal life when the rush is over.

Where is this coming from?

So, I am dwelling on this subject particularly right now, because over the last ten days, I started writing another novel while I was in the final minutes of putting final edits on the last one. I literally dropped everything and have spent every waking moment when I have been alone working on that novel.

I went through some feelings of guilt for abandoning my edits, but I also knew that this kind of inspiration is so rare and so precious, that to ignore it is 1. literally impossible and 2. a shame because it feels so good.

Tell me, dear reader: how do you deal with the ebb and flow of your creativity? What speaks more to you, the necklace and string metaphor, or the beads of joy?

Published by Lily Fields

I am passionate about contentment. This is a challenge, because I am equally passionate about progress. I get up at 4:00AM to chip away at a solution to this monolithic problem: how to make progress on my contentment. Born and raised in the USA, I married a French philosophy teacher in 1999. We have lived in France since 2007. We stayed young and carefree until life threw us two curveballs in the form of little humans one after another in 2015 and 2017 respectively. Now I am a slightly older, slightly more exhausted version of myself, but with mystery stains on my walls and a never-ending pile of laundry.

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