Oh, Let Go
by Jennifer Paros
Creativity can be described as letting go of
-- Gail Sheehy
The other day I was playing with our cat Lou and because he is still
relatively new to me (we got him about a month ago), I found myself
studying him. What I noticed as I watched him play, first tracking
some string and then a small toy, is that every time he’d catch what
he was after, he would soon let it go. Because if he were to
continue holding on, the fun would be over and the game done.
Letting go of his hold was clearly critical so the next thing could
I’ve never really liked the expression “Let go”, even though I know
that as a directive it’s top of the line. My problem has been a
bothersome voice in my head that says, “Can’t I just control my way
to the outcome I want? That would be so much more comfortable.” But
the truth is, holding on always causes stress and is nothing but
uncomfortable. And just as Lou has discovered, it leads to the
end of fun.
When I was in junior high, my class went on a trip to an outdoor
adventure camp designed to help kids trust themselves, each other,
and strengthen their self-esteem through a series of outdoor
challenges. It was a good deal of fun; however, there was one
exercise that was not so fun for me. We were to stand on a platform
with our backs to the group and fall backwards, knowing the group
would catch us. When it came to my turn, I walked up the steps to
that platform and could not, through argument, encouragement or
shaming, get myself to fall.
This was one of my earliest indicators that I have a mental
inclination to be Let-Go-Resistant. And although I haven’t had
occasion to stand upon a platform recently, I do still find myself
reticent about trusting I’ll be safe once I let go. I witness it in
my creative work often. For, in order to write, I have to let go of
my fear of what other people will think. I have to do that in order
to write authentically and I have to do that in order to share
what I’ve written authentically. And when I speak of sharing
authentically, I am speaking of offering my work without expectation
or demand that the response I get in any way lifts me up or quells
So, how do I do that? And how do I get myself to fall
backwards off a platform into a group of people? Well, luckily, at
Illustration by Jennifer Paros - Copyright 2010
moments of fear, we have two frames of mind from which to choose.
The first I’ll call the Analytical and the second, the Creative.
The Analytical makes equations out of things, puts lists together
and organizes. It’s a great “go fetch” feature that allows us
to access and order things. The other, the Creative,
likes to make things. It does not assess or analyze, nor make
comparisons, it just makes stuff, writes stuff, draws stuff, builds
stuff, designs – and it will do it using whatever is available.
Its expertise is in
making things work rather than projecting whether externals are
conducive to something working or not. It thrives on what the
Analytical considers limitation because the Creative is ready
to work with whatever it’s got and views limitation as just another
way to focus its energy.
The Creative’s thoughts never frighten. So, there is nothing it
will bring to us that will spin us out or wake us in the middle of
the night sweating. However, the Analytical may – for it looks for
ways to measure, compare and contrast – and if not tethered
to the creative mind in service, it can wreak havoc on our emotional
stability, like what happened with me on that platform. I was
thinking like a captive rather than a creator. For
the Analytical was providing input like: “Well – in the past you’ve
been afraid. Data indicates you’re not the type of person who does
this kind of thing. If you don’t choose to fall, it will greatly
reduce your chances of getting hurt – everyone knows that.”
When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.
What I needed was to switch minds and use the Creative. The
Creative would have said, “I’m curious; let’s go - it’s safe.” And
if it hadn’t been safe, it would have told me that too, but not
based on old information fetched and assessed, but on the
present moment. And right then I would have ceased to be a
captive of my old perceptions, and known myself as a creator. And
in this knowing, letting go would have seemed easier and a lot more
worthwhile. For there is no discovery, no adventure, and no freedom
without the Creative mind and letting go is what it takes to open
the door to it, as Lou already clearly knows.
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Jennifer Paros is a writer,
illustrator, and author of
Violet Bing and the Grand House
(Viking, 2007). She lives in Seattle.