A Funky Kind of Love

detail of "Be Happy" mixed media assemblage by sara saltee.  

detail of "Be Happy" mixed media assemblage by sara saltee.  

Happy Valentine's Day!

Setting aside our grumbly objections to the greeting-card-industrial-complex, forced amorousness, and waxy sub-par chocolates, I think we can all agree that there are many kinds of love that are truly worth celebrating.

Though Valentine's Day skews toward hyping the transient, skin-deep kind of love we think of as "romantic," I vote we appropriate the day as an opportunity to consider a far more interesting and sustainable form of love - a love no less mysterious, fiery, and consuming than romantic love, but far less often celebrated.

I'm talking about the love of the creator for her creations.  Here's what creativity thinker Robert Fritz has to say about this unsung love:

“The reason you create a result that you care about is that you love it enough to see it exist.  This type of love is not simply responsive love.  In responsive love the situation comes first, and the love second.  You meet, you fall in love....Creators love their creations before the creation exists.  As Robert Frost said about poetry 'A poem begins with a lump in the throat.’ …The type of love an artist experiences during the creative process is generative rather than responsive.”

Isn't that awesome?  My long-married ears perk up at the idea that by sneaking off to my studio to work on an assemblage, or stepping into my office to squeeze in a quickie with a word document, I'm actually entering a socially-sanctioned extra-marital love relationship!  

But Fritz's description of the creator's peculiar form of generative love also helps us understand the exquisite vulnerability of the creator, doesn't it?  When we commit to creating, we enter the same arena of heartbreak as any other lover who dares to cast aside reason and risk the possibility - nay, probability - of heartbreak.

What if the idea we find so utterly beautiful and love so dearly fails, in the end, to live up to our expectations?  Worse, what if it's our fault?  What if our skill or talent or ability to persevere simply falls short and the object of our desire remains forever beyond our reach?  How will we survive the inevitable moment when the project we have organized our life around for a day or a week or a decade ends and we are left to pound the Haagen-Dazs and weep with bitter certainty that we will never again fall for an idea so loveable, so worthy, so wonderful?

And here's a real kicker:  How will we withstand the loneliness of falling deeply in love with something that doesn't yet exist?  How can we navigate the social world while engaging in a deep and meaningful relationship with a possibility that only we can see? Dare we speak of our love to others?  Or will the magic wither under the questioning, judgmental gaze of well-intentioned friends?  

So on this Valentine's Day, I invite you to take a moment to appreciate your own courage for daring to love what you love.  Take a moment to picture what it is that you are creating these days and let yourself acknowledge just how much you love it for all it's vulnerability and pitfalls and risks.  Let yourself feel how worth it it is, after all, to open your heart to the possibility of something beautiful and meaningful and true.  

If you're in the throes of a new creative love, enjoy the rush!  There's nothing like the flush of new idea-love to bring a fresh energetic current to your hum drum days. And, if you're long past the honeymoon period of your current creative project, take a moment to think back to when your love was new - can you remember the spark?  Can you still feel it? Can you honor the comfortable familiarity of your well-worn, time-enriched love-that-has-lasted?  And what would it take to add some spice back into the relationship?  (Costumes?  A casual flirtation with a new medium?  A brief dalliance with a fresh hot younger idea?)

I leave you with an energizing list of the many manifestations of love by the incomparable Brenda Ueland, circa 1938. May you make yourself available to them all:

“For I know that the energy of the creative impulse comes from love and all its manifestations – admiration, compassion, glowing respect, gratitude, praise, compassion, tenderness, adoration, enthusiasm.”