Recently I found risk taking on a list of qualities of highly creative people. I did not find fearlessness, confirming my belief that the two are not dependent upon each other. As I grow older, however, I often need to take unwelcome risks of all kinds to maintain my way of life and usually there is some degree of fear involved. But taking risks with my creative work, though this may stir up a few ghostly naysaying voices, invariably proves to be freeing and challenges me to keep going and to trust my instincts. More and more, I find myself less in competition with others than in a contest with my former artist or writer self, surprised by the directions in the process and product of both. These surprises are invigorating and completely fulfilling. They also deeply satisfy a need for discovery that has never left me and is buoyed by both inspiration and effort.
This doesn’t mean that the viewpoint of others is not important to me. It does mean that I trust myself more fully than I ever have in the past and that I’m less inclined to worry about the destiny of what I make. Of course I want a future for a painting or a manuscript and hope that others will enjoy them at some point, but never before has the process meant so much to me. While in the zone or flow or whatever we call that period when an artist seems suspended within his or her own creative energy, there is no past or future. There is just the present. There is also an acute awareness of growth. I hadn’t expected this in my later years, and I’m not only surprised but extremely grateful that this can happen alongside the physical diminishments of growing older.