LEADER LETTER

Subscribing congregations should share this letter with congregational leaders.  Being oriented to the month’s theme, and equipped to help others in the congregation get aligned with it, builds the whole congregation’s engagement with the theme.  Which, of course, means unity and energy for the community.

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"Creativity" LEADER LETTER

Dear Friends,

I love to write.  The rhythm of the the sentences arrives in my mind first, then the words, then the meaning.  I love the relationship between percussive consonants and fluid vowels.  The plucky assertion of a short sentence.  When it flows, it is less like effortfully forcing something into being as it is like riding a whitewater raft, flowing down toward some unknown direction, bouncing off eddies and standing waves, not to mention the occasional rude branch.  It is pleasure unparalleled.  But when it won't come?  When the riverbed seems dry?  It's like sitting there in the raft, in the mud, all alone, waiting for something that you know won't come.

A few years ago, I worked for a while with a writing coach.  I talked about what I noticed: that it was either a rushing river or nothing.  But she didn't buy it.  She didn't believe that creativity was something that was there or was not.  She believed that it was always there.  And she encouraged me to try an exercise which has served me, ever since.

It is called "16 Things," thought it could just as easily be called "23 Things" or "7 Things" or "259 Things."  Here's how it works.  Are you stuck?  Good.  Take out a piece of fresh paper.  Make a list of numbers, from 1 to 16 (or maybe 259).  Then, generate options for your dilemma.  What are all the possible things that could happen?

The context my coach encouraged me to try this in was writing, of course, but I discovered something in it.  It seems to work just as well in every other context.  It's not only for imagining many possible moves a character in a story could make.  It helps me see the many possible moves that I, myself, could make, in my life.  So, it has become a trusted habit.  Whenever I'm stuck, facing some dead-end, some impossibility, I get out a sheet of scrap paper, and make a list, answering, "What are all my possible options?"

I'll tell you something I've learned.  Until I take out that scrap of paper?  I've usually conceived of the problem as a dilemma between two unpleasant choices.  Looking deeper at those choices, I can tell you, as well, that the two initial choices are typically some form of "fight" and "flight."  Either "all-in" or "all-out."  And that black-and-white conception of the problem at hand forces a locked-up ambivalence.  But if I can generate a third option?  And then a fourth?  And a fifth?  This is when it seems that actual thinking begins.  This is when the riverbed starts to fill.  By the ninth or the tenth option, I am sometimes laughing, because sometimes the options can be absurd--and that is ok!  By generating options, I am helping myself see a wide range of endless possibilities.  I'm seeing that the riverbed was full all the time, and that I was not stuck in the mud, but was hung up on a branch.  Looking out upon my wealth of choices, I find that the work is to navigate the experience of onward flow.

This month, our theme is creativity.  And you may be inclined to think of it in terms only of art.  As if this is the month, finally, when you'll pick up a paint-brush.  And, well, maybe it is.  But I encourage you to consider the theme in its broader sense.  I encourage you to see yourself as alive within a greater, wider creative process of life, and to trust that creativity is always at hand, awaiting our notice.  And maybe?  If you're stuck, in some aspect of life?  Maybe you'll get out a fresh piece of paper--or a scrap piece of paper--and make a list of numbers, from 1 to 16, to wake yourself up to the many possible avenues that lie before you, as you create the story of how you will live your life.

Faithfully,

Jake

Rev. Jake Morrill
Senior Minister ORUUC
Executive Director UUCF
Launchpad Partner