Michael Leunig is a treasured Australian cartoonist, writer, painter, philosopher and poet who I’ve posted about before. Leunig recently visited my workplace and shared a few honest and humble insights about his creative process.
At the beginning of almost every project, Leunig shared that he sinks into something similar to self-loathing. He asks himself, ‘What on earth makes me think I can write about something I’m not an expert on?’ (I wonder if that’s the point where many of us stop, listen to our negative inner chatterbox and go no further.) Eventually, from the ashes of this dark, doubtful and uncertain place, with a very deflated ego, he begins to create.
In his cartoons, Leunig hopes to be interpreted more as a catalyst for discussion rather than someone with a firm opinion.
He spoke about the under-rated appreciation of ‘mature innocence’, a quality he uses to explores emotions, or, as his website states –
‘the idea of an innocent and sacred personal world, the fragile ecosystem of human nature and its relationship to the wider natural world.’
For example –
‘We pray for the fragile ecology of the heart and the mind. The sense of meaning. So finely assembled and balanced and so easily overturned. The careful, ongoing construction of love. As painful and exhausting as the struggle for truth and as easily abandoned.
Hard fought and won are the shifting sands of this sacred ground, this ecology. Easy to desecrate and difficult to defend, this vulnerable joy, this exposed faith, this precious order. This sanity.
We shall be careful. With others and with ourselves.’
AMEN (Michael Leunig)
I can’t begin to do this thoughtful, gentle, spiritual (yet not religious) and outspoken artist justice here. But the reason I’m blathering on about him again is a story from his childhood that Leunig used as a metaphor.
As a youngster Michael Leunig lived in the bush, and like many children he believed in fairies and pixies.
Down by a creek near his home, he’d create miniature gardens for the magic folk to play in – using sticks, pebbles, flowers and whatever was at hand. In the morning he’d go and see if his garden had had visitors overnight, and he was always sure he saw tiny footprints in the dirt.
Leunig likens his creative works as an adult to those tiny gardens he made in the bush as a young boy. If a reader wanders through his work (like the magic folk) and enjoys it, is enriched by the experience—then that gives him, the creator, great pleasure. More pleasure than awards and accolades.
That’s when I realised that should be enough. When we create something (cook a meal, write a book/post, paint, sew, compose, make a home/family etc), it really is a wonderful compliment to know that someone enjoyed the experience our creation gave them.
It is enough.
Have you created something others have enjoyed? How did it feel?
Note: Quite a few male colleagues admitted how much they enjoyed listening to Michael Leunig (who doesn’t shy away from feelings and emotions). Should be more of it. 🙂