I’m proposing a new word in the dictionary:
‘Leunig’ – (verb) To express soulful profound ideas through simple whimsical cartoons and words in order to shine a light on unspoken truths or cause our view of the world to delightfully shift.
I’ve admired Michael Leunig for so long, yet I’m aware that he’s not everyone’s cup of tea. His political cartoons have at times been controversial. But politics aside, I choose to celebrate Leunig’s creative genius in expressing the soul.
A few days ago I had the honour of listening to Michael Leunig speak. It was an open conversation night held at a beautiful old mansion in my little town. Next to him was the author Alice Pung. I haven’t read her books but I want to because she’s a breath of fresh air.
My husband thinks I have a serious case of fan-girl going on when it comes to Leunig. And he’s probably right. I’m a passionate woman. He also doesn’t understand my passion for U2 or Dylan Thomas. I’m okay with that. So I’ll try not to sound sycophantic here. Let’s just say that I was seriously impressed with his words. My inner fan-girl would say she was intoxicated with them. Though I think anyone would have thought he was a little bit cool.
So when the night was over, I was on a high. Perhaps it’s because I don’t get out much. Perhaps it’s because I’ve felt lost lately. Whatever it was, I felt transformed.
Actually, when the night was over I walked out of the mansion and saw this. Perhaps it was the stunning blue moon that transformed me.
It hung lightly over me like a tender comforting eye. Watchful and wise.
There were many memorable words I scrawled down that night. I found them particularly helpful as a writer, but I think there’s universal truth to them too.
One of the most memorable things Leunig spoke about was his creative process. Having struggled so much with my own creative process recently, he had me at “Art is the messy and marvellous business of coming to your senses”.
Finding creativity seems so elusive to me. It’s like a shimmer on a diamond. You see it one moment, then it disappears in the next. But when you do see it, it’s dazzling.
But if it was easy to capture, then perhaps we wouldn’t appreciate it like we do. Being creative gives you a high that hits in the centre of your soul. A weight lifts off your shoulders. You are light again. You feel complete.
Let me list snippets of Leunig’s words. If you’re experiencing writer’s block or creative drought, I hope this is a timely antidote for you.
- Create in a way that a child creates… innocent, unprecedented… where all is possible.
- Being childlike means being in the moment, being mindful, being uninhibited.
- Children know how to daydream. It’s beautiful to be pre-occupied with daydreams… and then we grow up and have to re-learn how to daydream again.
- We need to have the freedom of a child… They have no concept of what a proper drawing is… they just enjoy the process.
- When you become aware of your work, you become inhibited… Then you try desperately to recover your lovely ability to be creative.
- Being creative is about finding what is unique and true to yourself.
- In order to find this place, you need to get lost… or be prepared to get lost.
- You have to regress… become temporarily infantile.
- It’s a process… you look at what you created and it’s a mess! And then you come to a point of acceptance: “It doesn’t matter that it’s a mess’… Then you start to love your mess… You play around with it …. then creativity happens!
- That creative moment is when you discover something beautiful and profound. It’s when you come out of the despair of being lost and come to your senses.
Before he moved on to talk about other things, he added an additional sentence. It almost went unnoticed. His reflective mellow voice almost trailed off. But it stayed with me.
“Isn’t that life’s work? To recover what is lost?”