What is meraki and can the practice support us in enriching our creative endeavours?
Join me in this episode as I discuss the origins and meaning of the creative concept of the Greek word meraki. Find out how you can bring it into all that you do and use it as a code to live by and cultivate a deeper, more meaningful practice as a result.
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Intro/outro music courtesy of Lesfm on Pixabay
Welcome to episode four of creative power. Today I’m really excited to share with you a concept that has been with me for a long time which is the concept of Meraki.
Meraki is a Greek word and is sometimes described as untranslateable. The gist is that it means to do something with soul, creativity or love. Meraki is to pour a piece of yourself into what you’re doing; you put all your love, your devotion your knowledge, your care and attention, everything goes in. A little piece of your heart is going into what you’re doing. It apparently originates from the Turkish word “Merak” meaning Labor of love or to do something with pleasure.
I have Cypriot heritage on my father’s side so I learnt about this word many years ago. Being a creative person, it has stayed with me almost like a pulse check against anything I am making or doing – not just because of my heritage but also because of its meaning connected to creative pursuits.
Meraki originally has often been used in reference to cooking, baking or preparing a meal. Someone would say that their yiayia (which is Greek for grandma) – their yiayia had baked the cookies with Meraki. It’s the idea that she’s poured her love, devotion, everything into it when she hands you that plate.
Have you ever eaten something made by a relative and it tasted absolutely INCREDIBLE?! So you’ve got the recipe, tried making it yourself but it never tastes quite as good even though you’ve used the exact same ingredients, the exact same method but it’s missing that je ne sais quoi. You can put your finger on it but it’s not quite the same? That is meraki.
It’s like a secret sauce that gives things a special quality. It’s the love that your grandma put into making and baking those cookies for you and you can’t get that back because the unique piece, the extra ingredient… was her.
While often used for describing cooking, meraki as a concept can be used for anything creative, anything where you pour a little bit of your heart into what you’re doing. Whether that’s creating a piece of art, wrapping a gift for a friend or organising a party for someone. It’s in the love, the care, the time, thought and effort we put into doing it and it lives on in the memory of the people whose lives you touched with it.
Isn’t that lovely? And it’s what aspire to do as creators or creative people, is it not? We want to channel something of ourselves into our work to give it meaning more than just it’s a pretty thing that we’ve made.
The meraki makes our work unique. It’s what comes through in our work, it’s our unique voice, our own style, it’s our legacy to the world. And that little piece of you that lives on in what you’ve created, it speaks to other people too. It’s how we find meaning in art, in other people’s creations.
Think about a song whose lyrics have made you cry or a photograph or painting that connects you to the person who made it. Imagine going into the garden of your family home and what are you seeing there is visual evidence of memories of the love that your grandparents put into tending the garden. How they thought carefully about where the flowerbeds would go, what they would plant and where… all of those little pieces of their soul lives on in it.
This links back to what I was saying in episode two about redefining creativity and I feel that meraki helps to drive home my point about redefining and opening up creativity as a concept. Working with the intention of meraki can be used to describe everything from cooking to creating art to organising a party for a loved one. All are creative in different ways and use different skills to bring them to life.
I think it illustrates how creativity can be so many different things. It’s not just writing, sculpture, drawing, painting, photography… it’s also those other activities that we pour ourselves into in a loving way.
So why is this concept of meraki important? Well, it’s important because as artists, as creators, as creatives it is something that we strive to do. It is how we communicate, how we express ourselves to other people. It is how we soothe the souls by channelling these feelings and leaving a piece of ourselves in what we do
It’s also important to be aware of that because it can then lead to fear, to being afraid to share our work, to show the world what we have made and be visible. Meraki can be part of the reason why we are afraid because we know that we’ve left a piece a piece of ourselves in that poem or the song we’ve written. It’s in the painting, the sculpture, the novel. We know that we poured a piece of our heart into the cake that we baked so we’re afraid of what other people might say.
We’re afraid because not only are they’re judging the quality of the work or whether they like it or not. What we feel is they are judging our souls. They are passing judgement on who we are and how we feel. They are validating it or invalidating our emotions, our thoughts, our very existence and that can be terrifying. I get it, I really do! This fear can even become paralysing.
So what do we do about it?
I think the most important thing to do is not hold back from doing anything with meraki just because you are fearful of someone else’s reaction or judgement. You can choose whether you share it with other people but don’t stop the creation process, don’t stop the act of meraki before you’ve even got to that stage.
It’s also important not to hold back because you feel burned out – something which I’ve done myself in my design practice over the years. When you get feedback to change something, it can feel personal, I know, I’ve felt it so you disconnect your attachment to the work, you stop pouring the meraki in. The result I’ve found in my own freelance work was years of churning out things that felt empty to me. Yes, they fulfilled the brief and made the client happy but didn’t set my soul on fire.
What I’m trying to say is one way or another, whether it’s through fear, exhaustion or something else entirely, as creative people, at some point we stop being satisfied with what we are doing if we’re not doing it with meraki because our essence, the flavour of US is missing.
I think there’s a third option. I think there’s a way to make peace with being able to pour yourself into whatever you’re doing and put all your love, devotion, time, effort, thought, knowledge, care and attention… Pour all of those things into whatever you do and not be afraid to share it. And importantly to not feel depleted by sharing it either because that can be another issue.
When you’re working and channelling emotions, feelings, memories etc from these deep-seated places in your soul, it can be exhausting. Because you’re bringing up all of these emotions, feeling all of it and then leaving a little piece of yourself somewhere. That can be really really tiring particularly then when you’re dealing with the judgement of people, wondering what are they saying, what are they thinking about it what you’re doing. So I think it’s important to learn to detach.
So once you’ve created that piece or put your all into something… then just let it go. Know and acknowledge that you’ve poured your heart and soul into it and then when it’s done, take a deep breath and let it go. Let it be finished. And once it’s finished, give it some space. Give yourself some time away because you can’t see it objectively because you’re too caught up in the feelings still.
This works really well for writers. When you finished your manuscript, instead of going straight back in to edit your first draft just take a few days off from working on it. Giving it some space can make a massive difference in your ability to look at it objectively, to be rational, to be calm about it and not react from that same set of emotions that you were in when you created the piece because you were living it.
So take a step back and detach yourself from the outcome once it’s done. This detachment not only helps you improve your creative flow and reduces the tendency for burnout but also can give you the ability to share the world you’re so afraid of the world seeing. So give yourself some space to do things that recharge you, that replenish yourself Think about self-care, what makes you feel nourished and energised?
The thing about meraki is that often, you give away a lot in the process. You give away your love, your energy, your emotion, your time and people can tell because of how it makes them feel. They know when your heart is in it or if you’re phoning it in and because people can instinctively feel your vibe and know you’re giving it your all, it makes us as creators want to do EVERYTHING with meraki. And that can sometimes be depleting, particularly in a world where it’s hard to feel and be valued as a creator.
I think there’s also this protectiveness that we have around the work we do that holds a piece of our soul which can make sharing all the more difficult so we hold onto the work because like I said earlier, it can be scary putting it out there into the world. But the truth is, once you’ve left a piece of yourself in something, you can’t take it back and neither should you want to, it’s there for a reason and it’s beautiful as it is.
Not only that but you’d never be able to take it back in the same way so I think part of the process of meraki after you’ve created or done something is to then learn to reshape yourself.
You reshape and reshuffle yourself around the fact that you have poured a piece of yourself into something, isn’t that beautiful? To think that a piece of you is living out there in the world, separate from you and it will live on.
Think about beautiful pieces of artwork, a photograph or a song where the creator is long dead. Yet we can still connect with that person regardless because they make it with meraki and without it, the creation wouldn’t still move us in the here and now.
To me, it makes meraki a timeless concept. It means that we can cross the bridge between time and space and reach out to anyone, anywhere and they will feel us, as I hope you are able to feel me right now.
Meraki is also really good as a pulse check for everything we’re doing. And this is where I had it over to you. Where is meraki in your life? How can you bring it more into your life?
Maybe you’ve been feeling like there’s something missing in your life, that you’re just turning out the same old work, nothing new. Maybe you’re feeling empty and want to get in touch with some emotions. Perhaps you are struggling with emotions and need to channel them in some way. Perhaps you feel depleted because you’ve given too much of yourself away and need to start setting some boundaries. Maybe you want to look at how you can use meraki to express yourself more authentically and connect more with your audience.
For me, I found that when I restarted my creative practice of writing poetry this month I found that pouring myself into my writing actually improved my creative flow because I have been very stuck with the words over the years. I found that by tapping into all those feelings and really pouring something of me in actually allowed the words to flow.
I appreciate that’s not for everyone but there’s so many ways that meraki can be beneficial once you give yourself permission to create with it. I’d be really interested to hear your thoughts on this as you consider how and where you can invite meraki into your life so do reach out. Send me a message, connect with me on social media and let me know how you are going to to embrace meraki in your creative practice and your life because it’s so rewarding. Or if you already are doing everything with meraki, how is it going? How does it enrich what you do? I’d love to hear your stories!
So that’s it for this episode! I hope you’ve enjoyed learning about meraki and that it’s given you some food for thought about how you can bring it into your life. See you in the next episode!