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I am a listmaker extraordinaire. The gods of organization bow down before my ability to create order from swirling chaos. My ability to create piles and make sense from nonsense is enviable and astounding.

I had three days off this week, by some freakish miracle handed down from the scheduling gods at my new job. Part of me was tempted to use that time to create – to write in my journal, to make art, to write blogs, to take part in Nanowrimo. And then I had to take a good hard look at who I am and what it takes to make me thrive creatively.

If I’d taken those three days to create, I would have had to work to silence the never-ending stream of babble in the back of my mind pointing out the dusty end tables and the state of the kitchen floor. And that, my friends, sucks all the fun right out of it for me. Yeah, I would have produced something, but I would also have had that icky feeling like I skipped school in order to go to the mall.

So I made lists, and I set some deadlines. And I worked like Cinderella to meet my own expectations. (Unfortunately, I had to make do without the help of woodland creatures. My cat was uninterested in actual labor, and chose the position of manager – no direct assistance and the contribution of commentary, which she performed admirably from the top of the kitchen cabinets). I set myself some realistic goals this time, and I met them all, and that felt good. I’m realizing that in order for me to feel good about taking time for myself – to create, to play, to read, to do nothing – I need to become very clear about what I can do and need to do in order to create space for me to enjoy my time.

My first option is to learn to ignore my environment and create anyway. I’ve done this, and I can do this. But, if I’m going to be honest, I am crap at it – the entire time, I look around and see all the stuff that I “should” be doing, and it sucks all the fun right out of it for me. We live in a one bedroom apartment, and there is no other space for me to set aside for creativity – my workspace is the kitchen table and my computer is in the center of the apartment. That’s just the way it is. So, if I cannot shut a door and shut it out, I have to come up with a liveable alternative.

The second option is to figure out what I need to do to make it feel good to take time for me without feeling guilty. So, I’m doing that. I’m also figuring out how to sustain a system that makes it easier to keep up / be ahead of the demands of everyday life so that I can have more time in my life to do what I enjoy. The first part of that plan is to become very good at throwing things away – immediately. I’m getting better at this every day, mostly because I had the epiphany that if I don’t throw it out, it’s not getting thrown out. I’m the one with the power to stop the nasty cycle of junk mail and other effluvia from piling up around here. The second part of the plan has to do with making a list of the things I planned to get to “someday when I had time” and setting deadlines for them to be completed or to be eliminated.

The reality will lie somewhere between those two scenarios. There will be times when I will have to make the choice to look away from clutter and be creative despite it, and there will be times when I am able to make my preferred system work for me and be creative in a space that feels good to me. Life and all of its many messes will always be there – I know that we all need to steal time to do what we enjoy. I’m just looking to create a way to do that which feels better to me in the long run.

The funny thing is that Jeremy’s actually the one who kicked this whole thought-process off. About three weeks ago, he came home to find me sitting at the kitchen table in my work clothes, with a sour-apple look on my face. He sat down next to me and said, “You know what your problem is?” (Brave words, since this could have gone very badly for him from that point on….)

He proceeded to tell me that my problem was that I wasn’t doing any of the things that he knew I enjoyed doing. I said I was trying to figure out how to fit all those pieces together. So he said, just figure them out, and tell me what I can do to help. Hunh. Okey-dokey. So, we’re meeting in the middle on that one – he’s interested in helping out more, so I need to let him help instead of feeling like I need to do it all myself.

I don’t know precisely how it came to be, but this is a house where it holds true that if “momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” And mostly, it’s because he cares if I am happy. So, I’ve gotta figure out what it takes to make it so I have the space to make myself happy, and then let him know what I need from him to help make that happen. Sounds fairly simple, right? So, I’m going to let it be that simple, and work from there.

And as for the lists and expectations? Well, I’ve finally learned to embrace the fact that they are one of my strongest talents – but I have to use them for good, and for a purpose – otherwise, they’re just one more way to get in my own way.

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The creative is the place where no one else has ever been. You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. What you’ll discover will be wonderful. What you’ll discover is yourself. (Alan Alda)

Today, I had the opportunity to be a part of something grand and rare and fine – a group of women who came together to celebrate, explore, and rediscover their creative selves. A group of women who were unwilling to play small anymore. A group of women who were unwilling to make the artists within them play second fiddle to duty for one moment longer.

Today was the first meeting of HeART & Soul, a women’s art journaling group that Dani and Martina devised, at Three Sisters’ where I work. I loved watching everyone walk into the back room, art kits in hand – looks of excitement and trepidation on their faces. Art is not for the meek, people. And maybe, the trepidation was appropriate – for some of us, declaring ourselves ‘artist’ feels like stating that we’ve become something dangerous and sketchy (haha) and to be looked at askance. Because, honestly, society says so.

It is a brave thing to open a dialogue with your own beautifully messy soul – because when you open that door, you know that what comes through might not be ‘neat’ or ‘acceptable’ or ‘proper’ – and because you know that in order to do this thing right, to go all the way…you need to, well, go all the way – and that means you need to not care if it’s messy or imperfect or ‘unacceptable’ to anyone but you.

Today, these women were a part of a guerrilla art movement (and not like the surreptitious knitted coverings of trees or murals that appear overnight, which is its own thing) – guerrilla forces move among us, unnoticed. They look like you and me, but they’re agents in a revolution. Today, I had the chance to be a part of that revolution – of women awakening to their own innate creative power.

I do tend to think of things kind of militaristically – I’ve noticed that I tend to return to combat metaphors a lot in my blogs. I do see myself as warrior. I see each and every one of those women as warriors. Gentle ones, fighting the hardest battle they’ll ever fight against the most wily opponent they’ll ever face: themselves.

We are our own worst enemies. We are the ones who tell ourselves how wrong we are, how broken, how strange, how unacceptable. We are also the ones who have the supreme power to end it. To stop lying down and taking it. To place a flower in the barrel of the guns leveled at us by the inner critic. To scream at the top of our lungs, “ENOUGH!”

We are the only ones who have the power to claim our own beauty, our own majesty. We are the only ones who have the power to claim our own strength, our own imaginative prowess, our own unique vision. No one can give it to you. And no one can take that away, unless you let them. Today, thirteen women came in testament to their unwillingness to go to bed feeling as though a piece of them had gone missing, like a sock lost somewhere between the washing machine and the dryer. They arrived in testament to their unwillingness to move through another day with this part of themselves left unexplored.

It was a beautiful thing to be part of – I am grateful to have had the opportunity to act as witness. Any time someone stands up to an oppressor (even if that oppressor is within), there should be someone to bear witness, to honor them and their experience. Thank you everyone, for sharing yourselves today. Thank you for coming – thank you for choosing to explore the unmapped depths within you. I look forward to the next time when we stand together on the line, and face down our worst critics: ourselves.

There is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. (Martha Graham)

We’ve made a commitment to our creativity – and each Monday, we gather and create. It’s been wonderful – and I find myself finding new inspirations and being called to older ones that I’d stepped away from.

Following our group today, I kept thinking about two different poems and two different poets. The first, Jim Morrison, was the singer for the Doors – a beautiful and tortured wildman. There’s something very primal about his poetry that calls to me – raw images and slaps of feeling, and echoes of something ancient and half veiled. He places most of us are afraid to go, or where we are not willing to look – there’s something about it, an energy that I feel gets triggered in me, to go, and look one more time – to see what inspires, what enflames, and what I still turn away from. He’s best set to music – he’s Bacchus, singing the blues. Here’s one of his poems (a tame one, safe for all audiences) that I really enjoy:

Dull lions prone on a watery beach.

The universe kneels at the swamp

To curiously eye its own raw

Postures of decay

In the mirror of human consciousness.

 

Absent and peopled mirror, absorbent,

Passive to whatever visits

And retains its interest.

 

Doors of passage to the other side,

The soul frees itself in stride.

 

Turn mirrors to the wall

In the house of the new dead.

 

 

The other poet I’m being called to think about today is Robert Hunter – longtime lyricist for the Grateful Dead. And this is my favorite poem by him:

Like a Basket

 

We knew enough to begin with

but after awhile we didn’t

know enough anymore so

we put what we did know

into something like a basket

with your arms for handles

& my feet to steady it in case

it had to be set down suddenly.

 

What we didn’t tell the basket

was where to stand …

by the time we realized

it was necessary to do so,

it had run off with everything

we knew to begin with and

most of what we’d found out since.

 

The general opinion was

that since the feet the basket

ran off on were mine,

it befell me to track it down.

 

I agreed – but since I had no feet

it was obvious someone

would have to carry me.

You declined because

you had no arms.

Love is like that in the City.

 

This mood, this raw, primal, artistic mood always seems to call for the music of the sixties and seventies – I want to listen to protest songs, blues, rock ‘n roll. The Doors, Janis Joplin, Bob Marley, The Grateful Dead, Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix.

 

My MoonCircle soul collage, "Luscious Flow"

Those who danced were thought to be quite insane by those who could not hear the music. (Angela Monet) 

In one of my previous blogs, I wrote to the realization that I’d spent the majority of my life actively working to sterilize myself (metaphorically, and somewhat literally). It wasn’t until this bend on my path – and the discovery of my creative self, and my inner, passionate and unrestrained soul – that I was able to see clearly what all of my perfectionism was working so hard to achieve – utter and complete annihilation of my ‘messy’ emotional self.

If there is no great passion in your life, then have you really lived? Find your passion, whatever it may be. Become it, and let it become you and you will find great things happen FOR you, TO you, and BECAUSE of you. (T. Alan Armstrong)

One of the major struggles of my life has been to embrace and rejoice in my femininity. From my earliest memories onward, I greeted and engaged life with a very masculine approach. And, I was very good at it – I very ably ‘wore the pants’ and was better at being the head of household than most men. I was a go-getter, I was assertive, I was forward and direct. I was a very capable linear and rational thinker. I was raised to be my father’s ‘little buddy,’ and in many ways, I was expected to fulfill the role of the ‘eldest son.’ My female self was subjugated, made small – my womanhood was stifled and denied.

My emotionality, my femininity, my creativity, my passion were locked deep in the darkest corner of my heart. I allowed them release in my private journals, or in the bedroom, or in poems I never showed to anyone. I allowed myself to experience the power of them seldomly, and with purpose and control.

We all need to look into the dark side of our nature – that’s where the energy is, the passion. People are afraid of that because it holds pieces of us we’re busy denying. (Sue Grafton)

Smothering those elemental energies is a recipe for combustion – passion is not meant to be kept confined. Deep within, I knew that it would only be a matter of time before one of two things happened – my passions rode free, or I managed to kill them completely.

When I started coming to Three Sisters’ Spirit over a year ago, I sought Reiki training – a modality that is all about bringing balance to the body, emotions, mentality, and spirit. I know, with bone-deep certainty, that my path to becoming a Reiki Master Teacher has been essential in freeing those trapped parts of myself. Reiki has been absolutely instrumental in helping me to find and seek balance for all the parts of myself.

I also started attending the MoonCircle groups facilitated by Dani. I showed up hungry for something I could not name. I found a God who looked like me, felt like me, breathed and sang and danced like me. I found a way to see myself in my own Divinity. I discovered the power, the beauty, and the passion that resides in the Goddess of the trinity. I was able to make the final leap from rejecting a male god, and rebelling against my upbringing (which left me alone, yowling, and bereft in the desert of the Dark Night) to finding a spirituality and conception of God that I could embrace (and one which embraced me back).

Tonight I attended another MoonCircle group. I am a lot further along my path now than I was when Dani first handed me the manna for which I hungered. Lately, I find myself welcoming and helping other women feel at ease in our circle. I am coming full circle. Full. Circle. (Beautiful, beautiful). I have become a handmaiden to the priestess. I have become a Eucharistic minister, of sorts.

I wish that I could say that my appreciation for my woman-self came rushing back to me with trumpets and flames and joy and accolades. It didn’t. I always say that you can choose to do a thing with grace, or you can kick and scream and be dragged along to your fate. Because some things are fated – and we just choose the manner of our acquiescence.

It was more of a slow blossoming – a process that I feel now is really just starting. I had to get past the fear of showing the world my own beautifully messy soul. I had to get past and over the idea that to be feminine is to be weak. I had to discover in minutes and miles the grace, power, and transformative energy of stepping into my woman-self. I had to allow my passion to leak out at the corners, slowly and almost imperceptible. I had to let it dip its toes into the waves, before I could open the floodgates.

There is no end. There is no beginning. There is only the passion of life. (Frederico Fellini)

I am coming to a plateau – in the best of possible ways. I really feel that I am coming to a place where I can allow and encourage my masculine and feminine selves to exist in equality within me. I am arriving at the place where I can enjoy my own formidable nature – when I exhibit it with masculine tendencies (for me, very lingual) or with a feminine manner (which I am still discovering).

I want to get to the place where I can wear my luscious, passionate, juicy woman-self on my sleeve and let the world see and marvel at it – without a single trace of shame and fear. I will get there. Now that I’ve opened the doors to the inner sanctum, and experienced how good it feels, I know there is no going back – only forward, into the mystery. (Thank you, thank you, thank you, God).

Be still when you have nothing to say; when genuine passion moves you, say what you’ve got to say, and say it hot. (D. H. Lawrence)

Tonight, we gathered in a circle of women. We set the sacred space. We shared our women-stories. We held one another in the grace of the moment. We knew we were safe here. Cherished, and admired and celebrated. That’s part of what MoonCircle is about. Another part, especially for me, is allowing all of that to come into being – to find expression – in our lives (especially this month, with the new moon in Gemini).

We made Soul Collages, clipping hurriedly the things that caught our eye. Snipping bits of sentences, and cutting carefully around the images that spoke to us. I decided to share mine here on my blog – because I can look at this expression, this song of my soul, and rejoice.

Passion, it lies in all of us, sleeping…waiting…and though unwanted…unbidden…it will stir…open its jaws and howl. It speaks to us…guides us…passion rules us all, and we obey. What other choice do we have? Passion is the source of our finest moments. The joy of love…the clarity of hatred…and the ecstasy of grief. It hurts sometimes more than we can bear. If we could live without passion maybe we’d know some kind of peace…but we would be hollow…Empty rooms shuttered and dank. Without passion we’d be truly dead.  (Joss Whedon)

"Luscious Flow" 9 June 2010

 

My Soul Collage Poem:

In with the good

Delight at the serenity

Room to grow.

The surprising life,

Some relationships are meant to be.

I write my own magical name,

It’s nature’s secret.

It is a(n)

Evocative, unique,

Truly original

Life.

 

 

Hello there, outside world! I’ve been M.I.A. for awhile – I’ve been in the trenches, but in the best possible way! I’ve been engrossed with my newest pursuit – art. (I figured I’d share some of what I’ve been up to on here!)

 

Don’t think. Thinking is the enemy of creativity. It’s self-conscious, and anything self-conscious is lousy. You can’t try to do things. You simply must do things. (Ray Bradbury)

 

  

Last Thursday night, Jeremy arrived home to find the entire kitchen (and other parts of the apartment…) had been colonized by my forays into the artistic realm. I was blaring tango music (courtesy of Dani – thanks, by the way), wearing an intriguing new kerchief on my head to keep my hair out of the gesso, and having an absolutely fabulous time. 

     

He took one look around, smiled, and said, “I’m so glad to see you doing this babe.” It felt good to hear that, and I quickly rescued some of the stuff I was working on from the top of the stove, so that he could make us dinner.

 

 

Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep. (Scott Adams)

 

I was at it until three a.m. Happily, wholly engaged. Completely captured with experimentation and the joy of watching my ideas translated into form.

 

Creativity is a lot like looking at the world through a kaleidoscope. You look at a set of elements, the same ones everyone else sees, but then reassemble those floating bits and pieces into an enticing new possibility. (Rosabeth Moss Kanter)

 

I wandered through the house, scouting out things I could “repurpose” (translate: destroy) with impunity, and I tried things, without worrying how they would look or turn out. I just wanted to see what would happen when I went about it in different ways. It was freeing.

 

Freedom is the oxygen of the soul. (Moshe Dayan)

I’ve been breaking out of my shell, and it feels good. It feels good to play, and to create. It feels good not to hear the voice inside that’s always chiding and scolding.

 

Tomorrow, I’ll gather up all my tools and toys and go to play across the street with Dani. It’s like an artist’s play date, and I can’t wait! Life is good – and I feel great.

 
 
 

The cover of my soul-art-book.

 

The creative is the place where no one else has ever been. You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. What you’ll discover will be wonderful. What you’ll discover is yourself. (Alan Alda)

Any creative venture is like an expedition into the unknown. You might designate a leader, and they might lob some direction at you, but you are the one navigating trackless jungles and jumping willingly into pits to discover whether they’re bottomless or not.

When I was in high school, I took every art class that they offered. I sensed, then, that there was something within me that wanted OUT, that wanted expression, that defied the words I was so comfortable with. When I got to college, I took art survey (history, essentially) instead. Somewhere along the way, I decided that to engage the part of myself which hungered for expression was dangerous. I retreated into safety, and into language – safe.

The first page.

Writing can be dangerous – but for me, facility with language always came so easily. I encouraged the logical-mental functions of it, and left others to explore the wildfires and sandstorms it could create. I kept it small, so that I could control it.

Lately, that hunger has been resurfacing. I almost couldn’t name it, I hadn’t let myself feel it in such a long time. Last night, I gathered around a table with other women who sought to enter the realm of juicy creativity. Our guide, Tracy, laid the tools for the journey out on the table and we slavered over them, eager to begin.

I jumped in – I played. I didn’t think too hard, I shut up the inner critic (for whom, nothing is ever good enough). God, I enjoyed myself. I felt giddy!

You need chaos in your soul to give birth to a dancing star. (Frederich Nietzsche)

I’ve been on a spiritual quest since before I had words to understand what it was I sought. And along the way, I’ve avoided my own dark heart. I’ve shunned my shadow, and I’ve spent an awful lot of time attempting to rub clean all the places I felt messy.

Second page -- a paper created by our guide Tracy.

I spent a lot of time, essentially, sterilizing myself. (Pardon me – I’m having a moment right now, letting that statement sink in. I don’t think I knew I felt that way until I wrote that just now, this minute).

Third Page.

I’ve spent so much time afraid of my own passion – passion can warm your bones, or burn you to cinders. That unpredictability? It just didn’t jive with my need to perfect everything. To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong. (Joseph Chilton Pierce) I’ve written about my perfectionism on this blog. I’ve talked about how I know it’s slow death. I just think I forgot what I was allowing it to kill. Until last night. Until I played. Until I showed up, and let go, and just played.

Fourth Page

 

 

All the times I’d written a poem with true emotionality, I hid it. I don’t think I wanted anyone to know that I could be so out of control. That’s the other part of last night that was so important – the sharing. To sit in a circle, and to each draw out from ourselves some beautifully messy part of our souls, and put it down on paper, and share it with one another.

Fifth page.

I am so excited about this, you’d think I’d created the next Mona Lisa. Maybe not to anyone else’s eyes, but for me, this was monumental. This was the tip of the iceberg, and I’m diving deeper next time. I’m committing to it – to myself, to my creativity, to my wild and dark beating heart, to my murky emotions and my human frailty.

Sixth page

This morning, I took pictures of all the pages I’d created last night (I need to practice with the bloody camera. I really hate technology sometimes – I apologize for the cruddy quality of the pics). I decided to post them on here – to “finish” slaying the dragon by drawing it out of the darkness, and sharing it with the world. And, not caring what anyone thinks of it – only that I love it, and I feel impassioned and eager to finish this project and embark on the next expedition. To dip into my soul’s chaos, and give birth to whatever comes.

Seventh Page

Eighth page.

 

Back Cover.

Come have a look through my kaleidoscope eyes. Come walk with me, as I make my way down the Path of Mastery (complete with fits and starts and pitstops and potholes). Our very impermanence is what makes us burn so brightly, and struggle so valiantly, and feel so deeply – it’s what makes us seize the day, and the moment. Come in, settle in, share a moment with me.

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"Who are YOU?" said the Caterpillar. This was not an encouraging opening for a conversation. Alice replied, rather shyly, "I--I hardly know, sir, just at present-- at least I know who I WAS when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then." (Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Chapter 5)