Sometimes I think such a big part of creativity is the ability to stomach tension.
There is the tension that starts building an hour before it is time to get the kids from school and the meter is running out on work time. There is the pressure of making room for imagination, art and creation, while money is needed, the bills are piling up and responsibility is weighing down on the shoulders. There is the balance between the ideal vision and the messiness, imperfection and humanity of the reality that is born out of the vision.
When you don’t take the sometimes considerable force of this raw energy personally, you can learn to let it all slosh around in your body, keeping the energy moving, letting it all mix together in divine chaos. Then you pour it all into what you are creating.
What could help you keep the tension and energy moving today?
The Loving Offer. Did you know you can buy my work?
Sometimes it means that something new is being born and what you need to do is distract your mind, while the levianthans of your subconscious swim their majestic rounds and gather up synchronicities, ideas, clues and insights to one beautiful synthesis.
Recently a Finnish Professor Juha T. Hakala, who has just written a book “Luova laiskuus – anna ideoille siivet” (directly translated “Lazy creativity – give ideas wings”) was talking about creativity and laziness as a good combination. What I liked about his point of view was that laziness gives creative work a certain rhythm. When you listen to those idle inclinations, different size breaks are created in your work day. This rhythm of lackadaisy makes perfect sense to our imagination, which will respond exuberantly, waking us up in the night, or spouting out ideas at random intervals.
Creativity rarely works in a linear fashion. Instead there are bursts, spurts, long recesses of lethargy interchanged with furious dancing. Think kangaroo instead of snail. To quote one of my favorite teachers, Seth: Spontaneity knows its own direction.
I was talking to someone earlier this year and that discussion awoke strong feelings. The discussion was about whether brokenness or inner shit can keep us from being creative. Here is a rant I subsequently wrote in the middle of the night: Creativity is the power to make things happen in a way that is both unique and useful.
There are people who think we should learn all the rules before we can be creative and think outside the box. I always thought that was such bullshit. We already have an inbuilt system to create, by being unique in our core. Why not instead just listen to yourself as well as you’re able to do right now, follow your impulses and create from where you are with what you have now? Start somewhere! Start now.
The amount of inner shit that I was harboring, when we started going out with the Engineer on the sky blue Bandit motorcycle he had bought, was definitely epic. But here we are, ridiculously traditional, married with children. The shitload of fear I harbored when I filled in the business form to officially start my business, Crealife, somewhere in 2005 was big enough to fill the Baltic Sea.
The shit. Does. Not. Matter. It’s our willingness to face it, talk to it, shine our light into it, that matters. It’s the courage to say, I’m here, I will create this today. Tomorrow it will be better. That matters.
I don’t buy the thought that there is a whole lot of inner or outer crap between ourselves and creativity. I don’t believe that we need to be completely and utterly healed before we can create. It takes one insight and one insight only – realizing you are creative. That is where it all starts. Creating is difficult for everyone, except when it isn’t. Everyone feels fear, fights resistance, encounters bubbles of feelings that aren’t comfy, faces the unknown.
It takes saying: I’m creative. And after that you can, I can, we can, they can create from whatever is true right now. It won’t be perfect. But what growing thing is ever perfect?
The present is our point of power. That is where creativity happens. [that’s also where healing happens, by the way] It’s where everything happens.
I don’t believe our past, diagnosis, or any kind of inner shit, any kind of outer authority can keep us separated from our ability to create. It’s not possible. But we are free to believe that they can. We are free to believe there is not a creative cell in our bodies, we are free to limit ourselves in any way we choose to.
Or, we can accept the situation we are in right now and create from there. Creating builds momentum & movement and opens new doors.
Each choice we make, each choice we do not make, creates our lives. Every word we say, every breath we take brings something to the world that wasn’t there before. We can’t not create. If you’re here on the planet, you are creating.
You may or may not have noticed that I only published two blogs last week, instead of the promised four. It happens pretty regularly to me that my imagination goes: “Ahem, are you really expecting me to produce stuff on assembly line time?” If I’m on a deadline, I usually answer, “Yeah.” and then this happens. The creative fountainhead starts to trickle, imagination disappears and everything turns dreary.
I’ve been appeasing my runaway imagination for the last five days, with romantic, candle-lit novel reading sessions, watching Ylvis, Jason Bateman and Jim Carrey on youtube and going to the movies with my kids. Today I got the first, slightly condescending idea. I’m relieved.
What nourishes your imagination, what brings back the fun?
*Wishing you a week filled with kindness and creativity.*
Yesterday I woke up gritty eyed, morose and deflated. Three weeks of being on fire with energy had caught up to me, pretty predictably after a big deadline. I asked the beloved Engineer to take the kids to school and daycare, put the phone on silent and headed out to Café Rouge. It’s so important to have safe spaces to go to, when the itchy sweater kind of exhaustion pops up.
Restored to what makes sense, I ventured out to the Academic Bookstore and bought new markers, a card for my love who takes my rollercoaster ways in stride. The rest of the day went pretty much watching The Apprentice with Brett Michaels, Cyndi Lauper and others. I love the tensions between the rational approach of keeping deadlines, organizing work, seeing the bigger picture and the imaginative approach of letting ideas flow, playing, making sense of fuzzy ideas and communicating them clearly to others during this particular season of the Apprentice. The solutions they find, in the midst of the challenges, show how imagination and the rational mind can support each other, instead of always being in opposition.
Moving from impulse to impulse reminded me once again about why I’m a business owner and artist. All this fluff and buzz in the world is supposed to help us do meaningful things, contribute, create. We need time to play, breathe and wander around aimlessly, to rest and listen to that silent voice inside.
What kind of creative rest do you need most right now?
Sandy Talarmo and her shame are honored guests in our tea party, and she graciously agreed to share her authentic and vulnerable drawing & photo here in my blog. Thank you Sandy <3
Limits and Borders as a Doorway to Who We Are
Yesterday I took a break. Napping away my flu, shame and I took a day of self-care, away from everything. Today, I synchronistically stumbled upon this video from Amy Purdy. She lost her legs, just when she was about to fly out into the world and talks about, not just recovery, but about how her life was transformed through the struggle & creations that followed.
She talks about how she feels more free when she is who she is, walking openly on her bionic legs [as she calls them] than if she were pretending to be someone she is not. Amy suggests our borders are what we can use to push away from. She asks if it is possible to see our challenges and limits as blessings, that ignite our imaginations and help us go further than we ever thought we could. As I look at Amy and her pictures of all of her different legs, I feel this deep joy inside of me – what variety! What a creativity in the midst of the unpredictability of life.
The Source of Our Shame is the Core of Our Beauty
Amy inspires me. My challenges are different, but equally vital to how my life has turned out. Since I was a little girl, my emotions have been racing up and down. Highly sensitive to stimuli, like sounds, scratching clothes, smells, lights, colors and even more sensitive to the moods of others, their reactions to me – life has had an element of the unbearable. Added to this I was born with an emotional intensity, where I can go from a feeling of bliss, through all the nuances in between, all the way to suicidal desperation, in a time span of ninety seconds, no matter how calm I seem on the outside.
Feeling life in all of its nuances can be exhausting and talking about feeling so crappy you just want to die freaks everyone out. I learned to push my feelings deep inside of myself and use the great social pacifier of a smile to put everyone at ease. Inside I felt completely and irrevocably broken. There was no amount of squeezing that could make me fit into the role models I saw around me, no matter how I numbed my feelings.
Living with this kind of an internal reality can be difficult to fathom. One way to describe it is this: Imagine you are severely sunburnt throughout your body, wearing a scratchy sweater. There is loud heavy metal music playing all around you, you can hear what others are saying, but you need to strain a bit. Behind every person you see, there is a billboard, with different kinds of emotional information showing (Anger! Irritation! Sadness! Joy! Suspicion! Enjoyment!) in blinking neon lights. There is the smell of too strong, musky perfume in the air. You have a test ahead that you are unprepared for and your hopes and dreams are riding on it. In the midst of the intensity, you. must. perform. well.
[And I would really want to go hide right now, rather than be writing this blog.] The turning point for me came when I sat with my second therapist and incredulously asked her: “Do you mean that getting well from depression means that I need to feel all of my feelings? ALL of them?” Slowly I learned that wanting to die was a signal from inside that could mean different things. That signal could be listened to, befriended, seen, said aloud, encountered compassionately. From recovering all of my feelings and my search for a life that wouldn’t be just bearable, but worth living, has sprung art, coaching, entrepeneurship, poetry, friendships, a marriage to a soulmate, two beautiful children. A life that is handmade, tailored to embrace my sensitivity, my dancing emotional weather and my need for freedom, as well as built on the strength that lies in all of this vulnerability.
I am not broken. And neither are you.
At this point of this tea party experience, I believe shame can be a pathway to self-compassion and to the very core of who we are. We can trust ourselves and we always begin exactly where we are.
How do your challenges and limitations ignite your imagination today? What is the color of your longing?
And it is quite a journey. Whoa! So, the next painting was a very different drawing when I started this morning’s work. As I listened to Bon Jovi [again] and painted, ever so often I had to get up and dance. The Engineer sat safely in the kitchen, working through his flu and I was painting in the living room, dancing like mad to keep the shame from paralysing my body. So what you see is as much a “dancing” as a painting.
The shame kept wanting to grow in the painting, so I let it grow into its true form. At some point, though, Fant (the elephant) decided that T. (the tiger) had been alone in the hot spot long enough, so he jumped into the fray to hold his friend’s hand. I am reminded and want to gently remind you, to choose a safe place for anything concerning shame – painting it, expressing it, exploring it, feeling it, sharing it. You’re not alone.
If you want to purchase this as a print, click here.
Shame and art
Shame is s physical emotion. Do you recognize the hot flashes, the blushing, the looking down, the foggy thoughts, the paralysis, the curling into a fetus position, the fountain of sweat, aching tummy, headaches, breath taking anxiety, hot flash of anger? I do.
The two years after I graduated from art school where a walk of shame. I longed to make art, it was almost a physical yearning. Yet every time I grabbed a brush, a pastel or a pencil, self-hatred started gushing.
There was no escaping it. I had a tape of particularly hurtful critiques and comments that I had collected, that started playing in my head, LOUDLY. It seemed that the very act of making art triggered shame, hatred, anger and it was all directed at myself.
For the longest time I blamed art school and the art world. Yeah, like until five minutes ago. Ugh. :/
But I’m realizing now that the fact that my deepest shame and deepest joy were bound together is nobody’s fault. Not even mine.
When my son was three and a half years and my daugher was one and a half years old, I had a moment of panic. Returning to work kept coming nearer and I knew how the demands of generating money could suck all the time from art making, especially if the art maker was crippled by creative self-hatred.
One day I put down a paper on the floor. Armed with colors, brushes, stickers and my little daughter, I started painting together with my little fire cracker. Safe to say, I was so busy with the raging fire of impulses from my baby daughter, I had no time to hate myself or what I was doing.
After this painting, I still felt the yearning to paint. Love yourself. That was the need I kept hearing inside of me. In order to be able to create, I had to start loving myself and creating from where I was. The following week, when my children were napping, I sat down and fervently asked my inner world to help me combine my inner power and ability to love. Stroke by trembling stroke, I painted this painting.
Brené Brown, who researches shame and vulnerability, talks about shame resilience. Because we all have shame triggers and experience shame, the important thing is not to avoid it, but learn to know those triggers and develop shame resilience. Here is what is included in shame resilience.
1. We recognize when we are feeling shame.
2. We recognize our cultural and social expectations and how we react to shame.
3. We make meaningful and empatethic connections to others.
4. We share it with the right people. Shame cannot survive when we encounter it with empathy and compassion.
Today I invite you to bring your shame into this Compassionate Tea Party and share something, it may be just a symbol for the thing you are thinking about. There is tea, sympathy and compassion here for all of our shame.
How can you let yourself gently move through your feelings today?
I will be on tour this week, doing a series of creativity liberation workshops for coaches. Sometimes I’m so grateful for the things I get to do in my line of work that I feel all afloat with excitement. To see people shedding the limitations they have learned to set on their own imagination, creative power and expression is a priviledge that I cherish.
What could you do today, that would make room for your own Creative Self? What is it you would do if everything were possible?
I drew this one day when the gazillion feelings I was experiencing felt like a bit much. Like eating a steak, a chicken salad with feta, then three pastries, one chocolate cake and so on. Too much with such variation and intensity that my whole body was spinning. But then I realized, I can put it all into my creativity. Boom! Relief.