As part of the WILD Woman Project, as a part of our Tiny Revolutions series, we are currently reimagining – rethinking something you thought you knew, an opinion you formed or were taught. Many people I know would deny they are “creative” and dismiss creativity as unimportant – “if it doesn’t pay the bills, well….” Below, I ask you to reconsider (reimagine) creativity. Why? Because we are all creatives.
What is Creativity?
Creativity is that seeking for expression, gleaned from experience and psyche and manifest into something tangible - Idea into form. Creativity is a shapeshifter1 taking many forms including the usual art forms and children as creative expression to how one raises children, the way one moves and decorates body, preparing meals, how a person loves, methods of self-care and hobbies, spiritual practices and ways of Being, to the crafting of life. As long as it is a means of expression, it is a form of creativity.
Creativity is soul-food. It is not optional. It is not something to get to once you hire that nanny or finish that job, rather it is instinctual, intuitive, and yearned for, as humans are meaning-makers. It is the doorway to and sustenance for the Wild (whole, natural life) archetype1 within and gives life depth and purpose for the creator. “Considering that the creative life is the soul’s food and water, this basic development [of creativity] is excruciatingly critical”1
The maker of creation is not the only beneficiary. The receiver of ‘art’, when shared experience resonates, is also given soul-level nourishment.
“Creativity is not a solitary movement. That is its power. Whatever is touched by it, whoever hears it, sees it, senses it, knows it, it's fed. That is why beholding someone else's creative word, images, idea, fills us up, and inspires us to our own creative work. A single creative act has the potential to feed a continent.” 1
Everyone is born creative. However, many people have had their creative expression undervalued and shamed, particularly as children from parents and teachers2, causing creative dormancy, wounding, or death. Creativity requires vulnerability, and when vulnerability is present, shame is in the shadows, lurking2. Expression then requires openness and risk and resilience, as well as a supportive (or at least NOT shaming) environ.
Tactics abound to assuage rather than heal the discomfort from the creative lethargy or wound. Silenced creatives over-consume the art of others rather than creating for themselves - the writer that cannot read enough, for example, rather than risk their own vulnerability and creation3. Another tactic is to refuse to express or share that expression unless the creation is “perfect”, but as Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes repeatedly states, “perfection is the enemy of done”4. Individuals often deny their right to creative expression because they haven’t been formally trained in the preferred artistic medium or don’t have the requisite initials (MFA or MA or PhD); all a formality and a scare tactic, as creativity is inherent to humanity. Comparison, with judgement, is another silencing maneuver – not as good as_____. Rather than compare, know that there is room and need for diversity – everyone’s expression holds value.
Creativity cannot grow in shame or scare tactics. What creativity needs is solitude. Time alone to listen to that voice inside - the inner world, the Great Mystery, God, the soul. Quiet and reflection are the only ways to gift oneself access to the creative depths. Like solitude, creativity needs an appreciation of the birth/death/rebirth process1 – that is, the creator cannot constantly make and manifest. Creativity is cyclical, waxing and waning with consumption, incubation, birthing, molding, and re-making.
Creativity also needs boundless curiosity, in the form of appetite, leaning in, questioning and exploration, for the simple reason that creativity is an attempt to express some-thing of an individual’s experience. Maybe a feeling stood in for longer than comfortable, a “why” trailed and tracked, an image hatched from inner amalgam of one’s being, the cultivating and honing of potential into actual – all a both/and space of descending into the deeper self and fine-tuning understanding as well as an expansion into the larger world. Although men and women are both creative and curious, it is worth noting that curiosity is the sin that women have been paying for for eons and the manifestation of punishment, not coincidentally, hits us in our creativity center – birth pains, artistic and biological. Women often sacrifice their creative lives to the energy of giving and caring for others, which is a form of soul loss and diminishing of the self1.
“The central psychic fact remains that our connection to meaning, passion, soulfulness, and the deep nature is something we have to keep watch over”1
Creativity is often described and experienced as elemental, more typically as fire, akin passion. A force that is powerful enough to transmutate idea into form, destructive but also generative to initiate growth. Familiar myths and goddesses relate to this theme such as Kali and Sekhmet, goddesses of fire, birth/death/rebirth, and creation. In yogic traditions, creativity is associated with the 2nd chakra, or energy center, located in the pelvis, as biological or metaphorical womb space. The 2nd chakra is ruled by water, flowing, and Clarissa Pinkola Estes plays with this theme as she discusses the movement of creativity as rivers collecting into tributaries of the psyche.
Opening to creativity is a form of mindfulness – one is tending and listening to their inner world, mindful of the utilization of time for meaningful creation, mindful of honing or expanding the outlet of choice, mindful of presence and soulfulness and moments of Being as fuel for crafting and creating. For example, if one sees their children as a creative expression of themselves, they will be more mindful and present in their parenting. This mindfulness is the cultivation of attention and appreciation, for oneself, but true to form, cracks the ego and opens one to Other. As creative life is nurtured, the creativity of others is savored, breathed deeply, rolled over one’s tongue, and indulged, as the creative becomes witness and expert in noticing this soul-food.
The artist has its own archetype, outside of the Wild self5. The path of the artist is the path of the seeker, the mystic, and the lover. This is the passionate and expressive nature, loving, devoted, and appreciative of all of form and life. Mystics were and are often artists, desiring to represent Source through art (favorites are the poet Rumi and abstract artist Hilma af Klint). Not surprisingly, these mystic artists like Rumi, Hafiz, and Sapho use metaphor of Lover and Beloved when describing their seeking of the divine, melding the elements of seeking, passion, creation, and sublime.
I have been contemplating my own relationship with creativity since I first began reading books about the Divine Feminine, as creativity (and it’s sister, mothering) are often referenced. Our WILD Woman Project Circle theme for Sagittarius’ new moon in December 2018 was Reimagine – reconsidering or revisioning something you thought you knew, a relationship, a value, etc. This topic was the perfect springboard for me to take my exploration and understanding of creativity further.
My personal experience is reflective of all I have written above. I have creative wounds, and am not unique as many of the people I know do. Words were my go-to outlet of choice - I used to write short stories and poetry as a child and young adult and stopped secondary to wounding of one sort or another. I am not a trained artist and, because of the scars and the lack of formal training, I doubted my capacity, worth, and voice for years, shutting down my creative expression as pointless and ridiculous. I would write discreetly, on a rare occasion, but would never think of sharing it. I was also busy – relentlessly busy – with graduate school and raising 3 young children and on auto-pilot through my logical mind. Any creativity I had, I pushed way down – there was no time and plenty of fatigue, where would creativity even fit?
My denial of my own creativity changed with the reading of Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes’ books – which regularly reflect on the necessity for creativity in one’s life. My appreciation of the domesticated components of my life expanded – my children, my parenting, my self-care, my jobs, were all elements of creativity, although, admittedly, once I awoke from my oxytocin high of child-bearing, reframing domesticated and job-based creativity was not enough – I felt an internal pressure cooker, something unnamed was building, hungry, and needed form. (Sorry, Clarissa Pinkola Estes, what I felt (and still feel) was not a river of creativity, but a smoldering fire). I was creatively starved and ravenous. It was about the same time that I was attending women’s circles and going through facilitator training to lead circles that I gave up the story of ‘not-good-enough’, ‘not-enough-time’, and ‘pointless’ and began sharing my creative work, eventually turning it into this website, blog, and circles. Circles are a lovely creative outlet, as I can witness the immediate, community-level impact of creativity and they allow me a way to combine my creative loves – spirituality and nature.
Creating for me is a very dynamic and dualistic process. I am in a liminal space of anxiety (shadows of ‘not-good-enough’ and ‘too-busy’) and expansive joy, particularly with my writing. It can be gutting to share words and not know how they land on the general reader or to have the piece land in completely unexpected ways. And yet, art to me, whether that is poetry or circle crafting or parenting or how I move my body IS the embodiment of joy. To make art and receive and appreciate art is one of the most meaningful, big picture, aspects of my life. Soul-food to be sure.
I recently read Dare to Lead6, in which Brown lists an exhaustive number of values – drivers of your life and behavior. The reader was to pick only 1 or 2 values, not 10, off of the overwhelming list. Although I saw interconnection between all the values, creativity was 1 of my 2. Once I owned that, much of how I have structured my recent adult life made sense. How the unleashing of my creativity paralleled my renewed passion for life, something stifled with graduate school and the exhaustion of rearing small children. The passion, which I often correlate with kundalini, manifests partly as desire to ‘try all of the things’ while gifted with a body to experience, savor, and use as material for my own creativity. The ‘try all the thing’s attitude is a form of seeking: experience, information, spirit. This has led to greater appreciation of longer-term, honed paths of mine as creative expression (exercise, yoga, reiki, shamanism) as well as the recent addition of new hobbies and forms such as herbalism, archery, obstacle course training, and attempts to learn Japanese and Gaelic. I suspect that if something is an art form, and I try it, I’d likely love it (unless it involves heights, then hard pass…..no thank you).
Waking to how highly I value creativity and how broadly I define it, I am now able to name the path and themes of my life, giving me orientation, and, importantly meaning.
Considerations for the reader:
- How do you describe creativity? – is the definition limiting or expansive?
- Have you experienced creative wounds?
- When was the last time you accessed your creative self? And how do you express your creativity?
- Do you experience creativity in an elemental way? (Fire, water, or even earth, or air)
- How can you add more creativity, or soul-food, to your life?
- Do you align with the Wild or Artist archetypes?
- If you experience the bulk of your creative expression through your children, is it enough? Or is it perhaps why children are pushed into so many activities (creative outlets) – we are making up for our lack of soul sustenance?
- As you get older, do you notice creativity dwindling in your life? If so, how can you reclaim it, awaken it? Is it a matter of priorities or time? Or is it a matter of excuses, to avoid the fear and vulnerability with creation?
- Can creativity be taught?
o (I will help you with this one – in my experience, YES! You can be taught to access it through mindfulness practices such as meditation and yoga or through more structured and specific creative processes, such as The Artist’s Way series by Julia Cameron. Trying something new, outside of your comfort zone, helps too – go to that museum you’ve been meaning to go to or that cooking class or open mic night at your local bar)
- Leveling up: Can the focus on creativity be considered classist and privileged? – that is, are certain means required to be able to pursue the creative path? If so, how can we adapt that? Or is it classist to assume that those with less have no desire or ability to create? I am thinking here of Maslow's hierarchy of needs, and the concept of self-actualization.
References and Additional Resources
- Estes, CP. Women Who Run With the Wolves
- Brown, B. Daring Greatly *also see her other books, all of which discuss shame and vulnerability
- Cameron, J. The Artist’s Way
- Estes, CP. The Creative Fire
- Fox, M. The Hidden Spirituality of Men: Ten Metaphors to Awaken the Sacred Masculine
- Brown, B. Dare to Lead
Additional resources for the reader to consider:
Gilbert, E. Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear
Kent, TL. Wild Creative: Igniting Your Passion and Potential in Work, Home, and Life
Written by Dr. Allison Mitch. All material is copyright protected and the picture is for my use alone. For questions or collaboration, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org If you are called to answer the questions for the reader, please do leave them in the comments – I would love to hear what you have to say.