I've been having some great conversations lately. Whether they be in person or as witness to the conversations of others, what is coming through loud and clear is that when we are honest about the questions and curiousities we have, our interests and ideals; when we are truthful about our hurts, about what bothers us, what we want more of, less of, we tap into the grit of what matters to us. We become inspired. We become greater than our parts. Here's why...Read More
A thought struck me last night. I’m not sure where it came from. I was thinking about imagination and Intuition, my relationship to my own and their relationship to creativity.
I’m going to admit it, I don't have much of an imagination.
Of course, I have one.. but it’s not necessarily my friend. My imagination is like a 4 year old having spent an afternoon with it’s head in the sweet press. It’s wicked. It’s wild and it makes me sick.
My imagination stresses me out. There, I said it.
Now, let me also say, it does have it’s uses. Like, I would make an EXCELLENT underwriter for insurance companies. You want to assess risk? I’m your woman.
But if I were to rely on my imagination to create, I would never create a thing. I would imagine all the fantastic art I WANT to create only to dive in, gung-ho and be confronted with where I’m actually at. Cue dissonance and with it, on the horse of the almighty critic, all the reasons why I CAN’T, why I’m not good enough, why I’m just fooling myself.
Then I have to call in the rational mind to mediate and go through an entire process of counterargument and debate. And of course, no debate is complete without the astute professor, to deliver an analysis of ‘why’ I think like that, where it stems from and next thing you know, it’s bedtime, we’ve all missed dinner, I’m exhausted and anxious, demoralised and depressed and now I need my heart nurse to give me lavender to stop the palpitations.
Does any of this sound familiar to you? Is your imagination perhaps your worst enemy?
Although my mind can be a total clown, funny and entertaining, I don't always have fun in there.. My mind is a predator. It eats me alive. Don’t ask me why… It’s just the way it is, habit I suppose. My imagination, for the most part is a maniac and I just have to deal with that. And before you go suggesting mindfulness to me as a solution… I studied this shit for 4 years. Sometimes the best you’re gonna do with the mental monkey, is at least be aware of and understand it. Work with what you have and what you know, at least for now... but keep learning, keep moving.
Some of us just don't have useful minds, they are too hyper vigilant for us to get beyond anything but fear. So… that’s all I have to say about that.
(Imagine I just left it there….Mwahahahah)
So what else did I think about?
I used to think THIS was my enemy, that it was my impulses that got me into trouble (and when it comes to chocolate, it usually is) but, impulse has a bad rep. You know what I have discovered through my creative practice? I have more fun and I am more ‘me’ when I create out of pure impulse.
But wait Amanda! Dont you mean intuition?
Thank you for asking, but… NO. I don’t. I’m not there yet… although I do have it, intuition and me are still very much in our infancy because, when I’m ‘tuning in to intuition’, I still go upstairs. The monkey gets involved, because I’m consciously ‘trying’ too hard.
But hey...I know how to be impulsive, that’s so well rehearsed I don’t have to try, so I can just let it happen. And guess what else? It is a better way in to intuition than ‘trying’ will ever be!
Am I making sense?
My understanding of intuition is that it is operating from a place of balance. I am going to throw my cards down here right now and tell you this, the only success I have with balance, is that I can stand up without falling over. That’s pretty much it. BASIC.
Intuition is the channel through which you access your own creative truth, it is what ‘feels right’ in front of the canvas. You show up, let it speak, trust it. It is a guide. There’s a sense of experiential wisdom and maturity about it.
Impulse, on the other hand is not so refined. But I see it as intuition’s understudy, it’s kinda on the same wavelength, just not as seasoned a pro.
I’m not giving myself much credit here however, I am due SOME. I have at least evolved from my prior conditioning where my impulses were purely subconscious and automatic. I only ever stepped into the frame when remorse kicked in. Now, I’ve learned how to step in a little sooner. I have developed awareness and insight and all that good stuff, but I’m not even close to mastery of my intuitive apparatus. This too, is a practice and I have a long way to go.
So what I have rested on for the moment is that I don’t have to feel bad that I’m not on the intuitive creative train, yet. I kinda feel like I’m on the impulsive ‘PAINT! SCRIBBLE! SPLASH!’ wagon and it's not so bad! I feel an impulse and go for it, it’s not as balanced and wise, it doesn’t always see me right or lead to magic, but it’s something, it’s primal and it works for me.
I believe impulse will mature into it’s greater role eventually, but for now…. I’m working with the understudy.
Always, Amanda xoxo
14 months ago I did a google search that changed my creative life.
I typed "Art retreat Ireland", hit return and winced. Two things were going through my mind: 1) I shouldn't be doing this.
2) I need to do this.
Search presented it's results and the next thing I know I'm looking at a web page offering 'A Space for Dreaming", in 8 weeks time, in Bantry, Co Cork. A couple of days later, I'm in the post office sending off a postal order to secure my place. I made arrangements to kennel the dog, cattery (yes I made that a verb) the cat, I hurled next month's rent under the bus, followed by Ms Inner Critic, booked a hotel room.... and then I panicked. What was I doing going to an art retreat?
But, of course I knew.
I was going to find and entrench myself in a creative community. I was latching on. That there would be amazing art workshops was a bonus, but I was looking for something more, connection.
I went with that intention, I showed up, I got in there and I made myself known.
The creative identity doesn't exist in a vacuum.
You can't just don your apron and go about your day if there is nobody around you to play with, talk to, learn from, cheer. Who will you share your creative joy with? Your discoveries, your challenges? Who will encourage you, who will inspire you? Who will understand?
In his book 'Show Your Work', Austin Kleon address the 'lone genius' myth about being a creative. This is the misleading (and damaging) idea that the 'true' artist is inspirationally independent, not in need of social stimulus, a lone genius at work. Kind of like an immaculate conception, his muse just arrives, directly on the horse of God. I must say, I can relate. I always used to place artists on pedestals, attributing to them the classification of genius.
Kleon refers to Brian Eno's reflection on being an art student in which he says,
'like all art students, I was encouraged to believe that there were a few great figures like Picasso and Kandinsky, Rembrandt and Giotto and so on who sort-of appeared out of nowhere and produced artistic revolution.'
However, unsatisfied with this, Mr Eno discovered that there was no such thing as an immaculate conception, that
'there was sometimes very fertile scenes involving ... all sorts of people who created a kind of ecology of talent. And out of that ecology arose some wonderful work. So I came up with this word “scenius” – and scenius is the intelligence of a whole… operation or group of people. Let’s forget the idea of “genius” for a little while...'
Thank GOD! I don't have to be a genius to make art! Phew... where's me crayons?
How liberating is that?
And I've found it to be true. I was always 'creative', I always had creative friends, but at one point in my life, I went off course and fell into a more rigid set up. I found myself sneaking my creative life, because I was alienated from my sources. And while my creative self still managed to survive, the longing inside me for something more grew stronger than the need for safety. I knew what I needed to do was to surround myself again, find a scene in which to implant myself, create the conditions under which I could not just survive, but thrive.
That art retreat in Bantry was the 'coming out' of a creative identity I had been afraid to embody. I refer to it and my decision to show up, as the gift that keeps on giving. It has led to my connecting with artists and makers all over the world. I have been inspired and encouraged to grow and flourish and I'm always nurturing and growing those connections.
Every connection I've made since stems from this. It's like being listed in the creative Golden Pages! I am now a proud member of a group here in Ireland, a network of creative entrepreneurs brought together by Tara Prendergast, a creative business strategist at the helm of Biscuit. I have joined many networking groups in my time and I have to say, I've always felt like a bit of a spare at the meetings and events, maybe it's a bit cliche, but I just 'never fit in'. Maybe it's just me, but I think creatives need to do that kind of thing waaay less formally (although no less effectively) and Tara knows this, so our get togethers feel very different.
Moral of the story?
So, what I'm saying to you is this... GET OUT THERE and find a community. Stop waiting until you're 'good enough'. It probably won't be a geographically convenient community, so, to quote a friend of mine at the dinner table,"stretch or starve". The kind of people you're missing in your life are not all contained in your local area, it's not 'handy'. You wont bump into them or happen across them by chance. You have to reach out but let me tell you, it's worth it.
Join a FB group, take a class, pm an artist you admire, comment on their threads, their blogs, we don't bite, in fact we love that! Why not go the whole hog, give yourself a panic attack and sign up for that retreat that you have always found excuses not to attend.
You're always welcome to come and play with me in Sligo!! That's what I'm readying for you there, a big ol gathering place for all our creative selves to get together, be nurtured and inspired.
One more thing
A friend I recently made, only made possible through this kind of reaching out, gave me a little book the other day called "When I loved myself enough", by Kim Mc Millan. It's a beautiful little book celebrating the gifts we are capable of giving ourselves, once we make one very important decision.... that we are worthy. I have it open right now on my desk... here's what it says...
"When I loved myself enough, I quit settling for too little"
And on that thought....
Always, Amanda xoxo
Gathering forgotten parts
To retell stories
Of who they once were
Who I am
Who we'll always be
So come on my young tellers
Weave back together
Live here In the heart of me
~ From my journal today
Always, Amanda xoxo
This past year, I have been trying to answer the questions of creative identity. Who am I as an artist?
What’s important to me? Why? What do I stand for? What do I believe? Embody as an artist? What drives me?
I have to be honest and say, it’s laborious work achieving clarity about these things. I have found it hard to nail my colours to the mast. But I’m getting there.
I DO know what feels inauthentic though, so every time I pick up a touchstone that doesn't ‘feel’ right, I know. And I’ve picked up many.
Here’s what I’ve figured out so far, here’s where I do have clarity.
Being real about the human experience.
What does this even mean?
It means acknowledging the full spectrum of emotions we experience in response to life. It means being honest with yourself about how you experience yourself and others. Further, (for me) it means affording these experiences actual , healthy expression in order to live a more dynamic, authentic, empowering and rewarding emotional existence.
I know that when I say this, or try to explain it, it always comes out awkwardly. I just sound like a dictionary falling down the stairs. How can I say this in a simpler way?
It means having a hand in creating realities that enrich you, make you big instead of small.
Sigh… so hard to articulate. Are you getting me?
I’m in a distillation process of getting this idea across in simpler terms. Bear with me, I will.
Why is self expression important?
I have always been as close to my sadness / dark side / shadow, whatever you want to call it, as I have been to my light. I always thought this was a bad thing. It’s not.
You know what’s worse? Resistance. Selective entertaining of the emotional life.
Having no container for expressing that which you'd rather not experience, is like sailing a little boat in a big ocean. Fine on a calm day, but when the storm comes you’re kinda fucked aren't you?
Learning the art of self expression will take you on a journey in which you become the ocean. What a powerful thought that is.
There ya go… that’s what’s important to me. As an artist, thats what I stand for.
So, how'd I do?
At 18, I moved to America. It was 1994. Long before Facebook, even before everyone had mobile phones like we do now, David and I kept in touch. The thread on which we tugged at each other came in the form of long distance phone calls and letters. My letters to him were messy, wild, over punctuated, dramatic accounts of my new life in America. I loved it, I hated it...I'm coming home, I'm staying.
David would call me from a telephone fixed to the wall. He would sit on the floor, ask about America and fill me in on the gossip from back home. He would tease me over things I had written, I would tease him over his Billy Connelly impressions, telling him he needed to update his jokes. We would talk and write about anything and everything and for hours on end.
For years, I kept David's letters in a box in my room. One day, while packing for another move, I decided I had too much stuff. I threw out notebooks, diaries, scrapbooks, posters... I threw out the box of letters from David. At the time, I thought nothing of it.
Until he died.
The last time I saw David, I was in a hurry and I rushed our time together. To my dying day, I will regret that.
At his funeral, David's sisters presented me with the bandana he wore and a large, brown paper envelope. In it, were all the letters and cards I had written him over the years. I can't even begin to describe to you the emotional weight of that envelope.
I carried it around for 10 years.
How long is long enough to carry a burden?
The death of any relationship where you showed yourself, warts and all to another person is hard. I have found that the same applies, even if a person with whom a relationship dies, is still living. The overriding emotions (for me) stem from how it ended.
Do relationships ever end well? NO. Because if someone is gone, vanished from your life permanently, then it's because something terminal happened and you're all out of chances.
And the most maddening thing of all to be left with, is regret.
What is letting go?
It's a decision.
It's when you drop the scoreboard. It's when you stop trying to redeem yourself. It's when you stop the persecution of yourself and/or the other. It's when you stop trying to right what haunts you as having been wrong.
How do you know you're ready?
You become aware. It becomes heavy... you just all of a sudden feel the weight and something emerges that you never sensed before. A desire to be free.
How to release a burden
My haunting regrets after David were disguised as guilt, it was huge.
One day, I simply decided it was time. Something in me knew it was ok to let go. It also knew how..
I held a private little ceremony. I took the letters outside, I burned them to ashes, let them blow away and that was that. I released the burden. I cried then and I cry now as I think about it, but I no longer feel the guilt. That is what it feels like to have let go. I can be sad and not guilty. I'm glad I know.
For every ending, there's a new beginning...
In a cupboard in my hall is a stack of diaries. They contain the pre and postmortem of a relationship, the regrets from which I've been hoarding for some time.
I've felt a new and confusing weight recently. I didn't know what it was until I sensed again, the emerging of a desire to be free and with it, a knowing that the source of this weight is in those pages. Only now is that clear.
I wasn't expecting this, so it's a pleasant surprise. I'm wondering what will my life be like without these stories?
I've carried them long enough.
It's time to let them go..
Always, Amanda xoxo
(p.s. I still have the bandana)
I'm a big fan of Clarissa Pinkola Estes, an American poet, psychoanalyst and post-trauma specialist, who uses her poems throughout her writings, spoken word audiobooks and stage performances as expressive therapy for others.
In one of her audio series, Clarissa tells the story of Bluebeard...
The story illustrates the powerful forces at play in our psyches, the plot is that Bluebeard selects and marries the youngest and most innocent of three sisters, in spite of the suspicions of the elder sisters and who goes to live with him in the grandeur of his castle.
One day an occasion presents itself where Bluebeard is called away and before he goes, he gives his wife the keys to the castle but informs her of a forbidden room, the key to which is also given to her, with the instruction that she may enter any room, but this.
The youngest sister in the story represents the curious and creative spirit who soon becomes bored in the big castle and wants to explore the forbidden room.
This spirit is within us all, but if not afforded it's natural expression, is nothing more than a servant to the predator, also within. The price of marrying illusion, is feeling of obligation that you must 'be happy with your lot' and not want the 'something more', like the freedom to explore, which is represented by the entering of this room. To obey the predator, is to sneak your life.
There is a way out of this, we must dare to unlock the forbidden door... but the risk we take is that doing do may shatter all illusions, not just those of the oppressor, but our own too. The ideal life we signed up for may not be all it's cracked up to be, especially if what you long for, is for it to instead, be real.
Change is risky... people don't like it... to change yourself is no different.
But what do you want? To live as if all is well, let a predator control your castle, uphold illusions... or to explore, discover all your authentic glory, self government and expression?
If you chose to turn the key... you risk angering your inner (and sometimes outer) Bluebeard.. the one who didn't want you to go there and you're going to have to identify and recruit the parts of you that are strong, that know how to protect, stand up for and fight for you until the predator is no longer in control.
This is how it is... this is how the battle is lost or won.
I made this spread in my journal yesterday, to represent and celebrate my favourite imagined scene from that story. The one in which the brothers are summoned and arrive to rescue the sister from her fate, now that she has challenged Bluebeard's power, his hold over the castle.
These brothers represent the self supporting inner forces available to us, the decision and capability to rescue ourselves, they are commitment and providence. They are strength and action, the forces through which we emancipate and empower ourselves.
If you're curious about the telling of and unpacking of this story as told by Clarissa, I highly recommend her audio performance of Theatre of the Imagination.
I'm so grateful for my brothers and that I had the courage to call upon them <3