Probably the most important thing to remember about you.. And don't ever let anyone tell you otherwise.Read More
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
"Hope and Memory have one daughter and her name is Art, and she has built her dwelling far from the desperate field where men hang out their garments upon forked boughs to be banners of battle. O beloved daughter of Hope and Memory, be with me for a little." ~ WB Yeats
When I recently came across this statement by WB Yeats, I immediately understood what he meant. I was blown away. I can't even tell you what it affirmed in me. Only a poet could nail it.
Ever since I can remember, I have sought refuge from the world. When I was very young, I remember imagining a secret underground space in our garden. In this space, me and my friends could gather and we would have a world, all to ourselves, in which we could play. My coveted world was a safe space, a fun place, a thing of wonder.
As I got a little older, I got my wish.
I grew up in the countryside. We spent long days building camps, forts and bases. This was our turf. We would gather, sit on blocks, arranged in a circle, they were like altars. We would tell stories, jokes and tales, tease each other and play.
Hay barns, fields, farms and forestry were the canvas on which to express ourselves and that, we did. We created a world of our own, we tended to it. We belonged. It was our place of retreat, the fortress of our becoming.
Those were the best days. I feel blessed to have known them.
I think I have always yearned for that again. A world in which I could devote myself, to be free again, to be me again. Because we should never stop becoming, should we?
We think 'adulthood' is the destination.. once we grow up, there's no more becoming, there's no one else I could be. This is it. This is me. We settle.
I was just thinking about it today, it's not about growing up.. it's about growing out. Pushing out our edges. Embodying as much of ourselves as we can.
I think this has defined my journey all along. I now know, this is what my recurring dream, the one in which I discover secret rooms in endless houses, is about. I believe I have been all my adult years trying to find my way back to a time in my life I cherished. It was sacred. I believe it's what has brought out my creativity and why creative practice has become so important to me. It is my way in to the practice of devotion.
12 Years ago, I began envisioning an idea of a gathering place, somewhere that would act as a touchstone, somewhere I could gather with the likeminded and delve in again to 'becoming ourselves'. It's a world I have been itching to create.
But first, I had a lot of learning to do, a lot of mistakes to make, a dose of what it costs the soul to settle. I had to get really fired up. Now It's clear. I've identified the way in, the way back to devotion is to exercise our creative powers. The powers through which we can express and shape ourselves.
To me, this means to engage in activities and with people that help you reconnect with your true self, your essence. To keep alive in you, your hope, your joy, your spirit. To animate in you, the person you already know you are, want to be or are becoming.
I want to build a camp for that.
Somewhere to retreat from 'the desperate field of battle'. To connect you (and me) with others who will get it and want the same thing. To find a tribe, a community, a sense of belonging. Think of it as a charging station.
I've been readying myself for years. It's time.
I'm in the early stages of building my dwelling, far from the maddening crowd; in honour of hope and the nurturing of memories of who we are, though creative self and soul nourishing activities.
I have found a space, in which I will host gatherings. It's in the vibrant and inspiring Craft Village in Rathcormack, Co Sligo. Right in the shadow of the majestic Ben Bulben, less than a mile from the resting place of WB Yeats and right on the Wild Atlantic Way. In this space, there are ancient faery forts, nature trails and authentic round wicker huts. There is a creative community and a weekly market. It's welcoming, it's recharging, it's enchanting.
There is such beauty and inspiration in this place. It feels so right (and a little bit wobbly). I know I have found a place to call home and to continue the work of becoming. And I want you to accompany me.
We are all artists. We just need a space to find ourselves again <3
My new creative space, Pilgrim Soul has been born. I'll post more updates as they happen.
I'm so excited (and nervous) but mostly excited.
I'll be creating a mailing list soon (ahem, the perpetual long finger) so you can sign up & stay in touch!
Always, Amanda xoxo
Is it purpose? Some promise that thrusts them ahead?
Lust for life? Usefullness?
Maybe it’s hope and love or a wife
Chemistry? Energy? Beautiful life?
Is it a case of not mattering dread
or of not seeking answers
in books by their bed?
Or are they awakened, absent of fear
and shameful existing that threatens to sear
through every thread, that fabrics their being
And today they can trust in themselves to be seen
Just something I was wondering ;)
Always, Amanda xoxo
Often, if we’ve have been walking alone for some time, we may suddenly see someone also walking their path, who may appear more certain in their stride than we. So, we find ourselves trying to catch up and join them, because we’re struggling to trust ourselves and we’d rather walk wherever you’re going and get there, than stay here and get lost on our own.
Yes, we can catch up and walk together for a while, but the only time the path feels like our own, is when it is. But how do you know?
There's an art to trusting your own compass and setting your own course.
We’re all fellow travellers. Then there’s people like Orly Avineri. She is a guide.
This was my second workshop with Orly. The theme of this workshop was hollow spaces.
In my last post, I wrote of the hollow girl I see when I revisit an earlier time in my life. I wrote that it still hurts to remember her. I wrote about how I’ve come to understand why, but that it still packs an emotional punch. Enough sometimes to make me cry.
What I didn’t write, because it’s what I hadn't yet reconciled, is my relationship NOW with that hollow girl. As if some kind of ghost, she has continued to haunt me.
I realise I've been afraid of her. Afraid she will return.
All hollow places are, by nature, functional. The trick is to understand their purpose.
Orly spoke at her workshop of what she meant by hollow spaces. Her view is that a hollow space is one where life is accommodated and facilitated. The nests, the vessels, the wombs. The nooks and crannies that house aliveness. I hadn’t thought about it that way. I think I have continued to identify and associate hollow spaces with emptiness, bereavement, loss.
The irony is that it was out of that hollow space that my yearning to feel alive surfaced. After this weekend, I understand now that my hollow space contained a gift. It’s where THIS life, the ME I am today, was housed.
My hollowness was a gestation, a pregnancy, my creative life waiting to be birthed.
In that post, I shared also that a fundamental part of my recovery process was the practice of noticing what made me come alive and seeking out these experiences. I did that instinctually, this blows my mind!
Just as the acorn contains the blueprint for the oak it will become, emptiness contains the blueprint for fullness.
That’s why it hurt. Because deep down, I knew exactly, the me I was failing to be. My hollow space contained the blueprint for the life I was meant to live.
By the end of these three soul stirring days, I had come to change my definition of hollow from something empty to something hallowed. Today I sit here re-aligned. My compass calibrated and my spirit inspired to set off down the path again. I have a new understanding of where I began and why.
Once again, Orly has worked her magic.
She led me back to my hollow space and allowed me to understand it,
not as an abyss, but as a dwelling.
Buíochas Orly, thank you.
So, fellow traveller, let me ask you this…. What is the blueprint in your hollow space?
You can read the full poem here. Sweet Darkness by David Whyte
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
For me, emotional overwhelm is like a blocked drain.
Creativity is my 'Dyno-Rod'
This is how I deal with emotional stagnancy.
This is my Flow.
~ Poem ~
Back in My Camp
In my belief
I am but a peasant
Doubt is my chief
Fragile I was
There on my ground
Wide eyed and rattled
Trying not to fall down
As in from the sea
Came you in your boat
Raging with me
And barely afloat
Now back in my camp
I still cannot speak
This worry, this helpless
I carry with me
So this is Christmas... and what have you done? (I love that song)
In april 2014 I made one little promise that is changing the way I see, care for and express myself. It has been so powerful... I wanted to say something about that, to show you that one little promise is all it takes. As another new year approaches, this lesson is what I'm taking with me.
So, I made a short clip, which I'm sharing with you, reflecting on my creative awakening. I hope it inspires you to do something amazing for yourself this new year <3
I've learnt a LOT of really good stuff about growing, moving forward and how progress really is the result of accumulated effort.
My word for this year has got to be PRACTICE.
Coming out of my creative closet has been such a powerful experience for me that has transcended the art. What I've discovered is that it's the doing, the KEEPING ON DOING that moves me. Might be an obvious one, but I never understood this. I used to only ever give myself 'one shot' at getting results that could only ever be achieved by way of a regular and consistent showing up. Wow... things feel so different now that I've gotten that.
I'm excited about 2015 and I'm grateful for the year that's been. I feel so lucky.
I wish you all a beautiful, safe and healthy holiday season. I can't wait to start mine <3
Here's the video, I hope you enjoy!.
Love Always, Amanda xoxo