Wild Woman Wisdom on Finding and Fostering Creative Courage

Mercury, my ruling planet, has gone retrograde (during a Gemini Supermom none the less), leaving my already confused Gemini psyche (the souls home in the mind), in a state of turmoil. I am getting lots of things wrong this week, but I am also learning to make the best of it.

Broken hearts can heal, closed doors can be opened and that space that used to be filled with self-confidence, and at times, large visions of grandeur, now a vacant park lot, will soon be renewed as the underground forest of inspiration that it is.

Some mornings I am impatient. I leap from the luminous shadows that capture my dreams, dreams long forgotten by the breaking of dawn. I rush to my computer only to find the bleakness is waiting. I am already a million miles behind where I want to be. You see, in my minds eye I have already made it. 30 years old and I am already tired of the struggle of becoming. I crave arrival and I want that feeling to last more than a momentary flash of forgettable brilliance, too easily forgotten.

I want dust to turn to flames

I want truth to flow freely

No longer caged

By doubt

and pain


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I am writing this blog as a response to a common theme I have experienced as an emerging photographer only just stepping into the ‘professional’ field. I find it interesting because it is something that I have also come across in various other professional roles, specifically the non-profit sector.

Burnout is real!

AND

The desire for creative flow is strong!

I burned out managing a small non-profit, balancing three different roles with mounting expectations and responsibilities. PTSD prevented me from ‘rebounding’ from a fateful incident. I was down for the count and there was nothing I could do about it. Taking a mental health leave of absence from my job was only supposed to be temporary but within a few months I had had enough rest to face the fact that I could not go back to that reality.

We work ourselves dead on the inside doing things we don’t love. This is not new news. The harder truth is that our economic system (and all that it rules) is designed with this fact in mind. Certain groups of people are forced to work themselves literally to death while others have the privilege and luxury to take extended vacations. Needless to say, it is extremely difficult to find the time and energy to pursue a life of passion, art and creativity. It takes great dedication and courage to raise every day with a heart full of dreams for your mind and body to make real. 

The creative force flows over the terrain of our psyches looking for natural hollows, the channels that exist in us. We become its tributaries, its basins; we are its pools, ponds, streams, and sanctuaries. The wild creative force flows into whatever beds we have for it, those we are born with as well as those we dig with our own hands.
— Clarissa Pinkola Estes

The wild creative force in us can never dies off, she is only weakened. She fights back against monotony. She growls at routinized lives. She resists and survives- against all odds. Creativity is not a solitary practice either, it is a collective movement. One creative act can remove a blockage in a creative flow, feeding those who visit downstream. Our creativity feeds the creative lives of others, and visa-versa. So it is no surprise when we surround ourselves with those who are separated from their creative flow, that ours too dries up. 

If you are grasping for creative juices and finding none, if you are having difficulty digging your fingers into the fertile, the imaginative, the vivid, if you are having difficulty focusing on a vision and acting upon it, it is likely that your creative waters are traveling through polluted territory. This alone could be a result of a toxic culture that is afraid of courageous works of art, that prefers the status quo of the derivative, suppressing creative instincts that might otherwise inspire others to take greater creative risks. 

While creative fertility is fragile, it is easily rejuvenated.   

 

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Having spent the greater part of two years engaged in an inner dialogue with my wild feminine nature, I have learnt from her a few techniques for keeping the creative juices flowing, for realigning myself with instinct and intuition, and for taking risks on my creative urges. Here are two of the practices/approaches that are most useful to me right now.

I live within the cycles of the seasons.

Winter is a time for going inward. Our soul hungers for company throughout the darkening lights. However, we are accustomed to looking for the light- even when there is none. It is important to take time to rest in the darkness, to create only when urged from within to do so. Become aware of the fragments of self that will soon become whole when spring comes again. Winter is a perfect time to start something creative just for you. 

Listen to your dreams, especially the shadow ones.

Don't be afraid to put your camera and your pen down for longer than what feels natural. If the art you want to create is not coming to you, it means it needs more time to come into existence. This does not mean you are less of an artist. It does not mean that you are failing in any way. Perhaps it just means that something bigger than you have ever done is about to arrive. You do not need to know what it is, you just need to create when you hunger to and rest when you are tired.

I regularly start projects that are not ready to take full form. Sometimes all I can do is meditate on it, at other times, when I am more energized, I jump into action. For example,  I started a self-portrait series on living with depression/mental illness. It is a 100% evolving project with no expectations of what it is or what it wants to become.

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I take risks on myself.

A client recently told me that I have the most ideas of anyone she has ever met. It was a humbling reminder that I wasn’t always this ‘creative’. And other I come from a family of creative people, I always thought the gene skipped me. Throughout my 20’s I dug a deep well in search for a source of inspiration, coming up dry and reconfirming this core belief about myself. I only ‘hit’ water after I took a leap of faith on myself.

I decided that if I believed myself to be a photographer that this must be true and that the rest would follow. Since then, my creative flow has been a reliable source that I can trust. Apart of this trust is allowing the creative life to rest. It allows me to let things that weren’t meant to be, die. Like that retreat I WON’T be photographing in Mexico at the end of January that I was so looking forward to.

Do something that scares you, even just a little.

Keep looking for the things that create anxiety and dread. Face them head on. Imagine a beautiful opportunity on the other side of that fear and reach for it, even though you, and especially because, you don’t know what it is yet.

I regularly reach out to people that I don’t know and propose creative ideas. Gaia, The Dark would not have been possible if it wasn’t for the blind faith that two dancers together in the forest would be magic.

There is no guide book for sacred wilding, but I find that the creative live I am now living, even though it is early days, is only possible because I have learnt to accept change as it comes and perhaps more than anything, I let my soul grieve the dead within so that new life can emerge.

 

Jen Holden