“Isn’t doing creative stuff for no particular outcome… frivolous?”
“Is my desire to create selfish?” women ask me in every single workshop.
The question gets asked indirectly, too.
“Am I good enough to create?” is what we’re really asking when we wonder if our work is good enough.
“But I don’t have time, (or energy, or money) to create!” is the angry wail of resistance that covers over our deeper yearning — to express ourselves in some way that is meaningful to us. To simply make something out of whatever we are given, wherever we are.
“I feel so guilty, gathering up these art supplies and not using them much.” is so popular a theme it really deserves it’s own post. Remind me!
Wildly potent is the true nature that lives within each and every woman.
Once upon a time, all women knew this, and all women celebrated and nurtured their potent energies.
Women are designed to create. When we aren’t expressing ourselves, we start to feel bad. But more on that in a sec.
Creativity and sexuality share the same chakra – energy centers – in the body. Fertility and potency are other words for creativity.
All women can create, with whatever resources are at hand.
While she was dying from cancer before she was 50 years old (the age I am now), my grandmother cut up her clothes and made a quilts of them for me and my sister. Her art lived on long past her life. Her creative action in the face of despair gave warmth and comfort in real and figurative ways to the girls she wouldn’t live to see grow up.
What could she have been thinking, and feeling and wondering—as she gathered up her clothes, cut them precisely into squares, and sewed them back together in a beautiful pattern for us? She added hand stitching and knotting to each square. I would run my hands over the pieces, remembering certain blouses or dresses she wore, imaging her hand touching each and every stitch.
My grandmother was the first creative entrepreneur I knew. She and her mother, who came from Poland to Michigan, knew how to sew their own dresses. And so they started sewing for other women, plus lots of curtains, the cash cow of their business.
I used to play under the long tables draped with fabric, my own private universe. Literally underfoot as a toddler. Listening to fabric sheers making long, precise cuts down the table. The hum and staccato of the sewing machine. The smell of cabbage and pierogis and the consonant sounds of the Polish language, their mother tongue.
Because of death and other tragedies that ripped me away from the land of my grandmothers, I never learned Polish, or how to sew, or how to make a quilt out of my own clothes.
But I was given a spark, a seed, a template for creating a life made by hand, and a dream of making a business out of my creativity.
I was given love and handmade dresses. A white patent leather child’s purse and white gloves to wear to mass. My grandmother’s homes were adorned with images of Catholic saints and crucifixes, which both captivated and disturbed me.
Especially images of the sacred heart, with blood dripping from knives or swords that stabbed the heart, or the crown of thorns itself, piercing the mortal flesh and showing how we all bleed, we all suffer, we all will be heartbroken beyond what we think we can survive, we will all know sorrow. Etc.
Women suffer and bleed to give birth, and that’s what comes with the whole business of making something new.
Whether it’s a tiny human, a book, your paintings, your screenplay or that memoir you’ve been meaning to write. There will be hurdles to overcome, there will be obstacles in your way.
The path won’t always be clear. It certainly won’t always be easy. Certainty itself will elude you.
That’s the nature of creativity, and I’m pointing it out here because these difficult parts of the creative process are often left out, ignored, or skipped over. And when we don’t acknowledge the hard parts, there is no way we can deal with them in a healthy manner.
If you have a creative block, it’s just that you simply haven’t learned how to navigate the hard parts of the creative cycle. But you can learn. Everyone can.
The benefits of expressing your creativity are practically countless, but this is something that your own experience will teach you much more than my (or someone else’s) words.
At the end of this post I’ve got a creative experience you can try for yourself. It’s the best way I know to learn about your own creative process.
My grandmothers taught me about creative potency, and creative thriving, even as refugees from their homeland, and even with scarce resources.
Juggling Scarce Resources
Most of us are dealing with scare resources of one kind or another. If not financial, then health, or energy, or time. Those are a few of the biggies.
It’s all a big balancing act of give and take that women are so overqualified to manage. We are expert multitaskers and caregivers, and this is part of our divine feminine potency, too.
We do need to remember how to give to ourselves — even a fraction of what we can so easily do for others. To replenish our well when we’ve been in a long stretch of constant giving. To put our own air mask on first before coming to the aid of others. Whatever metaphor works best for you…
Connecting with Creative Women
Whatever your relationship with your mother, whether you were mothered or unmothered by the women whose charge you were in, we all come from a legacy of wildly potent, creative women.
If you don’t know wildly potent women who are related to you by birth, then you must find some, who inspire you to take action on your own creative impulses. You only need to look up and look around to find them.
Wildly potent women are in your communities, churches, clubs, groups, 12-step meetings, workplaces, schools. Online and offline. In person and virtual. They are our mentors from long ago whose work we can see or read now: artists, writers, activists, poets, preachers. Painters, collage artists, quilters.
Connecting with creative women in person, and doing our creative work together, is one of the most wildly potent things we can do to nourish ourselves. This is why I love doing in-person workshops and retreats, as both a teacher and a student. This is a priority for my mental, spiritual and creative health, so it gets budgeted, scheduled and planned for every year.
Because I don’t have a relationship with my own mother, I’ve always had a policy to adopt mothers wherever I go. And sisters, too.
Images and stories of the divine feminine impulse, handed down and shared from one woman to another, like so many handmade quilts, connect us with our sacred, creative heritage.
Women. Take this to heart:
Creativity is what you were born for. Creativity is your birthright.
Creativity is frivolous? Really?
Let’s call it what it is: Essential.
Creativity is life force energy.
What else could have reached out and comforted me as a child when I wrapped myself in my grandmothers quilt?
What else would inspire you to pick up a blank book and dare to start writing your truths. For your eyes only. But who knows? Is there a novel in you?
Why else bother to buy paints and canvas when you’re “not even an artist”?
What else would inspire you to take up knitting or scrapbooking or anything else crafty?
Women are made to create, and when we don’t, we don’t feel like ourselves.
There’s nothing frivolous about that.
It’s like this:
If you’re not feeling like yourself.
If you are tired, worn out, burnt out, heartbroken, or depressed.
If you are more worried or anxious than usual.
If you just feel off center or out of sorts.
If you’ve lost your job, or your mojo, or your best friend, or the love of your life.
If you’re struggling to make make ends meet or just make it through another freakin’ one-day-at-a-time.
If you’ve got a scary diagnosis.
If your partner just did a 180 or went off the deep end.
If you’ve been betrayed and are reeling with rage or sadness.
If you’re overwhelmed by your kids, job, housework, bills, politics, everything.
If you’re confused and can’t find your focus. For whatever reason (and we all have the reasons above and more).
This is a love note to you, along with a creative assignment.
Your Creative Assignment
Get a piece of paper and something to write with. Your journal, if you have one.
At the top of the page write: Wildly Potent
Set a timer for 3 or 5 minutes.
Keep writing that phrase over and over until something else comes. The words will flow.
When the timer goes off, you are complete. Unless you want to keep going.
See what happens.
That’s what I did today.
About the painting, Wildly Potent
Pop into my studio! I’ll show you how I work…
All of my visual art and writing flows out of my creative practice. Which means – I go to the studio every day (when not traveling) show up, and see what happens. I work in blank artist’s sketchbooks, in my own handmade blank books, and the art and writing flow out of these books onto canvas, into my blog (essays like this were written by hand, directly into my sketchbooks before being typed up), and into books, courses and other products.
The painting (acrylic on wood) was created a while back. This image of the madonna and child is one of the hundreds I’ve collected on my travels around the world. She was cut out and glued on top of the painting.
I make lots of these “Modern Icon” paintings, and they are finished when I find the perfect words or a phrase to complete them. Working on something else this morning, I came across the phrase Wildly Potent in my box of scraps (job hazard, I don’t really throw out paper!), looked up, and the phrase kind of begged to be added to this image.
Snippets of wisdom and ideas float into my awareness as I paint, so I write those down in my sketchbooks, too. To write this essay, I simple wrote the title at the top of a blank page, and all of this flowed out. This is the benefit of having a regular creative practice, you start creating on demand, and get to enjoy the process of creating rather than be stuck by it.
Wildly Potent is dedicated to the wild, potent, creative force that lives within each and every woman.
Writing Workshop for Women
If this post resonates with you, then do check out my upcoming writing retreat for women in Italy.
It’s especially designed to help women in transition (a nice way of saying going through, or emerging from, hell) write their stories and get their creative writing out of the head and heart and onto the page.
October 9-15, 2016 — Women’s Writing Retreat in Umbria, Italy