The Next Chapter: Secret #1 – Acknowledging Your Creative Self

nextchapter12whiteI’m very excited to be starting off my blogging year as part of The Next Chapter blogging book club. It was pure synchronicity; I discovered the Next Chapter site for the current book, The 12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women, yesterday and I realized, “I have that book!” So I dashed off an email to Jamie of Starshyne Productions asking to join, and now here I am!

This week we are discussing where we all are in our journeys to our creative selves.

I have always been creative. As a child, I was highly imaginative; I read a lot, and spent much of my time dreaming up stories and making up characters. As soon as I learned to write, I began writing down my stories. When I was about seven, I created an entire series of books about Candyland that I wrote and illustrated.

When I look back on my childhood, the one thing that strikes me is that I was so clearly a writer. Writing was something that I did, all the time. It was my priority. It was my play. If I wasn’t reading, I was writing. If I wasn’t writing, I was reading. Books and words played a huge part in my life.

When I became a teenager, I actually preferred staying home to write rather than going out with friends. My 13th birthday stands out for me because my parents bought me this extremely old, second-hand (18th-hand, more like it) Underwood typewriter – to this day, I love the sound of typewriter keys hitting the paper and am always searching for something that imitates that sound on my keyboard.

Most of the money I came across after that went towards buying paper. I would buy reams and reams of inexpensive newsprint, and every time I came home with a new stash of paper, I’d feel like I was carrying a treasure trove. If you’ve ever read the Emily of New Moon stories by LM Montgomery, you’ll know what I mean. While my old Mint and Candyland books were lost in the midst of all the moving around I did as a child, I still have a box of stories and poems written during my teen years.

In my last year of high school, I won a number of national fiction and essay writing awards aimed at teen writers. I was poised to continue on my journey as a writer. But then, life intervened. My mom and stepfather moved across the country (only to end up getting a divorce), I moved in with my then-boyfriend and started university – and suddenly, I was a grown-up. And a grown-up has to focus on making money.

I continued to write, mostly short stories which I sent out to various short story magazines. And then, at the point when I began receiving personal rejection letters (one memorable one from Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine: “Almost, but not quite. Try us again.”) … something happened. Something in me gave up. It was too hard to make a living as a writer. I was an adult now. I needed to do something that would bring in an adequate amount of income.

So I went to law school. I ended up getting married, having a baby, passing the Bar: suddenly, I was a practicing lawyer. A practicing lawyer with a little one, and another baby on the way.

It was a hectic time, and somewhere during that period, I stopped writing fiction. Time was at a premium, and there was no support for my writing, in either my professional life or my personal life. At one point, I let my then-husband read one of my short stories. It was a creepy little horror story that had a humorous ending; he thought I was trying to be “too smart”. That hit me hard, much harder than I let myself admit at the time.

That period of my life was a dark time in terms of my creativity. And it wasn’t until my divorce a few years later that I was able to find my creative self again. Even then, it started slowly.

I began my journey back to my creative self by getting to know my inner self. I started with a gratitude journal that brought light and hope into my life. And then I began writing morning pages, and for six years, I faithfully wrote three long-hand pages every single morning before doing anything else. I discovered a kind of magic in those pages; whenever I expressed a desire in these morning pages notebooks, more likely than not, the desire would be fulfilled, sometimes as quickly as that very same day. Cheques arrived in the mail, jobs showed up (by then I had my own business), synchronicities abounded.

Then, about six years ago, an astounding thing happened. It still amazes me to this day. I realized how much I longed to get that love of the process of creativity back, all those magic moments when I was a child and a teenager when I lost myself in the writing of my stories. I remembered how time seemed to stand still, and the joy that flowed through me as I wrote. I wanted that back. I wanted for my writing to be all about process, and not about the results (as in, making money).

My desire was granted, but not the way I had envisioned: one day, I picked up a pencil, and I drew a picture of my kids playing a video game. I had always thought I couldn’t draw, that I wasn’t artistic except with words. I can remember sitting outside my house when I was eleven or twelve, staring at a tree and trying hard to draw it. I couldn’t even draw a straight line – yet there I was, drawing my kids, and having a great time doing it.

For the next few years, I explored art-making, and discovered that what I loved most of all was creating portraits using charcoal. My skills improved slowly but most importantly, I had re-discovered the thrill of process.

Then life intervened again: I had a baby with my second husband. Dylan was a miracle baby, and my life took yet another turn. There was no time for art, no time for writing. I was busy, juggling my home-based business and a new baby.

When Dylan was two, tragedy struck. My baby sister, Joy, died at the age of 32. But in my grief, I realized the gift she had given me: physically she wasn’t here, but I knew she wasn’t gone. I knew this with a conviction I never had access to before. And from there, I began a spiritual journey that has changed my life in incredible ways. Shortly after, I met a group of amazing women online, all conscious creators, and I haven’t looked back since.

My writing has returned to me. During the times when I wasn’t writing, I had continued to get story ideas, lots of them. They’ve all stayed with me, and these days, I feel like I have another treasure trove in front me. Deciding which ones to work on is the most challenging thing. But the most important thing of all is that I’m starting to BE a writer again. I am deliberately making this choice, choosing this identity, resting in this identity fully. And the magic is happening, once again.

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23 Comments on "The Next Chapter: Secret #1 – Acknowledging Your Creative Self"

  1. Comment #1
    Kate Robertson
    14/01/2009 at 12:33 pm Permalink

    Belle,

    Oh I loved your story and so glad to hear you are writing again. After I posted mine I realized I completely left out the writing aspect of my creative journey. I may have to do an update now. Its always so interesting how creativity is always there, we can let it go but it always comes back to us. Its as though its drawing us back we really have no choice in the matter. Your story also reminds me of my daughter who started writing stories at age 4. She is now 20 in a writing program in college. She hasn’t lost her creativity and I hope she doesn’t. Anyways I enjoyed your post.

    Kate

  2. Comment #2
    Genie
    14/01/2009 at 3:30 pm Permalink

    Isn’t it wonderful that when you are a writer, even if you are not putting pen to paper, the stories are writing themselves inside you? Just waiting to come out! I am looking forward to taking this journey with you. :)

  3. Comment #3
    Belle
    14/01/2009 at 4:00 pm Permalink

    Kate, it’s funny, but until I wrote this post, I hadn’t realized all the twists and turns I’ve taken in terms of my creativity. You’re right – creativity is always there and even when we go through periods where we let it go, it always comes back to us.

    Genie: yes! That’s a perfect way of putting it. Even when I wasn’t putting pen to paper, the stories were always writing themselves inside of me. The image of all those stories just waiting to come out is wonderful.

  4. Comment #4
    Melissa Prell
    14/01/2009 at 4:37 pm Permalink

    Belle,

    First off, thanks for visiting my blog. I am glad I came to visit you because I love what you wrote. I noticed you used my favorite word – synchronicity- twice. I am struck by what you wrote about losing your sister. I lost my mother in 2008 and like you, I feel that she isn’t really gone. I also feel as though I can now heal from the pain of my childhood. I have permission. And part of healing is exploring my creativity.

    BTW, my beautiful greyhound is named Belle Starr. :-)

    Melissa

  5. Comment #5
    Belle
    14/01/2009 at 5:01 pm Permalink

    Melissa, synchronicity is one of my favorite words (and I love the name of your blog!). Healing with creativity is a wonderful thing.

    Here’s another synchronicity – the main character in one of the novels I’m working on is called Starr!

  6. Comment #6
    Melissa Prell
    14/01/2009 at 5:59 pm Permalink

    Cue Twilight Zone music on your character named Starr! I love it.

  7. Comment #7
    Jennerosity
    14/01/2009 at 6:48 pm Permalink

    Your story totally brings me hope! Much like you, I can’t draw a straight line either. When I was teaching ESL kids and had to draw for them, one of them nicknamed me ‘Picaso’ because of all my crooked little drawings on the board. (Not that it discouraged me from drawing for my class though.) Your story about suddenly picking up a pencil and exploring visual artwork gives me hope that I might one day explore visual art and be able to create more realistic art instead of just impressionist stick figures ;)

  8. Comment #8
    tanaya
    14/01/2009 at 6:49 pm Permalink

    Belle,

    Here is to the magic!!

  9. Comment #9
    CynthiaMarie
    14/01/2009 at 7:00 pm Permalink

    Thanks for swinging by my blog Belle! Your story is an easy, interesting read and invited reflection of my own on forgotten corners of my mind. Though sometimes when it comes to character building experiences I’ve started to randomly holler skywards, “I’ve got enough character!”
    I think the best thing about life is the spiral, labyrinth, and though our feet walk close to a path we were before, or it seems we are farther from our dream, sometimes too far to remember we had a dream, it all comes back around, and we really do add more depth to our creativity.

  10. Comment #10
    Paula -Buenos Aires
    14/01/2009 at 7:15 pm Permalink

    I smiled about the reading / writing childhood combo recognizing it as my own too and nodded all the way about life getting in the way.
    Wishing you wonderful stories and time/space to write them. :)
    Thanks for your visit and encouragement words!

  11. Comment #11
    Jamie
    14/01/2009 at 8:06 pm Permalink

    Belle, thank you for sharing your story. You are a writer indeed. It’s interesting to see the cycles of your creativity and how they flow with the rhythm of your life. I’m glad you and your creativity are together again :)

  12. Comment #12
    pen*
    14/01/2009 at 8:21 pm Permalink

    belle, your story was captivating and i am so glad you are reunited with your original soul purpose. i can’t wait to hear more from you and look forward to this journey we are on together.

  13. Comment #13
    carin.c
    15/01/2009 at 9:41 am Permalink

    Your story is wonderfully written! I’m so glad you are making creativity a high priority… it feels so goood after years of relegating it to low priority status, doesn’t it? I look forward to seeing where your journey takes you!

  14. Comment #14
    Risa
    15/01/2009 at 11:47 am Permalink

    Thanks so much for sharing your story! I think it’s going to be wonderful reading everyone’s stories and thoughts. In fact, I’m having a hard time ripping myself from the computer to do my work! I’ll be back soon. risa

  15. Comment #15
    Belle
    15/01/2009 at 12:25 pm Permalink

    Jennerosity: yes to the drawing! What I learned was that the ability to draw is something that can be taught, that can be learned. Some of us have a natural skill for it, but even for those of us without that natural ability, it’s something we can learn. If it were taught to kids, rather than something that they are expected to either be able to do or not be able to do, we’d all be able to draw and perhaps, be far more open to our own creativity. The book I’ve found most helpful is Drawing with Children, by Mona Brooks – it helped me tremendously (it’s not just for helping kids draw!).

    Tanaya: yes to the magic!

    Cynthia Marie: I think when I finally started accepting my experiences as the rich, gorgeous things that they are, instead of regretting them and regretting various choices I had made in my life, I finally came into my own, and like you wrote, discovered an added depth to my creativity as a result.

    Paula: Thanks for coming by – I’m looking forward to sharing our journeys.

    Jamie: Thanks for putting together this group – I can’t tell you how wonderful it’s been for me, and I’ve only just joined.

    pen*: I’m looking forward to sharing our journeys too!

    carin: oh, yes, it does feel so good to be making my creativity a priority again. This will be fun, I just know it.

    Risa: I know, I’m having the same problem. Have a deadline today but haven’t started it at all yet! But I’m having fun, and I know that’s the main thing. :)

  16. Comment #16
    Sara Mo
    15/01/2009 at 4:55 pm Permalink

    You’re a natural writer indeed. I hope the wound of your ex’s “too smart” comment is able to heal through your creativity. I know how those comments stay with you. I’m grateful to share this journey with you.

    Sara

  17. Comment #17
    Brynna
    15/01/2009 at 7:23 pm Permalink

    What an amazing creative journey so far! Hope it takes you to wonderful places.

  18. Comment #18
    autumnsun
    15/01/2009 at 11:03 pm Permalink

    you have an amazing talent – you can’t get away from true talent like that. i really enjoyed reading your story and look forward to joining you on this journey of finding our creativity. I can’t wait to read more of your words – magic.

  19. Comment #19
    Belle
    16/01/2009 at 12:56 am Permalink

    Sara Mo: it’s funny, but when I think back to that “too smart” comment, what really stuns me is how I avoided even thinking about how hurtful that felt. It was only afterward, when I was no longer in the marriage, that I could even admit to myself that it really hurt me.

    Brynna: Thank you!

    autumnsun: you just made my night. Thank you so much.

  20. Comment #20
    Poetrix07
    16/01/2009 at 2:16 am Permalink

    belle,

    Thank you, thank you for your life and the echoes I felt within me when reading of your years, and the return home to you…….. welcome back………

  21. Comment #21
    Cindy Jones Lantier
    19/01/2009 at 6:43 am Permalink

    Hey Belle — I just ordered that book from Amazon! Another synchronicity (one of my favorite words, too!). And I mentioned morning pages in my last comment to you without even knowing if you’d know what they were. Of course, you’d know!

    I enjoyed reading your story about your creative journey very much. I’ll have to hop over to the book club website and see what it’s about. Maybe I can join in, too. I get my book on Tuesday.

  22. Comment #22
    Lil
    20/01/2009 at 9:08 pm Permalink

    Belle, thank you for your kind and encouraging words on my blog…I needed them…

    …and I needed to hear your story too. Since becoming a mother (a stay-at-home one at that) I have felt like I haven’t had time to devote to my dreams, let alone my creative ones. Your story gives me hope…and I am heartened.

    Leaping,
    Lil

  23. Comment #23
    Becci
    21/01/2009 at 8:49 pm Permalink

    You wrote:
    “Dylan was a miracle baby, and my life took yet another turn. There was no time for art, no time for writing. I was busy, juggling my home-based business and a new baby”.

    I can’t remember exactly what it was but in The 12 Secrets and I can’t for the life of me find it again but there was a sentence that struck me and I wanted to share…
    The idea Gail McMeekin wrote about had to with naming things that were creative and child birth was one of them! Child birth? Of course! So I think you really were very busy being very creative making little Dylan!

    Thanks for visiting my blog :-)

    Have a great hair day! Becci

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