I’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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