The Practice of Creativity

On Monday, I appeared on a radio show called ‘The State of Things’ hosted by WUNC, our local National Public Radio (NPR) station. This was the most vulnerable interview I’ve ever done. I discuss my early childhood experiences of creativity as connected to resiliency and survival. I publicly discuss my experiences with sexual assault and trauma in honor of National Sexual Assault Awareness Month. The role of speculative fiction for writers of color, creativity coaching and women and creativity were also topics the interviewer and I discussed with great delight. I thought you might like to listen to it as it gives you a glimpse into why I am so passionate about the subject of creativity and empowering others.

You can listen here.

Bonfire

P.S. I’m thrilled to announce that I an running an encore replay of the ENTIRE Creativity Bonfire Series through Wednesday. So many people wanted to listen but didn’t get a chance to hear ALL of the incredible speakers. Some people didn’t get a chance to register. Was that you? If so, register below and get your week off to a GREAT start.

The list of participating speakers is AMAZING! They include Amanda Owen, bestselling author of The Power of Receiving, SARK (aka Susan Ariel Rainbow Kennedy), creativity expert and author of sixteen bestselling books, Diane Ealy, author of The Women’s Book of Creativity, Kimberly Wilson, author of Hip Tranquil Chick and yoga studio owner, Dr. Eric Maisel, creativity coach and author of over 40 books on creativity, Hay House author and transformative coach Michael Neill and MANY others.

They provide tips, techniques, resources and wisdom on the issue of creativity–how to access it and how to sustain it.

Register here! It’s FREE!

Dear Reader

 

SliderLive

If you are interested in hearing an encore performance for the Creativity Bonfire Series you can sign up here.

The list of participating speakers is INCREDIBLE! They include Amanda Owen, bestselling author of The Power of Receiving, SARK (aka Susan Ariel Rainbow Kennedy), creativity expert and author of sixteen bestselling books, Diane Ealy, author of The Women’s Book of Creativity, Kimberly Wilson, author of Hip Tranquil Chick, Dr. Eric Maisel, creativity coach, Hay House author and transformative coach Michael Neill and MANY others.

The site and welcome email still has the old dates -April 3-6 posted. But, we should be doing an encore replay in the next two weeks and I would love for you to hear the 11 (+ me) wonderful speakers and see their GIFTS for YOU! Sign up and stay tuned for the encore presentation and more surprises.

Dear Reader,

How are you? Are you stuck on a creative project? Have you lost momentum on something important to you? Are you struggling with fear, doubt, procrastination and perfectionism? Are you ready for new approaches in dealing with inner critics that block you from taking the next step on creative work?

As a scholar, coach and creative writer, I know how challenging it is to continually nurture one’s creative impulses.

That’s why I’ve created the CREATIVITY BONFIRE event for YOU. I have asked 11 of the most amazing artists, writers, coaches and visionaries to come together and provide insights about how to ACCESS and SUSTAIN your most amazing renewable resource-CREATIVITY.

Get Ready for a powerful SPRING RENEWAL and an Inspiration blast off!

Bonfire

You are going to LOVE these 11 powerful conversations in Sustaining Your Flame-Secrets from Wildly Inspired Creators!

The list of participating speakers is INCREDIBLE! They include Amanda Owen, bestselling author of The Power of Receiving, SARK (aka Susan Ariel Rainbow Kennedy), creativity expert and author of sixteen bestselling books, Diane Ealy, author of The Women’s Book of Creativity, Kimberly Wilson, author of Hip Tranquil Chick, Dr. Eric Maisel, creativity coach, Hay House author and transformative coach Michael Neill and MANY others.

I believe that creativity is our most vital renewable resource and I felt guided to deepen the conversation about our rich treasure.

We will gather around the virtual CREATIVITY BONFIRE during April 3-April 6th. Whatever you are trying to do–empowering others, thinking up solutions to climate change, finishing the next revision on a novel, being a better parent-accessing your creativity will help.

This is YOUR SPRING RENEWAL and it’s all FREE + speakers are providing GIFTS! That’s right, GIFTS for you!

Ignite your spring by grabbing your seat around the Creativity Bonfire! Register here

 

 

As a writer, you can never predict what will touch people. You can only do your best to tell your story with skill, precision and heart. My writing teacher, Marjorie Hudson (author of Accidental Birds in the Carolinas) encourages students to ‘find their territory’, to explore the kinds of unique themes and challenges that only they can write about.

The relationship with my mother is definitely my territory. In last December’s ‘My View’ column for The Chapel Hill News, I wrote about a snippet of my mother’s life which involved a great act of courage that changed the course of our lives (‘My Mother’s Gift’). When I was eight, my mother left my abusive stepfather and started her life over. Due to her actions, some serendipity and innovative social service programming we (my mother, sister and I) came to live in a special program for battered women and their children at The President Hotel, in Manhattan.  The program was a partnership with the city of New York and the President Hotel.

I received the highest number of responses from this column, more than any other I have written. I also had lengthy conversations with friends who read the column. I’ve been reflecting on what people shared with me and the questions that linger.

I was touched by many comments from women who had mothers that stayed with abusive partners, who were unable or unwilling to leave. A representative remark was “I’ve always wished that my mother had the courage to do what yours did.” These daughters have spent a lifetime trying to understand and cope with the consequences of growing up in a violent household. Some later became active in women’s issues:  “I grew up in a battering household, found feminism in my 40s and served on several boards advocating and helping women.”

I also heard from several readers whose mothers did leave. One said, “My mother did the same for me and my brother. Hooray for women who break the cycle of violence and give their children hope.” Therapists and health providers wrote to say that they work with many abused women and it is still very challenging for many women to leave. They hoped some would see my story and make a change. Others also thought my story might help other women. A friend said on my Facebook page “Stories such as these need to be told so [that] others’ can ‘keep on keeping on,’ when they feel all hope is lost…”

Our individual stories are always connected specific and historical eras. Having conversations with peers reminded me that I am part of the first generation of women (and men) whose mothers could  make a choice to leave an abusive relationship and potentially find societal support (and possibly resources), instead of condemnation.  Second wave feminist activism of the early 1970s placed the issue of ‘battering’ front and center in the national spotlight. Advocates were able to recast battering from a private, personal problem to a public one that needed addressing.  Previously, women, as a social group, did not have the public support to leave abusive men. Many women like my mother were making history in small, individual ways and empowering their daughters to question the status quo.

And, finally there were practical things that people wanted to know, too. I talked about taking my cherished Bionic Woman doll with me when leaving my stepfather—some wanted to know if I still have the doll. I do! She sits in a special place in my home office.  She lost a foot at some point while I lived at the hotel.  She’s a survivor, just like my sister and I.

I received lots of questions about The President Hotel. How did I get along at the hotel? What were the other mothers and children like? These questions have stimulated more for me including:  How many private-public programs like the President Hotel existed in Manhattan and other cities? How did they get dreamed up and funded? What happened to the other mothers and children that I met? What did they make of their lives? Clearly, I’ve got lots more research to do!

Writing about my time at The President Hotel and what happened to my mother later is part of my territory.  My mother saved my and my sister’s physical and emotional lives by removing us from that home. Many many years later, I would save my mother’s life and give her a fresh beginning, but that is for another story.

(this piece is adapted from a February ‘My View’ column that was published in the Chapel Hill News)

Amanda Owen’s first book, The Power of Receiving offered a paradigm shift in how we typically approach and embrace the states of ‘giving and receiving’. She notes that historically, our society “champions the use of willpower and under-recognizes the value of receptivity.” Owen encouraged us to look at how our beliefs about the continuum of ‘giving and receiving’ and ‘active and receptive’ shape our lives.

In receptive states, we generally can pay more attention to “information from and about other people, information from the environment and information about our own feelings.” A close friend of mine and I (both overdriven ‘givers’) read this book together, discussed it and did the practices suggested. We experienced a remarkable shift in our capacity to receive,and our ability to acknowledge and express our preferences and desires. Owen’s philosophy of receiving was also helpful in interrupting my tendency to live in a constant state of ‘doing’. I don’t often write reviews of  books, but I felt moved to do so for The Power of Receiving.

Author_photo_Amanda_Owen

I am thrilled that Amanda’s new book, Born to Receive: 7 Powerful Steps Women Can Take Today to Reclaim Their Half of the Universe brings her important message about receiving to women. This is a timely book that delivers real treasure. Amanda Owen is a consultant, coach, and motivational speaker. Her powerful “Receive and Manifest” seminars and workshops have transformed thousands of lives and have earned her a loyal worldwide fan base.

I’m delighted to welcome Amanda Owen to ‘The Practice of Creativity’.

Why did you write Born to Receive? What’s in store for readers?

Born_to_Receive

My first book The Power of Receiving gave an introduction to receiving and provided a foundation and basic tools for living a balanced life. In early 2012, I discovered I had much more to say about this topic—specifically to women.

Women pay attention and tend to other people’s needs in a way that makes them vulnerable to overextending their giving and subjugating their own needs and desires. I wanted to provide practical solutions and demonstrate how embracing their receptive power would give them more energy, reduce stress, and help them achieve greater reciprocity in their relationships and create more balance in their lives.

In Born to Receive I offer seven practical steps that women can easily integrate into their daily life and give numerous examples of women who have changed their lives for the better by using their receptive power.

You suggest that women should be critical of the idea that we “naturally” suffer from low self-esteem and look instead at several external influences. Can you say more about how women can disengage from ‘the cult of self-esteem’?

It makes sense that women feel it is natural to have low self-esteem. We are constantly told that we struggle with self-esteem issues and are bombarded with products that will help us.  (Is there a Dove Beauty Campaign for men?) It’s become a mantra that too many of us say over and over: I have low self-worth. I suffer from low self-esteem. It’s like we have all been drinking the same Kool-Aid.

In Born to Receive, I ask women to stop talking about their self-esteem and refuse to let their feelings about themselves be dictated by those who do not have their best interests.

You outline seven powerful steps that can enable women to use receptive power in their daily lives. In Step Three (Ask For Help If You Need it and Accept It When It’s Offered) you note that, “Even though our culture is infatuated with a person who does it all, carrying 100 percent of the load is not natural and is not the behavior of an empowered woman…If you are habitually giving more than 50 percent, you are doing too much.” Can you expand upon this for us and discuss why you think we should be striving for 50% versus 100%?

Filling our days with activities that our bodies cannot comfortably support is a kind of madness. But if we follow a cultural model that champions activity and self-sufficiency and undervalues receptivity and cooperation, we can’t help but harm ourselves. I call this “multitasking mayhem.”

Allocating 100% of our energy and efforts to trying to make something happen is not only unnatural, it is mentally exhausting, physically depleting, and emotionally draining. When we give as well as receive, we allow a metaphorical gate to swing both ways. Sometimes it opens away from us and sometimes toward us.

What did you learn about yourself as a writer while writing The Power of Receiving that helped while you were crafting this book?

Above all, writing The Power of Receiving gave me confidence. Once I wrote one book, I knew I could write another one. Also, working on my previous book gave me a template to follow for Born to Receive—not only for how to structure a book, but also how to structure my day.

What does your writing practice look like?

I write every day. My day starts out with catching up with the world through online news and emails over coffee and breakfast. Then I begin writing, which usually lasts until about 3 pm. My friends know not to call me during the day since I do not answer the phone when I am writing.

What’s your best writing tip?

Write every day. Write plenty of bad sentences so that you can get to the good ones. If I don’t have a terrible piece of writing in front of me after all of my efforts, I feel like I have not made any progress. I need something I can work with, fuss over, and shape. A flimsy idea can be nurtured into something substantial. A phrase can be fanned into a flame that produces a whole sentence. A poorly written paragraph can inform me of a direction that may yield gold.

To find out more about Amanda Owen and to purchase Born to Receive, visit her website.

 

Last December, my creativity buddy, Susan Guild, asked me to participate in her phenomenal monthly ‘Wake Up Your Magic’ tele-share live call. During the tele-share, Susan brings together various folk to talk about creativity and staying inspired during the pursuit of one’s dreams. Susan also invited Wendy Fedan, an artist and newly minted author. When the three of us got on the phone, it felt like a homecoming. I listened with interest as Wendy talked about how to follow the “nudges” we get from the Universe to move toward our creative dreams (what she calls “following Divine breadcrumbs”), and the importance of persistence in pursuing long term writing projects. I also fell in love with the title of her new memoir, Wearing My Weird: In The Great White North and knew I wanted to invite her here.

Wendy  is a freelance designer and illustrator. She has been a professional caricature artist since 1992. Wendy is also a creativity coach and leads ‘Create-A-Way’ workshops that explore the relationship between creativity and spirituality.

Wearing My Weird follows the adventures of a twelve year old Wendy as she navigates a painful transition with humor and compassion. It is about self-acceptance and renewal. It is the first in a three book series.

I’m so happy to welcome Wendy Fedan to The Practice of Creativity.

wendyfedan

- Tell us about your first book, Wearing My Weird. Why did you want to write this book?

My first motivation, when I was twelve, was to write about the most important thing that ever happened to me – moving from one country to another. But as the years passed, it became more about capturing this moment in history – this snapshot from a period in my life when I was a child battling between feelings of hope and insecurity. It’s an important period of my life, I realize, as I look back – more important than I realized. I’m thankful that I wrote as much I did about it as a child going through it. Thanks to my writings back then, I was able to recapture the voice of my 13-year-old self and bring her back to life in this series, giving her the spotlight she always wanted.

-How did you get bitten by the ‘writing bug’? Did you always wish to become an author?

Yes, I always wanted to be an author – even before I knew how to read. I remember looking through books, wondering what all those marks meant. Not just the words, but the punctuation and even paragraph structure (Why were some paragraphs big and some only a few words long?). I remember watching my father reading and understanding how powerful books were – again, before even knowing how to read. And when I finally learned how to write in the first grade, I immediately raced out of my gate and wrote as much as I could. I tested my bravery by even reading my stories aloud in class in the second grade. That was when I knew writing was my favorite thing in the world. I loved the act of sharing my ideas and stories with others, entertaining them with my words, and making them understand me in my own quiet way.

wearingmyweird

-Can you talk about the role of persistence and the support you received from your writer’s group that helped to make WMW a reality?

Persistence is essential to writing. You always hope the book will magically write itself while you go on with your life, but it doesn’t. You have to make the effort to sit down and take a bit of time out to record your thoughts. Then you have to be willing to go back to what you’ve written with an open mind and learn to edit yourself. And edit again. And edit again. Sometimes the act of writing feels like I’m creating an endless work in progress. And thanks to the magical technology of self-publishing, even after publication you can continue to edit your work.

I’m thankful to my writing group. With the help of my peers and teachers, I’ve learned how to edit my own work. And the group has also given me a sense of accountability. We as writers need some kind of group around us to help give us accountability and encouragement. Otherwise you’re just a lone writer, with nobody around to lend support or encouragement. It’s hard to find motivation in a secluded lifestyle. We need writing peeps.

-You manage to pack a lot into your day! You are a consistent blogger, freelance designer, illustrator and creativity coach. How do these activities feed into each other and you?

Blogging has become my new form of journaling (I always wanted my journals read anyway), so it’s been a wonderful outlet for me. When I discovered blogging, I felt a light from heaven open up, and I thought, WOW! THIS IS FOR ME!

Freelance design and commercial art in general (as well as caricature work) has helped pay the bills for me. Art has become my meat and potatoes job. That makes me very happy. When I made the choice to go to art school, I knew I was deciding what my meat and potatoes focus was going to be. I didn’t want my writing to be my meat and potatoes focus. Writing was too precious to me. Writing is too spiritual to me to become my day job. I like my job focus to be the way it is now, and I’m happy things have worked out that way for me!

As for becoming a creativity coach, this is something I have just begun budding into. I’ve begun leading workshops and retreats to help others get in touch with their creative and spiritual selves because I know how important that is. If more people were in touch with their intuition and creativity, we would be much happier people. I feel like doing this kind of inspirational work is my own way to give back what God has blessed me with. I have to share what I’ve been given, in hope that others will find their own special connection to God and creativity. I’ve begun speaking to schools to promote my book and to inspire kids to write. This has been one of the most rewarding experiences ever for me.

-You advocate a DIY approach to publishing and encourage other writers to explore self-publishing. What have been some of the benefits and challenges of this approach?

The benefits of self-publishing are enormous:

⁃  You don’t have to rely on an publishing editor behind a desk to tell you whether your story is good or interesting enough for the world to read.
⁃  You can make your dream happen. NOW.
⁃  You don’t have to adjust your story to death to satisfy a publisher (there’s a point where it stops being your own book).
⁃  You receive a much higher royalty.

The challenges of self publishing:

⁃  You’re on your own… for everything. You’re responsible for your own book’s editing, cover creation, and marketing.
⁃  You can’t just be a writer anymore. You need to learn how to network and promote your work effectively. That means you have to get out of your shell and actually talk to people. If you are a writer who likes to speak, you’re in good shape! If not, you have a challenge to face – and I recommend Toastmasters, BIG TIME, to help you overcome that challenge!

-What is the best writing tip you’d like to share?

The best tip I can give regarding writing is not to give up. People ask, “What is the cure for writer’s block?” The answer is “TO WRITE.” Write anything. Write gibberish. It doesn’t matter. Edit yourself LATER. Just get it out on the page.

Your story will never write itself. YOU have to write it.

So please… just write it down.

As a Cleveland author, Les Roberts, says, “Nobody else can tell your story.”

 

To find out more about Wendy and to check out her three book series of Wearing My Weird, visit her site

I don’t always read the ‘Class Notes’ section of my college alumni publication The Bardian, but I’m grateful I did recently. As soon as I read the blurb about ’Geechee Girls, a debut novel by Lisa Harris, I knew I wanted to read the book and interview the author. ’Geechee Girls is a coming-of-age novel set in Savannah, Georgia, and chronicles two girls (one black, one white) navigating difficult times and difficult circumstances in imaginative and transforming ways.

Bard is a small, private liberal arts college that I graduated from in 1991. It profoundly shaped me. Lisa Harris graduated in 1974 and received her MFA from Bard in 1991. When I read Lisa’s bio, I saw that we had many overlapping interests including an interest in girl’s coming of age stories, female empowerment and creative production across multiple genres.

She says she started writing started when she was nine years old and won the Read Magazine short story prize. She did not write another story though until she was thirty-two (but continued to write poems and still does today). She has many publications to her credit. Her poems have been published by Puerto del Sol, Fennel Stalk, Bright Hill Press, The Cathartic, Karamu, Stillwater, The Ithaca Women’s Anthology, and ginsoko. Her stories have been published in ginosko, The MacGuffin, The Distillery, RiverSedge, Nimrod International, The American Aesthetic, and Argetes. Two of her stories won the Bright Hill Fiction Prize, and one story was anthologized in The Second Word Thursdays Anthology.

LisaHarris2EDIT-300x199

Lisa has received residencies from the Constance Saltonstall Foundation and Hambidge Center for Creative Arts and Sciences, as well as support from the Milton Avery Graduate School of the Arts, Ithaca College, and the New York State Council of the Arts.

She is also a collaborative artist and has completed several installations with Carol Spence, print maker; Susan Weisend, print maker; and Nancy Valle, ceramic sculptor.

During the last six weeks, we’ve had a tremendous amount of fun reminiscing about Bard as well as discussing the demands of a creative life. I am in awe of Lisa’s dedication to writing and commitment to the creative process. I am delighted to welcome Lisa Harris to ‘The Practice of Creativity’.

GeecheeGirls-cover-231x300

-Tell us about your new novel,’Geechee Girls. Why did you want to write this book?

I lived in coastal Georgia for eight years. Wherever I live, I begin to take in the landscape—until it enters my memory and lives in my bones. Writers are observers, and I watch the world closely. After I left Georgia and moved to New York state, I yearned for the languid humidity, the sweet, rich scent of magnolias, the painted buntings who used to perch in my live oak trees, and the voices of all the people I had listened to—close up and at a distance. I wanted to write a book to bring the world I had been a participant in to readers who have not gotten to live in Savannah and along the Ogeechee Road. I also wanted to preserve my memory of it.

-How did you get bitten by the ‘writing bug’? Did you always wish to become an author?

I began writing when I was in fifth grade. I wrote a short story called “King’s Rescue” which won a Read Magazine award, and a poem, “The White Wedding Dress,” at about the same time. I always wanted to be a writer or a detective. Yep, another Nancy Drew fan. I grew up in a family of storytellers and talkers—people who worked to make sense of the world through stories and also used stories to entertain. I received a lot of support and belief from my family. Reading and writing have been good friends to me.

- How do you decide what point of view a story will be in? Do you experiment a lot or just get a sense right away? Has there ever been a story you had to completely rewrite in a different point of view?

Point of view is so important in a story, and I wrestle with it and using tense effectively a lot in my fiction. I have to laugh a little here regarding the question have I ever completely rewritten a story from a different point of view! Yes, and yes, and yes. ‘Geechee Girls  was always in third person—so point of view wasn’t the challenge for me with that book—chronology was—because I wrote the book over a long stretch of time in bits and pieces, in meetings and on planes, at night when I was tired, with a lot of sketches dropped in and pulled out—until, ta-da, I completed it. Every rewrite made it better. Allegheny Dream had three different titles, Collisions, Where the River Meets the Rain, and now Allegheny Dream. It was written from the first person point of view initially and also had the sequencing issues because of my day jobs. In its completed version, it retains the first person point of view in the diary entries, which introduce each chapter, and the majority of the book is in third person. Both books had more than half of their contents published as short stories, so that was a rewriting demand, as well. I had to shape them so they could stand alone, and then reshape them to fit back into the books.

-What was the most interesting tidbit that you came across while researching the geography of where your novel is set (i.e. Georgia and Savannah’s Low Country)?

I loved learning more about snakes, birds, and the Yucchi, the first name for the Ogeechee Indians. I did not know that snakes shed their skin in such a way that for a short time they are blind—they wiggle out of their skin as if it is a too tight turtleneck sweater. Echo location intrigued me in bird communication and also the fact of the bird’s extra eyelid. Readers will discover interesting lore about the Yucchi upon reading the book.

- What’s on your bookshelf, next to your bed (or in your e-reader)? What are you reading right now?

I am reading Pavitra in Paris (Vinita Kinra), background non-fiction regarding Newfoundland and the Vikings for my novel-in-progress, THREAD, Landscapes of the Sacred (Beldan Lane), A Mercy, (Toni Morrison), The Collected Short Stories of Eudora Welty, The Collected Poems of William Butler Yeats, and the Bible. I read the King James’ Version to help keep my ears smart for beauty in language. I am also reading Julia Hartwig’s In Praise of the Unfinished.

- What’s your best writing tip that you’d like to share?

The best writing tip? Write. Watch and listen. Write. Meditate and travel. Write. Play cards, laugh and watch frogs, and you guessed it, write. Writing is an act of love, an honoring of life. Read!

Lisa Harris is a writer and educator.’Geechee Girls has just been released by Ravenna Press. Her next novel also with Ravenna Press is Allegheny Dream. Find out more about Lisa and how to purchase ’Geechee Girls from her website: http://lisaharriswriter.com/

Photo Credit: Jeff Spence

Follow me on Twitter

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 134 other followers