It’s the day after winter solstice. Following the longest night here in the Northern hemisphere, we are turning back towards the sun. One solstice tradition is to release aspects of our personal shadow by writing down our fears and limiting beliefs, then burning them in the fire. In that moment we consciously make space for our inner light to shine more brightly.
I participated in this Phoenix ritual last night. The tendency that I committed to the flames: perfectionism.
Tending towards perfection and tending creativity – those two get in each other’s way. I made a choice. Loosening the soil in which spontaneous expression can grow required weeding out the gripping grass of my highest expectations.
I’m launching SEARCHINGFORSPACE today because it will never be the right day to do it. Because inspiration without work is meaningless and continuous improvement is better than delayed perfection. Every day is a good day to get moving, stretch, grow, step out of and expand my comfort zone.
And this project’s been a long time coming.
I first started this blog while traveling in 2014, on a mission to find inspiration and re-connect to my creativity. It didn’t last long. Lay dormant for many years while “life got in the way” of creativity. I know now that they can – must – hold each other in a deep and warm embrace, giving up the compartmentalization of our lives.
Storytelling, creative writing, poetry chose me. I cannot put it any other way. On the sixth of July this year, I sat at a wooden counter at the window of a favorite vegan eatery in Portland. Picking at my sprouts and protein bowl and watching passers-by, I spontaneously started writing. And by that I mean: Words flowed out of me uncontrollably. I filled all four sides of my napkin with dense notes, like some cliché rock star in a movie jotting down lyrics in a state of late-night inspiration. And this wasn’t one of those flimsy piece-of-toilet paper-sized napkins either. It was a full-sized restaurant-grade napkin. Meaning I wrote nearly four A4 pages worth of notes until I ran out of space and also felt my intellectual projectile vomiting had reached a point of natural completion. I couldn’t wait to get home to Seattle and craft these scribblings into a fully-fledged story. Some mysterious well had been tapped inside of me and that hot spring has been bubbling ever since.
It was the spontaneous eruption of creativity that occurs after weeks or months of inklings, scribblings, effort, confusion – when you’re about to give up because although you had a moment of inspiration and motivation you weren’t able to turn it into anything fully formed and you conclude that you’re probably “just not good enough”. But all that preparation, that trying out, messing around and pondering, has laid the groundwork. Your dabbling has infused just enough energy into that inner well that it slowly, unnoticed, continues to heat up. Until one day- boom! – it erupts into your conscious mind and you suddenly get access to that unknowable mind-soul-universe connection, and it starts giving. Ideas and sentences start flowing onto whatever medium is at hand, in my case that paper napkin.
I’d been flirting with creative writing for a number of months before that July day. My appreciation for storytelling has been growing for several years in fact. Listening to others tell their true stories at a meet-up that I never miss, I began toing with the thought of writing, then telling, myself. The sheer vulnerability and authenticity of the tellers has me alternately fighting back tears and laughing out loud, no matter whether the content of their experience resembles my own life or not. It is the act of sharing of oneself, and making meaning from our lives, that touches me no end. So what stories of my own would I tell? I’ve had plenty of interesting, exciting, meaningful experiences in my young life. Travel, career changes, relationships, and the work of getting to know myself would surely yield many engaging stories worth telling. I assumed. But when I tried to pinpoint one – a blank. I could not see my life in stories. Moments, feelings, learnings, meaning – yes. But stories? With a beginning, middle, end, a narrative arc and a moral, entertaining enough to tell an audience? Nothing. I couldn’t think of anything. I felt mystified. And disappointed in myself.
I came so close to giving up completely. “I clearly don’t have talent. Creative work should just flow easily. My writing will never be good enough to share with anyone.” And yet. That day in July I fell in love with my creative potential. It could not be undone, and I have kept on writing. Haltingly at first, a break while my life’s path seemingly derailed, then circling back as I was re-routed onto beautiful new, previously unknown tracks. Ideas for my creative outlet have evolved in the last few years, from a business to a podcast to creative writing. My dream is for it to be all of these things one day. For now, what matters is to start. To write and just keep practicing. I’m grateful to the fierce and loving women writers who inspire me and let me know that even art takes practice. I’m doing more and more and thoroughly enjoying it. The purpose of SEARCHINGFORSPACE is to take you on this journey with me. To allow you to witness every fumbling step and explorative endeavor. See me effort, suck, stall, and bit by bit advance. May it be a refreshingly authentic antidote to all the online myths of effortless perfection. Sharing my work publicly also holds me accountable, orients me towards making it worth sharing.
So here it is, my storygift. May it continuously grow and evolve. I hope some of you may find a few nuggets of joy or inspiration in it, or at the least be prompted to share constructive feedback and make art of your own. May we all create, overcome isolation, abandon comparison and jettison perfectionism.
Now fly, little hummingbird, fly!