The power of creative expression

[This is a guest post from the lovely Lisa Field-Elliot]

I went for a walk today. After a morning of squeezing and gripping, going for a walk was the only Big Creative Act that I felt certain I could accomplish.

One foot in front of the other up the trail, the sun warmed my shoulders, a hummingbird zoomed by my face, and still I felt agitated. I turned on my iPod. A song and a voice that I needed to hear played into my ears and I was suddenly quieted. Overcome and crying, actually. Something in me let go.

This is what creative expression does: it takes over the moment of indecision, of headspace and contraction, and it gives movement, voice, productivity, to our emotional inertia. Creativity is the walk in the sun, the words, the images, the food, the sweat, the howl, the sculpted proof that we all need to explain our aliveness. And it connects us; especially those of us born with what can feel like too much. Too much sight, too many pores, too much weight.

Our creative expression is the svaha of our prayers; it is the tossing of masala into the fire. It is the way we balance and find stasis. Sometimes it is just a plea for sanity. Sometimes it feels like a small nod or a wave, sometimes a strike or a glowing accusation to beauty. A dare. An inquisition. A test. A manifesto and a proclamation. An act of desperation, or an offering on a copper plate circled in marigolds. Sometimes it is just stopping to notice our own reflection in the glass-paned door. Whatever it is, creative expression unleashes, gives voice to what we wonder, feel, know, and experience; and it becomes, in the moment of manifestation, the only thing that matters.

Today, as I sat on the edge of the trail and manically one-thumb typed this on my iPhone, I had a moment of relief from my own internal chaos. I was pulled out of the smallness of my story by the creative genius of another, and moved to unburden myself with my own writing. And that, right there, is what I am talking about. I had a few minutes of being overcome and letting go, leading me to epiphany and no-thing-ness. Somehow, I felt connected and part of the will of creation just to flow and not to know. In that moment of creation, I felt joy. And if that isn’t the point of being alive then, quite frankly, I don’t know what is.

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Lisa Field-Elliot is a humanitarian photographer and writer seeking travel, beauty, and connection. She shares her experiences, in words and images, at with the hope of, perhaps, inspiring you to look for doorways to freedom in your own life.

The podcast is finally here!

Well, it took us a wee while to get everything together, but now we have I’m thrilled to announce that our podcast ~ Teaching Online with Integrity & Passion ~ is now available for sale!

Marisa and I have both been teaching online for over two years and along the way we’ve learned how to navigate the hills & valleys this new way of sharing brings. When I first launched Unravelling in January 2009 I knew of only one other e-course in my corner of the blogosphere, so it was trial & error all the way, figuring out the technical side of the course as well as how to manage the burgeoning community (not to mention my shyness on video, now decidedly quashed, as you’ll see in the clip with Marisa.)

Marisa is the super-talented artist behind Creative Thursday and the Life in the Fishbowl e-course, and is undoubtedly one of the most genuine people i have ever met. After a few Skype dates we finally met in person at Squam in 2009 and as time has gone on we’ve discovered we were born 24 hours apart in February 1973 – which is why we’re offering our first podcast under the Aquarian Twins moniker :)

As our courses have grown we’ve received so many emails asking our advice, so we knew it was time to pool our knowledge and get it out there where it can be most useful. The result is our first podcast collaboration: Teaching Online with Integrity & Passion — nearly TWO HOURS of us in conversation, discussing every part of our e-courses, from how we created and launched them to how we promote them and built our reputations.

The package includes the podcast as an MP3 audio file, a full PDF transcript of the podcast to print out and keep and a list of recommended resources.

So if you’ve been thinking about creating your own e-course, and wanted to pick our brains, this podcast is for you! For more details, FAQ and a silly-but-sincere video from me and Marisa, click over to the website here x

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And speaking of online classes, just a quick reminder that registration for the spring session of Unravelling: Ways of Seeing My Self will be opening THIS SATURDAY!

[photo of me & Marisa by the lovely Lisa Field-Elliot]

The everyday and the ordinary

[This is a guest post from the wickedly talented, Mr Michael Nobbs]

I was 32 when I learned to draw. Thirty-two and VERY tired.

At the end of the 1990s I was feeling very ill. I’d been struggling to keep my life together for what felt like years. I was in a cycle of coming down with flu-like symptoms, taking time off work (I was a self-employed writer and publisher so not working meant not earning) for long enough to feel well enough to work again, and then falling ill again. The cycle went round and round in ever decreasing circles until I was ill more than I was well, and eventually just ill. After six months of visiting doctors and consultants I was diagnosed with ME/CFS and told to stop work.

Suddenly I wasn’t a writer and a publisher anymore, I was simply an ill person. For the first few months I mostly rested and spent a lot of time in bed; I watched the world flow by and didn’t feel part of it. The relief I felt at finding out what was wrong with me, and having the stress of trying to fight on lifted, soon changed to frustration and boredom. I began to feel lower than I’d felt when I had been struggling to keep things together.

Then, from nowhere, I decided to pick up a pen and a sketchbook. Not from nowhere exactly. In the long quiet hours of the morning (I tended to wake up very early, I still do) I began to think back over my life, about the twists and turns we all make along the way, and began to wonder how things could have been if I’d made different choices. I remembered how I had looked on longingly at my friends who had decided to study art at school, while I concentrated on more academic subjects. How lovely the sketchbooks they carried around with them looked. How at times I’d even bought sketchbooks of my own — not to draw in, but rather to write, or just stick favourite pictures in.

One day, when I was feeling a little more energetic than usual and had managed to get dressed and clean my teeth, I went to the local art shop and bought myself a sketchbook and a pen. I bought a pen rather than a pencil because I had a vague memory of being told that if you wanted to learn to draw it was better to do so with a pen because you couldn’t rub out the lines, you just had to make them and accept them.

Because I was too tired to go anywhere I began to draw the things right in front of me: teacups, groceries, cooking utensils, my medication. I found I loved drawing the everyday and the ordinary; making a small drawing gave me a huge sense of accomplishment. Drawing helped give me a manageable structure to organise my day around.

I was 32, I had begun to draw and I was a little less tired.

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Michael Nobbs is a full-time artist, blogger and tea drinker (not necessarily in that order). He is the author of the popular blog Sustainably Creative and regularly publishes, The Beany, an illustrated journal of his life. In the late 1990s he was diagnosed with ME/CFS and over the last decade has learned a lot about sustaining a creative career with limited energy. He recently published an ebook on the subject, Sustainable Creativity. He tweets most days about drawing and keeping things simple.

Call of the wild

[This is a guest post from the luscious Pixie Campbell]

Creativity, for me, is synonymous with vitality. Joseph Campbell said that each of us is seeking not the meaning of life, but “an experience of being alive”. This is what being an artist means to me-it translates to embracing and opening up to life.

I feel strongly committed to trying on new ways of living to strike the magical note. Approaching my world creatively flows naturally from me because I have accepted that this is just who I am. When I look to nature for guidance, I see that the creatures do not question why they climb trees, dig for roots, sharpen their claws, or nurture their young, they simply do what their instincts direct them to. Making art and being creative is just what I’m meant to do. I can see in my own children how that begins for all of us.

I feel most me when I’m creating beauty and leaving something nicer than I found it. I don’t think I’ve ever asked myself why it is important for me to be creative. However, each day I find myself exploring ideas about how to express myself. I have a very flexible idea about what being creative is, in order to leave room for the reality that I will simply not be able to lounge around in a trance painting all afternoons.

Since employing myself as an artist, I don’t feel the tension I once did from being a repressed creative. That being said, gathering and bringing flowers inside the house, making apple cake with a mostly improvised recipe and lots of little hands involved, sitting down to draw volcanoes with the children, all of these things qualify as living creatively. Children are creative at everything they do, I don’t think they know any other way to be because everything is brand new to them every single day! And this rubs off on us creaky adults if we’ll allow it, I’ve found.

I figure that if art is solving problems, then one must only live life to be an artist. Living creatively helps me navigate through my issues, of which there never seems to be a shortage of! Each opportunity for growth can be handled inventively, and I thrive when I allow myself to sort things out using mediums in my studio, or my hands in some way.

Making art, a craft, or a piece of writing, holds the key to healing for me, as well. The energies that I bring to to the table, and the materials I choose have a way of transforming me as I mix and shape them into form. What is going on in my circumference finds a way to show up in what I create. The conscious, creative act is my ticket to connecting with myself, conversing with my inner bits, and becoming aware of what’s brewing in this passionate cauldron of a soul, and appreciating this freedom to express it all. Unexpressed, I am hungry, yearning, constipated, and a hideous grouch. I know the remedy.

Acknowledging that I am in love with expressing myself creatively has enabled me to explore the mysteries of whatever comes my way. In art, there is nothing that can’t be mined for meaning and richness, and living a creative life seems to be an intentional way to claim that for oneself.

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Pixie Campbell is a mother and an artist who has been creating, deconstructing and re-creating her life for as long as she can remember. She paints to express the archetypes playing out in her life, and to inspire her viewers to recognize the conscious Self who feeds the children, writes the books, and makes the plans, as well as a wild Self who dances under the full moon, digs a quiet den, trusts the keen ears, and adventures beyond the tall fences of convention. Find her howling it up on her blog and in her Etsy store.

[Portrait of Pixie by Denise Andrade]