SPARK: The Path of the Creative Seeker

Spark is a monthly collaborative post written from a spark of inspiration that organically finds its way to us. This month we were inspired by the idea of how we progress in our creative journeys.

ADAM

There’s a creek at the bottom of the street where I grew up and is traversed through the Australian bush and my brother and I would spend many hours down there with our dog. We would follow the path alongside the creek, sticks in hand to sweep away spiders’ webs and keep away the snakes (not that we ever saw a snake – I did see an eel in the creek once).

Australian summer can be hot and in the cleft of the valley the heat would sink in, offset by the coolness of the water when you passed under the shadow of the trees. I knew each bend in the path. I recognised the same fallen trees, the growth of ferns and grasses.

It was also a place I liked to walk alone.

I cherished my solitary explorations, even if I trod the same path frequently. It was about the wonder and the exhilaration of walking and watching, listening and observing.

The external is often a metaphor for the internal and in the last few years of working with Rus and Jodi on various projects, discussing our own works and visions, we have a shared, and very varied, perspective on the creative path we walk, how we approach it, how we work through the cycles of our own creativity.

But perhaps in walking this creative path we are not so much forging new ground as making a map of where we are and where we have been in order that we can expand the boundaries of our understanding. And in the unknown sections we can write, “Here Be Dragons” until we decide whether we need to confront them or domesticate them.

For me, the path of the creative seeker is a journey of discovery that is internal.
It seeks to map out a sense of purpose: What do I want to say?
An understanding of form: How do I want to say this?
An awareness of audience: Who am I creating for?
A perspective of the heart and mind: What is it that drives me?

I am mapping my progress, tilling the soil of creative projects, watering the plants and taking long walks down the toilet paper aisle of the supermarket. If I can mix my metaphors for a moment, maybe I am not following a path established by others but wandering through a library of creatives’ work so that I may ponder and consider in order that I can make my own library for others to come and browse.

Drop in. I’ll have the kettle on.

RUS

I love telling others about my days in youth when I would take long walks in the woods, many under the light of the moon. The meandering along the oft-neglected paths allowed me to open my mind and heart to my surroundings. I found myself, time and time again, immersed in the unknown, alert to accept any sound, or sight, or experience around me. I made it a priority to put myself on that path, to expose myself to the what-ifs and the unknowns that always existed.

How easy it was for me to choose to be there and witness, experience, capture a world that existed beyond my prior knowledge.

As I got older, and as the world of domesticity crept in around me, my days on trails diminished, and I found myself recalling those sounds and sights more from the ramblings in my journals than from new experiences.

The Creative Seeker’s path is no different, is it?

Again- when I was younger and free time tipped the scales in its favor more easily than now, my creative journeys and jaunts were more frequently taken, though probably also more frequently taken for granted. While I allowed myself to go deeper in my creative explorations, I didn’t always appreciate the gold that I found in those hours.

What I have learned in my later years is that my time on the trails in the woods and immersed in creative excursions is more important that it ever was. Each journey holds a deeper meaning, but I must also force myself to be present in both worlds more ferociously. I cannot succumb to the temptations of putting either on the to-do list, the if-I-have-time backburners. Instead, I remind myself every day of the importance – absolute and essential – in opening the journal, of stepping on to the path, and of showing up to immerse myself in to the unknown, where I can learn of new scenes, characters, and conflicts that need to be seen and heard – first by me, and then for all of you.

The path of the creative seeker exists for each of us, right now; what makes the difference is your desire and effort to step on to it, with open mind and heart, and to accept all it has to share with you, no matter how old, or how complicated, your life might be.

The path awaits. Seek it out.

JODI

Truth and Understanding

While I haven’t quite taken the usual path (ie. international travel or higher education) of a sun-sign Sagittarian, the quest to know and understand drives so many things in my life, like a heartbeat that’s always there, though general aware isn’t always. Writing is a unique place to explore the higher expressions of my Sagittarian nature—mostly because it gives me a chance to ‘leave’ while staying at home. Because a lot of what I write is channelled, I get to see the world intimately through very different eyes; it’s walk a mile in someone else’s shoes on amphetamines often. It has given me an appreciation for the uniqueness of the individual but also the ways in which humanity’s common needs and desires collectively bind us. It engenders a deep empathy for even the most crooked, broken or evil individual. To understand how someone came to be as they are today and what that possibly means for the future.

Through writing I am able to seek and connect with people in ways I might not otherwise be able to—at least not at the moment, bound to my current home and life.

Pushing the boundary

If standard metrics for creative seeking existed, part of me thinks I would fail on all of them. I rarely, actively look for new ways to explore creativity and if something does pique my interest, there is a laziness in me that holds me in my own inertia (which means I’ve never been to a life drawing class, I’ve never searched out a replacement singing group for the one I lucked into a decade ago, I’ve left my guitar sitting abandoned in my room for years and I still wonder what it would be like to learn to paint with water colours/do pottery.) Often a new door of creative inquiry and expression opens serendipitously when someone says: hey, did you know about (flash fiction/cut-up poetry/suminagashi) or a few existing ideas combine in a brand new way (Chinese Whisperings and Literary Mixed tapes anthology/Piper’s Reach/The Jar). Having found my way into that space, I then set about doing everything in my power to push the absolute boundaries of that creative platform—to continually reimagine what is possible in that space, seek the dark spaces and hop-skip-jump merrily out of the margins.

It is why I love collaboration; the possibilities are infinite and there is nothing like going on a quest with your most favourite companions to see what’s over the next ridgeline… and the next… and the next…

By Map and Dice

I have had this desire for almost a decade. It involves a car, a handful of writing friends, a map and a dice. In this perfect scenario of a literary road trip, each morning we take out our map, we mark 250-300km in six different directions and roll a dice to see where we go next. Along the way we stop in small towns. We explore colonial cemeteries, museums and antique stores. We bushwalk to waterfalls and lookouts and other places of interest, guided by the green road signs. We stop and eat lunch in small town cafes, bakeries and dusty milkbars, or from basic picnic-styled sandwiches we’ve thrown together that morning. Eventually mid-afternoon we arrive at our destination, check into accommodation and then sit to write for a few hours, before finding somewhere for dinner and to share ideas and read aloud from what we have written. In the evening, we collaborate on other ideas, read, or quietly hangout under the stars. To wake in the morning and do it all over again.

I yearn to know what would come out of such a road trip—how far we’d get. Of the places we’d go. Of how we’d know each other differently at the end. Of the ideas we’d generate, share, and grow across or a week or ten day. And if we’d choose do it all again the following year.

Small Rebellious Acts of Creativity #18

Small Rebellious Acts of Creativity (#SRAOC) is a weekly invitation to explore a word, or phrase, through whichever creative avenue, platform or modality the participant wishes. It is intended to be a philosophical or creative catalyst moreso than a straight up writing prompt.

Small

Make it accessible for yourself. Easeful. Invite yourself into a place and a space free from the pressure of overwhelm. Pressure to perform. Keep it simple. Small is not subjugation. Small is not less than. Small carries a power all of its own. Gift yourself 5 minutes. Sometimes it doesn’t need to be anything more.

Rebellious

Rebel against apathy, procrastination, perfection, self contempt, self doubt, lack of confidence, lack of time, other people’s antagonism, lack of belief, the voice of the inner critic, and anything else that wants to tell you ‘no’. Flip the bird at your Imposter Complex. Interrogate. Innovate. Initiate. This is a space for saying yes.

Act Of

Do. Doable. Doing. Done. Even if it’s five bed-headed minutes, on a Wednesday morning, with your first infusion of caffeine for the day, tapping a list of ten things into your phone. Make a space. Fill it.

Creativity

Make something from nothing. Anything. The possibilities are endless. Draw. Paint. Build. Dance in the shower. Play. Howl. Doodle. Bake. Cut up poetry. Block out text. Collage magazine pictures. Snap a photograph. Garden. Read something aloud. Send someone a card. Make a digital mash-up. Create a playlist. Hum a song. Journal. Daybook. Write a list. Instagram a favourite quote. Play the instrument you have buried away in your cupboard.

This week’s invitation is…

We will be back Monday to share our meanderings and renderings and to see where ‘perception’ took you during the week.

SPARK: Making Love With The Unknown

Spark is a monthly collaborative post written from a spark of inspiration that organically finds its way to us. This month we were inspired by this Instagram post from the artist Frederic Hoffmann.

Why not? Indeed.

ADAM

Writing and Sex – A Dubious Metaphor

In the process of editing my novel, I thought about the relationship a writer has with a story. It may be a short story, or a novel, a poem, a piece of art. And there is this creative process we go through in our relationship with the Work In Progress from initial idea through to completion, submission, and publication.

I’m going to dirty it up and compare it to sex.

The Initial Idea -Something catches your eye; piques your interest. You look, but don’t want to get caught looking. There may even be some casual flirtation after initial introductions are made. After some witty repartee, numbers are exchanged and there is a tentative agreement made to meet up for coffee later in the week.

Sketchy Ideas – you know there’s something special but it’s taking a while to figure out. Texts, phone calls, flirty messages, chats over coffee, even a small gift have done little to assuage the feeling of “I think it’s right but I’m just not sure yet.”
So you take the plunge.

The First Draft – You rip off each others’ clothes and engage in primeval, animalistic, urge-driven sex. It’s a quickie. Pants are down around your ankles. There is speed. There is haste. There is mess. There is no thought to foreplay or decorum. It just happens. There is celebration of sorts. It’s rather selfish as all you think about is how good your idea is.

Subsequent Drafts – You’ve seen each other naked but you know there is work to be done. You’ve know reached the “awkward” phase in the relationship with the story.
In a half-baked attempt at romance, you take things a little slower. There is the offer of flowers, desserts, sensuous massage, candles, walks along the beach. Even a movie if you’re particularly keen. You’ve even made a mix tape to make out to. You have playlists for when you’re cooking dinner or breakfast.

But, you still can’t quite figure out how to get the bra off without appearing like you’re an incompetent teenager and breaking the mood. You have even remembered to shower.

Sometimes you finish first. Sometimes nothing happens and it feels like a let down. Just don’t be tempted to flirt with other story ideas. Work at it. This is an investment.

Each time you come back, you’ve learned a little more. You know when and where to stimulate it to make it work. You take your time. You luxuriate in your story. You have even gone out and bought new underwear to let the story know it’s special.

Each time you are together, you learn to work more closely, watching, listening, learning.

The Final Draft– You have now learned to make love to your story.

You have explored every nook and cranny; you know what turns your story on. You can undo the bra. In the dark. One handed.

Truly you have learned to make love to your story. You consider its feelings by not passing wind when you are intimate together. Snuggling after sex is enjoyable. Intimacy is achieved; a connection of souls.

Cigarette, anyone?

JODI

A Dubious Guide to Making Love to the Unknown

To make love to the known immediately makes me think of four things.

  • to connect to the unknown
  • to surrender to the unknown
  • to be present with the unknown
  • to find pleasure and embodiment in the unknown

All of which are counter intuitive – because, well, the unknown is the unknown.

How do you connect to it? How do you surrender to it? To be present with it? Or find pleasure and embodiment with it – especially if the unknown brings with it fear?

Do you open? Do you carry no expectations of what will be? Do you scream ‘Hello, I’m here’ and wait to see what happens next?

Making love is an existential meld with the past, present and the future. A tryst with the unknown is no different.

I’ve always been more on the intrepid side of things (though as I have got older this has toned down as fear and the need to be responsible have somewhat blunted the sharp thrilling edge of it). The unknown has not bothered me. I’ve known I’ve been in the right place when I’ve been excited-terrified. The last four years I’ve danced in the shadows, unearthed, released and healed parts of myself eons old and as a consequence it has been a completely different journey into the unknown.

Next time fear or age-wearied responsibility tries to muscle in, I’ll remember something that’s said about giving birth in hospital – would you let all those people in your bedroom to make a baby? (Probably not unless you have a penchant for role playing doctors and nurses with a bunch of strangers).

I adore the idea of making love to the unknown – even if it carries something of the paradox in and of itself. So yes, I’ll be less keen on welcoming fear and responsibility in as co-lovers in creative spaces (or just life in general). I’ll make love to the unknown in as authentic a resonance as I’m capable of: surrendered, connected, present, totally embodied and embracing of pleasure. Why not?

Photo by Jens Johnsson from Pexels

RUS

For most of my life, I have been keenly aware of Querencia, our wanting-place where we feel most in our element to do or try just about anything. Some might confuse this with a comfort zone. This is totally antithetical to comfort; it is all about confidence. I have found it impossible to do anything from a place of comfort, especially when it comes to making love with the unknown. What prevents us from doing so is fear: fear of change, of losing our comfort, of revealing ourselves to a larger world beyond the walls we know and trust too well. To make love with the unknown, one must first know her Querencia, and begin there.

My friend T and I would take spontaneous road trips when we were in college. Each adventure would uncover some wild aspect of ourselves and the world around us. We did make love with the unknown while on the road, practicing a certain foreplay with nature as we headed to some unknown destination, some deeply satisfying climax that we still remember today. Whether it was in the mountains along the Appalachian Trail, on the shores of Chesapeake Bay, or among the two-lane main streets of Maryland’s smallest towns, we made love with the earth, with time, with singular moments that could not be imagined, only experienced in ways that were possible right then, right there.

And because we so freely made love with the unknown 35 years ago, the doors were opened permanently for me to embark – so confidently – into the unknown, freely and sensuously, wherever I desire. The comforts of older age knock at my door occasionally, but I rarely acknowledge them.

I. Love. Life. And no creatures of comfort will ever lure me away from the absolute thrill and passion I have for making love with the unknown.

SPARK: redefining success

Spark is a monthly collaborative post written from a spark of inspiration that organically finds its way to us. This month we were inspired by this photo sent through by Catherine Evans of a page from Rebecca Campbell’s Rise, Sister Rise which prompted a discussion around how we could each redefine the parameters of success to be congruent with where we currently are.

In a glass-half-empty world it is easy to forget it is also a glass-half-full one too.

 

JODI – aligning with core values and personal goals

I was never the girl in the bookshop wandering the aisles imagining my book on the shelves. A contract with a big international publisher was never my definition of success, but as I wrote in my opening article, I forgot that because I took on others’ ideas of achievement and what it meant to be ‘a real writer’.

Success is often thought of in terms of money, influence, fame, popularity or status articulated in royalties, advances, reviews, awards, nominations and grants (to name a few). As it turns out – none of these have ever been motivating forces for me. This came to the fore this week, after putting myself forward to talk about the different ways I do business with a group of advertising and marketing people. Imposter Syndrome came for me in a big way – where were my success markers to give me validation and credence in having the audacity to step forth and speak to people (some with 30 years experience!)? There was a voice (albeit much quieter and less insistent than years gone past) that said: sit down and shut up. Please!

Success is defined as the accomplishment of an aim or purpose. Under that broadest of definitions I am a ‘success’ every time I commit words to the page. I am a success every time I turn up as a tarot reader to hold a space for someone over cards. I am a success with every poem I build and send out to my subscribers. And perhaps more importantly right now, I am a success every time I negotiate a fair exchange for what I do.

In assembling notes for my talk tomorrow, I realised that I am a success every time I align action with my core values or my stated aims regardless of the presence (or absence ) of an obvious and tangible outcome. Every time there is a burst or a slow building crescendo of joy in what I am doing/have done, I am successful. Every new person I meet, who resonates with who I am and what I am doing, I am successful.

My key aims for writing are (as unearthed in April least year):

  • To write for personal enjoyment, pleasure and fulfilment
  • To write for a small, intimate audience
  • To write as a way of transmuting pain and wounding
  • To write as a form of listening that honours my creative expression as a psychic channel
  • To write as a way of embracing wild concepts and big ideas.

Being part of the JAR Collective allows me to pursue all of these without compromise, and therefore seeds success in a whole new way.

And from the list of aims a list of core values emerged:

intimacy – connection – fun – fulfillment – healing – comfort – innovation – experimentation – listening – immersion

This is what drives, informs and provides direction and foundation for everything I write. It makes it easy to be successful. To fill myself up (this is an expectation free zone!)

These are not too different to my business core values and aims:

  • Joy
  • Passion
  • Transformation
  • Autonomy from social media
  • In service
  • Fair exchange

The difference with much of this redefinition of success is it is an internal job. I do not have an online joy account where I can show you all the deposits I’ve made in the last three months – but I can tell you I am happier and more creatively fulfilled than I have been since 2012. Nor is there a spreadsheet that crunches trends in passion, but I can tell you all about what it feels like to wake up and know the only things I do ‘for work’ are ones which light me up. I can talk about how the concept of fair exchange has shaped how we do things here in the collective and personally what I am prepared to share for free, and what I am not. I can talk about a paid poetry project for a small intimate audience that was a big wild idea that allowed me to hop off social media but maintain my creative zeal, momentum and connection to an audience.

While my creative writing in many respects is playing catch up to where I am forging ahead with authenticity and a new sense of self respect and confidence in my business, at the end of the day, everything is story and one is helping to shape, solidify and reframe the other, as to why I do what I do, and how to celebrate it along the way.

ADAM

When the idea was first mooted for this week, my initial thought went back to my best mate’s band, Apostrophe, from the mid 1990s. Back when you had to make physical flyers and bios to distribute to venues and agencies to get bookings. One line from their flyer read: “We put the ‘SUCK’ back in SUCCESS.”

KPIs of Success in our Daily Guide to Better Living

  • eating a meat pie and not burning the roof of your mouth or getting globs of meat and gravy on your shirt.
  • finding a parking spot on a busy shopping day.
  • getting your children to their various extra-curricular activities on time.
  • putting on pants first before shoes.
  • remembering conditioner goes on after the shampoo.
  • having fairy bread sandwiches for lunch.
  • snaffling ten minutes to hastily scribble some notes.
  • taking a picture, writing a brief poem and posting it to Instagram.
  • finding twenty minutes to write a paragraph.

I have wrestled with this question of success for a few years and apart from wrenching my hip from its socket, I have no definite answer.

Would I like the success of agency representation, book sales and recognition?

Preach it!

Do I have the discipline required to work towards that?

Hmmm…

Perhaps a better question: Would I be better served to redefine my understanding of success?

Success as Mastery

Learning a new skill and struggling through the painful early steps sucks. Pushing to write one sentence, or one paragraph, one page, one chapter, one line of a poem, one practice sketch after another can be a grind. But you are the learner. Always.

I think true mastery is attaining a point where you understand you still need to learn, and seek to learn more. And then apprenticing others to pass on the skills and knowledge (although not all are good teachers).

I play drums and struggle to learn new techniques and rudiments. But therein lies the challenge. To stick with it. Break it down into smaller parts and learn one thing at a time. Goal: The Half-Time Shuffle from Toto’s “Rosanna.”

Every new project presents its own challenges and problems and the success of mastery allows you to navigate its intricacies with a little more decorum and awareness.

Success as Sharing

Social media can be a wonderful platform for sharing your ideas, to find other creatives with similar values and beliefs, sharing with each other, acknowledging and encouraging one another. And it doesn’t have to be for commercial gain but for the joy of creating and sharing with someone. Share your passion. Share your interest. Seek out others who share the same vision and focus.

Success as Tribe

Find the freaks and geeks, the weirdos and unconventionals, the orthodox and the ascetic. I feel very privileged to have found my coterie in Jodi and Rus. This is my tribe. These are my people. We write out of passion, not panic (thank you Jodi for that gem from our group chat)

Success as Legacy

What will I leave behind? Not in terms of works and projects but in terms of what I have invested in others. We formed the JAR Writers Collective for ourselves; to champion our own creativity and projects; to be a supportive collective for one another.

Yet it is bigger than that. We want to champion you through offering weekly prompts to encourage your own creative projects whether it is written or visual or musical or all three. To completely mismatch a couple of quotes: If I don’t have love, I have nothing. I am a clanging cymbal or a resounding gong, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Have I been successful?

I have:

  • found my writing tribe in Jodi and Rus (even though we live far away from each other)
  • found a supportive connection in these two who honour my creativity, and I theirs, and support one another when life kicks you in the groin and runs away laughing.
  • finished writing a novel with Jodi and have the joy of it being released this year (coming JULY 21!)
  • finished drafting a novella (revisions on the cards very shortly after some positive feedback from a few trusted readers)
  • worked with Jodi and Rus on a new collaborative novel (we really must get to that ending)
  • written poems on Post It Notes
  • posted pics and poems to Instagram
  • begun the revision for a verse novel
  • turned up the page, whenever possible, to do something

I am successful. And I want you to be successful, too.

RUS

My story is your story is their story. It’s a classic tale of the lure of fabled success, of defining who we are on the scales of trends and fashions, and of selling our authentic souls for the pleasure of the masses.

I remember, quite clearly, the ambitious dreams that I had in my 20s of becoming a full-time American author. I believed that the more I could be like the contemporary writers raking in millions of dollars, the better chance I had of realizing my dream before I turned 30.

I did have a few things going for me. I was (and still am) a prolific writer, filling journals and blank typewriter pages with thousands of words each day. I was finding my voice, bringing the world to life through my own, personal lens.

And yet, despite my efforts and exercises in individuality, I derailed every single time and wrote what I thought my audience wanted.

We all know how that turns out.

Failure. After failure. After failure. I had a couple of novels and a dozen short stories – manuscripts of varying degrees of thickness – and no clips to show for any of it. Clearly, “success” was never going to be attainable while playing the game.

I took some time off from submitting work. Went underground and within to shut out the temptations to sell my creative soul to the almighty and very empty dollar.

A few years later, I re-emerged and composed a new, fresh novella. I decided to self-publish this piece, Cold Rock, and I knew that I was redefining what success meant to me. Still, though, in the bitter end just days before publication, I struggled with the desire to please. The risks I took were diluted with validation. At the last minute, I changed too much in the book based on the recommendations of others who had ulterior motives.

Despite the slip, I recognized the transition for what it was, and I finally had a major work elevated to the universal stage for the world to read.

With the exception of a few strong reviews from readers who took the deeper plunge and “got it” on their own terms, the book flopped. It didn’t matter. I had already succeeded in taking that ultimate risk. The validation of others meant little compared to the strength I felt from sharing my work, largely true to its original concept.

From there. I self-published short stories, then collections, and entered as many contests as I could — all in my own voice. The one constant among the rejections and accepts was my unwavering dedication to authenticity. If people liked my work, wonderful; if they didn’t, then that was okay too.

Now, with Fossil Five on the eve of publication, my success with a full-length novel has already been achieved, even before the first copy falls into a reader’s hands.

The shift in redefining success came about in embracing more of my own ideas, in my own authentic voice, and putting them out there for the world to do whatever they want with them.

Our success cannot be measured by others; it can only be measured by the authenticity with which we create our work, the commitment we make to that authenticity in revision, and the courage we carry to share it with the world.