"I am a creative being fashioning for myself and for my family a life filled with wonderment and possibility."
We're wrapping up our Week of Care and Keeping, and I want to thank everyone for their contributions and comments. This conversation is a vital one for our creative community, and I can't think of a better way to complete our celebration than to share these words by a Finding Your Voice Community favorite, Lisa Hofmann.
As the holiday weekend approaches, I inform my husband “I have a lot of work to do.” This statement baffles him as he knows I'm not referring to the work of my salaried job, but activities that recently have been engaging me: painting watercolor portraits of goats, donkeys and our dog; knitting multicolored winterwear; and my “book project” – an activity that involves delving into our computer’s back up drives, seeking ancient photo and word document files with the accompanying moans and groans such work entails.
Here is my situation: I live a Walter Mitty meets Amélie kind of existence. My creative llfe - writing, painting, photography, and general crafting - does not pay the bills (in fact, it generates its fair share of them) but it is more essential to my well being than any 9 to 5 job. That I think of it as work stems from a Montessori-for-adults approach to confer dignity and importance to what others might consider “hobbies.” The fact is I choose not to burden my art with the need to support me financially (at least, at this time); rather, I am committed to supporting my creativity.
I am neither a dabbler nor am I a working artist. I am a creative being fashioning for myself and for my family a life filled with wonderment and possibility. I am either creating a Brave New World where I am a thriving artist supporting herself spiritually and emotionally, or I am in a very elaborate adult play world with real rather than pretend brushes, journals, and cameras. Either way, I am busy retrieving and resurrecting the unlived life of my childhood dreams. It is daunting but essential work.
Jen Lee and her Care and Keeping of Creative Souls: A Manual have been vital support systems for me on this journey. Her writing and teaching honors the bravery necessary on this path while emphasizing the need to care for our tender selves. She shares practical but wise advice on how to find balance within the natural cycles of creating: filling and emptying, being seen and being hidden, vulnerability and strength, inward reflection and outward expression, surviving and thriving. I think of the practices she offers in her manual as necessary rest stops on the creative journey.
When I catch myself feeling impatient, frustrated, doubt-filled or lonely I know it is time to for some essential self care. I know I need to rest and refresh my perspective. One of my favorite practices is something Jen shared with us at Squam: taking time to be outside in nature, grounded in the immediate world and asking the question “What do I need to hear right now?” Then allowing myself the space and time to listen and receive the counsel from the wise self that dwells deep within my own heart.
Often that advice is to be kind to myself. And Jen offers a number of ways to go about this. My favorites include fixing myself a hearty meal, baking her chocolate chip cookies or engaging in what she explains is an “Ultimate Indulgence.”
Another practice that immediately anchors me is to strengthen connection with the people who support and inspire me. I love to send out what I call “real mail” - art cards, handwritten letters, small trinkets that call to be passed into new hands. It is my version of Jen's “Giving the Gift of Seeing.” Magically, what I send out seems to equal mail received (but from different people!) and so I receive a much need dose of love and reassurance.
What Jen has taught me--and continues to inspire within me--is the understanding that my creative work is the act by which I come to know myself and that this is my offering to the world. I care for myself so that I may serve creativity. In turn, that creativity invites others to join in the fun, to add to the splendor and magic of living. In this way we each bear witness to our lives, honoring and celebrating the stories that make life such an adventure.
Lisa Hofmann is the maker of yummy homemade soups, the singer of spontaneous songs and a joy warrior. She is becoming more and more each day a drought resistant creative, living a quietly inspired life as a retro-Fauve surrounded by a herd of multicolored farmyard animals and friends.