Here is what I know & try to remember everyday:
Creative joy liberates.
Dance in its shimmering heart & give voice to what you find there and you will be changed.
Enlivened. Awakened. Balanced on the edge of your life – an achingly wondrous place to live.
Dance with creative joy, chant it, kiss it – and you may find yourself unable to go back to business as usual. The illusion that more, bigger, faster is better may lose its hold on you (it has on me). The way the world packages creative joy may start to make you… testy. The ways your life might not fit you anymore may become… apparent.
Creative joy liberates – which can be terrifying. Why oh why would you upset life’s apple cart?
You won’t- unless you know, even in some small corner of your soul, that you must.
6 months ago Marianne Elliott, Tracey Clark, myself and 65 other women made magic together because we dared to say, “Our creative joy matters.” For no reason other than that – we came together and we played. We danced, took photos, wrote bits, sang in yoga poses.
We listened to our creative hearts for the sake of our creative truth and freedom.
What changed for the women over time? Marianne interviewed 6 participants to ask how the retreat stayed with them.
Marianne: Mary, when you think about your experience at the Creative Joy retreat, what stayed with you?
Mary: In order to tell you, I have to tell you what my struggle with creativity was for ages, until the time that I went to the retreat. Because of who I am, what my training was and how I was raised, my creativity all been about being in service and making the world a better place. I’ve always gotten stuck if I am having too much fun in my creative work. I stop myself.
It’s almost as if I feel guilty because it feels so self-absorbed. It feels like unless my creativity impacts somebody else for good, there is not much point. If I was working to develop a program that helps inner city single mothers and I knew that was a creative act then that would be okay.
But if I was writing or doing photography just because I enjoyed it and it was feeding me, I wouldn’t give myself time to do that. I would stop myself. Does that makes sense?
Marianne: Oh, that makes sense to me. You know that makes sense to me!
Mary: I’m allowing myself for the first time maybe ever. I maybe never allowed myself to create without having a sense that I needed to create a final product that would serve someone besides myself. For the first time, I have the sense that when you put those two words together, creative and joy, that you don’t have to have outcome saving other people, that you don’t have to have being of service to the world somewhere in there. That that could happen, but it doesn’t have to happen in order to make it good.
Marianne: It sounds—for me and for many people who have that same tendency, revolutionary.
Mary: It’s really common for women, and it’s also common for women who have been raised a certain way or in certain families. Maybe it’s common for all women because I look at my husband who’ll do a creative thing and not in the least care whether or not it does anything for anybody, other than the fact that it’s giving him joy.
I got the message from my dad that to those who much is given, much is expected in return. And even though we grew up poor for the most part, we were a lot less poor than he had been. He felt that we had good educations, we had homes, we had what we needed, and so therefore we were very lucky and we were going to need to turn around and be of service in the world because of that.
And everybody that I know that was raised that way has this incredibly difficult time feeling it’s okay to take the time to just enjoy their creative work. And because so much creative work is not even appreciated in our society or valued if you don’t make The New York Times Best Seller List or you don’t serve the world with some incredible non-fiction book that changes the way people look at their lives or how they treat the environment or each other, then it’s somehow not valid.
And what I’ve noticed is I don’t do that so much anymore. I don’t do that at all. I just write and enjoy my writing and don’t worry so much about whether or not it’s going to be published or whether or not it’s going to be read by somebody else and change their lives in any way.
I don’t have to take the joy away from creativity if it’s serving me, knowing perfectly well that I’m of service in other areas. That’s the biggest thing that I got out of the retreat. I don’t even know how I got it.
Marianne: Well, it’s something Jen feels very strongly about and when we were crafting the Creative Joy retreat that was an absolute bottom line for her – that the space that we were going to create was a space for creative play for its own sake.
For the sake of the joy that it gives us with no attachment to producing anything, with no attachment to serving other people through it because it’s precious that ability to engage in our creative joy, to be connected to it.
And of course, that will transform how we do everything else. Even if we bring in the idea that okay, I’m going to cultivate my creative joy because it’ll make me a better mother, you’ve already put an expectation on it.
Mary: Exactly. And the other thing that I realized was—and why I think this works so well– is that the three of you create a safe container. Then you let the work happen and take care of itself. One woman in my small group was so angry about everything. She was angry about her life; she was angry about the retreat itself. She didn’t want to take off her shoes. She didn’t want to eat vegetarian, all this kind of stuff and by the end of the retreat, she was thrilled that she was taking off her shoes. She was thrilled that she was eating vegetarian. She was going to start doing more of that. She wasn’t angry anymore.
The container allowed her to feel safe enough to be where she was in that moment. And then because she was allowed to be in that moment, she could move to another one.
Marianne: Yes. Beautifully put.
Mary: So even though I don’t know how, I dropped my story that I can’t have fun with my creativity or only if it’s going to serve somebody else. And to be able to drop that story that I have had for literally decades, something very magical happened on the retreat.
Marianne: What you’ve just described as the absolute heart of what we want people to have the opportunity to experience. That was beautifully expressed. Thank you, Mary.
Mary: Marianne, you said that creative joy is a revolutionary concept, and I think it really is.
Marianne: It’s unhooking the creativity and the joy from the burden of having to produce a certain outcome. The creativity and the joy is its own reward.
Mary: And it’s its own purpose. It’s own outcome. If we always have to attach our creativity to a specific outcome, we’re going to limit how much we do anyway.
And the more you limit it, the less likely it will lead to anything.
Creative Joy early registration opens tomorrow. You must be on this list – get on it here. May your creative joy always liberate you.