“The book finds you.”
The statement was ringing fresh in my mind 6 hours later just as it had been when I’d first heard it. As if a little worm had weaselled itself into my psyche and was setting up base camp. I came home late, and although physically exhausted from just spending the last few hours driving, my mind was racing. Earlier in the day, I travelled to Dunsborough in the beautiful South West region of Western Australia to meet fellow creatives Kerry and Leah, the artistic duo behind Running Wolves. Upon my return home, I found my husband drifting off to sleep. He had only half-consciously greeted me before I felt the verbal vomit begin to spew out as I started re-telling my day (I always have a lot to say at the most inappropriate times. Don’t worry guys, he’s used to it!)
“The book finds you,” Leah said as we were discussing Clarissa Pinkola Este’s novel Women Who Run with the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype. A book about the female psyche and the wild woman archetype revealed through the myths, fairytales and folktales from different cultures. Este’s novel had recently found its way into my life again (more on that in another post) so I was naturally captivated by this statement. But what really drew me in was the correlation between this notion and creativity—about inspiration; it finds you. You can’t force it, but you can foster it and provide the conditions for it to manifest. It is inherently natural, almost supernatural. Yes, supernatural. That is how I would describe this instalment of Creative Conversations.
When you first meet Kerry Brooks and Leah Pisconeri one would assume that they have been friends for years. On the contrary, they only met six months before launching Running Wolves. The effortless flow of banter, their infectious love of their work, their sense of ease and familiarity with each other, which made the experience feel as if I was catching up with two life-long friends. Kerry and Leah, both running their own interiors businesses, met at an industry event. When they discovered they were both reading Este’s book, who Leah quoted her friend once saying, “The book finds you” made an instant connection over their creative and spiritually inclined choice of reading.
Kerry and Leah began nurturing their new-found connection. They realised they both embodied The Artist/Creator Archetype, which was not reaching its full potential in the body of a designer. What initially started as casual catchups when their calendars aligned, quickly became intentional gatherings. They began meeting every Friday, with the sole purpose of spending time creating: sketching, painting; becoming one with art. They soon discovered that, although they had many things in common, their specific talents fell on opposite ends of the spectrum. Kerry was drawn to expressionism, the undercurrent to her creativity was fueled by broad and passionate brush strokes, leaving a sea of paint splatters on the floor around the canvas. Kerry let her painting do the thinking, it was a physical manifestation of her thought process, experimentation and expression.
They learned to find equilibrium within themselves, by fostering each other’s strengths and allowing the other to step in for their weaknesses; a creative and harmonious balance was achieved.
In contrast, Leah mentally conceptualised her pieces, she was enamoured by the fine details in a piece and could spend hours working on delicate line-work. Their casual creative rendezvous quickly took on a life of its own and became dubbed Creative Fridays. This time was a creative haven for the two artists, a place where they challenged and supported each other. It is here that they first began experimenting on collaborative pieces. They learned to find equilibrium within themselves, by fostering each other’s strengths and allowing the other to step in for their weaknesses; a creative and harmonious balance was achieved. Their yin and yang energies could work in harmony as they had the revelation that you do not have to do it all, and you do not have to be good at everything. Words that resonated deeply within me, a self-professed perfectionist and creative hermit. I began to question my own beliefs towards creativity, and that maybe I didn’t have to master everything to grow.
The funny thing with creativity and creative inspiration is that it’s like a faucet. Once the flood gates open, it envelops you. But even though the creativity may seem endless, your energy, mindset and creative drive certainly aren’t. And although you may have an abundance of ideas, if you do not take the time to nurture yourself, you will be unable to direct your creative energy into the right outputs. Eventually, someone comes along and turns the faucet off.
Kerry explains to me the importance of intentionally taking time away from creating and the pressures of producing a piece, and to go and do something for yourself…
I asked Kerry and Leah how do they stop themselves from burning out. I spoke on my personal experience, how coupled with pregnancy and self-doubt, I let fear take control over my creativity which led to the closure of my studio. The concept of filling one’s cup, which is a foundation element in Julia Cameron’s 12-week creative program, The Artist’s Way, is the takeaway advice that is proposed. Kerry explains to me the importance of intentionally taking time away from creating and the pressures of producing a piece, and to go and do something for yourself (do something Just. For. Me? I’m not sure about that—I felt my ego swelling inside). Go outside, read a book, immerse yourself in nature, move your body, nurture your relationships. Take time to live before you attempt to live through your artwork, advises Kerry. I jot down the title of Cameron’s book in my notes and smile at the simple nature of the advice. Still, speaking from experience, I know the level of difficulty something like this is to implement in the life of a perfectionist who must always feel busy and productive, to always be working towards something.
Fear and ego go hand in hand. As Echart Tolle writes, “As long as the ego runs your life, most of your thoughts, emotions, and actions arise from desire and fear.” And as artists, it’s hard not to let your ego take the reins, for its sole purpose is to protect you. Leah so beautifully said that her fear lay in exposure, for people to really see what’s behind the canvas, that her truth is laid bare; and there really is no scarier a thought than someone really seeing and knowing you. For what if they don’t accept you? That is something that all creatives grapple with, and I have a feeling will be a recurring theme in Creative Conversations to come. But what the Running Wolves duo have going for them is each other’s support—they are each other’s mirror, which allows them the courage to be vulnerable. As the magnificent Brené Brown states (who, I might add, I have a serious lady crush on) without vulnerability, there is no creativity. *Mic drop*.
Without going into a new tangent, I do wonder to myself, how can one be vulnerable if they are not lucky enough to have a creative partner to turn to like Kerry and Leah have each other? And the answer was already inscribed in my notes, I just had to read between the lines. Be vulnerable with yourself first. Shed away the old identity that keeps you shackled in fear, the one that says you are not creative, so don’t even bother trying. Spend time creating (wait for it…) just for you. Take away the pressure of creating something for this omniscient audience—I’m looking at you social media. Stop creating for external validation, but create simply for yourself. And if this sounds terrifying, which I totally get it does, make it practical. Block out time in your calendar dedicated to creating for joy: painting, sketching, writing, decorating, gardening, photography, you name it, give yourself space to just faffle. By turning it into a routine, you shed away some of the fear which like an unwelcome third wheel seems to keep tagging along to the party.
I think back to last week (sidebar: yes, a week since I conducted this conversation! Why so long before publishing? One word: FEAR. It took over, and it was paralysing). My friend, who had joined me on my creative expedition, was feverously scribbling away notes. Yet, it was apparent that his attention was being pulled further and further into the conversation. I could see his eyes lift off the page and light up as if the creative discourse had just entered his bloodstream and lit him from within. That’s the thing with creativity, even a self-professed non-creative is spellbound with the magic of it all. And there is a simple explanation for this phenomena: we are all creative, we just need to allow ourselves the time and space to be it.
To find out more about the crazy talent that are Running Wolves, hop on over to their website here.
Images of Running Wolves artwork captured by Dion Robeson @dionrobeson