Conversation with My Dragon

I’m sure you are aware of your own “inner dragon” voice—that negative, bullying voice that speaks to you sometimes, when you want to take a risk, or when you experience a roadblock or a setback.

It can even come up when you experience success, when that’s outside your comfort zone.

Yesterday, I was struggling to re-organize and clarify some concepts in my book, The Creative Heroine’s Path. I was getting nowhere, and I felt lost and discouraged.

Here’s a sample of the “conversation” I had with my inner dragon last night—it’s more like a monologue, because we hear our inner dragons’ voices as our own:

“I’m a 2-bit, talentless hack who has nothing worthwhile to say.” (That kind of exaggeration was a clue that I was in the grips of my inner dragon.)

Woman with dragon shadow

“I can’t do this. I’ll never finish this book. And then everyone will know what a fraud I am.”

“My mind isn’t good enough. I have too many connected thoughts that lead to nowhere.”

“I’m going to let everyone else down. I’m going to let myself down.”

“I should just give up. I want to give up.”

So, I decided to reach out.

I told my husband that I was struggling, and he reminded me not to “abuse” my creativity. (Don’t you love it when others quote your own advice to you—advice that you are clearly not following?) He told me to stop pushing it and let it go until tomorrow. It was good advice, to give myself permission to take a break.

I also contacted a dear friend, a painter who reminded me that she attended my retreat and my 10-week workshop last year—and she left both of them feeling inspired, with new connections, visions, and artistic endeavors. She asked what I was struggling with, and she offered to meet for coffee, to lend me support.

Sometimes, you need your “champions” to remind you that you really are talented and worthy, and that you have something valuable to say.

So, don’t wallow in the muck with your inner dragon.

Reach out. And give yourself a break.

Seeding Your Subconscious

I’ve been out of the blogosphere for a month.

When I began the countdown to publishing my book, I cut back to writing my blog twice a month, rather than weekly. Then, as the deadline drew nearer, I stopped blogging altogether.

Oh, what I learned from that experience!

I keep relearning an essential truth: treat my creativity with respect. Nurture it daily, and don’t demand that it perform like a circus animal—that kills the spirit. Creativity is not tame and orderly; it’s a deep, mysterious process.

The moment I put demands on my creativity, the muse retreats like the moon at morning. Inspiration and imagination get blocked, and nothing works.

But when I shift from demanding that my creativity produce, to playing with my imagination, my creativity slowly begins to flow again.

I call this “seeding my subconscious.”

Drawing of things on my desk

This morning, I felt really blocked. So I looked at objects on my desk for something to paint, just to play, without any expectation that I would produce something “good.”

I sketched a gray conch shell.

I put watercolor on paper, quickly sketching sunflowers in a blue vase.

I played with my sun and moon motif, using a fountain pen with a semi-flexible nib.

Still feeling blocked, I chose four words (conch shell, sunflowers, sun, and moon), then I wrote a short vignette, using each word somewhere in the story. It felt like I was in the flow, at times, but most of what I wrote seemed flat and uninspired.

That’s okay. The muse is temperamental.

The shapes, colors, and words from this morning are all offerings to my subconscious, little nourishing seeds for it to absorb, or use to bring forth something new.

And that experience brought me to write this blog post, after waking this morning, unsure I could write anything.

That’s a good start to my week.

My Dog Ate My Blog

Cute brown dog nose

The morning sun turns the snow a pale gold outside my window; shadows lay in soft gray. The sky is bright blue behind the pine tree. It’s cold—around 20 degrees—but the light brings its own kind of warmth.

My dog, Lucy, sits on her bed in front of the window, watching the world. I see a trail in the snow, to and from the pine tree, made by a neighbor’s cat. I imagine Lucy wishes a cat would walk by right now, and bring a little excitement to her morning.

Lucy comes over, lays her face against my leg, and looks into my eyes. I pet her for a while, telling her how much I love her. She soaks in the sound of my voice, as though it is sunlight.

Cute brown dog with colorful toy

But I need to write this blog, so I tell her it’s time to go play with her toy. She grabs a colorful wool octopus and plays for a few minutes. Then she’s by my side again, wanting more attention.

Like my mind, she’s looking for something to land on, to keep her focused for a while.

I take her outside. We stand on the deck, where moisture evaporates like smoke from the fence. A small moment to appreciate the beauty of this world.

Sun sculpture on steaming fence

Back inside, she’s still restless. I fill her favorite puzzle toy with treats. (No one could call me co-dependent with my dog—unless they knew me.) Now she’s alternately dropping the toy and flailing it back and forth between her paws to get the kibble out.

When I create—like writing this blog—I do something similar. I toss ideas around in my head, like a salad, hoping an olive will pop to the surface, a tasty morsel of inspiration.

So here’s this week’s nugget: create from where you are. It doesn’t have to be a masterpiece. Don’t demand of your creativity, greatness; just let it be what it is.

Small moments, like looking into the eyes of a little brown dog, accumulate in our lives. They inform its meaning as much as any grand philosophy.

Be present. Appreciate what is. Create from here.

Being Real

I’ve been struggling the last couple weeks, trying to get back into the swing of things after the holidays. Grief has pulled me by the ankles into the Underworld. Regret circles like a dark fin in the water of my subconscious.

Moon at night over the sea

I know, to some degree, what is going on. I’m grieving the loss of my mother. I’m feeling regret about some decisions that changed the trajectory of my life. And I can feel an insight being born.

Whether I simply bring this insight into my life, or make art from it, the process that I’m going through is the mystery at the core of being human.

It’s hard to write, when I’m in this place.

I’ve started three different blog posts, only to set them aside. I can’t make sense of anything. Whatever insight wants to come into the light is still forming on the edge of my periphery.

I often struggle with this part of the creative process, and try to control it. I don’t want to feel the grief and regret, but there’s nothing I can do to think or analyze my way out of it. There’s no shortcut; I have to surrender, feel what I feel, and be honest about it.

I just have to be real. I also have to be patient, and let go of my desire to control the result, to wrap it up with a nice, neat bow.

Because I know—from going through this process countless times in my life—that when it looks like all is lost, if I stay present, I will be able to bring a piece of treasure back from my journey to the Underworld.

An insight, in a piece of writing.

A wordless response, in color and form.

A reconnection with my own ballast, centering me in an uncertain world.

Your Truth

If you do not tell the truth about yourself you cannot tell it about other people. - Virginia Woolf

Writing is a discovery process. It shows you what you really believe.

I’ve surprised myself countless times, when I’ve read what I thought I believed, only to realize that my ideas were only partly developed.

Writing forces me to go deeper—clarify, differentiate, and evaluate—to weigh the truth of my ideas. Then I can connect those ideas to express my thoughts, within a whole perspective that is is true to my beliefs.

Virginia Woolf was right. Self-awareness and honesty give our voices the authenticity—and authority—to communicate our ideas.