Thursday, September 25, 2014

Creativity ~ Part II: Domestication vs. Wildness

Creativity: An 8-Part Series

By Kristy McCaffrey

Don't miss:
Part I ~ Imagination

There are beautiful and wild forces within us. ~ St. Francis of Assisi

Assisi, Italy
Copyright 2014 Kristy McCaffrey

When I was very young, I had a powerful dream. Young women dressed in white—clearly some type of initiates—filed forward to be approved by a Head Mother. One, a scraggly and unkempt girl, didn’t fit. Two guards forcibly dragged her along in line.

Copyright 2014 Kristy McCaffrey

The dream was simple and vivid. It was my wild nature fighting against domestication. And often, that domestication is governed by you, not an outside force such as parents, teachers, or a religious institution. We often suppress our wild nature because in its wake comes chaos—or so we think. In truth, wildness opens avenues. In wildness lies curiosity, compassion, and a connection to the rhythms of life. All life. The trees, the plants, the animals, the Earth. Without this connection something in us will die.

But the good news is that no matter how long the wild nature has been abandoned, it can always be brought back to life.

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In Women Who Run With The Wolves, Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés states, “Once [women] have regained [wild woman], they will fight and fight hard to keep her, for with her their creative lives blossom; their relationships gain meaning and depth and health; their cycles of sexuality, creativity, work, and play are re-established; they are no longer marks for the predations of others; they are entitled equally under the laws of nature to grow and to thrive. Now their end-of-the-day fatigue comes from satisfying work and endeavors, not from being shut up in too small a mind-set, job, or relationship. They know instinctively when things must die and when things must live; they know how to walk away, they know how to stay.”

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Kali is a goddess of destruction and creation who predates Hinduism. Sometimes known as the 'forbidden thing', she shines a light on the dark places that keep us from total liberation, shadows that encompass our authentic sexuality, our rage, our killer instincts, our animalistic natures. These are often suppressed, but they wield power by allowing our fears and anxieties to flourish. Kali represents the Divine Feminine, and she doesn't do well with domestication. By confronting the terror that Kali illuminates, we slowly become unfrozen. We are able to speak, live, and create in a divinely natural way, following the rhythms that course through each of us. We become wild in the truest sense, deeply connected to our soul-selves, following the path we're meant to pursue.

How might we recover our wildness? One age-old way is through stories.

It’s been my experience that when I tell others that I write romance novels, 1) women giggle with delight and quietly share with me how much they love such books, and 2) women tell me how they long to write and hope one day to share a story with the world. (I will also add that men are generally supportive, but there is also that small minority who have no interest. When done with respect, there is no harm in this.)

Copyright 2014 Kristy McCaffrey

Why do I write romances? Because in a majority of these stories, whether they be historical, contemporary, futuristic or paranormal, the heroines are women in search of the core of their wildness. By the end of a story, they will become brave enough to not only face the villain and love the hero, but they will also find a strength that is soul-deep, soul-knowing, and a piece of themselves they can’t live without.

This is why women giggle when they learn my profession, because despite the stigma associated with reading frivolous romances, they’re drawn to the myth and power woven into these tales. Stories transform the teller and the listener. Stories light the way on the darkened path into the hearts of women (and men), illuminating the pitfalls but also the guideposts along the way.

There have been great societies that did not use the wheel, but there have been no societies that did not tell stories. ~ Author Ursula K. LeGuin

Copyright 2014 Kristy McCaffrey

I’ve always enjoyed the game of finding which female character in Greek mythology most draws you. Is it Athena, filled with wisdom, or Artemis, who runs among the animals in the woods? What about Aphrodite, the seductress, or Persephone, the innocent who succumbs to Hades and takes springtime with her? (There are versions in which Persephone willingly binds herself to the god of the underworld. A simple shift in intention can change everything.)

What stories resonate with you? Those that do are engaging directly with your wild self. Don’t ignore the connection, but instead actively explore what bubbles forth from inside you.

We have an archetypal need to be spoken to through stories because they bring us into contact with our inner being. ~ Carolyn Myss, medical intuitive and author

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Works Cited
Beak, Sera. Red Hot & Holy: A Heretic's Love Story. Sounds True, Inc., 2013.

Estés, Dr. Clarissa Pinkola. Women Who Run With The Wolves. Ballantine Books, 1992.

Don’t miss Part III in the Creativity series: Shape-Shifting

Until next time…

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Creativity ~ Part I: Imagination

Creativity: An 8-Part Series

By Kristy McCaffrey

When I was in the final stages of completing my third book, The Sparrow, I had a strong sense of cultivation, as if I were gardening. As I strove to refine the story and add more details that would, hopefully, enliven the tale more deeply, I could literally feel the soft, sweet, moist earth fall through my fingers as I scooped it up and packed it into the world I'd created. In moments like these, the creative life fully connects with ordinary reality. It's why painters paint, sculptors sculpt, and writers write. It's why we, as humans, create. We want to bring meaning to our lives, and art—in any form—presents an outlet for us to express this yearning.

We all create, whether you label yourself an artist or not. Decorating your home, landscaping your yard, crafting long letters to friends and family—all are forms of self-expression, a deeply-rooted desire present in all of us.

Artmaking is making the invisible, visible. ~ Marcel Duchamp

Studies have shown that activities such as writing, drawing and even knitting reduce stress and increase serotonin levels. A UCLA study found that when young people engaged in artistic pursuits from a young age, they outperformed their peers in categories ranging from academics to life skills.

Cross-cultural anthropologist Angeles Arrien states that in many traditional cultures, a healer will ask an ill person four questions: When did you stop singing? When did you stop dancing? When did you stop telling your story? When did you stop sitting in silence?

We need our creativity to survive. And we need to move through our creativity ourselves.
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Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught. ~ Oscar Wilde

In this series on Creativity, I'll be discussing the following, each in a separate post:

I.      Imagination
II.    Domestication vs. Wildness
III.   Shape-Shifting
IV.   Forbearance
V.    Maiden/Mother/Crone
VI.   The Virgin and the Sacred Prostitute
VII.  Synchronicity
VIII. Magic

Let's get started.

I. Imagination

Imagination is when you step outside of time. I've often thought that imagination is less something we create and more something we tap into. As a fiction writer, I most definitely conjure ideas and make-believe people to fill the pages of my stories. Or do I?

I wrote my very first novel, The Wren, based on an idea that came to me when I was 15 years old. It was at that time I first became acquainted with my heroine, Molly Hart. Years later, as I drove cross-country with my mother and sister—a leaving-the-nest move from Phoenix to Pittsburgh—we pulled off at a rest stop outside of Amarillo. It was a desolate place, with wide-open sky and the endless flat expanse of the Texas Panhandle. And that's when I felt her, standing in the tall grass, watching me. It was Molly.

I was about 22 years old at the time. I didn't write Molly's story until I was 33, but in that moment it was as if she breathed her spirit into mine. For a while, I tried setting her story in Arizona, but it didn’t come together until I moved the tale back to Texas. It's been said that stories chase the right person to tell them. On that day, Molly most definitely pursued me, conveying in no uncertain terms that’s where she belonged. It was my job to pay attention. So, perhaps imagination is less an activity of making something up and more a sense of remembering.

Copyright 2014 Kristy McCaffrey

How might you trigger this remembering?

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Playing. Children know it, and animals do as well. When children play, they follow their innate talents. It simply doesn’t occur for them not to. Playing is any activity that disengages the rational mind—for some it may be sports, or sewing, or playing a musical instrument. As adults, we often encapsulate play into vacations, but it should really be present each day. How can you add more play to your day? Think about it, and then let go and just have fun.

A Labrador retriever plays through its lifetime and dies a child. ~ Dr. Stuart Brown

Copyright 2014 Kristy McCaffrey
Dreams. Whatever your personal beliefs about dreams, and why we have them, there is nothing better at shining a spotlight into your life than your dreams. The key is learning to work with the imagery. Renowned dream archaeologist Robert Moss suggests keeping a dream journal to begin understanding the messages relayed. Working with dreams isn’t a passive endeavor. Everything around us is alive with meaning; all you have to do is pay attention. For further guidance, read Moss's Active Dreaming—Journeying Beyond Self-Limitation to a Life of Wild Freedom (New World Library, 2011). If you’re still not certain that there’s something to be gained from this dreaming thing, check out his book The Secret History of Dreaming (New World Library, 2009) in which he elaborates on the dream lives of Joan of Arc, Mark Twain, and Winston Churchill.

Copyright 2014 Kristy McCaffrey

In dreams begin responsibilities. ~ William Butler Yeats

      Solitude. Numerous studies tout the benefits of meditation, but even if you can’t quiet your mind enough for a deep practice, time alone can trigger a rush of ideas, from planning dinner parties to writing a book. Immersing yourself in the words of others can offer additional stimulus. Perhaps you’re inspired by perusing the latest fictional tale, or devouring Deepak Chopra, or quietly absorbing passages from the Bible. Or perhaps soothing music does the trick, or a hot bath and candles. A practice of daily solitude will fine-tune your access to imagination.

Copyright 2014 Kristy McCaffrey

To pay attention, this is our endless and proper work. ~ Mary Oliver

Imagination is the act of creating new ideas. The key is learning to open the floodgates within the mind that can hold it back. Playing, dreams, and solitude are three ways to allow the remembering to enter your life.

Imagination is more important than knowledge. ~ Albert Einstein

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Don’t miss Part II in the Creativity series: Domestication vs. Wildness

Until next time…