I’ve been thinking about creation stories lately. At a recent artists talk at a local gallery who carries my work, I mentioned it in my presentation.
We’ve known about “hero stories” for years. They’re a common theme many books, plays, and movies, all kinds of media, actually. A guy undertakes a task, has to overcome all kinds of obstacles (slaying dragons, fighting other knights, rescuing a princess, etc.) and finally earns the keys to the kingdom. Happy ending for all concerned! (Well, at least for the hero….)
Most of us have found a similar path to find the work of our heart. For some folks, they knew early on what that was, and pursued it all the way.
For others (like me), we knew…but then we believed it was out of reach, that we didn’t have the talent/perseverence/personality/etc. to find our way through. We walked away, thinking we simply aren’t good enough.
But then there’s the ‘”creation story”. It’s that powerful moment in our life, often after we get through something really, really hard, something emotionally painful, or frightening, or even life-threatening.
And suddenly, we realize what really matters to us in life.
That’s the hidden “beauty” of terrible times. The clarity we get, a new sense of purpose, knowing what’s worth pursuing, and what is merely what other people think we should do.
I’m not saying “Everything happens for a reason!” or “God will provide, trust in Him”, or “Things will get better, just wait!” or any of that shit.
When we hit a rock-and-a-hard-place, a deep pit of despair, a near-death experience, that approach simply sucks. There’s no making light of the terrible thing we’re going through. Staying positive is powerful, but exhausting, and others telling us what THEY think WE should do can be patronizing. (Especially if they have no personal experience with what we’re dealing with.)
But afterwards, when we’ve had time to recover, hopefully to heal, or adapt, to take a calm breath and pick up our life again…. When we can pause, and look back, and contemplate what the impact on us was….
THAT’S when we can find that turning point in our life.
I’ve always focused on the WHY in my own work. I love encouraging others to dig deep and find what really matters to them. I’ve written about that a lot. A LOT. (Here’s a list of articles about the power of “Why?”)
But I forgot to connect what gets us to that powerful place.
In my case, it happened after I gave up on following my dreams. It was too hard, I didn’t have the time, the energy, the space, no hope of making a living from it. It was time to “get real” and “grow up” and let it all go. Maybe things would change down the road, but not right now.
My breakthrough moment was the realization that what I wanted for my kids, the thing that could make them resilient, and joyful, and fierce with passion, I could want for myself. And the best way to encourage them to do the same, was to show them what that looked like.
The courage, determination, and persistence I gained in that moment, has carried me for decades.
Oh, I still get just as frustrated, set back, and sad about my lack of “fame and fortune” for my work. But I always circle back and realize that was never the inspiration to make it from the get-go.
Creation stories are the moments when we realize how powerful that decision is. That moment when we realize we have a story, a story only WE can tell. A story that not only fuels our life, but, when shared, might inspire and give hope to someone else, too.
One year, I taught workshops for the traveling Arts Business Institute years ago. My favorite one was working with people to find the “why” in their work. My fastest, clearest example was when one young woman in the workshop started with, “I had a baby, I nearly died, and everything changed….” I stopped and said, “THAT is your creation story!”
Something happened. Something that changed everything. We nearly die/fall/give up hope/surrender. If we’re lucky, we get through it. And if we’re really lucky…
We realize we can choose something different. We recognize that we have the power of our choices.
We can own our desire to make/teach/write/sing/heal/travel/nurture/repair/etc. and be a force for good in the world. Because it’s so good for US.
Suddenly, all the wrong turns, the mistakes, the missed opportunities, (for me, for example, traveling across the country in the recession of the 1980’s desperately looking for a teaching job for years, to no avail) is no longer a sad story.
Because I finally found the right story, the powerful story that belongs to me.
All those “failures” simply added to my experience, shining a light on what I was NOT “meant to be”, but merging the skills I acquired to achieve those old goals into powerful new assets on my new journey:
Making the work of my heart, using the materials and techniques that felt “right” for me, and telling my story. Letting go of being “good enough”, because I simply wanted to do it.
Another insight? Once we know our creation story, we won’t be as likely to fall for this story about why we simply can’t do that thing: about holding onto the “facts” that hold us back.
And one last story about our conception of “luck” that can slow us down on our creative journey: What’s Luck Got To Do With It?
A lot to ponder, especially with holidays, new variants, uncertainty, great changes in the world.
But that’s life, right? Finding our own way home.
P.S. FORGOT, here’s a link to the Story Center’s website (a non-profit), which now offers free and in-depth paid workshops for helping us find our powerful stories: The Story Center