Creativity has always been a huge part of my life–just as fundamental as my connection to the land. In fact, they developed side by side.
I was highly influenced by my incredible grandmother as a child. She was an autodidact renaissance woman, despite the many struggles and hardships of her life. She taught herself drawing, painting, photography, singing, and playing piano. From a young age, I really aspired to be like her. (We shared the same Venus in Capricorn, which I cherish beyond words.)
So when I ran outside and got lost in the woods for hours, I would take a little notebook with me, sit very still so that I would not spook the animals, and try to draw what was in front of me. My love of nature and creative practice became fundamental to my ability to cope with a very harsh upbringing.
When I reached adulthood, like so many people I know, my creative practice came to a halt. Caught up in work and trying to pay bills, I completely locked my creative impulses away. There were some exceptions, usually to make some side money, but they never lasted.
My mental health plummeted, and eventually my life fell apart. This is not an exaggeration! I became a miserable, stressed out, chronically sick, and nearly homeless person.
Our Creative Power, Our Lifeblood
Having a creative practice has always been the vital source for my resilience through every single challenge that I have encountered in my life. I’ve tested this many times (by accident). When I stop allowing myself to creatively play, not only does my mental health start to suffer, but my chronic illness starts screaming at me more often and with greater ferocity.
This is not just my personal experience, but it’s also supported in studies regarding creativity and the adolescent development. By fourth grade (around age 9 or 10) our ability to be creative dramatically drops by a whopping 52%, and this only continues as we move into higher grades. Sadly, our obsession with letting standardized tests be the final arbiter of understanding is killing the future (and mental health) of our children.
As eminent researcher of educational psychology, Kyung Hee “Kay” Kim has stated,
“[The system] increasingly fostered conformity, stifling individuality, uniqueness, and originality in both educators and students… If, early on, you start thinking about the right answers instead of thinking about possibilities, your brain loses flexibility.”
It also teaches us to foster shame when we step out of a pre-ordained box of what is socially considered “appropriate”. In short, it completely robs us of our creative drive, because to be creative requires us to do things that are not yet socially approved, because they have not been thought of. If we risk rejection from the little closeness we have in relation to others by being or doing something different, it is the same as experiencing physical pain. And our bodyminds will do everything they can to avoid that kind of pain.
We live in a time period of incredible flux and uncertainty. Creativity gives us the tools to not only weather that uncertainty with deeper grace and stronger grit, but it also allows us to find solutions to the trouble staring us down the barrel of a possible 6th extinction event.
All creatures on earth were born to create, but humans in particular have the gift of sustained focus that allows our creativity to have wider impact beyond just ourselves, on a grand scale.
To survive the age of the Anthropocene, and even thrive, we must come back to our creative origins. If you don’t feel comfortable with such a grandiose thought, let me instead bring it to the personal: your very life and health depend on giving yourself permission to create, not for profit or for a final outcome, but for joy, for rebellion, for sovereignty.
As Martin Shaw points out:
“The correct response to uncertainty is mythmaking. It always was. Not punditry, allegory, or mandate, but mythmaking. The creation of stories. We are tuned to do so, right down to our bones. The bewilderment, vivacity, and downright slog of life requires it. And such emerging art forms are not to cure or even resolve uncertainty but to deepen into it. There’s no solving uncertainty. Mythmaking is an imaginative labor not a frantic attempt to shift the mood to steadier ground. There isn’t any.
But—a major but—maybe there’s useful and un-useful uncertainty. The un-useful is the skittish, fatiguing dimension. The surface of the condition. The useful is the invitation to depth that myth always offers. Because if there’s uncertainty, then we are no longer sure quite what’s the right way to behave. And there’s potential in that, an openness to new forms. We are susceptible to what I call sacred transgression. Not straight-up theft but a recalibrating of taboo to further the making of culture.”
BUT I'M NOT CREATIVE (YES YOU ARE)
If you’ve ready this far, you may be thinking, “But Amaya, I’m not creative.”
We are ALL creative in some way! In fact, it’s been the core impulse that has helped human life flourish:
“[Creativity] has been a central part of daily life in every human culture until the modern era. Anything a society needed would have had to be found, adapted, or made by hand. Crafts(wo)manship was central to human existence. Creativity equalled first survival, then thriving. And it would have been achieved with the combination of many talents of the whole community. Cooking and healing were art and science and spirit combined. As were hunting and weaving, the making of jewelry, clothing, and vessels. The objects of daily life were imbued with stories and skills accumulated over generations, and used to forge communal identities through local variations of color and symbol. We can still see this way of being in tribal cultures across the globe, as well as in the reliquaries of our museums from our own lineage. A pot, a hat, a wheel, a sword was not just a disposable, utilitarian object, but something made by hand and decorated with care and meaning.” - Lucy H. Pearce
There’s a reason that in indigenous cultures there are mourning rituals, initiations at thresholds of age, and regular festivals and holidays that require decoration, craft, costumery and performance. Even the act of wailing is an inherently creative act that expresses dissonance and loss.
Right now, we are living in a deeply sanitized world that wants to completely rob us of what Martin Shaw calls disciplined wildness. Our creativity is being stripped from our lives, and with it our ability to deeply connect with the people and world around us.
In fact, the act of creating is an imperative part of connecting us back to our precious Earth and the more-than-human people that surround us. Creativity necessitates that we listen more deeply and pay attention more closely in order to be sustained. Creativity is cradled by the universe, and sparked by constantly filling our lives with playful experiences with the beautiful and wondrous. You cannot help but become more aware of the world around you when you engage in an ongoing creative process.
Let’s work out a definition of what creativity actually is, and how it connects us back to the greatest enactor of creativity that is immediately available to teach us:
“Most people confuse ‘creative’ with ‘artistic’ and associate creativity with its end product – an accomplished painting or beautifully iced cake. But creativity does not (necessarily) equal artistic. Creativity is the basic quality inherent in nature that is responsible for making energy come into form. Plants produce flowers and fruits. Birds and insects lay eggs. Spiders weave webs. Creativity’s basic biological purpose is to reproduce and sustain life. But it seems to do so in the most dynamic, beautiful, bizarre, extravagant and elegant of ways... But creativity is not just about an end result. Creativity is a process itself: a way of thinking and problem solving ‘outside the box’, finding innovative solutions. It is the application of thought, I wonder what would happen if… onto the material world.” - Lucy Pearce
I think with a definition like that, we can all identify a creative process that we use on a regular, if not daily basis.
To deepen this, I want to put forth that the very act of creativity is a form of magic, whether you are doing incantations, propitiating a spirit to co-create with you, or not… Just creating something is the very magic of life. The Egyptians believed this, calling the act of creation Heka, which was the deification of magic… and medicine! They believed that creation was imperative to life and health (and scientifically, they were correct). Creation contains a spark of pneuma, the cosmic breath of life.
“For most of human history making was our core power. The pro-Indo-European word magh is at the root of many words: might (strength and power), may (to be able) make and magic… It is believed to come from the Old Persian magus, a member of the priestly caste (‘mighty one’).” - Lucy Pearce
And when we do not consciously nurture our creativity, not only do we deny our magic and the magic that surrounds us, but it makes us ill. And right now, the overculture is robbing us of our birth right to create and connect through co-creation.
And let me be clear: the point of having a creative practice is not to make a beautiful piece of art or cake or poem. Even professional artists will tell you that for every 1 good piece of art they make, there are 10 to 20 really bad pieces of art that they’ve made.
The point of the creative practice is to simply engage in creativity, without trying to control, predict, or judge the outcome. (Weirdly, the more you do this, the better you become at whatever creative thing you love to do.)
Now, I could regale you with all the science behind why creativity and play are vital to ALL beings on our beautiful green planet… But I will be sharing more of that moving forward :)
The Birth and Mission of Empress Craft
The point is this: I can only write about and teach what I already embody. I’ve been working on my creative recovery since 2016, and I am finally ready to share the insights I’ve unearthed from this tough (but oh so worth it) ongoing journey.
This is why I gave birth to Empress Craft. I want to help you build resilience and living joy through creative recovery and ritual practice in connection with ecological, cosmic, and mythic cycles.
Empress Craft aims to show you that creativity is the great connector of our universe, and one you were born to participate in, one that gives you greater health, resiliency, and grit; one that makes you so fully yourself that you will always feel at home, wherever you are.
I hope you’ll join me in this labyrinth, this cauldron, this cosmic ocean that is both void and possibility. May we walk the path of the uncertain times we live in, holding hands with greater understanding, compassion, and love that creating gifts to us.