I’ve had quite a journey with creativity. I’ve shifted from being naturally good at art and design as a child and working towards a career in fashion design… to getting that career and hating it, feeling worn out, depleted and spent… to going years not knowing how to get back my creativity, feeling lost, uninspired, lacking that creative spark that brings new ideas… to having no idea how to reawaken my urge to create art, and then, to finding Druidry and Awen and learning how to refill my cup of inspiration through finding a connection with the world around me and opening myself up to being a doorway for that to be expressed.
I loved being creative as a child and decided early on that I would really like to do something artistic with my life. I answered ‘fashion designer’ religiously whenever anyone asked that curious question ‘what do you want to be when you grow up?’. A ridiculous question to ask a child who has no concept of the scope of possibility for what one could do with their lives, however it is one that shapes our education, and it did shape mine. I took sewing classes and art in high school, and applied for fashion college. I got in to East Sydney Tech, which was competitive, and managed to complete the course and land myself a job as a swimwear and surf wear designer.
I was really excited when I began the job. I was full of ideas for designs and enjoyed learning how to put together ranges, illustrate prints on the computer, and get samples made for the sales reps. And I had hopes that it being a swim and surf label would mean they had an interest in the ocean and nature. I got to go travelling all around the world with the job; to go to shows and to meet our suppliers in Paris, London, LA, Hong Kong… It seemed like a dream job when I explained it to others, but it wasn’t as good as it sounded in reality. Over time I went from being enthusiastic and full of ideas, to being worn out and depleted. There were times when I would sit for a long time just staring at the screen of my computer, unable to squeeze out another idea. I started repeating things I had already done or creating designs I just wasn’t happy with. I got in a creative rut and found it hard to think of something new and interesting. It was my job to think of new, interesting ideas, but I felt spent and I didn’t know how to find more.
I know now, that this was partly because of my environment in the office, and partly because neither myself nor any of my work colleagues understood where creativity comes from or how to fill that cup of inspiration. My hopes that there would be an appreciation for nature we shot through and I was considered a bit odd for wanting to eat my lunch on the scrap grass outside, so I didn’t do it as often as I would have liked and it didn’t occur to me to find a local park. In my work space my desk was in a room that had one window, but it was too high up for me to be able to see out of it. The walls were bare plasterboard that hadn’t been painted and they were never completed in the two years I was there. I heard traffic outside and airplanes fly overhead all day, and when I looked out the window it was only onto garbage bins and a carpark. I mostly took lunch at my desk as everyone else did and waited, and stared and wondered why I still wasn’t feeling creative anymore. Where had all my ideas gone? Why didn’t I have any more?
It left me feeling quite depressed and I ended up leaving the job after two years working there and couldn’t bring myself to work in fashion again. Creativity wasn’t the only reason. There are many ethical concerns I have with the fashion industry that were also a part of this decision, but the creative aspect let me feeling quite down. I felt depleted. I felt like a failure. I felt like all these years I had been expecting to become a fashion designer and then I had achieved it and failed at it. I didn’t know what I should do with my life. It was awful, but after some time out I ended up getting a job as a bartender and shaping out a different kind of life. I couldn’t stand the idea of doing any art for a long time and took work as a bartender for many years. This wasn’t wholly unproductive. I learned the art of conversation, and hospitality in the traditional sense, how to read people and how to entertain them. And I learned a fair bit about making cocktails too. But one could hardly call it creative work. I also took some time to travel, living in Japan where I studied martial arts, and Glastonbury in England, where I came across Druidry and began learning how to reawaken my creativity again.
I was living in a tent in the campsite outside of town and had dared to buy a few canvases and some paint to play around with, but try as I did, still everything I was painting seems rigid, stifled and lacking something I couldn’t put my finger on. Then I met Morgan my teacher, and began to learn about Druidry and heard that its practice included working with Awen, a flow of creative, spiritual energy. I was intrigued, though it didn’t come back in an instant by any means. There was a long process of learning about Awen that would come.
First, I learned to chant the word, which I tended to do silently in my head while meditating, but every now and then would do out loud if I felt sure I had the privacy to do so. After that, I would try to do something creative… I started by writing some rather mediocre poetry and having Morgan take a look. She would help me work out which ones were better than others and why. I also bought a book on Bardic skills called ‘The Bardic Handbook,’ by Kevan Manwarring, which gave me some great exercises to do, and the book ‘Living Druidry’ by Emma Restall Orr, which constantly encourages the reader to go outside, walk in the forest, talk to the plants and stones and get hands on with nature.
Through this simple practice I began to realise that what made my poetry good, in one line here or there could be understood through this concept of Awen, and also through knowing what it was that was feeding the experience. I realised my creativity didn’t just spring out of me – rather I was a conduit for creativity to move through. It came from my relationship with the world around me. It came from experiencing the stories of the world and shaping them into art. Not just from deciding to create something. There was a process to it that was based on storytelling. It was quite a revelation for me as I had always believed up until that point that the creativity came simply from within me. When in truth there is inspiration all around us, in the natural world, in our relationships, in our journeys of discovery, healing and hope, and it is in the process of opening to it that we come to find our connection with Awen.
I remember one day in the late summer, walking out from town to Wearyall Hill and sitting there in the grass. An activity Kevan Manwarring’s book had given me was to write a poem simply based on what I could sense around me. I sat in the sunshine and took a moment to really be in that place. I relaxed. I let go of some need for it to be ‘good’. I just let it be whatever it would be. And then I wrote what I saw, and heard and felt, and the poem was good.
Through activities like this I learned the value of the well of inspiration that nature can give us. I realised how healing just spending time there can be. Just observing and being. Not trying to shape it to our will or get something out of it. Just allowing ourselves to be a part of it. Then, it starts to sing to us, and if we choose to, we can express that some way in art. It’s a kind of creativity that isn’t forced. It’s not difficult. It wells up in us and to express it is a need; an overflow; a necessity. Like a dance out of sheer joy. When we open ourselves to it, it just flows.
It took me a long time to understand this energy in other arts, but as the years went by I learned more and more about taking creative risks, pushing the boundaries of my creativity, trying new things, and finding the freedom that comes with those realisations. I began painting and drawing again, realising that the stifled rigidity appeared when I was afraid to make mistakes and when I was too worried about it being ‘good’ to just let it be. What was more important what letting go to the flow and allowing the present moment in myself and in the world around me to be spoken through it. It was emotional, intuitive and open, where before it was fearful, closed, worried, self-conscious. There is a sense of stepping aside that occurs when we allow Awen to flow through us. ‘Awen’ means the ‘flowing spirit’ and we feel its presence when this happens. It’s quite a mystical experience.
A few years after learning about Awen I started making jewellery and writing for my work again. Every day now, I know that I need to take time to fill my cup, spending time in nature or taking time to just be, or exploring a story in the world that needs to be told through reading or connecting with others. This feeds my soul. It replenishes me and gives me an endless world of stories to tell through my art. It’s been an amazing journey and now I feel I could never be without that creative flow. It’s a blessing to have found it again and if you haven’t found yours yet, I sincerely hope that this blog might help you too.
Working with Awen helps us to become more open to our creativity. It allows us to be as we are and take our time; it encourages us to be confident speaking our truth and finding truth in relationship; it helps us to break through our fear and our emotional blockages. It helps us to understand ourselves as a door through which creativity moves, and helps us understand the world around us as longing to be expressed through our art. Ultimately it brings us a great sense of peace, having found that connection, and letting it move through us to be sung to the world. Awen is a door through which creativity gives nature a voice, and when we realise how powerful it can be, it can transform our own lives too.
So if you’re feeling depleted; if your creativity feels stifled or rigid, perhaps Druidry and Awen can help you too. It could be as simple as insisting on taking lunch in the park, to watch the birds and listen to the wind in the trees, or making your workspace feel good by adding beauty to it. It could be letting go a bit and not worrying about being ‘good’ because being free, connected and letting spirit move through us is a much better way to find that spark of inspiration. And what happens when we do that has that spark of magic in it. It can change the world.