THE LONG AND WINDING ROAD; WHICH WAY DO I GO?
Greetings, new friend! I’m Susan Maddy J and this is my CREATIVE space.
About Me? Hmmm… Well, the long of it is…
I’ve spent a good deal of life exploring its endless possibilities. At this point in my journey, the road behind me is much longer than the road ahead could ever be. I’ve had a plethora of jobs, relationships and pastimes. Of these, I’ve spent the greater part of my years thus far studying and working in the computer science field. I’m logically minded, fairly mechanically minded, and according to a career guidance test back in my younger years, I’m generally wired to do whatever it is I would like to do. This last bit was encouraging–knowing that my skills and strengths were so well distributed that I’d be suited for a wire variety of career options–but it also was completely useless in guiding me toward a career or life activity that might bring out the best in me and hold my interest for the rest of my life.
CHASING CREATIVITY… HA HA! GOTCHA!
Even though I was interested in the arts and creative expression as a child and teen, I didn’t make much room for creative endeavors in my adult life. I had the basic skills and potential to pursue the arts but seriously lacked the necessary self-confidence. I even had visions of becoming an architect, had the logic and math skills to back it, but the thought of building a career around something that required me to be creative all the time was outright frightening. So instead, I pursued a “real career” and only dabbled in creative expression in my rare ‘spare’ time. (Sound familiar at all, dear reader?)
That is, until I eventually left the computer field and, in 2011, began blogging for the fun of it. I found myself getting really hooked on this new form of creative self-expression–pairing the right images with the right words and finding out through the writing itself what it was I wanted to say. Turns out I had a lot to say and I spent several years doing so on multiple blogs I created, all focused on different subject matter. All that writing ultimately led to having four of my more heart-centered writings published in Chicken Soup for the Soul books, which was not something I had necessarily set out to do. It just kind of happened organically. I didn’t know I could write well enough to be published. Hmmm… what else did I not know about myself?
The Chicken Soup adventure gave me a level of writing confidence I hadn’t experienced before. And it wasn’t long before I also ended up having an article published in the popular parachuting magazine, “Parachutist.” (Did I mention, dear reader, I once jumped out of a perfectly good plane?) It was a two-page spread, in fact, honoring the passing of a parachuting legend. Hmmm… this is getting interesting!
Around the time I was blogging and simultaneously studying and significantly improving my knowledge of all manner of writing, including creative, I was hired to do extensive development editing of a memoir for a writing group member who had a lifetime career in the broadcasting industry (earning multiple Emmy’s, Golden Mike’s and Genesis Awards). He needed help tying all his anecdotal stories together into one cohesive book and deemed me competent and creative enough to bring value to his project. At the time, I had also been studying how to write memoirs, interested in writing one myself, so had plenty to bring to the table.
Hot out of the gate, I felt the most important task at hand was to figure out how to give the book more substance. I needed to develop a story structure so it wasn’t just a collection of anecdotes. I dug through all my knowledge and notes about memoirs and story structure and pulled it all together to provide him as much guidance as possible about what was expected of him and where we needed to go. I then interviewed him at great length to find out more about his career and personal life and picked up on a possible pattern to explore. (Did I mention, dear reader, I once entertained psychology as a career?). So, I drilled him (psychology style) for the nitty gritty details of his life (the whats and whys) and put together an exhaustive side-by-side timeline list of all significant events–one side of the timeline for his personal life, one side for his work life. I studied that for quite some time and was soon able to identify an emerging pattern of personal life challenges coinciding with career changes and choices. And that’s when I realized we had a story line… his career kept interfering with his personal life. His career was, in a way, his mistress, relentlessly seducing him with all manner of opportunities and tearing him away from family life toward the insatiable appetite of the broadcasting industry. When his mistress was demanding, his personal life suffered. When she was dismissive, his personal life thrived.
Once we had a story line, we worked together to massage individual anecdotal stories into the larger mistress story and ordered them into sections of the book named after the various inevitable stages of an elicit love affair. I then coached him through writing a personal-life story that reflected some kind of growth or change in him through the experience. It was quite an effort that carried on for two years. (Ummm… let’s just say that not a lot of guys in my generation are very familiar with that ‘personal growth stuff’ and this writer didn’t expect to be writing about his personal growth!) I’m particularly proud of my significant contribution to that book, which has since enjoyed great reviews.
But the biggest take-away was that it revealed to me creativity and insight I still didn’t know or acknowledge I possessed.
(Have you ever had that happen, dear reader, where you accomplished something beyond your own expectations and were genuinely surprised afterwards? Aren’t those the BEST moments?!)
DAMN! IT’S GONE AGAIN!
Working on such a large project on someone else’s book commanded so much of my time and energy that somewhere along the way I lost my zeal for working on my own. Even though I had cranked out a 70,000-word first draft of my own memoir in a two-month time frame (another Wow-I-didn’t-know-I-could-do-that revelation about myself), something in me had changed and the desire to continue working on it and other similar projects disappeared entirely. Creativity, in general, eluded me once again.
GUESS WHO SHOWED UP FOR DINNER… CREATIVITY BACK AGAIN!
In early 2018, I was excited to find a lot of nature-centric beads in a nearby craft store and began making and eventually selling some of my beaded jewelry. Then in late fall, I ended up spending a month away from home to assist a family member who’d recently had major surgery and, while there, stumbled upon examples of wire jewelry on the internet. I immediately imagined things I could make and, next thing you know, I had purchased several spools of wire at a craft store and jumped right in to wire weaving and forming. Beading had been fun, but in some ways felt restrictive. Wire, however, immediately opened up the playing field of possibilities in my jewelry designs. Wire allows for a more expressive, free-form style. It allows one to create connection components on the fly, to weave into and around designs, to capture small and large beads, gems, or stones without having to resort to traditional soldered settings. And, surprisingly, working with wire was something that initially came fairly easily to me, thankfully igniting that creative spark again.
In retrospect, I’m reminded how when I was a child, I used to sit in my driveway for hours on end, cracking open rocks to see what was inside… sparkly flecks, interesting veins of contrasting colors, translucent tones in pink or white. (Did I mention, dear reader, that because of my fascination with rocks, I seriously considered studying Geology after high school, but then, after feeding myself a bunch of weak reasons why I shouldn’t or couldn’t, didn’t? Have you ever done that same kind of thing to yourself?) In adulthood, I’ve always been a jewelry addict. Not that I bought everything I saw, but I ALWAYS slowed down to look at it all. The prospect of now being able to make my own jewelry and incorporate my own selection of natural stones and sparkly things into my designs is intoxicating.
In retrospect, dear reader, I now think that certain clues about who you are and what you were meant to be or do are with you at all times, whether you pay attention to them or not. Those clues are likely there with you since childhood. They point to your essence. They point you in the direction you ought to go to live in that essence. If you don’t follow that direction when you step into adulthood, those clues will show themselves again and again until you finally take notice.
Jewelry making is such a massive field of creative study. For me, that means they’ll be no end to this learning process. But because I love it, that doesn’t sound foreboding. I’m also expanding my knowledge of all those rocks I was fascinated with since I was a kid. I now know these things have always been a part of my essence. The clues were always there. And although I’m a little late in paying attention to them, I’m so excited about being a part of it all.
Now, I just need creativity to stick around, because I love being in her good company!
HOW CAN I MAKE YOU STAY, CREATIVITY?
Ideally, I’d like creativity to become a permanent part of my life. The only way I know to keep creativity around is to feed my soul as much good stuff as I can and to actively participate in removing as much clutter and negativity from my mind as I can. Whenever I lose my center, whenever I let the heaviness of being human steal my inner light, I turn to nature to help me find it again. Much of what I create, whether writing or jewelry, relates to nature in some way. I’m so inspired by nature… fascinated by it, grateful for it, humbled by it. Part of my creative journey in these recent years was to work with my hubby to build our own custom teardrop trailer. We both have a deep love for the outdoors and did an awful lot of tent camping throughout our lives. Camping centers us. Whenever we feel “off,” we know we need a “nature fix.” The teardrop trailer allows us to get a good, comfortable night’s sleep, which means we tend to go camping more often, tend to make time for connecting with nature more often, and tend to more easily get and stay in creative flow.
I find that when I’m centered, in a small but important way, it helps the world get centered too.
When I live from my heart, it reminds or encourages people I interact with to live from their hearts as well.
Every little thing we do impacts the whole. If we plant seeds of love, we create a more love-filled world. The opposite is also true (hate only propagates more hate), so it’s important to consciously choose which energy we put out there in the world. My heart-centered writings and handmade jewelry reflect the love I wish to be and see in the world. By aligning with my true essence, I’m “Creating (in) the World I Love.”
Won’t you join me, dear reader, on a journey of aligning with our true essence, creating whatever comes to mind, and spreading love in the process? I hope so!
Let’s Create (in) the World We Love… Together.
Susan Maddy J
Feel free to contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org