Tag Archives: awen

Creativity Fail

I’ve not done a great deal of fiction writing since the summer. There have been odd bursts, but for the greater part I’ve not had the focus. Too much going on in my life, frequently too little time, and just not the right headspace to follow my muse.

Sometimes life conspires to make it bloody difficult to do anything creative. Time pressures are probably the single biggest issue for folk who want to be creative but don’t get there. Lack of inspiration, and lack of the right kind of mental spaces are big issues too. There’s also the potential issue of not having the right physical spaces to work in. 

However, just because I can’t do the big dramatic stuff, doesn’t mean I can, or for that matter should, assume that the awen is not with me and let it go. Big inspiration mostly escapes me, but there are drops here and there. In times of creative block and life making it hard to create, it’s more important than ever to go after whatever small things are available.

I have a number of things I turn to when I find myself unable to write stories. This blog is one of them – trying to write a few hundred meaningful words of article every day helps me keep my hand in, and in the habit of writing something, even if it’s not fiction. I also write more poetry. Short poems don’t take anything like the amount of time that a story does, so on days when I am short of time and/or focus, turning to poetry is a way of getting something creative on the page with reasonable frequency. It often also results in a lot of angst laden verse, but I don’t have to inflict that on anyone else!

I try also to invest a little more energy in daily opportunities for creativity – cooking, baking, how I do my hair etc. Sometimes focusing what creative energy I have in a different direction, like trying to pick up a new skill, helps get me through a patch where I don’t know how to make stuff up. I play more music, learn a new tune, or go gardening. Sometimes I do radical and creative things to spaces inside the house.

What I’ve discovered is, that it’s critical not to stop when the flows of creativity seem poor. Stopping and waiting for inspiration to return tends to make it worse. Not least because time gets filled with non-creative things, and that has the potential to create habits that are hard to break. Not being creative is depressing, for me, and I assume for others too, so not being creative can bring you down in ways that make it harder to in fact do anything good. Keeping in the habit of doing small creative things, at least, is good for morale during lean times.

So, whatever you can do, keep doing it, be it ever so small, or ever so wildly different from what you normally do. If there is a shortage of space or inspiration for your true calling, then do what you can, grab opportunities, and don’t give up. Life is ebb and flow, and this too will change.

The Way of Awen

Early this summer I had the pleasure of reading Kevan Manwaring’s latest work The Way of Awen. It’s a book I very much recommend for anyone on, or drawn to the bardic path. You can read my full review of the book here.

In Druidry, and on the Bardic path (which can be the same thing, but aren’t always!) awen is sacred inspiration. Nothing is more important to a bard that inspiration. For any creative person, the energy that keeps us creating is a most essential thing. How we find it and work with it is highly individual. Druidry as a tradition holds inspiration as sacred and vitally important – not just for bardic work, but for ritual, relationship, and life as a whole.

Kevin has coined the gorgeous term ‘Way of Awen’ to denote a life that is devoted to following the call of inspiration. His book maps out his own personal journeys along this path and is a very heartening read for anyone called in the same direction.

I found the book and the term deeply resonant. About eighteen months ago I took a pledge ‘To love, serve and trust all that I can, as long as I can, wherever the awen takes me.’ It is an oath that has totally changed the shape of my life, taking me to my soul mate in America, and helping me see the aspects of my life that were not serving inspiration, nor were nourishing of my creativity. As I worked with the oath I had taken, I came to understand that where I find inspiration, I have a duty of care and to return something for what I am given, but where there is no inspiration, there is no duty for me. Realising that I am not obliged to do things that do not serve the call of the awen, was a big step onto this path for me. 

I’ve been through some radical upheavals this summer, but it’s put me in a place where I am both more able and more inclined to live creatively. I want to make creativity and inspiration the core of my life. I’m not just talking in the writing and the big, obvious expressions, either. But to have everything I do and every choice consciously informed by the flow of awen. There’s not much I do that isn’t consciously considered, but this is an act of moving deeper into my own values and creativity, and trying to bring that numinious awen light into everything I undertake.

I’ve talked with Kevan about my desire to work with his concept and blog about the process, and he’s been tremendously encouraging. So, this is a topic I shall be dipping into repeatedly, as I examine my life and look at how I work. I end today with a sweeping bow to Kevan, and offer my thanks for his wordcraft, vision and wonderful imagination.

Muse, Awen and Audience

The idea of muses comes from Greek myth – nine goddesses presiding over the arts and gifting creative types with inspiration. Writers will often talk about their muse – that elusive, mysterious and often fickle creature that keeps them telling stories. For some it’s an abstract idea, for others a much more defined entity. Druids speak more of awen, a flowing, creative force, a well we might dip into.

For most of my adult life, muses have not been abstract concepts, and awen has flowed to me through specific other people. Sometimes in droplets and flashes of insight, but usually more sustained. Love and inspiration run close together for me, and always did. Those I love inspire me, and those who inspire me, I love – whichever way round it starts.

I spent a lot of years finding I needed multiple muses. While there were a fair few people who inspired me at any given time, no one held the position of muse alone, for any long period. In the intensity of a new connection, I might become focused on one person for a while, and it might last weeks, or months before I needed more, but I always needed more. I had some wonderful and very inspiring connections with friends, fellow musicians, other creative people and a few lovers, and sometimes the awen flowed well for me, and sometimes it didn’t. There were plenty of lost times, weeks when scant inspiration came my way, and when no-one inspired me.

It takes a toll on any relationship, that. I’ve seen it from the other side too, having other creative people I connected with. To find that you have not, or are not feeding the creativity of another, can be disheartening in the extreme, especially if you’ve actively sought to play muse for them. This was one of the reasons I tended to invest in multiple people – it meant no one person had sole responsibility for my creativity, and if one source dried up, I had other options. And then something very strange happened… and I’ve gone a year with one muse, and it works very well indeed. 

If you find yourself wanting to support a creative person and be a muse for them, there are a lot of practical things you can do to help. Feed them stories – your own and other peoples. In order to be creative, you need a rich, sustained diet of ideas, experiences and emotions. The company of people who inspire strong feelings and share exciting things is hugely advantageous. Praise, enthusiasm and positive feedback are also tremendously helpful. The vast majority of creative people are plagued by doubts and uncertainties – that’s what keeps them striving to do better. But, good feedback helps make it feel worthwhile. Take an interest. Be there to listen. Keep believing in your creative person when they are struggling, because they will need you then. Be there to cheer for them when it all goes well. You will make a huge difference.

Creativity flourishes if you nurture it. Being able to support someone else’s creativity can be the most rewarding of experiences. Inspiration is one of the most magical things I know of, and to knowingly inspire another, is a beautiful thing to get to do. Creative people need an audience for what they do. Without someone else to enjoy and appreciate it, creativity is not that much fun. You may feel compelled to do it anyway, but it’s not the same as sharing. Enthusiastic audiences are wonderful, and they keep creative folk going.

To all you who offer praise and encouragement, who share your responses, ask for more, contemplate meanings and otherwise contribute, know that you are much appreciated, and greatly valued.

Inspiration

I’m going to be blogging through this month about inspiration – hopefully other folk will too, as we have two themes on the go – this, and coming out stories. By ‘inspiration’ I don’t just mean the ideas for stories. I think the word conjures images of artists, composers, and authors. You might think of it in connection with scientists, and religious leaders too. Perhaps inspiration is a quality you feel leaders should posses. I wouldn’t argue with any of that. I would add that creativity and inspiration should be part of everyone’s lives.

Inspiration is a rush, full of excitement, wonder and possibility. It enables the making of new things. That rich potential can be brought into any part of life – into relationships, homemaking, cooking, gardening, shopping, it can 9and I think should) be an underpinning for lifestyle. Lives should not be bought ready made in boxes, lifted from the pages of glossy magazines or imbibed from television programs. As a culture, I think we’ve become far too willing to be told how to live, what we should want, how we should dress, where we should shop, and who we should be. That way of living serves the people who want to sell us things with no inherent value and make us believe we need them by labelling said as fashionable and essential.

There’s a reciprocal relationship between inspiration, action and the feedback that brings. Have the idea to cook a fab meal. Make that gorgeous meal from scratch. Eat it, love it, share it with others who love it and have the wit to say so. Feel nourished and fulfilled, both by the meal and the response to it. And so you feel more able, more powerful, more inclined to do it again.

Working with inspiration is about taking control of your life, and shaping it so that all the things you do come from your soul. Working with inspiration makes otherwise mundane activity far more inherently meaningful. It directs us towards the things that nourish and enhance, and away from situations and experiences that deplete us.

So, through April, I’ll be talking about inspiration for daily life, and the role it plays in all kinds of creativity. My aim is to inspire, and to show ways in which anyone can lead a life they find inherently meaningful and worthwhile.

Collaberation

(By Tom Brown and Bryn Colvin)

When we write short stories together, we do it like this – with skype on to talk and typing in the chat box, and we end up with just one voice. It’s both different and the same, when we collaborate on the sequential art stories. A very natural process, not unlike a dance. Inspiration flows back and forth between us, leading us both to create things that are not at all what we would have come up with on our own. Better, and richer (frequently stranger and wilder) than what we could arrive at individually. A sort of, third artist is created between us. We call it Copper Age. Sometimes we are enough on the same wavelength that we type the same things, at the same time.

 (Insert note from Tom. Just now for example!)

 We play very well together, in short. This involves large amounts of trust and respect (amongst other things). Out of surreal and wandering late night conversations come all kinds of story ideas, including zombie morris dancers, and the bottling of cat spirits. It’s a good defence against block as well, because usually one of us will have enough ideas to bail the other one out.

 (another note from Tom – Now, for instance)

 The process has brought us down some strange roads (in a creative sense). No doubt there’s more to come in that regard. Not least because, while it’s easy enough to trade words across the Atlantic, we can’t do the same with the art. (Yet). No doubt also that once the annoyance of the (pesky!) Atlantic has been dealt with, the process of collaboration will include the visual art as well. Which will be, to say the very least, very interesting! (in a the-world-is-by-no-means-ready-for-this sort of way). While Tom is very good indeed at drawing things such that they look like things, Bryn isn’t. She favours abstract stuff. How this might work out if combined on the same page remains to be seen.

 (Bryn thinks she could be safely left to paint in the sky maybe.)

 (Tom grins and rubs his hands together)

 It is also very much a learning process. We’re constantly exploring new ways of working, new things to try. There is no end in sight. Which is as well. There’s a strong friendship grown out of the working together, and if we didn’t have such a good excuse to talk most days, we would of course have to make one up.

The Awen

For Druids, inspiration is sacred. We use the word ‘awen’ to describe it – which is simply the Welsh word for inspiration, but it has a beautiful sound to it, great for chanting, for prayers and blessings.

The symbol most used by modern druidry, is refered to as the awen symbol – three dots, with three lines radiating down, and slightly out. It represents, amongst other things, the three drops of inspiraiton from the cauldren of the goddess Ceridwen. Three drops of distilled magical power that begin the transformaton of the boy Gwion into the poet Tallyessin.

For a writer, inspiration is essential. Being a Druid writer, it’s not merely my craft and day job, writing is an expression of my spirituality, even when I’m not dealing with overtly pagan subjects. The delerious rush of insight and ideas is the best kind of magic, for me.

What would any of us be without the blessings of inspiration?

Honouring the inspiration others give me, I’d like to direct your attention to the work of Tom Brown, an extraordinary artist – http://www.copperage.deviantart.com/ you can also find him at http://www.twitter.com/gothicmangaka

Whatever else today brings you, may there be inspiration!