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Lesson 2: Scratching the Wrong Itch

I know this for sure...

Your heart longs for transformation.

It wants to shift, grow, change and deepen.

It wants to shed old weight and move into the new.

Your heart is longing for a new story where the creations you make are fulfilling and meaningful-not just a forgotten memory of something that could have been...

I have come to this conclusion through unexpected means. My studies and research have taught me that one of the most transformative tools we have for growth, we often overlook and take for granted.

This tool is both ancient and modern, and all it requires is our attention in order to use it.

I am talking about story in all of its manifestations.

Story is the great tool of sense making, and it can help us orchestrate change in our lives.

Let me explain...

I am going to guess that you spend at least some of your day lost in other people's transformations. That you watch movies, television shows, read books that are filled with stories of change, growth, and healing. Where old ways of being are let go and new ways emerge. You probably love getting lost in stories of love, travel, adventure, danger and the whole spectrum of human emotion. Am I right?

What stories on film, tv, or in books are most beloved to you? Hold onto that thought we are going to explore that more deeply.  

I hear all the time about the rise in Netflix viewing, book sales, and movie ticket sales. We are a world increasingly escaping to other worlds. Why is that? I see this as a clue that we are a culture in desperate need of transformation.

Dorothy, Bilbo, Luke & Leia, Harry, and so many more. These are the iconic stories we return to again and again because they show us how to let go of old stories, old ways of being, and welcome new ones.

We want to change; we crave transformation but for some of us we are scratching the wrong itch! We aren’t meant to live our lives lost in a sea of other people’s stories. We are meant to take the wisdom of these stories and translate it into our own lives. To visit stories like a well of knowledge and only drink when we are thirsty.

The stories that we dwell in, are like lights leading the way for us in times of darkness. They offer us maps, role models, ideas, and hope. They show us that change is always possible (in fact change is the only thing constant) and tempt us to embark on our own journeys.

Stories are paradoxically the way that we make sense of our current world while also how we create new worlds for ourselves. And it’s because of this double use that story is such a powerful tool!

If we aren’t examining the stories we lose ourselves in and why they move us so deeply, or explore the stories we use to narrate our lives, we are missing out on both fronts.

So how does this idea of stories fit with our exploration as to why it’s so hard to create and the lesson of our thoughts introduced last week through the notion of the garden maze?

As we have learned our creative impulses pop up inside of us and immediately afterwards our thoughts about creating follow closely. 

We often have thoughts of hope along with negative ones.

Each thought that pops up in us is a little seed waiting to be either nurtured or left to die.

The thoughts we nurture form our own unique garden maze.

It is our experience of walking through that garden maze that becomes our story.

Our stories help us make sense of this experience, but they can also trap us and trick us into walking the same maze again and again if we aren’t careful!

How do you experience your maze? What does it feel like to be in that tangle of thoughts as you create? How would you describe it? These are all clues as to your story. Our story is how we make sense of this tangle.

Here are some examples of how thoughts create stories:

Thinking “this isn’t right, not good enough, why do I bother” and then telling ourselves stories that “other people are talented I just wasn’t born that way.”

Thinking “everything I make is so childish” and then telling ourselves stories that “my creative projects are silly and don’t mean anything.”

Each thought we feed grows into a new story.

If we were to watch the film of your life, read your book, what would your story be about? What themes would be persistent in your story so far....

Is your story that nothing ever changes for you? No one ever changes?

Is your story that you don't deserve nourishment?

Is your story that it's too late for you?

What have you made up your mind about?

When you have decided that things are a certain way, you are feeding that seed encouraging it to grow crowding out space for everything else.

Certainty and absolutes are traps.

Let me share an example of my own story in my creative practice, perhaps you can relate....

My thoughts are often about the weight, the significance, the deep expression that I believe is necessary for my creative practice (a product of too much education and thinking about expression one might say!) I have a story that if I am going to make something is should be important and meaningful or it's not worthy.

I also have thoughts about my own skill set. That I am not good at anything measured, that requires time, or precision. I have a story about how I am a wild messy creative that can't do anything technical so I shouldn’t try.

I noticed how these stories were limiting me. So, I intentionally embarked on a playful creative project that required me to slow down and learn a new skill set. In fact, I followed a pattern, gasp! Not even my own original work?! How could this be deep and meaningful?

In the final days of my pregnancy over a year and a half ago I decided to give myself permission to create this embroidery. I was uncomfortable and so was the process.

Why bother? You are a fake? Copying isn't art? You are messing up the stitches!

Each negative thought I let fall aside and instead nurtured thoughts that served my new story.

Learning is exciting. Everyone has to start somewhere. No one begins an expert. Enjoy the process. Have fun.

Now I have this little embroidery on my wall. It has become a symbol of a new type of creativity for me. A departure from my old stories about being unskilled and serious, and a new one about being playful, present, and interested. I am still working on this new story. But it has taken root and continues to grow stronger each day.

This piece holds special meaning.

Your thoughts become your story, but at any time you can choose a new story and become aware of the thoughts you let grow. At any time, life may throw you a curve and require you to make a new story.

Is part of you ready to soften, get flexible, be more intentional, and finally let go of some old unhealthy thoughts?

In our creative exercise today, we are going to actually cut up and let go of the old stories that don't serve us so we can make way for new ones.

We started this journey of exploring our relationship with our creative practice by finding a symbol.

Last week we went deeper and explored how this object can help us see our thoughts about our creative practice through a simple creative writing exercise.

Today we will use our favorite character from fiction as a teacher and make space for a new story to emerge through colour and shape.

Check out my process featuring The Sound of Music and some surprising paper cutting beauty here.

Let’s jump into your creative process and story….

1. Think of a character from a film, book, or tv show that is beloved to you. Take a moment and recall or write out what this character’s journey is all about, or the wisdom that connects with you from their journey.

2. In a new journal entry take a moment and ask yourself what can this character’s journey teach me about my own creative practice and finding a new story about it?

Hold that wisdom close as you move to the second part.

We now want to make space for a new story to emerge.

Grab a piece of art paper and your favorite colour mediums.

You can choose to do this in a few different ways.

Write out the 3 words that you found in your writing exercise last week and jot out a few ideas around how they connect to your old or new story on your art paper.

Or take your writing from above with your fictional character and jot out a few of the key ideas on your art paper.

Layer on whatever colour, shapes, or lines feel right. It may be that a certain image or symbol has emerged for you that you want to depict. Trust your impulses and just add colour over your words.

Let your image dry. Take a pair of scissors and begin cutting the page into shapes. Again, trust your impulse. Is there a certain shape or line that feels right? Just keep cutting the paper until it feels complete.

Lay out your pieces and look at them. Are their pieces that you love or others that can be removed?Take a few pieces that are calling to you, play with them and lay them out in a way that feels right noticing shape, line, colour and texture.

Find an artful way to display the cut pieces.

As a close to this exercise (I promise this is where your insights will finally emerge!) take a piece of paper and begin writing “This space I have created is telling a new story about my creative practice by….. “

As always please share any part of your process or insights with me! Email me at :)

This is part of a larger series check out the rest below...


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