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  • Writer's pictureJen Greenway

Decolonizing Creativity

Lately, my creativity has been shot. It’s been waxing and waning for years, as is the case with most writers, but it’d been on a near-steady decline for the past year before culminating in the worst case of writer’s block I’ve ever faced. In my frustration, I tried all my old tricks to win back my creativity. I took baths and went for walks to freshen my mind. Some days I’d bribe myself into writing by pairing my favourite latte or my favourite curry with a writing project to make it more palatable. I dutifully developed a writing ritual...Hell, I even threw all that out and just sat down and typed painfully through the night while anxiety rose in my chest. Ideas were no longer free-flowing but rather being pulled aggressively from me. I knew they were in there and I had something to say, but I struggled to get it on paper.

Last night, in a last-ditch effort to console myself after yet another failed attempt to write, I decided I wanted to listen to an audiobook. As I scrolled through the titles I found one I’d purchased in 2015 but had never actually listened to. In fact, I had been saving it for when I got writer’s block but then had mostly forgotten about it. Every time I saw it on the app, I ignored it. This time, something felt right about it.

Well, everything happens for a reason.

The book is called Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert. Honestly, I’m not here to recommend it. The intersectionality in it is really lacking and it approaches creativity as if its only place is in art. She also skims over cultural mining and ignores how trauma and oppression kill creativity. You know I have thoughts on that, but I’ll save it for my podcast episode releasing this week. One thing that I did really appreciate about this book, however, is that Gilbert has what she describes as a magical view of creativity. She speaks of ideas being independent entities that choose the Beings who will bring them into this world. It caught my attention because it’s not altogether unlike the understanding of received Indigenous Knowledge, the Knowledge that is passed to you from Relations within the spiritual world. I won’t lie, I didn’t like the book. I did, however, appreciate the fact that my brain was quickly waking up after hearing something so familiar.

As Gilbert describes it, creatives have to keep themselves open to ideas that want to be channelled and have to respect them enough to work on them actively. Otherwise, the ideas will autonomously move on to find other Beings to bring them into this world. Her other caveat was that creativity requires your love and desire, so when you begrudgingly work you don’t invite creativity back safely. Noted.

I went to bed with the promise that in the morning I was going to invite creativity back safely and make space within myself to receive any Knowledge my Relations were trying to give me. When I woke up, I lit my sage and rolled out my yoga mat. Before I began my practice, I walked back and forth through my condo speaking loudly.

“Good morning Grandparents. I want to thank you for choosing me to channel your Knowledge. I know I’m always rushing and ignoring my lessons these days, so today I’m here. I’m slow. I’m making space.”

Then I began my smudge and prayer. My prayer was simple as I asked for space. My hopes and intentions, of course, were to open up any blocks I had formed within me that prevented Knowledge or ideas from entering. About ten minutes into my same old warmup, I could tell this wasn’t my practice. I didn’t need space. I continued on but as I went to enter into a split, my left hamstring refused to move even half of what I had expected it to, and my Spirit guided me out of the pose.

I tore my left hamstring origin a few years ago and it recently became inflamed, quite randomly. Falling into the split with ease wasn’t a problem even 3 months ago, but here I was with zero space in my muscle. I don’t get it. I do these poses all the time and they’re just getting harder. There has to be a lesson in there...Still, my Spirit told me that this isn’t my practice, so what is?

“Fuck it.”

I got up, lit my sweetgrass, re-smudged myself, and pulled my hair out of my bun so that it fell free. My Sony Bluetooth speaker played electronic renditions of meditative music with lo-fi beats. I just closed my eyes and fluidly moved through poses and movements at random. Humbly, I allowed myself to move in a way that felt comfortable and smooth with the music, pretty much any pose that didn’t hurt or get stuck. All the while, behind closed eyes I could see the connections around me, all the ideas and all the Knowledge, just waiting for me to be ready. My practice had quickly become about learning to move creatively again and to accept whatever movement my Spirit chose, and the more I moved and flowed the more I felt my mind opening up. Humility. Trust. Flow.

I finished my practice with a meditation, an apology and another promise. I closed my eyes and spoke to the connections I could see forming and swirling. If what Gilbert says is true and ideas and Knowledge who have been neglected will find other Beings to channel them, then I wanted to make sure that the creative ideas I have know I respect them. I wanted to make sure that they knew I took them seriously, loved and desired them, and also ensure that they knew I was sorry for neglecting them. I wanted to ensure that my Relations knew I was open to receiving Knowledge again too, so please pass on whatever you feel I’m ready for. Lastly, I promised to give my love and energy back to creativity and to stop blaming it for eluding me. I spent so much time thinking negatively about creativity in the past year that it’s no wonder it spent less and less time engaging with me.

Within seconds, I was overflowing with ideas and a need to write, plan, podcast and organize things. I had so many things rush into the front of my thoughts at once that I had to quickly grab a notebook and begin jotting down cliff notes for each section just so I wouldn’t forget. There was no way I’d be able to work on everything today but I was so excited to get to work!

The last year has been spent in turmoil as I attack my creativity, scare it off, coax it back, work it like a machine, then repeat. Of course, my past year has also been traumatic and I honour space for myself to feel that truth and heal from it. However, the harder I am on my creativity the longer it takes for it to return. My guess is that it’s partly because I’m scaring it off as Gilbert says but also partly because I’m closing myself off more each time I lose contact with my creativity. The fear and pain of not being able to create or create well enable a protective response in me, “Well if you’re going to leave, then I don’t need you anyway.” Except, I do need creativity. We all do.

My practice and spiritual conversation today was a pretty big lesson in humility and trust. I’ve had flows before where I did my own thing, but it’s always been with a goal in mind. I’ll step on the mat knowing that we’re doing grounding, strength, or flexibility. I know what poses I can use and I’ll find my way to them. This time was different. It was my Spirit telling me that I can’t be in control during this if I want it to work.

I’ve felt that way so many times while writing and it’s as if someone is working through me. The name for it is “flow state,” but to me, it’s when my Spirit is driving. I hadn’t felt that way in months and had lamented about my inability to work and focus deeply like I used to. In this practice my Spirit held me and said, yes you can. You just won’t let me do it anymore.

Tapping into our source energy and letting our Spirits interact with the world around us is a key part of maintaining creativity. All too often, we seek control and perfection from ourselves and our Spirits and it blocks our ability to connect to our creativity and engage with the ideas and Knowledge all around us. We have to break down the walls that we build up around ourselves that prevent us from tapping into that source. For me, it came with acknowledging that the lesson we expect from yoga isn’t always the lesson we need. How do you plan on breaking down the walls you build around your Spirit?



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