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The well of creativity and that devilish inner critic

Written on February 11, 2011
Story Tree Brooch

Story Tree Brooch

Creativity can bubble up unexpectedly like a well, when the right provocation is given. Yet how quicky that well can dry up if we treat it in the wrong way. Recently at a storytelling workshop and gathering in Brisbane, my colleague Darryl Bellingham, asked us to tell a story about a piece of clothing or jewellery we were wearing to the person next to us. I told the story of the red brooch I was wearing to the woman next to me. (I don’t know if she wants to be named, so I’ll call her Sandra.) “This brooch is special to me because I love trees, but also I love trees as a metaphor: the roots representing the roots of culture, ancestry, stories; the roots tapping into the deep pure water  of ancient collective wisdom; the branches carrying the sweet and bitter fruit of stories: their flavour changing as  times change.I imgaine us sitting in the deep shade cast by the story tree. “I called my business The Story Tree and I love the folktale of the same name as well as the world myths of the Tree of Life, the World Tree and The Tree of Knowledge. My partner has a property where there is a huge and probably ancient fig tree, which we named The Story Tree when my children were little. “This brooch was given to me by Victorian storyteller Julie Perrin. She was wearing one at a recent national gathering. I admired it and she offered to send me one. She did and I gave her a CD in exchange. ” Sandra was intrigued by this tale, but when Darryl said now swap, she grew pale and froze. “Oh no I can’t do it!” she said quite adamantly. I can’t do it I am not a performer!” Seeing that her self critic was at play, I repeated something I had been taught in a writing workshop in Sydney years ago. “Let it be terrible, let it be drivel. Let it be the worst story ever told!” My partner gazed into my eyes, listening, but still looking doubtful. So I said (because it has often been true for me), “You now sometimes, where we have the greatest resistance is where our greatest treasure is  buried. Just have a go and see what happens.” Something clicked in Sandra and she immediately launched into an exquisite poem. I was transfixed and awestruck. She painted vivid, stark pictures in few words. It sounded like a poem Sandra had written and polished for some time. As I haven’t got it written down, I can’t be objective- maybe it would have needed polishing- but few poets write a poem in one draft! For a first draft it was breathtaking! But what took my breath away even more was that as soon as Sandra finished her poem, she declared: “Oh that was terrible!” I was stunned. “Weren’t you listening?” I exploded. “From the bottom of my heart, that was just amazing. Go write it down this minute- before you forget it!! I wish I could write like that off the top of my head!!” I entreated her for a few more minutes, but then it was time to move on to the next exercise. We moved through lots of other inspiring activites, lead by the other Queensland Storytelling Guild members: Louise Phillips, Bettina Nissen, Alexandra McCallum and Gail Robinson. I am sorry to say that at the end of the workshop, I was so swept up with catching up with collaegues I hadn’t seen in some time, that I forgot to check in with Sandra- to see whether she would write down her poem. (If you are out there ‘Sandra’- please feel free to write a comment below about your side of the story!) Have you had that experience- the right provocation stimulating a bubbling of creativity? Have you felt that inner critic leap up and swat your bright idea down? It is certainly seems a lot clearer when you see it happen in someone else!

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