At the time I wrote this piece I was living out on Dursey island for a few months. It was around the time of the Equinox in September 2021.
I hope you are really well this week and getting some time out in your favourite wild places. We’re blessed out here on Dursey today: the sky is clear and the sun has been shining brightly.
This time of year is a time of changing rhythms, changing seasons and often a time of starting new practices: its something I was mulling over today as I explored underwater in a favourite large tidal pool.
Sea swimming has become a daily habit: an opportunity to let go of work and drop into the amazing underwater world by the sea shore. With the full moon today and the equinox, the high tide was wonderfully full, the water was warm but with chilly waves rolling in with the incoming tide. It was crystal clear: great for spotting lots of fish, anemones, limpets, all sorts of seaweed and forests of kelp that move like multi-limbed sea creatures.
I was reminded of ‘My octopus teacher’ a wonderful documentary that I watched last year; Craig Foster, a South African filmmaker needed a radical change in his life and only knew that he had to be in the sea. One day, free diving in the Western Cape he happened on a little octopus, and recognised that there was something very special about her. He didn’t know what the outcome was going to be but his curiosity led him to visit her every day: following his deep desire to be in connection with the sea and its living creatures.
Its easy to look at the finished Oscar winning documentary, trace the journey of this wonderful octopus in her underwater forest, the incredible richness of the discoveries and feel that it was a seamless journey of exploration and creativity, but Craig Foster didn’t have a plan to begin with, he simply had this crazy idea: “What happens if I just went every day?”
The act of showing up day after day to curiously observe this octopus felt so powerful in its simplicity and resonated with my own experience of being in on-going connection, in a pattern and rhythm of showing up, with an open heart, open eyes and an open mind. It can be daunting to start something new; especially something creative. We can have all sorts of stories about not being good enough, not having the space to work in, or the right tools to work with or we can get fixated on a very set outcome. We don’t know when we follow our curiosity what lies ahead but one thing we can do is to begin a simple regular practice.
I had the experience of engaging in a powerful practice that started in March 2020 and continued for over a year. The practice was motivated by my need to find some stability in a lot of chaos at the time. I didn’t have an octopus to observe each day but I did have watercolour paint, ink and paper and I leaned into a daily process of painting with curiosity. I didn’t have an end goal, instead I observed, explored and let the simple practice be about showing up and seeing what happens.
I really got into this creative rhythm: a day was not complete without putting paint on paper. What I painted evolved and changed from abstract explorations to paintings of watery West Cork landscapes, to which I found myself inextricably drawn. And so here I am living in west Cork: I moved from Dublin a year ago. I celebrated the move by making a lovely set of cards from the year of paintings.
I still paint, draw or write each day and the power of a simple daily creative practice is something that I would love to encourage you to try. If you are curious to explore a regular practice, here are a few simple pointers that may help you begin:
- Set an intention: You do not need to head out to sea in search of an octopus! Decide on a very simple thing you can do each day: one page of writing, a small painting or sketch, one photo, free dancing, time in the garden, playing an instrument or any creative curiosity that takes something between 15–30 minutes. Anything longer than that I find can feel like just too much to start off with.
- Keep it simple! Don’t wait to have the perfect idea. The idea WILL change so just start with simplicity.
- Create a space/place: If you have to move things every time you want to do your daily practice you won’t do it, so make it really easy for yourself: create a little workspace or have the tools you need handy. It can be as simple as clearing a portion of a table and setting a time to begin.
- Let go of the outcome: Let go of any need for this to be beautiful, meaningful or in any way moving for you or anyone else. Let yourself be truly open to seeing this as an adventure of exploring what might appear.
- Find an accountability buddy: For the best possible chance of maintaining your practice ask one or more friends if they want to start a daily practice with you, or share your progress on social media or with a friend as a way of remaining accountable. Find a way that feels safe and manageable for you. Your check in could be as simple as a regular update on the number of days you’ve shown up. Its best not to go into any form of critique or judgement of what you are doing, just let this be a practice.
- Non-judgement: This is worth repeating: there is no winning or losing in this, there is only giving it a go. “Focus on the system not the goal. Be strict about showing up. Be lenient about the results and be gentle in bringing yourself back to focus again and again and again…” George Kau
- Reflect: You don’t need a goal but it is really good to set a time to reflect on your progress every now and again. This could be after 4 weeks/2 months/3 months. The reflection can be simply letting yourself see what you have been working; noticing any patterns in your journey.
- Celebrate: however far you get and whatever you achieve do find a way to acknowledge it: celebrate the awkwardness, the resistance, the messes, the beauty, the surprises, the disappointments and just the simple act of showing up.
Creativity is not a static thing it is a practice requiring regular tending and it is this on-going evolving relationship that opens us up to taking steps and leaps into the unknown. It doesn’t have to be an art practice. I believe we can all benefit from encouraging and developing our uniqueness in our own creative process and without attachment to a final product. I am interested in practices for you that allow you to open up and become more aware of how you bring something completely new into being.
Regular creativity creates change: when you open yourself up to showing up regularly something changes. You won’t really notice it at first but as time passes you will realise that something is different: you may feel different, you may perceive or see things differently or you might realise your skills have improved. For me I realised I see way more colours: when I look around, the world actually has more colour in it. Its like I got a photoreceptor upgrade!
So, let the changes unfold at their pace and just lean in to your daily pace. It takes courage to show up, especially when you don’t know what will happen, so go easy on yourself. And remember, I am cheering for you!
“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.” W.H.Murray