Creative Corner: Advice for the Multi-Talented Creative


Dear Riehlife,

I feel swamped after my first week teaching. Is my extensive creative life outside school as a dancer and workshop leader a dodge or escape or a wish for failure for my main work as a poet? What am I in quest of? Instead of spinning off in so many different directions, I resolve to focus in the coming 12 months, rather than undermine and fragment myself with too many commitments.

Can I just let myself be a poet without adding challenges on top of that? Can I feel good enough as I am? Can I simply express myself in my art? I long to feel that I am worthy without adding another layer (say becoming a nature mystic before I can be a worthy poet).

Creatively Swamped

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Dear Swamped,

From where I sit, focusing your prodigious talent and energies makes perfect sense. What are you in quest of? Wholeness, as I see it. But there is only so much of you to go around, and so the quest leads to fragmentation. I can relate, quite naturally.

It’s okay to be the poet you are without another layer. Part of the layering is a creative impulse, I believe, though. The layering is a quest for richness. Simpler is easier, and those that have trod that route have it easier. But, all that you have taken in through the quest for richness and wholeness and layering…all that is now you. All that will make your poetry richer. Do not renounce an iota of it. Going forth with focus makes sense, however.

We’ve both experienced that outside North America, “people appreciate and honor artists, seeing them as cultural makers and part of the intelligentsia”. They value such “meaning makers” (to use Eric Maisel’s phrase) and don’t need to ask how many millions they have made. In Europe, there is such a different response when I say I am an artist or a poet or an actress-storyteller. People become interested and ask intelligent questions about my work. In North America there is a commercial bias: “Have you sold anything? Can you make a living doing that? Would I have read anything you’ve written?”

Some creatives do hit commercial success. Others, such as myself, have simply made an agreement with themselves that they will support their projects and allow these to be a labor of love. These are different paths. Each of us finds our own. The important thing, I feel, is to consciously choose a path, allow the path to support your creative life, and give you enough happiness that your urge to create has a safe container.

Be well. Be happy. Yes, be focused.

“All will be well and all will be well
and all manner of things will be well.” –Dame Julienne of Norwich

Janet, a sister poet, also a layer-seeking-and heat-seeking-creature

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