Haven Winter Blog Series #5: “Finding Your Creativity”

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Every winter I give my blog over to alums of Haven Writing Retreats who have all come to Montana to dig deeply into their creative self-expression, using the powerful and transformational tool that is writing.  Leading Haven Writing Retreats is my way of giving the support I was either too stubborn or too scared (likely the latter) to give myself in all my years of writing.  It is my deepest pleasure and honor to offer this powerful program, which is really a writing retreat and a writing workshop in one, to people who long to learn how to write a memoir, how to write a novel, how to become a writer, how to write a story, how to start a book, or simply how to find their unique voices and stories…and set them free!  The Haven Writing Retreats community is all about continued support, and the annual Haven Winter Blog series is one way that we offer just that.  My blog is their blog, and in it we parse the creative questions that so many of us have.

This year’s theme is one of my favorites so far:  ”How do we give ourselves the permission to be creative in the first place…and what does that look like?”

In the next weeks, while I go into the winter dormancy of Montana and give myself my own permission to write, these Haven alums will be diving into their heart language to share with you how they show up for themselves creatively.  I hope you enjoy their posts.  I will be chiming in with some of my favorite winter recipes along the way 

so stay tuned, stay warm, making a nice cup of something soothing, and “lend an ear.”  From Haven to you.  yrs. Laura

Now Booking 2016 Haven Writing Retreats in glorious Whitefish, Montana:

February 24-28 (one spot left)
June 8-12
June 22-26
September 7-11
September 21-25
October 5-9
October 19-23

Post #1



A Feather Tipped in Glitter

I have been saving a particular picture of white feathers with their tips dipped in silver glitter as inspiration for my holiday decorations. I could envision their creation long before I had them dangling from a simple piece of string. I strung them as garland outside the entrance to my yoga studio. I decorate the studio on a regular basis and keep my eye out for creative ideas to set the scene for a beautiful yoga experience. I like to change the scenery to impart a feeling of care in the space. I want a fresh palate of texture to inspire and invite the idea of possibility and permission for something new or different.  When I opened the yoga studio, two years ago, I was not expecting ownership or teaching to be so influential and instrumental in developing my creative expression.

My relationship with creative expression and teaching yoga has been a steep learning curve.  I consciously create classes and teach them in full fear. The physician in me wants to teach physically sound yoga classes and the creator in me wants to teach classes that are touching and profound. I tell myself to accept that new skills take time. It is not and will not be perfect, ever.

Laura Munson, bestselling author and founder of Haven writing retreats, once shared that there are two kinds of writers.  There are those that plan and those that write by the seat of their pants.  I am the latter.  Apparently, I decorate, write and teach yoga the same way. I find an idea and I go with it.  It is the creative consideration that inspires me.  Whether a blank page or an empty yoga studio, I love having the space for an idea to emerge and come into being.

Unlike decorating and writing, teaching yoga has an element of here and now. Teaching requires flexibility of structure and immediate adaptability.  It requires that I decide, execute and be in relationship with my work in full view in real time. It provides me with immediate feedback. Teaching feels like there is a lot on the line. It matters to me that people connect to themselves in a deeper way. Creating a special effect with glitter and feathers feels like a small order compared to the tall task of creating sanctuary in the minds and bodies of human beings.

By nature of teaching weekly classes I am in a constant creative mode. I have developed a healthier level of comfort with trusting creative ideas.  I can more easily see the way a concept could be presented in an important way. When I am open to letting something grab my attention, I can potentially bring it to life. When an idea sparks my inner creative imagination I begin to formulate and consider where I can take it.  I let myself imagine.

My creativity is often inspired by what is already close to me.  It lies in daily conversations, pictures, activities and single, quiet thoughts.  I was recently studying the yoga word, Svadhyaya. It means self-study or self-inquiry. I caught myself thinking, “What do I stand for?”  What came to me was mountain pose. It is the yoga pose of standing.  I began to consider all of the ways we use the word stand; stand up, stand tall, stand for, stand out, stand back, stand a chance, stand corrected and so on and so forth. All of a sudden, standing had new possibilities. I could imagine my students standing for five minutes with permission to explore their minds and hearts in relationship to these words and concepts as a way of self-inquiry.  I created a class around a word, a concept and a pose. I could imagine students standing against a wall, standing alone, standing back to back with someone else, and lying down as if they were standing horizontally. With a familiar word I created a new format to teach a yoga and creative writing class. I had something to offer and place for it to go.

Perhaps yoga is teaching me to take a stand for my own creative expression. It is teaching me to trust my “fly by the seat of my pants” nature.  I am learning to accept my desire to be creative as an honoring of my souls desire to express and create change. Teaching has given me permission to let go of fear and be led by what inspires and matters to me. It has encouraged me to embrace being seen, here and now, like a feather tipped in glitter.

- Erika Putnam, founder of Yoga 430

Post #2


I must confess, my perception of creativity has changed and grown as I have gained experience, wisdom –ah yes, we can say it – collected years!

Creativity was always something spoken about, taught, shown, and encouraged while I was growing up.  My mother studied sculpture with Waylande Gregory.  His art studio was tucked behind our neighborhood on the Watchung Mountains in New Jersey.  It was a marvelous place to explore and learn that a lump of earth could become a beautiful piece of art.

My mother also sewed our clothes, and stitched beautiful crewel embroidery.  So there was always fabric, thread and yarn to play and make things with.  There was also paper, paints, pencils, anything in arms reach you could think of to use in a diorama for school, or to decorate a doll house.  It surprised and baffled me when I would go to others children’s homes to visit – these items were not there. Or at least not in sight.

Even in college I was painting or drawing, between learning to study to become a teacher.  When I opened The Giving Tree Day Care having items to explore and create things with was first on my list.

Happily both of my daughters draw, enjoy museums and will stop to look at how the light plays on tree leaves.  Creativity is not just something you do with your hands – you first explore and appreciate and question with your eyes.  Then it becomes a part of you, like your own heartbeat.

Now after beholding the beauty of Montana, the faces of Haven, of watching letters:  words explode from my thoughts and park on the page.  
The creativity in my life has changed from paints and brushes, and now grows stronger when writing.  I make a conscious effort to create every day.  Most of the time it is organizing ideas on morning pages.  Some of my blog posts and even a few poems  started while evaluating these ideas and concepts.  After I returned from Haven in September 2012, I created the Touched By Words blog, that I post each month, which allows me to see where the creative process can take me.  Beginning my first novel has given me much more than I ever thought was possible. From providing a gag for my inner critic.  To introducing me to some of the most amazing people.  Authors from all walks of life, in all different genres and all with this amazing warmth and charity to share whatever they have, and whatever they know.  Which allows me to learn more about myself and practice the process to create even more beautiful pieces of written art.  With proper sentence structure, formatting, the mechanics of the art– with words.

In my home, you will see my mother’s sculptures and her beautiful Japanese silk embroidery.  You will also see a writing nook tucked in a dormer, surrounded by paintings, drawings and my children’s art work when they were young.  You will find five desks on three floors that invite you to come sit and explore for your self. Each is different, but contain a few of the same things: scented candles, a variety of colored pens, a plant, art, poetry books, empty pages waiting to be filled.  You will find a yard with a stone dragon sleeping, several Cairn stacked after I returned from Haven, that welcome you to this space near a hammock, close to a bench behind tall azalea bushes or under a canopy.  Where a flat stone serves as an outdoor desk.

Until I began to write this piece, I honestly never took a tally of how many places we have in our home that beckons one to come, sit and create.  Yet I’ve known all my life how important it is to give yourself permission to be free and unafraid to explore and try.  No matter what it is – doodling, painting, coloring with crayons – or for me, right now, to write.  Anything I want, as much as I want, to create something kept private, or to share it with the world.  It is whatever YOU decide to do, but just like taking in oxygen, you have to automatically give yourself the chance to make it happen.  Stop holding your breath and breathe!  I’m worth this and so are you!  Make daily writing a non-guilty pleasure!

So I invite you, urge you, suggest, shout and sing to you! Give yourself permission to find your voice, write, draw, put to music, whatever it is you choose to tell your stories with and allow them to take flight.  You may just surprise yourself and find joy.

Breathe Deep, Think Peace,

- Patricia Young Pattyyoungblog.wordpress.com

2016 Haven Writing Retreat Schedule:
February 24-28
June 8-12
June 22-26
September 7-11
September 21-25
October 5-9
October 19-23



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10 Responses to Haven Winter Blog Series #5: “Finding Your Creativity”

  1. Dearest Erica, What a beautiful piece! Now I have to find the feathers I have tucked away and experiment with glitter! I very much enjoyed reading your work, it was as if you were standing there with me reading! A lovely voice!

    The line, “By the nature of teaching…” really resonated with me. Teaching is such a gift – for student and for teacher. I have no doubt your students benefit much more than finding their balance and center with you as their guide. If I may ask – where is your studio? I’ve only taken two yoga classes in my life – one I actually completed at our community center – the first, well when I realized the temperature was not because someone forgot to lower the thermostat I knew I’d be in trouble fast!Lol!

    When you said you create your classes with word, concept and pose – I was immediately reminded of something called San Mitsu in Japanese I believe the translation is, thought, word and deed. If one thinks of a three legged stool. You need all three of these things to sit balanced – if any one is missing, you fall or fail. Your teaching embraces these three very simple, but very powerful words. Anything can be achieved in life, as long as you have San Mitsu. You have achieved something wonderful, in your words and your practice! :)

  2. Pingback: Finding Your Creativity | Touched By Words

  3. Kathy

    Dear Patty, What a beautiful piece. Throughout is a thread that binds generation to generation. Your Mom’s, yours and your daughters each of you are drawn to similar forms of creativity. This trait is not learned, it’s innate.

    I used to believe that creativity meant being artistic. Painting, floral arrangements and decorating were what creativity was about. It took me many years and a book with a horseshoe shape on the cover for me to realize that creativity meant expressing yourself through the things you do. It may be cooking, gardening, photography or speaking to others. I love how you recognize your evolution through different realms of creativity. Now settled with the one that holds your heart; your words are inspiring, your thoughts empowering and your heart, well your heart comes through in everything you do. Keep doing it.

    • You are incredibly kind and generous with your words and your actions. A very rare friend indeed. Thank you so very much! I see many more visits to the lake, glasses of wine, much laughter and a pile of nuts! XO

  4. Peggy Thomaston

    Dear Pat, Your thoughts and words have stirred my memories and emotions this morning. I have so enjoyed exploring your interest and home.
    Your Mother, my Aunt Faye, was such a treasure and love in my life. Her personality and creativity are definitely living on through you.
    Thank you so much for sharing them.

    • Oh Peggy you make my heart sing! I carry an ache with me every day, being so far away from family. I can’t tell you just how much your words mean to me. Thank YOU so much for reaching out to share them. I love you bunches! XO

  5. Erika, thank you for sharing how your journey to create inspiring yoga classes encouraged you to stand tall! Two of your lines jumped out at me. (1) “The physician in me wants to teach physically sound yoga classes, and the creator in me wants to teach classes that are touching and profound.” In my line of work, Elder Law, I too feel this pull, and I like how you give yourself, and me the reader, permission to do both! (2) “Teaching has given me permission to let go of fear and be led by what inspires and matters to me.” Hear, hear!

  6. Patricia, you are such a kind, creative soul. My favorite line of yours is “… and sing to you.” What a lovely gesture of encouragement. You are blessed to have so many interesting places that call to you to come and create. However, I suspect your soul knew what it was doing when it inspired you to create these nooks. I’m glad you listened and visited them so you could share your thoughts with us. My grandmother and great aunts created beautiful crewel embroidery pieces, too. My mother framed a few for her, my brother and me. I turned tattered seat cushions into throw pillows to give as Christmas gifts one year. Thank you for sharing your lovely thoughts. They brought a smile to my face this morning.

    • Dear Susan,
      Thank you so much for taking the time to leave such a lovely message. I’m very glad you shared your memory of the embroidered pieces, which as we both know, are stitched more with love than thread. My mom would have said they were making memories for you!
      Breathe Deep, Think Peace

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