I’d like to welcome Isabella Mori, a Twitter friend, to the Creative Path Series. Read more about her and her pursuit of creativity, and feel free to add comments below.
Isabella Mori is a Vancouver writer and counsellor. Born in Germany to the painter Juergen von Huendeberg and his wife Elisabeth, she has lived in the UK, Paraguay and Chile. She immigrated to Canada in 1982. Isabella is the mother to three wonderful children and grandmother to the two most perfect grandsons ever to grace the universe.
While her mother tongue is German (and her grandmother tongue Russian), she writes mostly in English, with a little German and Spanish thrown in for spice. She blogs about psychology, creativity, spirituality and social justice at change therapy.
1. How long have you been a creative?
As Picasso said, “All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.” I was just lucky that growing up in an artistic family, not all of my creativity got stunted (although being told to take up the violin when I was 5 sure put a damper on my musical creativity). I was fascinated with typewriters all my life and made my first money by typing addresses for an invitation to a gallery opening for my father, who was a painter. And what did this 6-year-old do with it? Buy a fountain pen. I tried my first novel when I was 11.
Now you might say that because I talk about typewriters and novels, I should have said that I’m a writer. Which I am. But it’s more than that – and yes, I said “it’s”, not “I am.” The expression of my creativity may be most obvious in the word – in writing, and in conversation (I make my money as a counsellor) – but it is everywhere. “It” – creativity – moves through me in many ways, be it cooking, writing, thinking … it’s everywhere.
2. Is this your full time job? A career goal? A hobby?
It’s what I do.
3. If this is not your full time career, do you struggle to make time for this? Is there anything you do to ensure you make time?
While I also do lots of writing for my paid work (among other things, I blog and create resumes and artist’s bios), I do struggle often with making space for other creative writing efforts. Note I said “space” – not time. Making time is relatively easy (e.g. for a while, I did not allow myself to go to bed unless I had written a poem); making headspace is a bit more challenging. In the end, “just do it” wins just about every time, for example when I participate in NaNoWriMo, the annual challenge on the internet to write a 50,000-word novel in the month of November.
4. If this is your full time job, how did you achieve this?
The part that is my paid work – the easy answer would be “it just happened.” However, this “just” was long and arduous. First, I inched myself closer and closer, not even knowing what I was doing. I always found a way to carve out a creative niche for myself, although for the longest time, it wouldn’t have occurred to me to call it that. The strangest time was when I worked for a lawyer and would occasionally make incomprehensible mistakes; only later did I realize that was my creativity forcing its way through. Shortly after, when I was going through a difficult separation, I was able to make the jump into the counselling field. Education – university and all that – gave me some credentials but also sharper tools in thinking and expressing myself, mostly through taking courses in philosophy. I’d say I’ve achieved where I am right now through refusing to work in an environment that does not allow me to be creative.
5. How do you deal with “naysayers”… you know, those voices/people who keep asking when the phase is going to pass? Or negative criticism about your work/creative endeavor?
I don’t hang out with people who are unsupportive of who I am.
As for most of us, the biggest challenge are my inner gremlins. There is the Procrastinator, then there is Mr. Nobody-Cares-What-You’re-Doing and good ol’ You’ll-Never-Be-Able-To-Finish-This. The trick is to catch them talking out loud, then I can usually do something about it. The Procrastinator is easily defeated by simply doing one little thing – even a little haiku on Twitter – right now. The “nobody cares” voice can often be countered quite rationally by saying that a) it doesn’t matter and b) remembering there are at least a handful of people (including myself!) who do. The last one is the trickiest; being accountable to others really helps there. Unfortunately, finding someone suitable and reliable to be accountable to can be hard. But as I said, being attuned to those negative is a bit difficult; I’ve always been the kind of person who is more successful dealing with a direct challenge than with the quiet, subtle manipulation that those negative voices are so good at.
6. What would your dream project be?
Oh Gawd, you want the list? Ok, here’s one thing: I’ve always wanted to be a corporate philosopher. Work in a biggish organization, wandering the halls having deep conversations with people. Mostly for the fun of it (I’m really, really big on fun!) but also to help the organization become wiser, more creative and more humane, and to become a better force for the good in the world.
7. Is there something you have worked on that you are especially proud of? Or received accolades for?
There’s a few things that I look back on with a big grin on my face. Creating Mental Health Camp with my friend Dr. Raul Pacheco-Vega, a conference about the intersection between social media and mental health, is one of them, particularly since the 3rd Mental Health Camp had a strong artistic component. Another one is my Tea Table Book which I created with my friend and book coach Carol Sill. In it, I make poetry more accessible (I hope) by accompanying each poem with a little story. Receiving the annual best thesis award from Athabasca University for my little opus on transformative learning in distance education wasn’t bad either.
8. What does creativity mean to you?
I’m sorry but I never know what to make of the word “meaning.” That’s what happens when you deal with words a lot. It’s hard to just glide over them; their sound, their many dictionary meanings, they way they look on a page, even the way they feel in the body when I say them – all of it easily sparks thoughts, associations, dreams, none of it seems insignificant. But I guess before I write a few pages about the many possibilities I see in this question, I’ll move on to the next question …
9. What advice would you give to others trying to follow a similar path?
DON’T STOP! Whatever it is that you’re doing – pottery, dance, writing, filmmaking, anime, oil paintings, throat singing – DON’T STOP! It doesn’t matter whether it’s “good” or “bad” or “mediocre”, DON’T STOP! Follow your creative urge because it’s the spark of life – not just for you but for the whole wide world.