I recently celebrated a birthday and it prompted me to consider how creativity changes as we age. Many witches use the idea of the triple goddess to represent the phases of the moon and the different stages in women’s lives. The ‘maiden’ aspect is youth, independence, freedom, adventure, wildness and new beginnings. The ‘crone’ is old age, wisdom, knowledge, experience and compassion. Currently, I’m in the middle, or ‘mother’ phase of my life. I’m not a mother in the traditional sense, but the meaning of the ‘mother’ goddess is about much more than having children. It’s a time of full maturity, fertility and creativity, of shaping ideas into action and nourishing them to fruition. The ‘mother’ goddess is emotionally, spiritually and physically powerful and fulfilled.
When I was in the ‘maiden’ phase of my life, I had an abundance of ideas, endless inspiration and spent large periods of time creating things. My ideas were undoubtedly quite narrow and lacking in depth, but what I did have was time and space in my head to create. I had limited responsibilities, lots of time outside school and university and fewer worries to occupy my thoughts. There was time for exploration and experimentation, but I didn’t have the life experience or breadth of vision to really take advantage of that.
Although we explore as young people, our exploration is often limited. In trying to find out who we are, we can become fixated on being part of this or that group, only listening to ‘cool’ music or subscribing to inflexible ideas. We can also become trapped by the labels we’re given, by what our parents and our peers think we should be. It’s a brave young person who can truly explore without limits. Youth often lacks confidence and this was certainly true of me. Though I recognised I was good at art and I suspected I might be good at writing, I had little sense of confidence in myself, let alone in what I created.
I’m amazed by the sheer brash confidence many of the teenagers I watch on talent shows these days have: they ‘know’ they have talent and they ‘know’ that they deserve to get a break. I wonder how much time I wasted not having that confidence and how my life would be different if I’d had it. Would I now be the successful writer / artist I want to be? But then, without the life experiences that I can now draw on in my work, my creativity would be something different, and perhaps something shallower, than it is.
Knowing what I know now, if I could give advice to my ‘maiden’ self, I would say take full advantage of the time and freedom you have to explore in your creative life. Try not to be limited by labels or by what you think you should create. It doesn’t matter if you fail in what you’re trying to produce, because you have time to begin again and again.
In the ‘mother’ phase of my life, I have many responsibilities and much less time. It can sometimes feel as though the time for exploration is over, that I will never have the same freedom for adventure that I once had. But I have so many life experiences to harvest. I’ve been exposed to the inspiration of so many other people’s creativity. The number and range of ideas I have (or can have) is just as abundant – the difference is that, I don’t always have the time and head space to incubate them. But my ideas now have more depth. I can consider other points of view without worrying about fitting in. I don’t think ageing always increases confidence – experience can just as easily grind it down. But I now have much more confidence in myself as a person than I did when I was young and I definitely have more confidence in my creativity.
I’ve found that the ‘mother’ phase can be a difficult one, filled with hard work and not always a clear reward. It’s the point in our lives when, if we’re fortunate, we’re building a career, a family, a home. We’re preparing the groundwork for the security we hope to enjoy in later life, but we can become so wrapped up in building, that we forget to carry on creating. It’s the time when we often forget to do all of the things that make us feel most fulfilled. So, while in theory we should be at our most creative and most alive, in my experience it can often be one of the least productive phases of our creative lives.
For me, these have been the difficult lessons of the ‘mother’ phase. But I know now what the important things in my life should be. I may forget them sometimes, and I may still get bogged down in day to day responsibilities, but I’ve realised that it’s not too late to explore. While I’d still like the freedom and the time to experiment more, I’ve never been more creative than I am now. I hope to spend the remaining years of my ‘motherhood’ on a new creative adventure, forging a strong verbal and visual voice to carry with me well into the wisdom of crone-hood.
Which creative phase of your life are you in? How has your creativity changed as you’ve got older?