By Deborah Shouse, writer
1. If you could sum up your current creative process in one sentence what would it be?
Push beyond hesitation and doubt and follow my intuition.
2. How is your creative process supporting you to grow, change or transform?
Writing invites me into other people’s lives and that intimate window enriches my own life. By listening to others’ stories, my own story of the world expands. By writing others’ stories, I am a catalyst for connection.
Writing invites me deeper into my self, my soul, revealing a slithering mysterious path that defies mapping. In writing fiction or essays, I explore my life in new ways. I allow my subconscious to guide my words. Then I usher in my grown-up, grammar-laden rational mind to tidy up those lush ramblings so others can understand them.
3. What are the main themes you are exploring in your creative process at the moment?
I am exploring the roles that color, gratitude, laughter, and meditation play in my creative process.
I am drawn to color, but not to form. I am practicing the celebratory act of blobbing bright paint on paper without judging myself.
For three years, I have kept a gratitude journal. I am adding color-filled pages to the earnest hand-written gratitudes to see if that makes the gratefulness blossom.
Ha Ha Ha—I fell in love with Laughter Yoga and am now a Certified Leader. Does intentional laughing release creativity? He He He—I don’t know yet but it’s fun experimenting.
Sitting in silence in the small sauna in the room that used to be a side porch, trying to watch my breath, quiet my mind—will this modest meditation make my creativity flower?
For years, one of my passions has been helping people stay connected during the dementia journey. I am trying to listen to my heart, to see where else this passion can lead me and what imaginative sort of inner transportation will help me arrive intact.
4. What are you currently discovering inside of your creative process that might serve as an inspiration for other people's creativity?
Permission. I need permission from my self to set aside creative time. I need to laugh when I get stuck and enjoy the process, even when it feels more like quicksand than high tide.
Flow. The more I follow my own flow, even if it’s a trickle, the happier I am.
Humility. To boost my writing energies, which I see as my most creative expression to date, I invite in art. I dab a child’s watercolors on a thin piece of paper. I embrace any colors I put on the page and I enjoy them. The art is simply there, a moment in time. I don’t edit or critique, as I do my writing. I can’t pretend to be “good” at art.
5. How can we learn more about your creative work in process?
My blog DementiaJourney.org is the most visible expression of my creative work in progress. I write about creativity and dementia and about using imagination and creativity to stay connected during that challenging journey. I share my own ideas and I highlight other people as well.
My writing is also on other blogs and in magazines. My archives relax in TheCreativityConnection.com
I am quietly on FB in Dementia Journey and Deborah Shouse.
I have a written many books, some business-oriented, but my two favorites emerged from own experience. The first work-of-my-heart is my book Love in the land of Dementia: Finding Hope in the Caregiver’s Journey.
I started writing journal entries to make sense of my mother’s Alzheimer’s and I turned those notes, describing my interactions with my mom and my dad, into personal essays. Later, I compiled those essays into a book. It’s a love letter to hope and the essays hold deep meaning for me.
The second work-of-my-heart is not as emotional or psychologically deep, but it has a wider scope, a greater potential for helping people in a practical way, and provides a detailed compendium of creative ideas from experts around the world.
Writing Connecting in the Land of Dementia: Creative Activities to Explore Together introduced me to a beautiful group of individuals who have their hearts and souls engaged in helping people living with dementia live a rich and meaningful existence. (Shelley is featured in this book.)
Even as a child, I knew I wanted to write. Lying on my bedroom floor in Memphis, TN, I wrote stories about princesses. I kept a diary, pouring out my feelings and thoughts, a panoply of confusions, observations, and fancies. Fiction fascinated me and short stories were my first art form.
Then personal essays helped me see my life in a more universal context. Writing books for people became a creative challenge, wrestling with a vast amount of material, learning to excavate the story, working with the subject matter expert, tender as a nursemaid, finding words that allowed the story to sing, and then editing, rewriting, revising, editing, and so on.
My two books on dementia have made this non-fiction art form a passion, a catalyst for learning and for meeting wonderful people, and a tool for helping others navigate a complicated journey. These books have also offered me opportunities to speak, to read my own words aloud, to share in person with an audience and feel their responses, to connect with people struggling and to play a small role in easing their struggles. Through these books, my partner Ron and I have shared with care partners around the world.
My goal as a writer is to help people connect with themselves and others. I hope to help myself do that as well. I am currently impatiently waiting for my creative muse to lead me to my next heart-filled project.
An extra essay about how to take care of yourself as an artist:
The No-Share Zone
I am a disciplined person, especially when it comes to food. I watch what I eat. I regularly consume admirable quantities of fruits and vegetables. I strictly monitor my intake of sweets, resisting that deep craving to sink into the blissful blur of sugary extremes. I do not keep cookies, candy or cakes in the house. I rarely allow myself to order dessert in a restaurant. If I must have chocolate, I make sure I have to walk to the store (preferably through rain or snow) to get my candy fix.
But my discipline dissipates when it comes to the Personal Box of Chocolates.
When such a gift comes into my life, I abandon all pretense of sensible eating and sink into that rare environment that many adults silently yearn for -- the No-Share Zone.
This is what happened when a dear friend handed me a wrapped birthday present.
“Don’t leave this sitting out in the heat,” she said and I knew that the box contained chocolate. That night, I tore into the wrappings, then reverently removed the plastic that protected a small Whitman’s Sampler.
I eased off the lid and smiled when I saw eight pieces of cozily cradled candies.
That small box of chocolate transported me to that mystical Zone, where politeness yields to the primal and I embrace a supremely selfish, divinely decadent indulgence of the highest order. I was -- home alone. I was going to eat what I wanted, how I wanted, and I was not going to consider any other human being in the process.
Lavishly, I bit into two chocolates, the caramel and the coconut. I loved the insolence of only partially eating each one.
Then I reviewed the remaining chocolates, considering the order I might sample them in. I had no thoughts of calories or restraint—I had only the pure joy of possession.
Normally, of course, I love to share. Had someone been around, I might have pleasantly offered her a chocolate. Had my friend given me a larger box, I would have saved it for a party or meeting. But she wisely fulfilled the secret wish of the chocolate –obsessed: permission to graze, glory, gorge and revel in sweet sensation.
When I was growing up, the Whitman box came into our household once a year, a symbol of romance from my father to my mother. My mother, normally a very sharing person, kept tight rein on the Sampler. Her face looked almost pained as she offered my brother and me one chocolate each. I remember studying the map of those chocolates more carefully than I ever studied any atlas. Nuts, chews, creams, caramels -- making the right choice was crucial. After that one luscious candy, the box would disappear, hidden somewhere in my mother’s bedroom.
At the time I thought my mother was selfish and unfair. But now, I understood and applauded her. Like so many moms, I realized how much she had to share, all day, every day. I imagined how utterly luxurious she must have felt, surveying her box of chocolates, sampling, tasting, and savoring, without worry that anyone would interfere.
Like my mother before me, my candy box allowed me to simply care for myself. The bliss of the No-Share Zone, that lovely luxury of not worrying about even one other person, renewed and delighted me.
My small Sampler was an invitation to be frivolous and lavishly indulgent. I took a bite of a nut bar and let the flavors flow through my mouth. For this moment, I was feeding only myself and that made the taste of chocolate even sweeter.