I am a writer and activist and speaker. A baker of pies and lover of learning. A feminist and a freedom seeker. An artist of salt water and maps, adaptation and liberation. I work with those crossing thresholds: sex and unlocked voices, birth and death, artists and seekers coming home to the body and holy human. I am co-creator of In Her Skin and the founder of Writing Freedom Society.
I write for print publications and online and will be writing and studying as a presidential scholar fellowship recipient at Chicago Theological Seminary this year, exploring intersections of embodiment and ethics, gender and presence and cartography of faith. Check out Isabel at: www.isabelabbott.com & www.listsandletters.com
Wildly Creative: Creativity is . . .
Isabel: Both a way of being and of doing to me. It is life force, and the human movement toward creation, collecting and gathering from the shards and pieces, the moments and hints of illumination, and placing them together in a way that makes new sense, makes meaning, sometimes makes beauty, makes conversation and connection. It is about connection. And creativity is also about ways of seeing, the capacity and choice to look at a thing in a different way, or from a different angle and perspective, and imagine what before that moment had never existed in exactly that constellation. It is also pure joy. The surrender to the fire and the grief of the ashes and the joy in our own evolution.
Wildly Creative: What is your advice that you would offer to anyone wishing to design their own creative life?
Isabel: Don’t think so hard, or try so hard. Creativity, a creative life, is not about doing this thing over here, or that over there. It is not a diagram or a chart or a path with neatly defined steps. And so maybe we don’t have to give so much effort to working at having a creative life, and we could just be here fully alive in the ins and outs of things. So I suppose I would say, make a royal effing mess, and then let it burn, and go make another one. Be open to not knowing, to the unknown, to the liminal and the cracks of light that pierce through and how after that the room you always knew familiar, even in the dark, is now a mystery to you. Remain ruthlessly devoted to your own curiosity and compulsions, those threads that tug at you and stitch through all the pieces of your days and life and all these years later you are still wide awake at night, wondering the mechanics of a tractor or the texture of silk or why the women in the statues you saw as a child never had heads. Invite them in and follow where they lead. And then go do as you do, be as you be, and to hell with everything else.
Wildly Creative: What is the advice you wish someone shared with you about pursuing your passions and feeding your creative self?
Isabel: Though I’m not sure I would have listened (I don’t like being told what to do), I would say that I wish someone had pressed upon me the importance of having a room and money and body and life of my own. These things did not happen for me until later in my life, and they changed everything, and I would not go back to the other way again. I think for me it is about freedom. To pursue my passions and feed my own creative self is to have the freedom to truly follow where that leads, as opposed to what will be most “marketable” or what someone else thinks I should be creating or doing or birthing. Making my own money, feeding myself in every sense of the word, has allowed me the gift of knowing my creativity and my creations arise from my own Source, and my own heartbeats and my own vocation. I pay for my own space and I have my own space, and it is here where I can write and create and be alone, and for me, this is vital. I suppose the simplest way to say it is, I wish someone had told me that all these things are mine, belonging to me. Because to know this and live this, is to have the agency to be fully alive in my own creative expression.
Wildly Creative: Creatives are usually the ones breaking the rules and little bits of misfits. How are you making sure to hold true to breaking the rules?
Isabel: Usually it feels more like choosing to just go within and do things my own way rather than follow the program or steps given, and in the process, this often means I’m breaking “rules” and walking on the outskirts or fringe, not fully fitting in with the stronger current of how things are done. I attend to this by choosing to step away for periods of time. To not read or take in any information “out there” so that I might be able to more clearly hear my own voice. When there are so many voices, so much noise, it can be hard to distinguish what is a voice and what is an echo. And I want to know and have a voice. For me this means being in the quiet sometimes. And from this place, when I do return to the wider world, whether I’m following rules or breaking them, it is still my choice, arising and originating in my own self, which is crucial to the integrity of my creative visions.