“Your forehead smells like a lost corridor, as you move towards the staff quarters of a Balearic hotel”. Pete.
Born on the day of verbal acuity, Pete has always had a way with words. He manages to articulate and translate the world in the most remarkable ways. Sights, smells and experiences are all wrapped up in alarming, acrid metaphors. Vivid, corporeal and often crude, he speaks the world alive in ways that often leave me awestruck. And often lost for words. Which is ironic because my writing business is called Found for Words.
As a professional writer, I’ve never really seen myself as a writer. It’s just something I do. I think most people don’t see themselves as writers but it’s the one thing we can all do. Given half the chance. We can all pick up a pen and see what happens when it lands on the page. Sometimes we just haven’t given ourselves permission. We get in our own way and forget that it’s ok to let the words pour out. That no one even has to read them.
“I’m not creative”, we say.
“I can’t write”. Says who?
We humans are creative by our very nature. We all have gifts that can remain cloaked and hidden from view. We’re taught to play small. Don’t show off, don’t get too big for your boots, don’t make a mess with that paint. I remember being sent to the headmaster’s office, when I was 6 years old, for painting with my hands. It was a traumatic ordeal for everyone, as the teacher tried to drag me out of class and I pulled back, begging for mercy. Terrified of being told off. Forever living in fear of colouring outside the lines. For some folks, being ‘creative’ is somehow deemed a waste of time. Airy fairy. Feminine. Lacking in substance and never going to pay the bills. I hadn’t realized my Dad was creative till I got older. He was always a businessman in a suit, working hard to give us the best possible start, middle and end. He found ways to channel and contain his creativity but he would often, and generously, remind me of that wise old maxim, “do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.” But how do you know what you love if you’ve been working every god damn day of your life?
Yesterday, Pete and I were sat in the gardens of a beautiful ashram in Rishikesh, India. Above us and all around us, monkeys were bouncing through the bright green canopy; doing forward rolls, playing and tumbling across the lawn. We spotted a chameleon on the tree. Ochre-salmon head and needle-long tail. Before our very eyes it changed colour and became the bark of the tree. We watched him shapeshift as he moved in on the ants, then leaping from the tree to hide against the stone, as the monkey circus got closer. I was interviewing Pete for a piece I’m writing on yoga and relationships.
“How has yoga had an impact on your life?”
“It’s provided an environment that’s allowed a slow shifting of my own priorities. In some stupid ways, like giving up my job.”
I think most people have told Pete he’s stupid for giving up his job to travel the world for a year. “I’m 35 and taking a gap year”. “So?” I reply, with his favourite retort. Who gives a shit what other people think? But we do. And that’s what often locks down our creativity. Our longing to know ourselves. To understand our place and purpose in the world. Being creative means opening yourself up and expressing yourself means exposing yourself to criticism, judgement and other people’s projections. It means making yourself vulnerable and that is something we’re frightened of. Being vulnerable takes courage. Having watched the acclaimed talk on The Power of Vulnerability by Brene Brown, I’ve learnt that allowing yourself to be vulnerable, and letting yourself be seen, is powerful. It’s how we grow and get bigger.
Taking a year out of life to grow and get bigger takes guts. Sure, it’s risky. There’s no structure any more. You’re only answerable to yourself. There’s no excuses. There’s nowhere to hide. There’s no income, security, normality or façade. It’s just you and your longing.
So every morning, Pete reaches for his book and writes. He looks around at the world with a keen eye and creates something from nothing. He’s written the script, and gathered half the footage, for a short film. He’s started writing a book. He writes a new poem every day and he’s rarely without his journal or his Kindle. He is travelling through himself and exploring his gifts and that is not only brave but it’s human. He is alive. He is curious and he is an inspiration. He reads his work to me and I watch his feet rub together self-consciously, as he offers up his creations. He listens and we share our written words, holding a safe space, free of judgement, where we can both unfold. Where we can both be more alive, more free, more available to receive ourselves, each other and the gifts that lie beneath.