Creativity is not a luxury – it is an essential part of connecting to ourselves and our joy. Here, we talk with writer and poet Dr Rebecca Ray about her creative journey.
In our search for our very first Creative Feature, the raw and beautiful words of Dr Rebecca Ray made her an obvious choice. Rebecca’s instagram feed is a favourite, and her poems often sum up all that we are going through, growing through and learning through as women.
Here, Rebecca shares with us her own creative journey, and how we can all start to find our own art in life.
What does creativity mean to you?
For me, creativity is a process of speaking with my soul. It means reaching inside myself with curiosity, openness and willingness to find my truth. It means turning that truth into something to be shared –
it’s the bridge between me and you that shows us that we are the same.
When someone is creative, they have access to an internal wellspring of magic – one that is capable of holding, healing, birthing and connecting.
My wife is a musician – a dreamy singer/songwriter and a ridiculously talented composer. The best way to describe her creativity is “innate”. It’s in her cells. If she is prevented from making music, she becomes psychically unwell – frustrated, stifled, disconnected. Her creativity has evolved. She once viewed it as an indulgence because making music doesn’t fit the stereotypical “real job”. There’s an understanding between her and creativity now; they are one and the same. She understands it’s her calling to make music and no longer resists it in favour of “fitting in” with a more stereotypical vocation.
What has your journey with creativity been like?
I enjoyed writing poetry as a child. I think I still have my first collection of poems that I wrote somewhere around the age of 10, made into a “book” (i.e. a purple manila folder with binding clips) and distributed to my parents and grandparents! At 15 though, I decided that I wanted to be a psychologist. After school, I studied a Bachelor of Business (Human Resource Management) combined with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. I thought I would find out all the secrets for why people do what they do (I was wrong!)
In your young adult years and early career how did you manage the stressful times?
In my early 20s, I often managed stress in maladaptive ways – I became more perfectionistic, more racy and inflexible in when things should be finished, and did whatever I thought would lead to me feeling good enough or gaining approval from others. Sometimes, I used helpful strategies like seeking professional supervision and talking things over with my best friend, but most of the time I was a victim of my own perfectionism.
What about the dark times in life?
I’ve had many breaking points and they’ve all looked different. The most recent one occurred when I went too long before acknowledging that I was burnt out. In my quest to “do the right thing” (by everyone else except myself), I worked too much, for too long. Although I consider therapy as a form of art, I had become incredibly disconnected from myself. From the outside, I was functioning normally. Internally, I was crumbling. I felt ghostly – a soulless shadow of myself with nothing left over for anything other than recovery at the end of the day. I felt like a walking lie. The inauthenticity dug into my sternum like an ill-fitting bra. I finally saw that the sense of being trapped was part of the deceit of perfectionism. It was all a lie that constantly left me empty as I tried to prove myself.
How did you move through it?
I decided to free myself. I closed my practice (for 18 months, but at the time I thought it was indefinitely) and I gave myself the space to heal.
What things did you do in this time to heal?
It was during this time that I became acutely aware of the urge to create and how long I had ignored this need. I started writing and reading and listening to all the parts of myself, not just the critical voice that had previously been my boss, captor and director. I wrote Happi Habits and once I’d finished that I still felt like I was on the surface. I started my personal writing Instagram page and started writing for myself only. I essentially kept it secret while I tested the waters in finding my voice and finding my courage to connect with an audience authentically and from a place that was undefended and deep. In doing so, I found this amazing community of like-minded people who spurred me on to keep writing. I felt like I came home to myself.
I remember early on with my personal Instagram page, a follower sent me a DM to say how much my writing resonated with her and that she felt such truth in my words. It was a simple message but I felt profoundly grateful because it was then that I had a “wow” moment in realising I had reconnected with not just writing, but my calling: to write to tell the truth about life and use words as a bridge for connection.
I now just feel more whole as a person. I have found flow on a regular basis. I think I’ve become nicer to be around because I’m back with myself. I’m far less perfectionistic. It has helped me heal and helps me to continually explore parts of myself that I don’t yet know completely. I get excited about things because my life is far more balanced with creativity in it. I am kinder to myself. And living creatively has led me to more of “my tribe” – people who get what the creative life is about and value it for themselves.
How do you ensure you stay in the present and not switch back into perfectionism now?
My favourite mindfulness technique to get out of your head and back into the present moment is a grounding technique designed to bring attention to the present moment through the senses. It only takes a minute or two and can be done out loud (more effective and a great game to play with kidlets who are verbal) or in your head (especially if you’re stressing about everything you’ve got to do while waiting at traffic lights or in a queue):
4 things I can see
4 things I can hear
4 things I can feel (make sure feelings are external e.g. ring on my finger, collar on my neck, NOT heart racing)
(make subsequent items different each time)
3 things I can see
3 things I can hear
3 things I can feel
2 things I can see
2 things I can hear
2 things I can feel
1 thing I can see
1 thing I can hear
1 thing I can feel
To help me put down my phone (because I can easily convince myself that scrolling and liking and commenting on Instagram is always work!), I also use an app called Forest. It works on the Pomodoro technique of productivity bursts for 25 minutes at a time. Activating Forest means I start growing a tree. The tree doesn’t fully grow until 25 mins is up. If I interrupt the tree to do something on my phone in that time, I kill the tree. I don’t like killing even digital trees, so it works for me!
What are your thoughts on creativity in daily life?
My thoughts are that it is essential – in whatever form it takes. I don’t think someone needs to identify as an artist (irrespective of artistic genre) in order to claim that creativity has a place in their lives. You can be creative in your parenting, in your house renovations, in your morning yoga practice. It doesn’t matter. But for me, without creativity my soul doesn’t have a voice. And I don’t ever want to live in silence again.