Embrace the Werewolf: Finding Courage in Creativity
A young girl, age 12, smiles as she admires her latest drawing. Over the course of an afternoon, the beast has slowly come to life. She has captured the eyes of a tortured soul, the fangs of a hungry predator, and the furry face of a mythical creature of the night. A touch of blood dripping from the fangs gives a particular touch of realism.
She is proud of this werewolf portrait and is excited to have successfully moved the image in her imagination to paper. The mystery and danger of the subject are exciting and hint at a world yet to be discovered.
Running into the laundry room, she thinks, “Just wait until Mom sees this. She is going to be so impressed.”
Holding the paper behind her back, she eagerly approaches her mother, effortlessly beautiful even when folding towels. “Mom, look what I just made!” She holds out her masterpiece. Her mom takes a quick look, winces, and responds. “Ew, that’s scary! Why don’t you draw something pretty instead?” As the laundry recaptures her mother’s attention, the girl walks away, crestfallen.
A mixture of anger, confusion, and rejection swirl inside her. In the quiet of her bedroom, she learns an unspoken lesson: “It doesn’t matter if your work is good or bad; it needs to be liked by others. If you dare to create art, it needs to be pretty. Hide away ugly thoughts.”
As the young girl grows up she conforms to expectations and makes choices that are admired and respected. She doesn’t rock the boat. She keeps any wild non-conformist thoughts to herself. But there is a growing ache in her heart.
She dabbles in artwork, but keeps it at arms length, always self-deprecating the output. That is, if she even dares to share her creativity.
Married with two young children of her own, pushing into her mid-40s, she begins to awaken to the possibility that life is meant to be more than pleasing others and meeting their expectations. In a familiar dance, she strikes out with a creative offering, then retreats into self-doubt and a guarded heart.
She seeks validation in sales numbers and praise from others. Even when the praise comes it rings hollow. She has ideas, so many ideas, but there is no excitement. The joy of creating has turned into another way to conform and please others. She makes to-do lists, buys supplies, and gets organized. But then, nothing happens.
The young girl inside her continues to call out, making it known that she still needs to create, but needs to heal. She wants to follow the inspiration in her heart. It calls her to create something bold and new. Something challenging and exciting. Something mysterious and dangerous. Something for her, not for others.
The woman hugs the little girl. She tells her she is amazing and brave, and that her werewolf was scary and beautiful. She returns to her studio, with a new sense of freedom. She is ready to create new werewolves (whatever form they may take), and following the wisdom of her own heart.
“Recognizing that people's reactions don't belong to you is the only sane way to create. If people enjoy what you've created, terrific. If people ignore what you've created, too bad. If people misunderstand what you've created, don't sweat it. And what if people absolutely hate what you've created? What if people attack you with savage vitriol, and insult your intelligence, and malign your motives, and drag your good name through the mud? Just smile sweetly and suggest - as politely as you possibly can - that they go make their own fucking art. Then stubbornly continue making yours.”
― Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear