One Great Big Creative Experiment
A Conversation with SARK
by Laura Didyk
Giving into creative urges and desires can be scarier than we predict. Sometimes, we even resist acting on them at the cost of our own happiness. In this conversation, SARK (Susan Ariel Rainbow Kennedy), author of the books Creative Companion, Inspiration Sandwich, and many others, talks about how she decided to make her creative dreams real—and help others along the way do the very same thing.
Kripalu Online (KOL) In your first book, Creative Companion, you wrote that after 25 years of procrastination you finally gave into the dream. I just love that. What finally pushed you to take the leap?
SARK Living the way I was living had become so horrifying, and ignoring the dream had become so painful. I was living the opposite life I wanted to live, but once I started my dream, I was fierce and relentless. I don’t know if I would’ve been that committed if I hadn’t done all of those other things.
I’ve been down to the end and almost died. I tried everything not to live the dream. I finally asked myself: why haven’t I ever tried living the dream?
KOL What were your suspicions?
SARK All of the usual things, but basically it was “how dare you?” We all hear it. That question. I don’t care how talented we are. And each one of us has to find our own answer. I was finally ready. I just rose up and said, “I’ll show you how dare I! Here’s how dare I!” I just said, “All right, it might not be good enough but I have to express it.”
I’d been brought into the cave and kind of came bursting out the other side into the light! Which doesn’t mean that darkness isn’t good.
KOL Often when people talk about coming out of a dark time, there’s a tendency to look back and say, “Thank God that’s over.” Instead of seeing it as something that was working, in whatever disguised way, in our favor.
SARK I’m just laughing because I don’t believe there’s any way we’re ever out of the darkness. It’s woven into everything we do and are—as visible and as real as the light.
KOL What’s so unique about your work is that it’s not that you went away, went to therapy, dealt with the hard stuff, and then returned and did your creative work. Your creative work is how you dealt with the pain—a record of your healing.
SARK And it continues to this day. In hindsight, it’s easy to have all kinds of answers, but when you’re in it, and you know you’re in it, you really can find the answers as you go.
KOL For a long time I didn’t even really know what my dreams were. How do you follow your creative dreams when you don’t know what they are?
SARK You make it your business to identify them.
SARK I did write this great book called Make Your Creative Dreams Real [laughs]. Listen, there’s a lot more support for not living our dream than living our dream. As much as we know we’ve had creative jealousy, we now know that creative jealousy will be aimed at us.
You can go out and find ten people who will cry with you and say, “Oh my god, that’s the worst thing I’ve ever heard.” It’s not nearly as easy to find ten people who will be genuinely happy and thrilled for you and join in your joy.
Seriously, though, I do believe that my books are wonderful maps, and they’re supportive, like a boost up over the fence, someone clasping her hands together so you can put your foot in.
KOL What would you say to someone who wants to climb over that fence but can’t even lift their foot into the stirrup, can’t even imagine it as a possibility—for financial reasons or because of their daily responsibilities?
SARK I would say to take the biggest risk that you can take and still do the things that you need to do. Obviously, we need to eat and we need somewhere to sleep, but most people could do a lot more. We don’t need cable television, for example. The question is: what are you really willing to do for your dream?
I spent a long time blaming procrastination and perfectionism. I was just trapped in it, and it wasn’t my fault either, by the way [laughs] That’s how I lived for years. Then I could be resentful of anyone else who was living their dream.
KOL So if I’m someone who has always wanted to be creative, to live in color, to put value on that aspect of myself, but I’ve never done it, how do I start? What are the very first steps?
SARK The first step is to be reading an interview like this one, and to expose yourself to different kinds of words and art than you normally might. It sounds so simplistic, but people don’t do it.
I used to be someone who was terrified of change. Writer Anne Lamott says it really well she wrote that anything she ever tried to let go of had claw marks on it. I would say it’s similar with change. I’ve resisted every change.
I had a great teacher in my friend Isabel. Before she died at 90, she told me, “Every, every, every, every change I now know is always for the better.” And my mother imparted something to me, too. She said, “I only wish I hadn’t resisted everything so much.” It’s always in the meantime that we flounder and flail around, and that’s where faith comes in.
KOL Do you have things that help with that, help you stay balanced and centered and reminded of self-care?
SARK Oh absolutely. I have a magnificent self-love program that I do every day.
KOL Can I ask what it includes?
SARK It’s now so extensive that it takes about an hour because I’m having so much fun One of the things I do is that I have what I call my Glad Book, and when I wake up I write down all the things that make me glad, and if I’m not glad I write down all the things that are making me mad: “My neighbors are not putting the trash-can lid back down and that bothers me!” From the most ridiculous things to very large things.
And then I ask my Wise Self to speak to each of them. It’s amazing how much the Wise Self knows. It’s like having the best kind of parent or wise elder, and I just completely rely on it. And when I start my day I’m so filled with love that it’s just astounding what I’m able to do and accomplish.
I call it “practicing exquisite self-care.”
KOL I want to ask you about your workshops. What do you want people to experience and take home with them, and what’s the most rewarding aspect for you?
SARK I’m happy to say that teaching is one of my greatest joys in life. I’ve been teaching now for almost 20 years, and I deliberately come to a place like Kripalu because it’s a spiritual gathering place. And I really love the intimacy. I absolutely adore teaching. It fills me up, and I feel so honored to meet every single person.
We use collage, we use music, we use the energy of the group to move the energy of the group. To be in creative community with other people doing that work makes an indelible impression. The work is very soul-filling. And I want people to leave with that.
KOL I wanted to tell you that I love your books. They’re colorful, honest, creative diaries almost.
SARK There’s no question they’re versions of a journal. Yes, each one is like a little experiment. I believe all of our lives are just a great big experiment. And I’m really happy to share mine.
SARK (Susan Ariel Rainbow Kennedy) is the best-selling author and artist of 15 books and creator of hundreds of products. Founder of Planet SARK, a company that creates products and services that inspire people to think and live more creatively, she is also an acclaimed speaker and teacher. www.planetsark.com
© Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health. All rights reserved. Originally published in the June 2008 issue of Kripalu Online. To request permission to reprint, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.