Janelle Hardy is a dancer, artist, and writer who teaches the Art of Personal Mythmaking, a transformational memoir-writing program.
She loves weaving embodiment prompts together with creativity and ancient tales (like fairytales/ myths/ folklore/ etc) as a way of supporting growth and healing.
This interview features a 7-minute guided visualization to unblock creativity by tapping into the body.
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GUEST LINKS - JANELLE HARDY
HOST LINKS - SLADE ROBERSON
BECOME A PATRON
So this is a really round-about sort of story because I didn't really know when I started teaching the work that I do, that it was actually about memoir-writing.
I'll leave you with that statement and then circle back to it again.
I'm from the far north of Canada. The far north-west, which is the Yukon Territory, and for context for people that aren't Canadian (even some Canadians don't know where I'm from). It's beside Alaska and above British Columbia. It's beautiful. It's so wild. I'm not living there now, but I talk about it because I feel so connected to that place.
I'm also from a family... I think I have a common experience to a lot of people in North America and in colonized countries where my ancestry, you know, I'd be considered white, but my ancestry is varied and mostly unknown. There were some family secrets that were whispered as I was growing up.
That experience of growing up really attached to a landscape. And then learning that my roots in that landscape are only as deep as my grandparents having moved up there and met each other and settled down there, and wondering, Who am I? Where did I come from?
And then struggling with some health challenges that didn't feel like they belonged to me really kind of pitched me on this path of curiosity and inquiry and kind of roaming all over the place in terms of what I studied and where I lived.
See, this is the trouble with collecting my thoughts around all of my offshoots of interest, which, for a long time, really mystified me.
I was really into painting. I was also really into writing. I was also really into dance. I wanted to be a dancer. I also wanted to live in other cultures, so I was an exchange student to Japan and to Russia and to another part of Canada, Ontario, which doesn't really sound like being an exchange student, but the Yukon is really different than southern Canada, in terms of lifestyle and how people think about themselves and their relation to the country that they're in.
For example, in the Yukon, we refer to 'going outside' as leaving the Yukon to the rest of Canada, or outsiders coming to the Yukon, right? So there's a real strong identity wrapped up in being a Yukoner. And then, the other part of my realization was, I feel this intense claim to being a Yukoner to being part of this world, and it actually doesn't belong to me. There's a history of First Nations people there that is thousands of years old and is being erased and denied.
So how can I reconcile my love and longing for this place with the understanding that my roots don't originate there and I don't get to claim it as only my own.
All of these curiosities and wonderings pushed me out to study and travel and do all sorts of things, including becoming a single mother at 23 and having chronic fatigue. Throughout all that time, the one thing that kept me steady was a creative practice. And it didn't matter what the creative practice was.
I'm a really big believer in creative energy and the life force, that kind of erotic creative life force that's in all of us. When it's in flow, we get to choose the medium that suits what we're trying to express best.
And for some people, they just latch on to the one medium and they're a writer and that's all they are. Entirely. For other people, it's kind of peripatetic and maybe a bit dilettantish. Sometimes I've labelled myself as not being able to commit to something, but I've let go of that label and realized that I have the ability and desire to use different mediums to explore different facets of my creative energy, depending on what it is that's wanting to come through.
So I might go through a phase of dance and choreography, which happened a lot in my mid-20s. That's a time when I earned a masters degree in dance. And then I really got into painting. And then I got a horrible creative block for years, where I had all the ideas and I actually couldn't write. I couldn't paint. I couldn't...
It was so painful. It was so painful, this state. But it also taught me a lot. So I felt the bubbling force of my creative desiring, creative energy, and I had all the ideas and I encountered my own resistance and procrastination, no matter where I went.
During that time, some of the jobs I was doing involved writing for a local coming events magazine and a couple of national magazines. What I noticed was, while I really enjoyed it, and for some reason was able to write about things when I was being paid, although the pay was terrible, but I was able to do the task when I set the intention outside of myself.
And then I also became really angry that I couldn't prioritize my own desire for creative expression enough that I could work on my own projects during that time. I was only able to do it if it had a functional function in society, which was making some money and being of service to an employer.
So all of that to say, most of my writing has always been creative non-fiction. It's almost never fiction or fantasy or imagined stories in that way. It's always been about finding a way to share an experience I've had in the world, either my own personal experience in order to understand myself, or, in the case of when I was writing these profiles on artists that were coming to perform in the Yukon, interviewing them and being able to describe their personality, physicality, art and the venue in a way that would invite people in.
It's kind of freaking me out how much you're really speaking to me in this moment.
I've been working a lot with issues around the struggle that I have, writing fiction, versus all of the prolific amount of stuff that I put out into the world around my paranormal memoirs, and Shift Your Spirits, and these interviews. And I can write articles. I can write blog posts. I can write for this audience because, like you said, it's sort of my job and there's something very liberating, weirdly, about, it's an official thing and I have to do it every week.
I didn't even really think of it in terms of the blocks that I have around my novels as being particularly about something attached to, Oh it's just this thing that I'm making for myself that doesn't have this official, sanctioned place to be in the world. It's not being asked for by other people. It's something that I'm bringing through for myself.
And it was really interesting. I don't remember the exact words of how you said that, but I thought, Oh! I get that. I understand that. That's a piece of the puzzle for me.
So the wild synchronicity is that you and I are here, speaking for the very first time ever, and we're having this conversation. And I had just told you before we started recording that I have had an energy healing session, a clearing, around creative blocks. And I've also been to a chiropractor and a massage therapist yesterday, because there's a physical manifestation in my neck, like nerve impingement and my spine and neck.
You... Something I want to say really quick and then I want to bring you back to this idea of blocks and how they're related to the body, but I wanted to say, when you were talking about your journey and how hard it was for you to sort of justify the idea of committing to one form of creative expression, one of the things that was a real turning point for me in my life was when I accepted the fact that I couldn't choose and I didn't have to.
And that I would be all of those things together, and that's just what my path was. That, you know, I am an intuitive, and a novelist, and a interviewer voice talent. You know? Whatever! I am all of those things and I think most creative people are really eclectic. And sometimes the things that...
And this is something I've been talking about a lot with clearing creative blocks. There is a purpose that you choose for yourself and then there's sometimes a purpose that's chosen for you by the world. And I feel like, as creative people, sometimes it's that hit song, it's that one performance that you did. It's that one job that you landed that just was the right place at the right time. And maybe you become known for that one thing. And people ask that and expect that of you.
It becomes this identifying thing that YOU didn't necessarily choose as much as IT chose YOU.
So it makes perfect sense to me why you're all those things. And knowing that you work with creativity and writing and mythmaking, and that you talk to me about how you work through creative blocks through the body, makes complete sense to me. That you're a dancer.
It really is the intersection of all those things, right? It's you being a little bit of everything that you are. At least to me, in this moment, it's what you represent.
To get back to this idea of the creative block and how it's connected to the body, talk to me about, first of all, when you were really blocked, what you discovered set you free. And then how you've learned to guide other people through that.
Okay. That's a really good question.
My answer won't apply to everyone, but I think there's a lot of useful tools people listening can get out of my misery.
Being creatively blocked as a creative person, number one, I think it actually makes us sick. Because it takes a lot of effort to shut the flow down. Being in the flow and having energetic as well as physical movement as a constant experience is actually our natural state.
But we live in cultures, and by saying 'we', I'm kind of speaking to the experience I grew up in, being in North America, in an English-speaking culture colonized originally by England, and Canada, still being governed by England, tenuously. So we have a cultural inheritance that is really damaging.
And the cultural inheritance is the idea of productivity being important in service of capitalism, of making money, of being an employee to someone else, having skills that someone else wants to pay to make money off of you for. We also have an inheritance of domination and we carry with us... And this is most intensely felt for people of European white ancestry, but anyone of colour growing up in a culture like this also receives these unspoken rules and values as well.
We grow up learning that self-control involves contraction, tightening and dominating. Ownership of our body and our emotions and our inner state. We grow up understanding that what is considered attractive and valuable and wonderful in our culture is really limited. And if we don't fit, we need to feel shame and try to improve ourselves.
Can you kind of get a sense that all of these non-verbal values that we grow up with involves tightening and shrinking and contracting and shutting down, in order to be okay, or be acceptable?
So with this kind of cultural inheritance, as well as a lack of deep grounding and roots, most of the cultures living in the Americas of all backgrounds no longer speak their indigenous languages. My ancestry's not English. It's quite a mix, but Scottish people never spoke English. Welsh people never spoke English. Arcadians never spoke English. There's a small bit of First Nations in my ancestry from Quebec and Canada. They were not English-speaking cultures.
When language is lost, we also lose a great deal. We lose music, we lose language. We lose a connection to our roots.
And then all we have to grasp onto, and we lose our stories. All we have to grasp onto is this very one-dimensional colonizer culture that really profits a lot off of teaching shame and shrinking us.
The way that that relates to creative blocks, I think, is that it's really hard to be in flow if you feel like you're not good enough in any way. What some people do is, they figure out compensations around the tightening and the contracting and the shrinking. But then what happens is the creative flow comes and goes in 'bursts of inspiration' and flashes of insight and really intense, forceful rush of creativity that people get, afraid of not jumping in and staying up all night, buzzing away with it, because if it goes away, when will it come back? It might be three more years, right?
We have all these ideas about our inherent creative flow that are warped by a constant experience of being taught to shut down and contract and deny that flow. In our bodies, we really feel it through tightening, through physical tension, even though most people in North America live very sedentary lives, there's actually no reason, if someone is doing a lot of sitting or desk work, to feel as tense as they do.
As a bodyworker, I've spent 12 years working on peoples' bodies hands-on, it's astonishing how much tension there is in people that actually don't use their bodies. Part of it is related to this idea that we need to make an effort. We have to be appearing to be working hard. We have to be tightening up just in case... It becomes internalized.
'If anyone looks at me, I'm clearly a hard worker because I appear that way because my brows are furrowed while I tense my shoulders and type.' Or whatever it is.
Right. Look busy.
Yeah. Looking busy. Busy making... That's a whole other tangent of how much energy gets devoted to making ourselves appear to be busy rather than just using our precious energy to create and do the work with ease, right?
Back to getting creatively blocked, these are all things I've figured out as I've done a lot of healing work, offered it as well as received it. And had the excruciating experience of being blocked. Being blocked, the flow was locked up but it's like it's boiling away inside.
The other things that really stopped me from just creating were perfectionism, this idea that it has to be brilliant and wonderful or it's shameful. Which, again, goes back to the cultural ideas of, it's not okay to just play. It's not okay to experiment. We have to have an idea and execute it as if it's the greatest thing ever. And how is that even possible when we're stumbling along learning a process, right?
I got trapped in perfectionism for quite awhile.
I also got trapped in being too serious. So being serious. I'm an empath and a highly sensitive person and introvert, so seriousness comes quite easily to me. Actually, one of the best antidotes came from a mutual friend, Anna Holden, who said, 'Cultivate a sense of amusement.'
Being serious is not a good thing when you already tend to be on that side. But there I was stuck, well before I met Anna, being too serious. So I would have these light-hearted happy ideas and then I'd crush them because they weren't serious enough, they weren't... It's not really art if it's not serious! So I crushed those impulses and I just got caught in this spinning circle of contraction and perfectionism and seriousness.
The thing that really helped, receiving bodywork really helps. Loosening up the physical restrictions helps with the energetic flow as well.
I can't remember how many years ago, I had a summer up in the Yukon. I was still living up there. It's so beautiful up there. It never gets dark. It's just incredible. I didn't have any money. I didn't have a lot of work going on. I was also solo-mothering my daughter but I had time and I had art supplies!
I didn't have money for extra art supplies but I had these watercolours. I had a whole bunch of watercolour paper, because my other problem was, I would collect things for the ideas. So I was always collecting stuff to collage with but then not collaging. I was always buying bits and pieces of art supplies but never allowing myself to have the pleasure of making art.
I hit this point of deep frustration and fury and irritation with myself and I was like, 'UGH. I'm just gonna sit outside in the sun this afternoon with my paper and my pen and my paint brushes and my watercolours and a jar of water and I don't fucking care what comes out. I'm just gonna sit out there with my stuff and see.'
And then, this is the liberating experience was, I started drawing feathers, and colourful circles and balls. I just let it flow. The nasty, critical perfectionist mind, of course, was still hanging out in there.
That little eyeball's watching when I'm creating, saying things like, 'What the hell, Janelle? Feathers? Circles? Happy colours?? This isn't you. This is so... This is stupid! Stop it right now!'
The part of me that was so tired of that mean, vicious voice shutting me down, it's like, 'I don't care. I don't care. I'm just letting things come out and I'm as surprised as you are that I'm drawing pretty, colourful feathers. But I don't care. I'm just gonna let it go.'
I had to let go of my egotistical ideas about my fancy, serious artist creative projects that were gonna wow everyone, and just be okay with making pretty pictures for awhile, you know?
I can so relate. I mean, I've had a lot of conversations this week with me as the patient, you know? Me as the client, talking about this issue with perfectionism and the paralysis that comes along with that. The desperate need that you... It's not like you're not aware that you're doing that to yourself. You KNOW that you are and that's what's so frustrating is that, like, 'Oh! How to make this shut up??'
I think it's interesting that you said, really early on in our conversation, we literally make ourselves sick. Because when I was at the chiropractor yesterday with my neck locked up, which is still, it's still sore to turn my head and all that. And that's a common thing that happens to me. That's a place in my body where anxiety tends to go.
Some people have stomach stuff. Some people are like neck and shoulders people, or back or head. There's different places in the body that tends to manifest, but mine is always that spot.
My first instinct to explain what had happened was to be like, 'Oh, I hurt myself working out.' Because I do work out a lot and I can overdo it or do something with bad form and get a little bit of an issue or something. And that was the first place that I wanted to blame it.
It wasn't until I talked to the energy worker, and again when I was talking to the body worker last night who was adjusting me, they were both challenging me that the blocks contracted muscle. The issue was that, like you said, everything was clenched.
I was being challenged to accept the fact that this may not be a sports-repetitive-motion injury at all. This is stress induced. This is psychic. And when I say psychic, I mean that in a big term. I mean that in the fact that we can tie ourselves up in knots, whether you believe in psychic abilities at all, you're still capable of mentally, like you said, shrinking yourself.
The issue of making yourself small so that you are more acceptable in some way...
It's like all those themes are playing out for me.
So I'm sitting here listening to you talk about that and I'm thinking, What a beautiful synchronicity for me to be having this conversation with you right now.
I'm really curious. You talked to me about a kind of guided visualization that you do when you first start working with a group of people or some clients before doing a workshop or something like that. Is that something you'd be interested in kind of walking us through right now?
Let's do it!
I love doing this.
I'll give just a little bit of context first...
...about why I think it's so important to include the body in everything.
Number one is, our body is our ONLY home in this world and we seem to forget that a lot.
Number two, back to the cultural stew that we're growing up in, we also inherited these ideas that rational intellectualizing and the thinking functions of ourselves is more important and more valuable than the body-based knowledge and experiences that we also have.
So I feel like, bringing the body in is simply reminding people that I work with, and myself, because I can fall off of remembering this easily as well, but the body is JUST as important.
If we include our body, the body's psyche, rather than being floating heads and thinking brains, forgetting about the body, we just feel so much better and also intuitively, gut-feelings wise, clairsentience, these are ways of knowing that come through the body first. And if we don't learn how to tune in to the body, we miss out.
So for this visualization, first off, are you sitting?
Okay so we'll do it from a seated position, because I'm sitting as well.
You mentioned that your neck and your upper back often gets uncomfortable. Can you describe just a little more about what's going on?
There's a tension between the shoulder blades and up into the neck. You probably have experienced where you wake up one morning and you can't turn your head all the way to one side or the other without experiencing it being like locked, you know? Having a crick in your neck is how we say it around here.
I asked the body worker last night, I said, 'What's the technical term for that?'
She said, 'I think it's nerve impingement.'
Yeah, does that help?
Yeah, it does.
So one of the premises of the kind of bodywork that I'm trained in, which is Hellerwork Structural Integration, also known as 'rolfing', is that everything is connected to everything else. So it's never just where the issue is that needs attention.
This may or may not help with the crick in your neck, but I know it'll help loosen things up and for everyone that's listening, if you're seated, that's the place to be for playing along with us. Because I'm going to describe this visualization from a seated position.
Slade, I'll get you to notice where your sit bones are in relation to the chair. It's easier to tune in if you're sitting on a hard chair, but it's okay if your chair is soft. What you want to do is really have your whole body stacked over your sit bones, so that you're at the highest point.
If you're not sure where that is, all you do is let yourself roll back on your pelvis so that you're sinking onto the fleshy part of your bum. You'll notice that your whole body starts to sink and your back rounds forward as you do that. So just take in a nice breath.
Actually, if you let your head hang forward, you get to experience a lovely little stretch down your neck and all the way down your spine and through your shoulders. It's kind of a luscious thing to do. What we're doing is a pelvic rock.
And then you're going to start rolling forward, tipping your belly forward, and you'll notice, slowly is better, you'll notice as you roll forward you start to get taller. This is how you know where your sit bones are and whether you're on top of them or not. Because when you're on top of them, you're at your high point, the tallest point.
Just for contrast, you keep rolling your pelvis forward. You're kind of tightening your lower back and pressing your belly towards your thighs. You'll notice they start to sink a little. Your belly feels like it's spilling out onto your thighs. I'll get you to just tilt that pelvis back until you reach that high point again.
And then you're just gonna do another pelvic tilt, rolling back, this time keeping your attention really in your spine. So noticing all the incredible possibilities for movement. Often our spine gets viewed as a one-unit rigid sort of thing but the reason we have so many vertebrae is because we want to have so many options for movement, so many joints to be able to turn and twist and arch and contract.
So just notice the incredible ability for your spine to move, and also, really noticing those frozen stuck spots too.
And then bringing yourself back on top of your sit bones again. I'll get you to draw your attention down into the soles of your feet. You're just going to press one foot into the ground. Let it go. Press the other foot into the ground.
What I want you to notice is how pushing into your foot starts to move your pelvis which starts to move your spine, if you let it. So remember this: a lot of embodiment work and connecting to the body is learning how to let go of all of the layers of tightening and contractions.
It's never actually about adding more effort. It's always about noticing sensation and movement, and where you can let go of armouring and tightening and efforting to hold yourself together. Get yourself together. That's a really common thing people say. And that involves a lot of tightness in the body.
So as you're just pulsing from foot to foot and noticing the very subtle ways in which your spine is moved by what you're doing in your feet.
What I'm going to get you to do now is bring your inner eye right into your tailbone. You're going to notice the tailbone hovering under the sacrum as the bottom of your spine. Draw that inner eye up into the sacrum, which is part of your spine that is fused to your pelvis, right?
This is why when you're rocking your pelvis back and forth your spine goes along with it, because it has no choice. If we don't have movement in our pelvis, we don't have a lot of movement in our spine. So hips that are a little more wiggly than our current culture finds acceptable is actually ideal.
Draw your attention from your sacrum up through your lumbar vertebrae, which is your lower back. These are big bulky ones. Just, in your mind's eye, picture, even if you don't really know what they look like, just picture these great big bones with these amazing cushions in between them. The joints have a sponge that is designed so that it absorbs pressure and a downward movement compression. And then it has the ability and leads the release of an upward lift.
You can move your back as well as you're doing this pressing down, and picturing every single little disc between your vertebrae all the way up your spine, squishing down on them. Lift, an upward movement and so much spaciousness, right?
Now I'll get you to bring your attention up your spine to where your ribs join your spine. The really beautiful thing to imagine is that your rib cage is not a big block. It's more like a bellows, an accordion. If you slowly twist from side to side through your shoulders, what you'll notice is, your rib cage basically goes along for the ride. And as you're twisting, allow your head to keep reaching back so you get a little bit of a stretch. You might also notice where you're a little limited in motion.
As you're just doing a gentle rotation, a twist from side to side through your rib cage, keep your attention in your spine. Imagine that the twist is only happening from your spine. And then the ribs, as they're attaching to your spine, they kind of fan out. They have a capacity for way more movement than we allow. They fan out as we twist away to the side and then they come back in.
There's also muscles between every rib that has the capacity to expand and contract. So if you take a really big breath in, and really breathe and notice what's happening in your ribs, but also send that breath into your spine where your ribs attach. And just notice. It's all about noticing, and then exhaling.
Just do your breathing at your own pace.
And then just doing a little rotation in your spine between your ribs. Noticing the movement in your ribs from your spine. Drawing your attention up to your neck and to your head, floating on top of your neck. We often separate the neck from the rest of the spine by naming it the neck, and having the idea of a stopping point at the top of the shoulders and a stopping point at the base of the skull.
For this exercise, I'll just get you to imagine there are no stopping points. So when the neck is moving, it is in response to the movement in your mid-back and your mid-spine. See if you can draw in this elegant idea of capacity for movement as well as compression and release in the cushions between the vertebrae.
Invite a little more freedom in.
So most of this is slow, steady and gentle. And it's all about bringing your attention inside your body.
Do one little last scan of your spine. Just noticing, and then opening your eyes if they're closed. If they're open, just kind of sharpening the focus. Letting your eyes land on some sort of tangible object in the room, and just noticing three details about it. And then letting your eyes land somewhere else, noticing another three details, specific details.
And then bringing that attention that you're sending out through your eyes back to your ears, into this conversation and the more mundane regular world way of connecting.
That was wonderful. Thank you! relaxing sigh
Now I have to remember I'm in the middle of an interview, right??
That's so cool. Too bad it's not on video. It would be quite an interesting thing for people to have witnessed.
That is very cool. I'll put something in the introduction to prompt people who might be driving that that's coming up and that way, if they want to wait and do it. OR if you're driving and you just listen to that, and you're like, Oh that was really cool, go back later when you're home and do that as a guided visualization. There is a guided visualization in the middle of this episode!
That's so cool!
So how does that help with the creativity?
It just does. That's my fastest answer.
More specifically, if you think of creativity as being a state of flow, unblocking flow in the body unblocks flow creatively. The other really cool thing is that, especially if your creative energy and output has been generated more through thinking and through head-based processes, it's like we just opened a few doors and windows to give you a better view, give you better access to your creative energy so you're getting more of it.
Ooo I just saw this cool image in my mind's eye of like, when you have a door window open at one end of a space, and you go and open a door window in the other, you create this draft. You create literal flow. Like, it will slam the doors closed.
Yes! That's perfect.
You talked about somewhere in some of the material I was reading of yours, you have this phrase, 'letting the body lead you towards your stories'. What does that mean? How do we do that?
You can actually, what I just walked you through, that visualization, this is fun. You do something physical. You have a pen and paper and a timer. Right after that, you're in a bit of a different state, right? You do some flow writing.
And if you keep your brainy brain part of things out of it, the part that wants to figure it out and is dreaming of writing awards already, if you keep that out, you do some sort of physical exercise and then you go straight into flow writing. It's like unwrapping a present, because something will show up. And if you stay open to not-knowing, it's really thrilling what will bubble up and come out.
Actually, you mentioned you work out a lot. You can actually play with doing that after a workout.
Or if, I don't know how you work out, but if, say, one day it's a legs day or something, you can very explicitly have the intention that you're gonna really tax your legs, you're gonna focus on that part of your body, and then you're gonna let your body write through you. You're gonna let those legs tell you something about them, or let them release a memory or story.
It's pretty fun. The delight is just in the utter magic of what happens when we let ourselves be led and guided by our body, instead of trying to force it.
Those of you listening who do my energy reboot are probably noticing the similarities.
One of the things that I recommend to people to do to reconnect to their creativity, it's not so much about being blocked. Because obviously I can't be giving advice about that just yet. But as far as reconnecting to the creativity, or reconnecting to your sense of your Higher Self speaking to you, I recommend a combination of walking meditation with timed proprioceptive writing.
Those two things in tandem, and I say, don't overthink it, just do it. It may not happen the first time, but what will emerge is through that grounding exercise, being in the body, you actually reconnect your antenna, so to speak.
And then the writing allows you to start to translate that, to give a voice to record it and let it through. One thing attaches the hose and the other thing sort of turns the knob and lets it flow out. Does that make sense?
Oh yeah, total sense.
I'll add a clarification to writing and staying in the body, rather than kind of tapping into a more unseen sort of energy or force that's more outside of the body. I totally agree with you. The body grounds us and you can be a more clear channel for that kind of guidance.
And if you want to really specifically stay with the body, in your writing, and really tune into the body's psyche's stories, guidance, etc., it helps to just focus your attention in sensation and then be really specific with details when you're writing sensory details.
So whatever's coming up, always asking the question, so allowing the flow to come out, but having a, in the back of your mind, just this reminder of, Oh, it was a beautiful day, so what are the specifics? What tells me it's a beautiful day? And what will tell the people reading this, if they ever do, it's a beautiful day?
Or, Oh, my leg was sore. Okay. Let's get waaaay more specific. What part of the leg? What does sore mean? What's the sensation? Finding words to describe the physical experience. That will help to contain that kind of flow writing within the body.
Well it's interesting too because for story telling, I mean, if you were editing a piece of fiction, one of the things you would look to make sure that you're doing is giving your reader multiple sensory information, so you know, to ground them in the story, to make sure that you're introducing smells and touch. And that everything isn't just always somebody looking at someone else, or thinking.
You have to be really conscious to put that in. And I know everybody thinks that this magically happens, but sometimes you do have to consciously remind yourself to insert that.
We have a tendency to focus on one clair sometimes, more than the other. We're either very visual or very feeling, sensory. And sometimes you have to balance those out with whichever one you don't see showing up. Does that make sense?
Yeah. It just makes it richer.
Yeah. It's gonna be better for both you, as the person creating it, and if it finds its way to an audience, then they're going to be able to inhabit your experience that much more easily as well.
Oh gosh, I love talking nerdtalk about writing.
You're hitting all the buttons because you've got the psychic and the bodywork and the intuition, all the stuff, so we're loving this.
Tell me about this transformational memoir writing process that you do, called The Art of Personal Mythmaking. I know you have a workshop that's kind of specific to a time of year and everything, so tell us about that and when you're doing it.
Okay. This is kind of a fun story too.
So for a long time, doing all these different things, I thought, What the heck? This doesn't make sense. When are the threads gonna cross? And then about three or four years ago, this process showed up to me. I can't really claim credit for the personal mythmaking process. It just showed up to me as it's own entity.
I offered it in person as a workshop for eight weeks. It was not about memoir writing at that time. I didn't think it was anyways. There was a really great response and I thought, I could teach this online!
So then I kind of revamped it. I offered it again. I still didn't know it was about memoir writing. Everything was about writing your life story, healing through examining life's story, tapping into the body and using creative writing and I have a bachelor's degree in anthropology, so I love being an anthropology nerd and bringing in culture and all of that stuff.
I was still confused.
And then, I think just over a year ago, I realized that if someone really committed themselves to the full process, they have the rough draft of their memoir written based on how I was taking them through the process and the creative writing prompts.
So I went, AHA! This is amazing! People asked me what I was doing, I said, I'm teaching this process and you actually get the rough draft of your memoir written by the end.
And everyone's eyes would start to shine. And they go, Oooo!
And I thought, Oh wow, that's what this is about! It's healing but it's also actually a very practical outcome as well of getting to the point of getting it out of yourself, onto paper, to rough draft stage. So all the process work, which, you know, it is amazing how many people have been dreaming about working with their life story and writing their memoirs for decades.
And either haven't started or they just have a bunch of overwhelming snippets of writing here, there and everywhere that they've tucked away in a metaphorical drawer or file on their computer and it's just eating at them.
So I thought, this is not good. This is creative blocks where you start to get sick. If there's a story dying to be born, and we close the doors and shut it down out of overwhelm and fear, two common reasons people don't dive in, even though they have the desire, that's not good!
We're making ourselves sick if we have stories to tell and we're not telling them.
So The Art of Personal Mythmaking is a transformational memoir writing e-course and writing circle. I teach it online. Each week has its theme. I use fairytales, well more specifically, ancient tales. So any kind of tale that has lasted more than a generation basically, as a guide and a structure for outlining memoir, but also... I don't know. I feel like fairytales are like having a pretty wise grandma or grandpa, helping us out, to understand being human. And they can actually really help us with working through our life story.
So I combine working with ancient tales with working with the body and creative writing and creativity. A lot of people, you know, they're just stuck in creative block or a fear of not being good enough. A desire to write but being so afraid of being a bad writer that they don't try. So getting past those things is really crucial to actually getting the writing out.
And then coming together in a discussion and circle every week is so rich and so beautiful for people to be working through these themes in a supportive environment and be witness to the incredible richness of every single person's different way of understanding and writing about the same prompt is so beautiful.
I don't know if I've described it very well. I get so excited about my students.
You do it twice a year?
And when's the next one?
August and February. So right now, we're looking at February coming up.
Okay. So February 2019.
We're recording this in September 2018 if anybody is listening from the future. They can go find out if you're still doing this workshop. And you may be doing it still in August and February. Or it may have evolved into something else!
I suppose if we're on your mailing list, you'll remind us that this is coming up and one of the gifts that you have for people who subscribe is a two hour Outline Your Memoir workshop that you offer.
Okay. Tell us a little about that.
Actually it's a little different... It is free. It's a little different than a gift that just shows in your inbox. It's actually a live two-hour workshop.
The way I work with people is really connected and relational and productive. Don't know if that's the wrong word but ...
So I actually walk people through the process. So although it's a free workshop, it's not a workshop that I record.
I have a couple free writing courses that do just show up in your inbox, but Outline Your Memoir is actually, you show up with your pen and paper and I offer it every two months or so. I walk you through the process of getting some structure to what you want to look at and work on and finish the two hours feeling really resourced to keep going.
That is really cool!
First of all, let me just say, Janelle, thank you for taking time today to speak with us and walk us through that process.
Make sure everyone knows where they can go to find you online.
Right. I'm JanelleHardy.com
You can probably also google 'Personal Mythmaking'. I don't think anyone else is really describing their work that way, so Janelle and Personal Mythmaking will get you there too.
Wonderful. That was great.
Janelle, thank you for coming on the show.
Thank you! Such a pleasure.