5 Things Nobody Told You About Living a Creative Life.

5_Things_AndreaBalt

I’m sick with lust for more life. I’m terminal with passion. I’m diseased with a longing to wander that won’t let me settle for less than the whole universe in a simple sentence. I have been stabbed by pain & resurrected by beauty, and I am now dying softly but certainly, from a rare form of inoperable love. And I refuse your medicine, spare me your fixes, shortcuts & painkillers, if they won’t give me more of everything.

There are at least two sides to every creator’s journey: the story you tell the world, and the rest of the iceberg that will never see the light of day (except for the few people allowed in your bubble).

The untold, bloody everyday, the 75% of you who has slowly learned to breathe underwater, and which enables you to stay alive and keep the brighter 25% of you above the water. Both sides are real, both sides are necessary, both sides feed off each other.

But let me tell you, there is so much hell that goes into the hidden one, so you can actually produce a piece of heaven. Behind every breakthrough, there’s at least one breakdown that makes you even more resilient and determined to keep making (and keep breaking). How does the saying go… What doesn’t kill you makes you truer?

One common misperception about people successfully living a creative life — or at least consistently re-creating themselves and rewriting their lives time and again (my definition of success) — is that it’s “easier for them,” and that they’re “amazingly talented,” and “lucky to be doing it,” or be “so good” at this or that, or “blessed with opportunities,” and that “if only I had this or that, then I could do it too…”

I wish they removed the word “luck” from the dictionary and made you do a hundred pushups every time you say it. 

Creators, artists and visionaries nourish the world with their dreams, and in doing so they save it in more than one way. In this they are a blessing.

And yet… there’s a whole other side of this deal — the curse — that’s often overlooked: The pain behind the smile +  years of hard work they have to undergo to not just speak their heart but actually walk their talk; the gut to not just trust themselves, but actually arrange their whole lives every day, according to this trust; to become the directors of their own indie movies, however imperfect or low budget, instead of secondary characters in someone else’s takes.

The ugly truth (and yet more beautiful for it): 

Being a creator of your life, instead of merely a victim or a survivor, is the hardest thing you’ll ever attempt. Answering your hero’s call and embarking on the lifelong journey back to you is the most liberating, yet the most excruciating adventure you’ll ever be on.

Being the visionary, the crazy and the misfit in a world that is constantly trying to turn you into a shadow of a better time, is the most difficult decision you’ll have to make — every damn day.

Here are some of the biggest pains in a Creator’s ass life. Do not attempt, unless willing to sacrifice all that you thought you were for everything you’re willing to become.

1. It’s NOT easy. But it becomes easier.

What seems like a dance to the non-dancer, is a result of hours upon hours and hours and many many many hours of practice. So much that over time you turn your art / work / creation into your practice, and doing it becomes much easier than not doing it, and there is no more difference then, between your gift to the world and you.

But wait, there’s more. Or did you think they’d let you practice your life’s quest in peace? Meet the dragons that will try to keep you from your call. Fight them like a gladiator. Til’ death — of You or Ego. (There is no other way.)

1.1. THE NAYSAYERS — From your own blood family, to friends you thought were friends, to strangers your respect and admire, to strangers you don’t even know or care about but whose occasional thoughtless judgments shoot arrows of despair into your sensitive aorta.

The too familiar “Get a real job!” on lips too swollen to believe they’re still alive, and try to drag everyone down with them…

Whoever your vampires, your prosecutors or your inquisition, you have the last word over what gets in & out: Give them your blood or don’t. But honestly, why would you take advice from anyone NOT living the life you desire? 

If they were doing it themselves, they wouldn’t be talking you out of it. They’d know your pain, your hope, your struggle. They’d shower you with renewed strength and compassion. They’d fetch you water on the way to Mordor instead of trying to steal the ring.

Over the years, I’ve learned (the hard way) to discern between wholehearted, cautious and intelligent advice vs. the ill and shallow kind that comes from fear or envy. Whenever I get the second, I immediately remove myself. I have no time for goblins. To each their revolution. 

1.2. YOUR SELF-DOUBT — Do I have what it takes or not? (The million dollar question.) The truth? Some days you do, others you don’t… You’re a journey full of ups & downs, a book that’s being written as we speak, a dance with life, a love affair with language. You’re not a goddamn statue or a brick.

This is the part where you forget your music is not about who listens but about who sings it. It’s when you have to ink Maya Angelou’s famous words on your bathroom mirror (with permanent marker), right at the forehead area, lest you forget again, tomorrow:

“A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer. It sings because it has a song.” You hear me, bird? You have are the song!

A bird doesn’t ask herself if she has what it takes in order to open her tiny mouth & chirp out her story, because so many other millions are doing it, and what if she’s no good, and what else can she add?

No! She does it precisely because she’s that one bird in a million, and she can’t help but join the choir. Birds sing, humans create, that’s that.

Creating your life is your human right and your greatest duty, privilege and gift to the world. The only thing that can stop you from doing your life’s work is your own decision to be stopped.

1.3. YOUR FEAR — Some days it threatens to kill you. Others it passes as caution, safety, common sense or wisdom. Here’s a bullshit detector you can run on your fear:

If what you fear is also what you love, then your fear is acting as a foe, not as a friendly, healthy warning. Learn to differentiate between what protects your life and what keeps you from it.

andrea_balt_postitforward

I’m scared of more than I can openly admit.

I’m scared about every single project, every business move, every new person I let in. But over time I’ve learned to differentiate between my Gentle Fear, the friend, and Bloody Fear, the enemy. I love the first for keeping me alive and when it comes to the latter, I just hold tight & do it anyway. Watch me, I tell her, as I shake.

1.4. YOUR DARKNESS / SADNESS / UNDIGESTED LOSS — I’ve been criticized, more than once — by friends and strangers — for my inability to overcome or mask my default cosmic sadness (or “sad joy” as I call it), and furthermore, for often wearing it in public, like unironed clothes (ouch)…

And what I answer back is this:

I don’t create because I’ve got it all figured it out and I am now this happy clown with perfect hair and magic pills on how to make your dreams come true. I don’t even know what happiness really refers to, beyond its photoshopped white teeth and plastic smiles.

I don’t believe in gurus, saints or role models. I believe in art as a way to live more abundantly and as a means to heal myself, and in the process, inspire others to begin their revolution and sustain their evolution.

I create in order to deal with my excruciating pain, the losses that keep piling on top of each other like dead bodies, the darkness that threatens to swallow me whole at 3 a.m., minutes before the dawn can intervene. I create because it gives me a real reason to get out of bed each morning. It pushes me beyond survival and deep into aliveness.

I don’t create as a result of happiness. I reach my Daily Soul Highs (as I refer to my bliss) precisely BECAUSE and WHEN I create — not the other way around. Happiness doesn’t lead to creativity, but just the opposite: Creativity is my one and only happy pill. (Other Active Ingredients: Passion & Purpose.)

2. It’s NOT safe. But you become your home. 

Creativity requires you to put your heart on the line with each investment. It makes you question every notion of what’s solid, trustworthy and true. And if you haven’t quite learned to walk the labyrinths of your intuition, you’ll make mistake after mistake, and learn your truth with blows.

It’s like a puzzle where each new failure and mistake reveal a piece of you. I think this is the only way for stubborn people.

And what is safe, do tell me… What are your guarantees? Your bank account? Your sold job, ruled by unsolid people? How do you know you’ll be alive tomorrow?

We’re all going away. Always alone and naked, back to dust. Always too soon. Always a loss, a sadness, a death that will give way to a new life. There’s nothing you can take with you but only moments of your story echoed though eternity.

The thought that I am terminally ill and that I only have a few decades left to live at the very most, makes me burn with even more passion and want to explore all the possibilities of this short human dilemma, give a voice to each of my longings, give body to my thirst, give a quest to my desire.

The only way to break through the illusion of safety, and get better at dancing in the dark is by becoming your own dancing partner — by learning there’s a home in you, a sacred place where you can rest and love & live, no matter where you are.

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3. It’s NOT comfortable. But your own Way will be more comforting than anything the Highway has to offer. 

Creativity will keep pushing you beyond your fear and everything that’s holding you back from becoming your own revolution.

There is no evolution without a revolution, movement, change, a necessary and not pretty letting go There is no going forward without leaving something (or someone) behind. There is no greater YES without a firm, still NO to what no longer works. No newer skin without the tearing and the shedding of the old.

SayYesToYou_AndreaBalt_Quotes

 

It hurts to stretch your wings. But doesn’t it hurt even more to let them atrophy? Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. You won’t get out of here alive. So at least choose a torture that will lead you to aliveness.

Over time, I’ve relocated my office on a cliff. I now make most of my creative (and business) decisions standing over the edge of the smaller me, facing the abyss of my own death, over and over; my bird-heart always in a frenzy to become, my bluish soul in love with open skies.

So I can’t help but jump, each time. If I should fall and perish anyway, I might as well go for the better view. I might as well leap from the highest place I’m capable of climbing. My best business has come as a result of this philosophy.

Unprecedented action is the backbone of creativity. The discomfort, the stretch, the growth pains come from doing things in a way you’ve never done them before. 

If it weren’t unprecedented, there’d be no newness, no change, no moving forward, you’d be repeating patterns in your old skin. There’s nothing new or revolutionary about stagnation.

So, when you answer your hero’s call to redesign your life, don’t expect to be protected by the familiar — there’s no insurance that can cover all the wonder you are capable of making. Don’t expect safety to catch you. It won’t because it can’t. You’re on your own. And that’s exactly where you should be to evolve.

You need to go out in the no-man’s-land between the Now and Not Yet, meet your higher self in the desert of Who you no longer are or through the storm of Who you’re trying to become, and let creativity build you a net on the way down. And trust that it will. Because, as Grandpa Emerson put it,

There’s nothing capricious in nature, and the implanting of a desire indicates that its gratification is in the constitution of the creature that feels it.

Your desires are not random. They are the map your feet should follow. Your passion is no joke, it’s your most serious love affair with life. Whatever the pains of becoming, a greater gain is coming. TRUST ME.

4. It gets lonely. But you are never fully alone.

The older you get the more aching the loneliness. You see things that nobody else around you seems to notice (yet). I used to cherish my aloneness, loved being the unique observer of all the strange and secret things, loved chewing on my bites of wonder.

I didn’t miss, I didn’t long, I didn’t worry. But now, somehow, I do… Must be approaching old age. Must be disappearing.

The most natural feeling in the world after being found and touched by anything that takes your breath away, is to turn around and see if anyone else has felt it too. Point out the wonder. Share the beauty. We’re not meant to love alone.

I think this is one of the most lethal injections in the heart of a creator: not being able to face and survive the pain that comes with this loneliness. It’s the reason why so many of us settle for people who — however wonderful in other ways — can’t share our journey, can’t feel our pain, can’t understand our duty to the world.

And then we spend our lives trying to fit them in the bigger picture (after convincing them there is one), and thus neglecting all the art and change we could be making instead. But see, you shouldn’t have to convince anyone to love the god in you and accept the one in themselves.

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The good news: There’s an in-between alternative to settling or howling alone.

There’s something deeper than blood, greater than history & thicker than bone waiting for you.

There are people more like you out there than yourself, crazy enough to believe & hope & try the things you’re too afraid to even say out loud. Look them up, don’t settle for solitary confinement & misunderstood isolation. You’re not a lonely island, you’re a bright peninsula. Creativity thrives in great company.

Seek out your equals, s
urround yourself with the dreamers & doers, the rebels of the status quo, the troublemakers of the ordinary, the wonder-seekers, freedom-makers, jail-breakers, the unreasonable earth-quakers & dust-shakers, the ones who believe the impossible exists only to be attempted, the crazies & creative warriors, the ones who ask why-not instead of why, the I-can’t-believe-I-fucking-did-it sort of people… and learn to dance and howl and re-create your life along with them.

You may be crazy but, dear wolf, you’re not alone.

5. It’s NOT a perfect life. But it becomes your own.

There’s no such thing as “making it” — making it where? We’ll never leave Earth, at least not in this lifetime. (Although I still have high hopes for teleportation…) It’s never over, til you are. The end of one struggle is the beginning of another. Mastery on one level means diapers on another level you have yet to master. The story must go on…

The closest thing I know to “making it” is the Pursuit of Freedom — madly, deeply, every day: freedom of thought, freedom of feeling, freedom of expression, freedom to be your own person, to choose exactly how you want to live and love, and write the truest story that you know, and have the last say over what you make of this short, beautiful human experience. 

And with great freedom comes the great responsibility of being all that you can be, at any given moment.

Freedom_AndreaBalt_Quotes

 

P.S. Your shaking hands are not an inconvenience, they’re a prerequisite.

 

*****

What are the setbacks you have found on your own creative journey? What is your dark night of the soul?

What dragons are you slaying on a daily basis, in order to honour your passion and become a little more like yourself?

I’d love to know…

{FIN}

 



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Comments

  1. I am very impressed with this article! Lyrically poetic in its presentation; philosophical and introspective in its delivery.

    Bravo. 🙂

  2. Beautiful heartfelt article that resonates so well with me, thank you. To add the most liberating thing that has happened to me recently is to discover I am a “multipotentialite” I am valid, I am OK, there are others like me, my tribe exists!

    Again thank you

  3. Andrea, thanks for writing the truth here. It is so hard to trust the path to a creative life. It took me so long to write my first screenplay because I use my brain to write and my brain was cluttered with my voices telling me to get a real job.

    I am blessed to have a fiancee that is following his own passion,(http://raglooms-heirlooms.blogspot.com/2014/11/heritage-gardens-healthy-traditions-in.html) but I find it hard to trust that he supports me in the pursuit of mine.

    I have been struggling with the rejection of a society that doesn’t value what I do – because I don’t make a profit. I wrote about it on my blog. http://www.reelinspiration.blogspot.com/2015/03/why-do-i-do-what-i-do.html

    I long to share my create journey with other artist who are going down similar journeys…like you.

    • Andrea Balt says:

      Jane, thank you so much for sharing your story. Haven’t we all been hurt by that voice…

      Your struggle is the struggle of so many, and it has been my own as well for a long time — until I changed the way I looked at art and at my own work. I’ll delve more into this topic in an upcoming article, but for now, suffice it to say, I understand it — fully and deeply.

      Glad to cross paths with you and I hope we can connect again on this & similar subjects. Just know that you are not alone and giving up is never an option. As you say in your post, it’s a love affair – your stories are love projects. It’s the only way we can endure the dark side of the moon.

      P.S. Typo edited & typo note hid, hope this works. 🙂

  4. I am printing a copy of this so that I can highlight the hell out of it and re-read it daily. You express so eloquently what this creative journey is like. Thank you!!!

  5. Loved every tiny itty bit of goodness expressed here. I felt the blood spill with every sentence. All of it, so true, so real, so many yeses exited my fist as I pounded it happily in twinship on my desk. I loved it, and I love you.

    This right here, I don’t even know what to say outside that maybe we were separated at birth ;):

    “The older you get the more aching the loneliness. You see things that nobody else around you seems to notice (yet). I used to cherish my aloneness, loved being the unique observer of all the strange and secret things, loved chewing on my bites of wonder.

    I didn’t miss, I didn’t long, I didn’t worry. But now, somehow, I do.”

    Ginormous love your way. Another brilliant piece!

    x|O
    m

    • Andrea Balt says:

      Thank you so much, soul sister. Your words always mean worlds.

      And yes to that quote. It was painful to write that whole part… Ah, old age & gray hairs. 🙂 I think my midlife crisis started in my mid-twenties. 🙂 Our generation moves faster… in the good, bad & ugly.

      Big hug and thanks for taking the time to drop me a love note. Your kindness reaches across the ocean, always. <3

  6. You had me at “But let me tell you, there is so much hell that goes into the hidden one, so you can actually produce a piece of heaven.” And kept me since, “Point out the wonder. Share the beauty. We’re not meant to love alone.”

    You’re right, AB, it often feels like I’m the only one seeing what I see, as well. And while this can feel like a privilege or a sort of power at first, the journey DOES get lonely in the long run. I have always admired and applauded how you have convened a galaxy of jail-breakers and earthquakers. It gives me hope to seek out my own country of creative angels and wolves.

    Perhaps what I also deem to be my other personal dragon in this artistic journey — something I may have already been aware but still catches me off guard — is that, as I evolve and stretch newer wings, my fears and self-doubt are also growing newer (nastier) skins. It’s a dreadful osmosis. But a relief all the same after you pointed out that there’d be no moving forward if everything was all familiar to me. I say these words to myself and other people every time, but I must have gotten so busy shouting in the dark to even hear myself. (This is why, again, it’s important not be alone.)

    Love to you!

    • hi sofia,
      i too come across doubt loudness the closer i get to my true expression.
      part of me thinks how it would be so much better if i could reach a point where doubt couldn’t reach me anymore.
      i’ve started to see the function of this, though (for me).
      doubts get loud when i am close to new territory. they are the guardians at the gate of the impossible.
      if it was easy to walk right on through, i wouldn’t feel so invested, so trembling and bold.
      they are like the big boss at the end of the video game, the big fight at the end of the film. the climax where the hero(ine) risks everything — the worst may be true about me but i’m doing it anyway.
      i think i’m supposed to get shattered. i’m supposed to step out through that dead skin, leave the bodies behind and keep going across the border.
      it hurts but it’s functional and i think nature doesn’t give a shit what we prefer to avoid!
      x

      • Hayley, I couldn’t have thought about it more profoundly and eloquently myself. For someone who’s born a billion years post the world’s original condition, it can get hard for me to rewire myself to what IS — to how we might really be conditioned to evolve in life. But on days like these, chancing upon notes from seemingly old souls like yourself, I suddenly feel like it doesn’t really take much to remember. Thank you! x

        “If it was easy to walk right on through, i wouldn’t feel so invested, so trembling and bold.” — AH!

      • Andrea Balt says:

        Hayley, thanks for sharing your affair with doubt. You’re a beautiful writer. I almost want to quote your entire comment but I’ll stick to this:

        “doubts get loud when i am close to new territory. they are the guardians at the gate of the impossible. if it was easy to walk right on through, i wouldn’t feel so invested, so trembling and bold.” — Clapping.

        Here’s to more dragon slaying with our art. <3

    • Andrea Balt says:

      Sofia,

      Yes to everything you say. Beautifully and eloquently put as always. We all struggle with the loneliness, the new territory, the inexperience of not-being something, until you become it. And we all forget:

      “I say these words to myself and other people every time, but I must have gotten so busy shouting in the dark to even hear myself.” — exactly! Me too. 🙂 I guess our other job is to act as mirrors for each other, as soul reminders & calls to art for our fellow dreamers.

      Thanks for being both, a giver & a receiver. Is there another way? <3

  7. Pike Duran says:

    I’m shaking all over and I am quaking with life! This, was exactly the awaking gong that I needed to ring me awake from this bitter slumber. As always thank you Andrea for your inspiration. For reminding me my wolf pack is out there. I’m not alone. I can howl to the moon and my tribe answers back. <3

    • Andrea Balt says:

      Pike, you are one great wolf. Thanks so much for sticking to your call and hanging on to writing even with your last breath. Don’t give up — ever.

      Big hug. Howling for you.

  8. Andrea, I cannot remember how I found you and Rebelle Society. It was like waking from a dream and finding you and this army of like-minded, fiery creatives standing before me. Where did you spring from? But then, we know how it is part of the truly profound creative journey to have to travel under the dark mountain blind, giving up any hope of sight, just so we can leave behind the death and destruction of the old ways of being and seeing that were forced on us since birth into this three-dimensional realm. It is only when we have bravely battled on, knowing nothing but the beating of our noble, courageous hearts, past legions of guardians of the threshold, that we can emerge into the light of a new day with new seeing. Only then can we create the transformed and manifest the presence of each other and the new Way! Bless you, and bless us all!

    • Andrea Balt says:

      Joy, I have no idea where I came from… or where anyone else did… 🙂 I think we are all just happening, as a big cosmic need for self-expression — the universe in human form looking for answers to its own mysteries. I think we are demanded by life to help it make more life. 🙂

      And to get there, as you said, we need the darkness & the fire.

      For some reason, something is asking me to share this older article with you — in case you haven’t read it. Talks more about our pack: http://www.andreabalt.com/10-superpowers-you-didnt-know-you-had/

      Reciprocated blessings your way! <3

  9. So beautifully put and exactly what I needed to read right now. I recently was approached after a show (my husband and I are both songwriters) by a young woman, probably 12 or 13 years old, who was a budding songwriter. Her mother asked me if I had any advice and the first thing I said was, keep going. And no matter how easy it might look when you see someone on stage, know that it took hours upon hours upon hours for them to make it look easy, it took all their soul had to give and then some. But no matter how hard it is, you just have to keep going and never stop working on and nourishing your craft.

    Honestly, if the only “success” I ever see is inspiring that young woman, that just might be enough for me. Thanks again, Andrea, for inspiring me and so many others.

    • Andrea Balt says:

      Beautiful advice, Lauryn! I concur with your idea of success.

      Yes — so ironic that the seemingly easy and effortless is sitting on years of hard work!

      And let me just say — as we’ve known each other for a while in the online world and I’ve seen your creative magic at work — YOUR NEW WEBSITE LOOKS AMAZING. My heart fills up when I get to witness any kind of creative (r)evolution, including my own — the before & after makes me sing. 🙂

      Love to you & your husband!

      #justkeepgoing 😉

  10. Dear Feathered Friend,
    Yes please! Strap me down into one of those vintage electric chairs & amp up your “supercharged words worth their weight in gold” & throw the main power switch once, if not twice, but three times… feeding my hungry mind, body & soul. And by the way, I thank you again for the much needed jumpstart (high-voltage jolt) in life, cause one can’t get enough of your electrified words… they just don’t make them like the way they used too.

    P.S. Can’t thank you enough for all you do, for everyone! Forever grateful, Andrea! Ciao, P

    • Andrea Balt says:

      Phillip, thank you SO MUCH. I deeply appreciate you.

      Glad we’ve crossed paths in this short life.

      Big hug!

      • Phillip Ihlenfeld says:

        Andrea! “Special Thanks” to you & for throwing that switch!

        Love this woman & her earthy mixtures of ancient aquifers turned into words & her words turned into freshly sprung waters & her waters turned into an endless supply of liquid notes being played throughout fertile lands “the seeds of plenty” turned into love. 🙂 – P.S.I

  11. Laurice says:

    Thank you for such an amazing read. You said a lot of things I needed to hear. Brilliant!

  12. What messy, glorious beauty in your words. My heart beats to the same tune.

    When my creative self demanded to be heard 6 or so years ago, what a massive relief and overwhelming sense of having arrived, of having solved my life’s greatest puzzle. I often yearn for that plateau – it was so so peaceful.

    Now I am coming to understand – and your words have helped me cement that understanding – that I am driven to an otherwise plateau-less life. That ups, downs, blind alleys, searing pain, hollowing fear and crushing loneliness are part of my fabric.

    So it goes.

    • Andrea Balt says:

      Isn’t it crazy that doing the crazy thing is always less crazy than not doing it? 🙂

      “That ups, downs, blind alleys, searing pain, hollowing fear and crushing loneliness are part of my fabric.” — Exactly!

      There will be dragons wither way. But the joy and fulfilment that comes from living your own life, creating your story, are far greater than not doing it. I’d rather choose my own dragons than be chosen by the world’s dragons. 😉

  13. Oh and I also have very high hopes for teleportation

  14. Kristin says:

    When my creator heart needed a jump start, I opened this.

    Thank you. The alone-ness is crushing at times, but I always see a glimpse of a kindred spirit in your words.

    Have a beautiful day, dear Andrea.

    xokd

  15. Hey, Andrea.

    Thanks so much for your site, words, wisdom, and obvious love behind it all. It is just great.

    Particularly the words about the wanting to share the beauty and point it out to someone. So recognisable.

    Anyway, would love to meet you one day, someone with such passion, it is just great.

    Anyway, good luck, lots of positive things for you, nothing but the best, and who knows till somewhere in the future.

    Robert.

    • Andrea Balt says:

      Hi Robert!

      I appreciate your feedback. Yes on sharing: creative company is one of the most needed assets in a creator’s journey and the lack of it can make us lose heart.

      It’s a small world. Hope to cross paths at some point.

      Big virtual hug.

      A.

  16. Thank you for this inspired piece. It reads like a shot in the creative artery, reminding me why I write, and why I must keep writing, facing up to those voices which tell me every minute that I’m not good enough, I have nothing to say, ain’t no-one gonna read it anyway, it will never make any money, it’s time I gave up and got a proper job… we all know these demons. Thanks and blessings. I needed this! X

    • Andrea Balt says:

      Thanks Caroline!

      Exactly. That is NOT why we create. We create out of necessity, because it satisfies our soul, because we can’t NOT create… the rest should happen and will happen in time and at times only in part. We don’t create for what / who we want to be, but as a result of what we already are.

      Rock on…

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