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Desperately Seeking a Return to My Creative Soul

Written by Nana-Essi Casely-Hayford

My maternal grandmother had many pearls of wisdom which she passed on to me with the extraction of a promise that I would store all of them in my living safe – my imagination – to access as and when needed. According to Aaatii (Aunty), as she was known to most, my imagination is much more precious than any material possessions I will ever own; and holds components of my dreams while sleeping, daydreams when awake, visions, intuition, premonitions, mischievous playfulness of my inner-child, cognitive wisdom and discernment. All of these, she stated, are treasures including a set of tools that will among other things come to my aid in times of crisis.

I fondly remember spending school holidays with my Aaatii in Akuse, then a village (now a small town), within walking distance of the Volta River in the Eastern Region of Ghana. A picturesque place of mystery, which is resplendent in lush greenery, colourful flora, an assortment of fruit trees, birds, insects, amazing creatures, bats, owls plus a variety of reptiles with and without legs.

One of the magical moments I recall were the early morning rituals (believe me, there were many), where Aaatii would take all of us out into the compound and ask us to stand barefooted, wiggling our toes in the dew soaked grass to centre and ground ourselves, preparing us to face each new day. This was always done in silence. Once we’d each achieved this, she would ask us to narrate our dreams to her. Dreams she told us were a reflection of our creative souls and what we would be attaining for our current and future selves. Through those ritual gifts, I began to discover different aspects of myself. A portal through which conjured images formed in my mind’s eye would then translate into the making of outfits, patterns in clay, cornrow configurations on cousins and siblings heads of hair – most of which have provided material for my writing over the years. 

In my field of work as a Writing & Expression for Wellbeing Practitioner, I use a plethora of techniques to assist groups I work with, and facilitate sessions with a passion that motivates and inspires. At present, however, I seem to be frozen, unable to facilitate my own creativity to the point where for almost a year, my writing has taken a sabbatical.

I am desperately seeking the recall of my creative soul – crying unseen tears by way of sighs and wistful daydreams! Backtracking to years past, and mourning the loss of methods that once fertilized my creative quests. I’ve been wondering how I am going to snap out of this writing hiatus, and cannot understand what has happened to me.  

It wasn’t until a few days ago, while I was still in an absolute tizz-wozz as to how I would be presenting my year of creativity via my contribution to the 2018 January Inscribe Blog, that I realised what the cessation of writing is all about. I discovered that stress and grief are what have stayed both my creative mind and writing hand.
The beginning of 2017 found me frantically house hunting – I was on the verge of homelessness. Prior to that, two part-time jobs I’d thoroughly enjoyed came to an end due to funding cuts. Following on from the two stressful situations, a further tsunamous event occurred! I lost my father who had been terminally ill for a little under a year.

Around 03:15 am on 20 June 2017, a few hours before he passed, I was deep in thought whilst sitting by my father’s hospital bedside; he’d been drifting in and out of consciousness most of the night. I looked up to find him quietly observing me. With a glint of mischief in his eyes and an equally mischievous smile dancing about his mouth, he asked me what I would write about him when he was gone… My father’s parting gift was to share some Ananse stories with me as well as discuss literature I had read as a child, a rare and absolute honour. Writing my father’s eulogy, then having to read this at the celebration of his life evening, was one of the most difficult tasks I have ever had to execute. Afterwards, even the thought of writing a shopping list became a great source of anxiety.  

To compensate, I have so far, in the last three weeks, managed to reread several of the much-loved authors of my youth and recent years. I have also discovered new authors in one of my favourite genres - speculative fiction. It is a class of writing that is synonymous with reality within my cultural heritage. The above gives layered levels of meaning to the saying of fact being stranger than fiction. 

I may not have a ‘celestial patroness’ just as Milton did when he was writing Paradise Lost, nor a ‘divine Muse’ like Homer in his creation of the Odyssey, but when I lose myself in a speculative fiction novel, I find it goes a long way to fostering my creativity and restoring my equilibrium. Thus, I am living in trust that speculative fiction including the rituals my grand matriarch taught me (something which I have shied away from for far too long), will help heal the creative paralysis that has been brought about by the numbness of heartache.

Reading and dreaming after all are as I have learned along the way, part of the writing process.  Plenty a priceless gem is to be gleaned amidst the glorious pages of the billions of books in this complex but beautiful literary world of ours!

Image: Pixabay

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