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Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Creativity (An 8-Part Series): Part II - Domestication vs. Wildness

By Kristy McCaffrey

There are beautiful and wild forces within us. ~ St. Francis of Assisi

When I was very young, I had a powerful dream. Young women dressed in white—clearly some type of initiates—filed forward to be approved by a Head Mother. One, a scraggly and unkempt girl, didn’t fit. Two guards forcibly dragged her along in line.

The dream was simple and vivid. It was my wild nature fighting against domestication. And often, that domestication is governed by you, not an outside force such as parents, teachers, or a religious institution. We often suppress our wild nature because in its wake comes chaos—or so we think. In truth, wildness opens avenues. In wildness lies curiosity, compassion, and a connection to the rhythms of life. All life. The trees, the plants, the animals, the Earth. Without this connection something in us will die.

But the good news is that no matter how long the wild nature has been abandoned, it can always be brought back to life.

In Women Who Run With The Wolves, Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés states, “Once [women] have regained [wild woman], they will fight and fight hard to keep her, for with her their creative lives blossom; their relationships gain meaning and depth and health; their cycles of sexuality, creativity, work, and play are re-established; they are no longer marks for the predations of others; they are entitled equally under the laws of nature to grow and to thrive. Now their end-of-the-day fatigue comes from satisfying work and endeavors, not from being shut up in too small a mind-set, job, or relationship. They know instinctively when things must die and when things must live; they know how to walk away, they know how to stay.”

Kali is a goddess of destruction and creation who predates Hinduism. Sometimes known as the 'forbidden thing', she shines a light on the dark places that keep us from total liberation, shadows that encompass our authentic sexuality, our rage, our killer instincts, our animalistic natures. These are often suppressed, but they wield power by allowing our fears and anxieties to flourish. Kali represents the Divine Feminine, and she doesn't do well with domestication. By confronting the terror that Kali illuminates, we slowly become unfrozen. We are able to speak, live, and create in a divinely natural way, following the rhythms that course through each of us. We become wild in the truest sense, deeply connected to our soul-selves, following the path we're meant to pursue.

How might we recover our wildness? One age-old way is through stories.

It’s been my experience that when I tell others that I write romance novels, 1) women giggle with delight and quietly share with me how much they love such books, and 2) women tell me how they long to write and hope one day to share a story with the world. (I will also add that men are generally supportive, but there is also that small minority who have no interest. When done with respect, there is no harm in this.)

Why do I write romances? Because in a majority of these stories, whether they be historical, contemporary, futuristic or paranormal, the heroines are women in search of the core of their wildness. By the end of a story, they will become brave enough to not only face the villain and love the hero, but they will also find a strength that is soul-deep, soul-knowing, and a piece of themselves they can’t live without.

This is why women giggle when they learn my profession, because despite the stigma associated with reading frivolous romances, they’re drawn to the myth and power woven into these tales. Stories transform the teller and the listener. Stories light the way on the darkened path into the hearts of women (and men), illuminating the pitfalls but also the guideposts along the way.

There have been great societies that did not use the wheel, but there have been no societies that did not tell stories. ~ Author Ursula K. LeGuin

I’ve always enjoyed the game of finding which female character in Greek mythology most draws you. Is it Athena, filled with wisdom, or Artemis, who runs among the animals in the woods? What about Aphrodite, the seductress, or Persephone, the innocent who succumbs to Hades and takes springtime with her? (There are versions in which Persephone willingly binds herself to the god of the underworld. A simple shift in intention can change everything.)

What stories resonate with you? Those that do are engaging directly with your wild self. Don’t ignore the connection, but instead actively explore what bubbles forth from inside you.

We have an archetypal need to be spoken to through stories because they bring us into contact with our inner being. ~ Carolyn Myss, medical intuitive and author

Works Cited
Beak, Sera. Red Hot & Holy: A Heretic's Love Story. Sounds True, Inc., 2013.

Estés, Dr. Clarissa Pinkola. Women Who Run With The Wolves. Ballantine Books, 1992.

Don’t miss Part III in the Creativity series: Shape-Shifting

Until next month…

Connect with Kristy


  1. Oh, Kristy. You are speaking to my soul, girl! I love these posts of yours. When I think of how wonderfully creative children are and how uninhibited they are and the sadness of losing all that as they grow up--yes, boys, too--not just us girls--it really hurts my heart. When you think of all the wonderful ideas and dreams that have just been given up on or allowed to die outright by so many because their creativity has been molded out of them as they became older, it's enough to make you cry, isn't it? But blog posts like yours give us hope to rejuvenate those dreams and ideas and try to break through the bonds of "normalcy" that hold us in "our place" in society.

    So many wonderful points you made and I love the pictures and memes you used to illustrate those points. Also, I agree with your understanding of the reasons why people react as they do to you when you tell them what you write. You know, I've even had a handful of women respond with, "Oh, I don't read." I have had to bite my tongue out a couple of times to keep from saying, "How very sad for you."

    Reading is what allows us to capture that "wildness" again, and I love that, as a writer, I'm able to live vicariously through my characters and be young and wild and free and CREATIVE again. I love being able to write stories that other people read and really identify with deeply, and I know you do too.

    Keep these posts coming. They are so inspirational!

    1. Thank you, Cheryl!! When I'm feeling creatively 'dried up', the best thing I can do for myself is to find a story, whether it be a book or a movie or a tv show. It can help 'wake up' that part of me that is feeling down and out. Children are naturally tapped in, and I think we must work harder to keep that enthusiasm as we get older, but it's not impossible. People often admire authors and hold them to some higher standard, but the only difference is that we're actively working to put our dreams out there. And anyone can do it. I guess the message is--for everyone--don't abandon creativity, no matter what it is you do. The world needs it. Now more than ever.

  2. Kristy, I relate to the material in the this post. I have always loved the strong woman. She is sometimes exiled, but her truth to herself is more important. Staying true to oneself and the stories we tell is where peace and happiness ultimately reside. Thank you for sharing the stories other 'wild women' have told. There is much to learn there. Doris

    1. Doris,
      Exile is a good way to phrase it. Wildness is not always welcomed by our friends and family, and we often suppress ourselves to keep the peace. But it comes at a cost. And I truly believe that we are all called to bring our gifts to the world. It's not our job to stand in the way of that, but rather to nurture it, and hone it, and craft it into something tangible. Thanks for stopping by!

  3. I love those images! Especially the dog among the sheep! You've once again written a killer post. I do think that as we grow into adulthood we put on filters that dim some of the connections we have even within our own brains.
    Someone sent me an article yesterday about romance novels and there was a quote I found really interesting. It's from the book by Jayne Ann Krentz, Dangerous Men and Adventurous Women: Romance Writers and the Appeal of Romance. "Men represent to women one of the greatest sources of risk they will ever encounter in their lives. Taking risks and winning out against all odds is one of the greatest pleasures of fantasy. In a romance novel the heroine puts everything on the line and wins." It gave me food for thought and your post reminded me of that idea.

    1. Patti,
      I love that book! In the essays within, romance authors really illuminate the draw of the genre in deeply psychological terms. It's a great read. Love is the ultimate adventure ...
      Thanks for stopping by!

  4. Kristy,

    I was almost finished with reading "Women Who Run With The Wolves" (on your recommendation, by the way) when you posted Part 1 of this series in January. I suspected from your title that Dr. Estés' book would play a large role in your articles, and I wasn't disappointed. There is much to contemplate in her book, and it needs to be read, put away for quite a while, and revisited. (Processing time).

    I'm drawn to stories of Man v. Self and Man v. Fate. ('man' in the sense of 'universal individual' whether male or female). The inner struggle fascinates me.

    Books that show up on my "re-read" list, and without a doubt appeal to my 'wild self' are:

    **The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley and her spin on Morgan le Fay speaks to me. I return to this book every couple of years. As you said, "There are versions in which Persephone willingly binds herself to the god of the underworld. A simple shift in intention can change everything."

    **Putting aside the debate and controversy surrounding Carlos Castanada's books and the plethora of criticism they've garnered, his works are products of his time: the 1960s with the associated freethinking movement, exploration of spiritual paths, 'New Age' ideas, achieving an alternate reality to expand consciousness, an so on. While Castanada has been denounced as a fraud, I think there is a broader perspective to his works, which is learning from ' the "wisdom of the ancients" through the studying/hearing/telling of ancestral stories, fables, and myths. To quote from your article, " We have an archetypal need to be spoken to through stories because they bring us into contact with our inner being." (Carolyn Myss, medical intuitive and author)

    **Ann Moura's books on magic, religion, Neo-Paganism, and green witchery intrigue me, too. She incorporates archetypal teachings/stories.

    1. Kaye,
      Dr. Estes' book is something to return to again and again, and at different times of a woman's life. While I've read the entire book straight through, I return to shorter parts depending on where I'm at in my life. Her writing is so rich and lovely. It really fills my well. I'm so glad you like it.

      I love "Mists of Avalon"!! But I must admit that I've not read Carlos Castanada, although I'm aware of his writings. Shamanic in nature, correct? And I haven't read Ann Moura. I'll have to check her out.

      Kaye, I've been drawn to your stories and it's likely because of these influences. :-)

      Thanks for stopping by!!

    2. He was an anthropology student at UCLA when he wrote the first three books detailing his apprenticeship with a Yaqui "man of knowledge". He earned his doctorate on this work. It's this Shamanic aspect of his work that receives the criticism as being fraudulent. Regardless, his writings intrigue me.

  5. Kristy, what a delightful and meaningful piece this was. I once read "THE WILD MIND" by Natalie Goldberg. It's a book for writers to help inspire them to get back into their writing. It helped me tremendously.
    This article made me think about those free spirit days of my childhood when I ran barefoot over the hills and into the woods, and just about everywhere on my adventures to discover Earthly truths. I remember my sister and I in our bathing suits dancing in the rain. It was so wonderful to be that carefree.
    My favorite mythological female character was Psyche and the story of her and romantic. Of course, there some hardships before they got together. Venus, Cupid's mom wasn't all that crazy about Psyche. I'm certain this myth inspired the fairytale "East of the Sun and West of the Moon" which I also loved.
    I also loved Louisa May Alcott's "Eight Cousins" and the sequel, "Rose in Bloom" and I was into adventure stories like "Kidnapped" by Robert Lewis Stevenson which I read 7 times.
    I have heard that creativity is connected to spirit.
    This was a wonderful article, Kristy. I also enjoyed reading the responses to it.

    1. Sarah,
      As a child, my favorite myth was Psyche and Cupid as well. I really loved mythology! I like what you said -- creativity is connected to spirit. As writers, we really have to be careful to not become too rigid, as I believe that stops the flow of spirit/creativity. Fear of failure or looking foolish is a big one. Fear of our family's response to our work. Fear of our religious institutions, especially if our project deviates from those teachings. But fear is no way to work. And the work won't be authentic. As writers, it's our job to be honest. Not always easy lol. Thanks for stopping by!

  6. I remember my mom reading a story to me about the Minoan bull leapers. This probably stuck because I was always fascinated with rodeo clowns, and later, Leon Coffee did the same moves in a spectacular way. I loved watching him--such grace and agility, not to mention he was pretty danged brave to even try it. In college, I read The King Must Die by Mary Renault--still one of my very favorite books--where Theseus, as a bull dancer. rescues Ariadne from the Labrynth.

    Plunging forth into the story world with no fear is sometimes easier said than done, especially when others have convinced you to follow the rules. Creativity has no rules. That said, I better get to work. ☺

    1. I do believe there must be a period of learning the rules, if only to give you confidence one day when you decide to step away from them, because there will be those who won't like it and will berate you for it. So much of living a creative life is learning to stand your ground about your work with courage. And that's a process. It's always easier to hand it off and live a shadow life. But that's not honoring our true selves. Thanks for stopping by, Jacquie!!

  7. Kristy. I so enjoyed your blog. Much food for thought. And although at times throughout my childhood and even as a young adult I let creativity sing and/or let loose with my wild side, I kept it under my hat as my mother thought I should be prim and proper and never let down my poise--we were not high society or anything, but I was to be seen not heard in a sort. For years I held back expressing myself until one day I saw several tragedies that hit me hard. I then reallized we have but one life and it is truly meant to be lived as we have no tomorrow--in a good sense however. Throughout my medical career, seeing so many who didn't live their life to the fullest or being deprived before they could, played over and over like a mantra until I blossomed and learn to be me. Writing now is my outlet Though it took me years before I started to write, I live through my characters and love it. Thank you so much for this inspiration and encouragement to be ourselves and live life the way that counts.

    1. Bev,
      You are the perfect example of how it's never too late. All any of us has to do is begin. Thanks for stopping by!!