Once you've established your inner bitch in her rightful watchdog capacity, it will be time to help her go beyond simply defending your creative space. As shame recedes, your inner bitch's natural canine qualities of playfulness, enthusiasm, curiosity, and affection will begin to emerge. She may be a bit timid if you've kept her locked up too long. It's your job to allow her to romp.
I advise many of my clients to spend at least two hours a week "romping." Creativity consultant Julia Cameron calls these expeditions artist dates. Simply take yourself for a long walk or on a trip to a favorite locale, and then explore whatever sights, sounds, and smells arouse your most visceral interest. Buy toys that make you loll out your tongue with desire, from shiny beads to a high-powered telescope. Sniff restaurants. Hang out with the people you want to lick.
If you do this, I promise the result will be an upwelling of creative energy. You may want to yank back on the leash at this point, afraid your bitchy side will run off and do something immoral, if not illegal. A certain amount of restraint is good, but remember, your inner bitch has instincts your practical side does not. Let her run once a day and follow whatever trail she sniffs out. Speak the words or pay for the lessons or embark on the voyages that are outrageously illogical but set the hair prickling on the back of your neck.
Expecting the unexpected.
The moon shone brilliantly full as I left my favorite restaurant with five of the most amazing women in the world. Our dinner had been delectable, the company even more so. The hilarity had been spearheaded by Eve, a woman who'd survived a deprived childhood, an attack by a would-be rapist, marriage, motherhood, divorce, grandmotherhood, and a case of cancer that by all odds should have killed her. She had become an infectious powerhouse of creative energy. As we reached the parking lot, Eve stopped, threw back her dignified silver head, and began to bay happily at the moon. The rest of us joined in immediately, like any good wolf pack, unperturbed by the fact that we looked and sounded like literal lunatics.
I'm sure we horrified anyone in the vicinity who defined "feminine nature" as quiet, submissive, and demure. Perhaps the word bitch is used so viciously in our language because the female role in the creation of our culture—of our very species—is unsettlingly powerful. After all, what will society become if its daughters, wives, mothers, and, heaven help us, grandmothers refuse to be shamed away from the total range of our creativity? All authentic creativity is ultimately truth-telling, and as the poet Muriel Rukeyser wrote, "What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? / The world would split open."
One thing's for sure: If any woman unleashes her creativity, her world will split open. She'll find unprecedented ways of solving problems, bridging gaps, and expressing her soul, and her corner of the world will be irrevocably changed. I'm not sure what the changes will be, but I know the words I'd use to describe them: Bitchin', baby. Bitchin'.
Get a piece of paper and write down the words "I'm so ashamed that _______________." Finish the sentence with whatever pops into your mind. Feel the shame. Observe it. Notice that it does not motivate any positive action, only paralysis, fear, and self-hatred.
Now get bitchy with your shame and the people who have shamed you. Attack them (on paper, not in person). Start by writing phrases like "How dare you shame me for making mistakes? How dare you try to stop me from moving forward, learning, and growing? How dare you suggest that I should be ashamed of the person I was created to be and the things I am meant to create?" If you want to snarl or bark, go right ahead.
Find a private spot, close the door, and lie down. Spend a few minutes scratching yourself—it feels good even if you aren't terribly itchy. Now take your notepad and write: "If I didn't give a damn what anyone thought, I would _______________." Finish the sentence any way you want, as long as it's true.
If the action you've listed is ethical, legal, and wise, promise yourself to do it when you're ready. If not, pat yourself on the back and promise yourself a treat (a mocha Frappuccino instead of ordinary coffee, half an hour alone in the park) for being honest. Keep your promises.
Martha Beck is the author of Finding Your Own North Star (Crown).
More Insight From Martha Beck
We Hear You!