INdeep with McKella
INdeep is a monthly series of interviews with people that inspire me. They may be coaches, healers, teachers or wellbeing advocates and experts.
I ask these guiding lights to share their stories of darkness, fear, growth and triumph that have lead them along their journey and I then ask them to go deep… sharing their current struggles and secrets that they don’t normally share with the world.
Stories of courage, honesty, vulnerability and the abolishment of “perfect”.
Every month we will have a rare opportunity to see the person behind the teacher, the human behind the bright lights and struggles that have lead to their success. You won’t want to miss these intimate musings that are not often shared beyond covert journal entries.
This month I spoke with McKella Sawyer of McKellaSawyer.com
Tell us what you do.
I create inspiring artwork and I blog about living a creative, joyful life. I’m also working on shifting from offering only original art and art prints to creating soul-exploring digital products like ebooks and ecourses to help women rediscover their own magical, creative spirits. For now, I adore making art that stirs the viewer and reminds her of her own creative urges that might have gotten buried.
How did you find your path to help and inspire others?
I’ve wanted to be an artist and writer since I could hold a book in my lap or smear finger paint on a paper. I lived in my imagination and though I was nice and comfy there for a long time, I had no idea how to be in the real world.
In college, I finally entered the “real world” where creativity is seen as a cute hobby instead of a lifestyle or even a valuable trait. It was a shock to my system and I became anxious and depressed. I had to grow up so quickly and I didn’t know how to be my goofy, creative self and a responsible adult at the same time. Adulthood seemed like a cruel joke and I realized that so many of us try to squash ourselves into a mold, how we believe we “should” be in order to be acceptable in this world. We study subjects we don’t love to get practical jobs that don’t light us up in order to “survive”. I just thought “Is this all there is?” Then came the creative block.
After graduation, my depression got worse and without my creative outlets, I got sick. My adrenals burned out and severe hypoglycemia constantly clouded my thinking and I didn’t realize I’d turned into a dried-out husk of my former creative self. Once I realized I needed to heal, I decided to try creating again. Creativity is often a process of problem solving, and as I worked with the colors, composition, and movement in a painting I realized I was working through my emotional issues as well. I started to feel like myself again. Reconnecting with my creativity was essential in reminding myself who I’ve always been and getting comfortable with that person.
Are any of those old challenges still playing out for you?
This is an ongoing process! I’m constantly creating, expressing, and doing soul work to clear fears and false beliefs and make peace with parts of myself I don't like. Expressing those qualities creatively helps me realize how beautiful they really are. Depression and anxiety still come and go, but now I receive them as signals that something isn’t right in my life and I ask what they’re telling me. Creativity provides a safe place for me to explore those feelings.
Tell us about a current or recent challenge that you’ve been facing in private.
Lately I’m noticing that my art is becoming automatic, just skimming along the surface instead of getting to my heart. Painting the same things over and over again is still fun but it’s not as satisfying, so I know it’s time for a shift. I’m not putting as much thought or feeling into my art and I can feel this difference. Very old, deep fears and beliefs about myself and the world in general are popping up in all areas of my life. I’m questioning everything I ever believed about myself, people, a higher power, and how the world works and it’s one of the most terrifying experiences of my life. I’m a bit afraid to let my art touch the bottom of my soul again because I’m scared of what I’ll find. On the other hand, art that plumbs the deepest part of our spirits is the most inspiring art of all!
But this tells me that something I’m on the edge of something big, of untangling a huge knot that’s stumped me for ages. It takes courage to dig into something that big and hairy, and even more courage to express it creatively. But those deep fears and stories want to be expressed. That’s how we let them go, how we bring them into the open where we can see them.
What is the next step for you?
My next step it is to give myself time, space, and the safety to express, explore, and learn. I have to actually make time to just be with myself in the studio and just see what happens. I have wonderful friends and family to help me and I’m thinking of working with a self-love coach as well, because I’m prone to beating myself as hard as I try to be gentle.
But I think the most important thing is to be ok with whatever happens.
Also, I feel called to expand my general creativity beyond just art and writing, but into movement as well like hooping and yoga. I’ve actually been dabbling in ecstatic dance as well because some emotions just have to be expressed through the body, those big intense ones that don’t sit still long enough to come out in art or writing. Who knows, maybe this will spill into my art! Dancers are one of my favorite subjects to paint and I’m thinking of actually having myself photographed while dancing and painting that. This is a terrifying thought; the idea of dancing in front of anyone and actually taking a record of that horrifies me, but that tells me it’s probably a good idea. It’s a more more raw and messy than the trained dancers I usually paint.
Expanding the scope of our creativity expands our emotional range and gives us practice in dealing with the unknown, the uncomfortable stuff we’d probably rather ignore. I can’t think of a better way to support myself through this next adventure.