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  • Writer's pictureGina Greenlee, Author

It’s Not too Late or too Silly to Indulge Your Creativity

Embroidary Design on a Jacket

“No matter what your age or your life path, whether making art is your career or your hobby or your dream, it is not too late or too egotistical or too selfish or too silly to work on your creativity.” Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity

When I was a little girl I wanted to be a fashion designer. I couldn’t draw. Couldn’t sew. Still, I loved fashion – wearing it, pictures of it.

My first designs were for my Barbie dolls. I made them out of facial tissue and cellophane tape. At age 16 I met a girl in high school who walked around with a sketchbook. I asked her if she would sketch fashion designs that lived in my head and wouldn’t go away.

She did.

Woman's embroidery jacket

I took her sketch of my design to a tailor.

Who made a futuristic style gown.

Which I wore in a fashion show organized and hosted by another girl from high school who was part of a Washington Heights group called The Dancers and Models of Nefertiti.

Then I grew up. Went to college. Worked in the corporate world. And lost all of that just-do-it-ness in service of my creative energy.

Past is prologue. I had to unpack the weight of adult life and responsibilities over decades – a 12-week facilitated course in Julia Cameron’s Artist Way, long-term psychotherapy. And most importantly, apply what I learned from each in daily life. Moment to moment.

Artwork embroidery on back of jean jacket

“People frequently believe the creative life is grounded in fantasy. The more difficult truth is that creativity is grounded in reality, in the particular, the focused, the well observed or the specifically imagined.” Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity

I’m in my 50s now. I regularly design clothes, using the model I experimented with in high school. I skip the sketches and use adored clothes in my closet as design templates. I safety pin here, cut up old clothing and recycle design there, and then bring the pattern to a tailor. The one with the right mindset of fun and experimentation. First there was Alice, a lovely Scottish designer who relocated to New York City to create costumes for the Metropolitan Opera. These days my creative partner is Cecelia who loves bringing my designs to life with her sewing machine.

This is not a COVID exercise. For more than a decade, I’ve designed and worn my own fashions. I’m old enough to have lived through AIDS, a 1990s measles outbreak (I didn’t have the measles as a child), and SARs. COVID, like each of the above-named pandemics of my lifetime, has sharpened my focus on what matters most, what I can control. It’s created more space for me live in the poet Rumi’s assurance: “Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray.

“In the long run, fan letters from ourselves – and our creative self – are what we are really after,” writes Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity. “Fame is really a shortcut for self-approval. Try approving of yourself just as you are – and spoiling yourself rotten with small kid’s pleasures.


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