Love without creative support = emotional damage

I started life in Philadelphia, in a loving but scarred family. My young parents had little life experience and many pressures. I know they did the best they could raising their children. Still, as their first of 3 daughters, I bore the emotional weight of a mother’s resentment at having left art college for marriage (which was the norm in 1950). My immigrant father, who had fled war-torn Europe, worked tirelessly to provide for his young family. Difficult emotions hindered them. In spite of their love, there was little emotional support for children with typical childhood fears, going through social rough spots, dealing with adolescent confusion. Their expectations were for their daughters to be well groomed, polite and do well in school (but with minimal involvement on their end).

As the oldest, my young creative output was harshly criticized. I have early memories of hearing that surely, I could draw a better (fill in the blank). I was told I had two left feet and was pulled from the ballet class I enjoyed. (The norm at that time was to focus on success, not joy.) I was sent to “charm school” when I was a gawky young teen. All of this shut me down and made me fearful of creating or speaking my thoughts.

Creative longing

But a piece of my childhood strengthened me even without my knowing it. The influence of the resilience of my father’s family was significant. They had used their wits, were courageous and made it out of Nazi-occupied France as an intact family. They made it to the States and established themselves — starting with little and succeeding. They overcame tremendous challenges.

When I faced the question of college, I acknowledged deep creative urges and courageously went to Moore College of Art and Design. I gravitated to design, which appealed to me as a career that would call on both creativity and problem-solving. I can now see that design was a “safe” choice, creatively. Unlike other options, design did not challenge me to create from my own sources of emotion and desires for expression.

Establishing my career

In “Phase I” of my post-college career I was a working designer and very happy. Still in Philadelphia, I first worked in-house for an insurance company, then at an educational think-tank and at a science museum. After moving to Boston I worked in publishing and at a small agency that focused on healthcare and medical device clients. I had married and was very happy to be making a new life with my husband in Boston.

“Phase II” of my career took off after my son, Daniel, was born in 1984. At that point I knew I wanted to embark on my own venture and work in a way I believed would be best for my clients and myself. And thus, Seltzer was launched. My design firm grew and evolved steadily for over two decades, always filled with new challenges, opportunities and satisfaction.

The family I created

My husband, Steven, and I were thrilled to be parents. Daniel was a joy and a delight. When he was five we decided we wanted a second child. Things did not go as planned — we found ourselves dealing with loss and grief for several years. But, in time, our second child, Gabriel was born. Our boys are separated by 10 years but they have an amazingly close relationship. Gabriel, like his brother, is bright, funny, insightful and good-hearted. For Steven and me, the journey of parenting has been one of the richest experiences of our lives and brings us immeasurable happiness.

My creative tug-of-war

I have always been passionate about visiting museums and galleries (a joy my mother fostered in her children) and going to theater and dance performances — both near home and when we travel. These excursions light me up and fire me up. I get a physical sensation of excitement just recalling the thrill of experiencing a great exhibition or performance.

The irony is that over most of the years of my adult life I was disconnected from my own innate creativity — what I now understand to be my creative core. My work as a designer certainly called for creativity, both in the solutions we developed and in running my business. But I was not creative for myself. I was not connected to my own urges and needs to create. I realize now that I experienced a subtle but deep feeling of being unsettled, though I couldn’t have named it and didn’t really understand it.

My heart knew the truth before my head

In the fall of 2010 I found myself saying words I did not see coming. Midway through a conversation with my business coach I changed the subject and said, “I think I’m done!” Something that must have been percolating in my subconscious told me that after 26 years in my business I needed a change. I had no idea what it was, but I was ready to move ahead and find out.

Career, Phase III

A few months before my “aha” moment, I’d submitted a proposal to speak at the HOW Design Conference about Design Strategy. At Seltzer, we’d been refining our strategy process for some time and I was excited about the impact it had for our work, and the success of our design projects for our clients. I wanted to advocate for making strategy a standard part of the design process for clients of all sizes, and share the process we’d developed.

Two weeks after I decided to sell my business, I received an email from HOW saying they wanted me to speak at their conference in June, 2011. I was thrilled, and had 10 months to research and prepare my talk. I was stunned and delighted to present to 450 attendees! I felt that I had launched my “encore career” as a speaker, consultant and educator focusing on strategy.

New doors appeared and my creative core opened

As the months in late 2010 and early 2011 passed, I navigated and concluded the sale of my business and enjoyed preparing for my big moment on the national stage. In those months, some new opportunities also presented themselves. I flew to Los Angeles in January 2011 and attended a 2-day Intuitive Painting workshop that was taught by Israeli psychiatrist, Dr. Pinki Feinstein, founder of the Psycho-Creative Institute in Tel Aviv. I was thrilled to create with abandon — so quickly that there was no time for any self-criticism or doubt to interfere. Doing the writing that was part of the process, and learning about the underlying principles of the process, were also truly exciting. I left feeling a new energy that was exhilarating, and I continued doing the work on weekends after I returned home.

In fact, my mother took that trip with me, and she also had an amazing experience. For many weeks after the trip we worked together, long-distance, using the techniques we’d learned at the workshop. I was very excited to see how it helped her rekindle her passion to make art.

In July, I flew back to LA for a 3-day “Authentic Voice” workshop with Dr. Feinstein. It excited me because the program incorporated Intuitive Painting and I was sure it would be fascinating. This time, my husband came with me, and for both of us the experience was intensive and enormously enlightening. As I had at the Intuitive Painting workshop, we shared our experience with an amazing group of people, from whom we gained insights and with whom we forged wonderful friendships. Most of all, we left feeling that we were each on a new path to focusing on what was truly unique about and important to each of us. And, we had great tools to use to continue our work.

I knew I wanted and needed to learn more about this work. I embarked on 2 years of intensive training with Dr. Feinstein (conducted online with students from several countries), to learn to instruct Intuitive Painting, and to learn his methods of using creativity combined with psychology to help people to overcome blocks in their lives. Each of the students worked with clients and shared their cases, allowing me to learn both from Dr. Feinstein and from my fellow students. Month by month, I became more sure that I was passionate about pursuing what I was learning.

New ideas take root

In the course of my training, I took a bold new step — I started to work as an artist. I set up a studio and began painting, using both my emotions and a host of creative ideas that were now freely coming to me. This was a completely new experience, and it totally thrilled me. It still does!

I also started to think about how I wanted to synthesize all I was learning and experiencing. I was drawn to all sorts of resources for information about creativity, the importance of intuition and how the right brain works. In time I was invited to co-facilitate workshops with others, I taught a weekly Intuitive Painting class, and I was conducting small Intuitive Painting workshops.

Career Phase IV — bringing my gifts to the world

During this time I was doing one-on-one work with clients, which I found extraordinarily meaningful and gratifying. I soon started to envision expanding my work, by creating comprehensive workshops of my own that would bring together many of my ideas and approaches. I wanted to reach more people. In the spring of 2013 I conducted my first, solo, one-day workshops and was honored to work with amazing participants who opened their hearts and minds to the processes and information I offered them. At that point I knew I was ready to develop and launch my full coaching practice.

The name of my practice, “Creative Core Coaching” came to me naturally. My journey had led me to identifying and fueling my long-dormant, enormous creative core. And, it led me to understanding that great creativity is inside each of us. It’s part of being human — it’s something we are each born with. When we choose to activate creativity, it grows and gets stronger like a muscle. I am growing, learning and creating in new and exciting ways every day.

Parenthetically, I am delighted to say that both my mother and father are very proud of the work I am doing. And, I have observed that my work is helping them to live more creatively, which brings me great pleasure.

My mission is to help bring more creativity into the world, and with it will come healing, happiness and genius that’s as yet undiscovered.

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My future starts when I wake up every morning. Every day I find something creative to do with my life.
— Miles Davis