Creativity and the Wilderness

The Call to Create by Linda Leonard, Jungian Analyst

( Photo taken in the  Aspen area 2015)


“Before I began to write this book, I had the following dream: I was in the wilderness. Suddenly twenty-five wild beasts surrounded me in a circle. I saw that to survive, I had to better learn to feed them and discover how to relate to each one.

When I woke up, I realized that the wild beasts symbolized an abundance of instinctual creative energy. If I did not feed these forces and learn to honor and respect them, they would devour me. I needed to learn how to live in the wilderness. The dream reminded me of the fairy tale “Beauty and the Beast,” in which a simple maiden learns to love a fearsome beast. When she frees the beast from his enchantment by loving him, she discovers that his princely kingdom contains the secrets of creativity.

Every time I approach a new project, I feel just like I do when I trek in the wilderness. Creating is like being in the wilds, surrounded by beasts. The sense of wonder before the magnificence of the wild lands and the awe before exotic animals is beautiful and terrible. Imagine being in the jungle and seeing a Siberian tiger approach. This is the way I experience the creative process. I am thrilled with the spirit of adventure, yet alert and anxious before the danger.

In nature’s wilderness, death is always near—in the sudden strike of lightning, the unexpected freeze, the flash flood, the avalanche, or the chance encounter with a bear. The wild psyche, too, brings us face to face with death every time we transform our lives or create something new. Our inner wilderness is like the great white space of an endless snowscape. There, in solitude, we enter the infinite mystery and meet the ineffable. Even if we are with others, we still make a solitary journey.

In the beginning of transformation—whether in personal life or in creative work—people sometimes feel alone, lost, and disoriented. When we create, we enter into uncharted territory. We may fear that imagination will fail us or that we will not be able to find the trail markers that we need to write, paint, choreograph, or create the net phase in our daily lives. Do we have a compass? Have we lost the map? Do we know how to pitch a tent in a snowstorm? Have we brought the right equipment, and do we have the training to find our way in or out of unknown country? Can we even find the hint of a track?…..

I perceive the call to create to be grounded in nature. Nature is a major source of creative inspiration, healing, and renewal. Since life is creative and a natural process, we need to understand nature and its cycles to flourish creatively. Knowing more about the seasons and their rhythms can help us comprehend the phases of creativity.” This excerpt was taken from the preface in The Call to Create.

Click here for more writing by Linda Schierse Leonard.