Like many Druids (it’s never all, nothing holds true for all…) I consider awen, inspiration to be a sacred force. That creates a context for any situation where I find awen present. People who inspire me in an ongoing way hold positions of great significance in my life. People who respond to what I do by seeming inspired, I also recognise as being in that awen-shaped relationship. I live by my creativity, not just in the sense of paying the bills, but in how I approach life, how I deal with depression. Without the flows of inspiration, my life is grim.
My two most obvious collaborations to date have been www.hopelessmaine.com with my husband Tom, and Letters Between Gentlemen with Professor Elemental. There have been other shared projects along the way. What’s also important to me is the working relationships shaping spaces – so Trevor Greenfield, publisher at Moon Books has a key role in my creative life, and increasingly so does Simon over at www.nerdbong.com
Some sharing of awen is about being involved in the same work, or just happening to be affected by another person. To sit down and do it deliberately is a whole other thing. For a start, it means exposing my process. I don’t usually put work in front of anyone else until it’s at a level I feel is ok. However, to make room for a collaborator, it is necessary to let someone in far earlier than that, when the flaws and holes in a piece are still very present. It means letting go of control and being willing to see things change and not be as I imagined them. I am continually surprised by how the island of Hopeless looks, but it’s way better than anything I would have come up with. But, you have to trust a creative partner to surrender something to them.
So, what is it that I look for? What am I trusting when I set out to share awen with someone? Their brilliance, for a start. The Professor hadn’t written anything book shaped before, but I trusted his wild imagination, humour, and skill with words. He in turn trusted me to hold the shape of the project and guide him through the more technical bits. I trust Tom’s technical skill as an artist and I trust that his visual imagination knocks spots off mine. He trusts me to make sense of things and handle plot arcs – he’s great at setups but can’t plot his way out of a paper bag… while my visual imagination is poor. And so we bring both weaknesses and strengths to the table, holding both honestly. It’s an emotional exposed and exposing sort of process. You have to be able to negotiate, and let go, and no one gets to be entirely in control of what happens.
In my experience, control and inspiration don’t go together very well anyway. Letting inspiration in as a solitary Druid or creator, is an act of relinquishing control. The inspiration does not always do what you expect or take you where you intended to go. Awen flows most freely when you don’t try to direct the flow but instead allow it to direct you. There is an aspect of surrender to all religions and forms of spirituality, and whether working alone, co-creating or when sharing ritual, whether you are willing to surrender to inspiration, and whether that turns out to be a good idea, can define so many things. Surrendering, it must be recognised, is not reliably a good thing, inspiration doesn’t always lead to ideal outcomes, eureka moments do not always hold the key to true understanding. We can get all of these things wrong, so letting go has to be tempered with a bit of wisdom.