In Search of Creativity: An Interview with Melissa Williamson

I was going through some old school work and I came across this short class assignment I did a while ago. It was an interview with a dear friend and fellow creative. I thought that I’d share it with y’all; despite its more formal flair I think that her story is worth sharing.

As I flip through a sketchbook of winged mermaids, and all too familiar zombified faces I’m filled with an overwhelming sense of curiosity. Across from me is a woman whose creativity seeps from her every pore. Once in a while we receive an odd look from a near by table at the quaint coffee shop we’re at, as they over hear Melissa Williamson interject the word penis into various conversation. It is her way of easing the awkwardness she feels about discussing her craft while, making herself and anyone around her laugh, even if it’s just at her “12 year old boy jokes” as she refers the them (Personal Communication, April 2015). Melissa is, above all other things, an artist.

Melisa is a graphic designer for Nunn Design, a jewelry company based out of Northwest Washington. She is also a freelance painter, a sculptress, and a pen and ink goddess. Her artwork can be found in a number of homes, in a number of mediums, and covering a number of genres. Influenced by pop culture, dreams, and those around her, Melissa’s work spans from paintings of famous theorists and pet portraits, to science fiction versions of her friends and neighbors.

Melissa and I delved into a deep conversation about creative methods. At first she has a hard time talking about her creative method and even admits that, “It all feels nebulas to me, why do I keep drawing torsos with wings? I have no idea!” (Personal Communication, April 2015). However the longer we talk, the more relaxed the conversation becomes. As I share some of my own creative process we are able to connect on a more personal level about how our own values affect our individual creativity.

Bryan, Cameron, and Allen (1998), suggest that sometimes even creative people are “caught in living adult lives overshadowed by childhood condition” (p. 48). Melissa opens up to me about her own childhood conditioning and how those experiences shape her values today. “I learned to question everything and always ask why, why, why. My mother said anything that wasn’t the bible was letting the devil in. So I had to learn to break out of the absolutes she gave me. Why can’t I have a winged torso? You have to find and feel the answer, ask why. Question the rules, and your own assumptions, question gravity, question why the heart is where it is. Question everything” (Personal Communication, April 2015). Bryan et. al. (1998) described that voice Melissa hears as her tamed inner rebel. It affects the way she deals with authority and ultimately it has shaped her creativity in a positive way. She’s learned to embrace that inner voice that asks her to go against the grain. In her particular case, it has helped form the way her craft developed.

Through my discussion with Melissa I realized that my own personal values really do connect with my creativity. I value people, laughter, honesty, and the ability to trust over most other things. In my writing I want to reflect these same emotions and connect with my reader on multiple levels. I want my reader to connect with my characters and feel that they could be a real person, with real emotions. I want my reader to develop a bond with me and I want to tell stories in the most honest way possible. People are not all good, or all bad, we are each instead the product of the choices we make in life and the experiences we’ve had. My goal as a writer is enable the reader to have this connection with my own writing.

Breen (2015), discuss the myth that “fear and sadness somehow spur creativity.” As Melissa and I talk about her own creative hindrances I’m able to discern that from, at least her perspective, Breen is indeed correct. “I am my own worst enemy. The little gremlin on my shoulder is criticizing everything I do. When I listen to him, I can’t pick up a pencil” (Personal Communication, April 2015). When she feels stressed and afraid that she might not meet deadlines or if she is afraid that someone won’t like their commissioned piece, Melissa starts to shut down creatively instead of thriving as the myth might suggest.

While going through her some of Melissa’s art, I came across a drawing of a little girl, who’s thought bubble was filled with sculls. It is a very sad and dark sketch, so I asked her about it. Melissa told me that when she drew this particular sketch, she was dealing with some of her inner demons; it came from a very dark and sad place. Immediately I was reminded of something I read in Bryan et. al. (1998), “Happiness is only one color on our emotional palette; call it sunny yellow.” While fear and pressure to succeed could be the anti-creative pill, sadness and or a depression might simply be considered the color blue on the emotional palette.

In Pink, (2006), there is talk about how creating something isn’t the problem; the problem lies in the ability to see. “The secret to seeing – really seeing – was quieting the bossy know-it-all left brain so the mellower right brain could do it’s magic” (Pink, 2006, p.15). When I think about how this applies to my own creative process with writing, it all seems quite clear. It is easy to put words to a page and call it good. Creating is the easy part; but really seeing how the words can form ideas and people on a page, that is tricky part. Finding that Zen place where everything comes together and believing in myself enough to get there daily, that is the tricky part.

One of the most encouraging things about chatting for two hours with a creative soul over coffee, is leaving feeling more confident about my own creative process then when I got there. Melissa and I talked a great deal about surrounding yourself with like-minded individuals. The idea that creativity begets creativity was a point that really hit home for me. To end in the words of Melissa Williamson, “Feed your creative inner-beast daily, she’s a hungry bastard but if you can tame her, she will fill your world filled with magic” (Personal Communication, April 2015).

Resources

Breen, B. (2015). The 6 myths of creativity. Retrieved from: http://www.fastcompany.com/51559/6-myths-creativity.

Bryan, M., Cameron, J., Allen, C. (1998) Artist’s Way At Work: Riding the Dragon. New York: Mark Bryan and Julia Cameron.

Pink, D. (2006). A whole new mind: Why right-brainers will rule the future. New York, NY: Penguin Publishing

Williamson, Melissa (April, 1, 2015). Personal interview.

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