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Creativity is a way of life, not a separate activity - Susan Wright Regan (Bright Way Podcasts)

bright way podcasts Apr 15, 2021

A professional dancer and dance studio owner for 50 years, Susan recently retired and now follows her dream of playing harp​. She shares how her optimistic creative spirit allows her to know one can take on a new endeavor at any time with great success. She believes that creativity​ is a way of life, not a separate activity one engages in from time to time. Susan also speaks about how creative Community gives her inspiration, encouragement​, learning and fun.

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Yeah, welcome Susan Wright, Regan. Nice to see you today. You too. Where are you based in Boston, Massachusetts. Okay. And can you tell us a little bit about your, your journey, your creative life? I know that you're a lifelong dancer. Well, I did have my own dance studio and performed. I did a few TV commercials and things like that for about 52 years.

And I retired at the age of 69, which is about four years ago, almost five, and I always wanted to play a musical instrument, but I never had the time that my time was very taken up with my studio at worked almost 24 seven. I had over 300 pupils at one time. So it was very, very busy and we were involved in competitions and things like that.

But one of the first things I wanted to do when I retired was do something for my mind, but I also wanted it to be enjoyable. So that's why I decided, well, for 20 years, I've wanted to play the harp. And I say that because about 20 years ago, we were at the aquarium in Florida and we were watching, just sitting,

observing the fish and watching the fish. And a lady came in with a heart and she started to play and I had never been close to one or heard one singularly. And it was just mesmerizing. The, the feeling that came over me, I could not forget, but I was just very busy with my life and my life went on. I have three children.

So I mean, I was very busy. And then about 10 years ago, I was on a cruise in the Mediterranean and there was a woman on there. Her name was Mary, Amanda FIA child. Who's a harvest. And for the second time, I was mesmerized by this sound in this instrument and never played an instrument before never even read a piece of music.

So I went up to her and I just said, just started talking to her. And she gave me like a mini lesson and that went on, she did it twice in the course of the cruise. And she says, well, if you, if, if she says y'all gonna be one of my students that are out there, she said, and I didn't know what she was talking about out there.

And so I said to my partner red, I said, you know, I think now that I've retired, I'm going to just look into the Harp. So I rented one and I said, Oh, this is pretty just going to put it in the living room and pluck out a few tunes here and there, which I did. And he said,

I think you should take a few lessons. I took a few lessons and that was it. I was hooked. Wow. Well, and starting studying an instrument after retiring. What was that like for you? It was totally, people will say, Oh, well you were always, you know, involved in music and everything. It must have been very easy.

I used to practice two, three hours a day just to get a little thing. And it was difficult. It was difficult, but sometimes things that are difficult are the things that are worthwhile. So even if I made a little bit of progress, it propelled me forward and that's, that's how I just kept going. I would do a little bit and then a little bit more and it just kept propelling me forward and it was difficult,

but I mean, it's something that I do every single day. And, and because of the conditions that the world is in right now, I haven't been able to play. I've got to, I got to the point where I was playing for nursing homes and senior centers. And I did, I really enjoyed that, but I'm not doing that right now,

but the Harp has helped me cope during this time. It's maintain the wellness of my mind. And it gives me a routine in some kind of a connection with people in our community. And it helps me maintain my mental and emotional wellbeing just because I know that every day it's there waiting for me. And I hope to be creative that day and, and work on another piece of music.

And so that's, it has, it was difficult and it still is difficult. It's something that I love. And I think if, if no matter how difficult something can be is if you love doing it, it makes it worthwhile. I really appreciate your saying that because I truly believe that it's Inspiration, that keeps us motivated and your Inspiration just shines out so clearly.

And when you stay in touch with the Inspiration and you celebrate all those little bits of progress every day, that end up to the big wins in the end. That's what actual sustainable creativity looks like. You know, people oftentimes will just see the final product, right? They'll see us performing or making our videos, which you make now. It's wonderful.

And they just think it happened, but it's, it's just all these micro steps every single day. So can you tell us a little bit about how doing the Bright Way process? Has it affected your creativity? Well, it's, it's, it's told me that everybody can be creative and it's something that teaches me something about myself and what I need and what I want to have a fulfilled life.

And I never realized that I needed, wanted to be creative. And I started reading the Bright Way and it wasn't just for people who were very expertise in their field. I think it's for everyone. And I think it's a way that people can live. It's not just something that, Oh, I'm creative today, but it's not going to happen tomorrow.

Or I create, I created some little thing this week and that'll be good enough for this year. It's something that I think that we live. And I also think that, that it T it has taught me something about myself and what I need and what I want in life. And for me, it has something to do with the Harp. And,

but it's not only that, I mean, I'm outside with flowers, or I'm doing something cooking in the kitchen. And instead of just doing it, I think of ways that I could be a little more creative in doing it. Right. Yeah. I think when we are creative like that with our everyday life, it makes us feel fulfilled. I mean,

it's, it's just a direct correlation. We are interacting with that thing, cooking say, and we're transforming that thing. And we see that transformation. That's what creativity is, is this co-creation together. So, yeah, I really appreciate hearing how you have brought this intense focus on Harp to now spread out to everything in your life, because as we do one thing,

so we do everything as, as they say, you know, so this type of creativity is not an isolated category. It's really more of a way of life. That's how, that's how I feel. I mean, in this, in the last probably six or seven months, I've had problems, health problems. Plus everybody has had problems with the coronavirus and everything else.

And I've spent a lot of time in the house. If I did not have this feeling of creativity, I think I wouldn't have been able to maintain the wellness of my mind in, in the, the joy that I have. I really do have joy in life. I really do. And I think the creativity has helped me because otherwise, if you woke up every morning and it was the same mundane thing,

day after day after, and you weren't moving forward in your life, I think then people start to have mental and emotional problems, and then they're not connected. Now you would say, well, how do you connect with people and be creative just in your own house, but through our community. I have, I never could. I never knew anything about zoom.

We were well prepared for this weren't we, But it seems that almost every day there is, if I wanted to, it was some way that I could connect with people and explore my creativity through that. And it wasn't anything that I really kind of actually looked for after reading it. And after thinking about being creative in my life, it just kind of happened.

Yeah, it just happened. Yeah. I think that connecting with the community and trying to, you know, everyone wants to maintain their wellness in their mind, but you need to have some kind of a routine, I think, and you have to still be connected with people, even though you're in your own home, I have a routine and I do,

and I connect through this creative life that we've we've started. So Yeah, I love it. I love that you're emphasizing the joy and fulfillment aspect and how, when that is catered to when that is taken care of, then our resilience increases and we really need resilience in these times. So oftentimes, yeah, we, we emphasize the very joyous and positive aspects of creativity.

The great side effect of all of that is that when things do go wrong, which they will, and you know, what an amazing challenge this year has been, we are better able to cope with it. And since our resilience has been built up, we have this reserve to draw from, and we need to make deposits into that reserve beforehand. We can't wait on until things have hit a crisis point and then try and build it up because already,

you know, we're kind of flat on the ground. It's very hard to pick ourselves up. So I really appreciate your bringing this, this resilience piece. You know, I never had a journal or anything like that, but I have been kind of keeping a little one now, but one of the, one of the little things that I read, I think in the Bright Way,

or maybe it was in our Circle, I'm not sure, but I'm trying to reinforce every day, the choices that you can make toward a creative life. So I put together a few little things that I've been writing down because once you, I don't even remember when it was, but one time you were speaking and you said about, write these things down,

you'll see how much you've done. Right. And I've started to do that. I have my little journal here that I keep, I love it. But I, I came up with these few little things just to reinforce every day, the choices you can make toward a creative life. He mindful of what we're doing, not mindless. So just don't cook mindlessly.

Oh, I'm just going to cook this, be mindful of what you're doing and be optimistic and not pessimistic. I try to do that. A re kind of a reality optimism. I mean, you can't just walk around thinking that everything is going to be wonderful, but you can choose to be more optimistic and not pessimistic. And I do believe that affects the outcome much more than on the That'd be passive toward your creativity.

Not, not, I mean, try to be active, not passive toward it. So, I mean, you say, Oh, I want to be creative, but you can't just sit here and say, I want to be creative. You have to actively do something about it. Yes. I put that down and I'm trying to be accepting and not think that everything is really challenging.

Say, Oh, this might be a little difficult, but I'm going to accept it. And I'm going to try to move on and try to be giving and not taking all the time. So I, I love these thoughts. Isn't Oh God. Oh, they're so beautiful for creativity and for life in general, just for living a good life, a life that we enjoy,

The thing is too. Sometimes you come across people that are always so negative and it's always a wall was me. And it's always, why is it me? And I believe that in life, there's not a lot of accidents. Things happen for Purpose. It may also happen because maybe we've done something that we shouldn't have done or something like that. But I mean,

I think if we kind of live our life in a certain way, it's not, I'm not saying it's going to be perfect because I'm someone that knows the things I don't always perfect. You can be in pain, but you, sometimes you're not struggling. You, you, you understand that and you just, you know, deal with things and it makes your life a little more fulfilling that way too.

I think. Absolutely. Yeah. I re I really feel that, you know, what you're presenting is a solution out of feeling stuck, a feeling pessimistic of feeling like you're out of control of your own life, and you're the victim of everything else that's happening to you. It's a way of, of regaining that internal strength so that you can cope with the things that do go wrong,

which they do. We know they do, and we can't stop that from happening, but our response makes all the difference. Let's see, I think, I think change and things that go wrong is part of life. And you learn from those things. It's not like, Oh, this happened. Something must be wrong. But I think if people understand that that's what life is all about.

And you have to kind of embrace that as part of life. It's not like, Oh, that's terrible for me, you know, that's life. So you, you need it head on and you say, you know, what, how am I going to deal with this situation? Is it going to be woe is me? Or is it going to be,

Oh, maybe I'll learn something, something from it and move on. Right? The creative path really shows us this because if we stop at every single mistake we make and say, well, that's a sign that I'm not supposed to be playing the Harp rather than, Oh, I wonder why, you know, why does this sound like this? Or why is this passage feeling so awkward?

And we stop and examine, and then we know we can fix it. We maybe we can't fix it today, or even this whole week or a month, whatever, you know, but we have faith that eventually we'll hit on the solution that becomes a template for dealing with anything in life. And, you know, I feel sometimes too that, especially my creative paths path with the,

with the heifers, not so much that it's about the perfection, it's about the journey. It's about the creativity. It's about the connection with the people that you, I mean, we're not playing the Harp right now, but it's that, that I made a connection with you. So I think it's not so much the perfection. It's the connection. It's what you can give to other people.

I mean, to be a giving person in not to be someone who's always taking, taking, taking, but try to give as much as you can to other people. I think that's part of creativity. I mean, if you just sat like a, just like a bump on a log and not do whether it's perfect or not, that's, I don't even think that's the important thing.

I think it's the thing is the connection, The connection. It's all about that. All about that. I'd love what you're saying. So the other part of what I would love to underpin, and what you're saying is how you went inside and really connected to what is it that you want to say and what you want to do. You really made this a very personal creative path.

Could you talk a little bit more about that? Cause I think sometimes people get a little bit, Way laid on their creative path. They'll start taking lessons and they'll play whatever their teacher tells them to play. They start getting very concerned about maybe these external markers. Like I want win this certain award. Everything becomes externally focused rather than really owning. What is it that you like and what you want to do?

Well, my path with the Harp started before I even started playing it. My mother was extremely ill and she had dementia and she was in a nursing home for about a year. And I would spend afternoons lunchtime before I went to work. I just have lunch with her at that time I had my dance studio. So the only thing I could do for her,

she loved music, was to bring my students there. So I would have the students go when they performed for the, for the people. And then the time that's what I could do. But I saw that a lot of the times they would just be sitting there and they'd put music on the television or they have it piped in or something like that.

But it didn't seem to affect these people at all. They just sat there, which was heartbreaking to me. So when I brought the children in and I would play the music and they would dance, you would see some something. I think, I think music kind of lights a spark in, in someone's brain. If it's been maybe shut down for a while.

So I could see this little Spock. So my mother passed away about two years before I stopped teaching, but it never, it was always in the back of my mind that, that these people needed more, I thought than what they were getting musically. So I knew that they liked music from the forties, from the fifties, like more of a,

an American song book type of music. And I loved that music too, because this is, I'm just going to revert for a minute. The first memories as a child that I have was my father picking me up in the kitchen and dancing to over the rainbow and the Tennessee walls and some of these old songs, but it's a memory of music and my father that I can never,

I think I was only probably two years old when all this happened, but it was very, ah, you're making me something it's I feel this energy coming through. Definitely never, never forget. I mean, I, I can close my eyes now in that house doesn't even exist anymore, but I could be transported there anyway. So I started playing and I'm saying to myself,

you know, what type of music did I want play? And I did have a teacher at that time. She primarily taught children and I was, she was teaching me, I don't know, things that I really had no connection with at all. So I would bring a list into her and say, gee, I really would like to play this and this.

And so she helped me a little bit, but it really, I was the one that kind of propel myself forward to play this type of music. So I made a decision that I was going to try to play music that would connect with people, not some not. And I do play obscure things too, but I'm saying music that people, Oh,

I know that song. I can sing a little of that song. And so that's what I kind of have been tuning into. And I'm even forgetting your question now, but anyway, I'm tuning into, to this type of music that people could connect with young people and old people. And so I decided to, I wrote a little letter to the different nursing homes and I brought the letter,

the a personally, and I said that I was still a beginner player, but I really wanted to bring something in the first place I went was when my mother was, and they were the first people to hire me. And I said, I would play for them the first time gratis, just to see if they were interested. And if they were interested,

I would love to come back and play for them. And I, I had like nine different things scheduled for now with these people, but it'll, it'll come back. It will come back. I remember when you started that journey and reaching out and just, But I'm Practice every day. So now I have more Wonderful. So what is one misperception that people might have about creativity that you would like to help them let go of?

Well, that it is only for expert people, people that are an expertise in playing a musical instrument, acting on a stage, dancing someone with the simplest amount of ability can be creative. And I think it's a way that you live your life. It's not something that just just justice for certain old people, old people that have been expert pianist and they,

they can be creative. I think it's for everyone. I think everyone can be creative, whether they're young, whether they're old, whether they're well-versed in whatever subject they're doing, whether it's poetry or playing the Harp or acting or singing, I think anybody can live a creative life. Even if it's someone who's a cook or anything like that. Yeah. Oh,

I love it. Absolutely. I totally agree. And what is one thing that you would like to share with people as encouragement going forward on their creative journey? I know you'd been talking a little bit about cross training for you. Well, I do the cross training just because I want to fill my day up with creativity and I do do different things,

but just to know that they can, they can move forward. Even if it's only a little step at a time to be creative, start with little steps and you'll see how far it will take you. Because in, in my, in my journey, I never thought that I could be creative. I never thought it was something. I mean, I was creative doing choreography,

but I mean, I was, I went to college. Everything else was danced from the time I was probably six after I had polio when I was a child. So that's how I got involved in dancing. The doctors at children's hospital in Boston told my mother that my heel cords and everything were extremely tight and I was having difficulty in walking. So they told me,

told her to put me in dance or ballet. And that's how I started dancing. And I remember just like the Harp. I remember my mother taking me to a dance recital. I can even close my eyes and remember where we were sitting in, in the auditorium when I saw the children up there dancing, and I was having trouble walking at that time.

That's what I wanted to do. I said, next, next time we come here, I'm going to be up on that stage. And that's how I got involved in dance. But that was, that was a very creative path because you listened to music. And in your mind, you try to think of what movements would go with that music. And,

and when you were doing choreography and you had to, you had to take into consideration how advanced the students were, what age they were, how appropriate was it was for them. But then when I retired, I think it all those skills now just put them on the back burner and I wouldn't be creative anymore. And to Diana Added in all over again.

But I think once a creative person, always a creative person, I think it would be difficult for me to live, not being creative clothes, wise, flowers, cooking the Harp, anything. Congressman, I was just going to say that even that conversation, when that conversation with you today, but I think you don't have to be playing a musical instrument and you don't have be well-versed in whatever it is to be creative.

But I think you can try to understand your path in life by being creative. I think if you just let everyone else tell you where you're going all the time and where you should be all the time and you didn't listen to your inner voice and let it come out through your creativity. I think you're not living your life to its fullest. Yes. Yeah.

Very, very wise words and direct experience words. You've lived this, you walked it, you walk it shining bright today, even in these hard times. So what an inspiration you are. Well, it's, that's a very nice words that you're saying to me. I appreciate it. Thank you so much. Thank you. You made It very easily easy to talk to you naturally.

I was a little nervous beforehand. Well, you know, I think it's, it's really nice for people to hear that because you know, they'll see you and feel like, Oh, you know, look at Susan, she has everything together. She's so beautiful. Articulate, accomplished. And then to hear like, Oh, actually I felt nervous. I'll be like,

Oh really? And it gives them, you know, a little bit of hope that they too can, can walk the creative path and be brave and, and shine, shine that light. So thank you. So thank you for the opportunity. It was, it was my pleasure. Believe me. I try to experience as much as I can in life.

And this, this is a Bright staff for me today. So just another thing that I can say, Oh, this is what I did today. I was a little bit creative anyway. Absolutely. Thank you so much, Susan. Well, thank you. It was my pleasure. Thank you. Talk soon. Thank you. Bye-bye.



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