Amanda Grace
October 8, 2015

14 months ago I did a google search that changed my creative life.


I typed “Art retreat Ireland”, hit return and winced. Two things were going through my mind:
1) I shouldn’t be doing this.

2) I need to do this.

Search presented it’s results and the next thing I know I’m looking at a web page offering ‘A Space for Dreaming”, in 8 weeks time, in Bantry, Co Cork. A couple of days later, I’m in the post office sending off a postal order to secure my place. I made arrangements to kennel the dog, cattery (yes I made that a verb) the cat, I hurled next month’s rent under the bus, followed by Ms Inner Critic, booked a hotel room…. and then I panicked. What was I doing going to an art retreat?

But, of course I knew.

I was going to find and entrench myself in a creative community. I was latching on. That there would be amazing art workshops was a bonus, but I was looking for something more, connection.

I went with that intention, I showed up, I got in there and I made myself known.


The creative identity doesn’t exist in a vacuum.

You can’t just don your apron and go about your day if there is nobody around you to play with, talk to, learn from, cheer. Who will you share your creative joy with? Your discoveries, your challenges? Who will encourage you, who will inspire you? Who will understand?

In his book ‘Show Your Work’, Austin Kleon address the ‘lone genius’ myth about being a creative. This is the misleading (and damaging) idea that the ‘true’ artist is inspirationally independent, not in need of social stimulus, a lone genius at work. Kind of like an immaculate conception, his muse just arrives, directly on the horse of God. I must say, I can relate. I always used to place artists on pedestals, attributing to them the classification of genius.

Credit: Kris McGarvey

Credit: Kris McGarvey

Kleon refers to Brian Eno‘s reflection on being an art student in which he says,

‘like all art students, I was encouraged to believe that there were a few great figures like Picasso and Kandinsky, Rembrandt and Giotto and so on who sort-of appeared out of nowhere and produced artistic revolution.’ 

However, unsatisfied with this, Mr Eno discovered that there was no such thing as an immaculate conception, that

‘there was sometimes very fertile scenes involving … all sorts of people who created a kind of ecology of talent. And out of that ecology arose some wonderful work. So I came up with this word “scenius” – and scenius is the intelligence of a whole… operation or group of people. Let’s forget the idea of “genius” for a little while…’

Thank GOD! I don’t have to be a genius to make art! Phew… where’s me crayons?

How liberating is that?

And I’ve found it to be true. I was always ‘creative’, I always had creative friends, but at one point in my life, I went off course and fell into a more rigid set up. I found myself sneaking my creative life, because I was alienated from my sources. And while my creative self still managed to survive, the longing inside me for something more grew stronger than the need for safety. I knew what I needed to do was to surround myself again, find a scene in which to implant myself, create the conditions under which I could not just survive, but thrive.

Yearning to belong

That art retreat in Bantry was the ‘coming out’ of a creative identity I had been afraid to embody. I refer to it and my decision to show up, as the gift that keeps on giving. It has led to my connecting with artists and makers all over the world. I have been inspired and encouraged to grow and flourish and I’m always nurturing and growing those connections.

What makes you stand out?


Every connection I’ve made since stems from this. It’s like being listed in the creative Golden Pages! I am now a proud member of a group here in Ireland, a network of creative entrepreneurs brought together by Tara Prendergast, a creative business strategist at the helm of Biscuit. I have joined many networking groups in my time and I have to say, I’ve always felt like a bit of a spare at the meetings and events, maybe it’s a bit cliche, but I just ‘never fit in’. Maybe it’s just me, but I think creatives need to do that kind of thing waaay less formally (although no less effectively) and Tara knows this, so our get togethers feel very different.



Moral of the story? 

So, what I’m saying to you is this… GET OUT THERE and find a community. Stop waiting until you’re ‘good enough’. It probably won’t be a geographically convenient community, so, to quote a friend of mine at the dinner table,“stretch or starve”. The kind of people you’re missing in your life are not all contained in your local area, it’s not ‘handy’. You wont bump into them or happen across them by chance. You have to reach out but let me tell you, it’s worth it.

Join a FB group, take a class, pm an artist you admire, comment on their threads, their blogs, we don’t bite, in fact we love that! Why not go the whole hog, give yourself a panic attack and sign up for that retreat that you have always found excuses not to attend.

You’re always welcome to come and play with me in Sligo!! That’s what I’m readying for you there, a big ol gathering place for all our creative selves to get together, be nurtured and inspired.

One more thing

A friend I recently made, only made possible through this kind of reaching out, gave me a little book the other day called “When I loved myself enough”, by Kim Mc Millan. It’s a beautiful little book celebrating the gifts we are capable of giving ourselves, once we make one very important decision…. that we are worthy. I have it open right now on my desk… here’s what it says…

“When I loved myself enough, I quit settling for too little”

And on that thought….


Always, Amanda xoxo

18 Responses to “Newsflash: You are not a genius (Thank God!)”

  1. What a fabulous article! I love your courage and feistiness (I think I made up a word there). I was gifted that wee book by my sister and it’s just beautiful. Thanks for introducing me to the concept “scenius” and for your beautiful story.

    • alwaysamandagrace says:

      Hello lovely Treasa! Thank you <3

      Do you know I especially love people who make up words?! True story! And may I say, I think the same of you… a feisty, gutsy woman, out there, bringing to the world a passion to to bring people together and help them be well and be happy xoxo I can’t wait to watch you change lives xoxox

  2. Mel says:

    Powerful stuff!

  3. Miriam says:

    Hey Amanda, I love this post and I’m so glad that you went to that gathering of creative souls in Bantry, it would seem to have been a wonderful decision for you. That wee book sounds lovely, must look out for it :)

    • alwaysamandagrace says:

      Hi Miriam, thank you for being here! It certainly was a great a serendipitous decision xoxo Someone was looking out for me… the good timing fairy perhaps?


  4. Tam says:

    Love you, loved reading this. YeS! :)

    PS. Come visit us in Brighton!! <3

    • alwaysamandagrace says:

      Ah Tam…thank you so much for reading and for your comment. Means a lot.

      You were there and I’m so glad you were. I loved the few chats we had over that week and am grateful having got to meet you and stay in touch. You inspire me always xoxo

      And yes. I’d love to visit… I think next year I’m going to do that. I want to visit Gillian and Maz as well xoxo I’ll make a tour for meself..Lol 😉

  5. Karen says:

    I love following your posts. I relate to where you were at, trying to let the art Flow instead of the clutter grow:
    In my house ther is –

    1 enough cardboard to build an extension. (For 3D artwork and book covers.)
    2 enough pebbles from our beach to build err… A small beach in my back garden.
    3. Enough shells to build a grotto.
    4. Every kind of paint, ink, pen, special effect and a mountain of many kinds of paper etc.
    5. Enough ideas to write a book but I think I’d have to make the objects first to see if they work.

    • alwaysamandagrace says:

      Hi Karen, Thank you! And I love that you’re reading them!

      Your shells and pebbles and cardboard stash is a sign that you do indeed have LOADS of ideas and imagination. It’s always good to have the fodder for when inspiration strikes.

      And… a book…why not?! We all love ideas, share them with us! xoxo

  6. Theresa Dooley says:

    God Amanda your really going places. Would love to tag along. Inspiration always welcome.

    • alwaysamandagrace says:

      Ah hello Theresa! Good to see you here. As soon as I get up and running in Sligo, you’ll have to come and visit :)

  7. Caroline says:

    Struck a chord with me yet again Amanda … I’m feeling the pressure to “do” something …. but procrastination is still my best friend!
    Keep sharing x

    • alwaysamandagrace says:

      Ah… procrastination! What a strange phenomenon. I find sometimes what seems like procrastination is more of a gestation period… and in that case, there is a forward momentum happening inside ….but sometimes it just is what it is. Always has a function though!

      Thank you Caroline x

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