Today’s Do What You Love interview is with Tara Leaver, a self-taught artist exploring the exciting possibilities of paint from her home studio based in Brighton in the UK. I first met Tara when she came on the inaugural Do What You Love retreat back in 2011, and have been following her journey ever since. Tara has just self-published a new book ‘Creative Spark: {re}Igniting your Creativity with Everyday Wisdom‘ and I talked to her about the story behind this book, and how her battle with depression has brought her to a place where she is now doing what she loves, every day.

As an energy worker and creative guide, Tara uses her experiences with art making, her intuitive gifts and her knowledge of energy healing to encourage and support courageous souls on the journey back to their creative selves in her Creative Spark Sessions, run from her light filled studio. ‘Creative Spark: {re}Igniting your Creativity with Everyday Wisdom’ distils these sessions into a life and creativity manual for those who can’t make it in person but still want to find and nurture their own creative sparks.

PS Read through to the end to find out details of Tara’s giveaway!  THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED. THANK YOU TO EVERYONE WHO ENTERED!

Tara Leaver

1. How are you leading a life ‘doing what you love’?

Two of my greatest loves in this life, art and the sea, are now a part of my daily life. I live just a minute’s walk from the beach in a light and airy flat with sea views and a dedicated art studio so I can work from home; it’s a dream come true. With the advantages that come with living in such a creative and alternative city, I can also fulfil two of my other lifelong dreams; developing my understanding of energy work and combining it with my creativity to be of service to others in finding their own unique creative spark.

‘I will hold the world’ by Tara Leaver

2. What did you do before this?

Like many people I have done various things before finding and creating the conditions ~ both within and without ~ that enabled me to put long time dreams and ideals into practice. One of the side effects of having a good education often means you get indoctrinated with the belief you can’t make a living from creativity outside certain limited areas, so my route has been circuitous. I’ve done various deeply unsatisfying office and shop jobs {where I discovered I am never going to be a nine to five girl}, and I ran my own online ethical gifts business for three years. I’ve worked with children on and off since I was a teenager, and was a Montessori teacher for several years which I loved.

‘Move’ by Tara Leaver

3. What was your a-ha moment that pushed you to change / realise your passion in life?

I’d say it was more a string of moments than one defining one. I always had these vague but persistent ideas about combining creativity and helping people, but I didn’t know how they would manifest in my life, and for a long time I felt unqualified to even begin to explore that. I experienced depressive episodes for most of my life which impacted on any creative progress, but the dreams remained and reappeared when I came out of that dark time. I think that all the choices I made, and all the things that have happened, have been components for building the life I have now. Without losing my own creativity and carving my own path to rediscover it by following my instincts and intuition, I would not be in a position to help others on their own paths back to their creative selves.

4. How did you make it happen?

I think it was partly because this is who I am so it’s a dream I always return to, and partly because of the choices I made along the way. I always had a feeling that the desire to mix service with creativity would come together when it was ready, but it was on the back burner for a long time. In the meantime, I kept walking forward, trying things and discarding them if they weren’t right for me {not always as fast as I might have!}. When I moved to Brighton I found a Tai Chi teacher and Reiki master who has since become my mentor for navigating through life. Without her I absolutely would not be where I am now ~ depression free, back inhabiting my creative self on a daily basis, more balanced and stable than I’ve ever been, and finally with roots that enable me to offer myself in service using the gifts that come naturally to me.

‘Sacral’ by Tara Leaver

5. What has been your biggest challenge and how did you overcome it?

The depression for sure. I was undiagnosed for a really long time and just thought there was something horrendously wrong with me, and that everyone else knew a secret about how to live that I didn’t. The thing about depression is it numbs out all joy, including creative joy, so for several years I wasn’t making art, was living a very ‘surface’ life and wasn’t connected to myself at all. The journey back to myself has not been easy but is worth every step; I’m still on it of course but now I am much more in tune with myself and that has allowed my creativity to blossom. I went through all the therapy and medication like many people do, and while some helped, it never seemed to stick after I stopped. The one thing that has been healing in a real and lasting way has been working with my mentor; I am now a Reiki master and practice Tai Chi every day, I have a stronger connection to source and to myself, and that impacts in a miraculous way on every area of my life. Living by the sea, which I find so healing in itself, and taking the time to explore my creativity has helped immeasurably too.

6. What is the best advice you have received?

‘Be yourself’. It sounds so simple and it’s bandied about a great deal as if it’s the easiest thing in the world to do. In fact I think it’s easy to misinterpret it. I would adjust it to ‘Be your Self’. It can take a long time to find out who that is beyond conditioned patterns of behaviour. I’m still discovering that myself, but I do know that when I am in Flow, when I come from a place of expansiveness and clarity, the Self that I am connects more deeply and meaningfully with others in ways I could never predict, and that in doing that others feel seen and validated and therefore safe to venture into things. It’s very powerful. When I went to the Do What You Love retreat, I found a little note in my goodie bag saying ‘You are more powerful than you know’. I have it up on my notice board as a reminder that being my Self is where my power lies.

‘Alignment’ by Tara Leaver

7. What keeps you awake at night?

Ideas! I am always scrabbling about in the dark for paper and pencil; the ideas that come at night invariably disappear by morning. Also the self-worth thing; it’s a hallmark of depression but I actually think we all have it to some degree. It’s part of the ego’s attempts to keep us safe, misguided as they are. As much as I know that I am creating a life that reflects who I am and allows me room to breathe and flourish within that, I of course have fears and doubts like anyone else. What if I’m actually not that good at what I do? What if no one is interested? Is it really of value? I like that Marianne Williamson quote that is floating around a lot these days, about how hiding our own light serves no one.  It’s a good reminder that every single one of us has something to offer from the uniqueness of who we are; if you really take that on board, it removes any need for self -doubt and excuses! What you have and can do, no one else has and can do in the way you can, and that makes it instantly valuable.

8. And what gets you up in the morning?

Knowing I can construct my days according to my needs, the freedom that gives me, knowing my art studio is upstairs ready for me to go and play in, and that I am finally able to do work that is meaningful to me and adds value to others. Living on the surface of life was very damaging for me; now that I am embracing the part of me that wants to go deep and long, as opposed to shallow and wide, life becomes much more exciting and full of potential.

9. How did your book come about? 

I’ve always loved words and writing, and I always wanted to write a book. When I was younger I knew I needed more life experience if I was going to write something worth reading, so it went on the back burner with the other dreams. While I was developing the idea for the Creative Spark Sessions last year, I just suddenly sat down one day and started writing. I wrote every day for ten days, and that was the bulk of it down. It just poured out.

I decided to go the self-publishing route for various reasons; partly because I am not a known or established artist or author and it was kind of an experiment, partly because the book is quite small, and partly overwhelm about what was involved in approaching publishing houses! I know someone who uses CreateSpace to self-publish their books, and after looking into Lulu and Blurb it seemed like the best option. It was a steep learning curve, and without the help of Pauline Leger, my graphic designer, I would have been lost in terms of designing the cover and layout of the book, which are key, especially in a book about creativity which is so visual. It also helps to have someone to discuss ideas with and keep your spirits up when things get tricky! I wouldn’t say self-publishing is a simple process but CreateSpace are very helpful, and a greater understanding of the technical side of things than I have is going to help you a great deal. If you’re prepared for meeting all obstacles with optimism and patience, and for the process to take a lot longer than you imagined, you’ll navigate it much more easily. {Feel free to apply that to life too!}

10. Who is your book for? What do you want your book to do for them?

‘Creative Spark‘ caters to three main types of people {they can overlap}; those who don’t consider themselves creative at all but feel something is missing, those who harbour secret desires to explore their creativity but are nervous about it, and those who are already on their creative path but have perhaps lost their way or find themselves in a rut.

My desire is to show how ‘being creative’ is nothing to do with being able to draw, which many people seem to believe; it is so much more than that. My experience has shown me that everyone is creative in their own unique ways; it’s actually not that big a deal, it’s simply the nature of being human, and it gives me such joy to be able to share that with people who are afraid or unsure or overwhelmed by what’s possible. It lights people up to discover parts of themselves that not only did they not know were there, but that they also really like, and it’s a privilege to be able to witness that and encourage it. The book offers support, ideas, inspiration, and everyday grounded wisdom that applies to both creativity and life. I cover the issues I’ve found come up repeatedly around the area of creativity, such as resistance, time, how to make it work for the way your life is set up, self-doubt, fear and all the best ways I’ve found to help move through these to inspiration. I believe that the best ideas work across the board, and I have certainly found that the lessons I learn in day to day life translate to the canvas and vice versa.

[All images courtesy of Tara Leaver.]

Find out more about Tara on her website or blog. You can see her online shop here and buy her book here.

Click here for more interviews with inspiring people doing what they love.


GIVEAWAY! Tara is kindly giving away a free copy of her lovely new book

TO ENTER: Just leave a comment underneath this interview saying why YOU need to reignite your creativity, and how you think this book will help you do that!


NOTES:  The winner will be chosen at random from the comments left below this post by the deadline. Do What You Love’s decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into. The prize is non-transferable and there is no cash alternative. This competition is open to anyone from any country over 18 years of age. The winner will be announced on this blog next week. Thank you and good luck! FIND OUT WHO THE LUCKY WINNERS ARE HERE.