Danette Relic is a personal life coach, artist and writer in Toronto, who works with her clients on surviving breakups, discovering and committing to self-marriage and re-establishing the importance of a creative process, even for folks who may not identify as, “a creative.”
Determined to providing clients with relief, and being someone who listens without judgment, Danette is also the Founder and CEO of Radical Creative Sanctuary, a safe space founded in self-expression, subjective definitions of growth and complete honesty. Danette is empowered by her own experiences with understanding identity, heartbreak, self-marriage, living with an invisible disability and being a member of the LGBTQ2S+ community.
We chat with Danette about connecting with all audiences, whether readers or listeners, discuss how she starts each day with creation over consumption and highlight important reminders about advice – as advice is always subjective to the advisor!
Working on this interview was extremely empowering and we encourage everyone to read through to the very end. Danette’s perspectives are eye-opening, heartwarming and full of advice
1. When did Radical Creative Sanctuary launch?
The name arrived in January 2010. I was grieving. Unpacking boxes in a tiny room I was renting after moving out of my beloved house and leaving my partner of six-and-a-half years. I had already been coaching and leading my own creative workshops since 2007, but I wanted a business name that was separate from me. The name of a space where people could feel safe to explore and dream and express themselves. A space where I too could have room to evolve the shape of my work. In this tiny room I was renting, I had hung the words Sanctuary, Creative and Radical on the wall as separate intentions for myself during this painful transition of heartbreak. I looked up from my laptop and saw them there and thought, “Oh. Yes. That’s it then. Radical Creative Sanctuary.”
2. On your website, you speak very openly about the concept of “self-marriage.” I’ve heard, “self-love” and “self-care” all over the Internet, but, “self-marriage,” is a new one for me. I’m intrigued and curious. What does “self-marriage” mean and from where does the term come? How do you hope the term influences your audiences and our readers?
Ah yes – you can’t swing an organic cotton tote bag without hitting some self-love swag!
It’s wonderful to see the terms being normalized. And, while this happens many people are left feeling confused about what it really looks like. You’ve probably heard some say, “Self-love is more than just bubble baths,” and this is true – though bubble baths are fantastic, that might just be the beginning.
I came up with the term self-marriage on my own, and so did a lot of other people all over the world before and after me. This means self-marriage is an idea that is sprouting into consciousness wherever it can. I am thrilled to be playing my part in the self-marriage movement. I’ve been married to myself for 18-years. I am devoted to personal growth and self-expression in all the work I do. I’ve developed a strong sense of what a self-marriage can look like over the long term – and how it informs and transforms our lives, and the lives around us.
The motivations behind self-marriage around the world vary. For some it is political, for some it is spiritual, for some it is rebellion or play. The expressions of it vary from full on adapted traditional ceremonies, private solo rituals, performance pieces and even group self-marriage weddings.
I mentioned that often people come to self-love the way they come to prayer – only when they need something. I want to go deeper, so that it is sustainable. I want to get to the core. Self-love is more than a fleeting slogan, it deserves your investment. Not just when you need something. Not just while you’re buying time between relationships.
Self-love might be an inspiring concept, but self-marriage is the work of making it real in your day to day life. If you search self-marriage you’ll likely find self-proposals, like a woman buying herself a ring, photoshoots and ceremonies. These things are wonderful and important. But a marriage is not the wedding. What happens after the flower crowns come off? What about when it’s not sexy and not new?
Of course, you can love someone without being married to them. And not everyone wants to get married at all. But there is a reason we still choose marriage. It’s a declaration. Self-marriage is the commitment to intentionally cultivate a loving relationship with yourself for your lifetime. It’s a metaphor and a framework to honour the practice. It holds us in our commitment – in good times and bad.
I think this is a beautiful kind of heart integrity. When you know and love who you are, when you take responsibility and listen to your own heart, you will be a much more responsible and fulfilled lover and partner with others.
3. Why were you compelled to launch a business that supported people going through breakups, redefining self-engagement and living through various aspects of the creative process?
Well, I never wanted to be an expert on breakups! When my life was stable and happy I was like, “Maybe I’ll be one of those people who can have breakthroughs but without all that pain stuff.” But then, the heartbreaks came, one after another. And for some reason, they were all-encompassing. I found myself in a profound state of loss and heartbreak, but without anywhere to put it. Breakups didn’t seem as “serious” as other losses. But I was a wreck. I couldn’t move, couldn’t eat could barely function. I hadn’t seen anyone else give a breakup the kind of space I seemed to need to process it. And so, I thought I must be doing something wrong. I felt ashamed of how hard it was for me.
Funny, when I married myself in 2001, I wasn’t thinking of any of this. I proposed to myself before the big string of really intense heartbreaks. It wasn’t until years later I began to see how my marriage to myself had served me as a compass all that time. That doesn’t mean I always followed what the compass was telling me! But it was there.
Breakups are an incredible opportunity. They break you open, and often in this process, you might feel like you have nothing left to lose. So, you surrender to ideas you might not have been open to before, out of necessity.
For so many of us, self-love is the easiest thing to brush off as not worth our time. We talk about it when it’s convenient and then go on with, “real stuff.” Kind of like the way some people pray only when they need something. But when your heart is broken open, you see how deep it actually runs. And maybe the breakup is the catalyst for finally giving to yourself in a way you have never given before. For changing the way you do relationships – starting with your relationship with you.
All of this is creative to me. It’s messy. It’s full of possibility. It’s vulnerable. It’s fun. Cathartic, transcendent, demanding and beautiful. Just like art.
My work is creative in that I like to make what is missing. I am writing the book I wanted but wasn’t there. I am creating space for heartbreak in the ways I wanted it but it wasn’t there. I am taking a stand for self-marriage as a worthy, radical and rewarding choice – and I love to support people through this lens.
4. What have you learned about heartbreak, this all-human experience, since launch day?
I love the nuances of heartbreak. Just like how you can think all music of one genre sounds the same – until you’re a fan. Then you can hear the subtilties and differences between styles and artists that you never heard before.
I’m a fan of heartbreak. I used to think in that binary of you’re either, “over it,” or not. Like you can be broken hearted and then, “done,” but it’s far more interesting than that.
As I explored breakups and heartbreak through my writing and with clients, I found there were different phases. I call them the Seven Houses of Heartbreak. We move through these spaces as we heal – sometimes in several houses in one day, sometimes in one house for months of even years. We might move back and forth between the houses as we need – and I love this freedom. It’s a framework, but it’s also tide-like.
When we know to expect a tide, we can surrender and accept the fluidity of our experience with more compassion. When we know where we are, we can see what we need.
5. What were some of the steps you took to bring awareness to Radical Creative Sanctuary, upon first announcing the business to audiences?
It’s been an organic, VERY soft launch over many years. Emails to friends and family, business cards tacked to cork boards and that kind of thing. Self-love coaching is definitely a word-of-mouth kind of business.
One of the best business metaphors I’ve learned is that you need to be a lighthouse.
Often it will be tempting to run on foot along the shore, trying to flag down ships (clients) and get their attention. But that will only drain your energy and your message. I want to serve my clients with excellence – I need energy for that.
If you imagine you are a lighthouse, you stay put. You shine your message, and be yourself. The right ships will see you and come to you.
In terms of marketing, you don’t have to be on every online platform. Find the ones that feel good and shine-shine-shine from there.
For me currently, that is Instagram, my podcast, The Soft Shoulder, and my newsletter.
6. Why was a podcast the next step for you and Radical Creative Sanctuary?
Well, podcasting was one of the billion ideas on my list of things I wanted to do. Listening to podcasts helped me through that time in 2010 when my life was falling apart – I used my Metropass to ride the College St. streetcar in Toronto, back and forth while sobbing and listening to episodes of Insights at the Edge with host Tami Simon. But as many creatives can likely relate, there never seems to be enough time to bring all the ideas to life.
But then, I slipped and fell, and hit my head on some ice on Valentine’s Day in 2018. I got a concussion and I continue to manage symptoms from post-concussion syndrome, over a year later. The first six months were brutal, and it’s been a very long and hard road of healing since. My self-love was asked to rise in unprecedented ways.
One of the many challenges was, I couldn’t read, write or focus in the same way anymore, if at all. To communicate, I found audio messages were the best way – if I had the energy I could record my voice instead of writing. I had already been doing this, but after the concussion, it became my main form of communication.
Due to the symptoms I wasn’t able to do my work the same way. I needed a lot of help. I couldn’t write newsletters, I couldn’t keep up with email. But I could listen, and I could talk.
And so, it was finally time to make my own podcast. Because I could use the abilities I had and even if I helped three people, that would mean so much to me. Concussions come with a lot of mental health symptoms – anxiety, isolation and depression were high. Without knowing how or when I might be able to heal. It was a scary time and I needed to feel useful.
7. Is this the first time you’ve created and produced a podcast? How did you develop and/or enhance the production skills required to curate, record and share?
The Soft Shoulder would not have happened without the help of my wonderful friend (and website maker!) Allison Tarr. We were having coffee one morning, just a month or so out of my concussion. I was feeling sad, scared and frustrated, navigating the healing challenges and the cognitive limits I was facing. I wanted so much to have a place I could express my ideas and still be useful – even if I couldn’t write or read much.
Allison said so kindly, “You know, I can help you. We can do this. And we could probably get it up faster than you think. If you want.” I burst into tears. I was grateful then, but I’m even more grateful now, looking back almost a year later. The Soft Shoulder is one of my favourite things to make. And so many people have told me how much it helps them and how they enjoy it. Without Allison, this never would have happened.
I used a blue snowball microphone I already had.
I used Garage Band – which was a challenge, brain wise. But I fiddled with it when I had mental energy to do so – sometimes just minutes at a time. When I got frustrated, I stopped.
I found music on a web search and paid for unlimited use of a great little track from fellow Canadian creator Lee Rosevere.
I started a list of potential topics. I add to it all the time. I make a few key points and would sometimes write little nuggets I wanted to include. The most important thing for me was to make this easy and real. So, every episode is me, with loose notes, just chatting to the listener like we’re in conversation. It’s not slick, it’s not edited. Almost every episode has been done in one take, unless there was a strange disruption of some kind. I needed to lower the bar in terms of expectations and be kind to myself. I needed it to be easy.
I use the skills I have and delegate the rest. I record the episodes and send them to Allison. She takes care of escorting them to the masses.
I’m thrilled to be able to share Allison’s work this way – not only does she make gorgeous websites, she does digital tarot card readings, makes elemental soy candles and cool stickers for that badass expanding community of feminist developers who are into witchy things. You can see it all at Tech Coven. Her tarot readings are smart with just, “the right amount of woo,” as we like to say.
8. Through The Soft Shoulder, you’ve addressed topics like committing to saying, “No,” the benefits of creating a clean, safe space, the significance of birthday letters and boundaries. Why are these themes significant to you? To your audiences?
Boundaries are a big one. Saying, “No,” is a branch of that. I got so much feedback on the, “No,” episode – people are hungry for permission and reminders that they get to decide how they live their own life. One of the ways we avoid giving to ourselves is by over-giving to others. We don’t value our own needs as equal. In fact, so many of us focus on others so much we don’t even know who we are anymore. But resentment can really build this way. Eventually, something has to give.
I have immense compassion for this topic. It can be really, really hard to set and honour boundaries. Especially if we don’t want things to change, or we want people to like us. You have to be ready to lose people when you set boundaries. You might not lose anyone, but you could.
Most people actually like it when we are clear about our own needs. But, there are some who will find this difficult, and you need to be able to love yourself first, big time. I heard somewhere that the only people who have a problem with you setting boundaries are the people who benefit from you not having any. This is a painful truth. But it is so worth it. Boundaries are some real self-love muscle work, for sure.
Boundaries also definitely come up when dealing with breakups. I advise a period of deliberate disengagement (no contact with your ex) in the early stages of a breakup. Emotions are high and attachment is strong. Boundaries are crucial when we need to focus on our heart healing.
I have a feeling there will be many more episodes on this topic. The holiday episode for boundaries with family was one of the most popular. My learning about boundaries and self-love has been epic, as I’ve needed to protect my healing journey.
Spaces are important to me. For a lot of people who don’t think they are creative, I want to remind them that creating a space is being creative! Painters choose colour and compose images. When you set up your home, you are choosing colour. You are composing images – where you put things, in relation to other things. The space that surrounds you has a big impact on how you feel and move when you are in your own home.
We feel differently in different kinds of spaces – an underground parking lot does not feel the same as a window seat in a coffee shop. Your home is a wonderful opportunity to cater to yourself and discover what habitat is the most loving, for you. These seemingly simple acts like, “uncluttering,” are not just about cleaning up. When you frame it as an act of self-love, your relationship with the action changes.
The Birthday Letter Ritual is one of my favourites – I love rituals in general (I married myself after all!) but the Birthday Letter is something that anyone can do any time. It is romantic, and practical (takes up hardly any space). This is a fantastic entry point for a self-love practice entry point for commitment-phobes – you only have to do it once a year! And once the letters start to gather…well, it can be a very powerful experience. I just re-read all of mine for the first time in 18-years of doing it. I was blown away by how emotional it was. I saw myself with bizarre clarity and love. When you write these annual snapshots, you are collecting your own story. Some letters were painful to read. Some made me laugh out loud. It gives me continued perspective on the fragility and beauty of my own life.
9. Had you always known or suspected you would become an entrepreneur?
Not at all! I didn’t give it much thought. In many ways, I felt totally unprepared for work- life. I hadn’t even heard of the Ontario College of Art and Design (OCAD) until it was almost too late to apply. In high school, I dreamed of animating for Disney – this was during a boom in classical animation hires from Sheridan College in Oakville, Ont. But I really wasn’t even prepared for that. My portfolio was weak. My focus was always on relationships and all kinds of self-expression – not necessarily craftsmanship. I think subconsciously the people around me believed I would get married, be taken care of and continue to create as I did as a wife and mom. It was decades later when I realized somehow, I must have subconsciously believed that too.
Even at OCAD, I didn’t learn anything about what to do with my art once I’d created it. Like, what are possible income streams for painters? What else is there beyond the gallery world? How can you create your own career as an artist? How much do you charge for your work? I’m sure this must have evolved a lot since my time there – but once I graduated I was like…well, now what? And I started to read books and take workshops on the practical aspects of being a working artist.
This prepared me for entrepreneurship. As an artist, you had to learn everything – how to get your work out there, how to find and communicate with clients, how to invoice and how to market yourself and sell. You have to be all the things and wear all the hats. If I could go back, I would give that girl some serious high-fives for her persistence in fumbling through all that! And I’d probably give her some awesome coaching on how to take initiative and make better use of her time.
10. What was one of the toughest experiences you’ve had as a small business owner and personal life coach? What was the most significant take-away from this acquisition?
Believing I could do it.
Remembering who I am, and what I am capable of.
Any struggles around success, money, boundaries – they all come down to confidence and a deep faith in my purpose. It won’t look like anyone else’s. I have to trust myself and express my vision, stand behind what I do and stop playing small. I am good at what I do. I like what I make. My work makes a difference. The way I do my work reaches people who can only hear this message through me.
It has taken a long time for me to say that without feeling like a fraud.
But I believe it now.
This is one of the results from relentless self-love.
11. Prior to becoming a personal life coach yourself, had you sought out the support of a coach for your day to day? If yes, what was this experience like? If not, why not?
Oh, absolutely. And I continue to deepen my learning and growth with the support of coaches and teachers. I wouldn’t hire a coach who wasn’t also doing the work themselves. My most recent coach is the fantastic Catherine Farquharson, who is super dedicated to her own development and excellence in her work.
When I first heard about life coaching on CBC Radio, I was just barely out of college. I was working in coveralls in a warehouse workshop repairing folk art knockoffs, metal toys and teak furniture. I was a young, underpaid art school grad and this job allowed me to keep my hands dirty while I listened to music and daydreamed. I remember hearing this idea of life coaching and thinking, “How amazing is that! It’s like a personal trainer but for your LIFE.” And then I kept on doing my crappy job.
A few years later, I found out my friend’s sister, whom I used to go dancing with, was becoming one! She needed some clients to help her reach her certification. I jumped at the chance. By this time, I was having art shows and selling paintings, but I didn’t really care if my art career took off. The art world seemed arbitrary and I knew there was more to creativity than having your work hanging in the right gallery. I heard people say over and over how they weren’t creative like me and it made my heart sink. I knew that was bullshit and this gallery world was reinforcing that misconception. But I didn’t know what I really wanted until I had a powerful coach ask me powerful questions.
That coach was my friend Jamie Ridler. And she was incredible. That first call changed everything for me. A few weeks in, I knew that it was creativity and self-expression I loved, not “art.” She asked questions that put my whole life into perspective and made it easy to see what was possible. My favourite one from those early days was, “What are you really good at that you don’t want to do?”
I was having Ah-Ha Moments all over the place in such a short period of time. I felt alive and like I could do so much more than I realized. Jamie believed in me in a way I hadn’t yet believed in myself and eventually I started to see what she saw. What a gift. What a job. This, was creativity to me.
I began looking up coach training and signed up for the foundations course at The Coaches Training Institute. There was no question after that – this is what I am meant to be doing.
12. How do you ensure Radical Creative Sanctuary stands out to prospective clients?
By being myself. There are many coaches and creators, but there is only one of me. The more I stay grounded and express myself, the more I attract the people who find joy in hearing my messages of healing and self-love. We all have our own channels. Sometimes you can hear a message over and over again but it doesn’t really land until it’s told to you in a certain way, from a certain person. So, I focus on being my own person.
It’s funny – I’ll have a call with a prospective client to see if we want to work together. I assume they have visited my website and more often than not, they say they haven’t. They may have come across my podcast or Instagram, or met me in real life, and they just knew that I was the one they wanted to work with. They didn’t even look at my coaching programs or the cost. They’re just ready.
The more I speak from the heart about the work I most love to do, the more the right clients will recognize me. Usually, they have already decided before they get in touch. And when we both know that we are the right fit for one another, the work is magic.
I have a mission statement that I read out loud to myself every day – before every client call, before every post on social media, before I write a newsletter or record a podcast episode. This aligns me instantly with my purpose to serve. Beauty and self-expression are the values that drive everything I do. I am here to bring them out in myself and in others. It humbles and thrills me like nothing else.
13. Further to all of the content you’re creating, as discussed above, you even have a newsletter appropriately called, the “Seven Houses of Heartbreak.” What can new subscribers expect to receive, direct to inbox, from you?
The Seven Houses of Heartbreak is a gift that comes when you first sign up for my newsletter. It is a single page guide to seven different stages I’ve discovered in my work healing from breakups. There is much more to, “over it,” or not.
The guide gives a short description of each house, from House One (Shatter + Shock) to House Seven (Surrender). With each description, you can locate where you might be, and then follow the Healing Priority I’ve outlined at the bottom of each one.
With breakups, it is common to be confused and all over the place. This helps people see themselves on the map even when they are all over the place. House Four is Sob, Stitch + Sling, for example. This one is a real mess! But pretending we aren’t there doesn’t help. I see this map as permission to have the experience, and, so much compassion to normalize what you are going through. We’ve all been in House Four, at some point or another. Beating yourself up about it only makes it worse.
Some who sign up for my newsletter might just want the newsletters, not the gift. They might think they are miles away from their last breakup, but I find that many people who think they are over a breakup are actually in House Six – Surging + Staging. For the most part, their life looks like they have totally moved on. But there are still the late night social media checks on their ex, there is still a nagging feeling deep down that they don’t fully believe in their future. There is still some healing to do. I have spent YEARS in this house! So many years I almost had to re-do the roof.
My newsletters are where I connect with my audience and share with them my inspired insights, tips and reflections on self-love, heart healing and self-expression. If you are enjoying reading this interview, you’ll probably enjoy my newsletter too! It is also the best way to stay connected and get first dibs on any new developments and offerings in my work. There are many people who refer to their newsletters and love letters. I’m one of those people.
14. How do you manage, and find motivation to brainstorm, develop and execute, all of this continuous content?
Finding motivation to brainstorm is never a problem. I am excellent at generating ideas and I have lifetimes of dreams for my work and other wild largescale projects – too many ideas to execute in this go around on earth.
The challenge for me is in executing. There comes a time where you need to bring all your attention to one thing. This has been hard for me in the past. I desired it, but since my concussion I now require simplicity and focus. This is a fabulous unexpected gift from the fall.
My big inspirations on this topic are Essentialism by Greg McKeown and Deep Work by Cal Newport. Okay okay, Marie Kondo is in there too.
And while I love and desire more focus and simplicity, my process is very garden-like. I nurture and tend to many things at once. Harvest times can be feast like. I do love this rhythm, and, I’d like to curate the size of my garden a little better.
15. Who, or what, has been your biggest support since Radical Creative Sanctuary began?
I was drafting the acknowledgment page for my book and I had to stop. I was listing just about everyone I knew! And with a list that long, I began to panic about who I might be forgetting.
Who has been my biggest support? Well, there are too many to name. I have an extraordinary abundance of love and community. My family, my closest loved ones, my kindred colleagues and creatives, my coaches and mentors, the amazing intimate support of past mastermind groups Power Pod, Money Honeys and Art Picnic. The team and community of Firefly Creative Writing where I coached and lead creative writing workshops and retreats for five-years. And of course, my beloved brave clients. They inspire me much more than they might know.
I have been gifted with support in all forms – emotional, mental, material. I am grateful for this every single day.
And if I may take a page from Snoop Dogg, I want to acknowledge me, for continuously showing up and loving myself year after year. Self-love has enabled me to be open to receiving support. I know plenty of folks who are surrounded by people who want to help them but it is painful to allow it in. Self-love allows us to receive – which allows others to contribute. It’s win-win.
16. How has your work with Radical Creative Sanctuary helped you to improve your own understanding self-awareness and wellbeing?
It is true that we teach what we most need to learn.
I continue to learn how to love myself, more and more, every year. And if I want to be in integrity – which I do – I need to continuously soften and strengthen my relationship with me, before I can support anyone else in doing the same.
Self-compassion was the pivotal lesson of 2018, that’s for sure!
17. What efforts are you taking to ensure diversity and inclusion are embedded in the values and foundation that make up Radical Creative Sanctuary?
I do my work.
Because this business is just me, I am always working from within my own experience and perspective. That means my biases and blind spots will make their way through, and it’s my job to continuously be educating myself and asking bold questions of my intentions.
Just like self-love, I believe everything starts from the core. When I do my work on the inside, it moves outwards authentically into my actions. I’m not interested in performative wokeness and I don’t want a “cookie” for doing the work I should be doing. I want to ensure I am coming from a place of integrity – truly getting under the surface of my own conditioning.
It is helpful to draw on my own experiences to find empathy. I am not straight, but I pass for straight. This means I experience bi-invisibility as a queer person while also benefiting from the privilege and safety given to straight people. I experience sexism as a woman while also benefiting from the privilege and safety given to white people. I’m also humbled by new insights that have come with my brain injury and am growing deeper compassion for people with invisible disabilities. While I can get a lot from my own experiences, I also know this is incomplete.
I continuously expose myself to images of beauty that challenge the status quo. I pay attention and question representation in the media I consume and ask what voices are missing, then seek out those voices. I listen to podcasts – currently the Good Ancestor Podcast by Layla Saad. I highly recommend the Me And White Supremacy Workbook Layla created for anyone who holds white privilege. I love Rain Dove on Instagram and the way they challenge gender norms with style, humour and astounding compassion for all.
I start uncomfortable in-person conversations with my loved ones. I remind myself that impact is more important that good intentions. I forgive myself for not getting it right – because if I shame myself and shut down, that will stop me from doing the work. And that’s on me.
18. In addition to being the founder and CEO of Radical Creative Sanctuary, you also identify as an artist and writer, which you’ve mentioned. In which mediums are you most empowered to create?
Drawing. Colouring. Writing. Speaking. Painting. Mixed media. Collage. Movement. Halloween costumes and décor. More and more, I see these things as all part of the same experience, like my senses. I use them all, together. I also enjoy arranging things – organizing, rainbowtizing (organizing things by the colour spectrum), creating spaces and setting up altars.
This past year I adored making tiny meaningful sculptures, or Altar Art. My Salt Water Tears were created to bring playfulness and beauty to any loss or emotional release one might be experiencing. They are not just for sadness, they also remind me of the ocean and the power of tiny, repetitive waves to move mountains.
They make great companions for houseplants – to remind you to give them a little water!
And most recently, I found how much I enjoyed playing with Instagram stories, and that lead to me taking a great intro to stop motion animation called Make it Move with Kara Kramer, which combines a bunch of mediums in one.
19. How would you describe your own creative process? How do you manage the ebbs and flows of the creative journey?
I would describe it with a different metaphor depending on the day! I speak in metaphors quite fluidly. Sometimes too many at once. A junk drawer of metaphors.
Nature is full of fabulous metaphors because nature is the ultimate creative process. From seeds to stars and trees and tides and every unfurling moment in between, my process has mirrored all of these at some point or another. It is a force of nature. It’s a living thing. I feel sick and lifeless when I am out of touch with it. I will get a pang, like a wild hunger and stay up until 4:00 a.m. moving furniture around to make space for it.
Since my concussion, I have noticed a strong pull towards wordlessness. Animal mode, I’ve been calling it. When I’m not, “thinking,” but acting on impulse. When I’m grabbing at colour, images, ideas and moving them around. Seeing how they feel in different combinations. Moving my body, the way it wants to go. I’ve been using my writing and thinking muscles so much the past few years, I think my body and intuition are smugly taking over. I’m totally cool with that.
I manage the ebbs and flows by staying in them. I trust my creative nature, completely. I know that when I feel, “stuck,” that too is playing a role in the greater picture of my life. I know I am never in one place forever. I trust it.
20. How do you manage your time between running a business and creating your own art?
I don’t separate them. Well, specifically I don’t separate art from anything. It is in everything I do. I am art. So are you.
I think the management comes in separating when I am being of service and when I am filling my own cup. I can’t serve well when my cup is empty.
Funny – often this co-relates directly to being online and offline. I begin my days creating before consuming as often as possible.
21. What is an example of advice you were given early on in your career, but did not take? How do you think this has influenced your creative and business pursuits?
That I should take math. That I should get a, “real,” job with benefits. That certifications matter. That I should take what I’m given. That, “portfolio opportunity,” was an acceptable form of payment for creative work.
When I think of these seemingly unrelated pieces of advice, I recognize that the most important thing for me in business is to trust yourself. Don’t get me wrong – learning is crucial. I am always learning. If I were paid to spend the rest of my life in school, I would easily do so.
Advice says so much more about the person giving it. You have to remember that. They are telling you what they needed to hear once. What they value, what they were afraid of, how they define success.
But I didn’t know this when I was younger, so I took it on inside. Even when I didn’t follow the advice, I let it under my skin – and because of it, I doubted my own choices. The impact was simply a lack of confidence in my vision, skills and ideas. I had terrific ideas 10 years ago that never saw the light of day. I hesitated. I didn’t take action. I didn’t trust myself. On some level I thought, “What if they were right?”
My best advice is to learn how to discern the advice of others – including mine. Seek advice from people who are living the way you want to be living. Don’t be afraid to challenge assumptions and the norm. Ask yourself who benefits most from the advice you are being given. Decide what you choose to take on and let go of the rest.
You don’t even have to argue with them! You can just say thanks and step away. You can’t blaze a trail by following everyone else.
22. What are you looking forward to most about the months ahead?
Sunshine. The euphoric joy on people’s faces as Toronto starts to bloom again. Not wearing socks. All the fruit.
I’m looking forward to continued healing.
And I’m working on a few wonderful things right now in the Sanctuary, so I’m looking forward to seeing what creation emerges first. I’m creating some audio imagination meditations, drafting a delicious self-marriage group coaching program and exploring how my breakup book will come to life. I feel so grateful and appreciative for all of it, and I’m looking forward to sharing it with others.
23. Where can our readers go to learn more about your art? Radical Creative Sanctuary?
Well, first you should sign up for my newsletter! You can do that on the homepage of Radical Creative Sanctuary and you’ll get a link to download the Seven Houses of Heartbreak when you do.
I have a lot of fun on Instagram. You can find me there at @radical_creative_sanctuary. (
The Soft Shoulder Podcast is wonderful when you need to pull over and hear a kind voice share stories and soothing self-love inspiration. It’s on iTunes and most places where you listen to podcasts. You can also listen directly on my site.
And if you are feeling like you want to kickstart some creativity and self-love today, go ahead and download my Birthday Letter Ritual Guidebook. No matter when your birthday is, you can get started now. I have loved this self-love ritual of writing myself a letter every year that I open on my next birthday. The guide has plenty of tips and stories to get you started.
24. Do you have anything else to add?
Picture me with my hands on my heart, grinning like a fool. Then picture me flinging my hands up into the air and wiggling my shoulders. This is me saying thank you – to you, for these in-depth questions and the beautiful work you do here. And to the readers. I truly appreciate your attention and time.
Danette, thank you for answering our questions so fully and for reminding us that creativity is found in every aspect of life, as are art, healing and reflection. Thanks too for the refresher around understanding ongoing learning – whether in the scope of formal education and/or investing in personal acquisition.
We’re so very honoured to have the chance to share your story and are humbled by the work you have done to bring self-marriage, self-understanding and self-awareness to the community.
Collaborating with you on this piece is equivalent to the taste of mid-summer local produce found at nearby shops. We cannot wait for more sun to arrive, and for the future of Radical Creative Sanctuary.
The feature photo is by Shannon Laliberte.