Digging Deep: Interview with Fran Sorin

Today, I interview my good friend, Fran Sorin. She is the author of Digging Deep: Unearthing Your Creative Roots Through Gardening. Enjoy!

TBL:  What inspired you to write Digging Deep?

Fran Sorin:  I was on all fours in the garden weeding one day when out of the blue, I realized that the transcendent state that I frequently experienced in the garden was similar to what I used to experience while playing the piano throughout my childhood and into adulthood.

It is what Maslow calls ‘peak experience. It is this sweet spot—where you lose any self criticism or restraint, let your imagination run wild, take risks, improvise, and play – all the while being mindful of what you’re doing.

This extraordinary state of being is where your creativity has an opportunity to jump in and take over. 

Once I put the pieces together, the light bulb went off: I saw that this is how I had been creating my gardens for the past several years and wanted to share my passion for the creative process in the garden- and life- with others.

TBL:  The subtitle of your books is Unearthing Your Creative Roots Through Gardening. Could you talk a little bit about that?

Fran Sorin:  So many of us think we’re not creative. It has been ingrained in us by our parents and culture since we were young that creativity is solely the domain of the chosen few.

We’ve been told that it’s a trait or talent you’re born with—or not. And most of us fall into ‘the not creative’ category. Only those who excell as artists, musicians, and writers are labeled creative.

The truth is though that we’re all creative. It’s our birthright.

The problem is that at a very early age, our creative personalities get covered over by other elements of ourselves that are prized in our society- being productive, getting good grades, becoming successful, fitting in, etc. 

In spite of being buried, your creative essence is deep inside of you- waiting to be re-awakened. You literally, step-by-step, need to unearth the layers of goop that have been covering over your creative self, embrace it, and let its glorious light shine on the world.

Through the 7 Stages of Creative Awakening that I map out in Digging Deep,  I guide and cheer you on to gain access to the most sacred and authentic element of who you are—o your creative self.

TBL:  Your chapter titles read like a self-help book. You have chapters on Opening to Possibility, Trusting Your Instincts, Taking Risks, Living With Ambiguity, and Tapping into Flow.

How does gardening teach us these lessons?

Fran Sorin:  This is a good question. Gardening is one of the ultimate teachers that a person can have in a lifetime.

Remember, your garden is not a static thing. It’s living, thriving, changing, and growing. Even if you tend to only one plant, you’re gardening. Unlike something that’s static in nature (or not alive), you can’t control a garden.

Let me give you an example. Let’s say you have a huge old oak tree in your back yard that is knocked down during a tornado. You’re most likely sad about it – who wouldn’t be?

But after getting over the shock of it, you have a choice—either plant another tree to replicate what was there (in 30 years time) or look at this mishap as an opportunity for Opening to Possibility.

Once the area is cleaned up, you realize that what was a very shady area now gets direct sun for much of the day—a perfect place for the edible garden you always wanted but never had the spot for.

You start researching and designing it to take advantage of the early spring season only a few months away. That little vignette is just one example of how gardening is a great teacher.

You know, when I wanted to renovate my garden in Philadelphia, it took me 2 years to figure out the design for the back yard. It was a steeply sloping, irregular lot. I had landscape architects and garden designers giving me advice galore. But nothing felt right.

So you know what? Although I was uncomfortable at times, I learned to live with ambiguity and trusted my instincts that the right solution would come to me. And it did. Two great lessons I got out of that.

The garden is constantly giving and teaching. All you have to do is open your eyes, awaken your other senses, slow down and just be open to what it has to offer you.

TBL:  If someone’s not a gardener, will they still benefit from reading your book?

Fran Sorin:  To address your second part of the question, yes, Digging Deep is a book for non-gardeners as well. My intent was always that it be a combination gardening/creativity/self-help/spirituality.

The reason why it has made such an impact on non-gardeners is that the 7 Stages of Creative Awakening and all of the elements within the stages are techniques that can be integrated into all areas of your life to live more creatively— not just in the garden.

Think about it, each of us has the ability to improve the quality of our lives by freeing up our imagination, improvising, taking more risks, experimenting, living with uncertainty, and being more mindful.

Although I use the process of gardening as a tool for making my point, learning to live creatively outside of the garden—in all areas of your life—is the ultimate challenge.

TBL:  In Digging Deep you ask the question, “What does it mean to be creative?” So let me ask you, “What does it mean?"

Fran Sorin:  Creativity is simply the energy of making something new where there was nothing before.

We have the potential to do this in so many unmarked ways—from designing our schedules to fashioning our ‘look’, writing birthday cards, to building a business from the ground up.

Lawyers create arguments, decorators create ambience, and parents create everything from learning to a sense of wonder. Every time we get dressed, make dinner, or wrap a gift, we can be creative.

In almost everything we do in life, we have the possibility of conjuring up the spirit of inspiration, imagination, innovation, and resourcefulness.

Creativity is not something we do; it’s something we embody. I believe the ultimate goal is not to be more creative, but to learn how to live creatively.    

TBL:  What would you say to someone who thinks they’re not creative?

Fran Sorin:  The first thing I would do is ask them why they feel that way. And then I would listen to their story of why they are living with this ‘non-truth’.  

I would then ask them to share a time with me in their childhood when they remember using their imagination and being creative. It could be acting in a play, designing their own Halloween costume, decorating an Easter egg—children are so naturally creative that when a person starts remembering wonderful times from their childhood, some awareness of the ‘playful self’ begins to break through. 

Once the ice is broken and an individual opens up, there’s an opportunity for them to look at how they may already be creative in certain areas of their life that they’re not even aware of.

It also allows for an opening to discuss ways that they might want to awaken their senses and learn more about living creatively.

And finally, I would leave them with the following: that even if they don’t think they’re creative, every day remind themselves that they are.

Write some affirmations and place them around the house and work place about your creative essence…..something simple like “Every day I am creating a joyful and beautiful life.” 

Digging Deep’s updated 10th Anniversary Edition has a new foreword by Larry Dossey, M.D. and is endorsed by dozens of renowned gardening, spiritual, self-help, and creativity authors and leaders in their field.

If you liked this interview, you will love the book! Seriously. Get a copy for yourself and another for your favorite gardener. The holidays are coming soon. It would make an unforgettable gift! Click here for more information.

Fran is giving away a book to a lucky reader. Leave a comment and let us know if you're interested and why!

Bio: Fran Sorin is a Renowned Gardening Expert, Passionate Gardener, Deep Ecologist, Inspirational Speaker, Ordained Interfaith Minister, Soul Tending Coach, and CBS Radio News Contributor.

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