Look up, Stay Curious, and Be Inspired

Updated: Jun 18

The following is an excerpt from my Haint Bluesletter that went out on Monday, March 28. If you are not already on my email list, you can subscribe here.

Since the start of December and until fairly recently, I have been going through what I call a "dark night of the soul." I've been pretty much absent from Instagram and my private tarot group, and I've felt so physically and emotionally weary that I haven’t had any energy to write or create.

Some of the depression was caused by seasonal blues—that happens annually—but most of it was triggered by my new psoriasis meds. I have suffered with plaque psoriasis on my hands, feet, and elbows since 2007. The worst patches are on my palms, and when they flake, peel, crack, and bleed, they become infected and my hands swell. TMI, I’m sure, but I want to be real with you. Although Hemingway prescribed bleeding as a necessity for writing, I can assure you it’s no fun at all.

For the first couple of weeks my body was adjusting to my new medicine, it caused a perpetual headache, nausea, and depression... BUT unlike the other FIVE types of psoriasis meds I have tried (all of which were shots with pretty nasty chemical cocktails inside) this one is actually working. Fingers crossed and prayers made. I’m seeing some results.

The worst of my medicinal and winter-induced depression happened in late February, just as I was about to leave to present at a conference in Disney World. I never imagined being depressed at “the most magical place on earth,” but I was. And it was dismal. I laid in bed for two days with a migraine, and on the day the conference started, I peeled myself up and went down to listen to the keynotes. My company had made an investment with me, and I was obligated to get the most out of the experience so I could share with my colleagues.

One of the presenters was Pixar’s Character Art Director, Deanna Marsigliese. A character in her own right, what with her lacquered coif and circle skirt, Deanna described her method for becoming inspired—intuition, curiosity, and meaning—and I removed my migraine shades and listened.

This is a terrible shot from the angle I was sitting, but the presentation was just magical.

As I watched Deanna’s video segments exploring her messy desk and workspaces, and while I listened to her backstory around the characters she designed for films such as The Incredibles 2, Luca, and Soul, I felt my headache slowly fade. My heart beat wildly as Deanna shared a story about staying at a tiny seaside Italian town, drilling into every detail, and making sketches that included her late grandparents (I do that, too. All of my books include muses of my loved ones). Her sketches would become the entire town in the movie Luca. I felt so inspired that I was sure I would dash right out of that conference hall and fly back to my room to write.

Here is a gallery of some of Ms. Marsigliese's sketches.

By the conclusion of that first day, my migraine was gone and I felt in my bones as happy as my magical surroundings. Despite the new medicine coursing through my veins and my still-achy hands, for the duration of that conference, I wanted to follow my intuition, get curious, and find meaning in every experience.

My main takeaway from Ms. Marsigliese’s presentation was a word of advice she gave her fellow creative souls, which I will paraphrase here: Tourists are always looking up, taking photos, and paying attention to detail. To stay inspired, you have to stay curious. Even in your own hometown. Look up, follow your intuition, pay attention to details, ask questions, and discover meaning in the things you find most interesting.

That first day of my Disney World conference, I found meaning in this keynote’s message, and for the rest of my time there, I stayed curious, happy, and my hands looked more normal than they had in years. I felt my soul light up! Not only did I fill a notebook with musings I could take back and share with my colleagues, but I looked forward to sharing on Instagram and in my Haint Bluesletter. If you are not already a subscriber, you can sign up here.

Bloody hands or not, debilitating depression and a pounding migraine aside, I made the decision to allow my surroundings to permeate my skin and enlighten my soul. And when I returned home, the inspiration remained, and I started paying attention to the details of my surroundings, the details I see every single day but haven’t actually seen. I made a plan for how I will spend the rest of my creative time this year and I cleared some space on my schedule to manifest that creativity.

In the coming months, I will continue to provide updates in my Haint Bluesletter around what inspires me, and I hope you will join me in following your intuition, getting curious, and finding meaning in the things that light up your soul.

Also published today, don't miss out on reading Willow Ford's interview. It felt like sitting down with an old friend.

In her more than thirty years as a storyteller and visual designer, Amanda “Mandy” Hughes has written and designed over a dozen works of upmarket, literary, and women’s fiction under pen names A. Lee Hughes and Mandy Lee.

Mandy is the founder of Haint Blue Creative, a space for readers and storytellers to explore, learn, and create. Although she earned a Bachelor and Master of Science in Psychology, she has yet to figure out her family, much less herself.

When she’s not writing, Mandy loves going to the movies, theater, traveling, nature walks, birdwatching, margarita-making, and binge-watching The Office. She is a tarot enthusiast who uses the cards to promote wellness and enhance creativity. She lives in Georgia with her husband and four boys, two of whom are furrier than the others (but not by much). Visit her website at haintbluecreative.com and follow her on Instagram @haintbluecreative.

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