Astoria Characters: The Creativity Coach

If you don't know that Susan Weiman is creative, all you have to do is look at her living room.

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Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Susan is a curator of clutter.

The coffee table is a lemon-yellow ironing board, the mirror is framed by fluffy feathers, and the desk, filled with jewelry she is making, is a white plastic fold-up table.

But this is controlled creativity: The magazines are neatly stacked, the library books are lined up in their cases like soldiers, and even the Slinky is sitting tight, silently waiting to spring.

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Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Making jewelry is one of Susan's many pursuits.

Which is why, when she recently found herself with bills and without a steady job, she tallied her talents and restyled herself as a creativity coach and curator of clutter.

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Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Susan lives a creative life.

"Creativity is like an erupting volcano," she says. "You have to have a blank canvas for your creative lava to flow. You need a clear space to work, which is why I clean my windows. Sometimes."

She looks at the panes and frowns. They should be sparkling. It's the kind of absent-minded task she'll do when she's talking on the phone.

Susan, a tiny woman with flying curls and chandelier earrings that cascade to her shoulders, has made it her mission to help people, particularly artists and writers, tap into their potential by putting their physical possessions in perspective.

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Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
She helps people organize their lives.

"I help them de-clutter and organize their life's work," she says. "I see what they can't in their own work and offer ideas for marketing and promotion."

In Susan's eyes, a pile of poet's rejection and acceptance letters, for instance, becomes a body of work that's a potential book, and a gallery owner's stories are a starting point for a blog.

"Organization is not just about the physical world," she says. "Being internally organized helps you create."

Susan discovered her myriad muses when she was a child. Her family moved a lot. She was born in Richmond, Virginia, and by the time she entered college, she had lived in Michigan, Massachusetts, Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Puerto Rico.

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Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
A vase Susan made.

She stops to think. Were there one or two other places? No, she's sure she hasn't left any of them out.

"I started writing dramatic poems about separation," she says. "That's how I connected with myself. I saw myself as a poet."

At Barnard College, which is where she got her degree, she excelled in her writing classes and fell in love with the art of drawing.

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Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Susan embraces all the arts.

"I wanted to write, but I had student loans to pay," she says. "So I took a succession of jobs -- in law firms, nonprofit organizations and publishing houses -- while I worked on a novel I never finished and did my art. Art gave me a language in which to describe myself. I could talk about life in terms of art."

The order of the work world was the perfect counterpoint to Susan's artistic aspirations.

"I love creating, but I could never stay in the house and create all the time," she says. "I like the balance and being part of the world. It's important for me to see myself as an individual and as part of something larger. I don't mean in a religious way. I mean that we're all connected."

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Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
She strives for creative balance.

Connected. Like the strings of beads on her work table.

When she had a full-time office job, she used to sell a lot of them to her co-workers.

The money doesn't matter; she enjoys shaping the clay into balls, firing the spheres in the kiln and putting them into aesthetic arrangements.

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Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
She's fixing a friend's necklace.

When she's talking about herself, Susan doesn't like to use the word "survivor."

It's a hero word, one that's a little too dramatic for what her life experiences have been.

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Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Susan has ideas, ideas, ideas.

"I come from a family of very strong, unique women," she says. "I do whatever it takes to get things done, and I do that with my job and with my life."

Helping others be creative has allowed Susan to hone in on her own work in ways she never anticipated.

Recently, she started writing about her life. She's not sure yet what form her composition will take, but once she's organized her thoughts, she knows that, word by word, everything will fall into place perfectly.

Nancy A. Ruhling may be reached at Nruhling@gmail.com; nruhling on Instagram.
Copyright 2016 by Nancy A. Ruhling