The Giver/ Archetype 3
The bowl, the book, and the bird invite us to behold, become, and be heard.
The concept of archetypes arises in psychology, philosophy, and literature as a way to identify repeating patterns of behaviors, thoughts, and symbols that characterize common human experience. To be creative is a multifaceted existence. I think we live and work with three distinct artists within us: Gatherers, Makers, and Givers. These three archetypes, their symbols and invitations have revealed themselves over time in my writing. By using the lens of archetypes, I explore not just process and product, but personhood in the midst of the creative cycle.
If you’re just joining in, read about the first archetype The Gatherer and how the artist archetypes all began.
ROLES of the Giver
The creation of forms is not disconnected from the desire for a witness. Though we often bear witness to the world, artists and writers are not without the need to be witnessed ourselves. In order to offer the gift of sight, we must carry an embodied memory of having been seen. That desire to be understood speaks to both our terrifying vulnerability and deep yearning. I associate the archetype of the Giver with the symbol of a bird which represents the voice. As writers and artists, we can get caught up in our identities as Makers. We may perpetually shape our work at the expense of sharing our work. The invitation of the Giver, to be heard, is not a selfish task, but rather an act of gift-giving. The Giver understands that while our creative work is intimately our own, it is not exclusively our own. The gifts are for us, and for others. Understanding that role of giving is two-fold. We are those bird-like creatures who are made not just to build, but to send and sing it into the world.
When I think about sending out work for publication and use it requires a thoughtful release of relationship to the artifacts we’ve made. There is a distinct shift where the work moves from private resonance to public resonance. It no longer solely belongs to the artist. Once out in the world others will derive their own meanings and have wildly different relationships with it. This is the multitudinous nature of art, but it’s not without a twinge of pain. Our work can feel like an extension of ourselves and sending work necessitates we cease working on it and to move on from it. Of the three archetypes, I personally wrestle with the Giver the most. My resistance to giving away work is invariably connected to my own perfectionism and difficulty with letting go. There is both satisfaction and safety in perpetually working. What compels me out of habitually hoarding my work is a sense of responsibility I have to the power of my own gifts.
The poet Denise Levertov speaks of creative gifts as coming with responsibility toward one another. She argues, "I believe poets are makers, craftsmen: it is given to the seer to see, but it is his responsibility to communicate what he sees, that they who cannot see may see, since we are 'members of one another'" (Denise Levertov, The Poet in the World, 3). The image of an artist can often be portrayed as a lonely reclusive in their studio. While the element of solitude is invaluable to deep work, the archetype of the Giver reminds us that artists are people of place. We belong to communities and often are the translators of life who help negotiate meaning on behalf of others. As “seers,” we have a responsibility to share what and how we see. Is it any wonder that poets, artists, and thinkers are always a threat to unjust power?
Being seen and heard necessitates that people find your work. Unfortunately, it is not enough to merely send it. The second role of the Giver archetype is to sing over that work. While the role of sending constitutes finding homes for what you make, singing draws attention to it so people can find and engage with your work. Social and commercial spaces are wildly noisy and it often takes a relational recommendation to capture our attention. The task of singing cultivates personal and professional relationships and community to help choir your ideas into the world. Perhaps ironically, it is the Giver who teaches us to remain connected to our needs and to reach out to others for help. Sending and singing are not the individual force of a single entity. Rather, the giving of our work should weave us into community. We need others to share our voices: trusted colleagues, editors, publishers, agents, readers, libraries, journals, independent bookshops, museums, educational institutions, nonprofits, bloggers, public radio, podcasters, etc. While the Giver often “sees” on behalf of the community, they in turn need the beloved community in order to be seen.
The other vital lesson from this archetype is that worth is independent from outcome. As writers and artists, we must become accustom to coping with rejection. I could wallpaper my bathroom with the rejection letters from journals, magazines, contests, and blogs. It is part of the work of the Giver to continually seek homes for their work even in the midst of refusal. A healthy Giver is a robust image of an artist who is neither daunted nor jaded by the world’s “no,” given that they’ve heard a robust “yes” from within. Rejection is an invitation for reflection and revision, but never an excuse to relinquish our voices.
If creativity follows the cadence of the breath, then the Giver expresses the necessity of the exhale with sound. Communication occurs when breath and body produce a resonant language in community.
Common Needs of the Giver:
platforms through which to regularly share work
safe creative community in which to practice receiving and giving honest feedback
personal and professional relationships to help share and get the word out about your work
committed practice of submitting work regardless of outcome
audiences and witnesses of their work
healthy self-care practices for fortification, repair, and equanimity in the midst of rejection
a practice of asking for help
protection from one-way relationships/ situations that set up a constant cycle of giving that depletes
Curious about the other archetypes and how they fit in with the Giver’s needs and roles? Click the links below to read on.