One-and-a-Half Steps Forward, One Step Back - the Creativity Dance

Monday 17 March 2008

Sometimes, when I find I haven't written a single sentence after scribbling whole pages, I collapse on my couch and lie there dazed, bogged in a swamp of despair, hating myself and blaming myself for this demented pride that makes me pout after a chimera. A quarter of an hour later, everything has changed; my heart is pounding with joy.
~ Gustave Flaubert

Yeah, I hear ya, Gussy baby. But hey, you should at least be glad you've scribbled whole pages of prose. You know what I do? I get these killer sentences that just appear to me out of the ether (this is why I can only work part-time; 'cause my damn subconscious is high-tracking 24 hours a day. I haven't got the strength to consciously work full time as well ;) The problem is that the sentences can be as killer as they want, because there they stay. I sit down and write them down on a piece of paper. If I'm lucky, a sentence or two will come along and attach itself to the first, but then after that? Constipation. Clamming up, as effectively as my subconscious has done these past few weeks in refusing to offer me remembrance of any of my dreams to write down to take to my art therapy session. Very frustrating. But everything in its time.

Writing blog posts are safe for me. I love writing here. I feel comfortable. I feel like this blog is a nice cosy lounge room, full of warm tones, with a fireplace and a whole bunch of cool people that kinda sashay in and hang around for a while and then sashay out again. It's really cool :)

But writing fiction? Well, because I want it so much, seems I'm determined to make it as difficult as I possibly can to reach it. As soon as I write down the killer sentence, the blocking monster comes along to shut me down. Why? I don't rightly know. Fear, of course. Fear of failure, fear of success, fear of writing about people I know and alienating everyone, fear of being published and having to do it again, fear of never being published, fear of inadvertently revealing myself so that everyone can see except me how it is that this story here is totally autobiographical and about the deepest, ugliest part of myself that I never knew existed. Fear of exposure, I guess you'd call that one if you were going to say it in less words than I just have :)

Unwarranted fears? Maybe. But this creativity thing ... well, let's just say I am developing a healthy respect for it, for just how fucking hard it is to stay here in this open, magical world. As enchanting as it is, I sweat agoraphobia here, even though the air is sweet. But still, I also love it here. I went into my playroom before, sat down, put the lamp on, did a bit of colouring-in (my inner artist is 3, what can I say?) Today at my art therapy session, I discovered the joys of watercolor pencils (mmm, want me some of them). Not of course, as Maggie clamoured to assure me - she sees already my perfectionism and fear - that art therapy is about doing great art, as it is about using art as a therapeutic tool. I know, but gee, you know what? I'm so glad I decided to do this. Having no excuse not to play is great, and with such cool toys - she has clay there too, and when I heard that, something inside me had this wild urge to grab it and smear it over myself and eat it, so perhaps I might work with clay at some point, methinks ;)

She also clamoured to encourage me to speak as little about what goes on there as possible because this is new ground I am creating. I tend to agree. I kind of feel like I don't really have the words to explain what I am doing there yet anyway, but it is creating a safe place for myself. It feels much too personal and private and unformed to talk about yet. It's like a first draft of a new part of my life; not fit for human consumption.

As wanky as it might sound, giving myself permission to do even minor things like colouring-in and collages, playing, feels like a massive, massive, out-there, scary thing for me to do. The paradox is that when I am doing them, I can feel the part of me inside that is starving and thirsty just lapping it all up like a dog in the desert. Every time I return after a layoff of a day or two, it's like dipping my foot into a warm bath; it's feeling increasingly like returning back to a safe place. When I leave this place, it feels like the most dangerous place and I take elaborate, multifaceted steps to keep myself from entering back into it. Steps which involve a whole stack of energy and generally something unhealthy. Running into death to hide from life.

The artist's life cannot be otherwise than full of conflicts, for two forces are at war within him - on the one hand the common human longing for happiness, satisfaction and security in life, and on the other a ruthless passion for creation which may go so far as to override every personal desire ... There are hardly any exceptions to the rule that a person must pay dearly for the divine gift of creative fire.

~ Carl Jung

I have sat stuck in the no-woman's land of unfulfilled creativity for so long that I can't bear to stay here a moment longer. And I can't bear to leave. I can't bear to go where my creativity is telling me to go, and I can't bear to not go. What a pretty pickle. I am so convinced that I always wish to choose life and never wish to choose death, but it seems that it's not quite so simple, after all.

Luckily, life smells so compelling and is so beautiful, keeps throwing little morsels along the path if I remember to keep my eyes open and not fall asleep, that it doesn't take long until curiosity gets the better of me and I want to follow on just that little bit further. This creativity thing, it is so intermeshed with God, like a piece of his/her robe. It captivates, woos me, calls me forward just an extra step more. Whispers that the space forward is one that fits me better in it than the space I'm in now. Doesn't flinch or hesitate or worry when I take an extra step back of disbelief or fear. Waits patiently for me to take another step forward. God is the ultimate lover.


  1. Whew - you do put it out there when you get on a roll. Can identify so much with your creativity thirst, denial of, immersion in...just keep going. I bet you've read "Bird by Bird" by Anne Lamott. I reread last month and she put me back in place about just step by step and keeeep on goin'


  2. SS - It's Holy Week. I'm putting it out there for Lent :) Thanks for this, mate because yes, it's the key for me at the moment. small baby steps are much bigger than they seem at the time. I have read Bird by Bird but it was a few years ago now. I might put in a request to my cousin for a borrow to reread again :)

  3. Hey, that was quite a ramble. I understand the creativity thirst, I don't quench it enough...and feel this rising frustration until a day comes and I just gush these pent up words. I like that, but I wish it was more consistent. That's what I'm hoping to develop...creative consistency, not of quality per se, but just of doing it.


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