Upon the Act of Creation
So let us begin, with a cup of tea in hand and a rapt eye for the truth.
So let us begin, with a cup of tea in hand and a rapt eye for the truth. And what is it? That of a new era, a difficult time in so many ways. Creation is daunting, difficult, nearly impossible. By nature, the spirit of creation is elusive; a fragile thing that flies on delicate wings. Man tries to grasp it in his palm and crushes it. Creation is whole and entire... and yet, received in fragments, drops, torrents, drizzles, sprinkles.
Our minds are expending resources upon survival and making sense of chaos. Anything attempted is half-understood at best, because it is in the midst of crisis, and not the whole picture.
So why try? Because falling off a ledge into the abyss of ceaseless change feels like our only other option. When we think of all the work left undone—all the projects dead on arrival, the paintings that need a smidge more time—it leads us through tunnels of despair. Being slow and easy when danger is near—and others remind us of it: real and present danger is constant—is not simply done.
Curiosity, however, lives on.
Currently, we are mired in uncertainty. I have to trust this is taking me somewhere. The wave goes out and pushes; draws sediment along seafloors, carts fishes like cargo across oceans. Similarly am I drawn across the world, while my brain stays in one place (but barely). The ground... seems to me to be floating. The world a haze of colors and visions.
For centuries, creation has stood as escape into the unknown and has lifted many on wings a bit higher than the cares of every day. Creation is a type of madness more than Western psychology can diagnose—a frenzy. Being seized by the madness entails a headfirst plunge into the unknown. The outside world disappears and so does time. All becomes mere background. The inner voice is amplified, is isolated. The voice that is often dim, unheard, silent, ignored throughout the day, crowded by: Laundry to take to the washers, grocery lists, where to go for lunch and worries about the people we are going with. Layers of conditioning fall away. Truth is revealed in the bare light of day—the light within. The undiluted mind shows itself.
Creativity involves a familiarity with the imaginal (or the desire to imagine) and is more than processing and regurgitating. The psyche, the anima, the soul, the spirit—develop as one builds and tinkers. Creation transcends and lifts.
One must be willing to put up with an ever-present fear of the new and to be able to stay with the dry darkness, which brings one in close contact with the fear that looms, feels real, destroys trust and spontaneity. Fear reaches a corner of the brain and invades parts determined by forces designed long ago.
In writing, I have been struggling through the emotional process of creating something new. There are seeming steps forward, and heavy treads back.
The actual process of creating things remains mostly mysterious, as Freud acknowledged in his essay “Daydreaming and Creative Writing”; only the artist knows, and even then, does not have the full story. What we know is that stimulation of the mind occurs.
We are creatures in all our maddening clamor. Creating is birthing something from old elements with a touch of the inexplicable, magical, alchemical. Spirit is what makes a creation something unique from mere reorganization. Creation is animalistic—the best words cannot capture a thing so nonverbal; so not meant to be put in a birdcage by language. So one hits the wall of complete frustration.Our brains are trained to believe we deserve anything we want at any time. But that is not how creation works. Creating is an act of memory, patience, and time.
Creation is complex. It is easier to write a long conceptual essay looping circles around the matter than to sit down in stillness with paintbrush and sketchbook and do something with the imaginative material inside. Sometimes one has to throw everything at a page and hope it sticks. Sometimes one has said everything one has to say and repeats and repeats... the process turns into a hamster wheel. And then we feel the defeat all over again—a deep, cosmic defeat—the process starts anew. We must begin again at square one and be like children seeing everything for the first time.
So we try. We are creatures, curious, motivated by an interest in the new. We attempt; we make. This is why we try—because having done the difficult work, life unfolds anew in a beautiful way—everything flows, seems brand new, the world willing to receive us as we are. Creation is a pathway, a shortcut to the divine. We make and grow. Like trees, we put out new leaves. Let each one be as beautifully intricate and delicately, carefully crafted as if Nature herself embroidered it.
Creativity is one thing we always want an infinite amount of. Creativity takes all the raw matter of the mind—things we have seen and heard. One has to put up with the constant fight of the mind against staying on track. It requires the whole human, and is an exercise in endless self-trust. We feel the strain and limit of our humanity.
In creation, there are false starts. There are grand endeavors that amount to nothing but obscurity—failed first movies and books that didn’t sell. There are records that didn’t make the cut and magazines that fold after a year. There are endless trips and stumbles and catastrophes in the world of putting forth an original thought. Will it be well received? Will it be anything worth reading/seeing/talking about/listening to/watching? Such are the anxieties.
Creation is a recording of the soul’s lyrics. There is no tidy end to all of this—as in life. One must take a leap of faith and be finished. One can publish a book and not be satisfied. As soon as one has done the work one is compelled to the task of judging and criticizing it, under the guise of “editing” and “revision” and “making sure it is okay!”. One is grateful to the interruptions and annoyances that divert from this process.
One must slump, stoop one’s shoulders, have a cup of tea, and admit that at least we had a go at it—when it is time to call it a day. All has been said for now, the work must be rolled up and put aside, or parceled out. “Well, my brain is good for something,” we grouch.
Sometimes we want to go on forever. Sometimes the minutes eke by painfully, and we are glad to reach the end of the page.