Saturday, June 23, 2007

Shopping for a New Creative Process 2

Breaking out of the ruts. Changing patterns. Feeling stale, uninspired, static, stuck.

I confess to sympathy about feeling stale creatively, as I do occasionally feel that way. But then, if I'm not feeling poetic, I turn to music, or artwork; and when I'm feeling stuck in music, I turn to poetry. I know from experience that I write the most number of poems at those times when I'm feeling musically unsatisfied. If I'm deep into the music, I hardly write any poems at all. I use Joni Mitchell's idea of crop rotation: do more than one art form, and when one isn't working, switch to another.

As to what to read in these fallow periods (and they are fallow periods, rather than blocks), I avoid reading poetry. I will read science fiction, mysteries, other fiction (but rarely do I read no-brainer bestsellers, for the same reasons I don't eat fast food: healthy nutrition), or a lot of nonfiction. I read about science a lot, or pick up a book on fractals to learn the math behind the art images. That sort of thing.

In other words, to quote Monty Python: And now for something completely different. It works.

But the question might then be asked: But do you never lose the desire to create? Not so much changes in the direction of output, but the switch being turned on or off?

Yes, I've lost the desire to create—but only once or twice in my life, and it was when life was so hard and dark at those extreme times that I actually felt suicidally depressed. (If that's what you're going through, please do go see someone about it.)

Now, normally, I'm not actively suicidal, ever. I've had days where I don't care if I live or die, but it's passive not active. I've also had extreme times where I put my survival in the hands of the Powers That Be—and I'm still here. (So, They must still want me to be here.) I've had some very dark times in my past, and I found myself unable to create during some of those times. But even during the dark night, I have usually still been able to write, or make art, or record music.

Being creative was actually one of my principle ways out of that dark night. I wrote a lot in my journal, most of which is unreadable and not for public consumption. The shamanic music and artwork I do grew out of those experiences (some of which have been written about as visionary poems), and the healing work that I do for others also grows out of having Been There, Done That, myself.

In the past several years, even on my darkest days, I still usually feel creative, because I've learned to convert those times to energy for creativity. (Which is what Tantra is about: it's not just about sex, as most people think, it's about the conversion of whatever energies you're currently dealing with, as they arise, into fuel for awakening.) I then use that energy for making things. Sometimes what I make sucks, sometimes it's great, sometimes it's blah. (Further evidence that the quality of the art we make is not directly correlated to the state of being we were in when we made it.) But I am making something, rather than stewing in my own juices. The process of making is more important than the product. For my own well-being, I have learned to get up and just do something, anything, whatever it is, no matter how boring it is, whether I feel like doing it or not. Cleaning house during those periods is actually very productive, and I do feel better afterwards, because I can see the results of my doing right there in front of me.

Sometimes I think writing is too intangible an artform for us to feel like we've ever actually accomplished or finished something: so I recommend yardwork, or sculpture, or taking a walk long enough to feel tired when done. Something tangible as a result. If you want to feel tangible as a writer, don't do it at the computer, but use a journal book and a pen, and count the pages you've filled after you spewed out everything you were feeling. Do your poems as calligraphy; turn your lines into artwork.

There is a dis-ease of the spirit that was well-known by the Medieval monastics, called acedia. It literally means, dryness of the soul. (It is also means depression, and its Medieval nickname was the noonday demon: the demon that attacks in the light of day, drying us up and making us feel helpless.) Acedia is treatable, by meditation, by doing other things rather than focusing on whatever is making you feel blah, and even by prayer. But sometimes you just have to endure the dry spell, and come out the other side. There is always a reason for acedia, even if we don't know what it is. (Sometimes we never get to know it is.) Maybe you were just pushing yourself too hard, and you needed to stop and do nothing for awhile.

Doing nothing is not a sin. Who says we have to write all the time? That's a heavy load to put on ourselves, for so intangible a product. So, if you're in a fallow period, and you feel stuck, yes, you can change your routines to shakes yourself up an get unstuck. You can also choose to stay with the dryness, and endure it, and see what lessons it has to teach you. You might be a different writer when you emerge from the other side.

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Blogger MICHAEL said...

About 3 years ago I dropped into a black hole – four months of absolute terror. I wanted to end my life, but somehow [Holy Spirit], I reached out to a friend who took me to hospital. I had three visits [hospital] in four months – I actually thought I was in hell. I imagine I was going through some sort of metamorphosis [mental, physical & spiritual]. I had been seeing a therapist [1994] on a regular basis, up until this point in time. I actually thought I would be locked away – but the hospital staff was very supportive [I had no control over my process]. I was released from hospital 16th September 1994, but my fear, pain & shame had only subsided a little. I remember this particular morning waking up [home] & my process would start up again [fear, pain, & shame]. No one could help me, not even my therapist [I was terrified]. I asked Jesus Christ to have mercy on me & forgive me my sins. Slowly, all my fear has dissipated & I believe Jesus delivered me from my “psychological prison.” I am a practicing Catholic & the Holy Spirit is my friend & strength; every day since then has been a joy & blessing. I deserve to go to hell for the life I have led, but Jesus through His sacrifice on the cross, delivered me from my inequities. John 3: 8, John 15: 26, are verses I can relate to, organically. He’s a real person who is with me all the time. I have so much joy & peace in my life, today, after a childhood spent in orphanages [England & Australia]. God LOVES me so much. Fear, pain, & shame, are no longer my constant companions. I just wanted to share my experience with you [Luke 8: 16 – 17].

Peace Be With You

10:41 AM  
Blogger Art Durkee said...

It's not that I don't appreciate the comment, but I do not actively support—nor do I reject—any form of institutional organized religion. I am not a Christian, practicing or otherwise. I feel more affinity for other paths, as much as I respect those aspects of the Christian path that are life-affirming and positive.

But you don't have to be a believer to have gone through the dark night of the soul; it is not at all the same thing as a conversion experience, and I want to be very clear that it's not. I also want to be very clear that I promote no religion on this blog, even if I discuss them.

This blog is about creativity, and creativity is a way in its own right. That's my focus, and my intent.

I wish you well.

1:29 AM  

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