creativity


It’s a funny thing about having all the time in the world: there still aren’t enough hours in the day.

As of October 1, I am no longer a working woman. But after a lifetime of holding down a job it’s been surprisingly difficult to turn off the internal dictator who berates me regularly with what I should be doing with my time. She doesn’t listen when I tell her that I’m allowed to do whatever I want. Her shoulds revolve around both working on the house and creative work and it’s a never-ending cycle of guilt.

As a friend pointed out, it’s only been a month. I need time to depressurize from what was frankly a difficult few years of forcing myself to get up and go to work when I felt lousy. I was so completely drained of energy that my Saturdays were usually a full body collapse and Sundays the only day of the week when I could accomplish anything. Now I have a whole week of weekends. At first, I did the full body collapse and it was difficult to get over the feeling that I was on a prolonged vacation and would have to return to the unbearable slog eventually. I’m just now beginning to get over that feeling, but I’m still not completely there yet.

I’ve utterly reset my body clock to my natural state of being up until the wee small hours and sleeping in late and I’m finally to the point of not needing 11-12 hours of sleep a night. I’m getting by on a mere 9 hours now and hope to get back to a conventional 8. Curiously, the dictator has never berated me about that (well, hardly ever). Even she recognized that I desperately needed the rest.

But as soon as I am out of bed, she starts with the shoulds. Clean this, write that, pick up this, finish that craft project, on and on and on.

What she doesn’t realize, and what I’ve only recently realized on a conscious level myself, was that I needed to completely dismantle the old structure of my life. What worked then is not going to work now. Once that is thoroughly dismantled, I can start building it back up again from the ground floor. Structure and schedules are necessary things for any kind of productivity. But I have to rebuild them to match my new reality.

Oh reality, you’re such a tricky bastard.

Another friend of mine retired July 1 and we’ve had many discussions about this. Like me, when she first retired she berated herself on a regular basis for not using the luxury of time in a better fashion. Like me, she’d been longing for years to get back to a place where she had enough energy to do her creative work. Because she didn’t immediately jump into the fray and start doing, she sent herself many hate messages. I’m happy to report her creative life has come back online—but it took a while of not doing anything, of stripping herself down and rebuilding herself to get that going.

The thing about having all the time in the world is that it takes time to be able to use it well. It’s a process like anything else. Artists are supposed to understand about process, but sometimes we fool ourselves, or forget, or get locked into a way of doing things that no longer works for us. What nobody tells you (because it’s not a conspiracy of silence but something you have to discover on your own) is that every artist who wants to keep doing art will periodically have to reinvent themselves. And it’s not as if I didn’t know this! I’ve had to reinvent my reason for writing and doing art a couple of times in my life, and I had conveniently forgotten that birthing a new process is painful. (One does tend to gloss over the icky bits.)

As my friend said, “There’s most likely growth going on subliminally that will manifest down the road.”

Ah yes, the growth thing. It’s so hard, I whine.

Being is becoming, as many a philosopher has pointed out. We are in a constant state of being until we be no more. That’s what the living do, taking it day by day, trying to build a productive life on the ash heap of illusion and ticking time. I don’t know why I thought having all the time in the world would make that any easier. Because, really, we don’t have all the time in the world. That is the biggest illusion of all. The trick is, I think, not to fear time running out so much that it freezes us in place or makes us set up panicky structures that don’t work for us.

Being is becoming. Becoming is taking the time to find that golden thread that pulls us along our true path.

Random quote of the day:

“In the creative state a man is taken out of himself. He lets down as it were a bucket into his subconscious, and draws up something which is beyond his reach. He mixes this thing with his normal experiences, and out of the mixture he makes a work of art.”

—E. M. Forster, Two Cheers for Democracy

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Orville and Wilbur, Katy Perry, or the Avengers. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

Random quote of the day:

“It has baffled most people who’ve tried to analyze just what takes place in the creative process. Even Freud, who gave up on almost nothing, seemed to have given up on that. It remains mysterious; and it’s probably a good thing that it does. It may be that the mystery is among the things that attract those of us who write.”

—John Hersey, The Paris Review, Summer-Fall 1986, No. 100

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Orville and Wilbur, Katy Perry, or the Avengers. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

Random quote of the day:

“You cannot govern the creative impulse. About all you can do is eliminate obstacles and smooth the way for it.”

—Kimon Nicolaides, The Natural Way to Draw—A Working Plan for Art Study

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Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Siegfried and Roy, Leonard Maltin, or the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

 

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Many have written about the ritual use of shoes, including me. This post isn’t about that, but it is about the fairytale-psyche-soulful aspects of shoes.

I’ve been reading Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes again. This is a book I have picked up and put down many times over the years. It’s as chewy as a chocolate caramel candy with almonds and each chunk of it takes a lot of mastication before you can swallow and digest. But it nourishes the soul and I love it. Ms. Pinkola Estes uses fairytales and Jungian analysis to help women reclaim—or never lose in the first place—their wild woman soul, that part of her that yearns for freedom and creativity and a life of standing on her own two feet.

In the chapter, “Self-Preservation: Identifying Leg Traps, Cages, and Poisoned Bait” she does a brilliant analysis of “The Red Shoes.” I’m not going to duplicate that here because, really, she’s already done it only better and I highly recommend reading what she says. However, the chapter does touch upon the special, deep-down meaning shoes have had for millennia.

Shoes send social signals, of course. Often people are judged by what they wear, especially on their feet. “Artists,” Ms. Pinkola Estes says, “often wear shoes that are quite different from those worn by, say, engineers.” However, if we’re talking ancient times, rulers had shoes, peasants didn’t. They were symbols of power. In a southern clime, shoes weren’t as necessary, but in a northern climate, they were vital to survival. Even the poor must find some sort of foot covering to withstand the winter.

The symbol of shoes can be understood as a psychological metaphor; they protect and defend what we stand on—our feet. In archetypal symbolism, feet represent mobility and freedom. In that sense to have shoes to cover the feet is to have the convictions of our beliefs and the wherewithal to act on them. Without psychic shoes a woman is unable to negotiate inner or outer environs that require acuity, sense, caution, and toughness.

It occurs to me when reading this that it might in part explain why so many women in these modern, privileged times tend towards shoe obsessions. Western society is divorced from so many of the soulful aspects of life that we seek that kind of toughness, that sense of freedom and creativity, from the outside in, rather than the inside out. It’s a strategy that can never work longterm. The soulful life is never an outer construct. It requires work, constant work, from the inside. As Ms. Pinkola Estes points out, “red indicates that the process is going to be one of vibrant life, which includes sacrifice.” You can’t buy that ready made. You can’t find your soul in an enormous shoe closet.

She also points out that in ancient matriarchal cultures in India, Egypt, parts of Asia, and Turkey, henna and other red pigments were given to young girls to stain their feet during threshold rites (a term Ms. Pinkola Estes prefers to the male-coined “puberty” or “fertility” rites). Onset of menstruation was one of the biggest of these rites, menarche being the symbolic crossing from childhood to the full power of womanhood. Girls were welcomed into the tribe of women, with all its attendant mystery and power and sacrifice, to become part of a larger group, a soul group, a belonging tribe.*

We in the privileged world no longer cross thresholds in the same way. We stagger through them as individuals, menarche is downgraded to a “curse,” we are made to feel ashamed of our bodies and their natural processes, and seek snake oil patents to cover “embarrassing odors.” We are privileged but deeply impoverished, caught up in a dance that has no meaning but goes on and on until we are exhausted and must amputate our own soles to get some semblance of rest. We are looking to cover our poor, naked soul-feet from the outside in, lining our caves with glittering, shining, must-have ruby slippers.

I have nothing against Jimmy Choo or Marc Jacobs or Van’s. I too have worshipped at the altar of the shoe fetish. But I recognize that the soleful life will never be the soulful life, and I try hard not to mistake the one for the other.

*Ms. Pinkola Estes sites no sources for these observations just gives a generalized bibliography at the end of her book.

Random quote of the day:

“The Muse visits during the act of creation, not before. Don’t wait for her. Start alone.”

—Roger Ebert, Twitter, March 24, 2011

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Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Siegfried and Roy, Leonard Maltin, or the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

 

Random quote of the day:

“The best thing is to write anything, anything at all that comes into your mind, until gradually there is a calm and creative day.”

—Stephen Spender, as quoted in The Lie That Tells a Truth: A Guide to Writing Fiction by John Defresne

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Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Siegfried and Roy, Leonard Maltin, or the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

Random quote of the day:

“Ideas are poison. The more you reason, the less you create.”

—Raymond Chandler, letter to Charles Morton, 28 October 1947

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Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Siegfried and Roy, Leonard Maltin, or the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

Random quote of the day:

“What I cannot create, I do not understand.”

—Richard Feynman, on his blackboard at the time of death in 1988, as quoted in The Universe in a Nutshell by Stephen Hawking

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Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Siegfried and Roy, Leonard Maltin, or the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

The lovely and talented mnfaure recently posted these trigger words: read, crusade, kiss, beauty, back, us. They were part of a technique she and her husband use to spur on their creativity. I wrote the words down on a piece of paper and left work for the day. When I came in this morning and saw the words, this tumbled out, I know not from where:

I am on perpetual crusade
to return us to those first moments
when your battlements fell,
the beauty of that first kiss,
the way your eyes read my face,
the way my mouth crumbled
your defenses, our breath
intertwined, our skin’s
burning velvet embrace.
Can we fight our way back
to that fire of long ago
after so many years of comfort
and knowing? Or is it instead
a children’s adventure to try?
The contentment of our lives
is its own crusade, a gentle
battle against the world’s
harsh ways, a bulwark
against its fires of destruction.

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