An Excerpt from Wild Women, Wild Voices
by Judy Reeves.
Your Creative Process
Ah, we creatives are a quirky lot. We have all these habits and perform all these rituals, often without thought, but other times we swear that they are invocations to the muse and that we couldn’t possibly do our work unless we first (fill in the blank). It’s said that Colette picked fleas from her cat before she settled into her writing, that Baudelaire kept a bat in a cage on his writing desk, and that Henrik Ibsen kept a pet scorpion on his. I’ve readily admitted to my light-a-candle routine, which is only the first of the rituals I perform, and here I sit at my candle-lit table with all my polished stones.
Artist and writer SARK said, “Your creativity in action is so needed by the world and the people in it. No other person has your eccentric blend of ideas, attitudes, and perceptions.”
I love that “succulent wild woman” SARK used the word eccentric to describe us. Eccentric is generally thought of as a polite word for describing someone whom we think of as a little crazy. An “eccentric” is slightly odd, maybe not necessarily dangerous but, “you know,” they say, and roll their eyes. To be eccentric is to risk disapproval. In this sense, making art is dangerous.
“I’ve been absolutely terrified every moment of my life,” Georgia O’Keeffe purportedly said, “and I’ve never let it keep me from doing a single thing I wanted to do.”
Making any kind of art takes courage. And so it is no wonder that we have our quirks and idiosyncrasies. These rituals are calming for us, touchstones that both ground us as we begin the creative process and at the same time allow us to leave the safe place of “normal” and enter into the unknown, where anything can happen.
I asked Barbara to describe the feeling and tone of the process of making her art. “Fear and anxiety,” she said, “because my mind is all about having to do something purposeful, great and [I] fear failure.” But like O’Keeffe, Barbara said she does it anyhow. “Once I’m in it there is a sense of spaciousness — my world expands because my mind follows my heart.”
“There really is such a thing as being in ‘the flow,’ submerging in the work/play of creating that does away with concerns about results and shuts up the critic so that I can enjoy the process,” said Lavina, who both paints and writes.
“I’ve come to accept the friction of frustration as a prerequisite for creation,” said Carol. “Once I have successfully started a project, the frustration gives way to deep concentration that takes me out of any self-consciousness. In the groove!”
Maybe you’ve had the kind of experience that Barbara, Lavina, and Carol speak of. I sure have. When I’m in the process and have surrendered to the work, I am unaware of time passing, of the outside world. Athletes call it being in the “zone” (and by the way, some of them heed some pretty quirky rituals, too, before they enter the playing field). In writing about creativity, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi coined the now-common term being in the flow. Eckhart Tolle and other spiritual teachers call it the ever-present Now. For me, it occurs when I am totally present, aware, and focused and there is no strain, no trying. It is simply doing/being. Sometimes I get so caught up in the fluidity of the process that I can hardly keep up with the next word or shape or image or color; at other times it’s like a lazy river, just rolling along, easy as a summer day. I am at one, at peace. I am enough. More than enough: abundant.
And this, I think, this sense of Yes!, this sense of being at one with ourselves during the creative process, is an authentic expression of our natural wildness.
In Fearless Creating, creativity coach Eric Maisel wrote, “This wildness has many faces. It is an amalgam of passion, vitality, rebelliousness, nonconformity, freedom from inhibitions. Think of this wildness,” he said, “as ‘working naked.’ ”
In this Exploration, write about the authentic moments in your life when art transformed you. Make a list, if you like, or take one incident and write about it for two pages.
Remember to use concrete words. Or if you do use an abstract word such as beautiful or wonderful, show what is beautiful or wonderful to you. Abstract words make the reader guess what you mean; they call for judgments. My “beautiful” and your “beautiful” may be very different.
Write in specifics, not generalities; write the names of things. Go for the details.From the book Wild Women, Wild Voices. © Copyright 2015 by Judy Reeves. Printed with permission from New World Library. www.NewWorldLibrary.com.