Cycles of Creation

“The cycle of creation, of rising and falling energy, is as it should be. In this sense there is no such thing as creative block, or writers block. There is a time when creative energy flows like a river underground and disappears for a time, in the meantime making something, creating a new body, and then emerging again.”

— Clarissa Pinkola Estes

I have known this to be true from my own experience.  When people talk of writer’s block or tell me that they are not inspired, I remind them of this.  That what we perceive as a block or a lack of inspiration only means that we have entered what I term the fertile void.  In this place, the material of the deep psyche is mingling with your life experiences and your soul quest.  It is in this place that something new is brewing.

Within the fertile void, there is a sort of amnesia.  Even the very things that I’ve been passionate about don’t arouse the energy to bring them to fruition.  And, I lose direction of where to go next with these passionate ideas.  Desolate and aimlessly wandering, I face frustration and lack impetus.  In those times, if I can remember that this too is part of the creative cycle, I might find some relief.  Learning to recognize and trust the creative process at such times, is helpful and hopeful.

This point of seeming stuckness in the creative cycle is not something that needs to be solved.  We see it mirrored in  the wiles and cycles of nature.  If we live in a place with four seasons, we are especially privy to these cycles.  Within her blossoming spring, simmering summer and picturesque autumn, we see momentum and purpose.  Then, that immobilizing frigid winter comes and there is limitation, slowing, hunkering down, waiting it out and inward searching.  When I remember to welcome the winter, I am privy to her gifts.  This fallow time of rest, going inside literally and figuratively,  allowing the integration, rather than resisting it helps.  Winter, this seemingly inert time, is vital to the creative process.  It is not only restorative, it harbors the potential of spring.

This does not mean that I am unproductive during the time of inwardness.  Instead, I can work on creative projects that I’ve stashed away…things like knitting or sewing or cooking a gourmet meal to share.  I might clear out some old files that really do feel stagnant.  I might study something new or even learn Spanish–a promise I’ve made to myself.

How do you experience the fallow time?  What resources do you call on to see you through?

 

How do you stand not being the best?

Comparison is a tender spot for many an artist.  Last week, at an art exhibit where I had a piece on display, I heard myself repeatedly minimizing my painting.  I had already walked around the exhibit and seen the work of masterful artists, some of whom had been painting for their entire lives.  Inwardly, I went into “I’ve only been painting for five  years.  I’ve learned what I’ve learned from online classes, my own practice and experience.  I never went to art school.”  In other words, I diminished my art and myself.

When someone complimented me or said they liked the painting, I said “You’re being kind.”  I heard myself nearly apologizing for my piece!  Where on earth did all of this self-denigration come from?  Thinking about it in retrospect, it feels painful.

Yesterday, when a friend said I should send an online portfolio of my art to a larger venue, like San Francisco or the bay area at least, I nearly laughed.  “You must be kidding!” I said.  But she wasn’t.  She had seen several groupings of my art and said that she recognized my unique style.  “You have a style,” she said.  “Why not try?” she queried.

So here it is, in my face once again–the artist produces a product.  It matters less about the “expertise” of the painting as to what the process was for me.  What is the journey I took to bring this painting into fruition?  Did I take the journey with acquiesce or protest?  Did I allow myself to be guided by the question what next?  Did I push through the “ugly” stages and arrive at a better place?  Did I say what I wanted to say?  Did I fall in love with my piece, finally?  I DO NOT HAVE TO MAKE EXCUSES FOR ANY OF THIS!

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Being an artist, like being a human, isn’t about comparison.  It is about SELF-EXPRESSION, your personal process and if you so choose, sharing your gifts with others.
In the Desiderata, the author reminds us “always there will be greater and lesser persons [artists] than yourself.”  

Finally, he says, “Be cheerful.  Strive to be happy.”

 

 

How Introspective Are You?

Writers, one would surmise, are introspective people.  They witness things in their environment and within themselves.  They frequently process what they witness by writing it down.

Introspection:  “a reflective looking inward an examination of one’s own thoughts and feelings” Webster’s Dictionary

According to the same dictionary, it’s about “self-examination, self-questioning, self-observation, self-searching, soul-searching”

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To elaborate on this, those who tend to be introspective do interface with their environment.  They go out into the world and have experiences.  It is then necessary for them to have downtime to process deeply in order to glean the lesson, meaning or the gem in what they have experienced.  Writing is one valuable  link to self-awareness and self-acceptance.  It enables integration.

As a writer, this introspection infuses the writing that you share publicly with truth bred of  inner work.

Does that make any sense?

We’re all unique.  I have friends who  extract information and learn very differently than I do.  There’s room for all of us, isn’t there, to be who we are?

Writing Prompt:
Be an observer of yourself in comparison to one other person.  Notice how you best process and integrate your experience.  Notice how the other person appears to process and integrate.  No judgment, only observation.  Write about it.

 

Inspired by a painting

The Dive
© by Christine O’Brien

TheDive2
Diving Bird by Christine 2018

Feet plugged into the
sticky resin springboard,
I note the space between me and
the crushing water below.
The form I hold.
Buddha stillness.
The grace I invoke
as I design form
gliding through space.
The breath I hold.
The breath I take
like thunder in a canyon
fills my ears.
The shadow of fear
remains at the other end
of the platform
while I stand on the edge
in focused repose.

This is not my first dive
though my raised shoulders,
clamped mouth and clenched jaw
could be interpreted as fear.
There is always that
but with prayer and practice
it quickly transforms
as there is no turning back now.
The dive grooms the diver
in this conspiracy of grace, form and space.

Originally, it was a dare from friends
that sent me up the hot aluminum ladder
on that sweaty summer day.
Now, it’s a drive from within,
neither towards perfection
nor for judges’ scores.
There is no competition.

It is the ecstasy of flight
that sends me to this precipice.
Neither bird nor stone falling through space,
I am a wingless angel
who rejoices in
those few seconds of airtime.
Body imprinting space
air molecules conforming, buoyant.
I visualize the flex, fold, arc,
the straightening as
I neatly incise the water with my hands,
barely a splash.

I surface a few feet away,
victorious,
a different sort of Phoenix rising.

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I was invited to write and read a poem for an art gallery event.  The invitation was to choose a painting from the gallery show and write a poem to complement the painting.  I had two days.  I had been on a poetic hiatus and there is often the doubt “Do I have it in me to write poetry?”  I strolled through the gallery looking for a painting that resurrected my poetic voice.  There she was, the girl standing at the edge of the diving board.  I sat with her and asked what wanted to be spoken.  I took a photo and notes and went home.  This was not the first poem that came…the first poem was the process that lead me to this poem.

Writing Prompt:
Give yourself this challenge.  Go to an art gallery, stroll through and stop when you feel that gripping connection with a painting.  Then, sit with it for awhile, take notes, take a photo.  Go home (or to a cafe–make it an artist’s date) and write your poem.  This is such a special experience.  Do try it.

Note:  Remember the first poem may not be the final poem (nor the second or third).  Allow yourself to be in process with what wants to be spoken referring back to the painting as inspiration.

Note 2:  The artist is Jan Wurm.  Her painting is called “The Dive.”  I was hoping to include an image of the painting.  However, I have not received permission from the artist to date.

 

Getting Comfortable within the Creative Process

bird.cafe1 I did not invent this; I found my way to it intuitively. And at the time, I named it process-oriented writing before I heard it had already been named. Ira Progoff, Ph.D., is one of the hallmark leaders in the development of process-oriented writing. And there have been many others who have taken this idea and run far and wide with it. This is part of my spiel on it–the one I wrote on my brochure when I was giving creative writing workshops.

“In a fast-paced, product-oriented society, process is equated with laboring. We want the prize and we want it now! We continually discover that once we achieve a particular goal, dissatisfaction sets in and we fixate on the next goal and the next. Understanding this, leads one to appreciate–PROCESS–which is the never-ending journey.  To be a writer of depth, it helps to engage your own process.”

We live in a society that is bent towards PRODUCT at all costs.  We want something complete.  Something SELLABLE.  Something desirable (to ourselves, our audience or our clients).  We think that we want these things above all else.

The creative spirit sees this goal-orientation differently than the popular norm. The creative spirit wants to re-create you as it potentially creates a product! In other words, the finished product is sort of a by-product of your own creative process.  While the creative spirit wants a commitment from you–that you are going to show up to the page, the canvas, the draft table, workbench or sewing machine, it also wants to break free from the requirements of a system that doesn’t truly elevate the intention of the creative spirit–that is, fostering your own growth.

Contemplate the flux and flow of your own creative process over the course of your life. When you were in process with a piece, were you excited?  Did you feel anticipation, anxiety even? Did you get stymied, stuck and have pitfalls that ultimately lead to breakthroughs?

Writing Prompt:
Choose a work in process which you’ve tucked away for sometime or a piece that you are presently working on.  Get quiet and present; reread what you’ve already written, at least some of it, and then enter into the energy of this piece. Continue from where you left off, following your flow with this piece. Write for at least thirty minutes.

Afterwards, notice what happens inside of you when you re-engage with and follow the flow of a piece?  Were there obstacles?  Was there ease?

Today, appreciate where you are at in your creative journey.

 

Writing Saved My Life

I began writing about my personal journey as a woman–daughter, wife and mother–when I was 27-years old.  At that time, I fell into a deep depression.  Prior to that, I hadn’t experienced the seeming slum of depression.  The landscape was foreign and frightening. I had one confidante, my younger sister, though she was busy with her own burgeoning family life.

My husband, five-year-old daughter and I moved from San Francisco to a suburb–away from what was familiar.  My marriage-constrained husband virtually abandoned us there, working long shifts in the city and after work, playing handball and drinking with his buddies.  The relationship was seriously fractured.  The journal page became my salvation.

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The intention of this blog is to encourage your writing process through sharing my own and other’s poetry and prose.   Having given creative writing workshops on women’s themes for over ten years, I offer you writing tips and prompts.  I have credited writing for saving my life.  And with that, I feel I owe writing a debt of gratitude. Therefore, it is my desire to promote writing (and creativity) as a “wake-up” tool.  With any inward pursuit, it is wise to go only as far as is comfortable.  And, do seek professional support if that feels necessary.

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WRITING PROMPT
For me, this depression was a wake up call and a turning point.  I invite you to reflect on and write about a turning point in your own life.  Set a time limit for yourself.  When you finish writing, read it aloud at least two times.  Ask yourself, “Is there more that wants to be said?”  If so, write some more.
I find it is a good practice to read what you write aloud, to yourself.  And take a moment to let your words sink in.  This is your writer’s voice.  It has value.

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Have a beautiful day.