Being in the Creative Stew

Sometimes, I make a request into the ethers, “Which direction do I pursue in my life/career?” or “What is the next step with this short story I’m writing?”  or “Where do I go now with this painting in process?”

The next uncomfortable position is to find myself in the creative stew!  For awhile, I simmer there without understanding what is going on.  Feelings of uncertainty, doubt, discomfort arise and I probe these feelings.  “What?  What?”  I forget that I asked the question(s) or invoked help and that I’m on the edge of unknowing, the precipice of what’s next.

I have been known to call this the “fertile void”.  Though there is nothing apparent on the horizon, I have invoked the powers that be to show me a direction, how to proceed.  Inwardly, I churn.  I feel discomfort.  An inner edginess.  And resistance too.  All these things and feelings bubbling in the cauldron of “where do I go from here?”  Sometimes, the harder you push, the more elusive the answer.

When a writer, poet, artist is creating something…there are bound to be times when they are stuck and can’t see the next step.  They’ve been deep in process, things seemed to be flowing and then…nothing.  Flat out, nothing.  Whether at the desk or canvas, they are inwardly working something out.  When I remember that this is what is going on, there is some relief.  “Ah, yes, I’m in that disconcerting void place.  It looks like there is no forward movement.  How long is it going to last?  Is there something that I need to do to get unstuck!!??

At these times, I’ve found, the best thing to do is to walk away for awhile, literally and figuratively.  The impasse is in place.  Do something to take your mind off of it.  Dance, do the laundry, get out in nature, do something you are good at.  Anything that isn’t related to the dilemma.

Simultaneously, it’s a time of deep listening and seeing.  Sometimes, answers come to us indirectly, through metaphor.  Other times, someone says something like “You are really good at painting portraits.”  or “I appreciate your sensitivity.  It comes through in your poetry.”  During this time of uncertainty, it pays to be alert to clues as to what the next step is.  Sometimes, a direction presents  in a dream.  You might wake up one morning and know exactly what to do next.

Regardless, this gestation period is part of the creative process, not separate from it.  We ride it out.  We trust.  The flow returns.

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A Few Patterns of Communication

I wonder about this…when you engage in a conversation, do you look for ways to confirm what you already believe to be true or are you truly open to learning something different?  Even while listening to a lecture, I sometimes find within myself a resistance to new information.  Oh no, I might have to shift my hard won beliefs!

Seeking confirmation for what I already consider to be the truth, closes the door to discovering something else.  And if I am confirmed in what I already believe, is there sometimes an air of “evangelism” about me–if I believe that I know the truth, then do I think I have the right or responsibility to force my dogma on someone else?

When I’m in conversation with someone, am I really listening?  Or am I already planning what I’m going to say in response?  Often, our patterns of listening and conversing are so programmed that it’s hard to step out of the box of our behaviors to allow something or someone else in.

Or, have you noticed that sometimes, a conversation is more of a monologue than a dialogue?  I look into my own patterns and see if I’m guilty of stealing the stage and not allowing the other person to get in a word.  Or when a certain friend gives a soliloquy while we’re taking a walk in nature, I sometimes strategically interrupt and request “quiet time.”  This can help to bring awareness to the lopsided nature of the conversation.  And, it allows us to appreciate the beautiful surroundings.

In observing conversational patterns between men and women, I’ve noticed that some men take the role of “I’m the teacher,” while a woman may allow and even encourage that role.  Other times, she tries to contribute her own different but real wisdom, only to find herself disproved by the “dominant male’s absolute surety” about whatever it is they are discussing.  He might raise his voice or show some sign of physical prowess (body language) to emphasize his correctness.  It takes an aware male to help to create a safe atmosphere where true sharing can occur.  Is he able to inquire into her thoughts and ways of being and seeing without overpowering her?   It takes a super conscious male to understand that he may actually learn something from her!