On the Creative Process

Spontaneous creation comes from our deepest being and is immaculately and originally ourselves. What we have to express is already with us, is us, so the work of creativity is not a matter of making the material come, but of unblocking the obstacles to its natural flow. ~From a marvelous book by Stephen Nachmanovitch, Free Play: The Power of Improvisation in Life and the Arts (p. 10)

I find that the moments in which I am most absorbed (when I “lose myself” in whatever I am doing and lose track of time altogether) are the best clues to what I should be doing. Nachmanovitch also says, “The workmanlike attitude is inherently nondualistic–we are one with our work. If I act out of a separation of subject and object–I, the subject, working on it, the object–then my work is something other than myself; I will want to finish it quickly and get on with my life…But if art and life are one, we feel free to work through each sentence, each note, each color, as though we had infinite amounts of time and energy.”

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5 Responses to On the Creative Process

  1. Teresa says:

    I go back and forth with this one. First, who wouldn’t like to NOT work by loving your work so much that it is not work at all?

    But then, does everyone have the luxury of doing that? Does a coal miner really enjoy the blackness of the coal and the dust in his lungs, or is he just trying to survive?

  2. quotesqueen says:

    It’s true the coal miner and others often do not have options in the economic and social situation in which they find themselves. Our society is so far down its life-destroying path that I often despair for the world. But I don’t see that as an excuse for not working on it myself.

    How much does one person’s choice matter in the world? Thich Nhat Hanh says, “If we want a better government, we have to begin by changing our own consciousness and our own way of life.” and the Dalai Lama: “Although attempting to bring about world peace through the internal transformation of individuals is difficult, it is the only way.”

  3. Diane says:

    Just before reading these posts, I read an article in this month’s American Libraries about the man (one person!) who invented the idea of the public library– and it wasn’t B. Frankllin. It was a ventriloquist named Vattemare who was the toast of Europe, but had a dream of establishing an international exchange of books, and publicly funded collections of books “free to all.” He brought his ideas to America in 1839 and persuaded former president J. Q. Adams, who got Congress to approve the international exchange part and introduced Vattemare to his grandson Josiah Quincy Jr, the future mayor of the city of Boston. which eventually became the first major city to establish a free public library in 1848.
    So when we ask, what does one person’s choice matter in the world, I can’t help believing that SOMETIMES it matters a lot! Not that things happen quickly, but a person with a cause is a powerful person.

  4. Teresa says:

    Yes, I agree with both of your comments. Inevitably, if we want to create any change in the universe, the most we can DO is to BE who we are when we are alone. Sometimes, it’s not so bad being a force of one. I guess any tiny thing we do that creates a positive in this world of negatives matters. Yin and yang.

  5. quotesqueen says:

    I do hope that one person’s choices, one person’s actions, ripple outward, because (after all) it is all we can really change. I have always felt that social action is in conflict with being in the world. The exception may be simple work to alleviate suffering.

    There is no doubt in my mind that most suffering in the world is caused by social systems. But how do I know my action for social change (i.e., persuading, marching, forcing my will on others) will really be of benefit in the long run? Isn’t it better to tune in, to bring my life in harmony with what I know to be right, than to bring ‘light’ to the darkness, not knowing if it will blind those who dwell there?

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