Individual as Creator

"In the West we view the individual as the creator. Works of art represent the mind of the artist, who takes credit or blame for them. Artists are put on a pedestal. It is little wonder that most of us don't see ourselves as gifted in this way and avoid expressing anything.  However, Eastern notions of art characterize this relationship between the artists and the work quite differently. The artist is considered the servant of the muses, not their master. The artist shows up , practices carefully the strokes or steps, and then humbly takes his place as channel, as shepherd for the images to be brought forth. Ideas, songs, poems, paintings come through the individual but are not though to be of him. On Bali, everyone is considered an artist. Art is simply what one does, not who one is."

     -  From Improv Wisdom by Patricia Ryan Madson

Found this passage last night in a book I'm reading and liked it enough to copy it here today. In working on my novel, I too often let fear get in the way of my writing anything. Fear what I write won't be good, or not good enough, or just not right for publication. The passage above soothes me. I like the image of my not creating the words, but rather just being a channel for them to flow through. This is a common theme in many books on creativity and writing. That the words are already out there--we don't have to struggle to create them. We just need to stand aside and allow them to flow down through us.  So writing becomes less a forced activity and more a meditative practice of "getting out of the way."

I've seen it work but it's still hard to do.  If I ever sit down to (ahem!) WRITE, I get very little work done.  It's too imposing, this job of creating. But if I tell myself, "Okay, just fiddle around with a scene and maybe you'll get a line or two of description from it," the words flow much freerer. Why? Because I'm "not really writing."  I'm just goofing around.  Or in other words, I'm not standing in my own way and the words come quickly. My goofing around time yields far more productive writing than any formal writing session ever will.

I use this process with magazine articles as well.  "You don't have to write the article," I tell myself.  "Just outline some paragraphs or phrases and I won't make you do the real work until much later."  So I get out of my way and find the article almost written by the time I leave the page.

The problem for me is that panic sets in. "I have a deadline--quit goofing around and write for God's sake!"  Ha--might as well stick me with a novicane dart. This writing is a funny business. You have to sneak up on it, and do the actual work when your real self isn't looking. And if your real self peeks in, you have to quickly look away, and pretend to be studying the birds or the sky--anything except writing. Because if your true self sees you writing, ego jumps in and says, "It better be good!"  And then there are no more words.