Saturday, 16 January 2010

Anxiety or play?

Despite so much wanting to produce their play/poem/ painting/melody, a lot of people seem to find it difficult, at least some of the time, to get down to work. Maisel (95) says that anxiety (fear of failure etc) cannot and should not go away - that it needs to be embraced and understood. I think this is one of the reasons that I wasn't comfortable with 'Fearless Creating' when I first picked it up (that, and the suggestion that I might want to paint huge pictures in red, naked...). I didn't need more anxiety in my life. I much preferred the idea that many of the other writers talk about, of creativity as play.

But I also recognised something in the acknowledgement of the anxiety, the difficulties. As you clean your house, do the washing, 'deal with' your emails (never dealt with, of course, in reality), or go to the shops, it's all too easy to beat yourself up about what seems to be avoidance and procrastination.

Perhaps some of the reasons that it's often hard to work are tied up with the distinction I discussed previously between the 'expressing yourself' view of creativity, and the idea of response. In 'expressing yourself' mode you have to face things such as 'Where's the idea going to come from for my  next painting?', 'What am I going to say?', 'What's my big theme?'. You're up against all the questions of the universe in the first five minutes.

The idea of response, on the other hand, makes everything suddenly seem much easier (previous post on Anish Kapoor and not setting out to create beauty...). Response takes the pressure off you to 'come up with something'. It allows for something much more spontaneous - response is natural, and can't be stopped. It's like a plant growing towards the light. Perhaps 'expression' can become associated with effort and strain, with trying - and with ego, strutting about, preening and fearing judgement at the same time.

There seems to be a link here to Maisel's 'hushing', and my friend making better cakes when she makes them in a quiet, mindful state. Perhaps when your mind is busy wanting to produce something, worrying about what that will be, trying to think its form into being - and, of course, ready to criticise and judge any small thing you manage to get out - perhaps it's your mind itself that's getting in the way, blocking you up. By contrast, when, on rare occasions, you're able to just sit quietly, it does seem that often a simple response simply floats into view.

I think Anish Kapoor actually says something like, 'you have to be able to just sit quietly in a room and wait for something to happen....'

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