I was thinking about going to a local art studio recently, where they do classes that allegedly help you with whatever it is you want to work on. That seems quite a novel concept. But still I hesitated. At one point I wrote that I was looking for someone who could 'help me feed my own flame' rather than try to forcefeed me the kind of food they were partial to themselves.
I've been into this idea of feeding for some time. Julia Cameron talks about it. It makes sense. How can you produce, give birth, bring stuff out, if you haven't 'fed in' suitable nutrients, colours, shapes, observations. If something is going to emerge, there need to be different elements interacting with each other through time. A crucial part of this is the openness of the system, and the constant interactions between elements nominally 'within' and 'without' that system, which includes challenges to that system, and encounters with the unexpected.
It struck me recently, however, that perhaps the idea of finding and feeding a flame isn't quite it. It might be it, I suppose, in the very early stages, when you need an image of something different to what you've been doing, or how you've been orienting yourself. But once you're paying attention a bit more, I'm not sure that stoking a boiler is the thing.
I watched a documentary recently about waves. Waves of all kinds, including waves in the sea. I'd never stopped to think about what a wave actually is. At the edges of my half-conscious, a wave was a shape, or a movement on the shore; a sound, a crashing. When I said wave, I saw a shape-thing, Hokusai's famous painting. But this programme pointed out that a wave is actually simply energy, moving through the sea. As it hits the shore, the energy dissipates. There aren't really any waves at all. There's simply energy, moving through the water.
Perhaps creativity isn't about little inner flames that need to be nurtured and fed. Perhaps it's simply the natural energy of the biological system that is the human organism. Upbringing, conditioning, experience, culture, self-talk, emotional response, all gradually build the particular shape of the container for this energy. More often than not, the continually-adapting container may evolve in such a way that it acts as a brake on the power of the system's natural energy. Is this what it means to talk about 'blocks to creativity'; the way the container-shape twists and bends, the way it stops its own free flow of energy? This is not mystical , metaphorical 'energy', but literal, physics and cells, biology and life, kind of energy.
I'm reading a book about a painter called Kurt Jackson. It's an adulatory collection of essays written by notables, all of whom seem to be slightly mesmerised by their experience of watching him work. Some of them go out with him for the day, onto the moors, to the Cornish coast, and they talk in wonder at the way he draws and paints constantly, while talking, all day long. They describe his actions, his energy, his movement, his continuing, in almost mystical terms. The great artist at work; the intangible, yawning distance between themselves and this supra-being.
But perhaps Kurt Jackson has just evolved as a container that is less kinked. He was introduced to the natural world by parents who were painters, who took him travelling. His father taught him to paint at the top of a Cornish cliff. He asserted his 'individuality' first in the direction of a degree in zoology, but almost immediately seems to have fallen back into painting, even while doing his degree. Does it matter whether his creating self was born or made? Perhaps what matters more is that, born or made, his energy has made a form through time which allows itself to breathe.