Friday, 23 November 2012

you don't want to get there?

There is nothing stranger than success. The moment the creature arrives, it subtly alters the very work we did to become successful in the first place. Whatever measure of happiness we find in our work, once we have arrived at a goal- whether it be setting up a business, signing up to a new job, writing a book or banking a sizeable amount of money- it takes incredible skill not to be captured by the very structures for which we longed so deeply in the first place and which originally seemed so grand and radical. Human beings seem to have the virtuoso ability to turn any sudden gift of freedom or spaciousness into its exact opposite. The mantle of possibility descends upon us and instead of warming and emboldening, covers our face and our eyes. The corporate climber reaching the executive suite at last and expecting freedom and a clear field for maneuver, is astonished to find himself hemmed by politics, harangued by investors and mauled by the media. The writer finally given the advance for which she has longed for years, discovers, the moment it is banked, exactly the moment she can’t seem to get to her desk as easily. When she does find herself before the open page, she finds she suddenly has nothing to work against, or too much to work against. Something has changed. Before, she worked alone and her voice seemed singular and innocent. Now her writing is at the center of an enormous industry spreading out in ripples from the grain of her pine desk. She tries to create too much meaning in too short a space, or her style takes on a pleasing tone that robs her of her original voice. Part of her longs secretly for the time when she went unrecognized, but she cannot send back the check, the very thing that tells her she has arrived…reaching the citadel of success we long for the real, the original, the uncorrupted, but something seems to have insulated us from originality. The Greeks called this phenomenon of inversion and capture, Enantiadromia, the dynamic whereby anything followed unthinkingly, turns into its exact opposite. Midas touches his daughter and turns her to gold. His one dimensional super human power changing everything he loves into a currency that can never replace the real underlying pulse of a living breathing life…the greater the success the more we need a fierce vigilance to stay true, the greater the outward structure, the clearer and simpler the foundation must be…

Adapted from the Chapter: “Outlaw Imaginings”
In: Crossing the Unknown Sea:
Work as a Pilgrimage of Identity. 

Originally posted by Kath Burlinson on the Authentic Artist Facebook page


Thursday, 15 November 2012

on being too much

I've heard two people recently talking about people in their life suggesting that they were/are 'too much'. I love these people. They're vibrant and warm and funny and hugely creative; sensitive, powerful and inspirational. I don't think of myself as any of these things, but I suddenly heard a huge clang. It was one of those moments where you don't even realise that you've been doing or thinking something until you hear someone else express it, and then you realise simultaneously that a), there's this thing, and you've been doing it, and b), that your unconscious assumed that you were dealing with it entirely alone, but it seems you're not.

I've felt that I've been deemed to be 'too much' all my life; sometimes consciously, sometimes semi-consciously. I read the feedback from people, their reactions to me, from very early on, and it kept being the same - you don't know when to stop, you're too intense, you talk too much, you're overpowering, you're inappropriate, your life is extreme, you're not behaving properly.

After a while my extreme life got me into a heap of trouble, and when that was over I started trying to play the game as I was supposed to. There were lots of things that felt good about that; about being accepted, finally, into the game. But I spent the whole time self-monitoring, watching out for where I was about to go over the edge; be too passionate for the restrained academic context, say the wrong thing at the wrong time,  be too self-revelatory for my role. That wasn't the fault of academia. It's just what it felt like trying to fit myself into it. As I attempted to beat myself into submission, I gradually forgot all about the wildness, and  about the colour of my previous life. I didn't forget that I was 'too much' though, and kept trying to rein myself in.

So what has this to do with creativity, and blocks to creativity? Well, if you're constantly self-monitoring because you believe yourself to be too loud, the wrong shape, or in some other way inappropriate for your context, you're constantly checking yourself, and attempting to hold yourself back. You're trying not to make mistakes. You live in constant fear of sounding idiotic, of getting that reaction that tells you you've done it again. Your whole orientation becomes the fear of being wrong, and you shrink.

How can you hope to explore the extent and nature of your voice if the minute it comes out you're unconsciously watching and waiting and judging and fearing? How can you explore your limits and experiment with pushing over them if you're limiting yourself at every turn? It is about coming out of hiding, but this hidden sense of being 'too much'  feels like a much bigger revelation, or perhaps explains something I haven't seen before about the nature of that hiding.

This painting here, is, I have to tell you, FAR too much. Yippee dee day doo dah.


Wednesday, 7 November 2012

the dance

At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless;
Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is,
But neither arrest nor movement. And do not call it fixity,
Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor towards,
Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point,
There would be no dance, and there is only the dance.

TS Eliot, Four Quartets


Tuesday, 6 November 2012

not having a plan

I don't have to go 
to India, or anywhere
with a plan.

There's so much,
more than enough, 
just in what is right here
in front of
my nose.

Drop the intention,
do what's easy,
what comes without 

Not here I am,
but I am here.

Look, see, respond.

It's not just enough,
it's the key.

This is the sticking point,
that there has to be 
a plan.

instead of eyes
and heart.


Monday, 5 November 2012

the dance that goes out to the world

So, I wrote that post over on my other blog a couple of days ago, wondering about the direction my work is taking; about why the Indian dance project, as I have been calling it, had not gone off in the direction that had seemed so promising after the Wales workshop. I've been looking for ages, and wondering, about the two strands - the Indian art, and the wild colours of the strange worlds that appear when I 'do not belabour myself with creativity'; when I just follow what's easy and calling to me, without any kind of intention.

This morning I was moving some dance images around, sticking them on a different wall. And I suddenly saw something. The glorious dancer in this image that so captivates me - that I took myself over twenty years ago on the wall of a temple in South India - is not 'my work'. She's not an aesthetic stimulus to the artistic project which I'm always hoping that one day I will get a clear sense of.

She doesn't want to be turned into a charcoal drawing. The message from the stone is not a message about the beauty of the human dancing form, or the bringing to light of the exquisite workmanship of long-forgotten sculptors. Her message is much more powerful, much less intellectual, than that.

Her message is directly to me. What do I do at workshops, at Authentic Artist and Discipline of Freedom, where I go as a 'blocked', or at the very least, somewhat lost, artist? What I do, without thought, without self-consciousness, as if finally taking in great lungfuls of air, is, I dance. And since that first freeing in September 2011, I've been dancing at home - dancing in a curiously Indian way, with bent knees and constantly-moving arms and hands and fingers - dancing till my knees groan, dancing into space. And I've not, for one moment, confused myself by thinking (as I have with singing and playing music) that 'this means that I want to perform, to share this experience as art'. Nope.

I imagine that perhaps this is where creativity truly starts. Inside, flowing down the river, learning the water. And, from this point of view, there's suddenly no discrepancy, no 'two strands' to my 'work'. The paintings that come easily, easily, with pleasure, with joy -  they are the dance that goes out to the world.


Saturday, 3 November 2012

Friday, 2 November 2012


David Whyte seems to have been thinking about the topic of my last post .....!


is not what it seems. …what looks from the outside like our delay; our lack of commitment; even our laziness may have more to do with a slow, necessary ripening through time and the central struggle with the realities of any endeavour to which we have set our minds. To hate our procrastinating tendencies is in someway to hate our relationship with time itself, to be unequal to the phenomenology of revelation and the way it works its own way in its very own sweet, gifted time, only emerging when the very qualities it represents have a firm correspondence in our struggling heart and imagination.

..Procrastination does not stop a project from coming to fruition -what stops us is giving up on an original idea because we have not got to the heart of the reason we are delaying, nor let the true form of our reluctance instruct us in the way ahead…

From Readers' Circle Essay, "Procrastination"
©2011 David Whyte


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