Monday, April 03, 2017

Returning to Morning Pages

I have often said that what makes a writer is the simple act of noticing.

Perhaps it's the first requirement of an artist of any kind, because if you can't notice, can't pay attention to the sensory and emotional details of the world around you, how can you synthesize and transform it into art?

This is both a blessing and a curse. Because we notice, we risk noticing too much. As if our attention is a semi-permeable membrane with the holes open too wide.

Or to put it another way, we all have an emotional container. When we take in more than we can handle, we get overfilled and overloaded. We can cope with this in several ways: enlarge the container (difficult, though this happens through the developmental course of childhood into adulthood), shut out external influences (a dangerous choice or an impossible one for the artist), or find a way to transform the emotions into something that we can bear.

I write because that's the only way I make sense of both the interiority of my own experiences and the endless barrage of the external world.

This past year, the intrusion of the external world has battered my emotional defenses to a point where my writing has suffered. Which means the main way I process emotions has been compromised even as I'm being subjected to more and more from outside myself.

This is a perfect storm for the artist. And I know too many of my fellow creative folks are being battered as I am.

This morning, instead of starting the day with the barrage of emails, twitter, FB, texts, I sat in silence and handwrote in a spare spiral bound notebook.

I wrote without direction or overarching purpose. I didn't write to create something I could use for story or poem or anything to be deliberately shared with an audience. No. I wrote to channel the swirl and press of emotions into something that made sense to me.

I wrote as a way to empty the emotional container so it had room to fill again.

Emotions are not meant to be trapped and held. Rather, they are the tides of our creative life and we need to free them to ebb and flow. To bring flotsam and jetsam from which we find a bit of sea glass here, a perfect shell there.

If we let it, that swell of emotion can wash over and through us. If we spend ourselves in a futile struggle against that tide, we will drown.



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