Sunday, July 19, 2009

Nurting Genius- Putting the monster in it's cage

Yesterday, I listened to Elizabeth Gilbert ( ) speak on nurturing creative genius. Listen to the talk here

Listening to her speak has lifted a weight of my shoulders, but at the same time, made my life more complex. I'm relived I thought I was the only one struggling with what I call "my monster", otherwise known as my creativity. You see, I create because I have, I have no choice as it bursts up from inside my being and I have to get it out into my art or it will kill me. ( I know this sounds dramatic but that is what it feels like, it feels so dangerous)

After I finish pieces of work I say the same comment every time "that's better out that in" as once I've got it out of my system, I can return to normal. And it's not all horrible, it will produce pure moments of bliss in my creative process. However, this powerful creativity feels like it is not me holding the brush, I feel like I have little control over the process once I start creating and when I stop working and look at the art I just created and feel like I'm waking up from a dream.

Last week I read an article about how scientists have found the gene that is responsible for schizophrenia is almost the same as the gene that stimulates creativity.

You know who was not shocked, ME!!! I could have told them how close to madness creativity is years ago. We should really remember the Dali quote " The only difference between me and a madman (sic) is I'm not mad.

Many artists say when they create they enter another world, this is what we are talking about, it is the mad world except artists know it's mad and a madman (sic) does not. For example, I get totally obsessed with my muses, I let myself believe they can feel the power of the creative adoration I direct at them and this creativity can effect their lives in some way. But realistically, I know it's not part of the real functioning world, it has a creative truth but it's just not part of real, everyday life and should never be acted upon. So I would never dream of stalking them or invade their privacy in any way. A m use is important to creating great work but it's a fickle "relationship", often, I just wake up one morning, find them boring and move onto to something else.

My point is, I believe most artists know where to draw the line. It is a necessary to wallow in the mad ways as they create the best art, it's where the 'monster' lives.

So where does all this insight, science and advice leave me? I guess feeling like a bit of a freak, and frustrated that I've really had to deal with this powerful creativity on my own for many years. It's hard when you don't have ordinary problems. For example, My creativity often keeps me awake, and, because of this advice, from health professions regarding my insomnia can be pretty much useless, being bombarded by powerful creative inspiration is not a common cause for sleep problems. Common in artists maybe, but not the general population.

Yet this article and talk has made me feel relived , hearing Elizabeth advice how she handles her creative demands and passing on advise from other musicians (Tom Waits) about how to handle these intense creative moments has made me feel like I do fit somewhere and others are coping too. We are OK.

Both Elizabeth & Tom suggested to treat your creativity like the external force that it feels/behaves like, which is what I've instinctively done over the past few years. It may sound a bit crazy but it works, my favourite saying is "I keep my monster in a cage of rational behaviour" which allows me to see my creativity as the force that it is and be able to rationalize into submission when I need to. I found I had to do this as it was causing problems by creatly inspiring me at an inconvient time. For example, I was being woken at 3am with a complete poem in my head and couldn't settle till I wrote it all down. Only to find I'd wake an hour later with another one. I made "deals" with my monster, I asked it to come back at another time, then made time to write the poem later and this way I found I can "open the door" pretty much when I chose. And the work is just as good. It doesn't work all the time but it has helped enormously.

The advice of Mr Waits ( bless his little heart ) was to" speak" to this creative impulse and tell it that it is inconvient at this time and to come back when it's not. He's right, it eventually works. My attitude to my creativity is we have to do this together, as a team and I think that is what he was doing as well, It is a team affort, Elizabeth went in detail about this too in her talk.

But all this complicates life, it's like I have this mad, dangerous part of me and when I do let it out it is a extremely powerful experince and downright weird. For example, lately I have found myself closing my eyes while I'm actually painting. ( I call this the Stevie Wonder effect)
Also, I find I have to walk for at least an hour to "come down" from a painting. Frankly, this sort of behaviour puts people off and I can't say I blame them. It's hard to have a social life when I walking around blathering about being stuck in a painting, letting out "my monster" or painting with my eyes closed. Or, one of my other favourites, taking small pieces of my art to cemeteries and photography. Most the room goes silent when I drop that into the dinner conversation.

But my creativity brings out such wonderful unique insights and that's one of them. But the unique scares most people and they don't know how to react. It's why I have trouble selling art, when other artists are doing brisk business with their more stereotypic work. I guess my work is not ever going to be popular, but that's ok, I happy with it and I can't do popular, usual or follow the crowd. I'm just not good at it.

So I feel I've reached the point where I sigh and say "that's better out than in", thanks for sticking with me to the end of my carthetic rant. And I hope I've enlightened you to how the artist mind works. Please remember, we all need to nuture this genuis, it's so very dangerously special. Thanks for reading...Virtue

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