The Creative Process

It’s crossed my mind that it must seem a bit arrogant for me to keep referring to “the creative process” – as though there were only one creative process at work in the Universe, and I just happen to be in tune with it.  But there really doesn’t seem to be a better way to describe the experience I’m attempting to discuss — at least not in keeping with my own artistic philosophy.  In my view, there really is a single, unified creative process.  But by no means do I claim to be in close touch with it.  I believe in this fascinating process, much the same way that I believe in God.  However, I’m about as close to the essence of this process as I am to God Himself – and believe me, that isn’t very close.

It is my belief in this process that is at the core of this blog.  In fact, I would venture to suggest that if we all understood this process better, we would come to a better understanding of the nature of God.  After all, who is God but the Creator?   By definition, He is not just “a creator” – but the Creator.  All other creators and creations are subject to His single, all-embracing Act of Creativity — that which always was, is now, and always will be: the continual creation of a highly creative Universe, in which all of us are privileged to create.

If that were not the case, then I wouldn’t be a believer.  But since I do believe in God, it really doesn’t seem to me as though there is any other way to look at it.  Besides, God or no God, the theme of creativity–with all of its processes, procedures, and protocol–simply fascinates me.  I want to learn more and more about it, as my creative life goes on.

While my oft-usage of the word “muse” is purely figurative, there does seem to be a frequent and common experience of sensing the “presence” of a powerful creative force.  Or, as I tried to describe in the previous post, I can at times sense that the arrival of this creative power is imminent.  As it happened, I did not manage to muster any motivation for my current playwriting project on Friday, even though I “felt” that something was about to “break” as early as Thursday night.  But Saturday was another story.  I began my process of writing, editing, and rewriting at about eight in the morning, and basically did not stop till midnight.  This morning, I did a few final edits, and can now announce that I’ve completed up to p.75 of this piece to my satisfaction.  The last time I made a progress report along these lines, I was only up to p.64.  I had finished the first four Scenes last Saturday.  Then a week of “nothing” went by, and I finished at least half of the fifth Scene the following Saturday.  

graham_wallas
Graham Wallas

But was that “week of nothing” really only “nothing?”  I think not.  There is a theory, most notably espoused by Graham Wallas, that once a creator is fully committed to their creation, the creative act continues constantly, even when nothing is being considered consciously.  This process of unconscious creation is known as incubation.  Then, in conjunction with a moment of illumination, the creative process is consciously resumed.   Arguably, this is what took place during the week when it seemed that nothing was accomplished.  Suddenly, much was accomplished on a single day.  

Of course, there are other theories as to why this could have come about.  But there are also many theories as to how the Universe came about in the first place.  Could God Himself conceivably have “incubated” for an eternity or so, before the illumination that instigated the Universe was initiated?   How much incubation has occurred worldwide, on a planetary level, before this most recent series of illuminations could take place?  To what kind of creations will all these “illuminations” lead?   It boggles the mind to think about it.

But think about it we will — and we must.   I would venture to suggest that we’re all going to be thinking quite creatively in the days, weeks, and months to come.  We will have to – and we will – for we always have.   We were created in His Image, and in His Image we will sustain ourselves -for we are the highly creative, divinely inspired Human Race.

The Kiss of the Muse

On Tuesday evening, I left the all-night restaurant alluded to in my most recent post, convinced that I’d somehow managed to hook up with a very talented batch of like-minded Writers.  I gave each of the six other participants a copy of my Scene One, and received from each of them a chapter of the novels they’re currently writing.

My main reservation is that I’m the only playwright in the bunch.  Also, since I’m a musical playwright, there are song lyrics as well as dialogue and stage directions strewn about my manuscript.   This differentiates me even further from the novelists in my midst.   Moreover, they all seem to be writing fantasy or science fiction–which of course is to be expected.  But my work is intended to deal with social issues such as classism, and to paint a picture not often seen of the Homeless Phenomenon in America

However, this doesn’t mean that their feedback will be of no value to me.  It only means that I’m afraid to receive it.   After all, our commonalities are greater than our differences.  I look forward to receiving input on plot, character development, clarity of content, and the like.  What I dread is that someone might object to some of my lyrics, without being aware of the type of music that accompanies them, since they won’t be hearing the music, but only reading the words.   This has happened before in the past, and it has put me in an awkward position.

kissofthemuse

Still, they’re all very intelligent, highly motivated people.   I’m sure that whatever happens at our next meeting, the fact that I’m finally convening with others of my ilk, and no longer hiding from the public world in stubborn isolation, is bound to reap more benefits than detriments in my creative life.

Otherwise, I’ve been busy with work and church (which in my case are very closely related, since I work at a church).   I’ve also been engrossed in some personal matters for the past few days.  So, while I did succeed in finishing Scene Four, as reported in this post, I’ve not yet begun to take a stab at Scene Five.   But I can feel it starting to simmer within me, somewhere down there. It’s a vague but very real sensation: an undeniable sense that I’m about to burst into another creative binge.   It feels as though something inside me is “percolating” — or, more accurately, incubating.  It’s almost as though I can feel the Muse approaching.  If I’m lucky, maybe she’ll kiss me, as she did the similarly exhausted Writer in the charming little picture up above.  Well — here’s hoping.

On Feeding the Soul

I’m at a Starbucks waiting for it to become 6:30pm so I can meet the other members of the Writer’s Guild I just joined.   We’re going to meet at nearby restaurant for dinner, and then begin a process of exploring each others’ work.  Each of us had to print six copies consisting of 10-20 pages of our work.  The idea is that we’ll each have two weeks to read each others’ work, then meet again, and talk about it. 

The first meeting was “Write Only.”  It mostly amounted to a lot of talking about our projects, as well as about Writing in general.   This time, the focus will be on critique.   I must admit I’m a bit scared to bare my artistic soul to six total strangers, especially after I saw the way I reacted to the earlier critique of three years past.  Hopefully, I’m in a generally better place in life these days, as well as more distanced emotionally from some of the more difficult themes I hope to address in this piece.

I did read through the first four Scenes the other night.  It was as expected: that which was good was very, very good; and that which was bad was horrid.   I couldn’t help but notice, however, that the good parts seemed to be those where the most difficult themes were presented.   This was encouraging.  Then I received a fantastic stamp of approval from one of the five people to whom I sent the four Scenes.  Included in his compliment were these words:

I have been wanting to write a proper, more in-depth email about it, but let me say when I got to the bottom of the document, I was clicking wondering why it was not going down anymore.   Then I realized I had read it all!   I wanted more.  I was immediately hooked.  Captivated.   I had planned on reading it a little at a time, but read the whole thing in one sitting.  

mark-twainI now believe I know what Mark Twain meant when he said: “I can live for two weeks off of a compliment.”  After I read those words, I instantly ascended into a state of such artistic elation that my growling stomach was placated without receiving a single bite.   Three years ago, all I was getting was mockery and ridicule.  But upon hearing the words that every Writer loves to hear, it was at least three hours before things like eating or sleeping had any appeal.  Why should I bother with feeding my stomach or resting my mind?  Somebody somewhere had just fed my soul.

Day of Rest?

I don’t know what came over me yesterday.  I started writing at around eight in the morning, wrote steadily until it was time to attend the Writer’s Guild I joined, and wrote with vigor throughout the meeting, while getting sharing feedback with the other Writers.  Encouraged, I was in a state of great confidence and enthusiasm afterwards, and  I wound up writing up to the end of p.62 in my script. This was almost the end of Scene Four. But I stopped at around midnight, since I wasn’t quite sure how to wrap it up.  This was sixteen fairly solid hours of productive work.  I don’t know what to make of it.

Somehow, the first-time connection with other writers in my community gave me such a strong feeling of welcome and belonging, I cast all my doubts and my sense of obligation aside, and thoroughly enjoyed a slow, steady process of creating the best Scene Four I could ever hoped to have created — that is, up until the very end.

angel-at-restAfter church this morning, I took a much needed nap. Then I put on the coffee, and got at it again. I vaguely sensed it was somehow wrong not to take the day off, it being Sunday, and me being the type of person who concerns himself with honoring God on the Day of Rest. But I felt that the ending was brewing deep down in my unconscious mind, issuing a Commandment to do it justice that was equally as strong as the Fourth Commandment. So I decided to have a go at it — and I did not resist.

Then something came over me. It was a mysterious burst of passion, and it enabled me to finish the Scene. I looked at it — and I saw that it was good. As I did so, I looked at the clock. It was 6:00pm exactly. This reminded me of what happened at the moment when I finished the Siddhartha Monologue, and saw that it was 4:00am exactly. Something had come over me in that night as well — also a rare burst of mysterious passion.

When the Scene was done, the passion left me – suddenly and completely, leaving not a trace. The bells on the neighborhood church struck six. Somehow I knew that I was forgiven. The true Day of Rest had begun.

Writer’s Guild

As I mentioned in a previous post, I’ve been feeling the need to find a writer’s support group in order to help motivate me to finish the musical script I’m writing.  A couple people suggested I contact the professor who teaches the undergraduate playwriting class.  He replied very cordially to the email I sent him, but told me that the class was filled up to capacity this semester, and that he also did not think he could help much with the “musical form.”  

Although his suggestion that I contact the School of Music was a logical one, I really am not in need of support on the musical level.  The music and lyrics to this show are essentially complete, and I’m pretty happy with the score.   It’s the script that continues to concern me.  

I last reported I had made it up to p.53, then reached an impasse.  Since then, I’ve made it up to p.58, which is almost to the end of Scene Four.   I could probably write a couple more pages this morning and wrap up the Scene, more-or-less sloppily.  But at this rate, without a support group to sustain my motivation, I probably won’t finish the script before the Second Coming of Christ.

guildIt occurred to me that there might be a Meet-Up writer’s group in the area.   With very little online research, I located one that happens to meet this very morning at ten.  They call themselves a Guild, and this morning’s meeting will take place exactly one block from my apartment!  So I’ll be there at ten this morning, either with the first four scenes completed, or ready to wrap them up on site.

The facilitator of the group also informed me of another writer’s group that meets at a bookstore also located fairly near my place of residence.  That group includes another playwright who prints out his scenes so that other members of the group can read the different characters.  In addition, there is another meeting of the Guild taking place at a restaurant this Tuesday evening.  While the meeting this morning is “write only,” the Tuesday night group will provide, according to the facilitator, “valuable feedback on plot and story line.”  All three of these resources could prove invaluable.

So – I think I’m on the right track if I can only relax about this thing a little bit.  The process of writing music is much more enjoyable for me.   The process of playwriting is arduous and annoying, but it will be worth it in the end if I will have produced something of value to offer to the world.

Unknowns

I feel like I’m a little too stuffy when I write in this blog.  I keep a personal journal online that is password-protected so only friends can read it.  Naturally, I’m less self-conscious when I write there.  Somehow, the idea that anybody at all from anywhere can read what I’m posting here makes me just uptight enough, that I suspect it affects my writing style for the worse.

So here’s what I wrote in my personal journal last night:

Unknowns

My depression lifted temporarily when I realized that I know exactly what to do from the bottom of p.53 forward, for several pages to come. Then I veered off and corrected that part of The Royal Rhapsody that bugged me. I hear another part that bothers me in the same section. All these annoyances have to do with a sense of something dropping out, some kind of eerie ethereal support that is created by the string section, or other instruments capable of extending tones over a number of measures.

But enough of my stuff. I noticed I felt extremely focused while working on the Rhapsody, so I might go back to that. Depression and anxiety seemed far from me. That music production process is just something that rivets me to it. With the script, even knowing what to do, I still rack my brains out over little things – tiny little mini-unknowns that crop up in the midst of the Known.

Bottom line is I’m dog tired. Not sure why. Ran really well yesterday, and obviously faster than usual with the Nanospikes. Maybe that’s a factor. Whatever, I saved a cup for the morning and I’m gonna crash out after a snack. I’ll run in the morning, and probably have a decent day tomorrow. These three day weekends sort of throw the Sunday night vibe onto Mondays. Can’t wait till morning.

10:47 p.m. – 2017-01-16

If you like that style or manner of delivery better than the way I’m writing here, feel free to let me know.  Or, if it appears to be the same style, or even a worse manner of presentation, clue me in.   I won’t be offended, though I can’t promise you I’ll be able to readily change.  We O.G’s have a tendency not to flex as easily as we did back in the Day.

A Week Off?

I have a week off.  I don’t have the wherewithal to take a “vacation” — and this is a good thing.   I’m thinking that the time will better be spent mostly staying at home, not only working on my musical, but in personal solitude and reflection.  For although I have been happy to have broken the Writer’s Block that had hindered me for three years, there has been something unhealthy about the way I’ve been proceeding.  I think it’s time I take a deeper look at this.

For one thing, I’ve been assuming that outside of food, rest, work, and exercise, the writing of this libretto is the only thing I should be doing.  In the process, I’ve all but abandoned the scoring of music that I used to do religiously, six days a week, with my  music notation software.  This has thrown me off balance.  As I’ve mentioned numerous times in this blog, the process of composing, arranging, and sequencing music with this software is therapeutic for me.  If I make it a daily practice, there’s something about it that benefits me spiritually.

So, I turned my attention to a rearrangement of my piece, The Royal Rhapsody.   The first arrangement was too empty for me; the second too overwhelming with the string section.  I think this third take strikes a more pleasant balance.   It’s more listenable, in my opinion.


I’m hoping that, as I resume the practice of scoring music for two to three hours each day, the rest of my life, including my work on the musical script, will come to a better balance.  I think I’m off to a pretty good start.  I hope you will take a few minutes to listen to the piece posted above.  It was scored and sequenced entirely with Finale software.  I’m actually rather proud of it, and I hope you enjoy my work.