I’m writing on a text file in Open Office. I have the emerging text to The Oracle Sequence open on another file. I’m making a conscious point of avoiding the typical Internet venues on which I write. That means WordPress, DiaryLand, Facebook, Twitter, and all email-related interfaces, such as Zoho or G-Mail. I’m trying to break certain negative associations I have developed with all of those venues, for they seem to be thwarting my progress on this particularly pertinent portion of my project. Never before have I felt such an enormity in the gap that separates the degree of my desire to progress with the degree of my actual progress, as pertains to a specific project or piece. I want nothing more than to begin making substantial progress on this project. I want the piece to “break.”
But let me explain what I mean by “break.” I use this expression a lot, but I don’t often take the time to clarify what I mean.
Whenever I am in the process of creating something substantial, my progress seems to proceed extremely slowly for the first several days, taxing my patience. But I endure, for the knowledge that at some point soon, the piece will “break.” When it breaks, it is as though floodgates have been opened. Where the rate of progress before was tortuously slow, all of a sudden I am progressing at a very rapid, steady pace. The process of producing the piece has begun to “flow.” With that sudden huge burst of energy comes a renewed confidence. I no longer brood with the sense that the inevitable break I await will be delayed interminably. Instead, I exult in the creative process. Whereas, days or hours earlier — or even moments earlier — various aspects of the process seemed to pose nothing but horrific obstacles toward my progress, they now seem to work marvelously in my favor, as if by magic. And before you can bat an eye, I feel that I am actually completing the piece in question.
You heard me: completing the piece. The prospect of its elusive completion no longer buzzes about my brain like an annoying insect I can never manage to swat. Completion occurs readily, rapidly, precisely — and in fact, numerous times.
“What?” you may ask. “How can completion occur numerous times? You just got finished telling me that until this thing ‘broke,’ you couldn’t even complete it once.”
That’s a very logical question, and please allow me to explain. For you see, it seems I’ve substituted one problem for another one.
What happens after the piece “breaks” is that, in my greatly increased productivity, I get from A to Z so fast that my emotions can barely handle the sudden positive turn of events, and I decide that everybody needs to know about it. So I gleefully send out a “completed” version of my piece to all my dearest friends and family members, hoping they will be as excited at the surprise “completion” as I am. But then, little do they barely have the chance to open their email, when BAM! I decide that the recently completed version wasn’t quite good enough; and so I send a second version of the piece; say, Version “1-B.”
After that, I send Version 1-C, and then Versions 1-D thru F, and so on down the line. People in my life are suddenly receiving so many versions of some new work of mine, they naturally have no idea when the bombardment will cease, and exactly which of the many versions, if any, they should bother with.
While this is happening, I vaguely sense that there is something wrong with my approach. Oh, I understand exactly why this pattern has come into being. The hugeness of the moment when the piece finally “breaks” is typically too much for me emotionally. You see, I had been frustrated for days, perhaps weeks, all around a relatively insignificant creative project of mine; for example, this polishing of The Oracle Sequence that has come to receive such prominence in my head lately. But once The Oracle Sequence “breaks,” then to whatever extent that I had earlier been impatient and frustrated, I will now have become just as excited, and in fact, full of glee. Excited, exuberant, and gleeful. I feel almost mischievous at that level of enthusiasm. In that sudden, newfound elation, it will be extremely difficult for me not to burst forth with a constant, incessant gush, exulting in the experience of excitement that so elates me, and exuding that ecstasy upon the world.
But when I do this, I forget that the world is not necessarily predisposed to tuning into the value of my creation at that moment. Moreover, the world does not necessarily care about my creation — at least not yet. If I want them to care in some future, positive scenario; then probably I shouldn’t be bombarding them prematurely as though to prove my prowess and prodigy in an a priori fashion. Wouldn’t it be better to hold back, until I really have a product worth releasing; and even then, to release it to the world with humility, and grace?
Of course it would be. I therefore must commit myself to terminate my earlier practice, difficult though that termination may be to effect emotionally. I need to cease to involve all my close friends and family members in my process. Henceforth I will not even go online, not even to WordPress, but do all my work in secret, offline, where nobody will see me, and where I will nor be tempted to share my work prematurely. Far better will it be for me to regard this wonderful burst of creativity as a private matter, something that speaks for the ineffable unity of the Creative Mind. In this way, it is akin to the moment of “illumination” delineated by Graham Wallas in his work on the four stages of the creative process. According to this model, the previous period of frustration and confusion actually parallels an unconscious process of “incubation,” whereby the piece is quietly being constructed with great direction and progress in the unconscious mind. The conscious mind remains unaware of this inner process, and in fact believes falsely that nothing is being accomplished at all. According to that model, The Oracle Sequence is at this very moment being polished, refined, and completed — even as we speak — though in my limited awareness, I feel as though nothing is happening at all.
Obviously, this explanation is pleasant to the ears of the Artist. But how valid is it, really? There are other ways of framing this event of “breaking,” this sudden bursting of the floodgates, and the subsequent steady flow of unprecedented Artistic creation. Some of those ways are not particularly favorable, however, or sympathetic with the Artist’s dilemma. Take the view often espoused, for example, by those in the mental health profession. These are those who contend that the Artist is only subject to his mental health disorder, since his pattern clearly manifests the mood swings of manic depression, nowadays known more commonly as Bipolar Disorder. In this view, the Artist is unable to create while in the depressive phase, because his depression prevents him from doing so, on a basic neuro-physiological level. When, in my case, I experience the event of the “breaking,” followed by a fast flow of creative prodigy, I am according to the psychiatrist merely in the “manic” phase of my “disorder.”
I am further told that during the depressive phase, the Artist may not even be aware that he is depressed. This is due to the intensity of his Artistic focus, in which he is completely immersed — even as he gets nothing accomplished at all. His focus, after all, is on his Art — whether he is succeeding in manifesting that Creation or not. So if he is not succeeding, he may well be depressed and in fact rather irritable. But he does not know this, for his focus is not on his feelings — but on his Art.
The psychiatrist continues to advise him that the reason why nothing is getting done is on account of his depression. The depression, claims the psychiatrist, has overwhelmed him, and rendered him inert and immobile with regards to his creative goals. But the Artist doesn’t see it this way. He argues that the converse is the case. The only reason he may be depressed is because nothing is getting done. And besides, the word “depression” doesn’t quite cut it. “Annoyed,” perhaps. “Annoyed, irritated, aggravated, frustrated, impatient, confused, bewildered, and generally out of sorts. But depressed? You gotta be kidding me! Depression is for less inspired, less purpose-driven men than I.”
At this, the psychiatrist typically only nods her head. “Give it about a week, my boy, and you’ll be just fine.”
Be this as it may. We have the clinical, ultra-behavioristic approach of the detached, unfeeling psychiatrist, dismissing all the mysterious spectacles of Artistic angst with a cold, calculated DSM-V approach to life. A bit more pleasing, we have the intriguing approach of Mr. Wallas and his followers, an approach that is definitely more Art-Positive than diagnostic in nature. But neither of these perspectives really assists me in confronting the essential anxiety that I must endure in order to attain to a happier state of affairs. The one way exalts Art above all, the other poo-poos and dismisses the Artistic character, even hinting at attributing the Artistic Focus to some form of mental illness. Yet despite this glaring difference in the two perspectives, they both point to one very disturbing factor that they share in common. In each case, the Artist is at the mercy of a psychic process that is largely beyond his conscious, creative control.
What is needed, then, is greater control.
As to just how this greater control is to be gained, please don’t think for one minute that I have not already pondered this question eternally. There are in fact several text files on Open Office already, exploring this perennial question. I even draw near to a solution or three, in places. But let me take my leave at this juncture, and advise you of my findings when they are bit more conclusive. It may well be that as I complete my analysis as to what it will take to complete my piece, the completion of the analysis may prove to be a more important creation than the completion of the piece itself.
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