Monday, July 30, 2012

The Creative Spark

Hah, this started out as a google+ post, but it exploded into it's own little blog entry. It all started with a video. Go ahead and watch this, I'll wait. It's about twenty minutes long and, essentially, makes the case for offloading creative pressure from an individual to an external source in order to preserve the individual's emotional and mental health.

Back? Awesome. 

This is verrrryyy interesting. The human brain is fascinating and abstraction has been established as a very powerful coping strategy. Blah, blah, Jung, psychotherapy, ghosts vs. schizophrenia, narrative framing, creative reflection and the absence of resonant stories, etc. I'll explain any of those for anyone who asks, but it's only passing relevant to this discussion. What is relevant is that emotions are baffling to start with and creative emotions can get really wonky really swiftly with zero warning. At least for me. More than once I've been asked how my work was going and treated the poor asker with a TMI rant about how I'm horrible forever and will never finish anything and who cares about my work because it's completely devoid of evocative elements and even if I do finish something it will suck because I will never know enough to make it right. So. Yeah. I get the whole 'So Much Pressure' thing. Oh, boy, do I get it. 

I just think this video is fascinating because how she offers this idea that we should throw back to having external creative inspirations as not at all prevalent in professional writing circles. Which is probably true. However, I see this abstraction concept in action on the internet, albeit with a modern spin or twenty. I make no claims that anyone really does have a little daemon sitting on their shoulder and whispering truths, but I do I think she's right about concept of offloading the creative burden onto abstraction as a healthy defense mechanism.  

People talk today online about how their muses are grumpy or require coddling, or their plotbunny is running away and they have to chase it down the rabbit hole. I have my 'Girls in the Back Room'. They embody my subconscious by wearing A-line dresses, cherry red lipstick, and pearls. They operate switchboards wearing those old WWII headsets with the bulky microphones, and they shuffle back and forth between the reference library and the coffee machine before wrangling among themselves around the central conference table about some obscure point or other. I can ask them to come up with something and they'll confer, drinking coffee and telling dirty jokes for a while before they reach a consensus and I find something serendipitous and beautiful coming out of my fingers when I write. 

None of this, of course, takes away from the work anyone does to create. I know mine abstraction doesn't. The Ladies are back there conspiring for me, but I have to sit my ass in my chair and type for anything to come of it. My Ladies aren't real, but they don't have to be for me to feel affection for them. They're useful. They're tools in my toolbox. They're doing their job when my conscious mind is elsewhere. I'm constantly amazed at what pops out of my subconscious when I set it a task and then leave it the fuck alone to do its job. 

I'd love to hear others' thoughts, but at least on the internet I believe that culturally, instinctively, a lot of writers who write for raw pleasure (fanfiction especially) employ this abstraction. It's fun. It's healthy. Anything to get away from the idea of a 'tortured soul' sort of writing. That concept of the tragic writer should not be a goal. It might be a reality, but why warp a perfectly serviceable life in pursuit of this sort of 'burden of glorious purpose'. Writing's my lifeblood if I'm feeling melodramatic, a buoyant chase of an ephemeral Something that needs to be conveyed. I have to write, it's not really an option for me, and being psychologically damaged doing something I have to do just doesn't sound like any fun at all. 

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