In the New Moon Circle recently as well as in the Writing Life Circle, we had a look at the different emotional and mental phases a writer goes through. I had read Laraine Herring’s On Being Stuck: Tapping into the Creative Power of Writer’s Block in which she describes her own stages as a continuum that “applies both to the project you’re working on and to your development as a writer.”
My path begins with an idea, a pink bud on the rhododendron, excitement, promise. I think: “This is brilliant.” I’m enthused. That’s how projects begin and I think back to my childhood beginnings when my playing in the garden was about creating but not about producing or publishing.
Enthusiasm keeps me going, the rhodo in a blaze of pink. I’m grateful for the burst of colour and my own creative flame.
At some point along the way, my energy wanes and I think “who cares” about what I’m doing. Do I care about continuing? Sometimes when I know where something is going, I lose interest. I appreciate the surprise and the ongoing learning. The image could be a bouquet of tulips drooped over the side of a vase.
I’ve been exploring that “who cares” stage these days and have surrendered to the rest, the pause. I can stay in this stage and do some listening to myself rather than force something to happen. I can honour and celebrate my every day experiences. And I can appreciate the process itself.
I can write just to feel my fingers moving as Richard Wagamese says in Embers: One Ojibway’s Meditations: Sometimes you write just to feel your fingers moving. Sometimes all you need is the physical testament of the process that lives within you like a latent gene, expressed by the grip and release of fingers against the pale, open range of the page. There is the knowledge in you then of the infinite, wondrous worlds and people available to you.
“The physical testament of the process” definitely resonates with me as well as the “wondrous worlds.” I think of creativity as tapping into a magnificent spiritual system.
Richard Van Camp is also very encouraging when it comes to the writing life. I had the pleasure of being part of a few of his storytelling presentations and a workshop when he was on Gabriola Island and in Nanaimo. On Facebook recently he posted: Trust the downtime; chances are, your spirit and subconscious are gathering strength for what’s next.
Gathering strength and a sense of groundedness is why I’m back to my morning practice at the table in front of my bedroom window. I greet my guides, light a candle, write my dreams, listen for a message. One day it was: Be Here Now.
There are possibilities in this stage as I think of offshoots from larger projects or re-creations from original ideas. It’s an exploratory phase of possibilities rather than a recommitment.
Everything starts at the pine table in my room and then I muse on what could be considered new work (this blog for instance) and then I go on to steps required for work that is ongoing such as a writing circle or looking at this blog as book of short essays.
“Failure” could occur in this “who cares” phase but it’s not a word I usually use. I may have failed a physics test in Grade 11 or my first driving test way back when but when it comes to writing, I see it as an ever renewing process.
The novel I wrote didn’t get published in its complete form but I don’t see it as a failure. I learned a lot about the process and even some family history as I wrote Ordinary Life. It’s like a yoga teacher once said (paraphrased): “The practice is not about the perfect pose, it’s what you learn on the way down.”
I mention “failure” because my friend Birdie, Andrea Bird, posted a blog about failure which she believes is at the core of the act of creativity.
Andrea considers failure to be the moment in her artistic process when she can choose to “turn away, give up, start over, or continue on.” Andrea is a visual artist and says in her blog: “However, as the years go by, I’m more inclined to continue on, seeing that failure is part of – and not separate from – my artistic practice.”
What Andrea considers her “failed paintings” are pieces she’d never hang in a gallery yet they “tell a story about dead-end paths, ideas not fully formed, and have gifted me with what I needed to learn before moving on.”
She notes that the paintings that could be hung in her studio are not “my failure.” They’re “the failure” and “sometimes they become pieces that soar.”
I wonder if we writers could post words and phrases from “failed” or incomplete pieces of writing on our walls and see what happens.
To see Andrea Bird’s blog post, “Let’s talk about failure and how it impacts the creative process,” which includes questions to ponder as well as several quotations, visit her WaxWorks Encaustic Supplies website here.
Everything has it’s cycles as Dawna Markova points out in her book, I will not die an unlived life: Reclaiming Purpose and Passion: There’s no part of creation that does not go through a cycle of growth, falling away, disappearing and reemerging. Think of a tree. Or the moon. Why should humans be the one aspect of life that is exempt from this cycle? Our pulse beats in varying rhythms, as all of nature’s does.
Andrea Bird quotes Samuel Becket at the beginning of her blog: “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” Pema Chodron used the quote to inspire a 2014 commencement address at Naropa University which has been published as Fail Fail Again Fail Better: Wise Advice for Leaning into the Unknown (Sounds True, 2015). “So fail, fail again, fail better. It’s like how to get good at holding the rawness of vulnerability in your heart,” Pema Chodron writes. And that’s a good point as we think about who we are when we’re not producing. When we’re not “successful.”
Pema Chodron says: “Maybe instead of doing the habitual thing of labeling yourself s a ‘failure’ or a ‘loser’ or thinking there is something wrong with you, you could get curious about what is going on.” She suggests we “soften up a bit” and think about what we’re feeling. “Maybe what is happening here is not that I am a failure – I am just hurting. I am just hurting.”
As I began with the image of the rhododendron, I’ll end with a reference to a Spirit of the Island flower essence I co-created with Nature: Rhododendron. The flower essence offered us Nature’s support at the last New Moon Circle. The definition describes “a pause for reflection until the next stage.”The Rhododendron essence “offers an antidote: a sacred hoop for us to be gentle with ourselves and to listen to our own inner voice.”
You can see more about the Rhododendron flower essence here.