I attended a writing workshop this past Saturday at a local library. They offered a variety of speakers, had several local authors present, as well as hang out in an exhibit hall with their books. I learned a few things, got to speak with other artists, and really enjoyed hearing how other writers go about creating.
The friend that I went with said she started a book over a year ago. She has written one chapter, and that is as far as she’s gotten. I remember how long it took me to complete my first manuscript, the first eight chapters of it, and the rest once I was in a place, mentally and physically, where I could write on a regular basis. One of the sessions she attended was given by an author who is married and has a four-year-old. This author gets up at 5 AM to write. My friend, who has neither a husband nor a child, thought she should be able to get up early every day and work on her manuscript. I reminded her that I write everywhere. I also understand that not every artist, regardless of the medium, is driven to begin, and then finish, a project. We talked about this (and I’ve written posts on it), and decided that writing a whole book (or leaning to play an instrument or taking a dance class or cooking class or painting class) is daunting, and therefore much safer if one never starts, or if a manuscipt is started, that no one knows of it so if it isn’t ever completed, we don’t have to fess up to another project left undone.
I’ve spoken several times before about the muse, the door to our imagination, the joy that is available when we manifest that which pushes itself at us, through us, to be colored by our perceptions, and then brought into being by our hands. As I reflect on it now, perhaps it is that joy, that all-consuming settling and peace that fills me when I relent to the prodding, or sometimes push myself, to put pen to paper (chalk to sketch pad, vegetables to cutting board, camera to eye).
I believe this epiphany, which I Tweeted about (www.twitter.com/michelevenne) comes when we are in the moment (a yoga practice) and when we lower the veil of our sub (or un) conscious mind. In my experience, I find that it is really difficult, if not impossible, to produce anything if I am dwelling on the past or projecting into the future. Unless I’m present, I don’t ‘see’ the picture in my head or ‘hear’ the conversations of my characters. The lines and stanzas of my poems remain a mystery until I anchor myself firmly in the moment. It is only when we are in the ‘now’, that we have genuine conversations, possess an easy wit, say exactly what needs to be said in precisely the right manner, and have creativity drench our beings.
In previous workshops that I’ve attended, the speakers had talked of ‘stream of consciousness’. I remember doing activities where I was to think of the best time in my life, and then jot down a few feelings and details. And then, conversely, I was to think of the worst time in my life, and record the thoughts that surrounded that incident. The prompts offered at the writing group I attend on Tuesday afternoons do the same thing. By beginning a creativity session this way, or even practicing this way, it forces the critic to take a break, pushes all the excuses and ‘blocks’ aside, and allows the pure stream to flow. And when I’m out somewhere, I can open my spiral and click my pen, close my eyes, take a deep breath or two, and then begin. All of these are examples of how I’m able to root myself in the moment and connect with that part of me that flows all of the ideas creatively into my consciousness where I can record them.
Whatever your medium, gather your supplies and go to a place where you can play a little with this and not be disturbed or distracted. Think of a strong emotion. Take three, full, conscious breaths with your eyes closed (by shutting down one of the senses, it allows us to drop inside a little easier as we eliminate some of the distraction that can pull us away from our intention). Open your eyes, take the first color, strum the first chord, grab the first vegetable, click the shutter at the first object, or write the first word that comes to mind. Give yourself a short amount of time, thirty seconds to a minute. Write what comes out, words or phrases or sentences. Pluck the strings by allowing your fingers to move over the frets with no direction from the ego who will pipe up and say ‘that’s not right’. Chop or dice one vegetable, then grab another that might compliment or contrast the flavor and texture of your first choice. Stop. Then think of another emotion. You can also have these written down on scraps of paper and pull them one at a time from a pile or a cup. Keep going until you’ve exhausted your choices, or your supplies, whichever comes first.
If you have something on your mind, write it down and set it aside. Deal with it later. This time is all about being in the ‘now’, in this moment. There will be perhaps a ‘warm up’ time, a few minutes where the muse stretches and does a few calisthenics before it’s ready to fill you up with images and textures and notes and body movements and objects to draw or photograph. I find that it is nearly instantaneous. And once that veil has been lifted, all I have to do is keep my pen moving across the paper. At the first hint that the critic will step in with a word of caution, I take another breath, maybe close my eyes, and come back to the feeling of creating, that sense of moment by moment, breath by breath, joy and fulfillment that is there waiting, should we be brave enough to flow with the ‘stream of consciousness’.
The last session I attended on Saturday was presented by a creative writing teacher from one of the community colleges. It was on poetry. She gave us twelve statements, with about thirty seconds to write before she gave us the next one. When we finished with the twelve, she then asked us to pull phrases from our ‘list’ and create a poem. I was amazed at what had come out of my ‘stream of consciousness’. Words and phrases that were accurate descriptions of the prompts, many of which I had forgotten about or hadn’t thought of in quite a while. Because it was a new activity for me, I was already in the present. Seated in the corner with my head down, bent over my notebook, I lessened any distractions from the other writers in the room. Around number eight or nine, I found myself taking a deep breath and closing my eyes to reconnect, to open the door a little wider and see what my muse had to send to me.
See if you can dip or wade or dive head first into your ‘stream of consciousness’ by trying the suggestions above. The more I create, the more the process is being revealed to me. The more I know and understand about how I get there, the easier it is for me to drop in whenever I want. How close are you to your muse? How familiar are you with the banks of your stream? Do you trust yourself and your creativity to bring forth that which is within you and moves through you, or do you hang out on the shore, afraid of making a mistake? Like many things in life, this, too, comes more readily with practice. If you’re interested in where my ‘stream of consciousness’ has led me, visit my web site where I have poems and short stories and a few chapters of my novels that are there for your perusal www.myjoyenterprises.com And if you find another way to enter the flow, to access the artist in us all, leave a comment below.