In my experience, creativity can bring pleasure, but it also taps into anger and fear and frustration and revenge. For some, when they create, they go to that emotion that they believe drives their passion. Regardless of the medium, any artist can go to those darker emotions, but as Natalie Goldberg writes, it’s important, “…for us to notice what brings us true pleasure.” I’ve heard of writers who knock out a best seller because they lived in the shadow self the entire time they wrote their novel. When it came time to write their second and third novel, the emotions had burned themselves out and the writing reflected the shallowness of where they were when they created them.
“…the artist can move through experience, learn from it and not be caught by it.” As we write, paint, cook, play music, dance, or sculpt the act of creating lasts longer (in terms of months and years) if we, as artists, can draw from our experiences, visit the shadow self, but not live there. To be authentic, I believe we need to have access to every emotion. Through practicing art, we can heal, we can discover, and we can increase what we know about ourselves and our medium by using all that is available to us, the light and the dark. But in my experience, to continuously create from the bottom of the pit where there is no pleasure, the act of creating doesn’t last long. And if we’re not careful, that blackness can smudge over the light.
“Commitment is a matter of pleasure. Let it be deep pleasure. And then when you are sure (well, as sure as you’ll ever be), plunge in…” Making the commitment to ourselves to create is an important decision, and one that is very difficult to turn away from once the practice has begun. It is human nature to do that which is pleasurable. We shy away from things that aren’t fun, that are hard because we don’t know how to do them, and so we find distractions, and we procrastinate, and the inner critic wins. But if we approach making art from a place of pleasure, then we don’t want to leave. When we do, we are eager to return. The more we return, the more comfortable we become, and the braver we feel for those forays into the dark.
Throughout this book, Wild Mind: Living the Writer’s Life, Goldberg has said over and over (and she’s not the only one who talks of this) the importance of practice. It’s good to go to conferences and workshops, to take a class and read books about how to create art. But if we’re going to call ourselves writers/chefs/photographers/dancers/musicians we must do the work. There’s only so much we can learn about something without doing it. “To learn the act of writing is to obtain magical powers. They are a secret. No one can give them to you. You must work at them yourself. And do not abuse it.”
How do we get to be writers? We write. How do we get to be good writers? We access all our emotions, but we create from a place of pleasure. To see where my pleasure has taken me, visit my website: www.myjoyenterprises.com
Where are you when you create art?