“Worry less about what you make — that will mostly look after itself, and is to some extent beyond your control, and perhaps even none of your business — and devote yourself to nourishing this animating spirit. This is done by a commitment to the creative act itself.” Nick Cave
I had a dream recently in which I was chatting evocatively with a woman about the pleasure of writing. In response she suggested that we each write three pages and compare compositions, not as in a contest but as in what joy we each brought to the table.
She sort of off-handedly suggested the title of our compositions to be “over the ball.” I loved the assignment and decided to write a fictional piece on “over the bawl,” thinking I might use a play on words. Off to a great start I felt enthused and engaged until, like in all dreams, unexpected roadblocks got in the way of me completing the exercise.
I awoke and nearly pulled out my computer just to write on the subject only because it felt like such a hearty exchange of ideas—a most pleasurable commitment to the creative act itself.
Muses and Mirrors
Now isn’t that true of the creative act? We hear the whispers of the muse, only to abandon them when the reality of the effort stares us back in our mind’s mirror. Lovely concepts quickly appear as crazy, stupid, or worthless. In my dream I encountered the voices of both the muse and the haunting mirror of doubt.
I have discovered times when even at my best I can be far from my best because “I” get in the way—that rejected and desperate self emerges and shuts down creativity and exploration of the unknown. I think of the words of Oscar Wilde when he penned, “Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.” I need to get out of my own way. The creative act can be disabled when I am too self-conscious, fearing the quality and validity of the result of my creative work.
Do It Anyway
Nick Cave is so right when he implied that the “what” is not only unknown, but also unimportant—perhaps even “none of my business.” My role is to create. In this case to write. Simply write and let the words speak themselves… wherever they may go. The purpose will come to light. The end will be clear… when it gets there.
Perhaps this essay makes no sense and that is okay, for now. For in the writing came “moments.” God bless the moments, the experience, and the meanderings of the muse.
Yes, Oscar Wilde, I am at my best when I wear a mask freeing me, from myself.
When In Doubt
Photo courtesy of Mirel Kipioro at istockphoto