Friday, May 14, 2010

Thinking about creativity

I am reflecting on the creative process today, my own as well as others. We each have a creative process - all of us - although we might not recognize it as creativity or a process. The older I get, the more my creative process has been unleashed in my life. I don't know why, but it seems that the more I write and teach (all aspects of the creative process), the more need I have to engage in art itself (another form of the creative process). I find that my intellectual creativity is nurtured by my right-brain creativity, and my right-brain creativity by my intellect. Why is this? Do any of you know the psychology or neurology here?

Yesterday I came across this u-tube video of Elizabeth Gilbert talking about her own creative process. She says that she has found it helpful to think about the process as overseen by an attendant spirit, a daemon or genius, as the ancient people taught. She goes on to describe an encounter she had with the poet Ruth Stone who described her own process as "poem catching". When she was young and working in the fields, she said that the poem would come to her rumbling across the earth, shaking it. As the poem approached, she would race to her house and grab a paper and pencil to catch the poem before it stormed through her and past her. The poem would be intact.

This might seem odd to some people, and we might dismiss this as Stone's metaphor. But I'm not so sure because last year I had a very similar experience. As I was walking from my home to my office, I was overcome with a poem. Its echo was thunderous and it was all I could do to run all the way to my office and grab a pen and paper and write it down before it was gone. It came to me intact. This is what I wrote down:
the garden

out of the darkness
living eve
lush pomegranates
ripe figs
ready for tasting
heavy upon the branches

what is it that is secreted away, ruah?
sheltered, spiritus?
stolen, sophia?

sweet fruit in your hands
gnosis in the bite
juice on the chin

hide away eve
the nemesis of god is upon you
Have any of you ever experienced poem catching before or know of someone who has? I'm curious now that I realize my experience is not an isolated event. I'm not sure that I would say that it is the result of a muse, or a paranormal event as Gilbert suggests. But whatever happened was overwhelming and there was no option not to run and write it down. I find that once the creative process is really engaged on a regular basis, that it takes on a life of its own, almost pushing me to bring to life whatever it is I am working on, a book, an article, a painting, a textile piece, a poem.

Here is the u-tube video in case you are interested:


R.Eagle said...

it may have something to do with crystallized versus fluid intelligence

it may have something to do with your ancestors

may be a host of things

R.Eagle said...

amazing poem, by the way

i've experienced it

i also heard that this is how zepplin's stairway to heaven came about

Jared said...

I find I have a few processes. Sometimes an image--I am a very imagistic thinker--will flash and I try to capture it (kind of like what you are describing). Sometimes I'll sit down with my canvas and have nothing and just start painting and see what happens. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.

dialecticsoup said...

I must say, this is a nice departure!

"I'm not sure that I would say that it is the result of a muse, or a paranormal event as Gilbert suggests."

I agree, because "poem catching" rumbles and is thunderous and feels somehow external doesn't negate a fully internal process; it becomes more profound when innate, I think. There's no need to posit an outside source, IMO

I like to dabble in poetry and I've encountered this epiphanic moment on a few occasions; where the poem comes full bloom, as it

Great poem, great topic!-thanks for sharing.


lightseeker said...

Hi April,

Wonderful poem!

I've had it happen, too - with poetry (as well as imagery)!

I don't think it's an external experience (i.e., supernatural by some outside force). However, from my own experiences, I believe the "daemon" is really a higher aspect of one's own consciousness that is beyond self, beyond your own brain. (This is why in mystical practices you're taught to lay the self aside - so you can expand and tap in!)

Consciousness is not only an activity within one's brain, but beyond the brain, too (the brain is just the interface, a facilitating tool to operate and get around in this 3D world). And beyond the brain there is one giant pool of consciousness. Who we really are - extensions of this "I AM" consciousness pool - are all connected to it (and each other) by something unseen - call it the quantum field, matrix, or Spirit - and at the highest level of this pool is what many people would call God or Source Energy.

Everyone can tap into this amazing pool of consciousness that is beyond the cranium, and beyond time and space. The mind expands out beyond Self into this pool. It's where geniuses pull their ideas and create new paradigms, and it's the place from where I believe all true creativity flows.

Inspired = in or from the Spirit. Yeshua taught that the Kingdom of God is within you. Seek and you shall find.

Many creative types and geniuses access this state via meditation. Leonard Bernstein would "hear" his entire compositions when he'd half-nap in a hypnogogic state between sleep and awake.

Sometimes we tap into the pool of consciousness without even knowing how or why it happens, probably via the subconscious when we're in the zone, in the flow. It's hard to describe this state of mind but maybe you know what I mean. But when you've tapped in, it can be like you just received a download of data in a lightning flash - vivid images/art, music, words/poems - from your own "higher self" or "daimon."

Some psychologists and neurologists might suggest it's purely within the brain, that the subsconscious is working on things all the time, and when you tap into it (suppress the logic/reason/ego of the conscious brain), then the creativity can pop out. But scientists doing studies of consciousness are finding there's a quantum element to it that goes beyond neural synapses - where consciousness is actually pulling info from - you got it, an unseen quantum realm of possibilities. It's what allows remote viewing and psychic experiences as well.

Whatever happens and when it happens, it's a great place to be("zoning") and experience!

dev2lyzbpz said...

Thank you VERY MUCH for YOUR wonderful poem.

Explanation? I agree that there is more to be conscious of than just with our rational intellect. Read this previous strange sentence anew: it is our intellectual form or method of consciousness that limits the possible content of our consciousness. The problem is only that for our intellect an explanation of the consciousness which uses other forms or methods than the intellectual one, cannot be seen. But we can experience, feel, know with other sorts of certainty that even what is not intellectually comprehendable, may be very true, even certain.
Then the question remains: how do and can we use these contents from other consciousnesses, and are there forms and methods to receive and share them in reliable (non-intellectual, or at least not always also intellectual!) ways? And if yes, which ones?
As regards me, I am convinced that subjectivity is not the problem here, but the clue. We as subjects are more than intellects, and are part of and take part in more strata of 'consciousness' than just what one tradition (f.e. scientific or religious) or culture (f.e. modern-scientific or traditional-paganistic)prescribes. But to me it seems that we have to learn to know our own possibilities as well as to learn the group/tradition/culture context within we live, with the depth of all memories, or impulses from them or relating to them and their vast but unique reservoirs of possible frames of experiences and consciousness.
Don't forget that shamans work in the same way, within that sort of context. As well as all creative persons. And they all have learnt that they have to close the way of intellect - or other forms or methods or layers of consciousness with which one is identifying oneself too much - if it is too self-imposing on the content of those other fields of consciousness. As said above already!

Again THANK YOU and continue!

Boudewijn Koole-Huibregtse, also being called Kalliopeia - muse of real roots and overview of 'history'

Roadscholar said...

A very good poem; bear with me and I will interpret it. I am not a poet but the "Muse" comes to me when I write. I consider it to be an external force that brings ideas to me, and if I am not quick to "catch" the idea it continues on and leaves me behind, just as Ruth Stone described. But I do know that I could never write without the help of my Muse, whom I call "Lord", and think of as Jesus. My Muse does not come from inside of me, except in the sense that the Intelligence comes from the outside to dwell, to live, within me for a time. You see, ideas are spirits--even angels--and spirits need bodies to dwell in if they are to survive in the world. This is a prominent NT belief, for example, when the evil spirits Jesus exorcised from the possessed man begged him, "Send us among the pigs; allow us to go into them." (Mark 5:12) It is also seen in the theme of indwelling Holy Spirit theme, in all the "Father is in me" talk, and in many other places.

But yes, ideas/spirits are living, albiet fragile things, and are completely alien to this physical world. Therefore, unless they can find a body to possess and inhabit--to serve them as an insulating "spacesuit"--they are soon dead, gone, and s.o.l. How can an idea survive in the world without a body, i.e., a man, to "give it shelter" and believe in it? Thus, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head" (Matt 8:20)and the whole "Believe in me" theme, e.g., "The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent." (John 6:29)

Thus, I might interpret the poem:

Out of the darkness
living Eve (Spirit)
lush pomegranates (i.e., ideas)
ripe figs (i.e., angels)
ready for tasting (eating, i.e., taking within you)
heavy upon the branches

what is it that is secreted away, ruah? ("secreted away"--Given shelter inside your "house", your body)

sheltered, spiritus?
stolen, sophia? ("Stolen" - Here is your personal evidence, April, that your Muse comes from without and not from within your self. For the theme of "given" as opposed to "stolen" seems to me one of the major unresolved controversies of the Bible's authors, namely, whether Gnosis is GIVEN to man by God (Jesus saying "All authority in heaven and on earth has been GIVEN to me" (Matt 28:18)and "No one takes [my life] from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority [from my Father]to lay it down and . . . to take it up again," (John 10:17-18) as opposed to the theme of TAKING that Gnosis, as in Eve, when seeing the forbidden fruit, "TOOK some and ate it" (Gen 3:6)and even, perhaps, bleeding into the theme of Judas, "He was a THIEF" (John 12:6) as relates to Judas' involvment with the TAKING of Jesus' life.

But yes, a most excellent poem, and very apt to this topic that it inspired in you. That's why it was given to you, and that's how Muses work . . . they are entirely too insightful, foresightful, and ingenious to come from inside of us; we are only the vessel, they are the living waters who, when we recognize them, believe in them, and hold them dear, come to fill us. "Whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. . . . [It] will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." (John 4:14) And after receiving it? Then we can pour the living water back out, as I am doing now, and we can all share our Gnosis together, as we do in this blog. That way, as Jesus said, "all of them may be one, Father, just as you are [living] in me and I am [living]in you." (John 17:21)

So, hopefully these strange, poor, begging ideas have found shelter within some of you, that they might survive the world, and perhaps become fruitful and multiply. Ah, a spring of living gnosis, that we need never thirst. THAT is my Muse, and THAT is my God.

R.Eagle said...

btw, dr. d...(question)

if you would, how do you interpret your poem and its significance?

this idea of "catching poems" suggests a sense of urgency i.e. to express some truth

so it seems to me

R.Eagle said...

i just remembered...

i heard that boston came up with "dust in the wind" in this way as well

both zepplin and boston, as i recall, gave credit to something outside of themselves for these great works of art, as they saw it

R.Eagle said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
R.Eagle said...

i don't think anyone else mentioned this but certainly jung's collective unconscious

Term Papers said...

Thank you VERY MUCH for YOUR wonderful poem.

Term Papers

Ed Jones said...

Your poem is truly creative. I cannot say that I have ever experienced "poem catching". What I do experience is an overwhelming concern that one finds the creative possibility of coming to experience the special significance of the Sermon on the Mount - even to recognize it as the alternative to the writings of the New Testament. I find such recognition in the works of Schubert Ogden, James M. Robinson and Hans Dieter Betz.

Adam Smith said...

I have experienced this as well, since childhood. But it would approach me differently, but with the same urgency to get the idea down. Instead of poetry, it was with music (since I'm a composer/musician)
and it would be all parts at once...the complete score. Awesome poem, by the way! I love the way yours a passing creative tornado. When I was a kid, it would approach like an angel, my invisible friend, and she would open her mouth and all the music would just 'happen', sometimes, she would just come nearby, or sit next to me and mentally 'convey' it to me. During creatively dry periods, I would ask my angel to 'sing' to me. I had wondered in the past if this was a sign of oncoming mental illness (there was Scizophrenia in my family history), but I settled on the notion that I may have been outwordly projecting my anthropomorphization of the creative process. Then again, she may have been quite real:-)

阿楊 said...


皮皮 said...


韋于倫成 said...


BlogHer said...

Epictetus, who was a slave around the time of Nero, wrote: “Our thoughts are up to us, and our impulses, desires, and aversions — in short, whatever is our doing … Of things that are outside your control, say they are nothing to you.”

We cheat ourselves when we attribute what comes from our own minds to something/someone outside of us. The poem that you caught and whatever else your mind produces is all you, April. We own the credit and responsibility.

R.Eagle said...


everything emanuel swedenborg wrote about "heaven and hell" was his own creation?

my experience tells me otherwise

and many civilizations (such as the aborigines) who've been here 1000's of years before nero (or what's his name) would concur

R.Eagle said...

In response to the researchers of his day who said, 'I only know what I see,' Piaget said, 'No, you only see what you know.'

BlogHer said...

Hi, R. Eagle. I follow Bernard Lonergan's philosophy of critical realism. In case you are interested, here, briefly:

"We see Lonergan's approach in his treatment of theories of knowing. Lonergan shows that idealism and empiricism, though they are never able to speak meaningfully to one another, share an underlying notion of reality: that knowing reality is analogous to seeing. This idea of knowledge claims that “objectivity is seeing what is there to be seen and not seeing what is not there, and that the real is what is out there now to be looked at” (Method in Theology 238). In the case of idealism, what is contained in the mind is meaningful, it just in no way refers to the real. Lonergan claims that this overlooks the distinction between the world of immediate sense experience and the world as mediated by meaning (which is the real world). Lonergan's critical realism acknowledges this distinction and seeks to know the world mediated by meaning."

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