Writing And The Creative Process

Painting by Andrey Avinoff

“Each person carries a hidden poetic unity that reflects the mysterious continuity of the Soul of the World. In the depths of the soul, we are each an old soul able to survive the troubles of the world and contribute to its healing and renewal. The key to what we miss and secretly long for is hidden within us. Medicine men and healers of all kinds from cultures around the world have used various techniques to not only “heal” the soul, but also to restore individuals to their proper place in the world and in their culture. To heal means to “make whole,” and when we feel whole we are in touch with the whole world. When in touch with our underlying soul, we are naturally in touch with nature and the Soul of the World. We are the missing ingredient in the solutions needed for all that ails us, if we but awaken to the nature of our own souls.”

- Michael Meade, “Awakening the Soul”


Freed from the demands of decision and intention, adrift on some inner sea, we observe our various movements as if they belonged to someone else, and yet we admire their involuntary excellence. What other reason might I have for writing if it did not have something of the art of scything about it? The lines gradually become their own demiurges and, like some witless yet miraculous participant, I witness the birth on paper of sentences that have eluded my will and appear in spite of me on the sheet, teaching me something that I neither knew or thought I might want to know. This painless birth, like an unsolicited proof, gives me untold pleasure…

— Muriel Barbery

Being connected to nature and being connected to my creative processes are associated in my mind. Allowing inner forces to come forth and manifest themselves requires both discipline and self-allowing. In painting, I tried to awaken a hidden voice to see what it had to say and then shape it to maximum clarity.

Our two decades in a French village were very creative on many levels. The challenge of creating a home, of learning how to live in that culture on that land and still keep reading widely and making art was a kind of “soul-making.” I use a lot of what I learned during that time in my writing now.

I discover what wants to be said by saying it. There are energies in us, voices, that with a little encouragement will reveal surprising perspectives we hadn’t thought about consciously. Accessing those energies teaches us both about ourselves and the world.

I didn’t always know what I was doing. I was often in a state of guessing. I had to get used to not knowing and having to make it up as I went along. We couldn’t afford professionals to tile the floor and walls of a bathroom, for instance, so I learned how. Every job was like that. I overbuilt a lot of things just to make sure nothing collapsed. I rebuilt a staircase five times before it looked normal.

When I start writing one of my daily pieces, I find myself in that strange state of wondering if there’s anything there that wants to be said. So far, there’s always something. I’m often surprised. Not infrequently I learn something. It’s a mysterious process but I’ve learned to trust it.

Not everyone creates like that. Some people know exactly what they want to say before they write their first word. Their concern is simply with execution. If they have any doubt it’s to do with presentation. I have to send up smoke signals to the muses. They have always treated me kindly.

Sometimes you’re paddling your boat in calm waters and sometimes you’re riding the rapids. You learn to work with what you’ve got

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