You Don’t Approach Art With Your Brain

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Image from Artly Snuff

You don’t look at art to understand it but to let it educate your imagination, teach you how to see your life. — Thomas Moore

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“The creative and the healing elements are very close.”
“A special problem in the profession of analysis is creativity. The best analysts are without a doubt those who, alongside their profession, are involved in some creative activity.
It is not for nothing that in primitive societies the medicine men are also the poets, painters, and the like, of their peoples. The creative and the healing elements are very close.”

— Marie Louise Von Franz,
“Psychotherapy”

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“Wisdom is knowing I am nothing,
Love is knowing I am everything,
and between the two my life moves.”
― Nisargadatta Maharaj

I think art and spirituality are related. Creativity and mental healing are too. When I was just getting started as an artist I had the same problem a lot of writers complain about here on Medium, something called “writer’s block.” I didn’t know how to encourage creative emotions. I wasn’t yet aware of where my natural inspirations lay. Eventually I learned to just start, but at the same time listen to myself, to stay aware of fluctuations of interest and energy. I had no idea that I was a kinetic painter, that physical movement would be the natural way to kickstart any painting for me. Once the juices were flowing in my body, they could flow into the painting.

Writing is both similar and different. Obviously I’m not going to dance around the room holding my laptop, but at the same time I’m able to stimulate the creative impulse through images and quotes I’ve collected. Once I’ve chosen and laid those down, similar to laying down a colorful stroke on a canvas, I feel a need to address it. I start with no clear idea of what I’m going to say, but that’s not so different from starting a painting for me. One thing leads to another after that in a series of little revelations and spontaneous micro-inspirations until a piece comes together.

I have a lot of tolerance for moments when I don’t know what I’m going to say next. I just wait. I may stop writing until something pops into my head that seems like the thing that needs to be said next. If I were painting I would just sit there and stare at the painting in a kind of dreamy state, until I receive an inner urge to do the next thing.

What I’m talking about here is how to dialogue with your creativity. In your body and your unconscious there are desires, purposeful energies, that want to do specific things. It’s best not to try to force or override them. If you respect them and let them speak, you’ll notice that these energies are a lot deeper and smarter than your conscious intentions or knowledge.

Creativity is as much respectful listening as it is execution. Of course, our ego likes to gloam onto the results and say “I did that. Aren’t I special?” But really, those deeper energies don’t belong to us. The creative process involves patience and respect. Trying to own and command it will cause it to clam up and refuse to play. Children instinctively know this.

If you’ve noticed that your writer’s mind gets active as you’re going to sleep, it’s because it’s relaxing. If you can learn to relax into the creative process, if you can befriend your creative mind, you’ll be more productive as a writer and you’ll be more integrated as a person.

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