Comments on Creative Process
by Sandy Kleven
Sometimes I find breadcrumbs that point undeniably toward something I did not consciously intend.
My creative confidence is influenced by Julia Cameron. In 1996, I spent many long hours with her thoughts on creative
process. The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron is a book that presents as a 12-week workshop. It is offered in chapters, with activities, discussion guides and
an array of related quotes, past and present.
Julia’s plan requires Morning Pages – three pages, written by
hand, daily. This is like journaling,
except for the fact that you were not supposed to read them again. Not for a
long time and possibly not ever. The purpose of Morning
Pages was to clear the way, to receive the gripes, the fears, the dull nothings
-- the detritus of one’s mind -- so that other, better, creative material could
The Noisy Chorus of Neighs
ideas about creativity mirror my own. She speaks of the wounded
artist, who does no art at all, because of early criticism and lack of support. She speaks of the artist’s responsibility to revisit the sources
of this derailing to correct self-perception since too often we join that
horsey chorus of neighs.
By the time I read Julia
Cameron, I had been a therapist for decades. Through my training and, as
a bi-product of work with clients, I had worked with issues from my own early
history. I’d become open about these issues --the sad happenings that require thought
Something is out there and it helps us
The element of Julia Cameron’s
work that resonated deeply with me was her belief that artistic impulses come
from a source -- a vein of gold, within or without, that we might tap. This source might be the right brain, it might be the unconscious. It could be the creator, the muse, or the universal consciousness. In any
case, it partners with the cognitive mind in shaping art. This connection has been my experience. When I tap this source, some remarkable things happen. Sometimes I find breadcrumbs that point undeniably toward
something I did not consciously intend. I think this mysterious
element works behind the scenes with an agenda of its own.
I can trust it, doubt it, regale it, invite it – implore. But I cannot have much of a dialogue with it because it will only
speak in sign. I have to read the signs. I have to move out of the lines just to wake it up. It could be the most central element of my self – the most real. It could be the part of me that survives various rebirths and
holds some linking memory – some knowledge, some lessons learned – some
personality, or even allegiances with other souls. Maybe the name for this part is soul. It may sound odd, but I had not considered that.
I might be really good
I was working in remote parts of Alaska, as I
got more adept at accessing the mysterious material. This “stuff” seemed to be really good. The process of writing down the words was amazing, fun,
delightful, and shocking. But I could not call myself
a literary evaluator and there was a point where I gave voice to the idea that
I could be writing really good poetry but I did not know the standard for
great. I knew some basics but in the lofty stratosphere of the fabulous,
I had no way to know how my writing measured up. I was not yet familiar with
all the para-poetics -- criticism, guidebooks, textbooks and all. I am embarrassed as I write but this, if only because the content
is so sticky. I was narcissistic. “Look at me. Ain’t I a wonder?” The belief that you might be outstanding creates inner turmoil for
a Scandinavian. Hubris kills.
It does not come when I ask, it comes when I entertain
To tap the deeper source, for the most part, all
I need is a suggestion, a “let us go then, you and I.” If I hear an inspiring talk about creative process – I am off. I can walk the streets in downtown Anchorage scribbling down the
words that surface. Time spent in the museum
intentionally seeking inspiration sent me off. “There’s a hotel in my
belly where Elvis is sleeping” “..a café called Clover
Dawn where blonde activists are plotting.” This goofiness is not
always my style but it was a fun run and resulted in a wild, fragmented poem.
I can get it going, by reading the work of other
poets. As my experiences with this work began to
intensify, in about 2003, I was inspired by Olena Kalytiak Davis. I heard her read at Title Wave Books when her second book came
out. Her zest in crossing boundaries tossed me into a
brand new place, in part, through giving me permission to jump fences and
hedges. If Olena could do x,y, z and get away with it, I
could, too. I bought her books and
found that when I read her work aloud at bedtime, my sleep would be disturbed
with new surfacing phrases.
Layers, gaps, and things that might fit sideways
I’d been a truth seeker and truth teller in most
of my writing, buying into the idea of telling it like it is – articulating and
naming. I’ve lately dropped that flag because I have
found other things to do. I don’t have to teach, show, tell, seek to right
wrongs – there are other characters in the Pantheon. I am just starting with other ideas realms and, in this pursuit, I
can see layers, gaps, and things that might fit sideways. Still, I find that even in the midst of evocative, abstract, work,
something in the moment will require clear address. In this, too, I feel as if I am truly doing my own thing, walking
my own path, kicking tires and turning over stones. I am exploring what I can do with the form. There is an art focus to these ideas but frankly it is new enough
that I do not fully know what I am talking about. Also, I am now more
interested in what I am doing and don’t give a hoot (fewer hoots) about where I
stand in potential for grandeur but this comes in part from embedding in a
community of creative people.
Butcher, Baker, Chief
During the last four years, I have been
working in the written word, in visual art, graphics, and promotion of the former
for myself and others. I have also become a belly dancer. This summer, I danced solo, in performance, and I will soon do
this again. When I meet someone, if I, too quickly,
mention these several pursuits, I risk confusing them – you do what? Or I invite comments like, “Where do you get the time?” It may give the impression of dabbling, just goofing around. I love all these things and then I stumbled onto the discovery of
a unified persona that helps me speak of who I am and what I do.
At heart I am a gypsy
Dance provided the link, because with my instructor and others, I
began to explore the identity of “gypsy” as a performer. Then, I created a character, with a name and back story, but the
context is the key. The scenario: I come to this town with my family to use our talents to gain a
few gold coins. We do what we must to
engage and entertain you. I am the matriarch, a poet. I dance, and when a certain mood comes upon me, I make art on a
canvas. When I draw this “feeling” into the real world,
I have a context where I can live and relate to others without the issues that
surface when I live, somewhat large, without a “story.” The gypsy motif explains why I like to sell things at crafts fairs
– why I am always working on my “products,” earrings, belly dance hip scarves,
my own books, and much more. Within the story, I can
teach my granddaughter to dance
with and my grandsons will learn to drum. We can, for real, learn to make music together. I will look for chances to perform and entertain because it
excites me, moves me deeply, and gives me joy. In this way, aided by
story, my creative talents shape a lifestyle. I don’t see it so much as artificially
putting on the gypsy persona, as finding myself drawn to an array of things and
then discovering that I was in fact a gypsy – it is my archetype. Suddenly, my taste in clothing is understood, my love of costumes
and adornment, my long red hair and my occasional flirtatiousness. It
illuminates my issues with authority, my independence, and the protective
stance I take with children. When I assume the persona,
I have a lot less explaining to do.
Playing in Personna
She is known as Allissandra de la Cort, but she has been called other things. In spite of the elan of the name, she is not French. She took it as a ruse, necessary after the trouble in the north. We have not learned her true name. They say she is Russian or
Swedish. Some call her Silky. She wrote this poem:
There are things you cannot
express in words.
This poem is about those things.