Recently my friend John came back from Malta and he was on this big creativity/ doing stuff for him buzz. I immediately felt a response to this attitude but I was suspicious of it.Because usually these philosophies of the week are bullshit or compensating for something. At least that has been my experience of all of the life philosophies that I have tried to adopt. This is probably the case this time around too but my response to the attitude is a slightly different matter. (I hope!)
My reaction to this attitude as I experienced it in that moment was probably markedly different from what I now presume the real attitude was. Whatever the attitude was though the briefest expression of living creatively tapped into something that I have already been thinking for quite a while. Last Summer I started reading Carl R Rogers -The humanist psychologist. I read and re-read his books old though they were. He talks in them about the healing power of the therapeutic relationship, of being genuine in that relationship and of unconditional positive regard for patients.
His writing is oriented towards self-acceptance and integration. The avoidance of censoring parts of oneself that one finds unacceptable that facilitates this acceptance and integration. The interesting thing is that the more that people start accepting their perceived difficulties the more they start to fall away naturally. The connection to creativity is that people are freer to be more genuine in relationships and express themselves more fully in their relationships and interactions with people.
In On Becoming a Person he suggests that artists such as El Greco may have thought that what they are creating is not the norm but its how he trusted in his own judgment. Later he wrote that ‘time and time again in my clients, I have seen simple people become significant and creative in their own spheres , as they have developed more trust of the processes going on within themselves, and have dared to feel their own feelings, live by their values which they discover within, and express themselves in their own unique ways towards becoming a Fully Functioning Person.’
I also remember what is meant to be a fictitious chapter in momma and the meaning of life: Tales of psychotherapy where one of this fictional therapist’s patients listens to a tape recorded session of their therapeutic hour. It turns out that the therapist forgot to press stop on the recorder when he was dictating his own notes on the session for a counter-transference seminar. The therapist, unknowingly being recorded on the patient’s tape, continues as follows:
‘I never say anything supportive or positive to her. I try, but she makes it hard.She gets to me….so boring, rasping, crass, narrow. All she ever thinks about is making her two million in stock options and finding a man. Nothing else…narrow, narrow, narrow…no dreams, no fantasies, no imagination. No depth. Has she ever read a good novel? Ever said something beautiful? Or interesting…just one interesting thought? God, I’d love to see her write a poem – or try to write a poem. Now, that would be a therapeutic change. She drains me.’
Now when I read this I thought how wonderful a view of human change that focuses on creative experience and poetry in life. The rest of the story though functions to make the my earlier Rogerian point that integration does bring about creativity. In this story the woman having heard the recording plays around with the power asymmetry that is created by her knowing about the recording and his not knowing that she knows about the recording. So she spends much of the next few sessions terrorizing the terrorist who is lead to believe that she is ultra-intuitive and can just pick up on his counter-transference in almost a non-verbal area. She then relates to the therapist because of the discomfort she is putting him through and the honesty and bravery he demonstrates in handling his recording errors consequences.
It became apparent later that she had written poetry as a child but having discovered some of her poems on dampened paper along with love letters (from her mother and another woman) her alcoholic father kept in his drawer she stole the letters and poems and took a match to them. As she integrated the unacceptable parts of herself she became more and more creative and engaging. Initially she didn’t want to read or recite any of her poetry because they might result in unwanted questions on their theme of secrecy.
Creativity offers us an area in which to be unique because it is a reflection of the idiosyncratic way in which we view the world. With so many areas in life there will alway be someone better than you.However, art for me is not about capturing perfection. It is about capturing a particular way of relating to the world.
It enjoys human foibles and flaw and more than that is is a participative act. The art viewer is also engaged in the creative process. They are taking their own meaning from it with all of their own peculiar associations. It is a creative way of thinking that I like to sometimes use (sparingly) in conversation with others.
Normal conversation, it metaphorical use of language and its freudian slips can also evoke images. An obsession with information or form in both conversation and in art will cause both to become frigid. Paolo Uncello was an artist who was so obsessed with perspective that he could think of little else. He was supposed to be so engrossed in the study of perspective that he neglected his painting, family and birds to become very depressed.
The lesson here is that an obsession with technical form or rules in both life and art can lead a stagnancy in life. The creative mode of living is most definitely antagonized by any quest for perfection. Anyone who is telling you that their life will start when they get or achieve such and such is interfering with their ability to live a fully-textured life.
I have made the point before that what makes Hitchcock a distinctive auteur Director are precisely his flaws or difficult thoughts. It is the voyeurism, the paranoia and the strains of misogyny that are transformed in his art.
When we look at a piece of art I hope we don’t first say this is a very technically precise piece of work. If we take and artist like Seurat for example we see that the painting is made up of dots and we know this isn’t what the world looks like but we enjoy it anyway. We respond to it anyway. It makes us see things that maybe we missed before when we looked at a similar scene. It also draws upon a whole host of other associations that we might have.
As with Van Gogh’s paintings of Provence it maybe exaggerates or draws our attention to something that was already there in the landscape but we did not see. Alain de Botton, in The Art of Travel makes the point that the Provence landscape is actually rather dull until one has looked at with through the renewed gaze that is informed by Van Gogh’s work. In particular he talks about a type of tree that is rather uninteresting until he has seen Van Gogh exaggerating the way that they look almost like bolts of lightning hitting the ground.
Finally I want to look at my own perspective that I bring that is my own to the things that I draw and paint. Well when I don’t have a creative block I think the thing that drives a lot of the my ideas is some sort of deeply felt inability to express some of my stronger emotions when they are occurring within me. A lot of the characters that appeal to me, in TV or otherwise, have a lot of difficulty fully being in their experience as it happens. They allow a self-reflexive ability to see themselves from the outside to diminish their capacity to be in an experience. (Which is interesting when one examines the pathological Shame and Guilt of depression as being related to this self-reflectivty – http://www.klinikum.uni-heidelberg.de/fileadmin/zpm/psychatrie/fuchs/Shame.pdf)
If I take a different character say the characters played by Ryan Golsing there is this same inability to express strong emotions and experience. He can only kiss Michelle Williams when he crushes a man’s head immediately afterwards in drive or through his bike in the film the Place beyond the Pines. In that film one of the only strong expressions of emotion is followed by Ryan Gosling’s character being killed and falling out the window. Perhaps things that I draw will take a new direction and am very interested to see if that is the case. I would also be very interested in hearing about anyone else’s accounts of how their unique perspective embeds itself in any of their artistic creations.