Appointments with Creativity
In her fantastic book, A Poetry Handbook, Mary Oliver writes about her methods for writing and also reading poetry. One of the most interesting things she says has to do with creativity, and even though I’ve read so many books on creativity and the creative process, it still stopped me in my tracks:
“Writing a poem… is a kind of possible love affair between something like the heart and the learned skills of the conscious mind. They make appointments with each other, and keep them, something starts to happen. Or, they make appointments with them but are casual and often forget to keep them; count on it, nothing happens.”
Mary Oliver’s work is an exercise in noticing and awareness. These are traits that not all poets have, but the best ones certainly have. And come to think of it, so do most of the best comedians, playwrights, lawyers, activists…
But all of the practitioners of any art have to make appointments. For me, that involves an actual app and a separate calendar for my daily events. This calendar can be pretty microscopic, with “events” like practice posture exercises. I also put in any act of creating (writing, recording, editing) into this app as well. I make an appointment, and it is only by doing this that I accomplish anything at all (my most recent book is an example).
There are probably those who just manage to find time in their day, but they probably don’t have kids, or their job is so structured that they can predictably find enough time in their day to pay attention to whatever needs to come out (and in which case, that is a sort of appointment as well). And there are those who act whenever their heart and mind happen to brush up next to each other in the grocery store, but those kinds of artists are far from consistent.
But Mary Oliver also takes it a step further with the idea of a meeting of the heart and the mind. The heart wants to run free, to teach, to exclaim. The brain wants to use its experience to shape and form the castle. There’s no art without both being involved, and just like with any group project, it makes more sense to figure out who will do what through a group meeting than it does to just open the paint cans and say go.