It can be breathtaking to witness the transformations of an individual who is enthralled with a creative endeavor or captivated by an idea. There’s a wildness about them—a distinct and untamed energy that is itself a force of great life. It is generative, self-perpetuating, and quite beautiful. An onlooker might wonder how one body can be regularly subjected to such consummation and continue to thrive. Those moments of intense energy, I tend to think, are generated by the confluence of a number factors and conditions. One of the most impactful, at least from my point of view, is a feeling of rawness, of extreme vulnerability, and exposure. It is a feeling, I think, that exists at the extremes of sensitivity. It’s as if, in the the process of coming together with your idea, you have been stripped bare, or split open and forced out of yourself.
There is a remarkable sensuality to it, really. An inherent eroticism. This feeling that you can connect more deeply than usual with the world around you. That you are almost one with it, and it with you.
And yet, you may also feel as if you are taking in too much and yearn desperately to shrink away. Indeed, this isn’t an altogether pleasant state. It is both marvelous and painful. But, for some of us, it seems to be a necessary precondition to doing masterful work. For those of us who write, to write well —or to write our best—means to bleed on the page (or the screen). And if you’re not raw when you write, whatever you write will not be good enough, at least not to you.
Now, I normally give tips, based on my experience, for balancing and managing a creative life. But, I don’t have any advice on this one (which is why this post may end up shorter than most). This feeling of exposure—of being one. It seems to me that we either choose to allow ourselves to go there, or we don’t. (It can be dulled, or “turned off,” I think, to a degree.) Of course, it isn’t as if “going there” requires teetering on the brink of madness. But, it is uncomfortable. It is a gigantic wince. The kind of sensitivity that forces us to the edges of ourselves.
On the other hand, refusing that feeling can be a lot like starvation. Like only a part of you is living, while the other—perhaps your greatest life force—remains tethered, while you try to fill the void with other, more pleasant activities. But, that’s no way to live. I think that dealing with one’s sensitivity comes largely with age and experience. At least, that’s the way it happened for me. It is a balancing act, and a highly personal one at that. To simply “toughen up” is not an option. Self-acceptance is key. So is speaking kindly to yourself (and knowing how to stay calm). As for me, I’d rather live with the perils of sensitivity, wincing included, than shield myself from the wonders of exposure.