Closed Captions

This post is formatted to reflect an original journal entry.


I like that it’s a cozy, gray morning. Listening to Fleetwood Mac’s Mirage, drinking coffee, and revisiting Rollo May’s The Courage to Create. An observation: the artists I admire most have all cultivated such powerful and unique personal styles. Poets, visual artists, musicians, too. Was saying just this about David Gilmour the other day: the second he picks up the guitar, I know it’s him playing, whether the recording’s from 1975 or 2015. He’s unmistakable. Makes the guitar speak. Has crafted a style so distinct it is like a personal language. But this a hallmark of great art. The infusion of great personality.

I love that Lin Yutang makes this distinction in The Importance of Living. (Such a joyful, down-to-earth book. I cannot recommend it highly enough for anyone who is interested in creativity and the art of living). He says of writers:

When the foundation is properly laid and a genuine literary personality is cultivated, style follows as a natural consequence and the little points of technique will take care of themselves…Style [in this case] is not a method, a system or even a decoration for one’s writing; it is but the total impression that the reader gets of the writer’s mind, his depth or superficiality, his insight or lack of insight and other qualities like wit, humor, biting sarcasm, genial understanding, tenderness…— Lin Yutang 

The cultivation of personality is, or can be, a prerequisite for the development of a distinct artistic style. Makes sense. Both a matter of maturity and of being comfortable enough for genuine and open self-expression. For abandoning oneself to the creative act. But I imagine these things can also happen concomitantly. That creativity can act as a vehicle for personal growth and development. For getting to know oneself, for revealing the sides of a personality that may remain hidden even to the artist except in moments of unbridled creative expression.

Art is the flourishing of personality. Indeed, I find this to be true of myself. When I first began writing poetry here on this blog, I was surprised by some of what came about in my work spontaneously. Experiments in voice and style, even the propensity for social criticism, revealed to me aspects of my own personality that I knew where there, but that had not found an outlet, or a place to flourish, in my daily life. Poetry then started to feel like the ultimate form of self-expression for me. My whole personality in action. To my delight, May says just this:

Creativity is the most basic manifestation of a man or woman fulfilling his or her own being in the world. – Rollo May

Question: do many artists begin with an enhanced ability to access the unconscious? May says yes. What I like to think of as the ability of the mind’s images to intervene in our perceptions. It is strange, but sometimes I think that’s all my creativity is: an aberration in perception. Seeing what isn’t there—or rather, seeing what’s there plus something new. I mentioned this experience in the poem, “Banshee,” included in my chapbook, Seven Road & Other Poems:every poem is first / a misreading of something else.” 

And it is. I know it when it happens. I see what’s in front of me—a sentence, a series of images—and before I can stop it, my mind has created of them something else. Finished the sentence for me with a word that isn’t there. Or an image that arrives in my mind. A word on my tongue from nowhere. Like a flash. Something new is born in the gaps between syllables. In the images that the mind interjects at its discretion, those that always seem to be lurking just beneath the surface of perceptible reality. And that prove to be sources of great delight, even ecstasy, when one is fully immersed in the creative act and playing freely.

Allen Ginsberg talks about just this experience in himself (and I imagine other creatives understand it very well, too), a “gap between two words which the mind would fill with the sensations of existence.” What’s interesting: he sees this phenomenon, or perceptual aberration, as the holistic participation of the mind in creative activity. The poet’s goal: to access all dimensions of the mind simultaneously. This is how new images are born. Those that resonate most deeply and that have roots in a collective unconscious. Surely, Jung would agree with this. 

But all of this brings me back to a kind of holism. The importance of perception and sensual living. I don’t think it would be possible for any of us to, as May says, fulfill our own being in the world, if our experiences of both self and world were truncated. That is, if there exists too much of a buffer (technological or otherwise) between us and nature, our nature, the deeper dimensions of lived experience.

I am happy to say that my chapbook, Seven Road & Other Poems has received a new 5-star review on Etsy! I am also delighted to say that hand-binding my own books is among the most personally and artistically satisfying practices I’ve engaged in. I had some trepidations at first. But, I’m absolutely in love with the process, and I think that’s because I am wholly, sensorially involved in bringing my poetry to life. It’s changed my entire relationship with my work.



21 responses to “Closed Captions”

    • Ah, thank you! These ideas have been bouncing around in my mind for awhile now. I am currently looking for a new psychologist to delve into and have decided to return to May (and soon a bit of Jung and Maslow) in the interim. Anyway, I am glad this resonates. It’s always amazing what gems we are able to unearth in a text the second or third time around. 🙂


  1. This post has brought much to mind. As I’ve read, I’ve written down the following: creativity can be thought of as therapeutic action or as images of a mind at work. Creativity consists of images that dare us to imagine Fantasy and Reality as one and the same place, at least for moments at a time. Flashes of insight or newly born images create their own logic. Dialoguing with the unconscious can create order where chaos or disorder had been. Experience in all of its dimensions encompasses everything.

    Well Done!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you very much. Each of your responses is insightful and worthy of comment, but the one that strikes me most is the following: “Dialoguing with the unconscious can create order where chaos or disorder had been.” I do agree that the unconscious operates by a certain logic–a logic that often supersedes rationality and that is innately and intuitively gratifying/comforting/soulful. Thank you for commenting!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I enjoyed reading your reflections, and I admire your “style”! You mentioned three things I enjoy very much: Fleetwood Mac, David Gilmore, and ‘The Courage to Create’ by Rollo May. I’ve read the latter book twice now, and plan on revisiting it again. It’s a classic text, full of insightful observations, and written so very intelligently and passionately.

    One of the questions you’ve posed in your blog, “Do many artists begin with an enhanced ability to access the unconscious?”, is a fascinating one. I haven’t done any research to make a claim for either yes or no, but I feel I have a good intuition the answer is yes. I’ve always been a creative being. It is the core-self I operate from, and I’ve always related with abstractions: especially images that are loaded with meaning, yet not necessarily logical. Strange ideas and textures and colors are accessible to me, and aide in my story writing. The unconscious is a good friend, maybe just another word for “muse”?

    Good on you for producing those chapbooks, by the way, and sharing your art with the world!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi, Tylor! Thank you for commenting. “The Courage to Create” is a wonderful book. I am now on my second full read and find I’m discovering a great deal more than was there before. (And, of course, it’s best when read while listening to great music. 🙂)

      With regard to the role of the unconscious in creativity: it is fascinating and, I think, altogether wonderful. I tend to think of the unconscious as giving my writing a certain “charge” or inspiration. It is something I can perceive in both the creative process and in the finished product: an energy, an excitability, the ease with which unique images come together. All the work of a muse, as you say. Hmm…now you’ve got me thinking of a topic for a future post! Thanks again!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi there, i don’t know where to start! Well okay, I do really…WELL DONE for your lovely chapbook and the great review. There are two aspects to this. One, the discovery of how special the hands-on approach to creating really is and how it seems to make you feel really alive and passionate for what you are doing with life itself. Second, how a good review can make you feel about making that work public with the sense of sharing ‘yourself’ and it being exactly right that you should.

    I’m sort of in the same place, with a new novel out and one great review which took my breath away because the person understood exactly what was behind my writing of the story- so that one review becomes a great gift. I also have been pushing myself with graphic design and loving it.

    Rollo May – well you provide me with my reading lists for psychology books, as we so frequently seem in synch, so I have ‘Man’s Search For Himself’ on my bookshelf as of yesterday, ready for the off, as I’ve never read him and thought this title might help my hubby find more meaning. The courage to create will come later, just for me. Again, the quote you cited pulled me right into having to add this to my list!

    As for the unconscious being with artists from their early years, I’m thinking yes, and it is probably the muse (like Tyler says), waiting in the wings to be listened to, and like you, I find it astonishing the way it seems to exert its effects right in the middle of creating, just when we need it, and off we go!

    Best wishes from me and I hope you have just the kind of Christmas you love the most!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for the compliments on my book, Lynne! You are right about the physicality of creating and the deep sense of gratification that results. The positive reviews also make a huge impact, especially, I think, when we’re wondering if our work is at all meaningful to other people.

      I hope you enjoy the May books. I just love him. And it’s funny, I’ve been researching different psychologists to add to my reading list, and I cannot find any who excite me like May and Maslow do (with Carl Rogers as a close third). Many of the others seem interesting enough, or “just ok,” but I don’t suspect I’d feel as much of a kinship with them or their ideas. So, I think I’ll be rereading some more of May in the near future (there’s so much!) and perhaps some lesser known volumes of Maslow’s. In fact, you may have inspired me to look again at “Man’s Search for Himself.” A very approachable and reader-friendly volume.

      Good luck with your graphic design work! I’ve dabbled a little myself, and it really can be great fun! A very Merry Christmas to you, also! I hope you have a wonderful holiday season and much happy creating! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I love everything about this journal entry! And I often ponder the same question, “do many artists begin with an enhanced ability to access the unconscious?” I begin a lot of my writings with an idea, then start to write, and before I know it I’m finished. Stream of unconsciousness? Great post, thank you for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

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