Dressing Games

This post is formatted to reflect an original journal entry.

10/15/20

Something magical about the moments between wakefulness and sleep. A time of vivid, free-floating images, words, phrases. I get some of my best creative ideas then—just before drifting off to sleep or upon waking. Rollo May talks about this phenomenon in The Courage to Create. How in moments of relaxation, when the controls of the conscious mind begin to slip, the unconscious is free to give birth to new forms and insights, even helping us solve problems we struggle to solve during waking hours.

An important observation: I’ve noticed these moments of insight are qualitatively different for me when I’m engaging in different types of creative activity. For example, when I’m pouring all my energies into writing, my creative insights are mostly (though not exclusively) auditory. Lines of poetry announce themselves in my mind in the middle of the night. Just on waking. Or simply when I’m going about my daily business thinking of other things (but certainly not about writing). When I’m focused on collage (like right now), these experiences are intensely visual. Sudden, unusually vibrant, dramatic scenes. Of a kind that leave a detailed imprint on my mind (and nag at me continuously) until I bring them into being. Like the collage above, “Dressing Games.” She was the first image that came to my mind, in full color, when I woke up this morning. Immediately after coffee, I set about cutting up an old sun dress so I could bring her to life.

All of this makes sense, of course. That writing is largely an auditory activity and visual art—well—a visual one. Why I think it’s interesting: Even though I’ve got a pretty good visual imagination, I have never thought in such vibrantly and poignantly visual terms before. Not until I started experimenting with collage art. The inner experience is qualitatively different. So I have to ask myself, is it possible to become a better—or more highly developed—visual thinker by engaging in the visual arts? I had never thought of visual thinking as being a plastic, or mutable, skill, but maybe I’m wrong. Perhaps I’ll research it.

Or, better yet, am I simply discovering a capacity I’ve always had but never used—never worked to develop until now? That would be fascinating and altogether wonderful if it were true! Or, I am compelled to ask myself again, is all this attributable to the same thing—a third thing? Maybe a characteristic of the unconscious mind. How it operates, communicates, exerts its influence in different spheres of our creative life. That is, maybe the unconscious and its contents can dress the part, depending on the scenario. And what appears on the surface to be two completely different modes of insight is really one, expressed in two qualitatively different ways. Much to think about. And like so many of the mysteries that lead me to respect and revere my own creativity, I hope I never quite know the answer.

12 thoughts on “Dressing Games

  1. I enjoyed your insight on your own creative process and I love how you framed this piece. Beginning with, “… moments between wakefulness and sleep” which is an inspired creative time for me, with its own mystery and magic, and ending the piece with not wanting to ” … learn the answer.” Retaining the mystery of our creative beings. ✨

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you very much, Michele. It’s true. There’s something about preserving the magic, or sacredness, of our own mystery. And for as much as I love to explore my inner experiences and speculate, I don’t know that I would ever want the whole mystery revealed. Thankfully, I am certain it won’t be. 🙂 It’s nice to know that intermediary state before sleep is fertile with creative ideas for you, too. I wondered if others have a similar experience. Take care!

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  2. My art instructor used to say that “to draw is to see”, and I agree, once you engage directly with the visual arts you start experiencing the world very differently. Instead of looking at a leaf and seeing “green”, you see a whole range of greens, as if someone gave you a pair of goggles. Your attention is definitely heightened and so the unconcious can come out and play. However I don’t think that one can have that spark without training their visual thinking first. They go hand in hand.

    I gotta say, I always love your musings on creativity. It is thanks to you that I’ve discovered Rollo May and The Meaning of Anxiety. Looking forward to reading more both from him and from you.

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    1. I think you’re right, Gabriela. That working to hone our visual thinking skills and the cooperation of the unconscious go hand in hand. Thank you for commenting, and I’m happy I was able to introduce you to May. The Meaning of Anxiety is a great book. He’s got a tremendous gift for making difficult concepts approachable and accessible.

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  3. Cet article m’a paru très intéressant, L. Je me suis toujours demandé quels sont les mécanismes cachés qui activent la faculté créatrice en nous … Je pense qu’il peut y en avoir plusieurs: la mise en place d’un “environnement d’incubation” qui pourrait l’activer; quelques méthodes utilisées au théâtre comme la transe ou les rites d’initiation et, bien sûr, certains états de conscience (le poète cubain Rubén Martínez l’appelait «la pupila insomne»), qui conduisent à un état de rêverie qui facilite la création, mais qui a un caractère paradoxal: ils sont symétriques de l’état de rêve avec le rêve, et permettent une réorganisation du passé récent et l’établissement de nouvelles relations intrapsychiques, une simplification de la vie consciente mêlée à l’importation de brillantes analogies qui viennent du passé … De toute façon, je ne connais pas très bien ce sujet. Vous êtes le spécialiste… Mais je comprends les collages, et celui-ci sur la femme courbée est fantastique! 🙂

    Je te souhaite une bonne journée mon cher et admiré amie.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, Jei. I’m happy you enjoyed both the collage and the post. I am, of course, not an expert on issues of the unconscious mind and its involvement in creativity. But I do think it’s a fascinating topic, and I very much like what May has to say about it in ‘The Courage to Create’. He suggests that, when we loosen the restraints of self-consciousness, the unconscious becomes freer to intercede. What might be called artistic visions, breakthroughs, or moments of enlightenment are really the unconscious coming to our aid. And while I don’t have answers to the questions I posed above, my intuition tells me that the last of them is probably closest to the truth. That, perhaps, some of us are by nature “close” to the unconscious, creative people, in particular. And it probably speaks in words or images (or even music, numbers, equations, chemical symbols, etc.) depending on what it is we’re working on. How much energy and focus we dedicate to the pursuit of our different passions. May suggests the unconscious is most likely to respond to what we work on–and work very hard on. In other words, passion, intensity, and focus are important. I believe that. It is my experience that I must work very hard for moments of inspiration. But that inspiration, when it comes, is what makes creating so special. Makes me feel like my creativity connects me to something almost otherworldly. Thanks again for commenting. I hope you have a great day, also! 🙂

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      1. Lire ton réponse c’est comme si j’avais été avec Virginia Woolf et qu’elle m’avait tout dit. Cette “tout” absolu que tous les poètes authentiques comme vous écrivent sur papier avec leurs meilleurs vers et leur soif.

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    1. Thank you. I hadn’t actually thought of it that way when I wrote it, but yes, you make an excellent point. There is something magical about getting a glimpse into the unknown, about dropping the veil of self-consciousness and allowing our creative instincts to take over. It’s a fertile and beautiful state of mind, and I think it’s the unknown that makes it so. These aren’t necessarily great chasms either–between the known and the unknown, conscious and unconscious states. I think there’s an art to balancing and maintaining a healthy respect for these forces in our lives. (And I think you may have just given me an idea for another post. 🙂 )

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