Episode 10: Your New Impeccability
In the first episode of the "honoring your creative space" series, we learn why you have to rebuild your personality in order to make space for creating. It doesn't matter how fine a studio you outfit or how fast your computer can compute if your personality doesn't match your tools. What can you do to strengthen your personality so that you stand ready to create? Tune in and find out.
Today’s show is the first episode in a series called “Honoring Your Creative Space.” In this series I’ll be chatting about what you need to do in order to find, protect, and honor sufficient space in which to create. For convenience I’ll address you as a writer, but the same ideas apply whether you are creating novels, paintings, songs, or theorems. Today’s show, from an essay in my forthcoming book A Writer’s Space, is called “Your New Impeccability.” Let’s begin!
Writing is what you do when you compose an email. Creating is what you do when you compose War and Peace. To paraphrase Mark Twain, the first resembles the second as the lightning bug resembles lightning. The movement from composing an email to composing War and Peace isn’t quantitative: it isn’t the process of stringing ten thousand emails together. It isn’t the process of writing 250 words every day or writing for an hour every day. Rather, it is the act of stepping off a cliff and tumbling, in total bewilderment, head-over-heels through creative space.
The writer looking to do some interesting work on her novel, screenplay, essay, or poem is obliged to remember that her mind is not as easy to use as a can opener and that her personality is not as easy to shed as an overcoat. She likely needs to move, not from Boise to New York, not from her Jungian therapist to a Freudian therapist, not from workshop to workshop, but from her current way of being to a different space, to “right inner space.” What does right inner space look like? How do you get there and stay there? Those are our questions.
The first thing you have to do in order to acquire right inner space is to shed your everyday personality. You have to stop being somebody’s daughter, somebody’s wife, somebody who worries about the weather and the price of apples, somebody who got humiliated in third grade by Mrs. Lester, somebody who hasn’t written enough these past twenty years, somebody who furiously cleans if company is coming, somebody who … you need to shed all of that! You need to shed all of that and become a weightless, boundless mind whose body and wardrobe are just along for the ride.
Unfortunately, you can’t shed your personality like a snake sheds its skin. It’s inside every cell and molecule of your being. Therefore you must disintegrate, evaporate, and vanish, in order to reintegrate, condense, and reappear as a creative writer. Right inner space arrives only after your own magnificent demolition and reconstruction. That’s why you may not have been writing enough. That’s why it may have taken you three years to write a draft of your novel that still isn’t really done or really adequate. You never stopped to blow yourself up. You never stopped being the person bogged down in mind chatter and shackled to the firing of worried thoughts. Picture one of those Las Vegas hotels getting demolished. That’s what needed to happen!
How are you supposed to accomplish this magnificent demolition and reconstruction? Wait: we had better address the dangers first. The primary danger in agreeing to create, rather than in agreeing to merely write, is that you are agreeing to throw over your everyday being and turn yourself into a vehicle run by your imagination. You are agreeing to stand perplexed for a whole year as your plot works itself out, agitated for every second of that year as this idea and then that idea spills out from your firing neurons, all those tumbling ideas demanding to be understood, evaluated, accepted or rejected.
You are agreeing to a new impeccability, where every word, every paragraph, and every idea you set down on paper has to pass muster, not in the first draft but eventually. You are agreeing to bleed for your art on days when your ideas torture you. Do not nod and agree to risk your equanimity and to live tumultuously unless you mean it. Maybe you didn’t quite understand what was being asked of you when, previously, you casually agreed that you were willing to take some risks for the sake of your writing. I hope that the matter is clearer to you now. If it is, it is time to get a new agreement in place.
Now you are really agreeing to unleash your creativity. You are agreeing to undo your mind and redo it with a completely new look. You are agreeing to turn over your inner life to your art. You are agreeing to create right inner space in which worlds and not mere sentences are born. In that space great and horrible collisions will occur. You accept that, embrace that, and refuse to flinch from that. In that space worlds regularly explode. Get ready! If you agree, scribble across this page: “I agree!” (Unless this is a library book.)
It is good to have this agreement in place. I hope that you’re excited. You just agreed to be a creative machine, a creative whirlwind, a creative daredevil. Congratulations! Now we can begin.
The first step in creating right inner space is that you vanish. You shed your personality, your neuroses, your dramas, your foments, your excuses, your doubts, your regrets, your parents’ admonitions, the constricting feel of your first grade classrooms and become no one, everyone, and a god or a goddess. You become your potential: wow! You actually become your potential.
You do this shedding in the following way: by recovering those billions of neurons that are presently trapped thinking thoughts of no particular use to you. The short answer is: you become a truly creative person by recovering your mind.
To be a writer you must write, but being a writer is not about writing. The next time you worry your brain about whether you can write, slap yourself hard. Everyone can write. Your worry should be whether you are brave enough to vanish into the depths of your neuronal circuitry and come back with creations. You are a diver, not a writer; an explorer, not a writer; an inventor, not a writer; a magician, not a writer.
Here are four things to remember:
1. Agree to be creative. Don’t agree if you don’t mean it.
2. Agree to give up every excuse you have ever employed to avoid getting your writing done. You know what they are: that you are too busy, too tired, too far behind, too burdened by that mean-spirited spouse, too tall to sit comfortably at your desk, too unhappy, too computer illiterate, too constrained by responsibilities, too cold in the morning, too …
3. Stop being the you that doesn’t serve you.
4. Open up to a great piece of fiction-shaped or nonfiction-shaped imagining. And begin it!
That concludes today’s show. I hope you’ll come back next week for another episode in the series. To subscribe to “the joy of living creatively,” please visit personallifemedia.com, where you’ll also find my blog. You can drop me an email at [email protected]; and I hope that you’ll visit my website to learn more about my books and services. That’s ericmaisel.com—(spelled out).
Thank you for listening!