Imagination can be an unreliable guide through this material world. It can lead you to do things that you imagine will be fantastic, whereas in truth, they will be dead ordinary or even just deadly. You can kid yourself, con yourself and rearrange all of your inner furniture to fit what will always be an illusion.
But imagination is also the humid hot house where the seeds for creative work will hopefully shoot. To be unafraid of your inner world and be able to extract what you need, to not be ashamed or overwhelmed by what you find there, is essential for the artist/writer. They have to explore the complexities and dark black shapes in the corners of the mind without snapping the lid shut in fear.
Insanity has a room in the same house. Madness, artists and writers are thought to go together like fish and chips or beer and football. But real mental disorder does not allow for creativity, itâ€™s a barrier to any sort of creative achievement because it rarely allows for a construction of form – books, painting, sculpture, poem, music… Discipline, persistence, reason, critical and analytical skills, essential for any sustained venture such as writing or painting, are the first casualties of the breakout of disorder.
Narcissism is another term loosely linked with artist/writers. Itâ€™s not an uncommon association, I have to say. But a wide streak of narcissism usually prevents the creative artist from looking beyond the self. And writing disguised as therapy is unreadable after awhile, an onanistic activity with a feedback loop to the self only. A measure of empathy and interest in others, beyond the infatuated self-absorption of the narcissistic artist, is an essential ingredient. Serious creative achievements must resonate in some universal way with the viewer or reader, or at least strive for this. Standing back and distancing ones self is important too. If your emotional investment is too great then sometimes the work is never completed.
When this happens the risk of exposure to subsequent criticism is too great. Some writers can be working on the same manuscript for ten years or more, sabotaging its completion over and over, finding ways around because of the unthinkable consequences. Some of us write and write and write and never submit.
Writing, and most creative processes, involves managing inner tension. The tension when facing disordered symbolism is profound. There is a need to complete, to bring closure, to tighten up, but perfecting each sentence before writing it down can lead to a preciousness that is counter-productive to the wholeness of the story. Keeping all the options open for months can be unbearable sometimes, but if you take it out of the oven too soon you may end up with an indigestible mess.
Imagination and self delusion, persistence and self doubt, narcissistic self absorption and curiosity about the human condition, reason and disorder sit delicately on the scales. Those of a different mind and firmer temperament perhaps consider themselves lucky, but even though I have no choice in the matter, I consider myself, and my fellow artists and writers, to be luckier.
- Made to Order
- Two French Films