Onwards and upwards…the big New Year ‘do-over’

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“Encompassed by a world of tangible, visible things – animals, plants, and stars –  mankind has from time immemorial perceived that deep within these beings and things dwells something powerful, yet indescribable, that gives them life.”

Cosmic view of the Fulani people of West Africa

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I took this photo last spring, in March when we were plunged into a sudden and unexpected winter. In seemed  that the tulips were burning their way through the snow – biological imperative incarnate: come hell or high water, these tulips will BECOME.

In some ways, though, I find the image  disturbing, especially the bud just breaking through the snow, and the dark little shadow at the centre top where another seems to be welling just beneath the surface like a bruise. Is the earth bleeding?

Of course, in no time my mind flies to that wintery scene with the good queen, Snow White’s mother. There she sits with her embroidery at the castle window. There she pricks her finger as she sews, the blood drops falling on the snowy whiteness. And there she makes the pledge that calls into being a beautiful child, but in the process brings about her own end.

The queen pricks her finger. Snow White illustrated by Charles Santore 1997

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And so by degrees I start thinking of the creative process, that is to say, my creative process or seeming lack of same. And while I am sure that many creative people (which is all of us) will be facing the New Year with renewed vigour and hopefulness at the journey ahead, there are others of us who remain intent on endlessly hunting round the same old  circles that take us nowhere. We are of course woozle hunting and A.A. Milne sums up the entire predicament perfectly.

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  ‘One fine winter’s day when Piglet was brushing away the snow in front of his house, he happened to look up, and there was Winnie-the-Pooh. Pooh was walking round and round in a circle, thinking of something else, and when Piglet called to him, he just went on walking.


      “Hallo!” said Piglet, “what are you doing?”
“Hunting,” said Pooh.
“Hunting what?”
“Tracking something,” said Winnie-the-Pooh very mysteriously.
“Tracking what?” said Piglet, coming closer
“That’s just what I ask myself. I ask myself, What?”
“What do you think you’ll answer?”
“I shall have to wait until I catch up with it,” said Winnie-the-Pooh.”

 Winnie-the-Pooh 1926, A A Milne, illustrated by E H Shepard

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Next then comes the question of how, creatively speaking, does one get off the treadmill of woozle hunting (which can of course become perversely absorbing despite the fruitlessness of the quest) and lift off into the stratosphere with the high-octane thrust of tulips breaking bounds?

Perhaps to begin to answer this, it is first important to know that human creativity has its cycles in much the same way as the natural world, or indeed tulips. In her audio compilation The Creative Fire, poet, storyteller and Jungian psycho-analyst, Clarissa Pinkola Estés puts it this way:

“Creativity goes through many different cycles: of birth, rising energy, reaching a zenith, declining, further entropy, death, incubation, quickening, rebirth…”

She then elaborates on this process by retelling two versions of the Persephone story , the Greek myth that, among other things, explains the origins of winter and spring.

In other words, a period of dying down, gathering in resources, dormancy, are all essential before strong new growth can occur. The tulips, after all, had some nine months of dying down and re-growing their bulbs.

CPE  has other words of wisdom too:

“The main struggle that people have with creativity is that they stop themselves from doing what comes naturally.”

And:

“We all cover miles and miles of territory looking for the starting line when it’s inside of our minds the entire time.”

She also deals with the deep-rooted fear that most of us have: that our creative impulse/spirit/inspiration has died or deserted us. She likens it to la chispa, the hearth ember that seems quite dead until you breathe upon it, fanning the flames so that once more it bursts into a blazing fire. If we feel stifled and blocked she suggests that the causes are probably fear, the lies  that people have told us about our creativity, and the fact that we have paid way too much attention to our internal critic.

“The creative function,” she concludes, “ is the centre of the soul and the psyche; it can never be destroyed.”

So there we have it. Less woozle hunting, and more blowing on dead wood. Also listen to your internal wisdom, then make like a tulip. Who knows what it will lead it.

Or as the Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe said:

 “Art is man’s constant effort to create for himself a different order of reality from that which is given to him.”

There are no rules and regulations on the number of times that we must re-do a piece of work before we have made it to our liking. The only rule is to give yourself a break, then go to it.

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Wishing you all a happy and floriferous 2014

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Weekly photo challenge: beginning: go here for more Daily Post beginnings

© 2014 Tish Farrell

28 thoughts on “Onwards and upwards…the big New Year ‘do-over’

  1. Whatta lovely post, Tish!
    I think have read “Women who run with the wolves” four times…
    All the best for 2014
    from The fabulous Four,
    Dina

  2. You’ve really got me going with your inspirational creative post; much to take in and examine. Creativity is so illusive yet spontaneous and spectacular in the same breath. I have (pleasurable) work to do while the weather makes up its mind what to create for tomorrow …thanks

  3. Forgive a critical comment, but check the histogram to ensure you expose snow correctly. It needs at least another stop to avoid the grey look. And the blood red of the tulips would be even more stunning.
    “Bernde am na weli fa mi yi’ii photoma,” as a pullo gorko might say in fulfulde. I like your photo nevertheless.

  4. From my own experience, the period of gathering in, laying dormant, is the hardest period to tolerate. The mind devalues it, doesn’t respect it, wants to see product…and yet, in the dormancy of the soil, the rootlets developed that then allowed the flower stalk to push thru the ice generating heat in the process of self-assertion. That’s the life force that also rules our creativity…

    1. Yes, you’re absolutely right. We think we’re doing nothing and berate ourselves if we are not producing. Many of us need to borrow a tip from Taoism and accept the notion of non-doing. I wish I could take my own advice!!!

  5. I enjoyed reading your insightful post on the creative impulse and the dreaded creative blocks. Having spent a great deal of time nursing a major creative block I can relate. The best advice I came across was the idea of exploring a new medium when the usual channels of expression have dried up. It works for me. 🙂

    1. Thank you, Suzanne, for that wise piece of advice. I’m sure it can help shift things exploring a new medium. I think we don’t ask ourselves enough if we are using the right materials to say what we want to say. Was this meant to be a pot or a story, a mural or a patchwork quilt??? Sometimes just asking the question out loud helps.

  6. Yet another post wot I missed.
    The photograph is absolutely stunning. You should use it as a header now and then. One of the most dramatic flower shots I’ve seen in ages.

    The (new ) creative process sort of hit a brick wall once I began to re-look at some of my existing work and set out on the thankless but nonetheless rewarding task of editing and in some instances rewriting.
    This too is a roundabout that is at times difficult for me to get off. But it is a huge learning curve and I’ve come to realise just how special some writers are, and somewhat surprised at how poor others are as well, and a bit disheartened that some of the latter sell so many books!

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