I have been continuing to read Peter Ackroyd’s biography of TS Eliot and it really is affecting my world picture.
What has been on my mind recently
I grew up believing the whole patriarchal concept of ‘genius’ and felt very strongly that The Wasteland was a work of literature that could not be surpassed regarding the context in which it was written and its impact on work that followed. A reader can be swept away by this notion of genius when a work is examined aside from the person who created it. A work such as this can almost prevent a writer from putting pen to paper as it’s the breeze in its passing snuffs out any tiny creative light.
Therefore when you read such sentences as: ‘But his ambitions were suffering from one of his regular and characteristic ‘dry’ periods, an unhappy state in which he was tempted to believe that he would never write anything again.’ it offers a new perspective on one’s own practice and approach. I’m not sure whether Ackroyd’s comment cheers me or depresses me, I have to say. If someone like Eliot struggled so much and suffered from creative blocks, what hope for the rest of us? Yet, then again it demonstrates how vulnerable we are as creatives and there is always the fear that however successful you may be, further success may elude you. It’s a troubling space to occupy at times.
What I am beginning to understand, albeit rather late in the day perhaps, is that it does not pay to beat oneself up about what is or isn’t achieved or achievable. Self-induced pressure can be a positive attribute, we all need to have a reason to get out of bed, but the endless self-doubt and self-criticism can completely destroy any green shoots of creativity. It’s much better just to create and see what transpires than rub the page so hard even the paper disappears.
I have been writing in my journal this morning about the importance of a more laissez faire approach. That doesn’t mean that I will not take care but the care I intend to show my own creative self will be of the nurturing rather than critical sort. There has to be an element of play and fun in any approach to work and forcing oneself to sit at a computer all day just doesn’t seem to be such an effective strategy. What is important is to celebrate what there is and writing down all the moments that bring happiness in a day is an antidote to self-destructive thinking. The smallest thing like blue sky after rain, a message from a friend, a quiet time curled up with a book, taking a walk or listening to a programme which transports you somewhere pleasant can all contribute to a sense of well-being. These things don’t cost money but they contribute to pleasurable times and we really should make the most of them.
Sometimes we need to set up our very own writing retreat where we retreat from our inner critic and just create, regardless of the outcome, after all what might be considered a waste today may well strike as a starting point for something new tomorrow. The important thing is we keep turning up to the page without fear; the thing is to avoid is being too forced or contrived. It’s a process, after all and the idea is to enjoy and learn from the process not just the product. For me, it’s about exploration, celebration and awareness not just results.
A clematis ‘Hagley Hybrid’ blooming in the writing retreat courtyard
It’s sunny this morning, if a little cool, the birds are in full song and all the windows and doors of the retreat are open; there are fresh roses in a vase on my writing desk and the stones in the courtyard are surprisingly warm underfoot despite the breeze. I have written my journal, have produced a blog and I’m going to settle down to plot the next few chapters of the children’s novel I am working on – could I have a better life? I don’t think so.Tags: improve creativity, Peter Ackroyd, TS Eliot, writing retreat