I am only two weeks away from delivering a speech in Boston about the nature of writing. Not being a public person, this feat has been looming on my horizon like a fusion of threatening clouds, and yet the more I get into the topic of this speech, the less nervous I become, because I really feel passionately about what I am saying. It turns out that passion can conquer fear, as though you were playing Rock, Paper, Scissors, and the passion position was able to envelope the self-conscious one and score a point.
The topic of the speech, as it is advertised, is actually about getting out of the way of your writing by looking at the creative process, not as one of pulling stuff out of yourself, but by hooking yourself into the creative ground. If you're facing writer's block, I argue, then you are standing in your own shadow and need to shift your position and let the light in. But there is more at stake here, and this is what gets me going, what floats my boat, as the saying goes.
We are living in a time of paradigm shifts. This is how I begin. This paradigm of the tortured artist/writer which has given rise to the tradition of the writer and psychotic bouts, the writer and heavy drinking, needs to shift, too. A better image for the artist of any type is this one from James Cameron's film Avatar.
In the film, the Na'vi people connect themselves to The Tree of Souls by connecting their ponytail to one of the trees branches. Isn't that a better paradigm of what happens in the creative process than this?
Carl Jung says that art (meaning all creative functions) is "a kind of innate drive that seizes a human being and makes him its instrument." The artist "is 'collective man' - one who carries and shapes the unconscious psychic forms of mankind." I argue that in the modern era, art (more obviously in the visual arts, but also in music and the written word) has lost sight of this universal function and has instead reflected the mind of the individual artist, not the subtext of humanity at all: If you don't understand Jackson Pollack's motivation for splattering paint on canvas, you don't get the painting. If you don't get the tradition of dissonance in modern music, you won't appreciate Benjamin Britten.
Anyway, judging by the post-modernist thrust into a new realism, I think I am not the only one to make this observation. It seems to me it is never the way to go backwards, however, so I think that the pendulum swing will eventually find its rhythm slightly off the realist track. Religion is doing the same thing - we can't go back to the goddess, but we can touch base with it again and come to something new out of the old.
In TS Eliot's timeless line, "The end of all our exploring will be to arrive at the place where we started and know the place for the first time."