Today’s guest blog post, on the topic of writer’s block and creativity, is brought to you by Issy Flamel.
When your brilliant new baby (story) sucks
Anyone who has ever embarked on any creative venture will know the feeling: the first rush of blind enthusiasm where you know this is going to be the greatest story / painting / song ever. Then the hard slog of doing the work. Then the despair.
Your brilliant new baby sucks. It sucks on a scale that makes trashing it and melting your brain in the company of the Kardashians / Angry Birds / Simon Cowell seem like a valid life choice. People will gather and talk in hushed voices about just how much it sucks and point at you and laugh. Forever.
It happens to everyone. Michelangelo famously took a hammer and chisel to his Florentine Pieta. Unable to see a way forward (what we now refer to as being ‘blocked’) he attacked the marble. The reconstructed sculpture may still be seen in Museo dell’Opera del Duomo in Florence. Even after he smashed it in despair his contemporaries knew it was so good it just had to be reconstructed.
Vasari, in his Lives of the Artists, gives several possible reasons why a genius of Buonarotti’s ability fell into such a bleak exasperated blockage. Now we might know. It could be his brain was just the wrong shape!
There is now considerable scientific evidence of the effects of meditation or prayer on the brain. I say ‘meditation or prayer’ because, although in the West the attainment of altered states of consciousness is mostly associated with Eastern religions and philosophies, in reality the practices of the Hesychasts (the use of the Jesus Prayer particularly) and Sufi mystics (in the practice of Zikr) are indistinguishable in the effects on brain function from their Buddhist or Daoist counterparts. Using MRI scans it can now be demonstrated that even short-term meditative practices can affect the activity and the structure of the brain. Not only do emotional patterns alter for the better, but the physical construction of vital areas of the cortex are radically altered – long term. So now the guys and girls with pointy heads and lab coats are saying ‘Hey! This stuff really works.’ – and you need not be of any religious persuasion to benefit. The same techniques used by the mystics are just as effective when applied in an agnostic environment.
But what has this to do with the creative process? Well, dream or trance states have long been associated with creativity. But don’t take my word for it. Listen to the experts –