I want to introduce a concept that has helped me make a lot of sense of my difficult experiences and I hope it may help others. This is the concept of Creative Flooding proposed by E. A. Meek.
The goal of this dissertation will be to identify and supply those individuals who experience creative flooding with a new context for the understanding and assistance that Western scientific materialistic culture has been unable to provide. Instead of falling through the cracks in our culture, stereotyped as yet more crazy artists, those who experience creative flooding will be recognized and effectively supported through their spiritual emergency to greater creativity.
Creatively Blocked Manageable Flow of Creativity Creative Flooding
Less flow <————————————1—————————————->More flow
In her PhD dissertation (2005), Meek goes over few reasons why this concept has taken so long to come into existence. One reason is that most people are trying to work on increasing their creativity. There are many self help books and workshops out there that focus on moving from a state of creative blockage to one of manageable creative flow. However, complaining of having “too much creativity” in our culture is considered inappropriate and in bad taste. She also discusses how men like Freud and Jung went through uncomfortable periods before coming up with their famous ideas, but because they were male they didn’t seem to have the metaphor of pregnancy and birth readily available in their minds so they thought of these uncomfortable and difficult times as “creative illness” rather than a process of incubation and emergence. Just as the normal process of childbirth has been over medicalized in our culture, the creative process, and especially the overwhelming aspects of creative flooding, has been pathologized and over medicated.
Meek offers a new metaphor for understanding this process. I hope to draw from my personal experience to come up with ways artists (and those who don’t yet consider themselves artists) can work to to manage creative flow in their lives.
When I was discussing my psychological distress with my friend she suggested (with best intentions) that I keep a journal.
I was shocked! Is this not obvious? I told her I had boxes and boxes of journals downstairs. At the time I probably had three journals, one notebook for inspirational passages, and three sketchbooks on the go…plus an unpublished blog and a pile of random papers. I have kept a journal since I was a child. When I was working in 3D animation I had piles of notepads beside me where I could scribble random ideas that came to me as I tediously moved points around on the screen. Not keeping a journal is not an option. I do like Julia Cameron’s idea in “The Artist’s Way” of morning pages and I should try to get back to them. Getting your thoughts down every morning clears some of the mental clutter and you can go back and see how fragments of ideas start to develop into good solid concepts that could be the workings of something wanting to being born into this world through you.
Everyone is different, but for me, sleep is very important for the healthy management of creativity. It’s a delicate balance between the slightly altered state of working late into the night and the washout flood that comes from a few missed nights sleep. Build up a tool box of methods to help you fall asleep when your mind is racing…I’m still working on mine.
Eat well. Your body and brain functioning well depend on what you put in. I actually do have a degree in nutrition and I’ve encountered all kinds of ridiculous puritanical diets and tried to understand them. My advice is to follow Micheal Pollan’s advice — Eat food, not too much, mostly plants. To that I would add — give thanks.
I’ll end this post with one of my favorite quotes.
There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening
that is translated through you into action,
and because there is only one of you in all time,
this expression is unique.
If you block it,
it will never exist through any other medium
and be lost.
The world will not have it.
It is not yours to determine how good it is;
nor how it compares with other expressions.
It is your business to keep the channel open.
You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work.
You have to keep open and aware directly
to the urges that motivate you.
Keep the channel open.
No artist is ever pleased.
There is no satisfaction whatever at any time.
There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction;
a blessed unrest that keeps us marching
and makes us more alive than the others.
–Martha Graham to Agnes De Mille