The Vital Obstacles in the Creative Process

Wednesday, May 14, 2014 - 5:05am

The Vital Obstacles in the Creative Process

"Artistry" is not confined to folks who create verbal, visual, or musical forms of beauty. I know people who are artists at parenting, friendship, gardening, manual labor, teaching, leadership, problem-solving, care-giving, peace-making, or just plain living!

So Wendell Berry's words about the creative process apply to all of us, no matter what "medium" we work in. Berry, 80, is not only a brilliant writer of novels, short stories, essays, and poems. He is also a life-long farmer who farms with the same artistry he brings to his writing.

I find great guidance in Berry's words about the "Two Muses" of creativity, especially when I feel done in by impediments. One Muse inspires us with visions of possibility. The other Muse puts obstacles between us and our vision. And those obstacles, says Berry, are as vital as inspiration in achieving beautiful outcomes!

So celebrate your obstacles! Don't fear them or fight them — flow around them. As Berry writes, "The impeded stream is the one that sings."

"There are, it seems, two muses: the Muse of Inspiration, who gives us inarticulate visions and desires, and the Muse of Realization, who returns again and again to say, 'It is yet more difficult than you thought.' This is the muse of form. It may be then that form serves us best when it works as an obstruction, to baffle us and deflect our intended course. It may be that when we no longer know what to do, we have come to our real work and when we no longer know which way to go, we have begun our real journey. The mind that is not baffled is not employed. The impeded stream is the one that sings."

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Parker J. Palmer

is a columnist for On Being. His column appears every Wednesday.

He is a Quaker elder, educator, activist, and founder of the Center for Courage & Renewal. His books include Healing the Heart of Democracy, A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward an Undivided Life, and Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation.

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There is a similar refrain in Buddhist thought. All that comes our way is welcomed; not turned away. It is in the welcome that growth is possible.

Be cautions in your creativity not to damage other creativity be exercised around you. I've read a couple of marvelous books by Rory Noland in the vain of Christianity. I particularly enjoyed the first "The Heart of the Artist"

Ah......poignantly, exquisitely painfully true. This was a timely find, thank you for posting...

Lovely quote, but quoting without identifying the source does not honor Mr. Berry or readers who might like to go deeper. For those who do.....

Here is a short poem by Rumi, that echoes this truth:

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

I don't think we are all artist, yet we can learn from artist as we can, say farmers. Some obstacles, in art and life, are just that, barriers. While the learning from obstacles might be integrated later at another time or in another way, sometimes it is simply a loss. Sometimes to romanticize is but a type of Spiritual self aggrandizing...because it neither honors the required discipline nor speaks of loss.

It hit home.
It made me reflect and, it inspired to write on my blog.

I recognize that moment of not knowing what do as the moment where a shift takes place. I really experienced that first hand when I stated my creative journey. I now see it as a serie of encounters where obstacles turned out to be catalyst for new directions. Along the way I learned that finding the flow around is a skill, an art form, in art and life. I am still practicing! In all mediums!

My gratitude to all that contributed to this thoughtful, meaning-full reflection.