The act of creation
There is no agony like bearing an untold story inside of you.
Many people, caught in the need to make a living, have put a project on the back burner. "I'll do it one day," we say, but one day never comes.
The feelings which drive our natural creativity are too powerful to be pushed back like this. You must rouse yourself. Listen! Something is calling you. What would be the worst thing that could happen, if you made a beeline for fulfilment?
There are no rehearsals. This is the performance. Isn't it time to take a look, and see what your dream looks like?
Project coaching is about creating something in the world, developing one project which matters to you. It is straightforward and imaginative.
My ideas about manifesting a dream have music behind them – they are inspired by the working methods of Beethoven and Mozart. For this reason, they are intensely practical, and centrally preoccupied with time and timing.
You may well find, as you set about making a dream come true, that life begins to sing again. Other areas of your life also look up.
Nothing is so attractive as the person who is alive to life, who is living positively, rather than simply getting by.
Sometimes, however, the creative path demands sacrifices of us. To bring a child of the spirit to birth is never without a certain cost.
The act of creation has four phases. These are non-linear, rather than step-wise:
In addition, there are two warnings, about monsters we all have to meet on the creative path:
- The danger of dissipation
- The ubiquity of rancour.
The scenario is the work, the overall conception, the vision, the idea. It is by living with and inside the scenario that the power of the work is generated.
The scenario may begin with a germ, and grow little by little. It may spring up abruptly before your eyes, like an armed man leaping into your path.
I do not begin to compose,
until I can feel the whole work before me, like a building.
That is the scenario.
Little by little, the scenario is elaborated further and further until (in the classical vision) every detail of the work is integrated into an overall structure.
The specification comprises all practical constraints.
Creativity thrives on limitations. It is in facing constraint that we are compelled to come up with flashes of genius.
Christopher Wren rebuilt the churches of London on odd irregular limiting sites, which made him manifest unique solutions.
Mahatma Gandhi fought the British Empire by walking to the sea to make salt.
We fulfil our destiny when we are practical, when we take account of the facts: when instead of being driven back, we are inspired to be more original, more dedicated, and more inventive.
There is a timeline of project actions, of course, but that is not what I mean here. I mean the timeline of the finished work.
Perhaps because we have a paper-and-screen education, most of us are curiously insensitive to sequence, to clarity of time structure, and to dramatic effect. You want to manifest a sharp sense of timing, to wake people up with the unexpected turns and lightning responses of comedy.
The power and tragedy of Beethoven is rooted in the comic timing of Haydn.
When Sibelius heard his 5th Symphony, he knew at once that the time-sequence was a failure. He spent the whole of the next year crafting an amazing transitional passage within the first movement – one of the most thrilling passages in any symphony.
Stravinsky said –
Music is the point of intersection between man and time.
That is true, so far as it goes. In music, in a sense, there are only times and sounds. But every project (not just in music) happens at the point of our intersection with time. It comes to life in time, and depends upon timing.
Sketching is about catching any ideas, of any kind, at any time. You will always be working on your scenario, specification and timeline – and these sketches, which fall out of the sky at odd moments, find their places one by one in that emerging whole.
You don't have to work in consecutive order. Ideas come when they come. Seize the idea as it passes. It seems so vivid now, like a dream. Don't be caught out. Like life itself, it fades in a moment, and you lose it.
Beethoven, like Leonardo, filled hundreds of notebooks with sketches – bits of rhythm or melody, fragments of harmony, ideas for structure or instrumentation. The famous tune in the 9th Symphony for the Ode to Joy (or is it rather, the ode to freedom?) was sketched 220 times before it reached its final form.
Constant sketching is how you get to be at home with the naturally loose, non-linear nature of the creative mind.
The danger of dissipation
The generative process, which I just outlined, is entirely useless without the executive process, which gets things done (see Getting things done).
Many, many profoundly creative people waste their lives and happiness, failing to build this vital bridge between the generative and the executive processes.
Please, please, please – don't be one of them!
The ubiquity of rancour
Notoriously, people are unable to see straight, when it comes to their own creative work.
As he was dying, the poet Virgil gave directions for The Aeneid to be destroyed, but happily the emperor Augustus had other ideas.
The composer Tchaikovsky suffered agonies of self-doubt. The song-writer Henri Duparc wrote only a dozen songs before the gremlins stole his voice.
The philosopher Bertrand Russell abandoned a book which he was enjoying writing, which had been going well, after his "friend" Wittgenstein ridiculed it "when we were both hot and out of temper".
There are a great many stories of this kind.
In George Eliot's novel Middlemarch, there is a character called Casaubon, whose "key to all mythologies" is a morass of confusions – scrappy, chaotic and valueless. Casaubon is (of course) a portrait of the novelist herself, of that twisted reflection which she saw in the mirror, in black and rancid hours.
Complex forces lead us to savage our creations (and ourselves). Typically, we are far more cruel to ourselves, than we would ever be to another person.
The great teacher Nadia Boulanger said:
Your work is like anybody else's,
neither good nor bad,
neither modest nor immodest,
just like writing a letter.
So we need not be taken in by the words of gremlins, the sands which shift beneath us, the corrosive night-visions. There are countless manifestations of rancour. Happily, countless ways also to deal with its advent.
Next: Community feeling