Saturday, May 3, 2014

Quote: About Creativity from Emotional Excesses, Anais Nin

Have been beating myself up pretty badly lately about being (to my more rational side, anyway) overly emotional sometimes (ok, fairly frequently) about my current major writing project.

Perhaps you know it -- the game of second-guessing?  It's played something like this, depending on the day and the circumstances that trigger it:

Why did I do that?  Why can't I seem to get a grip?  How could I behave that way?  What did I just say?  What's wrong with me?  How juvenile!  What is that person thinking now?  How did that come across?  I have just totally lost this person's good graces.  Where did my integrity go?  Will you just get over yourself -- stop being so selfish -- nobody cares, anyway.  Etc. etc.  etc. and on and on the drumbeat(ing up of oneself) goes.

In fact, the thought just occurred to me the other day that if I beat myself up much more about this matter, I may have to forbid myself from going out in public for fear of embarrassment from all the bruising (figuratively speaking, of course!)!

My concern:  It's almost, on many days, as though I've regressed to some sort of, well, nearly adolescent state of mind or even behavior at times (the seemingly endless crying deeply into one's pillow kind of thing, or wanting to be alone even more than usual [for a writer], or being plagued with [albeit passing] moods of confusion, fright, or frustration).  

What is going on? I keep asking myself.  This is not me, or the adult me, anyway!  Is it?  This surely has not been my typical thought process, emotional state, or behavioral pattern for most of my adult life.

Don't we leave adolescence, its weirdness, and its angst, far behind us as we leave those years behind and move on?  Shouldn't that be one of the benefits of growing older?  Shouldn't there be some benefits that we've earned that include not having to go through some of those awful emotions again? 

One thing about adolescence, though.  Any way one looks at it, it is a time of great change.  And, probably most of us wouldn't want to admit it, but -- it was a time, whether it was a good time, or a not-so-good time, when we felt very alive .

I've been thinking about these things a lot lately, even as I struggle to fight through these emotional catapults while I toil away at this new work.  Recently, this quote appeared in my Facebook (social media) newsfeed, prompting me to "muse" on the topic a bit here:

Quote drawn from "Brain Pickings" on Facebook, attributed to  The Diary of Anais Nin, Vol. 4: 1944-1947

"You must not fear, hold back, count or be a miser with your thoughts and feelings. It is also true that creation comes from an overflow, so you have to learn to intake, to imbibe, to nourish yourself and not be afraid of fullness. The fullness is like a tidal wave which then carries you, sweeps you into experience and into writing. Permit yourself to flow and overflow, allow for the rise in temperature, all the expansions and intensifications. Something is always born of excess: great art was born of great terrors, great loneliness, great inhibitions, instabilities, and it always balances them."


Well.  Is this something writers need to hear from time to time?  Emotional excesses -- and excesses of other types -- are the stuff of creativity, its breeding ground, as it were, a sign that something's 'cooking,' something (maybe great?) is about to happen? 

I can see Nin's point.  Some things just get written because of the intense emotion behind them. 

It can be poetry or fiction -- or possibly a new book of non-fiction, let's say (ahem), on a brand new subject completely out of the "comfort zone" of the writer.  These things probably come out of something mysterious that has built up, or is running over, or bursting out.  You stew, and mull, and conjure, and turn over, and lose sleep, and feel a tightening in the gut, a burning that climbs into your throat, and you can't NOT think about something.  It's churning and turning to acid inside (sounds unpleasantly like acid reflux, doesn't it?!).  Where will it go?  It's feeling like it has to GO somewhere.

Even when you exercise, move around, put some strength behind it --force yourself to breathe in...breathe out. 

Even when you breathe gently -- deeply, deliberately -- again.  Then again.

Even when you talk to a loved one about it, or all around it, or as close around it, as you can.  Or to an acquaintance, or to a trusted colleague, or friend.

Even when you pray. 

Or meditate. 

Or reflect.

It's still there, curling a finger into your thoughts, hooking you.  Standing right in front of you, stopping you in your tracks.  Tugging at your shirt-tail; curving an arm around your shoulders whispering promises that this time it will let you figure it all out, untangle its knotty old self.  Still there.

So, you have to DO something.  You have to ex-Press the PRESS that's going on inside you.  Yes?  So, stuff comes out.  Words if you're a writer.  Words and words and more words.  And more.  Words.  Sometimes silly emotional outbursts.  Desperation, or what may look like that, and then the embarrassment over (maybe) looking desperate, or needy and helpless, or pitiful, or confused, or even (you worry) seemingly downright ridiculous and totally illogical at times! 

Or it spills out in other little behaviors or moods or comments you're not especially proud of with people you care about (you don't seem to do these things to, or with, people you don't know or barely know -- thankfully; they are spared).  Sleep can come, or it can evade.  Sometimes, sleep seems like the only relief, when you can get it...  What in the world is happening?  You used to have it all together, or at least were not fretting like this for the majority of the hours in any given day!

For a writer, writing helps for a time.  The blood-letting of words.  The "thing," whatever it is, though -- oh, it's still there.  Sometimes, the words and the thinking of the "thing" through words can be like a tiny hole in an inflated balloon, freeing some of the pressure before the hole seals up again, and the pressure starts to build up anew.  Which it will.  

But we can't let emotional excesses control us, can we?  If we all gave in to an excess of emotion randomly and at will, the world would be in an even greater mess than it is now, wouldn't it?  Isn't self-control, self-discipline, a good thing?  Hmm... 

The answer for survival, for more than survival -- for achieving peace of mind and sharing a peaceful nature with others -- most likely, must come from achieving  some sense of balance, of course. 

If we're "in balance," though, Nin says (and many other artists and writers do, too) that we don't tend to create much.  She says the actual art of creating something rights the ship, gives us back our equilibrium, steadies the course.  Puts us back at ease.  If we are artists, she says, we shouldn't bemoan the turbulent, frightening, confusing, frustrating, clueless, wandering, and upsetting times we need to go through to do good work. 

It takes emotional excesses -- their built-up steam and pressure -- to move us to create in the first place, to erupt -- to bring forth something new.

But, dang.  It's hard.  

And at certain times of life, or for certain people, the excesses and seeming temporary loss of control can be downright embarrassing and frustrating -- and that, of course, only makes it all the harder. 

[Muse:  What do you think, dear reader?  Are you more creative under pressure -- from with-IN --  when you're feeling -- or being -- excessive in some way?  Does excess -- of whatever kind -- fuel your creative efforts?  Is it necessary? 

Doesn't "excess" need some kind of "taming" or control to be useful, suitable, or even palatable to the world and those around us?  What do you do with your excesses of emotion?  And what do you do when you blame yourself for imposing those emotional excesses on others, if/when you ever do that?]