Chipping Away at the Creative Self

March 1, 2015

The best thing I got out of my recent stint on jury duty, was a delightful conversation with a fellow juror who happened to be a local sculptor. As she was discussing her transition from oil painter to stone sculptor, I found that many of the things she said in regards to her process rang true for creative writers as well. But, perhaps the most important thing she mentioned was how pleasing it was to start with something that was already there and chip away at it to create something new.

What she described was a process of complete freedom, without the typical constraints we place on ourselves as creators. We too often start with an idea and labor arduously for perfection. That is most likely why there are infinite accounts of the tormented artist/ writer. Even recently the Chronicle of Higher Education published an OpEd piece with the warning title: "Mamas, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Writers: It’s hard to avoid intertwining your work with notions of your value as a person." And, nothing truer could be said-- writers regularly and publicly forge their identities through their works, so there is much at stake. However, the organic process of chipping away at the whole and "letting go" allows for a distinct kind of creation of both product and self... It is something that is inherent with the craft of poetry, but somehow I magically lose that ability once I shift to a different type of writing-- constantly fighting to gain total control over the words and the scope of the project. It may be that my colleague stumbled on this with age, or it may be some special wisdom that sculptors have always possessed. But, she's made me think that it's something I need to do more of in all of my writing, and not just when it suits me. 

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