Creative work is a flow experience. In flow, a writer has deep focus and attentiveness. It feels outside of time. Hours can go by without notice. Of course, it is sometimes difficult to get across the threshold. Distractions abound. It's important to allow yourself enough unscheduled time to daydream, muse, and then fall in.
Lewis Hyde, author of THE GIFT, takes the idea of flow a bit farther. He urges artists and writers to understand the psychic rules of flow. In order to continue to receive, one must continue to give. It is like a river. It is like pot-latch. The giving of gifts to others not only nurtures and supports them; the giving allows one to empty oneself in order to receive. We should not be attached to things, and we should not be so attached to our work that we can not let it go into the world.
I wrote this poem (from THE MOTHER TONGUE):
to reach down this far
the place inside
has been broken open
I don't know what I've lost
I don't know that I have lost
I'm broken open
the floor that made me contain
allowed me to fill, be filled
I am without bottom
without a way to hold
all the things coming into me
they fall from me
I am the opening
the sluice gate
am swept with the force
yet hold open
what I pray for is endless
is the constant source
the river never running dry
Some people have asked me if the poem is about death. Perhaps it is. My father died the year that I wrote it. Like most people, I appreciate the effect of change. You gain people, places, things but also along the way, you lose people, places, things. At times, it is excruciating. I named the poem, Joy; my mother gave me the name Joy as my middle name. Anguished awe. Painful ecstasy.
Creative work is good work. We write things, we put them out there. The work might change in this process; it might change us; it might change someone else. We don't know. It perhaps is not of concern; what matters is that we give of ourselves.
The simultaneous experience of receiving while losing, the feeling of love and grief at the same, is echoed in cosmology. The universe began with simultaneous creation and destruction. We have both light and dark matter. So it is not a question of either/or; we have both love and grief. Perhaps the real question is how does one direct one's own abilities--which force will you feed? What is your quest? What forces rise up from your ancestral roots, what growth can you accomplish, what have you come to say?
I found this Pueblo Blessing:
Hold on to what is good even if it is a handful of earth.
Hold on to what you believe even if it is a tree which stands by itself.
Hold on to what you must do even if it is a long way from here.
Hold on to life even when it is easier letting go.
Hold on to my hand even when I have gone away from you.
- Pueblo Blessing