"I wonder if I've been changed in the night? Let me think: was I the same when I got up this morning? I almost think I can remember feeling a little different. But if I'm not the same, the next question is, Who in the world am I?"
Alice is therefore unable to provide the Caterpillar with a straight answer later on:
"Who are you?" said the Caterpillar.
Alice replied, rather shyly, "I--I hardly know, sir, just at present - at least I know who I was when I got up this morning, but I think I must have changed several times since then.”
This excerpt from Lewis Carroll speaks to the uncertainty inherent in the creative pattern. At some point, or many, we get lost.
There is a lot of talk about the confidence it takes to be a maker, but Christoph Niemann points out the necessity of insecurity.
Joseph Campbell talked about it too, when he advised us to create a sacred space, a temenos, a place where no one can find us, and where sometimes we cannot find ourselves. We no longer know who we are.
The poet, Keats, embraced uncertainty in his phrase: negative capability.* Keats defined negative capability as "capable of being in uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts without any irritable reaching after fact & reason". A retreat from the incessant barrage of facts, news and events is essential. It is up to us to foster this negative capability, to stop the parade for awhile, and see what happens–
Insecurity and negative capability paradoxically can fortify creation, and the maker, by including mystery, ambiguity, doubt and a sense of other. All states of mind are welcome. Creativity is an exchange rather than a solo adventure. It is a lightening of the burden to realize it's not all about me. What a relief. We have words for this experience– the muse, the daemon– and images that arise unbidden. The awareness of another presence is a protection against the vanity of thinking that I, the maker, deserve all the credit– or that I deserve the entire responsibility of failure.** We can only do our best, and then make an offering.
There is something about giving all you have to give, of making your utmost effort, of continuing each day, when you think you have nothing– that helps you relinquish what you have made. You have done your part, let the daemon do the rest.
This is what I am thinking about as my 22 paintings are about to leave my studio–
How do you create negative capability? Or befriend insecurity? I'd love to hear from you.
*If you haven't discovered the weekly newsletter http://brainpickings.org, it is a worthwhile read.
**(A subject about which Elizabeth Gilbert speaks eloquently)