Twyla Tharp writes in this “practical guide” to living a creatively engaged life about a “blank space” that every creative person faces: “the task of starting with nothing and working your way toward creating something whole and beautiful and satisfying.”
I’m beginning a new cycle of creative exploration. I know I am because I feel like an infant again rather than someone who has been working with creative process for close to two decades. In this beginning place, where I’m heading is a mystery, spurred only by the raw material of an idea, an image, a phrase or thought.
So I do the only thing I know how to do. Begin somewhere. Make samples. Let the ideas simmer and expand. I don’t start with a completed vision of a masterful work of art, only a crumb of an idea that teases and tugs at my consciousness.
Growing from this scrap of a beginning takes work. Lots of it. Not the straight line, numerically-ordered, step-by-step, “man she knows what’s she doing” type of work. More like the “crawling on one’s knees in the dark feeling with one’s hands to find a way forward” work. But I do have an inner compass that guides this, one that trusts both the process and my skills enough to make me believe that I will indeed find a sure footing, an engagement with an idea that will lead to more focused action and work.
Twyla Tharp starts a new dance piece with what she calls “scratching”. “A dance doesn’t hit me whole and complete. Inspiration comes in molecules of movements, sometimes in nanoseconds…You can’t imagine the work, you can only generate ideas when you put pencil to paper, brush to canvas…when you actually do something physical.”
I’ve learned this. So I improvise. I create small studies. I listen to the thoughts that pop into my head just as I am waking. They whisper golden suggestions. “Create a thread map of the neighborhood you lived in as a child” was yesterday morning’s.
Today’s was “write your blog about this beginning place and how you don’t know whether you will fail or succeed, but you know you are committed to keep creating because this is who you are and this is what you do.”