I’m in the middle of reading Trust the Process: An Artist’s Guide to Letting Go by Shaun McNiff. I thought it was going to be a quick informative read. It was a book recommendation from my Gotham Writing course instructor, Michael Davis.
The course was 11 weeks in length; plenty of time to get the work done and develop some new short stories. However, it didn’t quite tick along that way. I became stuck in the “Voice” module. I began to receive feedback that made me question what my content message was and how/why I was portraying people and situations in my stories the way I had. It was a very challenging few weeks in which I questioned everything I have ever written; it was a total writing existentialist crisis. Who am I as a writer?
I realized after many weeks of contemplation that I wrote things to ‘please’ people — my mentors, my friends, my writing instructors. I also catered to the idea that writing what was “good and popular” was not selling my writer’s soul. It was simply a fiscally responsible thing to do…
Hence, Michael’s recommendation for me to read the McNiff book. Michael shared 3 books with me but the last one, this McNiff book, caught my attention. Something about Trusting and Letting Go two concepts a staunch New Yorker does not pander to easily.
However passages like this one stopped me in my virtual thought tracks.
In my work with people I consistently find that the most provocative and useful stimulus for reframing is the declaration that what disturbs you the most may have the most to offer in your creative expression. We can tap into the power of our discontents and use them as sources of transformation. In my perverse way, I look for the greatest weaknesses in my life, in another person’s life, or the culture of an organization, with the belief that these areas are most receptive to creative alchemization. There is a power of reversal in extreme conditions that does not exist within the stable center. ~ Shaun McNiff
Take what most disturbs you about a person, place or thing and use it as the motivating force, the impetus for a new project. The idea was astounding to me. I buried things I didn’t want to deal with in positivity (You’ll-see-it-when-you-believe-it type stuff). Yet, I still felt stymied and not as creative and productive as I felt I could be.
Creative practice requires the ability to change perspectives on a situation. People who are stuck, or blocked, are locked into points of view. They keep hammering away at the same tired themes or useless patterns. ~ Shaun McNiff
Thank you, Shaun! Psychology 101, right? Maybe, but this just didn’t occur to me.
When we use our disturbances as materials of expression we see that everything in life is fuel for the creative process. Creativity puts toxins to good use.
This is like homeopathy for the writer’s soul! Take a little bit of the thing that can kill your writing spirit and put a little bit of it in your writer’s cup and sip on it as your Muse spins a tale based upon the dastardly deeds of said discontents. Before you know it, you have a brand new project in front of you and you wonder how it came about. It came about because you let go of things that are no longer needed, necessary or even wanted any longer. Habit keeps us tied to past negative behaviors.
McNiff is trying to get the reader to see that divorcing oneself from the habit will produce changed results.
While I’m only at 43% of the book my perspectives have changed. My WIP, the supernatural thriller, is being wholly re-worked. Re-slanting, re-vising, re-thinking and definitely re-framing is what this book needed because I needed it.
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