I’m realizing that I’m uncomfortable with my own creativity sometimes. The thought comes to me that perhaps I should focus on how I’m uncomfortable in my mind. The adverb “sometimes” at the end of the opening sentence suggests that I’m not being honest with myself. Writing in the way that I often do, without controlling the narrative, as if someone else were creating the sentences I write, becomes an anxious experience. And it’s much more than that. It’s exciting to observe how my creative mind works. Confusion and frustration don’t last forever, although it sometimes feels as if they do. A confused and frustrated me must remain at my desk (or I walk around the block or prepare myself coffee or tea) long enough until I’m not afraid to write a word, phrase, or sentence that will become known to me only after I’ve written it. Another uncomfortable thought appears: I have faith in my unconscious mind. What might that mean? I’m faced with more uncertainty. I’m uncomfortable. And uncomfortable is what I must be when I write in the way that I do.
How might I dream while I write in my journal? I’m afraid of making mistakes. In the last vignette I posted on this blog, “Unlocked Doors,” I wrote in a free-associative frame of mind. A few hours after posting it, I reread the three paragraphs, and I became anxious when I found two sentences that didn’t make sense. I only had to add an adverb and change a verb. Yet I have remained anxious. It’s afternoon, and I’m writing again, trying to imagine why I’m so afraid of making mistakes.
Journal writing helps me do many things. I learn how to write anew, as if I were writing words on paper for the first time. Sentences become imaginative exercises. Free-associative writing is the nearest experience I have had, with a pen in my hand, to dreaming while I’m awake. As I write about my day, or yesterday or tomorrow, I often find myself creating fiction, writing about my life in creative ways.
Moments before writing the opening sentence of my last vignette, I thought I would just write down last night’s dream. Then images appeared that seemed to suggest another kind of narrative, and as more minutes passed, I felt as if I were writing creatively for the first time.
Perhaps a mistake is a matter of perception. Maybe I’m dreaming all of this in a free-associative way. And maybe the word mistake can help me realize that I have more imagining to do, as if for the first time.
I am afraid that what remains of last night’s dream will soon disappear. The problem is that I can’t record only what I remember, as if this were my dream journal. Other images have appeared, and I imagine them saying in unison: “We want to be part of the dream, too!”
I stand before a familiar door. I’ve climbed a flight of stairs without remembering it. She’s not here today. I feel my own anxiety in the last sentence. It’s Saturday. These two words seem to turn my body around so that I’m facing the other doors on either side of the long corridor. I often see these doors closed, but today I somehow know that all of the offices are empty. My psychoanalyst would never know I was here. Before I open the familiar door, an image from last night’s dream appears: I’m standing before the front door of my childhood home, which somehow I know now belongs to my psychoanalyst and her husband (I thought she wasn’t married!). This image has yet to disappear when I lie down on the couch where, in reality (which reality, external or internal, am I referring to?), I attempt to say whatever comes to mind a few times a week. It’s strange to be in this space alone, and I connect this feeling to my experience in last night’s dream: I don’t belong here, not now. This isn’t my office. We don’t have a session today. My childhood home belongs to someone else now. I can’t open the front door as if my parents were waiting for me inside.
The dream hasn’t been completely lost. An image has been saved, one with valuable imaginative information. She has become the owner of our old home. I first wrote “my old home,” and then I replaced “my” with “our” before I could think about what I was doing. Home is an emotional place. I am at home, expressing all of this in words, we have a session today, in what feels like a dream. I’m writing and I’m dreaming, while I’m awake, unlocking inner doors that I didn’t know were here to be opened.
I need a woman to help me write these sentences, who lives inside of me, who is me. The last three words surprise me. I picture this inner woman walking up a flight of stairs with me. There’s room for us to walk alongside each other. I feel that we’re talking in silence. We reach the second floor. I open the door. I know that in reality I’m alone. Yet as I walk the short distance to my office, to my creative space, which I feel invites me to be alive in my imagination every day, I experience her presence as a reminder that emotions, especially painful ones, are meant to be lived consciously. I am seated at my desk. Writing these sentences has felt like a dream. I haven’t written them alone. I can write in this way. It’s frightening at times. Sometimes unknowns face me in every clause. I want a plot. The reader wants one. Is this a narrative? I must know these things, no? I seem to be writing about my fear of failure. What if these sentences are a failure? I’m not alone. I stand up and walk a few feet to a wall of bookshelves. I wonder which book can help me create the remaining sentences. There’s room for both of us inside of me to imagine which book will soon be in my hands. The images that follow belong to both of us.
One thing I have learned about inner change is that I always become aware of it after it has begun. I am surprising myself by writing this post. I did not intend to write that I plan on changing how I use this blog. I am changing things by writing these sentences. This isn’t a vignette. I doubt it will be fictitious, or maybe fiction always finds its way into my mind and onto the page while I write. I have experienced inner change, and perhaps I will write about it after my inner situation becomes clearer to me.
Recently, I commented to a fellow blogger that I am in the process of writing a book of vignettes, and that I plan on writing a hundred and twenty in total. In the last week I have realized that I have finished the book, that it will consist of forty vignettes. I must decide on whether or not I will self-publish it. I have also started working on a new writing project, which involves journaling, and which I will most likely not self-publish.
I don’t know what kinds of posts I will write or how often I will do so. I am excited to experience inner uncertainty regarding this blog. Change has been happening within.
When I heard a woman say on the phone that she was waiting for me on the sidewalk outside our building, I thought I was imagining her words. Maybe it was the initial image of what would become my next fictional vignette. Fictional seemed to insist on its presence instead of experimental, which had come to mind seconds earlier. Fictional vignettes can be experimental. I pictured myself writing this last sentence as a note to remember. The woman’s voice was real. “You are the writer with whom I exchanged emails, aren’t you?” I glanced at my laptop screen: 11:02 am. That’s when I remembered. She would sit here alongside my desk and watch me write from 11 to 12. I had placed a chair a few feet from where I was seated. When I asked her in an email why she wanted to do such a thing, she responded that she preferred to explain it to me in person.
“What are you going to do?”
It was an intuitive question. What would I do while she sat observing me? I would do what I always do at my desk: write.
“What if I read instead of write?”
“I can observe reading too. What I need to see is creativity in action.”
Images stopped appearing. I waited, pen in hand. Who was this observing woman? What was happening inside of my mind? Another image appeared: the woman walked toward my desk and sat down in the chair I’d placed alongside it. I started moving the pen across the page again. Something must have been happening in my mind. I thought of it as invisible creativity.
I’m in my reading chair at around 6 am. I’ve yet to drink coffee. A full cup is within reach. As if my hands were acting without the cooperation of thought, I select the book from one of the rows of shelves, which I’ll spend the next hour with. On most mornings I have at least some drops of caffeine in my system before trusting my intuition to find me a good reading companion for sixty minutes. I did not intend in the last sentence to use the words “reading companion” to describe a book. They were the words that came to me in the moment, so I wrote them down. The hardcover feels alive in my hands.
Hours pass. I work at my desk. After lunch I walk in the neighborhood to clear my head, to prepare myself for the next several hours. It’s a sunny day, and it feels warmer than the high 40s. This isn’t January weather. I surprise myself by stopping at the nearby QFC. I am without a shopping list, not even a mental one. The store manager says hello, and he shows me photos of the remodeled bathroom that he’s been working on on his days off on his phone. Capitol Hill is within walking distance of downtown Seattle. It feels like the city. I leave the QFC. The sidewalk is crowded. I both enjoy the sudden proximity to others and I want to find a quiet street.
Two images came to me during my morning reading and remained long enough for me to write them down: an elderly man writing at his desk, and a young painter at work on her canvas.
My day’s work is finished before sunset. I glance at the time on my laptop screen. The two images from this morning, of the writer and painter at work, return, and I picture myself writing “reading companion” in large letters on what had been a blank sheet of sketch paper. My imagination has given life to an inanimate object, a book of psychological lectures and papers by my most recent favorite psychological thinker, and I’m in my working chair, waiting for an image, a thought, or a feeling, to suggest what I might do next.
I glance around my desk. The hardcover I spent an hour with this morning is still here. It’s in my hands. I read a sentence, a paragraph. That the book might be alive, capable of communicating things to me, feels like creative truth. I am a reading and writing artist at work, in my imagination.