Where do you start if you’ve lost your way? Your creative way, that is. The most logical place, as with any loss of direction, would be to back-track to the original point of departure. But what if you weren’t even sure about where this point was exactly and therefore couldn’t safely pinpoint where you had started from in the first place? What if you felt that you were the only creative on the planet this was happening to, and therefore no one else who could understand your frightening space?
In the story of Hansel & Gretel, two children playing in the woods suddenly find themselves lost. They become frightened and unsure as to how to find their way back, in what plays out to be a frightening experience. At some point however, the idea comes up to scatter bread crumbs along the pathway they are on, and, in this way, they assume that they will be able to find their initial point of departure. Thinking about this story, I was struck by the simplicity and ingenuity of the action of scattering bread crumbs. What they in fact did was to use what they had on them. Instead of scattering about for nearby rocks and twigs to build arrows and pointers of direction, they simply put their hands into their pockets, felt the crusts from their earlier meal, and dropped these instead. A simple action that conserved energy.
Having found myself in such woods as a creative, I walked around in circles for a long, long time. I didn’t have bread crumbs in my pockets, and, even if I had had some, I’m not sure whether I would have thought that such a basic, simplistic action would be the way out of impending darkness. Looking back now, I think I was waiting for some eureka moment, some spiritual light or guidance that would show me the way out. Of course, this never came, and I managed to move around in this maelstrom for months which eventually became years.
I now know that creative recovery is not waiting anxiously for a feeling. Neither is it a cognitive decision nor is it an academic exercise. It’s a simplistic action whereby you use what you have, what you have been given, much as the scattering of the bread crumbs. Except in creative recovery, you are gathering the traces of yourself that have been scattered. They are still there. You just have to find them.
I feel the urge to share this experience. Perhaps, in doing so, I could alter the pathway for another creative who is feeling lost and frightened. Perhaps you can share your own experiences with me, and how you managed to find your creative way back again? And, in doing so, in what way has the ‘lost experience’ altered you and the way that you now create?