dot 25: transit[ion]

Having to shift gears from our everyday mind to our creative mind … is no easy matter.

– Eric Maisel –

The demand of the transit that is required to move from everyday reality to creativity fiction is no easy task. In his book Making your creative mark: nine ways to achieving your creative goals Eric Maisel says: ‘All day long we are pressured into doing things right and to get things right:

Then a moment is supposed to arrive when we shift gears and allow ourselves genuine permission to make all the mistakes and messes we want in the service of our art. Somehow we are supposed to fluidly move from the pressure of getting things right to the pressure of venturing into the unknown.

Maisel speaks of an encounter he has with a writer on a park bench in Manhattan. The writer, hailing from a worn-torn country elsewhere, is unable to move away from the raging reality he is constantly reminded of in his mind. Maisel suggests that the root of the problem lies in his inability to find his ‘fictional way’ and that the experiences are too real for the writer which become ‘photographed rather than fictionalized.’ As a previous ICU nurse myself it is easy to relate to the writer’s struggle to let go of reality. After all, the pain and anguish that has been seen and experienced is ultimately real. Existentialist questions inevitably pop up such as where the reality of the memories that accompany such experiences ought to be put whilst moving into creative space? What is the answer to this question? To the writer Maisel simply suggests: ‘Be here.’

But how to transit from the reality of being here to that of the creative unknown space? Mac Barnett, a fictional writer of children’s’ books uses the analogy of a secret door to reach the ‘middle space’ that is situated between reality and fiction. Opening the door leads to what Barnett calls the ‘place of wonder’ where creative work cannot remain unaffected if transiting through it first. However, Barnett’s transit does not take place from left to right (reality to fiction) but rather from fiction to reality: ‘I want a book to be a secret door that opens and lets the stories out into reality.’ His voice sounds clearly from within the fictional space, and I am reminded of the theatre piece Care performed by the  Willfredd Theatre Company in Dublin (Ireland). Becoming ‘fascinated with the act of caring’ the theatre company initiated a collaboration with a certain hospital where they spent months interacting with palliative care nurses to get an understanding of what it takes to be able to do care for the dying. I find this to be a superb example of how transition can take place from fiction to reality by way of fascination.

A breathtaking example illustrating the shift from reality to fiction is Alison Carlier’s recent sound piece Adjectives, lines and marks which just recently won the 2014 Jerwood Drawing Prize. A one minute and 15 second work – an audio drawing – it consists of Carlier reading out of a reference book that describes a Roman pot. Listen to it here.

It occurred to me that the text describes the object in a way akin to  someone making an observational drawing; the voice tracks the thing just as the eye might [be] tracing the image on paper. The adjectives act like lines and marks; describing it’s form and tone. The stress in the words articulate the pot; as heavier than lighter pencil marks may on paper.

Something as seemingly lifeless as text laying dormant in the Museum of London archive comes to creative life through Carlier’s fascination thereof. Wondering about the unfolding of such a space I am struck by the force of fascination.

Regardless of where it is that you’re moving from it’s the middle space you need to get to. Alison Carlier’s place of intrigue and wonder…

Drawing by snails
Drawing by snails on plastic surface                                                Photo: Sonya Rademeyer
  • Eric Maisel:
  • Making your creative mark: nine ways to achieving your creative goals (2013) New World Library ISBN: 978-1-60868-162-4
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