Be an Explorer of Your Work

All artists and creative people use their imaginations to create and develop their work. But we can also use imagination in how we approach the creative process and in our relationship to our work.

Here’s an example.

A common approach is to think of  “conquering” your novel, or poem, or art, as though the work is something to be dominated. This more traditionally “masculine” approach tends to create a sense of urgency, worry, and even manipulation, which can undermine the creative process. Instead, I encourage the writers I mentor to think of themselves as explorers instead of conquerors. Explore the problem before you, the letting, character, plot, image, etc. This immediately allows your to relax, to take a gentler, more inquisitive approach to writing.

This week I read an interview with Evelyn Fox Keller, who wrote the biography of geneticist Barbara McClintock who won a Novel Price. The title, chosen by McClintock, is A Feeling for the Organism. “It’s her (McClintock’s) deepest belief that you cannot do good research without a feeling for the organism.”* That resonates with my own idea of being an explorer of your work. Think of your writing as an organism, as it’s own living self that you are discovering or coaxing into existence.

I invite you to use your own imagination to work with metaphors in your approach to creative work. What underlying metaphors do you use that you may not even be aware of? What is your creative “myth?” I like Sam Keen’s definition of myth. A myth is simply the “unconscious systematic way in which your experience is formed.” Once you are aware of it, you can use your imagination to shape it.

*The interview is on p 77 of Bill Moyers A World of Ideas