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February 5, 2020

from On the Arts, by Naomi Beth Wakan

If we start by considering the very beginnings of the creative act, we find that the first strange and often confused feelings of excitement can build up to American scholar John Livingstone Lowes’s “surging chaos of the unexpressed.” Here we have the ill-defined yearnings, the vague idea, glimpses of an image. It can feel like boredom, but with a strange distant tug. It’s as if a passing phrase we have read germinates inside us; the sound of distant bells stirs up an image; two colors oddly juxtaposed stay with us and dive underground to fertilize each other. . . . 

There may be a problem to be solved running around in your head, and a vague feeling may be the germ of an answer. Even though it is only a hint, a slight feeling at this moment, it still must be noted if it is to manifest at all. There is a heightened awareness that something is happening. Yet it can’t be grabbed or looked fully in the eye, for like a pixie, it will vanish immediately if you try to confront it. One has to stay in an almost trance-like state, an unfocused, eyes-half-closed state, giving the creative impulse time to pace itself. This incubation period may last minutes, days, or years. It demands patience on the part of the creator until things become clearer, for the conscious can handle the known, but not the unknown. It is almost as though the artist has to step aside and surrender to the process. Too much forcing or use of one’s conscious will can result in a sadly misshapen birthing.

—Naomi Beth Wakan, On the Arts

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