I boarded a train this morning. At first the movement, sudden and pointed, did nothing to quell the anxious waters in which I felt I was floating.
I’ve been reading about the human brain: how we decide, the ways in which we know we’re aware of the thoughts we have, and how our brain makes connections.
When I’m traveling, when I’m on a train, or flying high above the networks of roads and buildings below, I feel a greater awareness of what’s going on inside the caverns of my skull; the isolation that accompanies traveling helps me become a better observer of my own mental processes. Soon, my mind enters into a quiet, contemplative place, where I can begin to access the thoughts and connections that I’ve been developing subconsciously over weeks, but haven’t had the time to express. No, I suppose it’s not just a matter of time — it’s a matter of the right conditions. In order to gain access to certain neural networks which act as home to our knowledge, we require the proper conditions. When we’re constantly bombarding ourselves with expectations for social behavior, when we’re always feeling we have to seek out the next task which needs to be accomplished, we have a hard time tapping into the streams of consciousness which flow below our every experience.
In the books I’ve been reading, some authors and scientists call this mental place “the default network”. When we’re not specifically focused on a task or a project or on keeping continuous or steady concentration, it can feel like we’re in a haze. Some call this day dreaming. It’s the place where you let your mind wander, where you let go.
Even now as I sit in the terminal, waiting for my plane to board to Buffalo, I’m writing. I pick up a couple words here and there; a sentence begins to form. The thought is not complete when I begin to write. Instead it seems to arrive from a place I hardly know. I only have the words after they arrive. But it seems, they’ll come continuously if I can let them. When there are no words, I look up to my left. My eyes scan the space in front of me, but I’m not observing the world. On the surface it may look as though I’m watching the world around me, but I’m ruminating during these moments, letting the haze overtake me.
The Creative Act
I wonder: How can I put into words just what I think about a process that seems to have no beginning and no end.
When we’re performing the creative act, we’re in a constant feedback loop with ourselves.
We can choose to let go and remove the filters that suppress the flow of language.
I find that I often use physical gestures when I write. As I pause and consider what word will arrive to match the concept I intuit, my hands play the pantomime and I equate the dance of my fingers with the idea I’m looking for.
My mind begins to search and I wonder: is there a difference between writing for discovery and writing for an audience?
When I write about what I know well I can navigate my thoughts in a way that feels distinct from my own awareness. I can easily separate and imagine the ideas and thoughts I have from the perspective of “the other” and begin to compose the sentences that will help the imagined reader to make sense of my inner world.
As I write for discovery, I delve into my own thought processes and seek to discern exactly what it is that I know and what it is that I do not know about.
As the manuscript continues to form, it seems there are ideas present where a short time ago there were none. They relate to one another in ways that I must make clearer. This is the time where we go back and read our own writing to understand exactly what it is we’re saying, so that we can better assist in the construction of the context that’s emerging.
Sometimes we assign a metaphor to the process of writing: we call it a journey of discovery. The experience is much like travelling. In order to progress, to move in the direction that we will inevitably be pulled, we’ve first got to arrive at the station, the port, and prepare ourselves to board. Despite our journey leading us in one direction, we always end up looking back to see where it is we came from and how it is we got to that point of origin in the first place. Travelling is never just about forward motion. Being a journey means you take the time to look back at the information which has streamed out of you. It means rearranging the past to better prepare the ground for a fertile future.
I pushed out of my orbit this morning, anxious about the world I was leaving behind. Accustomed to habit, I let the cycles of routine influence me, but today I begin a journey. Journeying pulls us away from the orbits we’re embedded in. It forces us to let go and look for the path to emerge and it asks us to trust that our experience will be the fruit of possibility.