Saturday, September 5, 2015

The Drool-Cup Of Creativity

I'm indebted to my friend Jessica Morrell for alerting me to the words of poet John Ashbery, who declares that wasting time is a critical part of the creative process. And that the time must be well and truly wasted. There must be no laundry done. I seized upon this theory like a billionaire who hears about trickle-down economics for the first time and believes it with all his pea-sized heart.

And I want to believe it, because it certainly puts a shine on some behavior of mine that might otherwise seem untoward. I spend a lot of time looking sort of unfocused. My eyes haze over, my jaw drops a little, there might be a little drool, followed by--in time--some crustiness. I'd much prefer to refer to these episodes as the crucible of creation rather than something less sexy, like dunderheadedness, or rabies.

Besides, it sort of works. If you don't know which synapses are going to go off in your brain at any time, and make which connections, it's best to just leave the entire apparatus wide open. Keep it perforated like a box you're storing crickets in, and listen for the chirping. Mine is well ventilated indeed. I can tell because stuff drops out of it all the time, but stuff also drifts in, and if I can sling a neuron over it before it hits the other side, I'm golden.

I don't know which is worse: the moronic gaze of the writer, or the thing that happens when I draw. If I'm drawing something with a face on it, my whole face assumes the expression I'm trying to depict. That would be fine, socially, if I were sketching a Madonna, but it's much more likely to be something like a constipated meerkat. It can be a little alarming to the casual observer. "Are you in pain?" the casual observer might ask, and he doesn't get a response right away, because the act of drawing confuses the passage of time for the artist, and it takes a while for the question to filter in. "No," I'll say eventually, blotting a bit of drool off the paper, "it's the meerkat," and I'll point helpfully at the sketchbook, and he will smile and back out of the room.

This is the main reason creative people wish to be left alone. And also the reason they're likely to get their wish.

23 comments:

  1. All I have gotten for weeks is the sound of crickets! I have to be careful to avoid drool as hubby will put me away when he sees that

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  2. Very difficult to find time one can afford to waste these days, and I'm sure our creativity has suffered accordingly. I'm tempted to post the Ashbery quote at work and see if the management seems open to the idea.

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  3. As skilled as I have been my entire life at wasting time I should be way more creative.

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    1. It's possible you're just storing up for your masterpiece.

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  4. Feeding a baby creates facial expressions like the one you have in the photo where you are drawing. Maybe that's where all my creativity went.

    Your replies to the comments are as witty as your posts!

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    1. So those little dickenses are sucking out your creativity? I knew they were up to something.

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  5. I make faces all the time when I'm working--now I know why!!

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    1. Well, the faces I made when I was working as a mail carrier might have been a little different.

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  6. In the creativity roulette most of my synapses are blanks, but any excuse to zone out is welcome.

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    1. There are whole spiritual exercises devoted to achieving the kind of mindlessness I come by naturally.

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  7. So wasting time really IS productive. I get it! I live it!

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  8. What strange coincidence you talking about drooling and such. Thursday I thought I had a stroke as left side of face was paralyzed, but in the ER after many tests it was found out that it is Bells palsy. Glad no stroke! But now I deal with this! Problems drooling when trying to drink (must use a straw), can only chew on right side, eye droops and needs constant moisturizing drops as will not close completely, and talking is difficult.
    But at least you do not have stroke or Bells palsy!

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    1. Oh honey! I know all about Bell's Palsy. My mom had it when she was twenty (which was half the age she was when she had me). The side effects were mostly temporary, but she always had a tiny bit of a droop to her mouth on one side. I didn't notice, but one day I said something about her looking cross, and she was truly sorry. She said she was only cross on one side of her face, and I'd gotten on the wrong side. (That was not to say she was never cross with me. But that she wasn't at that time.)

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  9. I'd like to write something witty or pithy or even just coherent, but this is my rest time...I need to be receptive, should a muse happen along.Any muse.

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    1. Keep that damn door open. You're doing it just right. If anyone says you need to get on the stick, tell them you're busy.

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  10. Ahhh, the ever-treasured wasting of time. I do it so often :)

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  11. The least I can do is help you with the opening line of your Opus Magnum: "....stormy night."
    Next is something like a banging at the door, a raven croaking, something.....

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    1. You just reminded me of my all-time favorite Peanuts strip. Snoopy was banging away at his typewriter on top of his doghouse as usual. Lucy looked over his shoulder. He'd typed "It was a dark and stormy night. Suddenly, a shot rang out." She criticized him up one side and down the other. He was being too conventional. He thought about it for a moment, then typed: "Gradually, a shot rang out."

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    2. I never saw that strip and I love it!!!

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